Renu's Week

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Report of 21 Dec '09

Hello from the Banyan -

Greetings of the season! May the true meaning of Christmas, replete with peace and joy, stay with all of you throughout 2010.

The week has been alright. Patients healing, the Banyan thriving. We have had some luck with the residents escaping gastroenteritis of the monsoon, thank goodness. The rains continue, though, and I am hopeful of the best. One of my colleagues, who is from a village nearby, said that it is customary for rains to last from Diwali until Pongal (the harvest festival in January). Wow - I had not realised that at all.

Our patient with the broken arm has been advised conservative management instead of surgery. She is HIV+, and it is not surprising to see many surgeons decline to operate on HIV+ patients. This saddens me considerably, especially since a dear friend from med school is now HIV+, and I would not want this discrimination foisted on said friend. I honestly do not know if surgery is indeed necessary, or if the conservative management has been advised due to HIV status, and I have asked for a 2nd opinion. I'll find out the answer this week.

Update on the school kid: after a day of balking at going to school, she is now going regularly and happily, Swapna mentions. We need the girl children educated, I tell you; for that matter, we need all children educated, however educated girls tend to make much more sensible decisions that would haul them out of poverty, and keep them somewhat free from violence and a zillion pregnancies. So young Ms. S going to school is our Christmas gift, and we are happy for it.

The ladies who help us (Weisses) clean the house and cook appear to be getting some sort of reputation in their neighborhood about being helpful sorts, and they asked if I'd see one of their neighbors for a medical consultation. The young lady is 17 years old, a school student, and has not been getting her period regularly. So I saw her at our house, asked that she and her mother sit down (not usually offered to the "lower caste" by the "upper caste," which is too funny/ludicrous) and examined the girl. I then referred her to a nearby Public Health Center where another patient of mine had been; that young lady was well-treated, with appropriate care and the requisite dignity and respect, thus pleasing me greatly. I told the mother not to worry, that the condition was correctable, and to let the other doctors work their magic. The patient herself was unafraid and forthright, and spoke some decent English, and I was happy to see our education system at work.

Some fine times last week. We were invited to Naren's cast party, went, I danced, and we had a great time. Our friend, Anita Sigler, came into town and spent an afternoon with us; that was jolly good fun. Anita also came loaded with goodies, intent on spoiling everyone, and a grand time was had reminiscing, speaking of life as wives and parents, and laughing a bunch. We had dinner at the home of the new Banyan CEO, David Nash, and his family. They are from the U.K. and were originally going to serve South Indian food; I begged for a menu change, being a big fan of non-Indian food, and so we ate British food and it was deeee-lish. David, Kate, Naomi and James are gracious hosts, and young 10-year-old James had made a sinful dessert which all fell upon.

We are off to Madurai this week if train tickets permit, and will celebrate Christmas with my disabled mother, recently discharged from the hospital after dengue, and my father. The rest of the mob will gather as well, and we look forward to that.

The 3 Weiss men and I hope you have every gift of the season, especially peace, joy, lack of war, full bellies and non-leaky roofs.

Unw -


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Report of 14 Dec '09

Hello from the Banyan -

First of all, my deepest apologies. I don't usually beg for bucks for the Banyan or anyone else through my writing; I usually give a contact in case anyone wants to donate. However, this past week, matters changed. As an updated wish list for the Banyan was put in place, the able coordinator of Adaikalam (our residential facility housing 250 mentally ill, destitute women), Vanitha, mentioned that a pipe had broken and there was no money to repair it. Vanitha might be 30 years old at the most, and has been a senior coordinator for a few years now, that's how capable and passionate she is. She and I stepped out to take a look, and stared up at a spot about 20 feet off the ground where a pipe had developed a break and was spraying liquid. Not very much fazes Vanitha, and we resolved to do something about it posthaste, thus the desperate email. We are desperate. Vanitha and I could go home to our families after a day's work, but 250 destitute women and 30+ staff had to stay on in a compound that had sewage stagnating on one side. So the frantic appeal was sent out, and thanks to all those of you who could help. I understand completely if you cannot; the economy cannot really offer a lot of extra bucks for charity.

