THOSE TWO HOURS

Sir, please take a deep breath…

It was almost 6 in the evening and he had just gotten from his quick evening siesta, a practice which has got transformed into a routine – all thanks to the pandemic & wfh. He was woken up by the cacophony of the parakeets and the koels which were busy getting their share of the last meal of the day on the fresh and green ficus tree next door. He noticed the cup of coffee left on his desk by his aunt, which by now had become cold due to the AC which was operating at least the temperature which was apt for the current weather conditions.  With each sip of the coffee, he felt something strange and uncommon happening within his body and it was not something because of the coffee. His stomach health was anyways not in the best of shape over the last few days and he felt things are yet to stabilise and continued to work on his remaining daily task. 

As the day proceeded, things didn’t seem to improve and all that he could think of was to rush to his most trusted medical store to check if he can get some off the shelf medication to relieve him of the pain which had already started peaking up. A pain that he had not experienced in the past and felt like a thousand needles piercing his tummy at one time. His feet couldn’t hold the ground while he waited for the tablets to reach his hand. The pain and desperation to get relief from it resulted in him not carrying his wallet or even phone to the store. With each passing hour or for that matter even minutes, the pain kept growing on him and the bright blue capsule which he had just got from the store had not done any good yet. While he withered in pain, he knew this was not something normal or not something which he had experienced in the past. After a few failed attempts at going to the washroom to see if that helps, he decided it was not worth taking more risk and decided to head to the ER in the hospital near his house. His wife insisted she ride the bike, but in situations like this, it’s difficult to convince him. But glad he didn’t decide to take out the car but felt the 2wheeler should do the job. 

Time taken to check the vitals by the nurses didn’t go well with his patience which was deteriorating with each passing minute. Once he was finally guided to the nearest bed, it was time for 2 of the ER doctors to check on his situation, by now it was already close to midnight. The first thing they suggested is to go for a painkiller in the form of an IV so that it will act faster and help him stabilise. But surgical needles didn’t go well with him and his thoughts and he outright suggested giving something else. Which came in the form of a light crimson tablet for that moment while the docs discussed amongst themself and suggested he gets an UltraSound scan done to rule out a possibility of what they suspected. Ultrasound for tummy pain and what could be something for a serious case of indigestion or acidity – that’s what ran in his mind while the doctors gave him time to decide. But he had to get convinced that it’s ER and its doctors whom he is interacting with and we are at their disposal. The scan can happen immediately, he has to drink lots of water and make his bladder full, said a nurse standing next to the bed. With the tummy hurting so badly and no option but to make the bladder full he started drinking water – one sip at a time. 

In no time he felt he is ready for the scan and conveyed to the nurse that he will walk down to the scanning room which was not too far from the ER section. While his wife was finished one more round of visits to the hospital billing counter. The moment he stepped out of the ER door which was held by the nurse who was guiding him, he felt the first big physical shock. The ambient temperature was way below tolerable limits and it felt like early morning in the high Himalayas. And within no time he started to shiver and tremble all while he was dragging his feet towards the scanning room. He was lying on the scanning bed fluttering like a fish out of water waiting for the radiologist to start his work. The first contact of the pulser loaded with conductive gel just made his situation worse. But it was not over yet, the scan continued for several minutes and one more radiologist joined the latter and the discussions between them intensified every time the pulser touched his underbelly. All that he could grasp in that situation was a sentence – I think it’s behind and not front and it’s better to go with CT to get the correct position and size. Size? Position? CT scan? his head went into a tizzy without even understanding what was happening. He walked back to the ER now with the assurance from the nurse that she will give him a blanket as soon as he reaches the bed. And as promised she did so and he felt a lot better, not with the pain but with shivering which added fuel to the already raging fire. Time passed and by now the pain had slowly started to subside, probably the tablet had started doing its work and the shudders in the body helped it get absorbed well. The docs came back to him after speaking to the radiologist and going through the scan reports and their body language didn’t show any positive signs. The male doctor in a very polite voice said – we are suspecting this to be a case of acute appendicitis and the position seems tricky which is not getting shown by Ultrasound scan, so we reckon we get a CT scan done to rule out any other possibilities. The wife gave a shocked but blank look while he was trying to repeat the word appendicitis in his mind and make an attempt to get the spelling right in the first shot. Why that now? What is the reason? Is it because of the food that he ate over the weekend whilst travelling? wife asked the doctor. The doc said, there is no specific reason for when and why it comes. But once it’s there, it’s better attended to, otherwise, it will cause bigger issues. If you are feeling better then take some time and then decide on the CT scan as the first thing to be done in the morning and consult a surgeon at the OPD before taking the next steps. By saying so the docs felt that he could go home and take rest as he had started feeling better. 

