Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Ortho troubles - Part 2

There is nothing better that makes for objective narration of an event than chronology with specific dates. First attack of intense debilitating pain felt in the third week of May that forbade me from daily walks, I consulted Dr. Velayutham on 25th May and then X-rays and blood test review on 7th June which the previous post goes heavy on.
            The next 10 days I am in house-arrest venturing out of the house for absolute necessities. T H Iyer mama is a caring friend and well-wisher as he wrote on the mail: Sathya, miss you at the daily walks.
We arranged to converge at Vishranti on 17th June. He was there with his eldest son from California, Mani, as we he stabbed into a hot vadai and coffee.  As we bade goodbye Mani said: Sathya, tomorrow the FOSWL talk is on “Chronic Pain”. Why don’t you attend and maybe something in it for you?   
This invitation showed my guardian angels and providence was in good working order as it proved later.
            The next day, Sunday, I got into a bus to Yogalaya for an auditorium hall behind the famous Anantha Padmanatha temple in Gandhinagar. FOSWL is the abbreviation for “Friends of the Same Wavelength” a community initiative of T H Iyer mama where a dozen or more people gather every month, a speaker is invited to present on a topic and we pose questions over biscuits and Tropicana. Normally I give FOSWL meetings a wide berth (given my rapidly declining social status) but a talk by a neurosurgeon is irresistible for a man reduced to Arthritis and Dr. Velayutham.
            The talk by Dr. Ramnarayan was just the thing I was looking for. In the course of a 45 minute presentation, he spoke on how everyday body postures and chronic pain are related. The back must be in the shape of a double “S” as he showed the slides to avoid back aches. He showed slide pictures for “sleep postures” (never on a prone position for it affects diaphragm breathing), use of head rest while driving, even to the height of pillows and best mattress for sleep.
            Dr. Ramnarayan is a tall spectacled man in mid 50s as it appeared to my eyes.  Within 15 minutes of listening him, I felt that this man knew the human body at an intuitive level. Best of all he is on the side of the patients.
            During the talk he said: 90% of operations are avoidable and it mainly for commercial reasons than medical.  The pharma industry and medical practitioners work in cohorts to boost their profitability. Another insight floored the 10 of us present on the other side: Dr. Ramnarayan opined 30 minutes of daily walking is good enough; yoga, cycling, swimming cause more harm than any good.  That’s why Nike spends over a billion dollars in advertising to promote jogging which is actually bad for health.
            This led to a lot of uproar and counter questions from the audience and the Doctor explained: I am not giving a personal opinion for many studies have shown this. Say your cholesterol is 250 and you start a fitness programme of daily gym. In the next 3 months the cholesterol reduces to 150. But stop the gym or yoga or swims for a week and all the gains are lost, you are not back at 250 but it is 350 now!
            The doctor asked: “How many practice yoga regularly?”
              Couple of hands went by. The Doctor asked: What happens if you take a break of 3 or 4 days? Do you feel fresh or fatigued?  This only means it is a placebo effect! Walking is something you can fit into your busy lifestyle and it is more than sufficient for a human body for an exercise.  Frankly all these yogas and gyms have only benefitted Ramdevs of the world; it’s no more than a social thing to boast to your friends and colleagues.
            At the end of the talk, I sought out the doctor for an appointment.  He dished his visiting card and I met him couple of days later at Mint Hospital where he consults in the evenings.
            It was on Wednesday, 21st June I waited for the doctor on a 5:30 pm appointment.
            We shook hands as he spoke of the FOSWL presentation. He looked at the all the X-rays and blood tests and said: Don’t mind my saying so, yours is sports injury related. This is not natural wear and tear of a 48 year old.
            I said: Yeah, I used to jog miles for years before the knees buckled.
            Dr. Ramnarayan explained: Cartilage is nothing but a soft tissue around the bones.  It is a protective covering nature has provided against bone abrasions.
            I nodded to register understanding. Doctor said: The cartilage is a tissue as soft as woman’s nipple.
            He then narrated a couple of innovations he brought to the field of neurosurgery: At Apollo my patients walk out of a brain surgery on their feet the next day. The other surgeons’ patients need a week’s recuperation before discharge.
            He also narrated a procedure for brain haemorrhage and clogging he innovated in the UK.  It was a bit too technical and bounced off my head. It went something like a portion of a nerve was cut from the brain and stored in the stomach and later refitted.  The entire UK team applauded me on this technique for it is cost effective, even an orthopaedic can perform for simplicity. I prescribe only simple solutions and they work.
