Renu's Week

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Report of 28 May '08

Hello from the Carmel library -

This is a great place to be.

We are well, and the Weiss men are getting set to wind up their visit on 1 June. I will stay on here and work until 9 August.

Last week, I got to round on the inpatient service at St. Vincent with Dr. Robert Love, brilliant clinician and mentor, and that was absolutely energising. He tolerates a lot of questions, and that has been most enlightening for me.

Lots of fun interactions last week. We watched our beloved Spurs beat the Hornets at the home of Carolyn Scanlan-Craighead and her husband, Will. They are wonderful, hospitable, warm people with great senses of humor, and the evening was fun. The next evening, we had dinner with Brenda and Jim Hillman; Jim used to be the manager of medical education at St. Vincent, and Brenda is a nurse. She is also an excellent cook and we ate until we burst. Their company is a complete treat, and we had a great time. On the 23rd, we got together with our friend Scott Semester's parents, Barb and Jim, and Scott, and that was also a fabulous meal. A ton of food, and chocolate, and some scintillating company; the boys enjoyed themselves also. Barb gave us a goodie bag on our exit, and it had more chocolate and cookies! A memorable evening. We met our friend, Olivia Fondoble, and her fun parents when they came into town for the Indy 500; Olivia took us out for dinner, which was so kind. She'd also sent us, prior to this generous act, t-shirts commemorating her alma mater Kansas's win in the NCAA basketball finals; and a giant box of clothes, trail mix and candy. We almost fell over in delight. We spent a day down at the in-laws' farm, with Scott's entire family, and a fun time was had with this irreverent crew. We ate, and drank, and laughed. We were sorry that Danica Patrick did not win, though I loved her spirit and temper.

Yesterday, we spent the morning with Mary Remster. Mary and Sam are great friends of ours from the days when Mary and I volunteered for Special Olympics together. Sam died at the end of April. Mary and we reminisced together, with some laughter, some tears, and plenty of good memories. As Mary said, Sam loved our sons, and always had treats for them when they visited. When the boys acted up last year, Sam sent them a strong note, stating that he believed they could do very well in school and that they'd better not let him down. It was nice for the boys to get some affirmation from far away. We missed Sam, and still do. Mary handed over several of his possessions to the men, including some of Sam's very nice clothes. She wept when she did so. We are honored to have some tokens of Sam's memory.

Work was fine. I saw a patient with "Aryan Nation" tattooed on his neck. I remember an episode of the TV show, ER, where the Black surgeon, Benton, had to operate on a patient with (I think) a tattoo saying "Ni---r." He had a tough time with that. So did I with this man. The prudent thing would have been to shut up and finish the visit, but Prudence ain't my name, so I ploughed into an inquisition. I asked him about the tattoo, asked him if the organisation wasn't one of those that wandered around beating up Black people (he said No, he'd got it in prison as part of a gang), and then I concluded the visit stating that I was not about to judge his beliefs, but that we would send him to an ENT surgeon, whose expertise he needed. It was disconcerting to know that this chappie was only there because he needed my help, and had he run into my beige sons or me anywhere else, his treatment of us might have been different. On discussing this encounter with one of the nurses, she mentioned that the Ku Klux Klan had phoned her stepfather on a recent recruitment drive, soliciting membership; he had declined, but it was all a mite senseless. Yes, this last incident happened this century.

We saw "Prince Caspian" on Navin's request, "Indiana Jones" just because it was there - and enjoyed both. We dropped Naren off to see "Harold and Kumar II," as he is such a fan of Kal Penn, and have exhausted the stock of good movies available in this town, on the big screen. I say, what's with the ruddy airlines and their supremely erratic service? Because of this, my sister-in-law, Diane, and I have to drive the men to Philly to catch their international flight. Two of our friends, in the last 6 months, have missed their international connections due to domestic screw-ups. It's difficult to think that in the efficient and orderly U.S., *airlines* are now unreliable and error-prone. Enlighten me, please.

Unw -


Monday, May 19, 2008

Report of 19 May '08

Hello from Indiana -

There's something frightfully therapeutic about being at a friend's place, isn't there. Craig's place in Baltimore was great: we got to sightsee around the city, see a movie ("Iron Man" - it was very good), eat out, and then I went to my conference in Wash, D.C., while the men hung out. Scott and Craig have been friends for almost 30 years and I said they ought to have married each other, because each one completes the other's sentence and they understand the other so well.

The conference of the American College of Physicians was fabulous, as always. I am struck by the lack of ego among my colleagues; this conf is an annual update and tries to get all of us caught up in the lastest in high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, etc., etc. No presenter tries to preen and push his/her own research, they merely summarize all that is new in the field and dish it out to us. It was wonderful, and the difficult part was trying to choose which of about 16 sessions to attend in a given time slot. I ran into friends Olivia Fondoble and Rob Hansen there, and that was very nice. It was also good that the conf was held in a city we've been to before, because I didn't feel pressured to see the sights.

I am back at work, and this week, I am rounding in the mornings with Dr. Robert Love, a mentor from St. Vincent, Indianapolis, and a brilliant clinician. It has been most educational and wonderful, as I can ask all the questions I want: there is much disease that I do not see in India, and it helps to ask questions when I see it here.

Today was good. Some nice patients, and some real disease. We had a patient with gallstones who likely must have her gallbladder out. It is nice to be in a profession which works to make people feel better, esp when they are impoverished and feel hopeless. We must be the only professionals in the world working to put ourselves out of business?

