Renu's Week

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Report of 08 April 2012

Good evening!

It is hot. Thankfully, there's a bit of a breeze.

I will head elsewhere soon and am wrapping up events for a bit. Kovalam was great yesterday: my gypsy patient returned. She had come again when I was not there, and we had missed each other. She came yesterday, resplendent in a sari, though I like her swirly skirt and midriff-baring blouse also. She had felt tired, and on checking her blood work, I found that her sodium was low. This is sometimes called the "Tea and Toast" syndrome in the U.S., where older folks drink tea and eat sparingly, causing their sodium to drop. So I asked her, and knew the answer before she spoke: she cannot afford food. I asked our community workers if the lady and her niece could eat with us, and they said sure. I mentioned this to my patient, asked that she not bring hordes of her compatriots and regretted it the minute I said it: she replied - with considerable dignity - that she would not, as she knows we can't feed everyone. She kissed my hand as she left, though I had done nothing to cure her aches and pains. Some physiotherapy equipment would go a long way. If we can dream it, we can do it.

One of our patients is being treated for mental illness at Adaikalam and her 8-year-old son is at Kovalam. He's a beautiful little boy and wears the traditional Muslim clothes of white long shirt and loose pants, as well as the topi (cap) on his head. Last week, he was busy dusting everything with a colorful feather duster, and it was a very cute sight. School's out for him (many schools have summer vacation in April and May, the hottest months), and we must find a new school; in the meantime, he hangs out at Kovalam with his grandmother and aunts, much adored by everyone and knowing it. It is wonderful. Bryan Benedict, one of the finest ER docs around Indy, and his stunningly beautiful pathologist wife, Cindy, had given me a box of chocolate turtles and I'd hoarded 'em; I ate a few and then decided the box must go to folks who've never had such chocolate, so off to Kovalam it went. The little boy had a couple of pieces rapturously, as did every single colleague - also rapturously. It was great!

Adaikalam is fine. One of our residents has fallen and sustained a fracture. Our patients have osteoporosis (brittle bones) and we have a gym instructor who is trying to teach gait stability. A fall equals a broken bone and I appreciate his efforts to thwart this. The resident with the fracture is in the sick room, ably looked after by another patient, Ms. S. Ms. S was picked up from the streets, barely clad, is HIV positive and has a husband and children in Mumbai (Bombay). She is now treated for her mental illness, dresses decently and wears kumkum on her forehead and sindoor in her hair's parting - the latter indicating that she is married. She looks lovely, and has also shown that she has quite a flair for languages: she is starting to speak Tamil, which is quite difficult. She asked today, in Tamil, if I had eaten and I answered, asking her if the uppuma (a savory dish made from cream of wheat) was tasty; matter-of-factly, she answered, "Illai (No)," and it was so funny, I burst out laughing. She's a treat, that one, and has taken to needling the sick room patients; though they protest, it is a nice break from routine.

We had an appreciation meeting today. Several friends donated cake and goodies, we said something specifically nice about each staff member and all had cake and fruit. I looked at everyone eating happily, and thought to myself how little it takes to keep our staff happy: a kind word, cake and a vegetable puff (a savory pastry), some juice and fruit. Leela was complimented by the Senior Coordinator of Adaikalam, Preetha, as invaluable in teaching Preetha the ropes as a new employee; this was particularly fabulous, because Leela had interviewed for the position of Senior Coordinator, also, and clearly bears no ill will towards the person who did get the position. This is a great place to work.

We heard that our friend, Andrea Schichan, is engaged! Andrea visited us from Germany, conducted an excellent training session for the hcw's on First Aid; we visited her in Germany, and there is a lot of love between us. We were also thrilled to bits to get a donation of $2000 from Dr. Ram Yeleti, a very nice cardiologist at Community South, where I worked last year; this gift is a fine glimmer of good news, from a fine, compassionate person. Jasmine Hamilton, an extraordinarily competent nurse, also at Community South, has collected for and shipped us a big box with raisins, other dried fruit, and toothpaste and toothbrushes, after a campaign she called "Raisin the Bar." This is fabulous, because our residents do not get much fruit at all; Jasmine has truly gone over and above the call of duty, in her usual magnanimous, unobtrusive fashion.

Naren and I spent a fun weekend eating out and getting some shopping/banking/doctor visits done. My high school classmate, Mohan, was in town and I had not seen him for about 30 years. We met in our other classmate D. Ramesh's clinic, and it was as though no time had lapsed, really, a very fun visit. Scott, Naren, Navin and I skyped. The boys are full of admiration for each other's achievements, and that is a treat to see. Lots of smiles, happy faces. Naren wrote an article online on El Haked, the rapper trying to bring about change in Morocco. Navin won "Big Assassin on Campus." Though the significance of some of this is lost on me, it is nice to see the boys flush with achievement and I, too, applauded them.

"Remember that as a teenager you are at the last stage in your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you." - Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies, 1981

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