From Hampi, we headed to Hyderabad to see my friend, Abhi, who is a
badass assistant professor at the top business school in India. I very excited to see him because he’s always fun to be around. (The last time I saw him, it was unexpected. And I sort of screamed really loudly. In a room chockfull of 200 strangers. Strangers it was important to impress. So it’s probably best we plan our visitations.) Jon and I had a ridiculously happy 24 hours hanging out with him before I started feeling rather feverish. At first, I attributed it to a rather intense game of musical chairs in a mock local-Indian-village eatery at the local mall. (Yes, I know, that is one crazy sentence.) However, midway through Ironman III, it was undeniable. I was sweating, shivering, and shaking. I was in the bad place, all thanks to a little mosquito aka harbinger of doom.
After I got back to Abhi’s I took some Advil PM (note: very very bad for Dengue b/c it can cause hemorrhaging) and then all I wanted to do was sleep. And sleep. And sleep some more. Periodically I would arise from my slumber to consume beverages, tumble quickly back into sleep, before reemerging from hibernation to regurgitate said beverages. Despite Abhi and Jon’s best efforts, eating was completely beyond my capabilities. After a few days of this routine, I was taken to hospital, where I was put on an IV drip and diagnosed with having heat stroke. This was extraordinarily humiliating diagnosis. I am a native Texan peoples! Given this fact and my extreme personal commitment to hydration, my ego was seriously bruised.
When I didn’t improve several days later, and it became obvious it was not heatstroke, we revisited the hospital to see a physician. I was particularly concerned because a searing headache behind my eyes had escalated into terribly blurred vision. I could no longer clearly see two foot in front of me. The doctor recommended admitting me to the ER because my blood pressure was dangerously low. This cued an incredibly frustrating 14 hour ordeal of waiting in the ER followed by a moderately frustrating 4 day hospital stay. The top ten lowlights included:
- A vision tester insisting that I must be incorrect about my eyeglasses prescription. When I told her my normal prescription for my left eye was 0.5, she insisted that I was mistaken about this and had reversed the numbers. She told me that my prescription “must be” 5.0, which was I was testing at in my current crazy-blurred-vision state. She told me my vision simply wouldn’t deteriorate that much. That was a super fun argument.
- Leaving the optometrist’s office to be sick. Since I was too weak to walk, I had to be pushed in a wheelchair that was not moving fast enough whilst teetering on the brink of yakking all over the floor in full view of a very crammed waiting room area.
- Having blood drawn from the back of my hand, although I indicated the best vein to tap in my right arm. Knowing the initial tests showed I had a dangerously low platelet count, they proceeded to slap, yank, and tug on my hand to ‘milk’ enough blood for a follow-up test. All whilst jiggling the needle. It took 3 weeks for the bruise—which covered the entire back of my hand—to disappear.
- Not receiving enough blood for follow-up tests during the aforementioned incident, so having blood drawn from exact same vein I previously indicated was a “giver.”
- Essentially believing that a partial blood transfusion (i.e. platelets) was imminent. It was, thankfully, unnecessary.
- Screaming from frustration when the nurses started taking my medical history—for the third time—at 2:30 am. Then telling us information that was 100% opposite of what the physician had told me a few hours earlier.
- An ultrasound technician who seemed unwilling to speak to me. Instead, he chatted with Jon and Abhi about my results after I had left the room.
- The fact that the “food” included a “soup” of boiled cabbage water. When I was cleared to eat food, they kept bringing me meat. Over and over again. Not eating for seven days was kind of a downer as well.
- The inability to confirm I had dengue fever, because this test was only run once a week, although I had nearly every single symptom. This led to complications with my insurance claim.
- Absolutely everything to do with billing. Their aggressive insistence that they would not accept our insurance policy. Recanting this stance without apology. Denying I was a patient at the hospital when contacted by my insurance company. Thankfully for me, Jon fielded this one completely. And yes, I know how lucky I am to have him. I am still brimming with gratitude.
While the hospital had some serious issues—partly related to the fact it was a teaching hospital and it was a gritty cocktail of highly capable and complete imbeciles—my personal physician was extremely competent (props to Abhi for ensuring I got the best). Some of the crazier things I discovered during my stay included: although India seems like the IT capital of the world, it was not uncommon for the hospital IT to go down for days on end, to catastrophic results. Patients carried around their own charts, and were—more often than not—the point of liaise between the various physicians and specialists. Apparently, it is also not uncommon for the extended relatives of patients to show up in the waiting room, have a seat, and just ‘be there’ for several hours or days without seeing the patient. (See issue 2 above.)
When I was discharged from the hospital, I went back to Abhi’s, where I remained for a week getting some R&R. During that period, I had some crazy and intense dreams. The most vivid involved sorting out some colorguard flags (a high school extracurricular activity) in the old temporary building. When I awoke, I was completely convinced I was still a senior in high school. I had absolutely no idea where I was, and I was wholly perplexed by the guy sleeping beside me. It was probably the most singularly bewildering incident of my life. It actually took several minutes of puzzling through my life to catch up to present day. (Okay, I graduated high school. What did I do after that? Oh yes, I went to university. What uni? Hmmm, I went traveling after I finished? Oh, that’s right I met a boy while traveling. Then I married him. It must be this dude to my right.)
Although I do have some laudable skills—such as acute olfactory senses, the ability to nap almost anywhere, and roll my tongue into the shape of a clover (which Jon finds deeply distressing)—knowing when to seek medical help is not a particular strength of mine. I also like to insist I am 100% okay, when I am clearly not. When a logical person questions such assertions, I tend to become extraordinarily grouchy. So generally speaking, this whole issue was a bit of a minefield for Jon, particularly when he didn't know anything about medical care in India. So Abhi stepped up to the plate in a biiiiig way. He ran crazy errands all over town to find tempting morsels for me, got me the care I needed, stayed with me at the hospital until the wee hours, kept Jon's spirits up and belly full, and insisted we temporarily move in with him until I was ready to get back on the road. All whilst dealing with a family bereavement. You could say I owe him a debt that could not be repaid, but Abhi doesn't keep a balance sheet. And that's part of the reason we all love him so much.
Some good did come out of my illness, because I got to meet Abhi’s parents! Since our intended 4 day stay ballooned to over a half-month in residence, we were still around to see his folks when they came into town. I have found that the older I get, the more excited I am about meeting my friends' parents...often they're just a bit more grown-up versions of your compadres. Abhi's parents did not disappoint. His dad is thoughtful and intelligent, with a fantastic talent for storytelling—he doesn’t just spin yarns, he weaves tapestries. (Jon and I were both hanging on his every word when he told us about his early days of courtship with Abhi's mom.) Abhi’s mom is one clever lady; she has the quick laugh of her son and the same mischievous sparkle in her eyes. And she can whip up goodies in the kitchen like you wouldn't believe. It was an absolute treat to spend time with them.
My one big regret thus far on my holiday is that I didn't get a "family photo" with everyone. I have all kinds of random photos with (and of) complete strangers, but zero snaps of my favorite (resident) Indian people. Can we blame the dengue for this oversight? Or maybe it was just a subconscious excuse to have a reason to return? :)