Renu's Week

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Report of 26 Aug '07

Hello from Chennai -

Scott is in the recliner working Sudoku, and the boys are cramming for tests and exams.

We are well. I went back to work at the Banyan and am loving it. There have been several changes, one of which has been that our HIV + patient, Ms. K, lost her son after his battle w/ cancer. The child was diagnosed w/ cancer of the eye, I don't know what kind, and prognosis was grim even then (last year), but our kind social workers were very optimistic. Ms. K told me that he had died, and though I had fully expected it, the details of his last days when he was in considerable pain bothered me. Hospice remains a distant dream, as I am very thin-skinned: as soon as people tell me that setting up such a facility is a Herculean task, I say ok and move on. Scott remains robustly convinced that Hospice will happen, dear man - perhaps after my sons are grown and in college. At any rate, Ms. K does not appear to be grieving her son; she did last year as soon as his cancer was diagnosed, but does not seem very sad now. It's a bit unusual, but I remember one of my counsellors, a Ph.D. psychology resident at my med school in San Antonio, perseverating on the "How do you feel?" question during our tearless sessions after my brother's demise; Scott said it would benefit her immensely if I would just burst into tears. I suppose, similarly, that it would benefit us hugely if Ms. K burst into tears, but that ain't happening, so we must be content in Ms. K's dealing of the situation.

The Banyan's new facility was inaugurated by our former president, Dr. Abdul Kalam, and it is in a rural area near the beach. I think I will be very involved in it, and look forward to it. The inauguration was a melee, as Dr. Kalam is a very popular man, and the crowds gathering to see him were huge. I remain impressed and grateful to Vandana and Vaishnavi that they have started this facility where all of us can take care of the destitute to our hearts' content.

We had a house full of guests this weekend. My widowed sister-in-law, Susan, was here w/ my niece, Sanjana; Sudhir, my nephew, is in catering college in Chennai and the family met, and appeared happy in each other's presence. We had 3 formal events to attend, including a wedding and a farewell to my scientist aunt, Indira, and life was extremely hectic. I had to run things at 2 of these events, and we had to stick to schedules, always a challenge w/ my 3 Weiss men and Susan, who tend to run late as a matter of bloodflow. Argh! However, we did manage to enjoy each other's company, and I remain grateful that my family and I get along. Anytime we manage to provide some kind of succor to Susan, I consider that a blessing as life is very hard for a young widow in India. Or indeed anywhere.

Well, I'd better wind up. My bed is calling me and I must answer.

"Her journalism, like a diamond, will sparkle more if it is cut." - Raymond Mortimer (of Susan Sontag)

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Report of 20 Aug '07

Hello from the Banyan!

I am at work, and will shortly go eat a healthy snack in the cafeteria run by the residents. A new Banyan facility is opening in a rural area near Chennai, and all are agog w/ excitement. It is nice to be part of an orgn w/ dynamic people in it.

There were lots of good interactions before I left. Scott Semester helped me w/ my Grand Rounds talk for Hendricks Hospital, and we got it done in little time, thanks to his expertise. The good folks at Citizens had a giant potluck meal for my departure, and I must have had 5 plates of food; the folks are kind souls and good cooks, and we had a memorable meal, replete w/ lots of laughter and kind farewell cards. Dr. Dima Rifai, the pedi at Citizens, took me out to eat and that was great fun; Dima is an excellent, compassionate pediatrician and one who has worked w/ the destitute herself in her native Lebanon, thus we have much to talk about. Colleen and Melinda Taber helped me finish up some last-minute shopping. I got together w/ Carolyn Scanlan, a pastor friend, and enjoyed her laughter. Dr. Vohra, a mentor and advisor, granted me some time 2 days before I left, and I appreciated his sage wisdom. Dr. Robert Love, another mentor and advisor, also gave me the benefit of his advice and perspective before I left, which I appreciated. Scott Semester continued to do me favors, and drove me to the airport, where I paid a fat fee for overweight baggage, motivating me to try not to bring such hefties again - even if they contain donations for our tutoring kids.

