Renu's Week

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Report of 15 Oct 2017

Good evening from the world indoors!

I am late getting to this, because I went off to swim and then cooked my husband dinner.  He rather likes pasta and I made it.  I enjoy cooking immensely; it is always easy in the U.S.

We are well.  The Banyan is wonderful.  I was very sick this week, but heard that one of my beloved patients, Ms. X, had a urinary infection, and went to work.  She is mentally challenged and is hard to understand, but is unabashedly fun and always immensely considerate: "You eat, then I will," etc.  She had not been herself, and we checked bloodwork and urine, and lo and behold, there it was.  So I hauled myself in to the B, started the antibiotic, checked a billion other patients and left.  The kind folks in the kitchen made me ginger tea, which is a spectacularly delicious milky concoction with tea, ginger, pepper and a vat of sugar.  I felt better after that, and infintely grateful for this wonderful pampering/consideration. 

I did manage to get to my private practice and saw a patient who had attempted suicide.  She was about my age, and it was unclear whether she had consumed ant poison or rat poison.  The 2 are managed differently, and I asked the son which it was; he stepped up to the bedside and barked, "So which did you ingest?!!!"  My word; I asked him why he was threatening his mother and he apologised.  I referred them for counselling and left, feeling grateful that the 3 Weiss men would not treat me that way.

Speaking of which, we Skyped with both boys today and that was fun.  Both talk a lot and share a lot, and the adult Weiss men are a treat.  As were the younger Weiss men, of course, it is just nice now to not have teenage hormones flaring.  A young female colleague at the Banyan stated that she had skipped dinner the previous night as she'd had a fight with the family; I asked whom that had affected the most, she acknowledged it was herself, and I went on to speak of "The joys of boys," who fought until the next meal, and all was well as we ate together.  Nice.  Uncomplicated.

Scott and I drove to Madurai and visited my father.  I had a medical issue to discuss with him, and discuss we did.  We also ate, and reminisced, and laughed.  It was a nice visit and I returned, rejuvenated.

May you have refreshing times of your own.

Unw -

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Report of 8 Oct 2017

Hello from our balcony!

The Bay of Bengal is still blue, the clothes are drying and falling off the rack in the breeze, there is a cricket game in full swing downstairs, about a dozen custard apples are ripening on our kitchen counter and I have eaten.  That's a big thing for me - eating.  The word "Hangry" is a fine one; if I have to work and am hungry, all the cylinders do not fire, I get irritable, miss details in the patient's history or lab reports, etc.  And that's one day or one meal.  Imagine the unfortunate folks for whom hunger is a state of being.  We are indeed fortunate, my mother said, that we can afford the food we like to eat. 

The Banyan is fine.  There is a Diwali hamper-packing effort on, and many personnel were engaged in it.  The Indian festival of lights - Diwali or Deepavali - is coming up and one of the B's fundraisers is a hamper that can be gifted; we pack pickle and sweets and papads, and the giver can then gift it.  The B secured an order for 6000 (yes, 6000) gift hampers from a local company and then everyone was off and running; the pickle was made, the homemade papads were attempted but there was not enough sun to dry them and they had to be procured from elsewhere, the containers were painted.  The whole place has been abuzz with activity.  The patients are well and well-treated, and fed, this last being a matter of great pride for me.  There is a lot of dengue around and I have tried to insist on mosquito nets + repellent.  Dengue is a reportable illness and the city's health officials visited us last week after we reported a case.  We have no standing water on the premises, but there is stagnant water in a drain nearby that I have tried for years to have closed.  No success yet.  Let us see.   

My private practice is also good.  The owners of Swaram Hospital are fine, ethical and committed folks and all try to provide exemplary care to the patients.  One of the patients in the ICU a few days ago was a 24 year old lady who had attempted suicide.  I saw her, and she seemed fit for discharge; usually, I refer such patients - and other depressed folks - to the Banyan and did this time, also.  She told me she did not want to marry and that had caused stress in the family; when my 24 year old tells me he does not want to marry, I say fine, but - as the patient and I discussed - it is different for a young woman in a traditional family.  Her mother was alongside; she and I did not speak the same language but often motherhood is a language in itself, isn't it.  I held her arm as I explained through the patient our options for counselling, etc., and the mother started crying; as I looked at her, her face, and tried to find words or actions to soothe her, a slender arm came into our field of vision and long fingers gently wiped away the mother's tears as the daughter tried to spare her mother more sadness.  It was a spectacularly beautiful moment and I teared up at it, also; so there were 3 of us practically blubbering there.  That was really dignified, wasn't it - the physician also almost crying. 

