Renu's Week

Monday, April 30, 2007

Report of 30 April 2007

Hello from one foot out the door -

How are you all? I am getting ready to head home, but not before some endless shopping for my sons. They have sent fairly reasonable lists, but there are also nieces/nephews/sibs to shop for, I abhor shopping as baseline, and the chore is onerous whether the lists are reasonable or not.

This has been a good week: got to round w/ Dr. Love and enjoyed it as always. There were plenty of kindnesses from people that I have not yet acknowledged: Greg Freeman in San Antonio, who let me hang around his cardiology practice; Isabel Rodgriguez, who attended my talk and gave me a ton of tote bags and purses to take home; Linda and Richard Luduena, who gave a hefty financial contribution to me; Linda and David Johnson, who handed me a huge amount of candy for the 3 Weiss men; Mary George, who got the boys Spurs shirts; Dr. James Holly, who sent me a generous check to defray the trip's expenses; Deepali and Junior Jani, who gifted the entire Weiss family shirts and a picture frame; Maya Srinivasan, a childhood friend like Carol Dixon, who volunteered to help with the cost of mailing medical journals to me; Boni Hypes, Tami Horkay and Ruth Ranalletta, who organised a fun dinner get-together last week; Tami Horkay, who gave me 2 very pretty dresses for my niece; Scott Semester, who put together 2 talks in Indianapolis yesterday, and took me home to have dinner w/ his whole family; Jim and Barb Semester, who had lovely Mother's Day flowers for me at the dinner at their place; the crew at Broadway United Methodist Church, who not only listened to me speak, but provided a spectacular meal as well. Shilpa Mallur and Kurt Broderick also volunteered to help w/ mailing expenses. These are all people who have my best interests at heart, and I must say I am richer for it.

The weekend was spent w/ my in-laws and it was the fun-fest it always is. I saw Scott's grandparents at their assisted living facility and had dinner w/ them, sponsored by Scott's aunt. Both aunts were at the visit as well, and it was great to get together w/ everyone and laugh my eyeballs out. The assisted-living experience is a new one for the grandparents, and Scott's grandmother loves it for the company, and his grandfather does not as he feels cooped up. Friday evening and Saturday were spent w/ Scott's mom, her sister and brother-in-law, another laugh-a-minute experience. This uncle is recovering from bypass surgery to his leg and is coming along nicely; it's nice when our profession does something right. I got to talk to Scott's sister, Diane, which was fun. I will spend tonight at the home of Colleen and Mark Taber, and will head to Chicago tomorrow for my flight home.

The talks yesterday were at St. Luke's and Broadway, both United Methodist Churches. It was great to see Louise Hass at the former venue, home from her world travels. I met some very nice people at both events, and even stirred up interest at Broadway for folks to take a trip to Chennai. Scott Semester was invaluable in setting up these events, and having met his parents, I know where this young man's goodness comes directly from.

I'm hoping I haven't forgotten to thank anyone. More from Chennai. I nearly forgot to mention that Naren got accepted into an excellent school in Chennai, contingent on his 10th results (which come out mid-May). We (parents) were required to be present at his interview, in early April, as witnesses (i.e., I had to keep a very big mouth shut), and it was fairly revelationary for us to see our son respond to challenging questions clearly and confidently. Naren's other option was a study-hard/party-hard school and Scott did not want any part of that at all.

We are discovering that for every obstacle thrown into our paths, there are 3 times as many people who want to remove that obstacle. This is a lovely state of affairs.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Report of 26 April 2007

Hello from the St. Vincent Hospital library -

It has been a somewhat hectic, but very fulfilling couple of weeks. The last blog was after I'd spoken at Pediatrics Grand Rounds at my alma mater, the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. I was nervous about speaking to a pedi crowd, but was reassured by Dr. Gong (in charge of Grand Rounds) that speaking of my experience working w/ the destitute was fine, and I had a fine time doing so; there were some good questions afterwards, and questions about where to donate - which is always great for the Banyan.

I then went to lunch w/ Drs. Ramamurthy (if any of you watch "Heroes," she is Sendhil Ramamurthy's mother) and Koli, and that set off an entire weekend of being wined and dined. Dinner w/ Richard Luduena and friend, Melanie; a trip to Austin the next day w/ Richard to see my friend, Doug, which we were not successful at but had a great trip nonetheless; dinner w/ our kids' former pediatrician, Mary George, and friends; breakfast w/ Linda and Richard Luduena and their daughter, Sara; lunch w/ ex-neighbors Aurora and Scott Freeman and family (who loaded me w/ clothes for my niece); dinner w/ Linda and Dave Johnson; breakfast w/ Dorothy and Vick Williams. It was great fun, and good to eat American food! I spoke again at a talk sponsored by Dr. Abraham Verghese's office in San Antonio, and was privileged to have Drs. Forland, Holt and Linda Johnson (all faculty) in the audience. That night, I went to dinner w/ Tom Mayes and his wife, Minnette Son, which was enjoyable.