Life is fairly one constant episode of busy-ness. I haven't read in a while, I haven't managed to finish the daily newspaper - a requirement for me. However, I work in a place taking care of those others would spurn (does the Bible not say something about this?), I have a husband who does not beat the tar out of me, I have sons that are steadily inheriting the desire to change life for those who are afflicted by poverty, I have relatives (on both Scott's and my sides) who maintain relations with me, and I have a roof over my head that does not leak. These are, by golly, great blessings.

Ms. Ma with the happy smile and the back pain is better! I had asked that an analgesic cream be massaged into her back, and that appeared to have improved matters. Ms. Ma does speak a little Hindi, and comprehends well though her speech is stilted; when I asked her how many idlis she had eaten one morning, she held up 3 fingers and said, "Theen (three)." So she does comprehend, and does communicate. I looked at her intake history, and there is no mention of her family. Either she could not tell us their details clearly enough, or she does not know them. We do not know if anyone is looking for her; I regretfully suspect not. She is mentally ill, might be mentally challenged, cannot communicate conventionally, and some families view such folks as huge liabilities. But they haven't seen this smile, and the way she takes my hand and leads me into the sick room, and her earnest manner in answering me when I ask about her breakfast. I am not a huge believer in God, for various reasons, but looking at her and seeing her therapeutic place in my life convinces me as nearly as possible about the presence of a God.

I was fortunate to have an impromptu lunch at the home of my neighbor, Sushmita. I *love* eating others' cooking. I had finished using the Internet at her place when she offered me tea; I declined but said, "You know what, though, I am really hungry." She offered me lunch, as most folks will, and we ate rice and dhal and okra (called "ladies' finger" here), while her 5 yo and 3 yo played near us. It was inordinately good fun. Sush's maid, Ms. K, is a remarkable sort: having been abandoned by her husband (a not-uncommon occurrence here) a while ago, she has educated her daughters. Her older one is finishing up a degree in math, and the younger one appears to have a learning disability and has stopped school after 8th grade, now learning a trade. Sush's mother-in-law, Usha, a very dear friend and also a neighbor, had phoned me about the younger girl one day and described disabling belly pain. After some questions, I had to take a best guess, as I often do when I can't see the patient, and prescribed an anti-spasm pill; it appears to have worked, and the young lady is better. Ms. K was full of thanks, and I felt that was unnecessary: I had merely done my job and my giant reward was that my patient was better and someone with absolutely not one extra rupee or even an extra paisa had been helped. One day, Ms. K said to me, "There isn't even anyone to ask how I am," and I thought that was sad, and thought again about how much I had.

Some fine times last week - Naren's play was staged. Total of 10 performances, last 2 days on now. The first day was so-so, as is common in the world of theatre, but as the days wore on and the cast started to jell together and "feel it," the production turned into a magnificent, irreverent, funny and interactive event - a true pantomime. Naren sang and danced, enjoying himself, and we heckled him and others at times from the audience. The great joy for me was that one of the cast heckled back, and it was hilarious! All laughed at that, and it made my day. Naren wandered into the audience one day and danced with me. It was fun. The best part is that all the bucks from this venture go towards helping underprivileged children go to college, and that is a cause very dear to our hearts. Several beneficiaries return to help in the production, also warming my heart, and this year, we heard the news that one of them, now working, has been sent by his company to the U.S. Oooohhhh!!! What just rewards for the young man, how nice that Aysha Rau thought of Little Theatre to so assist.

My father was in town for some other event and caught the play, my sister and her family also joined us, and we had dinner at our house last night for all + my brother and a cousin. It was a fun time, and I was grateful for this bonhomie.

