Renu's Week

Monday, March 12, 2012

Report of 11 Mar 2012

Hello from Chennai!

It is dark, I am tired after a long day's work and I want to write.

Work is good. Last week, a gypsy came to our clinic in Kovalam. She had not bathed, and was a bit smelly. I asked for the door to be kept open, and for the hcw to educate the patient on hygiene after I'd seen her. She wore a swirly skirt, as gypsies do, and not the sari or the salwar kameez (the pants and long tunic); there was also a short midriff-baring blouse and a sash over the whole ensemble. It is actually a very sexy outfit, and young gypsies look very attractive in it. My patient had come with her brother's daughter, who appeared to have a mental issue. As I started my visit with my patient, she mentioned how tired she'd been and how she ached; I probed some more and, pending blood tests, prescribed a rather tasty iron tonic. I asked the social worker if this lady could have a bath on our premises next time and she acquiesced; so I told my patient about the importance of hygiene and all of us suggested she bring clean clothes next time and bathe at our clinic. She mentioned that all of them bathed in some river, and the water was not the best; they also slept in the open (being homeless), and a cow had stepped on her leg and caused a bruise. So I examined the wound, prescribed a pain pill, and explained my various therapeutic maneuvers in some detail. At this point, the patient got teary; I asked what had happened, and she said, "I have come for 5 days, wanting to see a doctor, and ...," and then she looked at me with such gratitude that I pretty near got teary myself. I narrated this to Naren later, mentioned that I'd managed to maintain my composure to his great relief, and both of us laughed at the prospect of a blubbering doctor seeing a patient: pretty darn hilarious, I tell you.

Back in Adaikalam, Ms. E was released from isolation and came to see me. She is very young, and complained of back pain, which is somewhat unusual in the young but not in our patients. When I saw her again, the simple anti-inflammatories had worked and she was so cheerful that the bright smile she gave me fairly glowed. She walks with a slightly odd gait; it is customary for sex workers to be tortured here and I was sorry to see Ms. E walk this way. She was, however, extremely happy and that had big lessons for me, as always.

Women's Day was celebrated with grand gusto at Adaikalam, and the residents and staff played games, chilled out, etc. One of the residents was so overjoyed with the proceedings that she sang a song to herself and danced in perfect rhythm. (That is one of the great joys here, I tell you - people dance due to happiness and also manage to stay in rhythm, which is not always manifest in the countries I've visited. Scott has stated firmly that white people cannot dance :). ) I looked at her, and thought to myself of her now-happy spirit, that in spite of mental illness and being away from family, the spirit can sing and dance and be happy. A fine place, the Banyan.

I managed to see a couple of movies with a dear friend. "The Iron Lady" was magnificent: I felt like we were watching Mrs. Thatcher and not Meryl Streep, she was that good. We also saw a Tamil movie - "Aravan" - just for me to drool at the hero, and the flick was dreadful. Naren and I also managed to see a play, which was so-so, and I caught a very nice dance show by the U.S. troupe, "Bad Boys of Dance." There was a 2-day conference on diabetes and heart disease over the weekend, and one of the leading doctors here who knows my work negotiated for me to attend for free, which was fabulous. I enjoyed all the learning.

The conference of the American College of Physicians is in New Orleans in April, and I am seeking inexpensive accommodation. If any of you knows of options, please tell me. It is when I travel that I feel the lack of money most acutely and am sick of it: the flight attendants appear less than thrilled to see us in economy class, and I wonder what became of service in the service industry. Sometimes, when I ask for a piece of chocolate or a toothbrush, I am actually told that it is not available in economy class. Hmmm. Anyway, perhaps things will change sometime. And pigs will fly.

Naren gave up sugar on 1 February and has managed to stay off it, liking the way it makes him feel. This was inspirational and now I am also off. I nearly caved in during lunch at the conference, at the sight of "Blueberry Mascarpone souffle" but managed to maintain a modicum of dignity. We have vats of fruit in the house and I like that.

All 4 of us Skyped yesterday and talked about the challenges in parenting. There are several, for me. Joys as well, but challenges that all heard about along with some trans-Atlantic profanity. The demure, submissive, reticent Indian (who?!) spoke up.

"I haven't spoken to my wife in years - I didn't want to interrupt her." - Rodney Dangerfield

Unw -



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