ok, i’m going to be posting quite a bit now since i haven’t been on the internet for about a week. a lot has happened. i’ll keep stuff updated. i’ve been writing in a word document, so i’m pasting what i’ve written so far. my nani is currently a bit sick, so please make dua for her and her family.
Day 4: India
I realized something. I’m writing at the end of a 24-hour period. So it’s actually the beginning of day 5. I essentially sit and recall the past 24 hours every morning before I go to sleep. You read that correctly – every morning before I go to sleep. We sleep all day, wake up around 3 pm, and then stay up all night. The last 2 days I had stuff to do during the day, so I’m completely wasted today.
I decided to write after fajr rather than after sehri. I hope I’m using italics correctly. I’ll look it up later, but every time I use a foreign word, I make it italicized and also when I want to emphasize something. Wow, I’m but a few words away from the tangential speech and flight of ideas that characterize a schizophrenic patient. Back to fajr. Did you know they pray fajr will all the lights off, and a sliver of light from the wudu area provides the only visual cues? The first day I thought it was pretty weird, i.e., “what’s up with these freaks.” But today it felt really nice. Lights off. It helped with concentration. Back home (at our masjid), I hit all the lights, especially when I’m the first in the masjid – who knows when a jinn or an intruder will jump out of nowhere.
My grandma started to cough a bit more last night. She also developed a low-grade fever. She’s on antibiotics for the past day or so. They called me over to see her. I was in the house next door, and it felt like I was on call being paged by the nurses. She’s essentially unable to clear her secretions effectively. Typically we would suction it in the hospital, but no suction here (at home). So I went with one of my cousins, Hadi, to the medical hall (it’s what they call pharmacies here) to find a bulb syringe or similar contraption to suction out the gunk. We hit up 3 separate places and no luck. So we went to Owaisi Hospital, which is one of the larger community hospitals in the area. In order to talk to one of the physicians, Hadi said that he needed to see the physician because he wasn’t feeling well. See, no one understood what we were looking for (the bulb syringe) so Hadi knew that security wouldn’t let us into the ED to talk to the physician if we tried explaining it that way.
I mentioned the above story, albeit confusing and drawn-out, because it sort of sums up a lot of interactions that happen here on a daily basis. Everyone is on a need-to-know basis. No one shares information, unless it’s truly necessary. I think it’s based on a fear that you will either seem weak or inadvertently reveal weaknesses that others can exploit. That’s not to say there aren’t many friendly and open people here, it’s just something I’ve noticed.
I like it here. I like to think I can survive, and thrive anywhere in the world. I wish I knew the language better. I always feel like a 12-year-old when I try to get my words out. Also, I wish I had a car. Next year I think I will rent a car for the time I’m here.
Yesterday wasn’t too exciting. The rain stopped. It’s been raining for 5 days straight apparently, without any break for sun. They killed this huge rat that’s been roaming around the yard. I finally hit the internet. I also hit 50 pushups yesterday. I’m in the middle of week 5.
Good night. Or morning?
Thursday, August 27, 2009; Day 5: India; 10:39 PM
I’ve realized something today. Eidi Bazar is the ghetto of Hyderabad. It’s similar to Coney Island. It’s also very similar to the South Side of Chicago. This explains a lot. I kind of knew it all along. The first time Sohare, a friend of mine from medical school who lives here in the “New City” of Hyderabad, knew he had to come here to pick me up, he got real worried. “Eidi Bazar! Kya mere ku maarna chaathe? (Edi Bazar! Do you want to get me killed?)” He said he drove so carefully, because any fender bender, no matter how insignificant, would lead to loss of his limbs and possibly life. Hah.
Today we got a nebulizer for my grandmother. It helped quite a bit. She’s not coughing as much anymore, and seems comfortable. She’s speaking more than the day before, and the day before that. Still people are asking dumb questions – “Will she be like she was before – walking, talking, eating?” It’s a nice question to ask, but I wasn’t trained to predict these things.
Today is our anniversary, alhamdulillah, mashallah, and so on. May Allah bless us with many more wonderful years together. My wife is sitting next to me, waiting for me to put away my laptop. Last year I bought her a diamond and platinum necklace that she wore only once and has been in the closet for the remainder of the year. I think she secretly wants to sell it and buy some poofy Indian gold. Once a Hyderabadi, always a Hyderabadi. I never really liked big gold. But, hey, you see big gold chains in Harvey, IL and Brooklyn, NY. Maybe we’re not so different after all.
I didn’t buy a present this year. I originally planned on surprising her by showing up to Hyderabad un-announced as a gift, but my wise little sister said that I should let my wife know in advance that I’m travelling thousands of miles to see her. We’ll probably just go out for some ice cream. Mango, anyone?
