– Though the visit to the doctor at seems zillions of years away in all that pain but I endure.
– Crocin comes in as an interim painkiller
– One of my reportees, a kind soul, my favourite girl (Lets call her Daisy) comes to my house to pick me up for the doctors appointment. I eat Upma (a south Indian dish prepared & sent by an Indian colleague whose cooking enthusiasm still hasn’t faded. Then again, its only been 2 weeks since he arrived in this country and one week since he shifted to his apartment from the hotel)
– We reach the hospital. The number of cars parked in the street makes it look like a second hand car market. After 20 minutes of struggle, Daisy finally parks the car somewhere far away.
– I notice that it’s not a small clinic that I had envisioned when I got the appointment booked by another of my colleagues, Lily, the previous day. We enter the multistory hospital, figure which floor that particular doctor sits on, talk to the nurses and pay something like 1000 INR just to see the doctor.(No this is not the doctors consultation fees... thats separate, of course!) They tell us to wait as the doctor still has to arrive.
– We wait. I successfully hide my surprise on the doctor being late. The appointment was scheduled for . But then again, we Indians ourselves are not the most punctual souls on the earth. So I smile. I start talking to Daisy to kill time. We manage to kill some time
– Daisy checks with the nurse. The doctor still hasn’t arrived. And my patience hasn’t run out yet. I wonder if this is how the term “patient” has come into being.
– I tell her how great a subordinate she is. She tells me how great a boss I am.
– Daisy again goes to check with the nurse about the doctors arrival. “Why wouldn’t we have called your name had the doctor come in?” - The nurse shouts at her, putting all doubts to rest about the power of her vocal chords....Just in case Daisy was wondering if not being called till now had to do with the faulty/ weak vocal chords of that nurse. I think all nurses are trained to read your minds.
– Daisy returns to her original waiting seat besides me. We try to kill some more time. I tell Daisy why I like her as a person, she tells me why she likes me.
– I start getting restless after waiting for so long. And Daisy starts getting uncomfortable sensing that she might have to go to the same nurse again. She puts her hands on her ears and gears up to go the nurse again. I tell her I have a better idea instead. I ask her to teach me how to say – “Has this doctor Mr. ABC arrived yet?” the local language. Dutifully , she obliges. I memorise it , I practice it. People around us think we are crazy and make no effort to hide their amusement .
– I go to the nurse’s desk. I throw the question in the local language at the nurse with confidence. The nurse hears me but doesn’t look up from the desk. I feel proud that I didn’t mutilate the language for this question and didnt let it turn out to be something laughable instead. So all goes well.... except for a small glitch. The nurse responds to my question. Of course, in the same language. Now not knowing what else to do, like a dumbass I repeat the question. I repeat it in the hope that the nurse would repeat her reply too, giving me a chance to memorise the content of her reply, to be translated by Daisy who is seated at a comfortable distance from these scary nurses. My memorization skills fail me but my courage perseveres. And I ask the question yet again. At this point the two nurses who had the back towards me look at me like I am a retard. I don’t blame them, instead pity them at their inability to admire my linguistic capabilities. The first nurse decides to have a little fun with me and changes her original reply. Just when I think I am getting there… just when I think its only a matter of catching the second half of her reply (the first half was there in my mind, thanks to the first two times the nurse yelled at me). I remember just in time that I am a realist and I give up.
– I come back to the waiting seats. Daisy asks me if I was able to remember & replay the question. When I nod my head in affirmation, she gives me a confused look silently asking me why then I don’t seem to have an answer. I am glad to be the one to announce this newly discovered epiphany to her that just memorising the question isn’t enough to get the answers… you need to be able to actually understand the answers. At this point me and Daisy decide this is amusing. So we honour this series of events with a hearty laugh.
– I hear a white angel call my name. The voice is distant and it all seems so mystical with a backdrop of pristine white clouds, the floating white robe of the angel and the total lack of gravity. I begin to smile only to realise that Daisy is shaking me out of my slumber. The absence of all that mystical aura makes me wince. I tell myself at least I am not dead yet…. and that should be a good thing. But at this moment, I dont do a good job of convincing myself .
3.20 pm- I drag myself to the doctors waiting room (Where was I before that, you ask? Oh even though the hospital is in a similar condition as any other government facility, waiting rooms are something the architect hasn’t compromised on) Of course, I wait for my name to be called.
- The door to his room finally opens and the patient comes out. But like all other social etiquette in this country, saying bye is also an elaborate process and takes more than 10 minutes. Yes ladies and gentlemen, 10 F****** minutes to say bye to your doctor, in his working hours, when he has a room full of patients to attend to, when he’s about three hours late for his scheduled appointment. I am about to yell at that damn woman patient but just then, thankfully, I remember my virtual silencer that I keep handy for situations just like these (In case you are wondering what a virtual silencer is, its just a combination of a LOT of conviction that yelling doesn’t help AND the actual motion of putting one hand over your mouth. I usually charge royalty for giving away this therapeutic technique of mine, but what the heck…. You guys are my loyal readers!)
– The doctor sees me, makes small talk about
– I tell Daisy I am not sure about this cutting thing. I ask her about what I should do. She calls the girl in the office, Lily, who has directed me to this doctor. Lily in turn calls her uncle, who has got me the appointment in the first place. The uncle of course calls the doctor. And then the obvious happens. The circle follows the reverse motion - Uncle calls Lily, Lily calls Daisy and I get notified that the doctor thinks I should let them do it. Errr… but isn’t that where I started from? Do i know any better reason now to go ahead with the operation apart from the fact that the Doctor said so?. But then, I cant tell for sure, can I?….Afterall my head is reeling under all this pressure of having to decide about something like this, when all I wanted from the doctor was a goddamn prescription for some antibiotic pills.