On Tuesday, 17 April, I left for San Diego and stayed w/ my friend Cindy Scherr's mother, Mary, while I attended the conference of the American College of Physicians. The conf was excellent, as always, and I got a lot out of it. I was very happy to see a great friend from med school, Rob Hansen, and he took me out to lunch which was a blast. It was also nice to meet several staff of the ACP, all of whom seemed interested in the work I do. The stay w/ Mary Scherr was very pleasant, and one night we got together for dinner w/ her friends, which was a wonderful time of female solidarity and humor.

My childhood friend, Carol Dixon, flew me out to Portland and we met for about a day and a half. It was great to see her again, and hang out w/ her and her kids, Sean and Rachel. One of the perks here is raiding her closet, so in addition to new clothes that Carol bought for me, I have a whole new wardrobe. Rachel also parted w/ some clothes for my niece, which was very thoughtful. I returned loaded, and was picked up by a friend from St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Scott Semester, and had dinner w/ him and Pastor Carolyn Scanlan-Craighead and her husband, Will, who had just returned from Florida. That was a fun time, and then I went to the home of Marybeth and Andrew Simon the next day; the Simons are hospitality incarnate, and their daughters are a treat.

It has been the greatest of privileges to round w/ Dr. Robert Love this week. He has been kind enough to accommodate me, and is a brilliant clinician, and I am enjoying the experience.

A couple of disappointments en route w/ funding, but nothing unmanageable; my patients have so much more to deal with. I got lovely notes from Scott, and 1 from Naren, and thought to myself that if I had a lot of money and a lousy family, that would not be an enviable position; much nicer to have a robustly supportive husband w/ a great sense of humor and 2 compassionate sons, and little money. Today, I heard that the medical journals that have been donated by Dr. Love and shipped to me for 4 years would no longer be sent to me unless "voluntary" donations come up for the shipping expense (about $10-$12 per quarter), and I must confess to being disappointed: I lie in wait for said journals, as do other docs who get 'em after I read 'em. The reasons behind this move are not at all clear to me (there have been personnel changes at the office that does the mailing, in this multi-million dollar hospital) and I wandered around in a bit of a confused haze and did some soul-searching. Overall, though, this much is clear: it is wonderful to know clearly who will help (in any way, possible, and to what extent) and who will not, in my hopefully lifelong work w/ the destitute. It puts my hefty sense of optimism pointed in the right direction.

I had dinner w/ Deepali and Junior Jani, their sons Anil and Ajay, last night, and it was a wonderful time, full of warmth and bonhomie. It was a great pleasure today to run into Tamela Horkay and Boni Hypes (we will have dinner tonight, along w/ Ruth Ranalletta). It was also a special treat to see Kurt Broderick, who is a tried and true friend; Kurt is a pharmacist at St. V and has a most infectious laugh, which I particularly appreciated and enjoyed today.

Well, as you can see, my riches outweigh my liabilities. May you also be in this enviable position.

Oh, I heard today about some flap involving Richard Gere kissing an actress in India. I haven't seen the information, but please rest assured that Richard has the utmost respect for India and our culture, as well as our women. He is an extraordinarily down-to-earth and wonderful human being, as are his brother and brother's partner.

"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." - attributed to W. Churchill

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Report of 7 & 13 April 2007

Hello from the land of high technology -

So I can get my blog site to work, which is great.

The week before I left for the U.S. on 9 April was busy. Navin wound up finals, Naren had an interview for grade 11 in a new school and a farewell from the old school, and we threw a giant party for some dear friends of ours who are leaving Chennai for Kerala. I also managed to get to the B and take some pictures for my talks in the U.S., and did not see patients as we had 150 things to do prior to my departure, and there were other doctors at the B for this purpose.

Naren's farewell was organised by the 9th-graders at Abacus and they did an excellent job! The entertainment was good, there was a slide show of the 10th graders over the years which was hilarious - lots of pigtails and weird expressions of young childhood. All of us had to make speeches - the parents, students, alumni. Naren mentioned that he had been to 6 different schools on 2 continents and that Abacus was by far the best. All the kids went out for a very expensive dinner that night, and Naren got home at 1.30 am - sober. His interview for 11th grade also went ok, we'll know in about 2 weeks as to whether he got in or not. It is a fairly suspenseful time for many students and their parents.

