A hospital is an institution for health care, often but not always providing for longer-term patient stays.
The latter part of a hospital’s definition (which I lifted from Wikipedia, ostensibly) looks somewhat absurd, at least in my point of view. 75% of the patients in any hospital would have stayed locked up in those staidly-coloured four walls reeking with repugnant medicines, not to mention badly-affected fellow patients. A stay in a hospital is an ordeal, or rather, an experience of sorts. For a person who used to boast about never having had to lie in a hospital bed (if you disregard that short while I’d spent with my mom after taking birth!), the accident was bolt from the blue! I not only had to stay in two hospitals for an entire week, but also had to ‘endure’ a 6 hour long surgery so as to fix my badly-fractured clavicle with plate and screws! In retrospect, it was more an experience, even a week-long break, rather than a mishap!
I was taken to the Cosmopolitan Hospital some 15 minutes after the near-fatal bike accident from which I survived by sheer luck. I was ushered into the casualty, where a volley of good-looking nurses ‘attacked’ me scanning for any injuries. Even after my mentioning all perceivable cuts, bruises, and the apparent-clavicle fracture, they kept examining me; running their soft hands all over my body! (for a moment, I fantasised them stripping me in a bid to examine further cuts! 😉 It felt so damn good to be caressed by 20-something, good-looking girls! ) Soon, I was X-Rayed, and even subject to an MRI scan (to examine my head which suffered strong impact), which felt rather too futuristic and scary. Meanwhile dad was busy filling forms and informing mom & relatives. Within no time, I was surrounded by a sea of people, and I was tired detailing the story of my accident! (On a more precise note, I’ve mentioned the story some 246 times, the last one being yesterday! :P).
Soon, Dr Rajeev, the ortho-specialist at Cosmo met me and made me aware of my situation. The crack in my clavicle was complicated. The broken pieces were almost parallel & some parts had fragmented. There was a more than 90% chance that the fracture would heal automatically. If it didn’t heal significantly in a week, I’d have to undergo surgery. So as to accelerate the healing, my shoulder was fitted with shoulder-cuffs. The process of fitting the cuffs wasn’t painful. Besides, my left hand was fixed in an old-fashioned sling. The good doctor, in equally good humour, made me aware of how a helmet would have saved my head and clavicle (I swear, I won’t ride a bike again WITHOUT wearing a helmet, if at all I do so again!).
At the end of the day, when I was almost relieved that I could leave homeward with my stoic dad and near-hysterical mom (who was trying hard to keep a cool face, albeit unsuccessfully), this geeky-neuro specialist comes and announces matter-of-factly:
“മറ്റെന്നാള് വീട്ടില് പോയാല് പോരെ? ഒരു ദിവസം observation ഇല് കിടക്കട്ടെ. തലയ്ക്കു നല്ല impact ഉണ്ടായിട്ടുണ്ട്. നിങ്ങള്ക്ക് വേണമെങ്ങില് മതി.”
(“You have to stay put for a 24 hours-observation. He’s had a good impact on his head. There’s no compulsion, though.”)
I had this queer feeling that I ‘d become somewhat amnesiac, post accident. That feeling subsided when I heard the doc’s words. I found myself mumbling the choicest of swear words which I’d Iearned after quite a lot of research on my own!. F**k! Two days at the hospital!
There was quite a delay in room-allotment,for some inscrutable reason. It was about 8 in the evening when we got a room. It was the quintessential-hospital room, complete with green bedsheets, white walls, even a white fan! By now I’d almost got used to living life solely with my right hand. There were some, ahem, technical problems with defecation and stuff, but thanks to my agile mind (and tissue paper!) I overcame them all!
After one harried day and two nights at the hospital, I was discharged on December 5 noon. The hand wasn’t too good. Though the pain was bearable and minimal, I was feeling totally uncomfortable. Since we had study holidays until January 1, when my third semester exams would begin, the problem of losing classes became redundant. Still, it was difficult for me to sit upright for more than half an hour. My only pastime was to lie down on bed and sleep/read. It seems the Gods weren’t particularly satisfied even after crippling me. The next stroke came in the form of First year exam results, the very next day after I reached home! I didn’t pass and had three bloody back papers! Though my plight spared much of parents’ blitzkrieg, I had to meekly listen to dad’s rather loud thoughts on whether I was fit for engineering education, much to my chagrin.
