Renu's Week

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Report of 31 March 2018

It's paratyphoid, similar to typhoid.  That's the diagnosis and I am on hefty antibiotics.  This is really honking me off - the fever, chills, malaise.  We went off to Kovalam this morning after I spent a night shivering and being completely unable to get warm enough; it was my young assistant Keerthana's day off, but she sweetly came and started iv fluids on me.  I haven't had them in recent memory, we squirted some IV Acetaminophen/Paracetamol in the fluid and it was a wonder drug.  Several people at Kovalam filtered in to see me and see how I was: I found that very, very kind.  After the IV fluid was finished, Keerthana graciously brought me breakfast - pongal, a rice dish with dhal and some pepper,  It is a safe food and I was relieved to get my appetite back.  I do not at all enjoy being too sick to eat.

Scott and I headed off and ran some errands today.  He is a tad unwell himself, with a booming cough.  We stopped by the Ayurveda store and the gentleman there prescribed 2 powders, to be mixed with honey, for the cough; the result has been almost instantaneous.  Truly, there are so many great systems of medicine in our land, which do the job when allopathy does not. 

We were in Madurai earlier this week.  I leave next week for the U.S. and we wanted to see my Dad before that.  It was a fun trip; we stayed put, ate and drank and were merry, and Scott gave my Dad smartphone lessons.  Scott is very much a part of this family, and rolls nicely with all matters.  I was privileged to see a dear friend, Mrs. Leila Kurien; she is of my parents' generation and we unfailingly have a chuckle when we meet.  This time, it was about Scott stopping by my private practice clinic and sending everyone there into a tizzy; they took selfies with him and - as I told Mrs. Kurien - in my 2 years there, nobody has asked to take a selfie with me.  :)  Let's hear it for the handsome Caucasian.

I did not go to the other Banyan this week; we did have our colossal clinic at Kovalam and that was good.  A young son of one of the patients came to sit with me and learn some medicine; that was fun.  I love it when young people show initiative.  Private practice is also fine.  I had to diagnose a young lady with typhoid and there was no doubt at all on the blood tests.  I had to tell her what I now practice: safe foods, no eating out, plenty of yogurt, etc. 

We Skyped with both boys today and - as I told my sister, Anu - that was panacea. 

May you have many fine times!

Unw -


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Report of 25 March 2018

Hello from our balcony!

The sea is a grey haze, the sky is partly blue, our laundry is drying here, people are splooshing in the pool and the cricket game downstairs is in full swing.  The Australian cricket captain has resigned after colluding to tamper with the ball.  Strange things happen in the world of sport.  My sports authority husband told me what several players echoed, that tampering likely would not have happened without the knowledge of the captain and coach.

I diagnosed myself with pneumonia.  Scott had to position the diaphragm (listening part) of the stethoscope on my back and move it around as I took big breaths; my lungs sounded junky and I put myself on an antibiotic.  This illness is slow to leave: I am still intensely fatigued, no longer beat the alarm when waking up and cannot take the stairs as I normally do.  We took ourselves off to SMF Hospital yesterday and a senior physician examined me; she felt that this is the normal aftermath of a pneumonia and I am now taking calcium and vitamins.  On many days, the bed has been a very attractive alternative to work.

The lady we rescued last week has since tried to run away.  The psychiatrist will review her, social workers will swing into action and try to locate the family.  As this is a family blog, I must use discreet language and let you know that she pinched my backside as I walked by: as I whirled around, she let out a hearty peal of laughter.  Sigh, sigh.  I do not like being touched unwarrantedly by either gender and told her to stop.  The mentally ill and the mentally challenged likely do not fully understand what they do.

Private practice is okay.  In my unwell state, patience is nonexistent.  The other day, relatives of a patient said her husband overseas had asked why she was taking so long to recover.  In India, indirect speech is rife and this question sometimes means the doctor ain't competent.  I felt my eyes blaze and let everybody there have it; I said - not gently - that they could take the patient elsewhere, that her many years of not taking medications as prescribed should have been addressed by her and them, and that I had less-literate patients who did exactly as I told them and recovered beautifully.  One of the relatives apparently asked our front office staff for a feedback form and I told them to ensure that she got at least 10 forms; she could unleash whatever she wanted.  The patient herself appeared to be happy with the care.  I alerted my boss about this episode and he considered it routine, nothing to worry about; I laughed out loud when I read his reply.  Nice.   

We Skyped with 1 boy today, our older son, and that was so good.  He mentioned teaching a class full of elementary students of color, and that they used phrases such as "I'd like to add on to what she said."  This thrilled all of us; it is lovely when little people are on the right track.  We hope to Skype with our younger son on the morrow.

Vandana is in the U.S. getting an award (after zillions of awards, said her co-founder, Vaishnavi) and we are pleased.  The joy of working for ethical folks cannot be understated.

I spoke to my father 2 days ago and he is well.  We hope to see him soon.

Unw -


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Report of 20 March 2018

Hello from our living room!

It ain't a Sunday, I can't see the sea, but had to blog.

Life is fine.  I am supposed to head to the U.S. soon and am not quite ready yet.  The Banyan and private practice have been satisfying: appreciative patients can be so heady. 

