Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Indian Emergency Room (Part Two)

Part Two:  He was just doing his job ... and I don't fault him at all...but for the first time since he's been driving for us, I told Krishna to "slow down!!" He was driving right at that speed where accidents tend to happen here... I told him: "If I'm not having a heart-attack, you're about to give me one...!"

Both Amy and I don't know what we would do without Krishna.  He's really a super-star.  And both of us are really glad that Krishna knows his way around this town.  Unlike hospitals in the U.S., which tend to be well-marked (and on major streets!!) ...getting to Apollo Hospital is a bit of a confusing trek up and down some winding and narrow side-streets.  We had actually been there before (just to get some ibuprofen when Nassir was still our driver)...but I didn't remember it being such a large place!  Krishna pulled over at a set of chains which indicated that was as far as we could go.  I saw the sign "Emergency Entrance" and headed over toward it.

There was a large crowd outside the hospital...this seems pretty normal...I think it's pretty hot inside the "waiting rooms" so the people just spill out into the courtyard and parking areas...  As we walked in, there was a man on a gurney that Amy said later: "I don't think he was still with us!"  I ramped-up the prayers I had been saying on the drive over (not all due to Krishna's driving, I assure you!) - - and said, silently... "Dear Lord Jesus...please, I really don't want to die here in Hyderabad!...!"

We passed a long  "check-in" line and Amy went right up to the first guy that looked like a doctor...a nice-looking young man (aren't they all? - - I swear, they all look like "Doogie Howser, M.D."!) in a white coat and a stethoscope.  I could read his name on his coat, but I don't remember it was really long, barely fitting in the space on his lab-coat between the buttons and the armpit... and it started with a "V"...  Amy said to him, in no uncertain terms: "You need to look at my husband..."

The good doctor had me sit in a chair and listened to my heart.  He asked me what my symptoms were and I told him about the dizziness - - and my chief complaint...the fear about the pain in my left arm.  He immediately asked me if there had been any injury to the arm, and I told him about my torn rotator-cuff.  He asked me if I was having any chest-pains and I told him honestly that I wasn't. 

He guided me over to a gurney/bed behind some curtains, where they had a heart-monitor set up over the head of the bed.  He had me lie down...directly under an extra-bright set of fluorescent lights.  I shaded my eyes with my elbow.  Amy got a picture of this scene (bless her heart!!) which I have to get out of her iPhone when she gets home from work. (yes, today is the day of Ganesha's immersion at the end of this year's Ganesh Chaturthi Festival - - Deloitte is closed today, but she still went in for half-a-day to tie-up all of the loose-ends before going to the U.S. tonight!)

Looking up at the inside of my elbow, I had a great calm come over me.  It was like my brain finally registered that we had done the right thing by coming to the hospital and that I was in the right place.  I was still experiencing some dizziness lying there - - but - I was very, very calm.  They had closed the curtains and I called out to Amy, just to make sure she was still there.  An even younger-looking man came in with all of the wires necessary to do an EKG (or, as they called it here, an "ECG" - which I always thought was the proper term anyway, as "cardio" does not begin with a "K")...

The actual machine didn't look all that old...but the wires and "suction-cup" applicators that they used to set up the ECG were prehistoric.  Well, at least they looked like they belonged in a glass display-case in some antique medical equipment museum! The bear-trap-like clamps they put on my ankles and the heavy black wires on the suction-cups felt unusually heavy.  The "conductant" that the young man had applied was making it difficult for the wires to stay attached (far different from those little white patches that they use on modern EKG machines - - the ones that seem like they are attached with Super Glue and remove both hair and skin when they are peeled off.)  I asked him if he wanted to shave some spots on my chest, but he said that it would not be necessary. 

When he was satisfied that he had me all hooked up correctly, he started the machine and let it run and print for about thirty-seconds.  I had my eyes closed and just kept telling myself that I was in the best place possible and to remain in this really calm, peaceful place.  I MUST have been pretty relaxed, because when I saw my ECG printout, it indicated that my heart rate was only 61 BPM.  I could hear the distinct sound of tearing paper as the technician removed my report, which was about the size of an 8x11 sheet of paper.

The young "Dr. V." came in with the results in his hand...and told Amy (who had come into the area where I was) and me that he was quite certain that I did NOT have any cardiac related problems...and that he thought my arm-pain was probably due to my sleeping in the injured rotator-cuff wrong...and to take some ibuprofen for the pain.  He said I could come back in the morning and get a chest x-ray if I wanted, but he was pretty certain I was O.K.  I told him about my recent weight-loss and the taking of two of my prescription blood-pressure pills per day...and he told me to check with my doctor at home re: changing any dosage. 