Both boys left on the 8th for their grandparents' place in Madurai, Scott left on the 9th for Chandigarh, and I left early 9th for the U.S. Got to Chicago and was delighted to have my friends from St. Luke's United Methodist Church (Indianapolis), Carolyn, Will and Scott, pick me up. We had dinner w/ Carolyn's parents to celebrate her b'day, I saw "Borat" there which was very funny in parts and disgustingly vulgar in other parts, and then we drove down to Indy. On Tuesday the 10th, I got lucky enough to see Colleen Taber who took me to the airport; it's always grand fun to hang out w/ the wonderfully intelligent Colleen.

I went to Pittsburgh on the 10th and spoke to some students there on the work in Chennai. Emily Moriarty, a 3rd year medical student, was kind enough to put me up and I enjoyed meeting her; through a mutual friend, she had been on my email list, but we'd never met. I found Emily bright and personable and kind, a lovely combination. I also met several friends of hers - Divya, Carly, Enyinne - and that was a treat.

On Wed the 11th, I flew to Philly and stayed w/ Ann and Phil Bagley. That was wonderful; we drove around Philly, walked in the lovely Art Museum surroundings and saw the blossoming cherry trees. I got to eat Philadelphia cheesesteak for dinner, and got roundly spoiled by the Bagleys, w/ beaucoup trailmix, fruit, cookies and chocolate - much of which got packed w/ me. My flight out of Philly was 2 hours late, I missed my connection and some kind fellow travellers let me use their cell phones to call Richard Luduena and let him know I was going to be late.

Richard picked me up and I spoke at Pediatrics Grand Rounds this morning, which was fine. I enjoyed all the questions. It is absolutely therapeutic to hang out at school and see former professors and mentors; there are many plans for meals w/ them. I love non-Indian food, and am in gustatory heaven.

What strikes me this time about the United States - the staggering kindness and openness of folks here. We chat easily, airline employees try to be helpful, former neighbors and professors offer their homes and hearts, friends send me goodies to take back w/ me, strangers let me use their cell phones. I once asked Scott if he would tire of India and ask to move back to the U.S., and he said, "No, will you?" It was funny!! I am happy to be back in the U.S. and revel in the people here, though of course I am also very glad to be in India, working for the weakened.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Report of 1 Apr 2007

The report is late, as I have been travelling. Sorry.

Entrance exams to get Naren into grades 11 and 12 are on. It's a highly competitive process, and we'll keep you posted on the outcome.

I went to the B last week w/ a bag of chocolate to congratulate Vandana and Vaishnavi on this magnificent orgn that they have founded - so magnificent that even the President of India waxed eloquent about it. There were, of course, patients to be seen and one of them, Ms. B, is a masseuse. She has been complaining of persistent nausea, and pregnancy has been ruled out. We've sent her to a specialist who found nothing, and it strikes me that psych meds probably have this side effect. So I will suggest to the psychiatrist that he take a look as well. Ms. B is a gentle sort, not welcome w/ her family as they have no idea how to handle her illness. I see from recent entries in her file, though, that the sibs have contact w/ her and that's a plus. I rather like hanging out w/ my sibs, and I remember my mother-in-law being very surprised at the amount my sister, Anu, and I giggled when Anu and fam joined us for Christmas one year. After rounds at the B, I paid for a massage and enjoyed every minute, esp knowing that it was supporting a once-destitute woman and helping her become independent.

At the veg market, the fruit man produced a report from his pocket: it was a test on his brother-in-law who does not have children. The semen analysis showed no sperm at all, and it was catastrophic to me. In this Breeders' Digest country, if a married couple does not have children almost nine months to the day after nuptials, something is amiss and gossip starts. The vendor asked if I could prescribe a "tonic" for his brother-in-law; I'm going to send him to a urologist instead. I'm an ardent fan of birth control once a child or 2 has come along.

Travels took me to Madurai to celebrate my Dad's b'day. It is always lovely to sit and chat w/ my parents, and revel in their senses of humor. I am also a tad envious at their robust faith - manifest in my mother's reading of Sanskrit shlokas and my father's reading of the Bible - in spite of the loss of their genial, handsome first-born. We had a great meal, and all too soon, the visit was over.

This time next week, I'll be in the U.S. See you from there.

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