Renu's Week

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Report of 31 March 2018

It's paratyphoid, similar to typhoid.  That's the diagnosis and I am on hefty antibiotics.  This is really honking me off - the fever, chills, malaise.  We went off to Kovalam this morning after I spent a night shivering and being completely unable to get warm enough; it was my young assistant Keerthana's day off, but she sweetly came and started iv fluids on me.  I haven't had them in recent memory, we squirted some IV Acetaminophen/Paracetamol in the fluid and it was a wonder drug.  Several people at Kovalam filtered in to see me and see how I was: I found that very, very kind.  After the IV fluid was finished, Keerthana graciously brought me breakfast - pongal, a rice dish with dhal and some pepper,  It is a safe food and I was relieved to get my appetite back.  I do not at all enjoy being too sick to eat.

Scott and I headed off and ran some errands today.  He is a tad unwell himself, with a booming cough.  We stopped by the Ayurveda store and the gentleman there prescribed 2 powders, to be mixed with honey, for the cough; the result has been almost instantaneous.  Truly, there are so many great systems of medicine in our land, which do the job when allopathy does not. 

We were in Madurai earlier this week.  I leave next week for the U.S. and we wanted to see my Dad before that.  It was a fun trip; we stayed put, ate and drank and were merry, and Scott gave my Dad smartphone lessons.  Scott is very much a part of this family, and rolls nicely with all matters.  I was privileged to see a dear friend, Mrs. Leila Kurien; she is of my parents' generation and we unfailingly have a chuckle when we meet.  This time, it was about Scott stopping by my private practice clinic and sending everyone there into a tizzy; they took selfies with him and - as I told Mrs. Kurien - in my 2 years there, nobody has asked to take a selfie with me.  :)  Let's hear it for the handsome Caucasian.

I did not go to the other Banyan this week; we did have our colossal clinic at Kovalam and that was good.  A young son of one of the patients came to sit with me and learn some medicine; that was fun.  I love it when young people show initiative.  Private practice is also fine.  I had to diagnose a young lady with typhoid and there was no doubt at all on the blood tests.  I had to tell her what I now practice: safe foods, no eating out, plenty of yogurt, etc. 

We Skyped with both boys today and - as I told my sister, Anu - that was panacea. 

May you have many fine times!

Unw -


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Report of 25 March 2018

Hello from our balcony!

The sea is a grey haze, the sky is partly blue, our laundry is drying here, people are splooshing in the pool and the cricket game downstairs is in full swing.  The Australian cricket captain has resigned after colluding to tamper with the ball.  Strange things happen in the world of sport.  My sports authority husband told me what several players echoed, that tampering likely would not have happened without the knowledge of the captain and coach.

I diagnosed myself with pneumonia.  Scott had to position the diaphragm (listening part) of the stethoscope on my back and move it around as I took big breaths; my lungs sounded junky and I put myself on an antibiotic.  This illness is slow to leave: I am still intensely fatigued, no longer beat the alarm when waking up and cannot take the stairs as I normally do.  We took ourselves off to SMF Hospital yesterday and a senior physician examined me; she felt that this is the normal aftermath of a pneumonia and I am now taking calcium and vitamins.  On many days, the bed has been a very attractive alternative to work.

The lady we rescued last week has since tried to run away.  The psychiatrist will review her, social workers will swing into action and try to locate the family.  As this is a family blog, I must use discreet language and let you know that she pinched my backside as I walked by: as I whirled around, she let out a hearty peal of laughter.  Sigh, sigh.  I do not like being touched unwarrantedly by either gender and told her to stop.  The mentally ill and the mentally challenged likely do not fully understand what they do.

Private practice is okay.  In my unwell state, patience is nonexistent.  The other day, relatives of a patient said her husband overseas had asked why she was taking so long to recover.  In India, indirect speech is rife and this question sometimes means the doctor ain't competent.  I felt my eyes blaze and let everybody there have it; I said - not gently - that they could take the patient elsewhere, that her many years of not taking medications as prescribed should have been addressed by her and them, and that I had less-literate patients who did exactly as I told them and recovered beautifully.  One of the relatives apparently asked our front office staff for a feedback form and I told them to ensure that she got at least 10 forms; she could unleash whatever she wanted.  The patient herself appeared to be happy with the care.  I alerted my boss about this episode and he considered it routine, nothing to worry about; I laughed out loud when I read his reply.  Nice.   

