I am not someone who is overly possessive about having things within my control, but for a few things that fall within my jurisdiction, I prefer to do them myself without any interference. That, fortunately, leaves a number of people around me pretty happy with time to spare for other pursuits. And there is this thing about me – being unwell makes me not just uncomfortable or tired or whatever – it irritates me to no limits! More often than not, I handle it all myself without others around me even getting to know much. But some of the more nagging and evident ones end up with a few caring or customary enquiries.
Overall, I’d rather not make physical discomfort public unless it becomes necessary to allow me that one off day of relaxation from work. So, my general response to such general enquiries would mostly be “Ami bhaloi achi” (“I am fine”) and to stick to the veracity of that statement (stupidly enough) I generally keep avoiding even customary routine check-ups. The one time I gather myself (after 5-6 odd years) and get myself tested, in less than 10 days I end up in hospital! So much for being a conscious and healthy adult. Yes, healthy as per reports from the tests done just a week back. Not even 4 days into the week and my body burns with fever that leaves a 3-hour gap between rising and unimaginable lower body pain. And so, another lot of tests follow and reveal I was positive! Hang on, though the word that comes first to our mind when we see or hear “positive” these days is the much dreaded “C” word, this one, with the same number of alphabets, starts with the one right after – D. I was Dengue positive and my platelets were plummeting like nobody’s business.
Oh yes, I am well aware…this is hardly a topic to joke and trust me, it did show me one of its ugliest faces not even a month back. So, I dare not trivialise or lighten the impact of the condition. This is about my experience of being stuck in a hospital room thanks to that “ek (bloody) macchhar”! When it came, when it struck remains a mystery for where I live, we generally don’t have too much of them. But there I was, shivering in the middle of the night with two sheets covering me and my body burning with temperature and breaking with terrible pain. Little did I know then that it would land me on a hospital bed and in the absence of any other arrangement, a 5-bedded female specialty ward bed, thankfully at least the first one from the door.
A bit about the room first. 5 beds are placed neatly one after another in a rather car park like fashion with a curtain dividing each bed area. A wide screen-like window, that of course does not open since the whole place is centrally air conditioned, stands at the very end after the 5th bed. Well, so far so good! The only catch is a single bathroom!!! Yes, imagine the mornings… Though as I am wheeled in, the only other occupant in the room is an elderly lady lying too prone to be able to use the bathroom physically. Even in my super weak state of health, dying to lay down on the wheeled, foam mattress covered bed, having been through a CitiScan in the floor below, this gives me some peace as I change into my hospital garb and lay down on the bed. With a strange discomfort across my stomach making me want to puke at every breath and a killing ache in my back and ribs, I had only just managed to settle down after my already second trip to release myself that the Dr. Salim walks in. With his green dress, a strange frockish robe on top, green mask, green head cover and eye covers, he breezes into the room in a very “McGonagallish” way with a very cheerful voice and ask and asks and asks what is bothering me till I have told him everything that is giving me discomfort. With a strangely reassuring voice he then tells me that he was gonna make the channel that will probably be saving my life and though it hurts like hell (as a large majority of people must have already felt) he does the needful and by the time he was done I was dying to go to the bathroom again.
A flurry of activities followed and I get poked in my other arm again to draw more blood for tests. This I realize, as is obvious given my state, was to be the routine…morning and evening. So, an ECG and an X-Ray later I was finally allowed to retire for the night on my rather uncomfortable bed just a wee bit insufficient(?) for my ample girth. But there starts the fun. Back home going for a release was not an action dependent on anyone except for the one who might have been occupying the bathroom at that point of time. Here, it meant calling for a nurse to unclasp the IV tube and calling one back to put it back up again. How exactly is one supposed to rest when you have to use the stupid loo every 45 mins, now expedited by at least 45 more mins than the frequency back home, thanks to the torturously dripping yellow liquid hanging from a hook above the bed and calmly flowing down into my veins through the channel the good doctor so carefully created to save my life. And so, blushing every time out of the sheer embarrassment of the nature of the repetitive requests I had no option but to call the nurse on duty,
And so drearily my days passed without a glimpse of the outside world but through a heavily tinted yellow glass (almost the colour of my IV) at the far end of the room, with the colour of the IV changed after the third day to a crystal one and both my inner arm at the elbow breaks full of puncture marks thanks to the twice daily blood tests. Netflix and Audible gave me company, but as it is with continuous viewing on Smart Phones, the head would start to throb by the end of about 3 hours and the better I got bodily, more my body started to protest against the uncomfortable bed. But mornings WERE happening! So, there were 4 more ailing old ladies. As I had said earlier, the lady immediately next to me had no use for the bathroom as she did the needful right on the bed with assistance from the very caring attendants. You would only hear her trying to refuse food, asking for help to clear her bladder and bowels or crying out loud as they administer insulin. That apart she slept through the day. The one next to her was pretty normal, actually. Just back from surgery, she spent the first day on bed and thereafter was just there asking for an occasional help with her bed and got released within two days. The last two… Well, they were Case Studies!
Bed 4 was admitted to stabilize her vitals as they waited to operate her. A very bossy, interfering, and noisy lady, she would the nurses and attendants for no good reason ranging between why the lights were on too late into the night to what they did not pray everyday, probed beds 3 and 5 to tell her all about their lives, their family members, their food preferences, their ailments and don’t know what else and of course suggest alternatives to her liking. She would then suggest attendants what to give them for lunch or dinner.
But that is hardly the end of the story…come morning, she would pee her way to the loo ahead of the rest and then try to wipe her trail with the bottom of her dress, subjecting me to a most unwelcome view of her uncovered hind. She would then take another 30 mins in the bathroom leaving it like a mini pool by the time she left it. The only other way to avoid this ordeal is to wake up before her, which was pretty early considering we were woken up generally at around 6:15am. Something I took to doing after the 2nd morning of such a disaster. And then…through the rest of the day she would burp and fart at an obscenely loud volume and she would be playing some spiritual lecture in Hindi by some obscure lady accompanied by some weird songs all courtesy Prajapita Brahma Kumari Institute at the highest volume possible on her phone.
Now, while I spent most of my day with my headphone on, at night when people were trying to sleep…or maybe they were already asleep and I would also unplug my headphones, she would still be having that incoherence playing on full volume. I did tell her a couple of times, but she refused to listen and since the remaining three did not have an issue, she stuck to her ways. She might have even inducted Bed 4 to the ways of that sisterhood with its bizarre explanation about the world and human relationships.
Bed 5 was a middle-aged Muslim lady (her god save her from the Prajapita lectures) was admitted with just about everything to do with her digestion and liver and kidney on the verge of collapse. But you would not be able to figure that out with her tantrums in terms of regular food. She would constantly keep responding to queries by Bed 4 in Hindi (while she consistently asked all her questions in Bangla) and crib about the food which was not spicy enough for her taste. She even announced to her son that she will be discharged the next day without the slightest hint or approval from the doctor, who appeared the next day ready to take her back, only to be confronted by the fact that she had cooked up the status because she did not like the food. She even seemed to be needing a surgery which she flatly refused to which her standard doctor flatly told her to count her days.
After going through these theatrics for 6 days, I was finally released and never was I so happy to see the sun and feel the fresh and slightly chilly breeze on my face. It did not matter that my head was still swaying or my steps were still unsure and Jeet had to hold my hands to help me walk steadily…I was looking at the world around me not through a yellow tinted glass but the way it actually looks. The church spire (the only part of the church right across the road that was visible through the window in the room) along with the whole of the church seemed such a beautiful sight on this bright and sunny November morning as I walked towards the car…