The Field

September 16th, 2007

Our jeep veered off the highway and began to rattle along the broken road. The thunderstorms had come back to help the sun set and drench us once again. As our headlights cut into the stormy smear of black and blue outside, I took in our journey four meters at a time, occasionally stealing glances of the foreign terrain in the flashes of lightening. Five kilometers away from the rest of India we found Varsol.

It was 8:30, and the village was nearing its bedtime. Once the downpour outside had calmed, we ventured outside our vehicle and explored the dimly lit surroundings. The nearly parched lanterns dangling from each household guided us down a muddy path towards a row of small, earthen dwellings. We were careful to avoid the resting livestock, rural rubble, and newly created puddles of filth along the way. Curious stares from each doorstep followed us as we neared the last house in the row, our final destination for the day.

We were documenting telemedicine case studies. The woman who lived here had come to one of the VRC tele-consultation sessions with a dermatologist at Apollo Hospital, and we had come to hear her story. She welcomed us onto her porch, and began to light some firewood so she could make tea. We, of course, could not refuse her offering, so I swore on my immune system and prepared to gulp it down. This being the last of the 12 cases documented that day, it would be my fifth cup of tea.

This particular woman had been suffering from severe psoriasis all over her face and body for the last 10 years of her life. She sought treatment at a variety of doctors and hospitals, spending over Rs. 15,000 (roughly $375), but to no avail. Any medicine she was prescribed was only a temporary solution to her problem, and eventually doctors said her condition was untreatable. As an agricultural laborer by day, and a housewife for her family of agricultural laborers by night, this condition severely affected her family’s livelihood. However, through treatment via telemedicine, her condition has mostly gotten better. The specialist dermatologist at Apollo diagnosed her psoriasis and prescribed her the appropriate medications. She came to a follow-up consultation two months later, and she continues to take the medications today.

Perhaps it was the moving success story I had just heard, or the rural air, freshly cleansed by the passing storm, or merely the caffeine-induced semi-conscious stupor that I was in after 15 hours of documenting case studies, but I felt different coming back. I felt as if I were in a dream, exploring the rural Indian countryside, seeking out those in need and those who have been helped. The locals (albeit mistakenly) called me doctor and freely let me into their homes and hearts. I couldn’t help but think what would happen if our car were to stop working, if we could stay there a little longer and live amongst them. The roosters would alert us to prepare our eyes for the daybreak sunbeams every morning and a canyon of croaking toads would lull us to sleep every night. I felt detached from the trivialities of my modern world and connected to the hardships and joys of the simple rural life.

I had been in the field a lot in the past couple of weeks, documenting cases. The goal is to analyze all of this to evaluate the impact of this telemedicine system. This fieldwork has helped me develop my grassroots research skills. Because all of my interviews took place in these people’s homes, and in their mother tongue, I eventually learned how to adapt to foreign settings and carefully extract useful information through conversation. I also got to hear some really crazy Gujarati accents.

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2 Comments

  • 1. Adam  |  May 25th, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I have also been suffering from psoriasis for over 15 years. No cure.. But there’s a lot of hope in all of us…

  • 2. Hedwig Easly  |  April 7th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks, I’ve recently been looking for info approximately this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far. But, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you positive concerning the supply?


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