The journey back was fine, mildly made interesting by a co-passenger who appeared to be having an asthma attack. She had a coughing fit, but proclaimed herself ok, and I was relieved. The flight attendants were wonderful sorts, and I wrote comment cards commending their service. I was given strict instructions by Scott to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows before I landed, as all 3 Weiss men had finished it in a matter of days, and I scrambled to finish it on board, succeeding about 1 hour before landing. The 3 Weiss men were waiting at the airport and it was wonderful to see them. We got home to lovely welcome home banners and notes detailing what they missed in my absence, along w/ a vat of fruit salad (easily my favorite food), and unpacked. Thankfully, the mighty cargo of shoes (sizes 10 and 12 for my sons!! - which could occupy an entire suitcase by themselves), deodorant, mosquito repellent and chocolate were extremely well-received by all 3. Our most considerate friends Carol Dixon and Olivia Fondoble had sent goodies for the fam, and the boys are always touched when others remember them thus; the trail mix and chocolate are vanishing daily, as they should.

Well, life got interesting shortly thereafter; I got about 5-1/2 hours break, 3 of which I was asleep for, then had to contend w/ a fight by Naren, Navin's abysmal grades, absenteeism by both boys from school ("The city bus was too crowded," and "Well, my stomach *was* hurting"), an undelivered fridge, kaput email, a car that is not working very well, and a quick, unannounced departure by Scott for Bangalore on the earlier Sunday train instead of his usual 11.30 PM. I can't in clear conscience be tremendously flattered that all this work was awaiting my return, but do realise that both parts of a married couple need to pull them oars if the boat is to move. Scott's aunts have always been wildly amused at his haste to return to Bangalore after I land, and I suppose this year is no different. We did manage to have a great day together on Friday, when the boys were at school, eating lunch at our favorite restaurant and getting some fresh-squeezed fruit juice.

May you have some peaceful times.

Unw -


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Report of 12 Aug '07

Hello from the Carmel lib for the last time this year!

I'm going to miss the technology, easy Internet access and keyboards that don't stick due to humidity. Our college computers used to be stored in airconditioning and now I see why.

Life is ok, a spring in my step as it gets closer to departure, tho' work has been fantastic. I've got lots of hugs and thank-you's from patients, and used to think my medical knowledge would atrophy as I work in a very low-tech environment (in India). It hasn't completely, and I find that having to rely fully on my history and physical exam are serving me fairly well here. There are tons of things I don't know, esp skin conditions, but "We have stopped learning if we don't feel a little more ignorant every day," said some wise soul.

A patient from Puerto Rico has moved here on her son's decision, and she has had a stroke. She remains strong on the affected left side, and I think physical therapy will work wonders for this lady. We went through our plans for her care, and then I mentioned that I'd be leaving on the 15th. The son, a handsome bloke, then took my hands in both of his, looked me in the eyes, said this was his only mother, and to recommend someone who'd care for her very well, then started crying. I touched his cheek, told him I had parents, too, and that we'd do our best for her. It was a fairly routine moment, and got catcalls from the medical assistants when I told them of it - "Wooo, handsome and sensitive, what a combination!" This is a fun environment to work in.

I saw "The Bourne Ultimatum," and thoroughly enjoyed its slick action. When watching another movie, an employee had entered the theater before the flick ended, stood right behind me and (unwittingly or otherwise) made some noise, pretty much ruining the film for me. I complained to the manager and she gave me a couple of passes, so I saw "Stardust" for free today, along w/ free popcorn and a soft drink (which we never get). I enjoyed that flick, too, in spite of its length, and loved the delicious turn that Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer took.

I left the Simons' warm home, and am now in the equally fine environs of the Taber home. We celebrated Melinda Taber's imminent departure for Ball State University, and Christopher Taber's entry into University High School, a place that I've spoken at and enjoyed. Jeremy Kirk, a friend from residency days, organised a talk at his work spot, Hendricks Hospital, and that was fun; I enjoy speaking of my work, and got a lot of questions afterwards along w/ a hug from someone who started crying when referring to my talk. Kirk is a great guy, and very keen on helping. A couple of friends have indulged my love of packages: Greg Brown, a second year resident who visited us in India, who sent me a most welcome book I'd been long searching for; Carol Dixon, a friend from 10 yo days, who sent me chocolate, tutoring supplies and a rather lovely, elegant outfit. I'm off now to have dinner w/ the hospitable Mallur family: Shilpa, Ravi and Keerthi. We really are tremendously privileged in our friends.