This is also the week I take the Weiss men shopping - an activity the boys completely enjoy, and which I absolutely abhor. Typically, we give them a few bucks and wait for them at the front entrance, while we sit on a bench there and either read a book or talk.

Unw -


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Report of 13 May 2008

Hello from Baltimore!

We are at our friend Craig's place and the conference of the American College of Physicians starts tomorrow in Washington, D.C. It's annually a good show and I look forward to it.

I work for the Indiana Health Centers in Kokomo, Indiana, and enjoy it. The narcotic pain med, Lortab, appears to be the drug of choice in Kokomo and folks have been asking for it. My colleague said the word is probably out that there's a new doctor in town, so folks seeking Lortab have been a-coming. In addition to these, though, are the truly ill folks who need care. One of my patients who has been suffering from belly pain and bloating came in, and after taking a detailed history, I decided to refer her to the stomach specialists ("gastroenterologists"); as I wound up the visit, this lady hugged me and left. It was nice.

We were at Scott's cousin's wedding over the weekend. We spent 1 night with his friend, Colette, and her family, and that was lovely; it had been 20 years since we'd last seen her. It was nice also to get together with relatives, see a wedding, and dance the night away. All of us went out for a Mother's Day breakfast the following morning, and the 3 Weiss men gave me some lovely presents on the occasion. Belated Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful mothers on my email list. I have come to believe, especially after working at the Banyan, that it takes a mother's distinctive touch to keep her family together, fed, and happy. This is not to minimise the father's impact, just to acknowledge the mother's role.

There are things about the changed U.S. that sadden me: the lack of a moral compass, the absence of emphasis on education, the tremendous obsession with the self, the tendency to complain instead of compliment, the poverty that seems to exist everywhere now that jobs are being lost. But then I think of the kind souls I've met along my way in the U.S., and I think all is really not lost. The potential to be great again exists here, and it simply takes some effort to re-discover it.

Unw -


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Report of 6 May 2008

My how time flies -

It has been over a month since I blogged. We left for Europe on 9 April, and had a whale of a time. Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Vatican City, Spain, France and Belgium. All lovely, and we ate and ate. We took the train (Eurail) everywhere and thanks to Scott for being meticulous enough to peruse the handbook that came with it: so we knew that we were to travel first class, make reservations for certain trains, travel free on the local trains, etc. The absolute best part was seeing some old friends and making new ones.

In the old friends category were Andrea Schichan, whom we stayed with in Potsdam, Germany. That was fabulous, and Andrea showed us around her lovely little town, and around Berlin; so much history in Berlin. She also kept us plied with good German food, and the boys even tasted beer. We stashed our luggage at her place and then wandered around the other countries. Andrea's place felt so like home, thanks to her warm presence, and we got to meet her sister, too. Andrea had arranged for me to speak at the hospital where she works, and that was great fun.

Also in the old friends category was Teres Zander in Zurich. I first met Teres when she came on a tour of India with some of our friends in Switzerland. She has 4 sons, 3 of whom we met. Teres's beautiful house overlooks a lake and she was hospitality incarnate; she also has a lovely laugh, most contagious, and all loved her company. She plied us with chocolate and gifted the boys Swiss army knives, so they were extremely eager to cut fruit on our travels.

In Geneva, we met Reva, Tomas and Stefan; in Barcelona, Mingo; in Paris, the nuns of Daughters of Charity; in Brussels, the Brothers of Charity. We had a phenomenal dinner at Reva's place and got to wash clothes, a blessing (Reva helped dry them, a double blessing)! Reva and family are extremely interested in the world around them, and the other dinner guests were also riveting. The boys count meeting Stefan as one of the highlights of their travels, and we look forward to staying in touch.

We got to the U.S. after some expected but ludicrous security regulations (for travel to the U.S.) at Brussels airport, which angered Scott immensely. Dr. Meenakshi Ponnuswami, our friend at Bucknell University, arranged for a limo to pick us up in NY, and the boys loved the ride. We stayed with Meenakshi, Mitch, Maya and Evan, and that was a treat. Their house is very kid-friendly, as is their front porch! A zillion neighbors stopped by and we got to meet them all. I spoke at Bucknell, arranged by Meenakshi, on our work at the Banyan, and loved the audience. M&M took us out for dinner, we met up with Scott's aunt Elayne the following morning (she lives in Lewisburg, Pa), and we drove down to the midwest the next day.

I spent 4 days at my in-laws' farm and then left for Indianapolis, and tah dah - the Tabers' place, my home away from home. I am the perpetual houseguest, the Tabers are really used to me, and this is a great place to be. My summer job worked out, and I am now working at the Indiana Health Center in Kokomo, taking care of the poor. It is no different than what I do in India, except there is likely a guaranteed paycheck. The patients have been lovely so far; ask me again in 3 months, when I might be heartily fed up of the Vicodin seekers.

So this is where I am, and where I will be until 8 Aug. The 3 Weiss men are with in-laws, and enjoying the finest of American junk food and great company. I went down last weekend and had a good time, too. We will head to the East coast this weekend for a wedding, and for the conference of the American College of Physicians.

You know what I like about being here? The ease of doing business, renewing my physician info online, the courtesy I am shown everywhere, affordable food and chocolate, good roads, water from the faucet, friends aplenty. I truly am fortunate to be able to come here and work once in a while.

Unw -