The next day (December 6), we visited Dr Cheriyan Thomas (a famous orthopedic surgeon at Trivandrum) to crosscheck the Cosmo diagnosis.(my dad rarely trusts a single doctor! He always looks for multiple opinions.) For those who don’t know Dr Cheriyan, he’s a gem of a man. A God in human avatar. No, I’m not resorting to hyperbole. There’s some extra-dimensional aura about his bald, pointed visage and probing eyes! Even before we could utter a word, he asked us:
“Bike ഇല് നിന്നും വീണതാണോ?” (Was this a bike accident?)
“താന് engineering student അല്ലെ?” (You’re an engineering student, right?”)
We were dumbfound!
He gingerly took my X-Ray, probed it for a while, and spent a quiet ten seconds in deep-thought. His mind seemed to have been calculating at speeds that would shame a Core-2-duo processor!
Pat came the repartee:
“തന്നെ ശരിയാവാന് സാധ്യത ഉണ്ട്, പക്ഷെ risk എടുക്കാന് പറ്റില്ല. മാത്രമല്ല crack വളരെ complicated ആണ്. ശരിയായില്ലെങ്ങില്…??” A few moments of deep thought. “ഒരു കാര്യം ചെയ്യാം. Let’s do a surgery. Come to SP Fort hospital tomorrow, at 9:30 AM.”
He hurriedly wrote a prescription in some language which vaguely resembled English.
“ തനിക്ക് പെടിയോന്നുമില്ലല്ലോ?” He looked up and asked.
That was it. For the first time, my body was about to be ripped apart! I didn’t find the situation particularly horrifying. It was an exciting proposition. I’m going to be a “man of steel”. A cyborg of sorts. Metal detectors would beep incessantly when I come to their vicinity. Wow. This is cool!
If you haven’t been to the SP fort hospital, inside the Fort, Trivandrum; please do so someday. At least for curiosity’s sake. The sheer volume of patients, crammed into a not-so-big but sophistic five storeyed building, is mind-boggling! Even more amazing is the fact that 85% of them come for Orthopedic treatments, thanks to the ‘referrals’ by Dr Thomas. He, as a matter of fact, is the sole reason the hospital makes eye-poppingly huge profits!
Though we reached the hospital at 9:30. We had to wait till 12 for me to get examined by doctor(s) and get my body scanned for any possible body-reactions & anomalies which could happen during surgery. I was first allotted a general ward: a room which was roughly as big as my cosmo room, but housed 6 beds, the same amount of patients, and perhaps three times the number of bystanders. It was suffocation personified! I spent the worst three hours of my life there. My dad had contacts at the right places. Thanks to which, we got a cool (pun intended) Air conditioned room, complete with state-of-the-art bathroom and LCD TV by evening!
The surgery was scheduled the very next day. They removed my old shoulder cuffs, and I bathed lavishly after a gap of three days! 😛 I was made to sign a ‘contract’ sort of thing, mentioning that I was willing for the surgery. Then, I was made to wear this blue, check-gown, with buttons on the back. (I was supposed to wear JUST that, not even underwear!). A painless sedative was injected onto my left buttock, and I was made to lie on a stretcher. The feeling of drowsiness began to set in slowly but steadily. The last thing I remember was Dr Thomas’s words when he first saw me at the operation table:
“ആ. ഇതു നമ്മുടെ Engineering student അല്ലെ?” (“Hey, this is our engineering student, right?”)
I was woken up by rather loud sounds. My stretcher was being rolled out of the theatre and a whole lot of faces: parents, their coworkers, cousins, uncles, were peering on me, mumbling something. Dad asked, pointing to my cousin: “മോനേ, ഇതാരാണെന്നു മനസ്സിലായോ?” (Know who this guy is) I felt enraged. True that they’d implanted a metallic plate onto my shoulder. I hadn’t lost my mind! “പിന്നെ, ഒരു ഓപ്പറേഷന് കഴിഞ്ഞാലും ഞാന് അയ്യപ്പന് ചേട്ടനെ മറക്കില്ല!” (C’mon, how can I forget Ayypapan chettan?) I was referring to my cousin Krishna (whose pet name is Ayyappan). I blurted it our rather loudly, and erm, a whole team of nurses and doctors ran to me, thinking I’d gone wild (Dad told this to me later!)
