I walked on the ramp,
I Had a great fall,
All the Vijaya Hospital Men and Vijaya Hospital Horses
Will put me back on the wall.
Ambulance slowly entered Vijaya Health Center in Vadapalani. If you have broken a bone or a limb, the worst thing you can do to yourself is hiring an ambulance. These tempo travellers or Maurti Omni have no shock absorber worth its salt. Sirens blaring, these ambulance drivers sway from one side to another in city traffic and try to reach break neck speed – Hey! I already have a broken ankle and one at a time is about all I can manage. Let my neck be below my chin for some more time,
Unsuspecting me felt very happy, seeing the ambulance in Pune. Surely, loitering in the corridors of Jupiter Hospital in a wheel chair, a over night fracture and a shot of pain reliever induced mild dizziness need to end? What is more inviting than lying down in an air conditioned ambulance as you commute to the air port with a broken leg? I have never travelled in an ambulance before even as a patient’s attendant. But I have travelled in a hearse van.
In early 90s I went to Mumbai (then Bombay). From there I went to Lote Parasuram near Chiplun along with a colleague of mine and another person who was our senior, in our senior’s car. Senior went back to Mumbai in his car afterwards . We were to hire a cab to go to go to Goa. I don’t remember what happened, there were no transports available. Konkan Railway was not born then. The industrial town wore a deserted look. We went to the highway and tried to get a hitch ride. In those days, people who wave hand on the highway were not assumed to be terrorists.
We were lucky. Along the way, a vehicle stopped. Whole of the backside was free and it was going to Goa. Just that, it was a hearse van. We climbed in the back of the van and sat where numerous sons and grieving relatives sat. After a while, wanted to see how it felt lying down there. I stretched myself, put my bag as a pillow. In my tiredness I started sleeping. After all, the carrier is meant for absolute sleep.
When I got up, my colleague wore an incredulous and jaw dropping look. “How can you do it? This is a hearse van, for heaven’s sake”. Unintended pun brought me a smile.
When all else is removed, it is a carrier with a steel bed in the back. Granted, it carried someone who was on an inevitable journey. But, it was thoroughly washed and is quite clean. Fortunately, I never cared about ‘Achanyam’ or bad omen from very young age. I remember poking him further and remember telling him with a smile, “They way of all flesh”.
After that day, I entered a carrier with a sleeping bench for the second time. I laid down. At the first turn there was a jerk and my broken fibula showed up. I told the driver, “Stop the siren and go slow”. He reduced the speed by two kilometers per hour and said, “When there are passengers in the back seat, I can’t stop the siren. Please be patient”. What do you mean, I am a patient. I said nothing. I put the pillow in the attendants bench, kept my leg on it, sat in the bed, as Murali looked on, held on to the railing and dear life and somehow endured the next forty five minutes till we reached the airport.
Who ever said, ‘Experience helps you to identify the mistake quickly, once you have committed it again’? He is a visionary. I laid down on the bench in Vijaya Hostital ambulance too, only to get up a few minutes later.
As the ambulance took a left turn in Arcot Road, familiar Vijaya Health Center appeared. I have come here quite a few times with my father and my wife. The place always brought a skewed sense of comfort when my own people were suffering. Some compassion. As the shot wore off, with personal body pain, the place still oozes comfort. Vijaya Health Center doesn’t look like a hospital at all. Sprawling erstwhile Vijay Vahini Studio littered with seven decades old high-ceiling buildings, a haphazard parking lot, roads, trees, a cafeteria that sells Madras Onion Samosa in a pocket and street lights that look as though they are from Victorian times.
The ambulance came to a stop in front of Orthopedic and Trauma Care Centre. My family, Kausalya, my sister and Suresh were already standing there. They all came towards me and swift action followed. I was wheeled to the Emergency room back again, twenty four hours after I broke my leg. Vijaya Health Center took the X-Ray again. Good. What if the earlier X-Ray was someone else’s and the pain I experienced is figment of my imagination? Alas! X-Ray tallied and they decided to admit me.
Swift action followed. Every one was flying in every direction. One went out to get the admission procedures done, other chased him with a bank card to be used, arguing to get a room quickly and finding a good room. Speaking of ‘good room’, the room allotted was quite cozy. A two room suite with fridge and a dining table. Murali stayed for a while more and then departed.
That left Bala, Suresh, Kausalya Jeyasri and Ajay. Then came the inevitable question – What happened? Oh! Well! what really happened. At that point I didn’t have the previous blog to show. All I knew was I just took one step on the ramp and I fell. I must have held on to the railing that twisted my ankle. And I know, I have to repeat it a hundred times.
Being a mute spectator is one thing. Being the protagonist is altogether another thing. Every now and then a nurse would walk in and poke a thermometer in my mouth or draw blood for pre-op tests, create an IV fluid gate way in my hand, drop an IV fluid capsule in the stand behind my head, insert an injection into the IV and remove only the syringe leaving the needle, take blood pressure and then poke a thermometer in my mouth all over again. It feels ominous when I am an observer. Sounds funny if you are the center of attraction and you don’t have a life threatening illness. We all became MD-Ortho and analysed the X-Ray that was kept along with med records.
