Oh no no, my trip to India did not uglofy gold, gems or pearls, though I did get a pair of silver earrings! (Btw, how can earth produce pearls, is that not found in the ocean?). My desh’s richness producing capability aside — if you are unsure about this think of the 1700 cr. loss due to the 3G scam, or the 4500 cr. that Mr. Koda has stashed away somewhere (what is happening there btw?), or even the list of black-money accounts in Switzerland — my trip was super fun. It was funner because of its hyper extended period (a special holler out to my advisor for allowing this splurge!) — a whole 2 months in India!
Let’s start with the negatives and then head over to the positives. The biggest drawback of the trip was that I did not get to travel at all! I love going to Kerala every year, visiting my favorite temples and then stopping by Coimbatore to sample Annapurna’s divine breakfast (on the house!), and I have done that without fail for so many years now, that the inability to do so this time was pretty off-putting. It was not because we did not try however, it was because of the ineptness of the “doctors” in Baroda — let me rephrase that, ineptness of ONE “doctor” in Baroda (please note the quotes on doctor).
I realized that this was getting too long, so as usual, let us split into two parts– part I sad, part II happy!
Of Flus, Hospitals and Drips
Let us get one thing straight right off the bat — I hate doctors and I hate taking medicines. Unless there is a real necessity I never visit the doctor, and even when there is a necessity, I am pretty hesitant in that regard; I need pushing and prodding from my parents to get around to seeing the doc. Given that I have hardly seen a white coat or eaten much medicine, I have no idea what I am allergic to. Generally, in Mumbai, when I have had the flu and it has been confirmed to be the flu by me (yes, I have mysterious ways of doing so — generally waiting and watching), I visit our family doc, Venky. Now this has happened maybe 3-4 times in the 20-odd years I was in Mumbai, and on each of these occasions, Venky prescribed some simple anti-biotics and the flu was gone in a couple of days. All things were hunky dory and my faith in docs remained intact. So, this time, when I confirmed to myself that it was not a simple cold-cough (which is easily cured by blowing one’s nose and salt water gargling), I decided to visit the doc; only, this time the doc was in Baroda.
The kindly old man who handed me a long list of medicines seemed to know what he was doing and was cheaper than Venky (much cheaper!) and inspired nothing but confidence in me. Note that till now nothing untoward occurred and I did not have the slightest misgivings. After all, this was a guy who seemed the least bit worried and even said I could participate in the Baroda marathon (no I did not, I had to get up at 5 for that!) during my first visit and told me that it was ok to attend an open air concert of Kailash Kher. I attended the concert (it was pretty pheekha), and when I went back home, I suddenly developed chills. It was not too bad, but I had slight shivering. Owing to this development, I went to the doc again the next day in the morning when my temperature had come down to below 100 F, and he changed one antibiotic and continued with the rest. Happily I went home, not realizing that this was the start of a disaster unlike any I have seen till now.
I took a couple of doses of the prescribed medicine that day and had packed for my regulation Kerala trip which was about to commence the next day (which the doc okayed too). When my dad came back home, I asked him to call the doc and ask him about the ulcers in the mouth (very painful already) and the rashes that had sprung up everywhere (especially on the face); he did, and the doc asked me to discontinue the new medicine and go back to the older one. I had not had my evening dose of medicines yet when it happened. Suddenly I felt really cold and shivers start to manifest themselves on a body that has not ever experienced shivers before. Four layers of clothes including two seaters, a pyjama, a jeans and two layers of socks attempted to protect me from the shivers, as did the three layers of bedsheets which included a blanket. Nothing helped and my frantic parents called the doc again. The doc was about to leave his clinic, which also housed a small hospital run by his son — Anavish Mehta. The doc told us to immediately bring me to the hospital, where they would try to bring down the temperature. The primary thought on everyone’s mind was that this was possibly Malaria.