Both of them slowly started walking back towards their bike and decided not to talk further about it until they speak to a General Physician or a Surgeon in the morning, which included the decision to go with a CT scan or not. The journey back home was slower; the slow breeze made things easier. And the air temperature was not as bad as it was in the hospital, the lack of a helmet ( which was not intentional in any way ) made things a bit more comfortable. The day ended but the question kept haunting him, why appendicitis and why me? But it was the next calendar day, so the best option here was to keep the thoughts aside and call it a day. 

It is the next day and the biggest agenda for the day was to consult a specialist before even going for the CT scan and take all the necessary 2nd, 3rd or Nth opinions. So it’s back to the same hospital but at a diff time of day and with more crowd and conversations around than what it was a few hours before. The first stop was the General Physician, a doc who was well known to him and his family and who had been attending his father for over 5yrs now. The routine questionnaire was completed and when the physical check happened, he too felt the reason for the pain to be the same as what the ER doctors suspected. But the doc wanted him to feel comfortable and routed him to a Sr Surgeon in the hospital. This time around too the response was no different, but the response from the doc was more affirmative that there is an issue and a CT scan would make things clear about growth level and the next action to take. 

With the limited knowledge that a CT scan is similar to an MRI scan and all that you have to do is change dress and lie on a table which will then be passed through a tunnel which will do the necessary job for which you paid all the big money. But the big surprise came when the front desk at the CT scanning facility asked him to get a blood test done – specifically Serum Creatinine and the outcome of that will decide the magnitude of medicine to pass into the body which is a prereq for the scan. With the only option available to him which was to faint listening to blood tests and injecting medicine etc, all that he could think of was to step back and let his wife speak to the staff in conversational English to understand what was required. That conversation was no different than what he had heard. At this point the assumption that he had reg the “injecting the medicine” was that of an IM given at the posterior and he was mentally prepared for it (reluctantly). So now it was time to give a blood sample for the big test for the Phlebotomist to draw the blood. A person terrified of needles and thin veins didn’t make the situation any better. But eventually, 3 Phlebotomists came together and managed to do just one prick and draw the necessary amount of blood. So now it was waiting and watching till he got the lab results before the next steps in the CT scan area. He decided this time is rather spent in his house than in the hospital. But the catch was that irrespective of where he waits he is not supposed to eat or drink anything and has to be on an empty stomach. Not even water he was told. 

The time is 1:30 pm and a notification on the phone confirmed the blood test report is ready for viewing. The next hour or so was spent getting mentally prepared to visit the hospital again and get into the CT scan facility. A Jr Radiologist accompanied him to the changing room where he was given an appropriate dress to change to and then was asked to wait outside so that they can take him to the ER to get the cannula fitted. Cannula for what ? he asked. It’s to inject medicine into your body sir during the scan said the radiologist. With no food or energy in the body which rules out the possibility of him fainting all that he could do was nod his head and follow the radiologist like a pug following its pet parent on a morning walk. As he overheard the confrontation between the two nurses regarding what size cannula to fit if it’s 18 or 20 and both of them being bigger dia ones and right for my situation, just made his feet sink into the ground. It was an archery competition and the champion had taken the best of the arrow and had just hit the bullseye and that’s exactly how the impact was with the cannula piercing the hand. For the first time tears rolled down his eyes and he was helpless. The next moment he was lying on the CT scan bed and the cannula was connected to a device which would remotely inject the medicine at a predefined time and speed into his body during the scan. Though the scan process was not as painful it was not something to be happy about or enjoy, the sight of a #18 cannula dangling on his right hand haunted him. A few moments later they told him, it was done and he can go visit his doctor for further steps. Even before they could enter the consultation room, the doctor was waiting there and he escorted them inside telling – them to come inside, I saw the scan report already and yes it’s “Acute Appendicitis” and it’s grown big already. You have to get it operated on within the next two days.  If it bursts then the situation will become worse. It’s laparoscopic and it will be very quick. I will pass you the contact number for the person in charge of the operation theatre and room booking, you can coordinate with him. With his eyes, mind and body blank and frozen, he let his wife do all the further talking. Also, don’t take any solid food until the surgery is done, said the doctor before they left the room. 

