Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Perceptions – My dad’s Angioplasty in Feb 2009, a record of that journey Part 1.

I had written part of this blog during the month of Feb which I did not manage to complete but I did do part 1 so here it is :-)

While I sit here marveling at the last two days in the hospital room of Bangalore Hospital I wonder about how many experiences I went through these past couple days. My father has been what we call popularly in India a heart patient. Don’t get me wrong he is not the chest clinching, emotive sort of guy. He is just a guy who smoked incessantly and vehemently in his younger days while coping with what life offered him as stress. Result- cholesterol build up, high blood pressure and blockage in his arteries that some how debilitated his lifestyle.

My dad is an interesting person with an even more interesting perspective of life. He finds going to doctors an inconvenience and a complete waste of time not forgetting a waste of perfectly nice lumps of money. His perception of doctors goes to the next level where he thinks of them as smart asses in white coats, conspiring to take away our money using fear tactics to get their way. He remained in this state of mind for about 16 years knowing very well that he does have blockages that could be potentially dangerous and risky.

And here I was thinking all the senior citizens of India loved to describe their illnesses and their subsequent medications with such vigor as if they won an award for the good deeds they did over the years. People in India exchange hernia operation stories and arthritis pain while gulping down hot chat and fried puris. They relish in their own illnesses which was a result of poor diet and no exercise.

We are ashamed of many things in India – women wearing ‘western’ clothes, boys who grew up and didn’t get that dream steady job or a girl who at 26 is still unmarried, lovers who dared to fall in love much against the wishes of their parents. But we are not ashamed of the cholesterol that we accumulated over that piping hot samosas or the high sugar levels we absorbed over our sumptuous mithais (sweets) or the weak muscles we pampered as we gave exercise a chalta hai (will do) attitude. No we are selective about our morals, our standards and our values and our health concerns according to our convenience. But that’s the core of our country; selective opinions, selective attitudes, selective emotions, selective discretions and selective perceptions.

So my dad is also selective about the people he likes or dislikes. After incessant nagging on the part of his children and spouse my dad graciously agreed to meet a cardiologist in Bombay. This doctor is part of the dream medical team of the Prime Minister of India so he was well recommended and well qualified. He looked at dad’s reports and immediately recommended an angiogram to determine how many blockages my dad was sporting and the damage he had amassed. Dad concluded that this was not the doctor for him – reason? I don’t like his attitude says dad. My mom who was also part of the scheduled appointment and has her own selective opinions felt the good doctor did no wrong and he was a very nice man- after all he was part of the PM’s dream medical team.

Of course we were left with making the decision now as to how to solve this problem. The dilemma continued and the fear that the blockages could erupt into a potential heart attack continued to haunt me. After coming back to apna desh (my country) almost 3 years ago I felt confident enough to use my selective discretions in solving this manipulatively. After all that’s what we are experts in aren’t we? I believe Indians are the most persuasive, sharp, intuitive and expert negotiators. We have experience in this in our every day lives. We park in a no parking zone and manage to expertly wriggle out of this situation if at all we get caught. After all what is a 20 rupee bill that goes in the pocket of an underpaid cop. We arrive late at almost every party and don’t serve food until the atmosphere has stomach rumblings as surround sound. We take loans from friends and tell them your money is my money and my money is yours (which incidentally is also yours but technically is mine). We pay bills, school fees exactly on the due date and fill petrol right when the red light starts beeping. We tell everyone, why don’t you come over sometime but never formally invite them? We are experts at wriggling out of sticky situations. That’s what makes us desis.

So I gathered my 3 years of desi experience into place and laid out a Bollywood style story filled with emotion, drama and fervent appeal to convince my dad to get a test done here in Bangalore. Ma ka kya hoga? (What will happen to my mom) if some thing happened to you? Didn’t work! I realized emotions don’t work with my dad. Your grand kids are dying to see you, but he said didn’t I see them 8 months ago?

But I persisted using every tactic in the book until finally my father graciously agreed. Later I found out he was tired of my nagging and agreed just to get me off his back. So much for my strong persuasive skills! Dad arrives in Bangalore complaining about how far the airport is, how bad the traffic is and no one follows traffic rules these days. I reminded him that he lives in Mumbai and things are as straight as sugar dripping jalebi (sweet savory that is looks like concentric circles).

I wasted no time in taking him to the doctor the very next day lest he changed his mind again. Cornered, my dad continued to stress in the car on our way to the doctor’s office. His BP verified that 2 hours later. The doctor took one look at him and his stress test result and said very dramatically – this Mr. Desai is like evading tax. You can get away with it but if you get caught that’s the end of the line. So in short you need angiogram. You have 90% blocks in 3 areas. Your Mumbai doctor (PM dream team cardio expert) was right, you may most likely need an angioplasty. So let’s schedule an appointment immediately. He rambled on about his availability etc and I sat there smugly patting my self in the back thinking, all this negotiation was worth it.

We went to the Bangalore hospital and I wrinkled my NRI nose and wondered why we had to do it there of all places but we had no choice as the good doctor only went to that hospital. My dad in the mean time fretted about going for an ordinary room versus a deluxe room. We are not checking into a 5 star hotel my dad argued, why waste money. I had to shut up because I was not running out of changing his mind at every second on everything.

I realized then that at every stage my parents argued about how much we spend and why do we need fancy things and how we should save etc..While we always looked for quality which on the surface meant clean hospitals, professional staff and wonderful rooms, my parents looked at how to cut corners and do with less. Less is more is their mantra. With this ongoing recession that is a valid argument. So I did the next best thing- shut up!

It so turns out I was wrong about this place – Even though Bangalore Hospital looked run down and old, I dealt with the most efficient staff that worked hard and served their patients well. We had no issues with the insurance as the hospital PRO staff dealt with it with utmost professionalism. The doctor and his staff responded patiently to all our questions and gave us A-class treatment. The surgery went well, the stents were put in place and dad – he actually liked the doctor unlike Dr. Dream Team!!

IN part 2 of my blog which I hope I can write before the summer ends, I will talk more about what happened next. Have you ever been to an ICU during visiting hours? Cell phones ringing, people talking loudly, relatives queuing in to see their dear one, security guard shouting at everyone to stop pushing and go only one at a time, all this in the waiting area outside a grim ICU ring a bell? That and a lot more coming up:-)

Adios and gnite!!!