I was driving to work today - a long drive - and spotted a red mass on the road.  It seemed like a mortally wounded animal, and I noticed someone on the shoulder of the road, seeming like a gypsy.  As I neared the red mass and passed another vehicle also circumventing it, I noticed that it was a sari, and that the person on the side of the road was standing there in a blouse and "underskirt," the accoutrements for a sari.  It seemed like the lady might have been mentally ill, I got to the B and asked for the rescuing social worker to take the team and rescue this patient.  Sometimes, by the time our team gets there, the patient's location has changed, etc.  Well, this time, they found her - halleluia.  By the time I left the B, they had returned with the patient and I was completely grateful.  The lady limps, and we will slowly find out what happened.  There are also burn marks on her neck and back.  We will find out about those, as well.  She does not speak a language I recognise, but that has never stopped us. 

So, my thought was - here is a lady, who must have been part of a family once, on the road in a strange town, unsure of her next meal or even her safety, mentally ill enough to start doffing clothes, and here is the Banyan, as always, ready and willing to give her whatever she needs to start rebuilding herself.  All for free.  I tell you, it is a powerfully wonderful organisation to work for. 

Private practice is also fine.  We have some young people hospitalised and I have explained their illnesses to them, leading to good interactions.  It is a privilege to be in this profession.

Scott and I attended the wedding reception of a school classmate's son.  Lakshmi, my former classmate, did not know we were coming and it was nice to surprise her.  We had a very good time at the event and drove straight to work the next day.  I do not like going late to our clinic at the seaside village, Kovalam, as the patients start assembling at 7.30 AM.  However, we were driving from 4 hours away and left at a safe 5 AM, reaching the clinic well after 9.  Nobody had budged: all the patients were in the waiting area, squeezed onto the benches there and happy as clams, chatting away until I got there, ate breakfast and then came down to my room.  They are a grateful and happy lot, the patients, and it is very nice to treat them. 

We spoke briefly to my father last week and will speak again this week.  He is a very busy man, which is good.

Naren turned 27 last week and we got to "Hangout" with both boys.  That was tremendously good fun.  Nice chatter and humor and candor.

Hope you have a good week!

Unw -


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Report of 11 March 2018

Good evening from our balcony!

The sea is blue, not crystal clear due to a haze, pretty nonetheless.  The cricket game downstairs is punctuated by conversation, and there are people splooshing about in the pool in our clubhouse next door.  This is nice - to write, and write.  Scott is sitting here reading the paper, having had his evening tea.  I consider that to be a useless meal, preferring to eat dinner at 4.30 or 5 PM, and we have done a preference switch: Indians drink tea and have a snack at 4 or 5 PM, and Americans eat dinner at that time.

I have a virus which set in about 2 days ago.  I was completely wiped out yesterday, but hauled myself to work and saw a couple of patients.  We then went on to a carnival featuring women entrepreneurs.  It was nice; we ate, mostly.  Scott had cheesecake and some baked goodies, I had some savory things and sugarcane juice, a huge favorite.  I felt my throat get better with the beverage and we then went on to our friend D. Ramesh's clinic for an ophthal evaluation. 

It is educational for doctors to fall sick: it is good to know what patients speak of.  I stayed on the sofa today and have gargled with salt water about 5 times, drunk vats of fluid and eaten fruit.  At the end of my reading the newspaper - about a 4-hour exercise - I feel better and am up.  My throat feels better with all that salt; it burned yesterday.

We spent last weekend at my sister Anu's place.  We ate - joined by our med student niece, Sanjana - talked, laughed, walked.  I have a new favorite drink - gin and tonic.  What a nice, mellow beverage.  Scott says it helps when the gin is top class and this was Bombay Sapphire.  I was forgetting words by the end of 2 small drinks, so decided to stop the enjoyment.  Anu was chairing a meeting the next morning and we stopped in to say bye.  It unfailingly gives me a kick in the pants to see a family member occupy a position of power at a meeting or talk or conference :).  Anu was leaving the next day for a Gates Foundation project meeting with the National Institutes of Health in the U.S., and I was pleased that we managed to see her before she left; gracious of her to accommodate us in spite of trans-continental travel.

The Banyan is wonderful.  Women's Day was celebrated with much fanfare and the whole place was festive and joyful and peppy.  A little event was organised on the premises, featuring the superintendent of the local prison - a lady - speaking.  She was great, all enjoyed the talk, and then prizes were given away to deserving residents.  Some residents spoke: it was eye-opening for me that the Banyan gave them hope when they perceived none, that the B has given them self-confidence and dignity and earning potential.  And treated their mental illness.  I knew all this, sort of; it was much more powerful to hear the story from the horse's mouth.  What a great place to work, how privileged I am to be part of an organisation whose very ethos involves imparting hope and joy and succor. 

Private practice is also nice.  We treat a variety of illnesses.  There has been a fair number of people attempting to harm themselves, and the Banyan's array of counselling services is an invaluable resource for such patients.

We were on "Hangout" with both boys today and that was the fun-fest it usually is.  Lots of candor, talk, laughter, love.  We are privileged to have these 2 young men in our lives.

May you have much love and laughter in your own lives.

Unw -