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.