A toast – to good health!

A while ago, my father complained of numbness on his right side. I took him for a check-up. The doctor panicked after checking his blood pressure. Said it was too high and he needed immediate admission and a CT scan of the brain to check for clots.

“He’ll need to be here for about two days” He told us.

My father, at 73, is a very active man, who’s never suffered from anything more than a fever over the years. So when they sent us off in an ambulance for the scan, he refused to lie down. So we sped around sitting side by side in the long bench reserved for the attendant, while the patient’s bed was empty.

We got back an hour later and he was whisked away to intensive care. While my brother and I sat in the reception, biting our nails, my father was having a roaring time inside. He’d expected the doctor to check him, prescribe some tablets and send him home. It was a rude shock to find himself in the ICU, with beepers attached to him and glimpses of other patients in various stages of sedation all around him. Plus he was hungrier than ever since it was well past his lunch time and he had been advised to report on an empty stomach that morning.

We were allowed ten minutes to see him that evening. We went in very nervously only to find him sitting upright on his bed with a scowl on his face. “The food here is terrible!” he griped to us. “I couldn’t even eat half of it! Now I’m so hungry!  Can you ask them to get me something?”

I spoke to a nurse.

She peeped in after a few minutes. “Sir, your coffee & bread on the way!” She announced cheerfully.

“Bread?” My father barked. ” Can’t you get me something like a bajji or bonda?”

“Do you know your cholestrol levels?” She countered. “The doctor will sack me if I give you anything deep-fried”.

My father’s scowl intensified. We made our way out quickly before his famous temper erupted.

The next day’s visit was worse. He was even fiercer and nurses and ward-boys gaped at him, open-mouthed as he sat there and cursed everyone in the hospital and their families.

To placate him, I told him to be patient till evening. “They’ll shift you to a room.” I soothed. “They’re just waiting to finish another course of intravenous medicines ..”

“A room, my foot!” he spat out. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going home!”

“Where’s my wallet & glasses?” He asked my brother.

“I have it.” He replied. ” You’re not allowed to have those inside the ICU” He informed my father sternly.

“Well, I need them. And what happened to my clothes?”

“I have them.” I told him.

Before he flew off the handle, I spoke to a nurse and got permission to hand him his reading glasses and the day’s newspaper.

When we were ready to leave, he instructed me to have a word with the doctor.

“Tell him I’ll really end up a patient if I stay here any longer. I just need to go home”

But sadly he got shifted to a room only the next evening. But thankfully by then he’d resigned himself to his fate and was a bit more cooperative.

First day in the room was restive. He looked a bit weak, thanks to all the semi-starvation and the sedation he’d received. But the next day he was back to his restless ways.

He tried walking around his bed while the intravenous drug was still attached to his hand. Had a big argument with the junior doctor on the rounds.

After a while, I gave up getting worked up and just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

During a lull between the nurses fussing over him with either medicines or taking his blood sample, a young woman in a doctors coat came in and introduced herself as a physiotherapist.

“Take a deep breath.” She told my father. He complied. “Now wiggle your toes…” He wiggled. She noted something in her book.

“Thank you sir’ She said and went away.

Five minutes later a young man in a doctor’s coat walked in. Introduced himself as a physiotherapist. Asked my father the same set of questions. Noted something in his book and went away.

Fifteen minutes passed in silence with me going back to my book and my father dozing off.

Another knock. Another young thing in a white coat. Introduced herself as a physio.

“There were 2 physios who just examined him in the last half hour,” I informed her pleasantly.

“Oh! ” She stuttered a bit. “They’ve covered this room?”

“Yes!” my father & me chorused.

She beat a hasty retreat.

Then it was time for the evening rounds.

A pleasant young man came in with a retinue of nurses who briefed him on my father’s parameters. He nodded sagely and looked at the patient.

“Sir! how are you today?” He boomed.

“I’m perfectly okay.” replied my father. “And I’ll be even better, if I can go home now.”

“But sir, You still need  another four days of intravenous medication. Just bear with us.” He said placatingly.

“What??” erupted my father. “Four more days? No way! You people promised me only 2 days of admission. This is already day 3! You cannot go back on your word!”

The doctor was now sweating a little. “But sir..” he began.

“No but!” interrupted my father. Then went on to extol the virtues of a calm mind to heal oneself. On how he’ll be instantly better the minute he’s home in a familiar surrounding and with his dogs.

Whenever the doctor tried to get a word edgeways, he started full throttle on something else.