Sometimes it is good for physicians to fall sick.  We then know firsthand what the patients go through.  I had battled a respiratory virus for 3 weeks and I think it has just turned bacterial; I am a little wiped out and am coughing up nasty stuff, and will start an antibiotic tomorrow.  I was also evaluated in Vellore by a great friend of my sister; the friend is a dermatologist and evaluated the hideous dark pigmentation on my cheeks and neck.  We have started treatment; as I told the dermatologist, I was not in a hurry to get this condition evaluated as my husband still thinks I am one of the most beautiful women he has ever met and I don't sit around staring at my own face all day, thus was not bothered by it.  It has distressed my patients and colleagues, though, and I did think it prudent to see a doctor about it, cosmetic implications aside.  Christian Medical College, Vellore, was started by an American at least a century ago and is one of the pre-eminent colleges + hospital in all of India.  My sister, Anu, and brother-in-law, Benji, studied there, Anu still works there, my niece, Sanjana, is now a student there and you can rest assured that an eval at CMC will be thorough and good.  My eval was no different and I am sitting here, comfortable as a clam with the treatment plan.

We got together with Anu and Sanjana after my derm appointment, had lunch, overate merrily and talked and laughed all afternoon.  It was a fine time.

We Skyped with the boys today and that was grand fun.  Lots of laughter here, too.  The boys are now at the stage where they talk freely with us about all manner of things and for this, as always, I am grateful.  We discussed intimacy today with some eye-rolling, but I stated my point and the young men listened: take your time getting intimate.  A med school classmate once told me she had stayed in a toxic relationship only because she and the man were intimate and I thought my sons needed to know that.  There were also various happy tidings shared by both sons and that was nice.

May you have many things that make you happy.

Until next week,


Sunday, October 01, 2017

Report of 1 Oct 2017

Good evening from our balcony -

There is an extended family plooshing about in the pool in the next building, our clothes are dry and the sea is a blue-grey as night falls.  My long weekend is over.  Tomorrow is Gandhi Jayanthi - Gandhi's birthday and a national holiday - but the B's patients know no such holiday and I will also return to my private practice tomorrow. 

The week has been fine.  Nothing like returning to the Banyan.  One of our long-time patients (file no. 7, when we have treated over 1800 patients!) is ill with dengue and hospitalised.  She is a beloved individual and all are praying.  She appears to be improving, and I hope for the best.  She also has diabetes and is a breast cancer survivor, and these things can contribute to complicate illnesses, so I am holding my breath.  Prayers welcome.

Kovalam was also great.  The proportion of mentally ill patients seeking physical illness care is on the increase and I am privileged.  By all statistics, mentally ill patients do not do well when physical illness hits and I am grateful the B has an avenue for both mental illness and physical illness clinics to happen at the same time. 

I saw a movie this week - a Tamil film called "Thupparivaalan," by one of my favorite directors, Mysskin.  Going alone to the movies here is not de rigeur, and I filled the manager in on my state of affairs; he gives me a non-crowded seat, if possible.  I am immensely grateful for this kindness, as I simply want to watch the flick without interruption from other viewers.  My profusion of grey hair helps this cause. 

We Skyped with the boys today and that was nice.  I will remain perennially grateful that they talk to us.

Scott is near me on our balcony, on his computer.  I have cooked a vat of pasta, ably aided by the sous-chef, the aforementioned Scott, and was grateful for his cutting assistance.  I was not as wildly impressed by the pasta, but Scott was, and had 2 bowls.  It is fun to cook; our kitchen is a tad small, but the sous-chef assistance helped in all manner of ways.

