Renu's Week

Monday, September 28, 2009

Report of 28 Sept '09

Hello from my Chennai living room -

The ethereal voice of George Harrison is playing, and I am blogging. This CD was one of two things that I bought for myself and I love it. The other purchase was tap shoes.

Things have settled into a routine quickly. Our cook said her neighbor had been waiting for me to return, and the neighbor, Ms. K, brought her husband home last week. They had stopped his anti-psychotic meds on their own, and the man's mental illness was back with gusto. I referred them to the Banyan, and the good psychiatrist there is treating the man appropriately. This couple has very little money, like most of my patients here, and the Banyan's free treatment fits their wallet; some blood tests had been ordered, which the couple has to pay for. The lady mentioned this repeatedly to me, in the hope that I would cough up the cash, but those intentions and days are long gone. When I first moved here, I nearly opened my wallet the first time a patient said she could not afford her meds, but did not; later, my very prudent husband suggested I not adopt this practice, because then not only would I be known as the doctor who had come from the U.S., but also as the idiot who doled out cash to anyone who sang a "panja paatu" - literally, a famine song, or a narration of want. As everyone knows, there would be plenty of scope for abuse there.

The neighbor downstairs stated that her maid was in agony with belly pain. I examined the 18 year old, and it seemed like she had an ulcer; I prescribed the appropriate meds and she is better. I have been burned before with an unmarried maid of another neighbor, who complained of belly pain; on persistent probing, she denied all possibility of pregnancy, and later ended up indeed admitting pregnancy. Craig Witz in San Antonio, my OB professor, stated that belly pain in a woman of child-bearing age is pregnancy until proven otherwise. Such lessons are good to remember. I feel for these maids; they leave their own impoverished families at fairly young ages, and work for employers whose treatment of them might or might not be humane. It is a matter of tremendous good fortune and privilege for me that we can afford to keep our sons with us and raise them.

We visited Madurai over the weekend and spent some fine times with my parents. My mother is disabled, and in a wheelchair; my father is her primary caregiver, along with managing his practice and lecture schedule. Their sense of humor and grace are firmly intact, though, and we spent the whole weekend laughing and eating and enjoying each other; it was rejuvenating, and we returned this morning. The boys and I went out for breakfast this morning, which was wonderfully good fun, and after dosais (a kind of rice crepe), we went to wish my friend, Joan, on her b'day. Joan and I met when I was 16, and have been friends for 30 years, the sort of friends who ask about each other's families, eat all the food in the house, and revel in the company. Joan has 4 children, the second of whom is developmentally delayed; as we went in to her room to see her, Prarthana (the name means "prayer"), perked up at the sight of my sons, and was particularly delighted when Naren played music on a guitar for her; it was indeed fine playing and I felt my eyes pricking as this beautiful disabled child responded to music and a visit from my sons who are realising daily that there are folks much less fortunate than themselves. Joan's family is well-off and my sister, Anu, and I have felt happy for this, that Joan can afford the care for Prarthana that she needs.

A dear friend of the family, Uncle Subramanyam, passed away on Saturday. He was 92, and a friend to all manner and all ages of people. His advice to us in raising the boys, in our careers, his ease of manner, his powerful sense of humor, his acceptance of all who entered his house (one of his triplet grandsons has married an American, and the other 2 of the triplets married outside their community also), his holding his family together - all these were awe-inspiring, and therapeutic to recollect as we condoled with his family today. We are extremely privileged in those folks who are in our lives. Scott said Uncle Subramanyam waited for me to return before he left this world, and that was a kind thought.

I made macaroni and cheese for the family today, a great favorite, and easy to make, even from scratch. It actually does not taste very good at all, but since the men fairly inhale it, I make it. Such routine chores are quite a joy, since I have been away from them for 3 months.

It is lovely to be back, to take care of the poor, to share my skills. That everybody were this lucky.

Unw -


Monday, September 21, 2009

Report of 21 Sept '09

Hello from my very warm living room in Chennai -

Lovely to be home. The flight back was uneventful - best thing one can ask for in a flight. I got upgraded, to my great delight, and slept horizontally; that is really the only thing I crave in an upgrade - the food is ok, I don't drink the alcohol, service is also fair, but the sleep, ah yes, the sleep, now that is welcome.

The 3 Weiss men were at the airport, such a wonderful sight, and Naren drove home. The 3 of them slept, I took a bit to get there, but slept nonetheless. We watched movies that I'd brought, then as the bodies returned to normal, we visited neighbors and our maids - with gifts from the foreign land.

This morning, I heard a groan and it pierced its way through several levels of unconsciousness. Naren had an upset stomach last night, and was in some agony in the wee hours of the morning. So I got up and tended to the child, and slept in the guest room, where he was. He appears to be better this morning. What I didn't know was that he had thrown up late last night, Navin had heard him and awakened his father; so much for piercing levels of unconsciousness. :) It is nice to be close, anyway, to medicate as needed; when I was in the U.S. and got news that the boys were ill, concentration would be seriously impacted.