Unw -


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Report of 7 Dec '09

Hello from the Banyan -

When I joined med school, a senior who was married and a parent told us that there were some days we just would not read - kid emergencies, school activities, family matters might interrupt. I thought then that I would move Heaven and Earth to get time to read. Now I know what he was speaking of - this past week, my grand goal of reading professional material for an hour a day simply could not be accomplished: ferrying kids, school meetings, parent in town. All the activities were exhausting, but fulfilled my role as wife, mother, daughter, chauffeur, etc.

The B's server was not working this morning, as usual, so I could not get online and managed to take the time to read. I have taken to wandering around with a professional journal or 2 and squeak in some time to read.

I got some lovely wishes for Thanksgiving from U.S. friends. We remembered with great nostalgia the meal(s) at the home of our San Antonio neighbor and dear friend, Aurora. She would start the TG meal early, use our oven at will and to our great delight, and then call us when the food was ready. We took over, at most, brownies. An el grande pigout would result, and the 3 men still wax eloquent about it, rhapsodizing about each dish. Navin, who is trying fervently to turn vegetarian, said he'd make an exception for Ms. Aurora's turkey. :) Nice to have such friends, I tell you. We were thankful for several things at TG, including the fact that our Indy YMCA friend, David, has found a job.

There is a patient at the B, Ms. Ma, who is non-verbal. She has gestured that her back hurts, we have sent her for an xray, and there is no fracture. She continues to point to her back and grimace, and I have requested a second opinion on the xray. We need to listen to our patients, especially the non-verbal ones. Ms. Ma has the loveliest smile, which lights up her eyes and entire face, and I am the privileged recipient of it every day. As I looked around the Banyan one day, surrounded by women whose families do not want them at all, I thought to myself that we who work at the B were indeed blessed that we could take care of these ladies, provide them a safe harbor and a chance to redeem their self-esteem, and avail an opportunity to receive some wonderful smiles. I give Ms. Ma an extra wave every day, just to get the extra smile. Last Thursday, I was in a very bad mood due to Teenage Turbulence at home, and spent a bit longer with Ms. Ma, at the end of which I felt better.

What are we giving the Banyan patients? Little, compared to what they give us.

We were driving home one evening after picking Navin up from school, and there was an accident in front of us. I usually stop at accidents and render aid. Navin came with me to the scene, and we saw that a lady had fallen off her scooter. She had a gash on her head and seemed a bit distraught about events and a tad fainty, but overall, she was fine; not fine enough to ride her vehicle, I told her, but fine enough to go home and rest. This is the reason I stop: to give all those involved a sense of the true story, and try and ease some panic. I washed off her wound, and reassured her she was okay; she did want to get evaluated at any nearby clinic and I said that was unnecessary, but alright. Listen to the patient. As we left and got into the car, Navin said, "She should have worn a helmet." Bingo. We got out of the car again, went back to the scene and told her; she mentioned that she had forgotten the helmet due to being in a bit of a hurry due to her exams, and we suggested that she remember at all times.

My father returned from his conference and blew through town again, struggling with his asthma that had worsened due to the cold in Delhi. We got him at the airport and helped him and his colleagues board the train to Madurai. They had tons of luggage, and Scott, my slender husband with a strength that belies his frame, helped heave all the bags onto the train. He touched my Dad's feet, a sign of great respect in Indian culture, and my Dad got so choked up he could not speak. It is nice to have a husband who relates so well to his in-laws and to our culture.

We saw the movie "Ninja Assassin," as one son wanted to. It was at best, a B-movie, but I enjoy seeing fit people on screen, and the training process for martial arts, so it was not a total loss. The new goal is a hand-stand pushup, as the star Rain did onscreen; I have a while to go, yet, but the goal remains. :)

Naren's play is this week (a total of 10 performances) and rehearsals have been hectic. Navin has an exam this week and studying is on. Ultimately, what these boys make of themselves is up to themselves alone; we are grateful that they are unfailingly kind to those who have much less than them.

Unw -