            On my knees he prescribed a “tablet” and “apply volini gel thrice a day, have hot water dabs after ten minutes. You will find considerable relief within a month. It takes 3 months for the cartilage to grow in 75% of the cases. Then I will teach you thigh strengthening exercises for a complete cure. But if it does not work, we’ll look at other options including surgery. “  
            Listening to him I felt half-healed. I have been following his advice conscientiously and as he forecasted the knee pain is down a small extent. Chancing on Dr. Ramnarayan is indeed a miracle, he is a maverick in a field where business men doctors rush to advice “Total Knee Replacement” surgeries.
            As for me, I came home and dumped Dr. Velayutham’s medicines.  I feel the knees are coming around nicely and maybe cartilage grow in the knees. 
           Now each time I feel like sucking a nipple in my fantasy, let me wake up to reality and kiss my knees!!! 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Ortho troubles - Part 1

I used to run 3 miles a day untill 33. The year was 2003 when one fine cold winter day at dawn I felt a stab of intense pain shot like an arrow at the knees during the run. It didn’t go away; the following days I found running more than a bother. I went to Adyar Orthopaedic run by Durgabai Deshmukh Mahila Sabha. One X-ray at the centre and the doctor pronounced, “Osteo Arthritis” and your running days are over.
            That really felt a death knell sentence for I used to derive a huge amount of self-esteem from these daily runs.  
But I am a determined fellow. Instead of running, I would walk 6-7 kms a day, still meet the same old friends in Theosophical Society, the knees would still protest but they did not get much sympathy and attention until the pain got acute and a persistent stab. Then I would run to a Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala near Cozee then a couple of years later to Venkatnarayana centre at Kutchery Road then IMPCOMPS at Thiruvanmiyur and even Ayush. Meaning I knew Western medicine had limited treatment options and any massage of any Ayurveda stream would suffice – there will be a let up in pain before I got those daily walks back. I intuitively realized that my knees would not get any better except reduce the pace of deterioration by these sporadic interventions.  Come of think of it, ageing is this mindset of coping with limited resources as most of organs start to slide.  The eyes demand a visit to Sankara Nethralaya, dental issues starts in the forties, my heart cried foul when I was 29, and now my knees at 33. I am strong as a bull and take it in stride.  And my sisters say how fortunate I am not to make friends with Diabetes and Hypertension at 48! Talk of relations and friends and misplaced humour!!
It was in February this year that I felt the knee pain graduate to a new territory. Pain comes in various sensations. There is a chronic one and it will stop bothering you once you get used to it.  Then there is a sharp and tingling pain; you take a stride and it feels like a knife stab. Then I progressed to a pain where the initial few steps feels as heavy as an elephant, limp for a dozen strides before you carry the weight of your body without wincing. Actually the worst of arthritis it makes you geometrically stiff; you are reduced to an unwieldy luggage that need dragging and shoving.
I should have read the symptoms but I am a prized stupid fool. I continued walks to Eliot Beach (I gave up on Theosophical Society 3 years back for it’s farther) on 4-5 km stretches before the knees threw in the towel completely.  By May 2017 there reached a stage when I just couldn’t take a step.
I spoke to friends around to source orthopaedics as I felt Ayurvedic massages will not serve for the damage looked real and deep. My cook Thangam (whose wisdom level is on par with Sarada mami) said: There is an Ortho in Mandavelli. He is very good and comes cheap. So I booked an appointment and met Dr. S. Manikkavelayutham.
The clinic is on a narrow lane off Devanathan street is crowded much like a beehive.  My appointment at 6:30 pm kept getting pushed past 7:30 and my patience wearing thin. After 7:00 pm, I keep reminding the secretary every 10 minutes before I was announced to the doctor.
            Dr. Velayutham is a short, well-fed, plumb, healthy man in mid-forties (my age-group) and didn’t look particularly bright, more the austere and morose. One look at my knees he said: EFFUSION and then said: Lot of deformity as I lay supine on a bed this man kept for his consultation patients.
            I was beginning to buy in his mood, I saw both the limbs bent like a bow as we both examined in our own ways. 
            The doctor pressed a few knee muscles, shook his head, said, “Looks very bad.”
I asked: Is it curable or not? Treatable or not?
He said: I have to see the X-rays and the blood reports.
But I don’t let go easily, “I am sure with your experience, what do you make of it? The reports will only give a name and extent of damage.”  I can be annoying when I want to be.
The doctor did not like my flippant attitude, “What is your name?” as he begins to write the prescription. He once again shakes his head, “Sathya, your knees is not like a car spare part. That you can junk it and buy a new one! This is a living organism. We will try different approaches and see what fits. 95% of ortho issues are treatable and 5% beyond us.”
