We had an autorickshaw strike today all across Mumbai. The autorickshaw drivers want higher fares and do not want digital meters installed. They say it will last 3 days. Thats 3 days without income for most of the drivers - many of them who are paying thousands a year just to use someone else's liscence.
A direct consequence of the strike is that I had to take Sheba to Mr. Nandi's house today so that she could do the dressing. No place for Sandhya so I played the nurse as well. Before going Sheba asked me if I could do it. I said yes - and there wasn't much of an option - not much room on a scooter for 3. So the two of us it was.
Sooner, far sooner than I expected we were there. The slum is called Gandhi-nagar (most slums are named after political leaders). The house could have been one of any of the homes we passed. Small single rooms with a washing platform in them. Most without toilets. Being on the first floor it meant a steep climb up a ladder of metal steps.
Sheba went in first. Mr. Nandi had just turned around to get a bit of cool air - since the power was going to go any minute. In the narrow 4 x 12 foot room, we could barely turn him around again so that we could get at his right leg.
No fever - a good sign. Pain in the leg. Not so good. The heavy bandages should have warned me about what was beneath. Sheba cut through the gauze that kept the pads to his leg. And then it was off.
Somehow I didn't pass out. There was no skin from almost the thigh down to the knee cap. I could see the muscles like something out of an anatomy text book. Only this was real live Mr. Nandi - and this was his leg which had been neglected till it filled with pus and had to be cut open.
Sheba got to work cleaning it out. I won't describe it any more, since I feel nauseated now. While there I was able to stay calm and play the back up nurse. I am amazed at Sheba's calm and love to clean out what was clearly infected again. I mixed the betadine and hydrogen peroxide mix in a small bowl and Sheba dipped in the small gauze swabs and then scooped out - there is no other word - the liquid from the insides of the wound.
All the while Mr. Nandi's loving mother looked on. The power had duly shut off almost the moment we turned him around, so we were all bathed in sweat under the low asbestos roof. Mr. Nandi did not let out a wimper. The mental strength of that gaunt man. His mothers loving and sorrowful eyes. The sweat under my gloves. The rapidly filling yellow bag of infectious wastes from the cleaning.
Mr Nandi is in the pathetic situation he is for one main reason. He has HIV, and because of his status, he has consistently been denied medical treatment appropriate to the state of his leg. Today it seems to late. He needs a skin graft, and at least a long recovery in a sterile surrounding. Otherwise the infections will kill him. Our skin protects us from so much. He has this gaping hole where skin should be. And his is immuno-compromised to boot.
What to talk with such a man. After it was all over, I was able to look Mr Nandi in the eyes. They were sad, but grateful eyes. Though he is gaunt, there is much life in him. I talked about the good shepherd and how Jesus came to give life and life abundantly. The wound that I had just seen was massive - but is was visible and indisputably bad. But all of us carry hidden wounds around with us. Ones that he hide in our hearts and which are just as putrid - but here's the rub - we refuse to even acknowledge that we have them - let alone allow God to gut and cleanse us.
It was time to go. A prayer with Mr. Nandi and his mother. They wanted to go and buy cold-drinks. We drank water and I tucked into two pieces of sweets. Mr. Nandi is a Jain. His mother said that the sweets are made at their temple in downtown Thane - and that they use pure ghee there for their sweets.
Going back through the narrow lanes - carrying the bright yellow hazards bag, filled with pus stained dressings - I could not help but be thankful that God had given us this opportunity to love this man. Life went on outside. Girls chatted in the shade. Shopkeepers rearranged their shelves. The odd motor-cycle growled by. But there in their midst is a gaunt man with a mangled leg - but who is very loved by God.