We Skyped with 1 boy today, our older son, and that was so good.  He mentioned teaching a class full of elementary students of color, and that they used phrases such as "I'd like to add on to what she said."  This thrilled all of us; it is lovely when little people are on the right track.  We hope to Skype with our younger son on the morrow.

Vandana is in the U.S. getting an award (after zillions of awards, said her co-founder, Vaishnavi) and we are pleased.  The joy of working for ethical folks cannot be understated.

I spoke to my father 2 days ago and he is well.  We hope to see him soon.

Unw -


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Report of 20 March 2018

Hello from our living room!

It ain't a Sunday, I can't see the sea, but had to blog.

Life is fine.  I am supposed to head to the U.S. soon and am not quite ready yet.  The Banyan and private practice have been satisfying: appreciative patients can be so heady. 

I was driving to work today - a long drive - and spotted a red mass on the road.  It seemed like a mortally wounded animal, and I noticed someone on the shoulder of the road, seeming like a gypsy.  As I neared the red mass and passed another vehicle also circumventing it, I noticed that it was a sari, and that the person on the side of the road was standing there in a blouse and "underskirt," the accoutrements for a sari.  It seemed like the lady might have been mentally ill, I got to the B and asked for the rescuing social worker to take the team and rescue this patient.  Sometimes, by the time our team gets there, the patient's location has changed, etc.  Well, this time, they found her - halleluia.  By the time I left the B, they had returned with the patient and I was completely grateful.  The lady limps, and we will slowly find out what happened.  There are also burn marks on her neck and back.  We will find out about those, as well.  She does not speak a language I recognise, but that has never stopped us. 

So, my thought was - here is a lady, who must have been part of a family once, on the road in a strange town, unsure of her next meal or even her safety, mentally ill enough to start doffing clothes, and here is the Banyan, as always, ready and willing to give her whatever she needs to start rebuilding herself.  All for free.  I tell you, it is a powerfully wonderful organisation to work for. 

Private practice is also fine.  We have some young people hospitalised and I have explained their illnesses to them, leading to good interactions.  It is a privilege to be in this profession.

Scott and I attended the wedding reception of a school classmate's son.  Lakshmi, my former classmate, did not know we were coming and it was nice to surprise her.  We had a very good time at the event and drove straight to work the next day.  I do not like going late to our clinic at the seaside village, Kovalam, as the patients start assembling at 7.30 AM.  However, we were driving from 4 hours away and left at a safe 5 AM, reaching the clinic well after 9.  Nobody had budged: all the patients were in the waiting area, squeezed onto the benches there and happy as clams, chatting away until I got there, ate breakfast and then came down to my room.  They are a grateful and happy lot, the patients, and it is very nice to treat them. 

We spoke briefly to my father last week and will speak again this week.  He is a very busy man, which is good.

Naren turned 27 last week and we got to "Hangout" with both boys.  That was tremendously good fun.  Nice chatter and humor and candor.

Hope you have a good week!

Unw -


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Report of 11 March 2018

Good evening from our balcony!

The sea is blue, not crystal clear due to a haze, pretty nonetheless.  The cricket game downstairs is punctuated by conversation, and there are people splooshing about in the pool in our clubhouse next door.  This is nice - to write, and write.  Scott is sitting here reading the paper, having had his evening tea.  I consider that to be a useless meal, preferring to eat dinner at 4.30 or 5 PM, and we have done a preference switch: Indians drink tea and have a snack at 4 or 5 PM, and Americans eat dinner at that time.

I have a virus which set in about 2 days ago.  I was completely wiped out yesterday, but hauled myself to work and saw a couple of patients.  We then went on to a carnival featuring women entrepreneurs.  It was nice; we ate, mostly.  Scott had cheesecake and some baked goodies, I had some savory things and sugarcane juice, a huge favorite.  I felt my throat get better with the beverage and we then went on to our friend D. Ramesh's clinic for an ophthal evaluation. 

