Renu's Week

Monday, December 25, 2006

Report of 26 Dec '06

Phew - what an eventful couple of weeks.

I had to head to Bangalore posthaste 2 weeks ago, to accompany a most beloved uncle to a doctor's appointment. My mother's brother, Thammappa, had had longstanding anemia (low hemoglobin) which had not responded to iron injections. When I did become aware of this, and T's weight loss, I told my cousin Preeth that several more tests needed to be done; she told me an endoscopy (putting a tube down the esophagus and stomach and watching the images on a screen) was scheduled and I went to Bangalore to be with my uncle for the procedure. It is sometimes nice when a doctor's diagnosis is confirmed, and sometimes not; as I feared, my uncle has cancer of the stomach. I held up ok there, and discussed all the options w/ my uncle, aunt, cousin and cousin-in-law. The impact hit later. Thammappa is one of the few people who stood by my dark-skinned father's side, and welcomed him into their home, when the rest of Coorg took great pains to insult my Dad and consider him unworthy of his fair-skinned bride (my parents eloped and were only welcomed back much later by my mother's family, love marriages being very rare at the time) - Coorg is a bit stupid this way. To resist the mob mentality, when everyone was screaming for my father's blood, esp at Coorgi weddings and other functions which my parents would be invited to, truly requires great moral courage and integrity, and I am sorry that this magnificent man has a catastrophic illness. He's holding up well, tho'; my aunt ain't.

A virus accompanied me from B'lore and I had to coast through the kids' concerts and umpteen social events (Naren had invites to 4 parties) w/ a box of tissues and some precious antihistamines. We did catch our favorite Little Theatre's play, which raises scholarship money for underprivileged kids who could not otherwise attend college. We also saw Naren do silambam (an ancient South Indian dance form and martial art), and Navin play Timon in "The Lion King." Then we left for Kolkata and Mumbai on a short vacation. I know so little of my own heritage, and India has long contributed wondrous things to world civilization, which we ought to know about. We had a good time, and the boys met some cousins in Mumbai they didn't know they had and hit it off with. Yesterday, my brother Vinu took my sister Anu (and family) and us out for dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet; it was fabulous to be w/ good people at Xmas, and eat, eat, eat.

Naren starts exam prep for his March Board exams now (w/ 2 mock exams in school), and Navin has to work seriously at his handwriting, so both boys will be busy. I am now at the B, which is holding up. We continue to struggle for bucks for our new health center and indeed, this is the story of our lives. Were it not a struggle to care for the indigent, a lot more people would be doing it, would they not.

Our blessings are many and varied; may you have some of your own this season and throughout 2007.

Unw -


Monday, December 11, 2006

Report of 10 Dec '06

Xmas greetings from Chennai!

Both boys are studying and I am making the best of our computer here, as the Banyan's network was down this am.

The B's new community health center for the impoverished has hit a serious funding snag. We have to raise Rs. 34 lakhs yet (about $80,000) and are resorting to widespread begging. Pls, consider yourselves begged. If any of you are in generous corporations that match your contributions, and all those of you that aren't, pls consider the B at The spirit of optimism is unflagging, as is the spectre of reality.

Life is ok. The B's patients are healing. One of our older patients, Ms. S, had a repeat stroke, and just as I was preparing the health care worker, Anjali, for the terminality of her condition, Ms. S decided she had a new lease on life. Anjali is a very compassionate and committed sort, taking excellent care of our patients, and she had been distraught that Ms. S was so ill; then Ms. S decided to give all of us a surprise by slowly feeding herself, getting out of bed when she needed to use the restroom, etc. Really, the human spirit is an indomitable entity. I was present when our volunteer, Vimal, had rescued Ms. S from the street, and was taking care of her later when she thought she'd been kidnapped (quite a few ladies think they've been taken against their will, when their will would lead them straight into the hands of the street, w/ its violence, rape, hunger, other similar horrors). Ms. S's condition continues to wax and wane, and remarkable Anjali keeps ploughing on. We are greatly blessed in our staff.

