For my Mom who asked for a thorough account of my experience.
I remember the last time I went to an Indian hospital. It was today.
Here’s the story as I weave in and out of real-time and past tense, since I’m not that fast of a typer on my phone.
On the way, I saw an elephant painted like a gypsy, Hindu signs on its forehead, led through the busy rubble filled streets and gutters by its owners. Cars, bikes, carts, kids, goats, dogs and cows competing for the same path thru the rubble as if it’s on a regular. This is just a typical Indian street in the middle of Coimbatore, a typical Indian city. Nobody seemed to notice the elephant but me, on my way to the hospital.
This visit is the 3rd to a hospital in India on the 14th day of my 6th trip to India in the past 2 years. 3 days to the hospital in over 160 total days combined in India? That’s about my average in US
Indian hospitals are nothing like you would see in the states, not even in Montana. The crowds of the streets don’t recede at the hospital campus entrance. In fact, it seems to increase.
In many ways it seems as if time has no effect on India. This is especially apparent in hospitals. I can imagine going back in time one hundred years and not being able to see any difference, except cell phones. The check-in counter and lobby look like something from Ellis Island.
We stumbled ignorantly into the cancer and “bad stuff” ward. There were signs with disfigured faces and people there that actually resemble those depicted on the signs.
Finally, at the respiratory ward, we were given a form to fill out, but nobody could find a pen. A sign read like a menu for rooms: Room with bed 8000 Rupees, Room with bed and A/C 12000 Rupees. There were lines to the different types.
Luckily, I’m just here for a cough. I’ve had a compromised breathing problem since I owned a bread company in the 80’s. I once bought semi loads of wheat berries from Montana, ground it with a large stone grinder, breathing in the gaseous flour as we blissfully baked our bread. Bam, asthma, duh!
So, here I am, India, 100% humidity, wrong preventative inhaler, my fault, and sitting in a queue of actual sick people waiting for my turn. I didn’t get an option for an A/C waiting room, at any cost.
I’ve smelled urine many times, but these were smells I’ve never smelled. Smells on the spectrum that can only be contained by a live body. Fresh urine maybe. I’ve heard death is a smell you never forget. I’m thinking some of the smells I smell are that.
Saravanan was in the hospital the day before yesterday passing a kidney-stone, his second in two years. Now he is here with me navigating me through the Indian maze of medical bureaucracy as convoluted as the architecture of this place.
He held my water as I used the rest room. The man at the sink was washing his whole upper body. There were no towels. I didn’t wash my hands. As I came out of the rest room, Saravanan was apparently swallowing water from my water bottle. Now, I’m no germaphobe, but, NOW I AM! Of course, he assured me, he didn’t actually drink from my bottle. It was all in my head.
I’m now remembering a story my brother Jay told me about a time on a chairlift while skiing with his son Deane. Jay offered his water bottle to Deane who took a swig, when he stopped swigging, Jay saw a swirl of Deane’s saliva slither down into the bottles remaining water like some type of macro level amoeba.
Don’t want that!
I have a secret germ killing trick, Isopropyl, better known in the US as Rubbing Alcohol. I put it in these TSA approved spray bottles and use it to spray anything and everything that may be compromised. I may even spray the air. You know it kills all germs and odors. Unfortunately, I left my bottles in the room. Here I am in a most vulnerable place without my Isopropyl! And so, I will hold my breath during this visit. It’s my only option. I’m screwed.
A few trips ago, another unfortunate forgetful moment, while roughing it jungle huts. I went horse riding with shorts thru thick jungle, with a barely bandaged gash on my leg. Now that is another story, but, we rode out of the horse coral and into the jungle. That’s when I realized I didn’t have bug spray. At one point, I must have had 50 bugs on me, none of which were mosquito’s, but these mini fly like things. Luckily, they didn’t bite. And they didn’t land on my Indian friends. WTH?
I googled Malaria and Chinese Encephalitis for weeks after.
The last time I was in an Indian hospital, the doctor was very good, very smart and very exact in treating me for thrush. He said to get a better inhaler med for asthma prevention. I didn’t. That’s why I’m here AGAIN. Symbicort apparently doesn’t agree with me. I’m hoping I get a different med inhaler after we finally get to see Dr. Binu.
And, it turns out it was Dr. Binu’s assistant. She was very nice. Said I likely have some type of infection in my upper respiratory area. Now we wait for the Doctor Binu.
I really don’t feel sick. I just have a cough.
Last time when I had Thrush, I went to the ER at MIOT hospital in Chennai. Mosquito’s are about as prevalent here as in Colorado, at least before they spray, and relative to where I’ve been in India. So, I was really surprised how many mosquito’s were in the ER, more than I’ve ever seen, dozens at a time, hovering like tiny drone clusters coming in to get me. It wasn’t comforting that the nurses would frequently sift the room with their tennis racket zappers while I laid defenseless on the gurney. I did finally put bug spray on.
I always liked that Monty Python bit where they are pushing carts of human carcasses through medieval England streets shouting, “BRING OUT’CHER DEAD, BRING OUT’CHER DEAD”. A gurney was just rolled by me as I wait. The old man on the gurney didn’t look dead yet. Everyone around me is coughing. I’m coughing more. I’m starting to feel actually ill.
The other day we got lost driving back to Coimbatore from a temple and ended up driving thru what looked like an ancient cemetery, when in fact it wasn’t that old. I asked about a smoldering pile of rubble and one of my friends said it was the smoke from a cremation. It was right there in front of us!
That dude they rolled by earlier? They just rolled him out of the room. His IV had been removed. He must be dead. He looked dead. I think he is dead. Definately dead.
I’ve seen many dead bodies on my trips to India. They parade them thru the streets throwing truck loads of flower petals in their wake as a marching band blares over the wailing, grieving loved ones left behind.
And here I sit, one of the hapless, one of the wretched, one of the miserable sickos at the mercy of others, in the thick, smelly heat, coughing and thinking about dead people.
“Only 8 ahead of us” Saravanan said as he woke me from my dead thoughts, making my writing finger cramp up just a little.
Three hours and less than 600 Rupees ($10 USD) later, I have 5 prescriptions that will help me recover and a non-inhaler oral asthma preventative that will replace my inhaler.
Diagnosis: Infection due to Symbicort not working properly, triggering an overdose of emergency inhaler, which caused lack of sleep and appetite from the overdose of the steroids in the ProAir emergency inhaler.
I feel better already. But, I feel like a delicate flower for sure. What a wimp.