Back at the SP Fort room, I was shivering under the AC. The LCD TV, which showed the IPL Twenty20 cup, numerous movies, sitcoms and news channels failed to give me solace. My hand was fastened onto a drip, which gave me glucose. I wasn’t supposed to eat food for a whole day, so the glucose was my nutrition. My mind was disturbed. I wasn’t fully aware of my surroudings. My phone rang incessantly, lots of visitors came: friends, classmates, relatives, parents’ coworkers. Though, all of them got pleasant, but discreet answers for their queries it wasn’t I who did the answering. It was my subconscious mind! I vomited three times that day. I couldn’t sleep for two continuous nights. Dad says, I repeatedly shouted out loud in English at nights, telling “I want to go home!” and “Release me!”. The effects of anesthesia were taking their toll on me. It was living hell!
It took two days for me to get back to normal. By now, I could sit upright & walk freely. I got back to my senses, and began to *enjoy* the hospital life. It was cool! In the sense, I had absolutely nothing to do! There were just a few things in my itinerary: Watch TV, Read (IEEE Spectrums, India Todays and The Argumentative Indian), eat, sleep, talk on phone (which rang almost twice ever ten minutes), and ‘entertain’ visitors. All this at a steady 22 degree celsius, 24 x 7. Though fits of boredom settled in sometimes, friends called me often, just to ensure that I wasn’t bored! (Thanks a bunch, guys & gals!). By monday (December 10, 2007), I was discharged, and headed home.
A few afterthoughts:
* The most notable change in me after the entire fiasco, was the change in character. I grew close to my parents. Their pain, their dedication, and above all their love for me; it all drove me to tears many a time. I realized the value of human relationships. Especially, the fact that I had always been a black sheep in the family despite all their love to me. I became a better, more empathetic and responsible human being.
* I became aware of safe-driving habits, thanks to the hours and hours of discourse I had to hear on Traffic rules, et al! 😀 Hey, I’m serious!
* “A friend in need is a friend indeed!”. Understood the meaning of the proverb. A BUNCH OF THANKS to all those who took the pains to call me once in a while to inquire how I am, especially to those who took the pains to visit me, pacify me, and give me new hopes! Will never forget ye, buddies… You touched my heart! Special thanks goes to Chitra, who actually changed her hello-tunes often to entertain me! She had me grooving to “Ishq Hua”, from Aaja Nachley.(which even today is a hit-song in my playlist.) Also to my cousin, who took leave from his humongous-paying globe trotting job, to visit me often; even lending me his iPod! People, you blew my heart away!
* On the contrary, the fiasco came as a reality check. Many whom I’d considered my best buddies for life, did never call me once and didn’t even check whether I’m alive or dead. Some purposefully shunned me. I’d done so much for them! They could at least have called me once. Even when I’d call them, they’d talk in non-committal way, eager to cut the call citing obnoxious reasons! (I refuse to name them). To those friends, if you’re reading this, you broke my heart. But, to err is human! I have no grudge against you. 😀
* I started respecting nurses and nursing as a profession. I felt touched by the smiling angelic faces, who visited me daily, inquiring how I felt, holding my hand, taking my pulse, calling my mom “aunty”, and my dad “uncle”. They had nothing to gain,by treating me well, but still they did! (Most nurses at SP Fort are students of their nursing school. Which means, they pay the hospital to work as nurses, day & night under hard conditions!). Kudos too all of you, sisters! You have a meaty role in my health, wellness and recovery today.
*Last, but never the least… hearty thanks to all those doctors who’d treated me. Especially to Cheriyan Thomas sir! Had it not been for your diligence and care when you treated/operated upon me, I would not have survived today! Sincere gratitude to you too!
The tail end:
While we were about to leave after settling the Rs 50,000/- (my parents’ salary for that month combined!), we met a head-nurse. What she mentioned, left me open-mouthed in shock. The day I had my surgery, four severe accident cases were admitted to the hospital. All four were Engineering Students! 😮