Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mom gave us a scare

Hospitals are scary places. Which is why I usually avoid visiting sick relatives.

But I couldn’t escape last night. Mom gave us a scare. She had been feeling uneasy in the evening -- a throbbing headache and a nagging feeling that something was wrong.

At the hospital, her systolic blood pressure rocketed past 220. The doctor said this could lead to organ failure or a haemorrhagic stroke and got her admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

If hospitals are scary, the ICU is scarier. You can’t really see the patient and what the doctors are doing. Who knows if she’s being given unnecessary medicine with undesirable side-effects. Moreover, they allow relatives in only at certain times.

At other times, we wait.

It's the waiting that you dread, till the ICU attendant calls out a name -- and somehow that’s worse.

"Annie ke saath?" (Who’s with Annie?) he calls out in the waiting area and I rush to the doors of the forbidden kingdom.

But no, there’s no good news. I am not being let in. It’s only a nurse who hands over a list of medicines that must be bought right away.

It's not easy to relax in the waiting area. The blue hospital chairs are not very comfortable. I try taking a nap but my neck hurts
. The ward boys are watching a Bollywood film on television and I watch it too, glad to have something to do.

I'm not the only visitor in the room. There are four other men waiting for news from the ICU -- all of us are strangers bound together by the unwelcome guest threatening our loved ones.

Two enterprising men (perhaps they’ve had days of practice) wait till the ward boy’s back was turned, spread a sheet on the floor and are asleep within minutes.

A woman is brought in at around 3 a.m. But it’s too late. Her son, a man in his 30s, leans against the ICU wall, bawling like a baby for his dead mother. Relatives rush to console him but the man doesn’t stop weeping incoherently till the body, wrapped in a white sheet, was taken out. The ward boys, perhaps out of sympathy, muted the TV so that the dance beats of a Bollywood item song didn’t interfere with the man’s grief.

I watch the man crying but am unable to react. It’s not that I am being the stoic tough guy; perhaps the possibility of being in that man’s position hasn’t really sunk in.

I got to meet mom twice -- she had spent a sleepless night, disturbed by the commotion a few beds away, where a housewife had been brought in after she consumed some sort of poison following an argument with her husband.

The good news, mom was much better (if befriending and charming three nurses is any indication) and doctors are now keeping her in the ICU an extra day for observation. She comes back home in the morning.

I’m feeling guilty. Hospital staff gave me mom’s gold rings to take home. And I’ve lost one of them. Mom doesn’t know yet.

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