Padma called me around 3 .00 p.m. A very close relative D had a myocardial infarction (attack on the heart for the ignorant) the previous night and was admitted to hospital. This was bit of shock as D is younger to me by three years and belonged to an allied profession- subject to similar pressures at work place. It seems he had chest pain two or three times in the previous few days and had ascribed it to indigestion and similar innocuous causes. When it became unbearable, his daughter A compelled him to go to the nearby hospital. He walked to the hospital (refusing to go by car or take an auto), climbed the stairs and then Doctor T informed him of the attack and was admitted instantly.
We came to know all this the next day and rushed to the hospital, though it served no particular purpose, except to show solidarity. The hospital was clean but had limited facilities. The waiting room had few steel chairs which were meant to be comfortable for short duration and not for hanging around for too long. Staying at night was not greatly recommended.
Doctor T, owning and running the hospital, had a pleasant and capable looking demeanor.He was clear about further course of action. D needed an angiography and angioplasty. This is to identify and remove the blockage in the concerned artery.
Since the incident happened on a Friday night and weekends are sacrosanct, the action was to start only on Monday. Doctor T. informed that the non invasive surgical process would take place at a nearby large hospital on Monday and he would inform the timing the next morning. He also promised to make arrangements for the transit to the other hospital.
Monday morning dawned. D’s family made arrangements for the checkout from this hospital and transit to the larger S Hospital. By now, the Doctor T had gone on vacation giving instructions to his subordinates –which did not include any transit arrangements. However, the resident Doctor present urged an early checkout as he had made arrangement at Hospital S for the process to commence in the morning. After a hurried check out, an auto rickshaw was summoned to transport D to the larger Hospital S.
Now Hospital S is a seven storied hospital standing on a main road bearing dense traffic. A large “No Parking” sign is displayed prominently outside the main entrance. So neither patients nor visitors have a chance to bring vehicles and park it.
D reached the Hospital and was checked in. It was chaotic. He and his family were informed that the Doctor to perform the process would come only after five p.m. and he would have to wait till that time. We wondered whether the earlier hospital believed in early check out and quick turnaround of beds to show 110 % capacity utilization.
Now, the two processes consist of showing (to the family) visually the specific block which needs surgery and informing the several alternatives in the instrument being used to remove the blockage. The family have a few minutes to take decision on a matter they have least knowledge of. Doctor T (now on vacation) had not educated them on these choices. So after some discussion, a choice was made, the process performed successfully and patient was declared as safe.
All this took around an hour or so. By the time I reached the Hospital S, the process was over. We had transmitted the news of successful process to all our anxious relatives. The Hospital was milling with lot of visitors hanging about in small corridors outside the lift. There were few chairs in the staircase landings which were mostly occupied. The rooms were said to be full, which prevented D from being transferred from ICU, where he stayed till the next day.
D returned home the second day after the process.
In all this, his employer, blood relatives stood by D. His family, which underwent the greatest pressure, withstood it with grace and calm. D’s two children are at a crucial stage from education point of view- one is writing a Board exam and another final degree exam. In the midst of rushing to hospitals, meeting doctors, making arrangements for resources, meeting office colleagues who visited the hospital ( we spend maximum time in Office and hence the Office colleagues are bound to be most shocked at sudden medical emergencies) , they had to attend to scholastic activities also. It also made all of us aware that we need to share many aspects and details of our life and economic situation with our family members so that they can face an emergency with knowledge rather than grope in ignorance. D, fortunately, is an orderly person and hence every aspect was smoothly taken care of.
The two hospital bills were stiff, serving as a reminder that preventive health care is a more economic solution. Surgical process is not recommended even by the most ambitious Doctors. Physical exercise, self restraint in food, watching our weight, checking blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels on a regular basis is undoubtedly a wiser alternative to letting ourselves go while pursuing our career or alternate pursuits. Indians are genetically said to be more prone to heart related problems and hence have to be more cautious.
While I have trotted out the above words of wisdom, I have not followed it. I need to shed a lot of weight (physical according to me and mental also according to my family) and express my love for oily, spicy and sweet food in words only and not in action.
Coincidentally, I had just joined a gym chain the previous week and the instructor had taken pains to put me through a grueling schedule, making me wonder whether a brisk morning walk is a more viable and pleasant alternative.
This episode made me wonder what an ordinary citizen would do when faced with such unexpected turn of events. Not all can raise substantial sums at short notice. May be Government Hospitals do treat patients from economically backward segment. But, does it happen in all parts of India? Sitting in Mumbai, it is very hard to know the reality in a rural location in North East India or in a hilly terrain in Jammu or Himachal Pradesh or in any other part of India.
During discussions, a colleague explained that the operating model of a well known hospital. It involves taking a capitation fee of Rs. 1.75 crores. It is obvious that after paying such a large sum, such a doctor is not going to rush to a forest in Chhattisgarh or Gadchiroli to treat poor patients, the way Baba Amte’s family has done. This kind of capitation fee would certainly push up the treatment charge of even an otherwise routine disease or surgery.
The whole episode brought forth the uncertainty which is inbuilt into our lives, but is ignored more out of a false sense of courage rather than preparedness and knowledge. It is on such occasions, we realize or feel that some where God plays a role in molding our lives and the decisions we make in it so as to guide in the right direction.
So I go to Gym more regularly (I promise myself) so as to lose weight and look like Harrison Ford (I have white hairs and in my view have a handsome look- by my self- determined standards).
Now, that is a goal to work on and cheat the local surgeons of a share of my or my employer’s resources.