I finally get it,” I do all these tests and then you will decide on the next course.”
He waved me for a curt dismissal saying: Finally you get it. Pay Rs. 300 and try these medicines for 10 days. The pain will come down. Do these tests and meet me.” 
I did not really enjoy the conversation but I thought: let’s give this man a chance. Like a good boy I got the medicines and did all the X-rays and blood tests. After 4 days of taking the tablets I felt the pain subside that I even went for a 5 km walk on Eliot’s beach. The next 4 days were excruciating and walking even inside the house was monumental.
On the tenth day armed with reports I met the Doctor. I said brightening to a cheerful smile: Your medicines worked. But I was foolish. I walked to the beach on the third day and since then the pain has been unbearable.
Looking at the X-ray he says: Your knees are gone. You need surgery. You are still 48 and some distance to go.  What does your job entail? The days of walking 4 kms are gone; I’ll be happy if you can manage under 1 km a day.
I ask, “What then are my options? I am not a car spare part to be replaced”
Doctor does not encourage my humour. Still morose and grave he says: Total Knee Replacement Surgery. 3 lacs per knee and you need for both. 
I ask without losing nerve: Can we control it by way of medicines?
He said “the pain and swelling can be managed by painkillers and antibiotics but it won’t help in the long run.”
I said: I had one heart surgery in my life and I am fed up.  I don’t want to go through the trauma again.” Especially as the doctor talks about imported steel bolts and nuts and raping the mind’s sensitivities.
I tell him, “Let me try Mindfulness. If the pain is in the mind then some sort of affirmations will work. You see I am great believer of Eckhart Tolle.” I am a moron and should be shot at dawn. I am so full of enthusiasm that I drag in the German philosopher needlessly within two statements of meeting a stranger. God save my friends from me!
Dr. Velayutham responds with contempt: Your cartilage is gone and damaged beyond for any mind related affirmations to work here. This is physical damage. By the way, I want to talk to your wife.”
I say cheerfully, “I am a very happy bachelor and do all the talking to me.”
The doctor is insistent, “The surgery is needed in your case. You can take a second opinion with these reports.”
I tell him in a tone of finality: In that case I will reduce 10 kgs, take a walking stick or even be reduced to a wheel chair. No surgery when I am alive and able to make my own decision.
Dr. Velayutham writes a prescription for a month, “These are painkillers. Meet me after a month of MINDFULNESS and these tablets. Let’s see if you can go around surgical options.”
He asked for Rs.300 which I felt was not needed for it was just a review. I forked out a crisp Rs. 2000 rupee note which the doctor examined minutely than the knees. He explained, “I was checking for anything written on them. Such soiled notes are invalid” giving me much need information but not helping doctor-client bedside manners.
I walked out feeling dazed and hating life. Dr. Velayutham may be 100% right in his advice but somehow I felt bitter and rode roughshod over. The doctor may as well be treating cows and goats. He didn’t look the kind to involve patients in conversations. Besides there’s horde of waiting patients and the train running 30 to 60 minutes late for each one of them.  Everyone makes money save a poor content writer!
As I limped out of the place I thought: lame for life. LANGDA in Hindi kept coming up though I don’t go easy on the language.  My life situation read “pushed to a corner” but the mind didn’t lose any of its gaiety. There must be some way out of this. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Endless Suffering -3 (RATS)

I am now 48 in the calendar and I faced the brunt of suffering to its depths. It’s highly improbable that any human being had it dished more.
            The first part spoke about SNAKE of a mother, second part the JACKAL of a girlfriend, and now the third part of RATS for siblings.
            I am the youngest of the three: Vijayalakshmi born 1962, Latha in 1964 and Sathyanarayanan in 1969.
            Viji had the good fortune of her infant and childhood years with Janaki Paati so the SNAKE did not come in the way. V is indeed emotionally the most resilient of the three. Latha had bits and pieces of SNAKE in her infant days, she grew painfully shy till she became super confident (which is an excess in the other direction) after her marriage as she turned 24.
            Viji was always a star in our family: everyone doted on her. She was good in studies, sparkling eyes on an elegant face, inherent leadership skills that got her ahead in most crowds, my father particularly looked on her as a blessing, and even the neighbours in East Marredpalli thought she was special as she drove a car way back in 1981 still in her teens. She got married in 1983 and went off the family radar.