The B had a huge staff meeting the other day, involving all of us, including the cooks and janitors. It was magnificent. Vandana asked us to mention 1 dream for the B and 1 for ourselves, and some of the staff had wonderful notions, including wanting to work at the B forever. It was a fun, fun time.

Tutoring went on, and we were somewhat short-handed again. My student and I learned division, and it was somewhat more difficult to convey than multiplication, but she hung w/ me. We finished up w/ a game of Uno, which was great fun for all the kids. I punted on the veg market this week as I wasn't up to general rounds.

Pls pass on our appeal for funds to all those you think might be interested in helping. We can't do this alone, and would welcome all assistance.


"There is one advantage of being poor - a doctor will cure you faster." - Kin Hubbard

Unw -


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Report of 3 Dec '06

Hello from the Banyan -

I'm sitting w/ a plate of food in front of me that the Banyan ladies have made. The B has a new center and there is a plan afoot to start a cafe here; it is to be run by our more high-functioning patients and we get samples of their wares daily. Tasty stuff. This morning, I had breakfast here, and was attended to most solicitously.

Life is ok. The B plonks along well. Periodically, we have training sessions for our health care workers (hcw's). In a facility of 300+ women, there are sure to be issues our hcw's need to know about. Some time ago, we had a session on conjunctivitis (pink eye or red eye, called Madras Eye here). Last week, the topic was "The importance of hygiene and cleanliness," and all the social workers, psychologists, the nurse and I enacted skits on the msg. It was great fun, and to get back on stage, however small and informal the venue, was fabulous. I asked the hcw's later what they thought, and if they'd prefer a standard class format over this one, and we got some positive feedback. The team enjoyed the acting, and all skits were conjured up by the players themselves; they were hilarious, so hilarious that I actually burst out laughing in the middle of my performance and we had to stop that skit.

To keep Ms. M, the butt gash lady, company in the sick room is Ms. S, who has come from Bihar. She was married, and likely got thrown out of her home due to the mental illness, ending up at the B. She has been wracked by tuberculosis, in fact much of her right lung has been damaged. After an operation, she is in the sick room also, and was coughing so much I started a medicine for symptomatic relief. She is better, thank goodness. She is an extremely pretty young woman, and when I enter in the am's, I always get a very cheerful good morning followed by a sweet smile. You wouldn't think S was so ill by the wonderful welcome I get from her.

We thought we'd slink in and out of the vegetable market yesterday, as opposed to having general rounds, as we were in a hurry. We nearly got to the end and then one of the vendors asked about his brother, who is admitted in a hospital for a heart attack; the docs have told him that "as soon as the big doctor returns from America," his brother will be discharged. No idea when that will happen and what size bill the patient will rack up. I abhor this kind of thing; many medical practitioners here view the profession as a means to making pots of money, and adopt ridiculous reasons for not discharging the patient appropriately, as you see above. Scott's best friend, Craig, and Scott and I had a discussion on why medicine will never be a money-machine for us (rats!), and it was irreverent and hilarious.

Tutoring happened. 4 little children came. Naren had to go off to be tutored himself and I missed his presence, as he is an easygoing, tolerant, indulgent teacher. Navin did ok, and I had to teach also as we were short-staffed. My student - tiny, big-eyed, cute, bright, w/ an armful of bangles - and I learned multiplication together. It was fun to see her grasp the concept and roll w/ it.

I got a package of medical journals from Dr. Love at St. V. Packages are big, big news here as they are rare, and the boys got thoroughly excited until they saw the contents. I stayed excited and dove into the mags: it is lovely to keep up w/ the discipline, esp w/ well-written journals.

Scott and I saw a Tamil movie called "Varalaaru" ("Story"), and it was the standard shtick. It showed some promise but degenerated into the standard: protagonist dying and giving a 30-minute speech clearly, unhesitantly and w/o breathlessness, before that. Yeesh. I miss being able to sail in and out of movie theatres; my town is so overpopulated that tix to movies must be booked in advance unless one is going on a weekday.

Unw -