It is educational for doctors to fall sick: it is good to know what patients speak of.  I stayed on the sofa today and have gargled with salt water about 5 times, drunk vats of fluid and eaten fruit.  At the end of my reading the newspaper - about a 4-hour exercise - I feel better and am up.  My throat feels better with all that salt; it burned yesterday.

We spent last weekend at my sister Anu's place.  We ate - joined by our med student niece, Sanjana - talked, laughed, walked.  I have a new favorite drink - gin and tonic.  What a nice, mellow beverage.  Scott says it helps when the gin is top class and this was Bombay Sapphire.  I was forgetting words by the end of 2 small drinks, so decided to stop the enjoyment.  Anu was chairing a meeting the next morning and we stopped in to say bye.  It unfailingly gives me a kick in the pants to see a family member occupy a position of power at a meeting or talk or conference :).  Anu was leaving the next day for a Gates Foundation project meeting with the National Institutes of Health in the U.S., and I was pleased that we managed to see her before she left; gracious of her to accommodate us in spite of trans-continental travel.

The Banyan is wonderful.  Women's Day was celebrated with much fanfare and the whole place was festive and joyful and peppy.  A little event was organised on the premises, featuring the superintendent of the local prison - a lady - speaking.  She was great, all enjoyed the talk, and then prizes were given away to deserving residents.  Some residents spoke: it was eye-opening for me that the Banyan gave them hope when they perceived none, that the B has given them self-confidence and dignity and earning potential.  And treated their mental illness.  I knew all this, sort of; it was much more powerful to hear the story from the horse's mouth.  What a great place to work, how privileged I am to be part of an organisation whose very ethos involves imparting hope and joy and succor. 

Private practice is also nice.  We treat a variety of illnesses.  There has been a fair number of people attempting to harm themselves, and the Banyan's array of counselling services is an invaluable resource for such patients.

We were on "Hangout" with both boys today and that was the fun-fest it usually is.  Lots of candor, talk, laughter, love.  We are privileged to have these 2 young men in our lives.

May you have much love and laughter in your own lives.

Unw -


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Report of 27 Feb 2018

Hello from our balcony!

The sea is blue, as is the sky.  Soccer lessons are going on downstairs.  The sky is spotted with small white clouds - numerous; there is a saying in India that such clouds form when a tigress has given birth.  Happy thought.

A couple of weeks since I blogged.  Last week was Family Day at Kovalam.  Some kind souls donate money and food for the occasion.  Families of staff (often as impoverished as the patients) are invited, we have biryani and chicken and fruit and chocolate (which replaced ice cream this year, perhaps some year we can have both), there are carnival rides and games, and all of us dance.  It is an extremely fun day.  This past weekend was Family Day at Adaikalam.  And it was the similar fun-fest.  Scott annually joins me on stage to perform; I think something might be on YouTube or Instagram. 

I rather love dancing - "Don't give me people who want to dance, give me people who have to dance" is a quote I saw once - so to dance is not a chore.  When we worked in Jasper, Indiana, in 2015, we were at the very fun Strassenfest and a young man with Down Syndrome was dancing; neither of the 2 Weiss men I was with wanted to dance, so I danced with the aforementioned young man.  What a blast - rock music and dancing, with a partner who was already dancing.  After it ended, the young man's mother came and thanked me for dancing with him; pleasantries were exchanged and after that, as I expressed bemusement at the gratitude, Navin said, "Yes, as though dancing was a big sacrifice for you."  [It was not and was unbridled fun; I did appreciate the mother's kind thoughts.]  Every single cell in my body starts to rock when music comes on and the urge to dance is visceral; I asked Scott once if it were not that way for him and he laughed out loud.

The Banyan is great and Vandana heads stateside soon to receive a prestigious award.  It is nice to work for visionary, ethical, morally upstanding human beings.

Private practice is also fine.  It is nice that both private practice hospitals are closeby.

We were in Madurai last week to observe the 8th anniversary of my mother's demise.  By Coorgi custom, a lamp is lit and that is all.  We cooked some favorite foods, however.  There is a large picture of my pretty mother in our dining room in Madurai and we placed flowers on it, missing her presence at the meal.  It is now, more than before, that I realise how important all of us were to her - more than patients, more than students, more than much in her life. 