            Latha was painfully shy (refer part-1 for the head injury as a two year old), tall and gangling, barely passed the monthly tests in school, gritted her way to graduation by sheer force of will.  I was a big villain of her growing years: My nickname for her “39” which was the rank in her 5th standard for more than a decade for a nerve wrecking put-down and humiliation. She joined the workforce after graduation at Hilton Rubbers Limited and those got her voice going with friendly colleagues and grow in confidence as an “Accounts Assistant”.  L was a huge devotee of Santoshi Maa with those never ending “Friday” fasts, finally those paid off as she married Basker and leaving the nest in 1989.
            Anyone would have thought that both graduates would have an independent streak of mind. They fail to read the situation even today: That father was a fool infatuated to a sick and diseased crazy woman for a wife who drove him to a premature death. They also fail to grasp that AMMA was mighty sick and unfit for human consumption. Where they failed most was with respect to me.
            By 1992 it was clear that I had a bipolar disorder; career and marriage at once out of the window.  Latha now married and two kids just turned the other way.  The mother and son troubles at Besant Nagar never reached her ears and even if it did she chose to look the other way. Her life was a straight line of rail tracks and a blinkered horse: I, me, myself, my husband and my two sons. Others might as well take a walk and drown. And once an individual vibrates this level of SELFISHNESS others perceive the signs and sure enough to keep away.
            Viji on the other hand is a duplicitous character. She is given to keeping appearances. There are a couple of incidents I can never forget:
a)     Between her engagement and marriage in 1983 there was a six months gap usually the norm. She kept practicing a new signature from “ A Vijayalakshmi” to “S Vijayalakshmi” – absolutely nothing wrong for a 20 year woman full of dreams and excitement. Latha found that page of paper and gave it to me. Viji now married and a year and kid later was shown the paper, she simply denies it with a finesse even politicians would envy.  She is outraged and crushes any criticism when a simple laugh would have sufficed. The purpose of this anecdote is a depiction that she just can’t take criticism in the air.  Touchy, hypersensitive, defensive. 
b)     This is something hard to forget and even forgive. The year 1998, I was 29 and in Manipal Heart Foundation for a heart surgery. Viji was in Bangalore then, she would visit me every day. She happened to wash my jocks for three days which she kept reminding for the next five years: Which eldest sister would wash a brother’s undies? It took me years to drill some sense: So you are a Mother Teresa, aah! I spend 60 k on my surgery and had I known this would be a lingering issue, I would have happily spent Rs.300 and got myself disposable ones. Don’t yank your mouth too much and risk unpopularity. Viji finally got it and put a cellophane tape on this score.   
            The years kept marching.  Now both Viji and Latha have grownup sons: one in Bahrain, another in USA. Latha’s eldest is in Norway.  The 25 years have been good years for both V and L – each own 3 houses in the metropolitan, they change their cars every five years, sons getting married and on the whole nothing to crib about life.  My ship stranded still for these 25 years and they don't lift a finger at my plight and growing desperation.
            I have not celebrated a festival since 1989 the year my dad died. I berate them at their faces: What kind of a family are we? We don’t even include our own blood for festivities. Had I been in your position, I'll never summon a will to celebrate a festival without including a sick brother or sister. What kind of rotten genes and callous nerves are these?
            My relation with Latha was always strained. Say for 20 years I never visited her house or spoke to her on the phones. Viji on the other hand was a daily caller till I put a stop to it last week. My cousin Prakash’s sudden demise proved an eye-opener besides the rich dose of MINDFULNESS I was absorbing.
            Viji called every day for decades with the usual: Did Thangam come? What did she cook today? How did your interview go? Or exhort “Sathi, you need to adjust to Mohan. Where will you get 2 lac salaries in India? This is your last chance for saving for retirement years.” Viji is indeed very perspicacious – perceptive, intelligent, smart – in reading situations as they fold. But she is a miser to the last atom. 
            She will take AMMA for yearly heart check-ups and wait the whole day on tests and conferring with doctors (something Latha and I are not wired to do) but she’ll spoil it all by saying: I spent Rs. 500 on auto charges.  That ‘washing the jocks of a brother in heart surgery” mind-set never learnt that “you don’t evaluate love of a mother however diseased on a monetary denomination.” The moment you bring money to a blood relation, you lose both: money and relation and I shouted hoarse trying to drill this into a thick skull unsuccessfully for decades.  Women from North Arcot genes REFUSE to listen or see reason that does not suit them even if you shout in their ears and wave before their eyes. V is a miser on a global scale as I humour with T H Iyer mama on a walk on Eliot's Beach. For a gossip time-filler I tell him: V is going to America for her son's graduation in Colorado. My friend asked: Is she taking you with her? I said to a divine inspiration: Viji's budget for me is Rs. 300 - a Baahubali movie at best. This earned  a good laugh. 