May you have fine times and meals of your own.

Unw -


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Report of 24 Sept 2017

Good evening!

The Bay of Bengal is a bit of a haze, I have eaten soup, taken an antihistamine for a virus, and am trying to stay awake until bedtime.

We are well.  Summer was nice - Batesville and Muncie, both in Indiana.  Both sites needed hospitalists, and I was happy to be chosen.  They were fine places to work in, with diligent colleagues and fun people.  We lived in Batesville, as the hospital had kindly given accommodation, and commuted to Muncie when the shifts came up there.  The hotel in Muncie was also lovely: the staff were warm and personable, they trained folks with special needs to enter the workforce and I was very happy the hospital gave them business.

Scott returned a month before I did, to start teaching in the new college year.  I stayed on to work more.  We saw both boys before our respective departures and that was wonderful: the young men are opinionated, intelligent, fun and candid.  We had some fine conversations and insightful dissections of movies just seen.

I came home on 14/9 and we went to Madurai the next day to see my father.  He was sitting near the verandah, on the front steps, waiting for us.  It was a nice visit: we ate, talked and laughed.  He is making plans to go to Kochi for the national conference of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India; he says he learns a lot every time he goes, which is as it should be for a conference.  I know I get a lot from the conference of the American College of Physicians.

The Banyan is as wonderful as ever.  I resumed work there this week.  All staff and patients were joyfully grateful for the candy I'd brought - such a small thing.  It is nice to be able to indulge beloved folks on occasion.  My luggage weighed more than I'd planned it to, but I did manage to lift it into and out of the car in the U.S. - the acid test for luggage.

It is extremely saddening to come home to the Rohingya crisis.  Why can countries not put in the balance what they can and cannot do, while maintaining a humane perspective?  The Rohingya are escaping violence.  They need to eat, drink, be clean and dry.  I am a huge fan of Aung San Suu Kyi, and am dismayed at her weak handling of this situation: ostensibly, she does not refer to the Rohingya as such, but as Bengali Muslims.  Perhaps to coax Bangla Desh and India to take them.  India has put up resistance, to the dismay of several newspaper readers: the letters to the editor show nice indignation at this stance.  It is just as sad to see the unbridled torrent of racism in the U.S.  Perhaps common sense ("Common sense is not very common" - Scott Weiss) will prevail; we can hope.  

I plan to write more.  Until next week (Unw) -


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Report of 5 March 2017

Good evening from our balcony!

The laundry is dry, the sea has turned from a vivid blue to grey-ish with the setting sun, there are people splooshing about in the pool and my shorts-sporting husband has just joined me.

We are well.  The Banyan is great.  We celebrated "Family Day" at both our branches.  Several friends donated cash and we had biryani, fried chicken this time (as we got generous gifts) and ice cream.  Families of the staff joined us and I got lots of gifts, too; fresh radish grown on a colleague's land, pens, chocolate and home-made goodies.  There was no need for the gifts, but I appreciated all of them.  There was also entertainment and - as always - my non-dancing husband joined me on stage for a typical Tamilian dance.  My colleague, Leela, saved Scott by replacing him at a step of the dance and all of it was grand fun.  Scott was a bit under the weather for iteration no. 2, but danced nonetheless.  The visiting children were dressed in their Sunday best and looked stunning; they were well-behaved and lovely.  It was mighty nice to socialise with the staff and meet their families.

Private practice is also nice.  Yesterday, I saw a young man who had passed blood while urinating and also had scrotal swelling; neither of these is common in young men and I had to ask the wife to step out while I asked the patient some personal questions.  I have since sent him to a urologist at the Government hospital and requested him to bring back the report; I had to spell out "Human Immunodeficiency Virus" in my referral letter as I had to guard against it falling into the wrong hands.

Naren and Navin are well.  We Skyped/Google-hung-out with them today.  Regretfully, the conversation had to revolve around the hate crimes against Indians in the U.S., and we had to urge the boys to be careful.  They are as opinionated as their mother, but markedly more discreet in their expression and we hope for all the forces to keep them safe.  I am used to - rarely - being targeted for dark skin; to be targeted for being Indian is new.