We saw "Phantom Thread," admiring the holding-their-own of Vicky Krieps and Leslie Manville.  We also saw "Black Panther," and had to echo our actor son's support of movies with cast and crew of color.  The acting was first-rate, so we enjoyed all of it. 

We hope that the students protesting gun violence in the U.S. are able to achieve what so many others could not - some peace and quiet in the community.

Unw -


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Report of 11 Feb 2018

Good evening!

Though darkening, the sky is till blue, as is the sea.  Lights are starting to come on outside buildings and on streets, and it is a pretty time.

It is nice to write.  We were on errands last Sunday, catching a movie ("Phantom Thread") and then going to see a very sick patient in the hospital.  Thus, late getting home and then writing had to be sacrificed to getting ready for a busy Monday.  The patient is better, thank goodness.  I received an excellent update from the ICU resident, and he tolerated all my questions.  Not everybody would.

The Banyan is nice.  Vandana, one of the two founders, received a prestigious award and will head stateside next month.  We are extremely happy at the recognition!  All of us are somewhat hopeful that the exposure will help us toward our corpus goal of Rs. 40 crores, or approximately $7 million.  The lack of money has never stopped the work here, so we will plonk on. 

I was driving to my private practice the other day, when I spotted something on the roadside and was unsure what it was until I drove closer.  It was a woman, stark naked, and lying on the roadside.  I pulled over and phoned our Kovalam branch; I thought later of my option to cover the lady with my dupatta - a diaphanous shawl won over tunic and long pants.  These brilliant ideas only occur later.  Fortunately, the team did get there quickly and took the lady to Kovalam.  I will see her tomorrow.  It is mighty nice to work for an organisation that can help with such patients.

Private practice is fine.  Not many patients and I am grateful, really, as it means good health might be reigning.

I will talk to my father later this evening.  We spoke to the boys earlier today and that was grand fun - so much candor, laughter and love.  For this, as always, I will be grateful.

May you have many reasons to be grateful yourselves.

Unw -


Friday, January 26, 2018

Report of 26 Jan 2018

Hello from our sitting room -

The sea is visible, on our balcony table are a couple of drawers [from our dresser] that Scott uses and is to clean out, and I am blogging.  There is a game of cricket on downstairs and the whack of the ball + cheers are occasionally heard. 

Both boys are back to their lives elsewhere and that is good, overall.  We miss them, of course, and I was particularly happy to walk by their room in the mornings and see them asleep: our house, our sons, our family.  We did a lot of talking when they were here and it was - as always - wonderful.  The joy of raising boys - these 2, at any rate - is that all the issues are on the table.  My teenage hormone-laden fights with my parents were silent, dour, lengthy dramas.

Navin returned from Japan last week and we made a quick trip to Madurai so that he could take leave of my Dad and have the spirit of his late Grandmother be with him as he embarked stateside.  We had a good visit; the ladies who help my father's household have seen both our sons as pre-teens and Navin took leave of them as well.  We then attended the wedding of one of Navin's friends; it is always a joy for me to be included in these ceremonies, like one of our own children getting married.  Zaineb married Visvesh, crossing lines of faith and it was a beautiful evening, with good friends, our children's soulmates and excellent food.  Zaineb's parents made sure we felt welcome - very lovely. 

The Banyan is nice.  Vandana, one of the 2 founders, won a prestigious international award - please Google and you will get all the details.  Vandana and Vaishnavi have tirelessly crusaded for the mentally ill and the Banyan will be 25 years old this year.  Vaishnavi now works for disability rights and we are sure that cause will also go far. 

I was back at the B this week after holidays for Pongal.  Navin was leaving on Monday night, so I told the staff to finish accepting patients earlier in the day, and we saw many patients by the time I left at 11.15 AM: staff support was excellent and we clipped through.  As I have said before, patients with high blood pressure only need to be evaluated once a year; at our clinic, these folks come every week.  They are treated with great respect by my colleagues and catch up with each other in the waiting area, as most of them are from Kovalam or nearby villages; thus a little socialising, a little medicining - all good.  Some do come from far away and I am perennially impressed at that. 

I got home to find Navin still asleep :) and then he woke up, and together, we settled a giant mess with his airline ticket.

Private practice is also fine.  It is nice to practise medicine, it is a privilege to be in this profession.

Unw -