            I came back from Abu Dhabi a wounded soldier and next two years were depression years. Both V and L transfer their claims to the Besant Nagar residence to my name; both felt strongly I was financially vulnerable and these would be insurance against poverty.
            I used to plead with Viji often in 2016: I hate to sell this flat for sustenance. Why don’t you take the house; give me 40 lacs (of a property worth more than 1.25 crore at a minimum) so that the family retains it. Viji simply wouldn’t hear of it: my son is not interested and he feels Besant Nagar apartment is jinxed.
            I made a WILL in which I leave the proceeds in the ratio 3:1 in Viji’s favour. My thinking was Viji by taking after AMMA into her fold: giving her company and feeding three squares besides her daily calls to me. I did not wish to deprive anything for L for she was at least worth a 25% share (we were four legal heirs and so I thought that by just being born to this family she’s earned that).
            Then Theni happened in late 2016. I went to this God forsaken place to die. I engage a car driver over a cash transaction to administer a lethal injection. It came to the point that I saw a man inject the drug from the bottle as I lay in a hotel room. I tell him: I am not ready. Sorry, I don’t want to do it now.  I wasn’t worried about karmic punishment. What really galled me was the terms: This man would inject me to a hasty death and then burn the body and leave no trace. If the sisters in Chennai were to file a missing complaint with the Police – fat chance - and the cops in the unlikely event of tracing my disappearance from earth to Theni then these people had my written suicide note to absolve them. I felt even these bitches - V and L - deserved a better closure than disappearance into thin air. 
            I came back to Chennai and what appalled me were both V and L did not react at all that their kid brother’s close embrace (7 years younger than V and 4 years younger than L) of a self-administered death.
            I used to tell V repeatedly: the moment my finances run out, I die. I can’t survive selling and living off the proceeds of Besant Nagar apartment.  She would counsel: Get into a gated community and live like a prince. Latha would say: Sathi, don’t force death on yourself. You have struggled so long and just give a few more years and death would naturally come its way. But both never said: we'll keep an eye on you. 
            It was only last week I got the whole picture seeing Prakash’s dead body (my Athai’s son).  All our relations have been reduced to weddings and funerals. There is no heart at all. I have not celebrated a festival since 1989. Suddenly my mind discerned to a frighteningly clear reading of my life situation. I told Viji in no uncertain terms rather clear as daylight: This is over. We talk daily and produce only noise. Stop talking. Our relations are so feeble that if I die you’ll squabble amongst yourself as to who should light the pyre. Donate my body for organ harvesting to a medical college. Let’s just drop this act. We were born brother and sisters and we did not learn how to relate. None of the four nephews respect or save a millimetre affection and bonding towards me. 
           I tell Thangam my cook who is as wise as Sarada mami: This M90 could have been saved by V and L. I don't want a dime from them. They could have at least visited me on a quarterly basis and that would have been sufficient to see me through.  Not once did V and L visit me in Besant Nagar in the last 27 years except on ritual days!!!! 
            Both V and L readily agreed as I said: No more of your silly invitations to your son’s weddings. In fact I’ll ensure that news of my demise don’t reach your shores. As for AMMA, give me a call and I will do the honours. I sell the flat, give you 10 lacs for amma’s upkeep and the rest is how I decide. Both of you don’t deserve a nickel as dad’s money will go to cooks, charities, and anyone who said a kind word or did a kind act for me.
            So the story of my life reads: Raised by a SNAKE, jilted by a JACKAL and not adopted by RATS. I used to often tell V: Instead of watching National Geographic, people can watch our family. We are like 3 siblings of a tiger; each has to fight for its share of the carcass to the extent of maiming or snuffing the lives of others.  We “TAMBRAHS” are no less wild and junglee! 
          Is love and compassion so difficult to learn? Yes if you are born as a lower class tamil brahmins of North Arcot District.  Ritualistic to the last breath and no human connection. 

Post Script: Why wash dirty linen in public, I ask myself? Then I ask myself: Do V and L seem the kind of people who will wait outside the ICU when I am inside?  Not in a million. So what do I lose by venting my anger? Nothing.  Both are not bad people except they programmed their minds wrong: Who said that once married, you turn your backs completely on your old family? Which Veda? which Upanishads? It's sad when a couple of drops of white blood is all that it takes to  turn calculative, callous, and heartless. Family is always about standing by someone in their distress. It's not my mistake that you defined "family" on your own narrow terms.  Insight of this blog post: Any brother or sister who does not involve a sibling in festivities for 28 years is no brother or sister at all.