There were some fine interactions before I left: Cindy and Barb, new friends from the Y, took me out for dinner and that was fun, to get some "woman" time. Colleen and I finished sorting through the mess of things I had to take back. I got to talk to dear friends, Geetha, Mala and Aurora, before I left, and this was extremely therapeutic and great salve for the soul. I also got to visit with Kurt and Cindy Smith, former neighbors, and took a walk with Cindy, which was nice. Sid, a spinning instructor and good friend, had been ill and I stopped to see him and we chatted about several matters; Sid is very engaging and good fun to talk to. I got to meet with Kurt Broderick, who handed me a hefty check for the Banyan, and that was extremely nice. I also got to say farewell to Dr. Love, whose clinical skills and sense of perspective I have long admired and learnt from; the 15-minute meeting was a treat. I stopped to say bye to Kris and Gabe, and Kris had some welcome medicine samples for me, which was so kind. One of the Regional Practice Administrators, Ryan, took me out for a farewell lunch, and the food was delicious. When we returned to the office, I found colleagues waiting with a gift: a huge bag of chocolate! It was wonderful - all the family favorites - and I was very touched. The next day, my last at a different practice and with St. V, my colleagues had cake and ice cream, which was great: I had 2 helpings and am not normally a cake and ice cream fan. Several spinning instructors played my favorite songs on the last days of my classes, and Sid and Betsy made CD's of some pounding 80's rock and roll; I listen to them here and enjoy them. Carolyn Scanlan drove me to Chicago, we visited her parents, LuBea and Earl, en route and that was totally lovely; I felt like the Scanlans' 2 daughters were visiting them, as Carolyn and I ate brunch made by LuBea and received some unbridled affection. I was very fortunate to meet up with Ruth Stevens, the former CEO of one of the clinics I had worked for, at O'Hare; we had attempted to arrange this and I felt fortunate that it had worked out. Ruth is a person of powerful intellect and outstanding vision, not to mention a great sense of humor, and I enjoyed the chat.

"Queen" is playing on our CD player. I bought the CD set for Scott, personally I am a little taken with Freddie Mercury after discovering he is Indian (original name - Farrokh Bulsara). We have watched many movies, and it feels wonderful to be home.

Unw -


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Report of 13 Sept '09

Hello from the Carmel library -

This is a nice place to unwind and hang out. I ate lunch outside and am set to spend a few hours here - so lovely.

50 lbs is not very much at all. That's my luggage limit per bag on international travel and I have repacked today, wondering what the heck I have that's causing my luggage to weigh so much. There's some chocolate, not much, because it's very heavy; my clothes; some shoes (again, not many due to the staggering weight); some clothes for my nieces, and that's that. Quel weirdness. The rule used to be 2 bags of a certain dimension with no weight limits, and that was lovely, because we used to cram our duffel bags full of things.

The cosmos aligns itself for departure. A couple came in, wanting narcotics, and the man decided after my questions that he'd rather see my colleague and get the narcotics there, which suited me fine; my astute nurse practitioner colleague then noticed that the patients had gone to another clinic a few weeks prior, wanting the same drugs. This violated their "narcotics contract" and the couple was fired from our clinic. The man came in the other day to pick up his wife's smoking cessation prescription (I will gladly write that for all), and if looks could kill, I'd be in a mahogany box by now.

But then such types are followed by those who are sweet and nice, and genuinely appreciative of what I try to do for them. This is what memories are made of.

Some fine interactions since the last blog. I stopped by the Rea-Soukup house and made plans to spend much of Labor Day weekend there; they were to be out of town. Olivia Fondoble came in to Indy on Saturday evening. We saw Maryam Massoumi (our former prof) on Sunday, and that was great fun. Maryam was fasting for Ramzan, but graciously served us food. We caught up with Cindy Ching and her lovely family over pizza, where Rich Bastian joined us. Cindy's husband, Dixon, most considerately watched their kids while all 4 of us talked shop. It was a fun time. It is nice to get together with good friends, eat, talk and laugh. Olivia left on Monday morning and I was back at the Rea-Soukup house, watching movies.

I got to talk to a college friend, Mala, and that was extremely therapeutic. Mala and I have known each other since we were 15 (at a one-year pre-university course) and there is an instant settling in to familiar chemistry, chatter, family updates, advice, and plenty of laughter. I have been a bit rattled by the combative relative I have spoken of, and Mala put much of it in perspective for me. She is a dear.

I moved out of the lovely home of the Simons to the equally friendly home of the Tabers. It is where I start and end my sojourns in the U.S., and is a great place.

Olivia and I saw "Transformers," and it was a bit of a laugh fest, with distracted wonderings such as "Why didn't Megan Fox's white pants get dirty as she ran and fell all over the desert?" and "Who runs in such an outfit?" Colleen and I did some massive shopping yesterday, and I was grateful because I need someone to keep me focused; usually about half an hour into the shopping, my head gets full and I want to leave for a bookstore. However, with Colleen's help, we managed to whittle the list. She and I saw "Post Grad," which was good; always nice to see the oldies and goldies like Carol Burnett in a feature film. Rodrigo Santoro was a nice eyeful, and so we enjoyed the flick before meeting the Taber men for a fun and relaxed dinner.

I spoke to the Weiss men today and that was lovely. Soon, I will be home with them, talking of the young men's love interests, Scott's job and keeping up with the in-laws (which he does very well, my mother said, stating that he always sounds so happy), my time here and lessons learned from this summer. I know at least one child's grades are in the drain, and have tried not to nag; let's see how long that exercise lasts. My New Year's resolution this year was to keep my mouth shut; as many of you know, this is a thunderously difficult activity for me. :)

Unw -