So...the upshot is that my EKG was normal ... and the arm pain was probably just my rotator-cuff acting up. The dizziness is probably due to my not dialing-back my blood-pressure medicine and that I might be actually experiencing LOW blood-pressure (imagine that!!)  I fax'd my doc at home to ask him!

I shook the doctor's hand and thanked him for seeing me so rapidly!  I asked him where we go to pay, and he motioned over to a counter manned by two men.  "Just pay them for the ECG."

I got my wallet out of Amy's purse and went to reach for my Deloitte health insurance card...when I realized it was going to be "cash only".  I hoped we had brought enough cash.  At home at Huntington Memorial hospital, where there is usually a 3-4 hour wait to see and ER physician...if it was a "cash only" had better have $3,000.00 in your pocket for such a visit!!

One of the men at the cashier's desk told Amy the price.  She immediately began to do the computations when he told her "One hundred and seventy, please!".  Not too bad!!  But she began to think to herself ... "Wait a minute!  He wouldn't be asking for money in "dollars"...he can't be serious if he's talking about rupees!!" 

Indeed he was!!  And we have a paid receipt to prove this amazing fact: The ER visit and EKG cost us exactly 170 rupees - - that's about $3.67!!  And we were there, all-told, from the moment Krishna dropped us off, until we walked out the E.R. door, exactly 30-minutes!!

God is good!  And so is the state of Indian medical care!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Indian E.R. Visit...

First of all... PLEASE DO NOT WORRY - - I AM JUST FINE!!  I just had a wee-bit of a "scare" last night is all.  We are still not exactly sure what it was...perhaps some stress from Amy packing to leave for the U.S. for three weeks (I believe this will be the second-longest amount of time we've ever been apart in almost twelve years of marriage - - the first being when she came to Hyderabad the first time in may of 2009!).  Perhaps it's the fact that I have not asked my doctors at home about the possibility of "dialing down" my blood-pressure medicine now that I'm down twenty-five kilograms (that's about fifty-five pounds for you that are "metrically challenged").  Maybe it was the proverbial "something I ate"...  Perhaps it was a good old-fashioned panic-attack from realizing that I'm 8,700-miles away from my doctor in a land where 911 has not been invented yet!!  Who knows...?

But here's the story:  Yesterday was Amy's day-off - Monday.  As usual, we hung out together in the morning and about Noon, we decided to go have lunch at Beyond Coffee, one of our most favored haunts over in Jubilee Hills.  Nothing out of the ordinary happened, we both had our usual salads and a coffee-latte... We chatted with Vivek, the owner and his lovely daughter.  It came time to leave and -  when I stood up, I almost had to sit right back down again because I got hit by a wave of dizziness that really took me by surprise!  I caught up to Suzanne as she neared the end of the patio and we headed into the parking-lot to get in the car.

I didn't say anything to her.  I figured I just stood up too fast...or something.

We came back home and - I was still sort of dizzy after the drive back to Banjara Hills.  We went up the stairs to our usual on her "day off" - Amy Francis had a ton of e-mails to answer...and I decided that I should and try and take a nap, (or a "snap" - as our yoga-instructor, Neeraj, calls them!)

Time for yoga arrived, and we went down the stairs and found Neeraj waiting for us in the "basement".  When I got down on my yoga mat, I felt really dizzy again.  I decided to lay back and see if it passed.  It didn't - so - I excused myself to go upstairs again to lie on the bed again.  Amy did yoga with Neeraj...and I tried to watch some T.V.  When she finished...she came back to the bedroom and asked me how I was.

I said that "I really wasn't doing that well, to be perfectly honest".  I was still very dizzy, even when I was laying flat on my back.  I got up several times...mostly to check to see if it still made me dizzy.  My rotator cuff injury is much better, but from time-to-time it causes pain in my left arm.  Now I'm starting to worry.

Worry turned into panic when I Googled "dizziness and left arm pain".  Sure enough, the first thing I read says: "Dizziness can be the sign of a heart-attack."  Same thing, of course, regarding pain in the left arm..." which I now was sure was real and NOT psychosomatic.

You have to know that "denial" is the biggest killer when it comes to heart attacks.  My dad did it when he had his first heart attack and it almost cost him his life.  I know this, but my head kept saying it was just indigestion.  The more my arm hurt, the more I panicked, however.  I told Amy that if it kept hurting I was going to have to go to the hospital.  I hate hospitals...and the idea of going to a hospital in Hyderabad only added to the stress and panic.

Amy was a star (as usual!).  She calmly told me to put on my shoes and that we should go... "just to check it out...let's see what it's all about." 

One more dizzy-spell and shooting pain down my arm was all it took.  I put on my shoes and we called Krishna to come downstairs and drive us to the Apollo Hospital Emergency Room in Jubilee Hills....

(To be continued....)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ganapati Bappa Moriya!