– I surrender to the forces. Daisy offers to go and get the money from any nearby ATM. Before that she admits me in the hospital. Yes as you must have guessed, the operation can’t be performed on an out-patient. The room is dirty but with the magic of little tips to the cleaning lady, it becomes manageable with sheets on the bed changed, floor wiped and a supply of tissues, soaps & clean flannel gown.
– They tell me I will be taken to the operation theatre in a bit. I wait on the bed in a once-white flannel gown. Daisy is back from the ATM & has ordered food from KFC on my suggestion. She is elated on her discovery of KFC delivering even in the hospitals.
– The nurse pricks my finger for diabetes test. I try hard to see if the needle is a new one. Damn, she hides it just too well. Instead she tells Daisy in the local language that she finds me beautiful (as a compensation probably) and asks her which nationality I am. I wonder if this is a way of extracting better tips.
– Two men come to the room with a patient on the stretcher and put her on the bed adjacent to mine. They motion with their hands for me to get on the stretcher. I worry that the sheet on the stretcher is not clean. I get them to change that. Then I worry my flannel gown will fly open as the nurse never gave me that promised piece of clothing to cover my back. I manage to hold the gown tightly on me with difficulty ...but I manage.
– I wonder why this one nurse keeps touching my face saying something like “pretty face”. Ok I know she means well and I don’t have any problem with her freedom of speech, it’s the freedom to touch, and that too repeatedly, that I am not ok with. For the life of me , I cant figure out why in the world, would you wish to touch a strangers face, so many times.
– I go from floor to floor in an elevator and enjoy the horizontal view. I never realised that the world looked so different from this angle. I discover that I am claustrophobic when it comes to lying on a stretcher in an elevator, surrounded closely with 6 strangers headed to different floors. The elevator isn’t big. I don’t want my vision to go anywhere but their faces and I expect the same from them. At this point, I am sure I am getting too ambitious with these expectations.
– It suddenly hist me that I am headed to an Operation Theatre. I am reminded of the fancy ambience that surrounds almost all the surgeries in “Greys Anatomy”. I don’t feel very non glamorous now.
– I am lying on the same stretcher outside a small room they store their drugs in. So much for the fancy ambience...eh? There are no handsome doctors parading around in their blue scrubs either. No Mcdreamy, no Mcsteamy, no Alex, not even Adison Montogomery. I am starting to see the glamour fly out of the non existent window. I make a mental note to stop watching the reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.
– I finally move to the OT. The condition of OT doesn’t help me get back that receding glamour quotient .
– The anaesthetist introduces himself and asks me to narrate some interesting experience as a foreigner in this country. I tell him about the day I went to register a police complaint about the theft of my handbag. I narrate how the police guys kept asking me repeatedly for my name with the conversation going something like this - Police - “Name please” Me – “ABC” Police – “yes , yes but name”. Me – “I said ABC”, Police – “yes we know but name” Me – “its ABC” Police - * a long sigh* "could you please tell us your N.A.M.E". Me – “Its A.B.C.” All this while the nurses in the OT along with the anaesthetist & the other doctor are laughing their lungs out. (To complete the story … after repeated attempts of me telling them my name, a sudden realization dawned upon me and it all made sense. I remembered that my name in their local language means “Theft” . Yes you read it right….it means theft. Need I say more? Replace "Theft" in place of ABC in this conversation ...and then you see why these police guys were so exasperated with me)
– I have been injected with the local anaesthesia already. While I was busy narrating this story, the anaesthetist was busy pricking the needle in my abdominal abscess from all angles. I worry that the local anaesthesia is not effective; so the doctor gives me a demo by scratching that area with a needle and proving to me that the area indeed is numb. Given the limited periphery of my vision right now, i realise its wise to graciously choose to believe what the doctor is telling me. You see even if i tried i couldnt have caught his adept fingers at holding the needle just a mm away from my skin and making me believe otherwise.
– At this point in time, the other doctor (my main doctor) decides hes been idle for too long so he springs to action. I cant see his hand movements fully but I can see a blade like thing in his hand. As much as I try I cant escape from thinking about the movie Awake. I really dont want to remember the movie at this moment, especially the anesthetic awareness scene where the anaesthesia gives the patient partial paralysis, so while he cant move or speak, he can feel everything the doctors do to him . I mean every damn thing. I see the doctor’s hands moving and I can see my psychologically felt pain yet I don’t feel anything. Physically, of course!
– The doctor announces that the cut went deeper than he thought and would take about one week to ten days to heal. Writes a prescription for those damn antibiotics.... ahhhh, finally! Asks me to come see him in his clinic after one day for change of dressing.
– Its time to take the horizontal tour again, to the elevator, to the allotted room... back to the same bed.
– Daisy is called again on the OT floor as she hasn’t paid one nurse her undeserved tip
– I start changing into my clothes and happen to see the size of the bandage. A small scream escapes my mouth. Okay, the doctor prepared me for deep but this long…. I see that the bandage spans more than one foot long.
–Daisy finishes all paperwork, billing and tipping. In case you are wondering, no it wasn’t a government managed hospital. The bills would testify for that.
6.15 pm – I am finally home with a 35 cm long bandage on my belly, sitting in front of TV promising myself to remember the salt names for antibiotic medicines for future (Could have bought these antibiotics from a pharmacy in the first place …. only if I had the memory to remember these names OR sense to check with someone back home for the same OR the intelligence to figure that in this country you need a prescription to make a medicinal purchase)