Jet lag is not a joke. I thought I had the perfect plan to beat jet lag. I planned on getting as much sleep as possible during the 24 hours of travel, up until our first morning in Trivandrum. That way, I would wake up Friday morning ready to stay up for at least 12 hours. I slept most of the first flight, probably 10 out of the total 13 hours; I even slept on the second plane. When we arrived at the hotel, I went to sleep for 90 minutes and woke up at 8 am feeling really good. I thought I had beat jet lag. I don’t think I could have been more wrong.
It hit me a little after noon; I had already walked 11,000 steps and I was exhausted. Not even food or water helped. My brain felt dead and I was in zombie mode. I took a two hour nap and still fell asleep at 8pm, fully dressed with my shoes and the lights still on.
The next morning was even worse. I was wide awake at 6 in the morning, but that definitely did not mean my mind was functioning clearly. I brushed my teeth twice because I forgot I had already done so. I shattered a glass at breakfast and was dropping my food on the floor. In general, I felt as though I had no control over my body.
Jet lag is more than just being tired during the day and waking up at odd hours of the night. It is doing and saying things you normally would never do. It is a thick fog over your brain that makes directions so hard to understand. Jet lag is real and I sure hope it ends soon.
The students in the program need to write a short essay about their physical sensations during jet lag. I smiled when the first 2 essays arrived at 5:30 this morning. I was wide awake too. They described the lack of concentration and irritability, and not feeling in control of their body’s schedule. (They had been up for 2 hours). Years ago, my sister-in-law mentioned that jet lag was the best approximation that healthy people could have of the fog that cancer patients have during chemotherapy. We thought it would make a good reflection topic.
The essay authors, Janice and Alex, were up and ready to go on a walk at 6:30 this morning. We went to the large city park that houses the zoo and the art museums. The park has a large circular drive where every morning, hundreds of Malayalis walk and run. We figured out to walk on the left hand side after a time.
And then off we went to Pallium India headquarters at the Arumana Hospital for classes in pain and communication.
We heard that 80% of the world’s population and 99% of Indians have no access to opiate pain relief. (Kaley and Sam were assigned the life time job of changing this inequity in their role as public health experts). This group quickly caught on that pain is not solely a physical phenomenon. All pain has an emotional component, and a social impact. Some pain causes despair or spiritual suffering. We also introduced a common phenomenon of collusion, where family and health care providers do not share all the medical information with the patient. All ready for home visits next week!
We finished with a welcome dinner from the Pallium leadership. Saree and kurti shopping tomorrow for the New Year’s banquet as well as a trip to the beach.
We arrived with all our luggage, 30 hours after some of us left downtown Iowa City.
There is nothing better in the nervousness of international travel than leaving the airport into a crowd of people and hearing “Dr. Ann!”. Babu, the senior medical social worker and advocacy director for Pallium India had come at 3:30 AM to wait for the arrival of TEAM IOWA. Some of us went to sleep for a couple of hours (or more) and others just stayed up, showered and explored the city until our class with Manoj, Babu, Arathy and Dr. Rajagopal.
For me, I was reminded that I explore more when I have students with me. Somehow they embolden me to do things that I would not do on my own. It was great fun to return to my adopted city. Many people on the staff of Pallium and at the hotel have stopped me to talk about “Jo Madam”–the term of respect for Dr. Jo Eland, my senior colleague on this trip who died earlier this year.
The students explored the city with step counters (over 9,000 steps on no sleep), maps and a scavenger hunt list. Some of us had lunch on the hotel roof top where there are breezes and views.
I am not complaining about the heat and humidity…yet.
Greetings to you all.