Monday, August 31, 2009; Day 6,7,8,9: India, 10:11 PM
Sorry I haven’t written in some time, but I have a good reason. My grandmother had a cardiac arrest. On Friday (day 6) I decided to cut my prayers short and pray the rest at home. When I got home, my grandma was having a lot of trouble breathing. She was very congested and not moving much air. When I used to be on call in the ICU, you just knew which patients were going to crash. They had that look in their eyes, glazed over, using their last bit of energy to breathe.
My grandmother was sitting upright, propped up by several pillows. She was taking rapid, shallow breaths, and I could hear loud gurgling. We started the nebulizer and I ran to get my stethoscope. This next part was kind of scary, so don’t read the rest of the paragraph if you don’t want to. We were checking vitals, and I was checking her carotid pulse, and all of a sudden she went limp and lost her pulse. Everyone in the room (it was strange, everyone decided to visit at the same time, and for some reason everyone was already there) was looking at her then at me. “Samee?” “Samee!” My mamu kept trying to get a blood pressure, but the machine kept reading error. My father-in-law was telling me to do CPR. My mother was standing next to me, and I was whispering, “don’t do anything, leave her alone.” All I kept thinking of was bedsores, dementia, infections, contractures and more needless suffering. I was trying to prevent this delicate and amazing woman, who had been extremely independent her entire life, never took and always gave, from becoming a nursing home catastrophe. My mom grabbed a chindi (cloth), covered my grandmother’s mouth and gave her 2-3 rescue breaths. My grandma coughed and then vomited a lot of sputum and brown stuff. She started breathing again. Her pulse went from absent, to thready, and to full. Her pressure returned to normal, but her heart was still beating very fast. We called Dr. Minhaj, and he suggested taking her to the hospital. I asked my grandpa, and he said do whatever the doctor says.
When my father’s father (Dada Jaan) died, I didn’t cry. Not one tear. I felt sad that a life was finished, but I didn’t bat an eyelash. I asked Mufti Haroon whether something was wrong with me. My wife thought that I might have a hard heart, and forgot how to cry. Mufti Saab said nothing was wrong, and that people deal with things differently. Especially since I’m exposed to so much death and suffering on a daily basis, I’ve become a bit numb.
So a nurse’s aid that works in Dr. Minhaj’s hospital has become really close with the family over the past several months. Her name is Shaheen auntie. She’s been involved in taking care of both grandparents since they’ve joined the elderly’s revolving door at the hospital. She came to the house with an auto rickshaw. The auto, as it is also known, is the workhorse of India. It’s a three-wheeled vehicle, with a 2-stroke engine that spits horrible smoke because the drivers substitute kerosene for petrol. It’s a taxi, a school bus, and in this case, an ambulance. I’ve never seen an auto driver drive so fast. This was also the first time I’ve seen an auto skid. He was almost drifting through the tiny back alleys trying to get to the hospital. My mom and Shaheen auntie sat in the back with my grandmother in the middle. I sat up front next to the driver. Shaheen auntie kept asking me to turn around and check her pulse, but I don’t think she understood when I told her I couldn’t. Every few seconds she would tap my shoulder and say, “kaise hain ama? (how is she)”
We get to the hospital. It’s a 150 bed private hospital, that I later found out is not really known for the best care. The few days my nani was there, 3 people died in the ICU.
So, as the auto pulls up, Shaheen auntie signals to a ward boy to grab a stretcher. They almost dropped her while they transferred her. Then he ran like hell across the hall to casualty.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009; Day 10, India: 11:41 PM
I suppose I’ll end up narrating this weekend over the next few days. There’s a lot to write about. The hospital in India is a strange place. There’s got to be an accreditation authority that gives certification to hospitals to maintain a certain standard, akin to JCAHO or JCI. But, I’ve heard time and time again there is a big shortage of doctors all over India, so I suppose standards are kept low, ahem, easy, to allow for some degree of medical care.
One aspect of this weekend that I couldn’t stand, like seriously didn’t agree with, was that we had to remove our shoes and walk barefoot – barefoot – in the ICU. People gave me various reasons, ranging from smelly shoes to hygiene. It doesn’t make sense. The healthy people will walk (forgive the pun) out with more diseases than they came in with. Especially when the ward boy spills urine and blood all over the place. The cleaning lady would ring her mop with her bare hands into a bucket full of black water and sop up what she could, while with the remainder, she would share the urine, blood and so on with the rest of the unit.
It’s taken about an hour to write this with interruptions and so forth. I gotta head to the nursing home where nani was transferred. They “lost” their last glucometer. So I’m taking nani’s. Make dua she feels better.
I just got back. Her sugar and vital signs are ok. She’s drifting in and out of a semi-conscious state. Sometimes she’s awake and talks a bit, and sometimes she just keeps her eyes open and doesn’t respond. She looks tired. They’ve rented a room in the nursing home and my mom and khala (auntie) are spending their nights there along with my mother’s youngest brother (mamu). He hasn’t left my grandma unless it was really necessary.
I suggested that they talk to her, even if she doesn’t respond. Read quran, make dua and remember that we all have to go one day. This life is a temporary place.