We hope all of you are well.

Unw -

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Report of 14 Feb 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'd forgotten this was a thing.  It's not as frenzied here - though it is becoming more so.  [All my teen life, I looked forward to getting a heart-shaped box of chocolate: I'd seen it in comics and it looked so, so novel and attractive.  I did get one after we got married; Scott bought it on 15 Feb, the sensible thing to do - when everything was discounted.]  It was only when we Skyped with Navin on Sunday and he mentioned Valentine's Day (his professor's girlfriend had recently died, they were told during an exam and Navin spent the rest of the exam apparently thinking "Dang, a week before Valentine's Day") that I realised it.

Family Day is almost here!  It is a day when staff bring their families to the B.  There are games, and mehendi (henna), and rides; there is also biryani and fried chicken and ice cream, and the staff wait for it all year.  This year, Scott's former professor at Purdue donated a chunk of money and that made the fundraising easy.  We also dance like ones possessed; as the cast of "Slumdog Millionaire" said, "Everyone dances."  It is a fun day.  I bought saris for some of the staff, and one young woman got teary; these precious folks often come to us as teenagers, charged with earning enough to support their families at home.  They are at the age when clothing and fashion and romantic interests must rule, and instead they must earn to sustain families.  I feel for these folks and we do whatever we can to make them feel appreciated.

Private practice is also nice.  A new breed of patient: the sexually active, young, unmarried Indian.  Many young women end up pregnant, come in for a procedure and then have to be counselled extensively on birth control.  "It was an accident" and "He can control it" are common refrains.  It helps to have a huge swathe of grey hair, thus I can speak of birth control without getting "koocham" (awkward.)

The weekend before last, we were in Coorg for a 2nd cousin's wedding.  It is nice to go to these things and see relatives.  A tradition in Coorg is for close family members and friends to make short eats, or hors-d'oeuvres, to be served on entry to the marriage hall; these are sinfully good and I usually binge on them instead of the wedding meal.  That happened this wedding, too.  We visited other relatives, also, and all was fun.  The train journey back was eventful, with several wait-listed individuals clambering on and Scott and I squeezing up on one berth; we got home, which was the important thing.  And then, we had a neighbor's son's wedding to go to here, which was also fun.

I'd better wind up and get ready for bed.

Unw -


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Report of 29 Jan 2017

Wow, lookit, January is almost over.

I am on our balcony, the jewel-like lights of buildings nearby are on, traffic is heading home on East Coast Road and we have just finished watching Federer win the Australian Open.  It was a nice match, shame there was only one winner.  We do not have a TV, and watched the game online.  When sporting events are on is the only time I miss having a TV; it is always a juicy treat to watch a good sporting contest.

The week has been good.  The Banyan is wonderful, as always.  We have had older patients reel under arthritis, and feel better after having done some basic exercises - halleluia.  I do not like watching patients in pain, at all.  Private practice is also good.  I have had some young patients and this is a treat; I did not have many young patients as a hospitalist in the U.S.  These folks come in with fever or stomach upsets and it is nice to interact with them; I also get quite aware of my age (53) during these times, as the young patients address me as "Ma'am."  It is particularly nice when they heal well, as is their bodies' wont.

Scott and I were in Madurai last week.  It was the anniversary of the demise of my brother Manu, and the visit to the cemetery was much more difficult this year.  It is, annually, and I could not figure out why it was more so this year; my Dad, Scott and I went nonetheless and paid our respects.  The cook at my Dad's house made Manu's favorite food, and we remembered him.  He was big and handsome and loving.

Friends from Purdue days, Radhika and Tushar, were in town and they spent the afternoon with us yesterday.  That was lovely.  We watched Serena beat Venus - again, shame there could only be 1 winner - and I rejoiced yet again at watching 2 young African American women who have set a good example, not just for African American women, but for all women.

We Skyped with the boys today, and they are well, thank Heavens.  I will never stop appreciating the boys' communicating with us; there is a lot of laughter in the chatter and unvarnished truth, which I am grateful for.  There are so many families where there is no communication and more rancor than rapport - shame.

Unw -