Today I spent time at the CHAD (Community Health and Development) unit. CHAD is basically a hospital for the low (very low) income population. It is located on the College campus, just a 10 minute walk from my place. I only saw a few of the rooms, and what I saw was indeed bare bones. The beds are steel cots with a sheet; the rooms have 6-8 people in them. Conditions are, to say the least, rudimentary. However, this allows them to provide healthcare to those who could not otherwise afford it.
Mr. Sam was the contact I was supposed to meet at CHAD, the one that was nowhere to be found when I finally got to Room 10. Soon enough he showed up and took me over to a little table in the corner. As we walked, he told me what was going on. People had brought their children two years old and younger to this immunization clinic where they were weighed, had their primitive reflexes checked, were seen by a doctor, and were given immunizations. The OTs were there to check primitive reflexes, and would make notes on their immunization cards as needed.
I was plopped down behind the table and given a brief refresher course on the different primitive reflexes and which ones could be seen and should be tested for at certain ages. Gulp. It all sounded familiar (aside from the thick accent), but I wasn't sure I was ready to start testing. By the third baby, I had rolled up my sleeves and was pressing babies feet, hands, mouths, heads, etc. and bouncing them or tilting them this way and that. I did not do any of the recordings, and I was only involved with the supervision and verbal guidance of Mr. Sam and his assistant Radhika, but I was there. In the thick of it all, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
At one point, Mr. Sam left to run an errand and Radhika was managing the scales. All of the sudden I found myself surrounded by about seven mothers with tiny, half-naked babies in their arms looking at me as if to say “Why are you just sitting there? Do something to my baby.” I didn't have the authority to actually document the screening, and honestly I started to panic and couldn't remember when the ANTR emerged, and at what age this and that reflex was integrated. I sat there stunned, feeling very helpless, and thinking that I needed to hit the books again soon if I was going to join in this for real. (Cha-ching! I just found my Typical Development assignment from my OT 646 course in pediatrics! I’m golden!)
As I sat and waited for the next baby to be weighed, I looked out over the sea of faces. Beautiful ebony eyes stared back at me with hints of curiosity, fatigue, and hope. Curiosity because my skin was so pale and different than what they were used to. Fatigue because many had been waiting for well over four hours on a hard cement floor in the muggy air with a sweating child sleeping (or squawking) on their lap. And hope that their name would be the next called. Hope that there would be nothing wrong with their child. Hope that if something was wrong, we could fix it.
I only wish I had photos of this experience. It was a photo worthy day. Sadly, I left my bulky camera at my place so that I could focus more on my orientation. And I still haven’t figured out the protocol for photos of healthcare here. I hope to get some sort of pictures soon.