One day, we heard that (Haoom Roar) Selvam and Jayamani had had an accident. He was OK but she was unconscious and in bad shape. (That parenthetical Haoom Roar is a story by itself: When Varun was a toddler, he used to get frightened by Selvam’s attempts to make conversation with him while delivering our milk. We told him to be like Baby Lion throwing off his fears by roaring at Selvam)

A couple of days passed and we heard that after being turned away by the Government Hospital in Salem (“We can’t do anything for her here”), they had landed up at Neuro Foundation courtesy of a tout-auto-driver parked outside the GH for such eventualities.

The situation they were in took us back to the situation of utter helplessness and lack of any credible information that we had faced on the occasions that we had had to deal with Corporate Hospitals.

When (Sonati’s) Ma continued to be in a coma after brain surgery, it took us two days to be able to meet a doctor. And that because Moinati was a doctor and knew someone who knew someone …

When (Sunder’s) Appa was scheduled to have an operation, the doctor refused to explain why he had to be moved to a different hospital to have the operation; and why he would have to return to Vinayaga if the operation was successful elsewhere. Eventually I had to fight to get Appa discharged from Vinayaga (in absentia) and the discharge was reluctantly given. And cussedly: Against Medical Advice: Which meant that the insurers would not foot the bill!

One knows this, curses Medical Nemesis, but gets trapped nonetheless when the situation arises again. So we could empathise with Selvam totally when he said, “I just don’t know what to do; My brain has stopped working; I have borrowed so much money; my relatives too have borrowed for my sake…”

I called Dr Ravi at the Sittilingi Hospital and was immediately transported to a different world where doctors and nurses alike are caring, and never say ‘We don’t have time”. He got in touch with the ICU doctor at Neuro Foundation (something Selvam had not been able to do for ten days) and got a prognosis, and a time-frame for discharge

When Dr Pravin and Dr Sangeetha visited us we talked about Jayamani and they both said that her rehab at Sittilingi would be no problem

Everything was set: the operation was successful, she could breathe without the ventilator, she was ready to leave the hospital. Even the doctor said so!

But then Selvam in a sort of Stockholm Syndrome calls me up and said that he wanted to keep her there itself for a couple of more days. This was a week ago. The meter keeps ticking. In the village they say that though the doctors had given the green signal for her discharge, the nurses had frightened Selvam: “If anything goes wrong, we will be able to handle it here; “over there” (meaning “in the boondocks”) who can say?” Free yourself from one trap and another trap is sprung.

Ivan Illich says, “He who got sick could still find in the eyes of the doctor a reflection of his own anguish and some recognition of the uniqueness of his suffering. Now what he meets is the gaze of a biological accountant engaged in input/output calculations.”

And so hospitals have become a high-growth industry with their attendant touts, brokers, commission agents, what-have-you. In these COVID times, we are getting to a situation where our entire lives are being medicalised.The question for all of us is: How do we escape the complete medicalisation of our lives and deaths? Or are we left condemned to chant the Sanskrit shloka:

वैद्यराज नमस्तुभ्यं यमराजसहोदर ।
यमस्तु हरति प्राणान् वैद्यो प्राणान् धनानि च ॥

O Vaidya, brother of Yama, I bow down to you.
Yama only steals away one’s life, but the Vaidya steals one’s life as well as money

We do see that doctors, like all the rest of us come in all shades of grey, and the “system” can be as daunting for them to negotiate as it is for us. So we are happy to share Sangeetha’s blogpost giving a doctor’s eye view which showed up serendipitously, yesterday:

A Doctor's Burden
_Listening to the sound of slowing heart gave a gush of adrenaline mixed with fear, "Will the baby make it?". The grave…

Breaking News:
This morning, I heard that Jayamani and Selvam are back home in Valagapattu: What a relief.