They came home and his wife repeated all things that happened in the hospital verbally along with the confirmation from the doctor that the surgery has to be done in the next two days. The expression on everyone’s face was blank – something similar to what you find on an RCB fan’s face every time they see their team lose. He knew the next steps were inevitable so even managed to have a quick word with this manager to keep him informed about his situation and his availability. In his mind he knew he won’t go into the surgery the very next day so took the next 24hrs to get all the mental and physical willpower to go lie on the operation bed – something he had not anticipated in the worst of his nightmare that he will have to go through irrespective the magnitude or the reason of the surgery. While he sorted out all the financial things and the insurance papers etc, the thought still kept ringing in his mind – WHY ME? 

It was D Day and the day started way earlier than what it would normally do. After taking bath and pooja completed and it was time to leave home he walked up to his mother and hugged her. While she said nothing will happen, tears continued to roll down his cheeks onto her back – he knew this is not something he liked going through. After a quick bye to everyone at home, he decided he will go to the hospital on his bike and he will ride. Strange but not surprising, but this time around this was the slowest he had ever ridden his vehicle. His mind kept wandering like a flock of birds at an early morning mixed hunting party. The next few hours were spent sorting documentation all of which looked like an indemnity that one signs before getting into adventure sports. A few small communication hiccups lead to confusion on the room allocation and then finally they moved into the room and waited for the next actions. At this point, 2 nurses come into the room to put cannula! After spending several minutes locating the vein on both the hands as if they are searching for a needle in a haystack, they reluctantly try on his left hand. The result is a failure. Looking at this the anaesthetist who had just entered the room became more impatient and tried his luck on a different hand and the result again was a big failure. He then covers this up by saying – this is why I don’t opt for putting a cannula in the room, we will put it in the OT where the situation is more favourable. While all these were happening, he kept quiet and just stared at what was happening around him and asked the same question – WHY ME? 10 mins or so passed and there was absolute silence – no doctors, no nurses entered the room. He was lying on the bed with his wife sitting on the sofa right next to it. He didn’t want to make eye contact with her, he knew he would break down if that happened. He didn’t like what he was going through. But he had no option. It was 10 am, and finally, a couple of male nurses entered the room informing him that they were taking him to the OT on the 1st floor. They cover him to the neck with the blanket and then release the locks on the bed/stretcher and push it towards the elevator. He kept his eyes closed and his mind calm. The elevator door opened for the second time in a few seconds and this time, they were on the 1st floor as the nurses kept pushing the stretcher further and further he could see the one OT pass by and it was #2 that he was designated to. The moment they enter the OT, he gets surrounded by a gazillion of doctors and nurses- the scene resembles a deer carcass surrounded by a pack of wild dogs. The analogy is a reference to the pack of more than 18 wild dogs that he and his family got to see just a week back when they were en route to Mysore. One of the doctors asked him to move himself to the OT table which resembled nothing more than a 9” piece wide wood plank. While he moved and made himself comfortable there were at least 3 more holding his left hand and within no time they had managed to put a cannula to his forearm – but this time it was not as painful as the last 3 times. While he was yet to digest or realise what was happening he could see a nurse place a mask on his face and ask him – sir, please take a deep breath. 

The next thing he heard was a nurse asking him to open his eyes and breathe slowly. It took a very long while for the eyelids to open, it felt like it was glued for ages while he tried to open them to see what was happening around him. The nurse then asked him, are you feeling ok ? to which he replied but only to realise his voice is choking and he can feel a big piece of log stuck in his throat. The nurse acknowledges him by saying it’s because of the pipe they had put in his mouth during the surgery. He tried to turn his head and far away he could see a clock which showed the time as 12:00. He noticed several other patients around him who had completed their respective surgeries. He gazed back at the clock and now it showed 12:10. While the nurses indicated to him that they will be shifting him to the ward in a few mins, his eyes still stayed glued to the clock – round black with a white dial – on the wall across the room wondering – What happened in those two hours? 

***

I couldn’t have written his story if not for the help of all the doctors, nurses and supporting staff of Columbia Asia / Manipal Hospital – Yeshwantpur. A big hug to my entire family who stayed by my side while I went through this ordeal. While the experience is not something I can call I will cherish in my life but the outcome is something which will make me happy and healthy. 

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Shhivakuumar Lakshminarayana

~ Photographer ~ Wanderer ~ Music Lover ~ Automobile Enthusiast ~ Geek ~ Dreamer ~ Foodie ~ Caffeine Addict ~ Techie ~ Mac-a-holic ~ Social Media Freak ~

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