My poor parents (especially Amma) bore the brunt of my rage (which can get pretty ugly when I am not in a good state of mind) quietly and managed to rush me to the hospital, which luckily was just stone’s throw away. I was immediately put on a drip (oh, how I hate those damn things) and the saline solution coupled with the antibiotic seemingly reduced the chills, though the temperature stayed at an obstinate 103 F. A quick blood test was ordered (to check for malaria) and stupidly the blood check guy asked for a urine sample AFTER the blood was drawn from my weak, quivering body. I walked into the toilet and luckily left the door unlocked; lucky because, as soon as I stepped into the toilet, I felt woozy and I fainted! Now, I have NEVER EVER fainted in my life before, and I assure you, it is quite an experience. I was in dreamland, when suddenly I realized that I was not lying on a bed but sitting on the floor. In a moment of clarity, I yelled out my father’s name and something to the effect, “Appa, I have fainted yaar”. My poor dad had to push the door open (I was blocking it with my not-light self) and tried to pick me up. Now, my dad is healthy and all, but a 60-year old man trying to pick up his 25-year old son who weighs as much as him is…well..left to movies. I was ok enough to get up with a little support and I was placed on the bed, the urine test relegated to the next morning.
The drip in my arm and my poor frantic mother next to me, the night passed quietly — the shivers were gone, but the temperature remained where it did. The peaceful night was also owing to the fact that the quick blood test had ruled out Malaria — thank God! The next day started off quietly, and the morning check revealed no change in temperature, though my days of fainting were behind me. Little did I know that the obstinacy of the temperature would be the defining characteristic of the next two days. The doc continued to feed me with the saline solution + antibiotics through the IV, punishing my left arm for some sin I had committed in a previous life (I may have chopped off the hand of someone for me to endure this pain!). If you have never had an IV in your arm, you have no idea how painful it is. I had never truly appreciated the misery of someone in a hospital — I sympathized with the torture and all, but I had never truly felt the pain, until now.
Imagine someone dumping large quantities of fluid continuously through a small opening in your veins (? — not sure if they put it in the veins, I have not had biology for a long time). It is ok at first, you do not even notice the presence of the needle. But with time, the blood starts to clot around the permanent needle and that is when the trouble starts. The nurses will painfully massage your vein in the vain hope (see what I did there?) that it will help the flow — it only helps with the physical torture. Then when they realize that the vein is blocked, they will take a nice big syringe full of distilled water and forcefully (and quickly) force it down the small opening — that is the worst pain that I have ever experienced (and yes, I have had sprains and fractures). Once the blood clots, you are done for, since the blood realizing that it has a clotting ability, will continue to clot every time you visit the loo or change your hand position or stop with the drip for 10 minutes! Oh the misery. I realize that I am going to be unable to bear Hell, so I have decided to become a better individual — after all, if this is the pain associated with a simple IV, imagine what being burnt alive is going to feel like!
My trials with the drip aside, the antibiotics that were being arbitrarily pumped into my system did not seem to help in reducing the temperature, which stayed at the 102-103 F mark through the day. The only thing these medicines managed to do were to increase my rash and my ulcers, thereby rendering me incapable of eating through the mouth, although I wanted to! I stuck with juices, milk and fruits, and even those were difficult for my ulcer-filled mouth to process. Through the day, Anivash, the “doctor”, made 2 visits, both of which involved him standing at 3 feet distance from me and telling me that he was not “panicking” as yet. Although he was informed that I was seemingly having an allergic reaction to his medication, he seemed unperturbed. My eyes, which by now were burning like the coals of hell, and which I could barely open for a minute before dispensing off tear-like liquid, did not bother him at all, and he prescribed some eye-drops for them. I am not a doctor, but even my naive mind could realize that if the temperature was not coming down and I was having allergic reaction to the medication (rash, ulcer, burning eyes), maybe it would be a good idea to tone down the antibiotics or change them altogether. Since the temperature was not coming down, it would also have been a good idea to actually figure out what was wrong with me before he pumped me with arbitrary chemicals.