In between all these, it was decided that Ajay would stay back with me only for tonight. Suresh would come back in the morning with the break fast prepared by my sister. My wife would come with lunch and stay through the whole day and would go back to once Suresh returns with breakfast the next day. All others would visit at will and my sister would bring dinner for us. Every day twice, a dietitian would come to discuss food and we would say ‘Homemade’ and she would go away. It happened on all the four days I stayed there. But, the dietitian is a smart woman. She started asking ‘Homemade?’ from the third day.
My first day in Vijaya (evening, really), thus ended without much duress thanks pain reliever injectibles through IV and people around me. Tomorrow would be another day.
Early in the morning someone in housekeeping uniform came and said he has to shave me. ‘You too?’. I am quite fatalistic in these things. I don’t resist what’s futile or resort to verbiage unless it is my own blog. He had a small blade with a very tiny razor in his hand and he was able to achieve smooth results in the most inconvenient of places. And here I am. Unable to achieve a smooth shave in my face even after forty years of experience. Why can’t they have that quality in Mach III?
Soon a nurse came and said, “Your operation is at 1.00 pm. Don’t eat or drink water after 9.00 am. Vijaya Hospital is quite efficient. Operation time was fixed even before the surgeon saw the patient. Surgeon came an hour later and asked me in a coarse voice, “How did you do this to you?” This is a good question. Much better question than “What happened?”. Unlike “What happened?”, there is nothing fatalistic about it. I can’t blame it on God’s design. You can’t say ‘God has His reasons and ways to give you better things in life’ or you can’t expect me to be thankful to God because ‘It was coming to your head and went away with your cap’.
This is pure play Vedanta at it best! ‘Uttara Mimaamsam’. How did I do this to myself? Aham Brahmasmi. I am the absolute and I am the reason for that specific world revolving around me. ‘God has His reasons and ways to give you better things in life’ – Neti, Neti, Neti. ‘It was coming to your head and went away with your cap’ – Neti, Neti, Neti.
Suresh was already there. Three for my friends walked in – Bala, Raju and Jana. We are a set of friends from Srirangam who managed to keep our family ties and friendship for more than four decades. When we join together no situation is sordid or sombre. Our usual high decibel arguments, past reminiscence and laughter would flow like nineteenth century Cauvery. Time just passed with no pain what so ever and I was wheeled out in a stretcher to the operation theatre.
First I was kept in an ante room and then in another and then finally pushed into the operation theatre. There are multiple ante rooms and operation theatres. Good arrangement for a pain related ailment. Compassion or Assembly Line Operation. You can take your pick. Anesthetist came first. I asked him if it is local anesthesia. I was determined to hear the procedure, if not observe. He answered in the affirmative. It will be an injection in the spinal chord he said. I was told to turn on my side and he administered a really, really painful injection. Surgeon and the team walked in and the anesthetist asked me to lift my good leg. I was able to raise it. In less than two minutes he asked me to lift my left leg for the third time. I said, “I can’t” and I passed out.
I woke up when the Surgeon was just winding up the procedure. It’s a magic, this anesthesia. I was wheeled into the orthopedic ICU and was transferred to my bed. There were more than half a dozen comrades with common sorrow. Well, why am I here? I feel perfectly fine. Monitors above me bear testimony to this. BP is 122/78, resting heart rate is 69 or 70. I never had better readings for the past decade. So why am I here. After two hours and after asking the duty doctor for the fourth time, he said, “You will get pain soon. Once it comes, we have to manage the pain and then send you to the room”. Doctors! Why didn’t you tell me when I asked you first? I would have enjoyed my ICU stay better.
I looked around. My next bed occupant was a middle aged man. A veteran of multiple ortho wars, he exactly knew how to behave. He said he would be moving out. An old man in the opposite bed was responding to every audible word uttered and whenever someone come in, he asked him/her to take him home. He reminded me of my father. He used to be in a state of delirium whenever he was in ICU. Spent some more time before pain returned.
I happily announced to the duty Doctor that the pain has returned. He said ‘Okay’ and went back to work. At some stage of my pestering he ordered medicine. He mentioned morphine to a nurse. Morphine? I love it. Despite myself, I never tried a narcotic in my life. Morphine or not the result was fabulous. I had fantastic result. I was shifted to my room around 9.00 pm after taking a post op X-Ray en route.
I had a templated stay in Vijaya Hospital for the next two days and was discharged on the third day. Bala and Suresh visited every day in the morning and evening to give me company for about seven hours. Family was around. Bala brought the T.Janakiraman and Asokamitran books for me to read during my home quarantine, some physiotherapy, regularly administered drug regimen, daily wheel chair ride pushed by Bala to ascertain how the world was coping in my absence, daily Doctor visit that didn’t mean much to me except to ascertain discharge date, Balaji’s photo of both of us and his report in our school group that created a ruckus, a few visitors, lot of free apples, intervening Sunday, delayed discharge due to insurance delays and a ride back home in my car.
Try climbing the stairs with one leg. Just 15 centimeters jump, 20 times. It was near impossible. It zapped my energy and some more. Ajay brought a computer chair, wheeled me to the room and put on the AC. If there is a heaven, it is here. Home is the safest place. More so in today’s context. Stay safe with Covid-19.
Oh! Yes! I forgot. Balaji gave me the walker he had for my use. He offered to bring it to the hospital. I declined and sent Gnanam to collect it. Else, he would have taken our picture along with the Walker and published in our school group with a Rajini-Senthil like post.
“Srikanth is the patient, but the walker is mine”.