Oh, my goodness!!  This has been quite a colorful week "At Home in Hyderabad"!  After the last few weeks of seeing trucks of various sizes driving around the town, with mysterious tarp-covered cargo loaded onto their flat-beds...the secret is out!!  The cargo?  Statues, also of various sizes, of Sri Ganesha, Mata jaki, Parvati, Pita Mahadeva ("Born of Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas, and the great Shiva, his Father") - - the tremendously popular elephant-headed god of Wisdom and the "remover of obstacles".  No undertaking begins here without an invocation of Ganesha's name and asking for his blessing.  This is Ganesha Chaturthi !!  It's definitely Ganesha's week here!  (According to my various sources regarding Ganesh: "One of his 108 names is "Ganapati" or "Ganapathi" - This term means he is the "lord of the ganas" - a class of divine entities. This term also means that he is the master of the intellect and discriminating power in man. He possesses great intelligence and knowledge. Such knowledge issues from a pure and sacred mind.")

Devotees of Ganesha are known as 'Ganapatyas', and Ganesh Chaturthi (also known as Ganesha Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi) is the holy festival that celebrates His Glory through India by all Hindu's. Vinayak Chaturthi is celebrated on the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapad. This festival is honored as the birthday of Sri Ganesh. Ganapati transcends all sects and views and is equally worshipped by both Saivites and Vaishnavas because Ganesh is viewed as an Incarnation of both Vishnu and Shiva. Ganesha is even worshipped and revered among Buddhists and Jains. 

So - - what is it like on the streets?'s like a huge birthday-party for Lord Ganesha!  Actually, it's an eleven-day festival which began on 11 September at about 5:00 A.M. with some serious conch-shell blowing and drumming!  There are Ganeshas everywhere!!  We await next Wednesday (the 22nd) when all of the statues, large and small alike, are immersed in a large body of water. 

For us here in the City of Pearls, it's going to be the the Hussain Sagar Lake in the center of town.  Amy Suzanne and I will try to brave the incredible crowds at lakeside to see this event.  I have the good video camera all charged-up and ready.  I understand it will be a wild experience!  It' will be about a 3 Km. walk to the lake from the place where we will park.  The crowds are so huge and the event is so popular with everybody that just about all the streets are closed...and Deloitte will even close their doors for the day!  I guess there's almost nowhere you can go in the city without seeing a parade of Ganesh statues heading down toward the lake!

I snapped a few pictures as the Ganesh images began to make their appearance this week.  Here are just a few of them....

A Ganesh painting at "Beyond Coffee"!
Some just-completed Ganapati statues!
The Ganesha shrine in KBR Park!
A sizeable Ganapati with his parents, Shiva and Parvati
This Ganesh was just wrapped up as the rains began to fall!
I love this one! We saw him on the road coming back from Gandipet!

Back at "Beyond Coffee"....this Ganesha shrine in the corner of the patio!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My first Krishna Janmashtami in Hyderabad...(a photo essay)

The sun is coming up and a grey glow is sneaking through our bedroom window as I type this!!  It's just about 6:00 in the morning.  What is striking about this particular morning is that this place is a cornucopia of different religious practices!!  As I sat here at 5:00 A.M. - - the conch-shells were being blown all over town at Hindu temples large and small for the beginning of Ganesha Chaturthi (an eleven-day celebration of the birthday of Lord Ganesh) - - the month-long fast of Ramadan is coming to a close today as well... and the neighborhood Muslims are gathering for prayer at the mosque up the street from here (their call to prayer, the Adhan, was being called this morning from loudspeakers at around 4:45 A.M.).  How different a place Hyderabad is from home.  In Pasadena or Hollywood, if you rang Church bells this early - - the ACLU would come and file a lawsuit and and injunction to tear down your steeple (especially if it had a Cross on top!)

Ten days ago, on the first day of September, our driver Krishna, our security man, Sangamesh (who, I found out that night, is actually a pujari (priest) at the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in his home village!  The name "Sangamesh" is also one of the 108 Names of Lord Shiva!) and I went over to the Jaganatha Temple in Jubilee Hills for the celebration of Lord Krishna's birthday, called Krishna Janmashtami.  It was an amazing experience for me!  It was the first time I had ever been inside a real Hindu temple (well, if you don't count the ISKCON (Hare Krishna) Temple in Culver City and the "Fesival of the Chariots" on Venice Beach!).  It was hard to describe what it was like.  A Hindu festival is a rare combination of solemn religious zeal and a carnival!  I'll let the pictures that I took that night speak for themselves.  My first try at a "photo essay".  For the captions for the individual photos - see click on this link to my Facebook Photo Album entitled Janmashtani Festival - 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

September Update!