My petulance at being hosed with chemicals and my pleas to the doc to reduce the saline drip (which he did not btw, even though I struggled through a decent quantity of food and glucose-added water) possibly induced him to order another series of tests — this time the whole kitchen closet. Urine was donated first (thankfully!). Blood was drawn 3 times — the first time the drawing lasted for a good 5 minutes! I was asked to perform an X-ray (cold room, semi-naked me) and a Sonography (a/c in room, me semi-naked, cold gel, LONG TIME), which my patient mother accompanied to — the “hospital” obviously did not have these services. And by the time I was back to my bed, I had grown terribly frustrated with the incompetent staff at the “hospital” and the docs inability to reduce the temperature, which still hovered at 103 F. My growing frustration with the impatient inept staff was not unfounded. At some point during day 2, one of the “nurses” came in to take my blood pressure. Only a minute ago I was pacing the room, trying to get the food I had just eaten down my stomach (apparently one has to be horizontal at all times for the drip — obviously, any food is not going to get digested in this case!). She put the analog pressure gauge’s arm-band around me awkwardly, and checked my pressure, which she declared (after much cajoling) to be 90/50! I looked up at her in surprise. Having grown up with my mother, who suffers from low b.p., and who I have personally administered sugar-water/glucon-D water to, a 90/50 reading seemed impossible. At those numbers, I should have been unconscious, not walking around or sitting in vajrasana! The incredulity of the reading was confirmed when we asked for another test 5 minutes later, which came back as 120/80 — perfect! I just wonder, if the 90/50 reading was noted down in my chart, and the “doc” who never came close to me, let alone examined me, made all decisions based on this chart, how is anyone going to improve?
I was thoroughly frustrated, and so was my mother, not only owing to the ineptness of the staff but also due to the inability of the “doctor”. The rashes were escalating and the ulcers were worse (my eyes had improved a bit, thanks to the drops) and the temperature would just not drop. The staff was surprisingly unwilling to share with me my own blood pressure and temperature, and I started to sneak a peek at the digital thermometer to see where I was. When asked about my pressure or temperature, the reply would be, “yes, there is temperature”, “yes, there is pressure” — which did not enlighten me in the least bit! The only reason we hung around were for the blood/urine test reports (the X-ray and sonography reports were all clear) that would be available at around 6 in the evening. It was around this time that I was subjected to a drip so powerful that I could feel the remnants of it at the back of my mouth. The drip managed to dry up my nose and stop my cough, but also resulted in a difficulty in breathing which continued through the night. The results came in at 6, and of course, every test was negative — I had a simple viral infection that this “doctor” was unable to cure!
We left the damned clinic, without heed Anivash’s protests, and I was safely home that evening. We called for the company doc (a nice Bengali gentlemen, Dr. Sen) who had seen me on Day 1 at the “hospital” as well, and he came in the next morning, and finally, I was subjected to a check up that seemed like a doc examining a patient, not a visitor checking out a ferocious lion at the zoo! He prescribed simple Disprin and an antibiotic that was also supposed to be the medicine if I had typhoid (that report would come in three days later, and like all others, it would be negative as well). In one day my temperature was under manageable levels, and in two days I was back to normal. I had had 4 doses of Disprin. I was taking 3 syrups, 2 gels (that I applied on the ulcers), two tablets, and one cream (for the face) in order to combat the battering that my body received at Anivash’s hands, while my actual problem — the viral infection — needed only 1 tablet, twice a day (no disprin if temperature is normal)!
So, Anivash, the anavashyam (tamizh for unnecessary), lead to a loss of Rs. 25,000/- in two days, and left me with ulcers, severe rashes (the remnants of which are still lingering on my skin), watery, burning eyes, loss of appetite and a fever of 103 F. I had gone in only with one of those. Oh, and yes, the entire trip, which was so carefully planned, had to be cancelled — all train tickets, hotel bookings, plane tickets, everything, affecting not only my family, but also my uncle’s who was supposed to accompany us. Nice fun this!
I am loathe to end the post on a negative note, so let us look at the positives from the visit to Anivash. I learnt that I do not fear the needle as much as I thought I did — yay! I also learnt that if you are in a “hospital” long enough, every functioning organ can easily be rendered useless through a simple combination of medicine and ineptness. Oh, and I realized that simple solutions are always seemingly the best, even if an M.D. (“Dr” Anivash) says no, but a basic MBBS (Dr. Sen) says yes.
Phew! Long post this, let’s do happy times in part II!