Today was a particularly special day here in Dehradun. Every day at work, back in California, I look at pictures of our patients and read their stories. I know all their names and faces. So being here and meeting some of our patients is my equivalent of meeting a celebrity that I've been admiring from afar.
Today, I got to spend time with two of my "celebrities." Priyanka (pictured
left) and Mamta (pictured right).
I first meet them last week at clinic day and I said hi as if I'd known them for years. I'm sure they were wondering why I knew their name and was acting so friendly.
Today, we took pictures of them and some video footage to show their progress. By the end of the day we had become friends. Both at some point or another gave me a hug or held my hand.
During the day I was particularly worried about Mamta, she seemed nervous and kept making a funny noise every time I asked her to sit in front of the camera. I was really concerned I was making her uncomfortable, so I had the translator ask her if she was OK. After the translator asked her, Mamta ran over to me and in English said: "No, I am very happy!" She was actually thrilled and I felt so indebted to her for allowing me to tell her story while making her feel special—because she is.
Priyanka has an amazing smile and a soft voice that melts your heart. The first time she received surgery, her dad carried her in his arms through the snow to get her treatment. At the end of today, she gave me a huge hug and asked me to visit her village next time I'm in India. I promised to do so.
Right before my car was leaving after the shoot, Priyanka came up to my window and wanted to hand me a rupee coin, the only money she had on her, to show me how much she cared. I said no and asked her to keep it for later. While I was waiting for the driver she ran to the store and came back with a piece of bubble gum she bought with her coin to give me instead. I couldn't deny her. All I had to give her in return was a pack of Tic Tacs.
On every trip I've ever been on I never feel like I give back enough. I keep on receiving and always look around at what I have, the laptop, the iPhone the camera in my bag and it just doesn't feel like enough to show the patients I meet how much their stories mean to me and how badly I wish I could do more. Priyanka and Mamta made my day feel more meaningful and for that I can't thank them enough.
Photo by John Urban.