Last six days has been a journey I would have least desired. For the last couple of months while walking in a park near my home and talking to friends, children, etc. on phone, one remark that I always got was - hey, what's wrong, why are you panting, and I would tell them - oh it's ok, I am doing a brisk walk.
Last Sunday when I along with Sangeeta, my wife, went for the walk the panting started rather early into the walk, and the intensity was not ignorable. Back home I realized there was some uneasiness in the chest. An obvious question that came to my mind was - is it the ringing of an emergency bell? Not wanting to act too much of an alarmist I tried to ignore but something inside was telling me it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Well, we ended up at Fortis Escorts – I driving my wife's car (just in case she had to drive back herself as she has yet to try her hand on my automatic) - where the hospital staff promptly made me lie on a bed in the causality. Having had talked to Alok Sahdev before starting from home, because he had gone through Angioplasty and has relative cardiologist at the same hospital, I got a quick reception by the staff who seemed to be quite happy to receive me, the way my father-in-law did when my baraat reached the wedding venue.
An ECG later it at was declared that a prompt admission was warranted. So here I was into a trap I thought I had worked enough to avoid by controlling my food habits and walking regularly over the last dacade. And now that I was into it would it go the way it went in case of many of my friends or the way our dear friend Ashok Kapur had to go. My mechanically oriented mind tells me - after all its just a stent, a spring like object that will be placed inside an artery to expand the blood passage, what else?.
The ordeal started with a cannula inserted by a young inexperienced nurse into a vein right on the joint under the thumb of my left hand - after several painful pricks. Other group of equally inexperienced nurses tried sucking out blood for several tests. I am sure all my blood had dried up with fear because despite having ventured with their sharp needles into various locations around my both arms and back of hands they did not succeed in getting even a few drops of my blood. They finally declared that my veins were too thin. I guess they eventually did get their hands on some of the precious liquid.
They were repeating ECG and taking more blood by the hour. Though I was told that decision whether to go for angiography/plasty or not would be taken after a blood report about some enzyme would be received, a barber came to shave off hair from my groin to prepare me for the apparently preconceived angio. Whether my stars were aligned unfavorably or not the hospital system certainly did so and I was completely helpless about it. How could an engineer challenge a cardiologist that too in a renowned specialty hospital.
In the morning my elder bro who is a capable pediatrician but not a cardiologist, arrived. So did the senior cardiologist Dr. Praveer Agarwal, who after hearing my account of what happened promptly declared that it was a classical case fit for angio. And, a doctor obliging a doctor, assured that he would take up my ‘case’ the first thing in the morning in the ‘cath lab’.
So, all my attachments were removed and the bed was moved over to the Cath Lab, a rather frigid place where a group of nurses pounced upon me and it took them no time to remove my almost open hospital clothes and left me trembling with nothing on in a room that was probably as cold as the general section of your home refrigerator. Some medicine was applied and then they covered me with some patches of cloth with a hole over the exact spot where the doctor would eventually make a hole and insert the catheter. I can imagine how Kasab would have felt when he was taken to the noose platform.
After the cardio announced that there was 90% blockage in the middle artery (with, I believe, a proud grin suggesting “didn’t I tell you it was a classical case fit for this procedure”) a stent was inserted. Next thing I knew was that my bed was being towed back to the CCU and my wife discussing with someone that I was probably under sedation. She did not know that I was in a state wishing I was sedated.
Twenty four hours, several ECGs, Echoes. blood samples, several punctures by inexperienced & happily-chatting-in-Malayalam-nurses, a massive dressing for which a relatively large nurse pressed my groin to stop the blood supply (I think there was already none), and a heavy weight on my groin later I was told that I would be shifted to a ward room on Tuesday. But not before I was forced to stay immobile on my back without an option to turn for 14 hours.
During the night all my efforts to sleep were duly thwarted by an ever eager force of nurses who wanted to inspect the dressing to see if there was any bleeding. I ended up talking to the one dedicated to me and who looked badly famished. I asked her how many beds were there in that particular CCU. Twelve, I was told. And ten were occupied. Did a patient die in the morning today, I asked because that is what I had guessed out of some English words used by the Malayalam speaking extremely happy nurses. Oh yes. One more, a 28 year old girl too passed away after a heart attack during the day. In fact many patient keep dying here every day, she informed me delightedly. Not to be bogged down by such peripheral remarks I asked how long she had been there. One month!
Next morning we came to know that there were no room available in the ward. We, therefore, had to pull the right strings in the hospital to get one allotted. And, then came the news that Sheela Dixit, the long time Chief Minister of Delhi, was coming to get admitted to get her third time Bypass/stenting done. She would be allotted a suite that costs Rs. 80,000 per day. Wow.
Once removed to the room in the ward the hospital seemed to have shifted all its attention to the CM of Delhi as not one doctor came to see me. A hoard of relatives, mostly interested in the some famous Khosla Cookies available in the canteen of the hospital, landed into the jam packed room. One of my relatives walked straight from the door of the room to the side table – completely ignoring me with his eyes riveted to the cheese sandwich lying there. Once he finished the sandwich he came to me warmly hoping that I was doing well.
Another relative called up to tell me that there was some mistake as angioplasty was a minor procedure and there was no need to keep me in the hospital. He told me on phone that there was more than 100% success rate of angioplasty!! May be for every 100 people treated 110 get cured.
Wednesday morning a nurse came and marked on a placard that the patient in this room was to be discharged today, and then left a note that hospital bill be settled. My wife who had gone home to change, came and settled the bill – about three lakhs, 18 grands for angioplasty, 150 grands for stenting, 105 grands for the stent, etc. etc. A long list of medicines had been appended to the discharge summery.
On our request a doctor and a dietitian were sent to our room to tell us how to face the life after angio. Those two, I must confess, provided for the lighter moments of this so far unwanted journey. Extreme examples of personality undernourishment, both of them seemed to be severely short on knowledge and experience, leaving us wondering whether we were any wiser after meeting them.