The 3 Weiss men and I spoke this morning. We are all awaiting the end of this week, and I look forward to being w/ those that I consider my greatest blessings; I told them this in an email as well, and when Scott replied, I got all teary which he said he laughed at. Absolutely lovely to be married to a man w/ a sense of humor.

Thanks for some fine times in this part of the world. Next blog from my living room in Chennai, India!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Report of 5 Aug '07

Hello from the Carmel library -

It's nice to be here; public libraries are such lovely entities.

The week has been nice. Lots of nice patients, mingled w/ the occasional ungrateful sort. That's a lot better than lots of ungrateful sorts, mingled w/ the occasional nice one, isn't it. The most memorable to me was a 17 yo in w/ poison ivy. In the course of the conversation, it came out that she was a ward of the state, her mother was a drug addict, her father dead, she was working for her high-school equivalency certificate (the GED), and had a baby about to turn 4. I looked at this cheerful teenager, 1 year older than my older son - whose interests are the bass guitar, basketball, his earring and getting looks from the occasional girl - and here she was studying for her GED, working full-time, visiting her baby in the custody of its paternal grandmother. I wish this young woman very well. I must feel grateful for the social taboos in India, which preclude unmarried parenthood, intimacy before marriage, etc. Not that these things do not happen there, but they come w/ such social ostracism that not too many indulge *overtly*. Otherwise, the same thing would be happening there - absentee/imprisoned fathers, rampant STD's, a whole generation of children growing up w/o a solid family unit in place. As it is in India, we have to deal w/ endemic domestic violence, a hateful caste system, old-fashioned beliefs about the status of women and abundant hypocrisy - it is nice to not have to deal w/ those other ills, in addition.

The state of the society here does intrigue me off and on. I don't have issues w/ young women coming into my exam room, having had 3 children by 3 different fathers, and can generally adapt to the mores here. However, I wonder at some things: there is apparently a cable TV show called "Hot ghetto mess," which is attracting quite a following. I saw a preview, and it showed 2 young Black women in a physical fight, tearing each other's clothes off. Is this place so depraved that one gets satisfaction in someone else's fights and misfortunes? What on earth does it do to one's psyche when one watches endless garbage such as this? I used to consider lack of TV akin to hippie-hood, but must admit to loving its absence and watching my sons read, enter into insightful conversations w/ us, and start taking life decisions based on inspirations from books. Would they enjoy watching half-naked women batter each other? Perhaps, but they won't get a chance for now.

The food poisoning persists, but is better. I spent the weekend w/ my in-laws and that must have helped. They were baling hay w/ some young blood help, and I caught up w/ my sister-in-law, Diane, and her cousins. It was fun. My upper body strength is pitiful, so I did not heave and heft bales, however did partake of the post-labor meal. As always, there was plenty of laughter - most therapeutic.

The 3 Weiss men continue to send lovely notes, and Scott's was great: I'd told him about a patient coming in about 15 minutes before closing, she stated she'd been there an hour, and had apparently been missed by the front office staff. My services tend to get taken for granted a bit at this clinic, and I was asked if I'd see her; I did see her - it's not great patient relations not to - and told Scott of this experience. His missive, that it was nice that some doctors put patients first, was a boost to my day (amazing how the smallest kind words from a spouse mean so very much); many of the folks I went to med school and residency with would see the patient also, and I feel privileged to know such folks.

I enjoyed getting together w/ Brenda Hillman this week. She is the wife of Jim H., the former manager of Medical Education at St. Vincent. Brenda treated me to lunch, Boni Hypes joined us, and it was nice to experience the full effect of Brenda's niceness and genuineness. It was a great meal. After that, she gave both Boni and me a vat of home-grown vegetables (Jim is a master gardener), which I have enjoyed.

I'd better wind up. Unw -