‘Just give it up! Agree to whatever he says & just go!’ I told the doctor in my mind.

After about twenty minutes the doctor did just that. With a promise to speak to his superiors about his discharge, the doctor took off, wiping his sweaty brow.

“Che!” my father cursed after he left. “Kallulimangan! My throat is parched after all the talking, but he didn’t buy any of my stories!” he muttered under his breath.

Another two eventful days passed by, filled with my father’s theories of insurance scams and the underhandedness of doctors and a very scary ambulance ride for another CT scan. SInce there was no emergency, we just drove around  normally, till we reached a signal. When the driver saw it was still red, he turned on the siren and stepped on the accelerator with so much gusto, I was having palpitations with all the near-death experiences by the time we reached the scanning centre!

When we got back, we were  finally informed that he’ll be discharged the next day.

The young doc who had made himself scarce for the past two days, surfaced again.

“Good evening sir!” he boomed. “How are you?’

“Perfect” replied my father.

“Happy? I just saw your release papers being signed.”

“They could have easily discharged me four days ago.” said his father.

The doctor had not learn his lesson. He actually disagreed with my father. “Sir, I’d already explained to you,” he began.

“This was all with your best interest in mind. And once you go home, please stick to the prescribed diet, have your medicines on time and surely, no smoking!”

Now this was one thing the doctor didn’t know about my dad. He’s from a generation which thinks smoking is disrespectful & has to be done only behind closed doors. To this day, he never smokes in front of his mother or his siblings. (But smoking in front of his wife & kids are not disrespectful, I really don’t understand why!) And will never admit to smoking to anyone who’s not immediate family.

Here he had to admit not only to the doctors, but also to the nurses, ayahs & the ward boys standing around his bed!

He now looked the doctor squarely in the eye. ‘Oh my god! Why are you such a glutton for punishment?’ I sent another telepathic message to the doctor.

“You say smoking is harmful to me”

“Yes, sir. It is a well-known fact.”

“But doctor, smoking will kill me in about ten or twenty years. But have you heard of carbon monoxide poisoning?”

“Of course,” said the good doctor not knowing where this was going.

“If I walk on this busy road outside, the carbon monoxide from the exhaust of about hundred cars will kill me in half an hour. So, do I stop walking on the road?” he demanded.

Stony silence from the doctor.

“If  I take your advice, have all the pills, eat horrible food without salt, avoid sugar and quit smoking, how many more years will it add to my life? ten, twenty?”

The doctor shrugged.

“But if I continue living like always – eat tasty food, smoke and live happily I’ll probably live for another two years?

The doctor started to say something.

But again my father’s voice drowned his.

“I’d rather live for two years enjoying my life rather than live for twenty years like a sanyasi!”

After a teeny tiny pause, the doctor found his voice again. “But sir, I agree with you. But what if you get another clot and end up with paralytic stroke? Then you’ll not have a life at all! You’ll be bed-ridden & lose all your independence!”

‘Don’t you ever learn? Just agree with him & get going! He’s just using you to amuse himself!’ I wanted to scream.

My father glared at him. “Courage.. is what I have. If you think you can scare me with such stories, you’re mistaken. You’re looking at a man at one time had lost so much money in his business and never even gave it another thought and went on with his life the next day” He announced. “And I’m not going to sit in a corner in fear what will happen next.”

“But sir, I maybe too young to give you philosophical advice but Shree Krishna has told in Bhagavad Gita….”

‘OH MY GOD!’ I screamed inwardly. ‘WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???’

But as soon as he began he caught himself on time and said, “You know what’s best for you sir! All the very best to you!” WIth that he shook hands with my father and left.

Finally!

The next day after waiting anxiously for his release, my father paced the corridor, sat in the chair for a while, fidgetted with all the gadgets in the room and finally when he couldn’t take it anymore, started tormenting the accounts department about his discharge.

Then, while I was lying down in the attendant’s bed and reading a book, he went down to the second floor, paid up, collected the paperwork, came back to the fifth, handed it to the nurses, came into the room, picked up his bags and we were ready to go.

I felt like I was the patient and he was the attendant!

On the brighter side, now he’s so terrified of getting admitted again, he’s very regular with his medicines!

But to quote my husband, we don’t really have to worry about that. Because if there’s a next time, the hospital staff by now will definitely have standing instructions to stop all other cases to check him up as fast as possible and send him home with prescription at the earliest!

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