We had our first complete "day in bed" today.  Amy's been fighting a cold...and - the bug finally got me last night (terrible sore-throat!)  I'm feeling quite a bit better right now...and she's gone back for some more sleeping.  As hard as it is for me to believe, we have now been here exactly three months and two days.  I was thinking just the other day about the passage of time in general, and the way it seems to just "fly by" the older we get.  No doubt, June, July and August of 2010 really flew by for us ... and at super-sonic speed, too !! 

Not only has our living situation drastically changed - - I think that all of us have changed "on the inside" as well!  I'm actually getting used to the five-times-a-day Muslim call to prayer from the mosque up the street.  As hard as it is to believe, I think that Amy Suzanne is actually getting used to getting out of bed when the first number on the digital clock is a "4".  I think Beloved The Lhasa Apso has adapted perfectly to her Indian surroundings (I still think she still wants to go running late at night with the "street dogs" that run around these parts of Banjara Hills when the moon is up, barking and hunting for food in the trash.  She probably knows that she'll never be allowed to do that...but she can dream!)  We're all three of us getting used to the rhythm of this crazy city.  And, with very few exceptions... we are still really loving it here!

Amy's long-anticipated travel schedule is coming together.  It looks like she'll be in the U.S. for work and some "horsing around" for almost two-weeks at the end of this month.  I'll be keeping quite busy before that because I want to keep a photo journal of our first Ganesh Chaturthi.  Or, as I like to call it "Ganesha's Birthday Party"!  This spectacular festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha, popularly worshiped for his ability to remove obstacles and bring good fortune.  Ganesh Chaturthi  is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period).  This year, Ganesh Chaturthi falls on September 11. It is celebrated for the following 11 days (ending on September 22), with the biggest spectacle taking place on the last day called Ananta Chaturdasi day.

The festival begins with the installation of huge elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. Local artisans put months of effort into making the statues. Even the local businesses and foreign firms here in Hyderabad will be getting into the act!!  I hope Deloitte does one again this year...I heard that last year's version showed Ganesh with a laptop!  Tradition says that it's forbidden to look at the moon on this first night, as Hindu legend says that the moon laughed at Lord Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. On Ananta Chaturdasi (the last day), all of these statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then immersed in the ocean or other bodies of water. Here in Hyderabad, the main "body of water" is the Hussain Sagar lake, right in the middle of the city and only a few kilometers from where I am typing this.  Because of where we live, I understand that many of the statues will have to come right by our neighborhood...and right down Road No. 3!!

Although I am coming to understand that Hinduism is actually quite monotheistic, for the most part it can be said that Hindus do venerate (worship) idols, or statues, of their gods because it gives them a visible form to pray to. They also recognize that the universe is in a constant state of change. Form eventually gives away to formlessness. However, the energy still remains. The immersion of the statues in the ocean, or other bodies of water, and subsequent destruction of them serves as a reminder of this belief.

Trivia time - - whenever you see a depiction of Lord Ganesha - you will see his "rat" or his "mouse".   Lord Ganesha’s Mouse, according to the Holy Ganeshapurana, was actually a god in his own right at one time — and his name was "Kroncha".

The legend says that at the assembly of Lord Indra, Kroncha accidentally stepped on the toes of Muni Vamadeva, another god. Muni Vamadeva thought that Kroncha had done so intentionally and grew enraged and cursed Kroncha to become a mouse. Terrified, Kroncha fell to his knees and pleaded for mercy. This subdued Muni Vamadeva’s anger. He said that his curse could not go in vain, but that Kroncha would meet Lord Ganesh and become his vehicle and become worthy of worship even by gods.  The mouse is very popular - - especially among the kids.  Although the mouse's name is Kroncha...people still call him "Mooshika" - simply, "The Mouse". 

(For more about Sri Ganesha's Mouse, see our next blog post about my first trip to a Hindu Temple - the Jaganath Temple right here in Jubilee Hills, where I attended the celebration of "Lord Krishna's Birthday" - also known as "Krishna Janmashtami"  I have a bunch of great photos I will be attaching to that post!  Coming soon!) 

Needless to say, I am really looking forward to this year's Ganesh Chaturthi  !!

Right after the festival ends, Beloved and I will also be packing our bags and going on a Road Trip with our driver and caretaker, Krishna.  We're going to see some beautiful churches, perhaps even make a stop for a night in Krishna's home village - - and maybe some of the famous dams and hydro-electrical plants to the east of here in coastal Andhra Pradesh!  I want to do the "Gandhi Thing" - I have seen the big city...I want to see some of the beauty of rural India!  And this will be my chance!

After the October busy season at Deloitte, Amy and I are planning an early-November trip up to New Delhi, then down to Agra (the home of the Taj Majal)...then over to Amritsar to see the Sikh's Golden Temple - - then a short trip over to the border to see the not-to-be-missed India Pakistan Wagah Attari Border Closing Ceremony.