My Musings

Hospitals and Dispensaries

When my husband asked me to resume writing for the Newsletter, I asked him,’ What shall I write about?' He replied,’ You can write on anything. Just look around and you'll get your topic.' I took his advice and looked out of the car. I was amazed that on both sides of Poonamallee High Road (E.V.R.Salai officially) there were hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries, scan centres and pharmacies. So my topic was born. I decided to write about the hospitals and dispensaries that I've visited.

Actually hospital is a word which I despise. I can hear your comments “as if we all love it!" Of course, other than the doctors, nurses and other people working in the hospital, I don't think anybody would love it. But all of us, whether healthy or not, have to go to hospitals. Even if we do not go there for our own treatment, we have to visit hospitals to visit our near and dear. I've tried to narrate my visits to the hospitals (which includes nursing homes and dispensaries also).

As far as I remember, my first visit to the hospital was when I was 12 or 13 year old. It was a nursing-home and I had gone to see Vanajakka and Radha who was born. Nursing-homes are of course better-looking than hospitals. But the first hospital visit was when I went along with my mother to see Janaka mami (my mother's younger brother's wife) who had undergone an operation for breast cancer. I think that was the time when my dislike of hospitals was born.

During my Pollachi days, my parents used to take us to our family doctor's house when we fell ill. We used to have a family doctor in Tanjore as well. So I don't remember visiting any hospital in these places. At Kancheepuram, appa fell ill and was taken to the hospital by my brother. My father came back after the treatment was over the same day. Hence I didn't have the opportunity to visit the hospital there. Just after Pushpakka's marriage, appa was seriously ill and was hospitalised. He was suffering from acute stomach pain and was looking anemic even before the marriage. But he had been given injections and medicines and was made somewhat fit to enable him to attend the marriage sitting in a chair. He underwent the operation for peptic ulcer only after the marriage. That was the first time I entered the General Hospital. I did not realise that I'd be entering that hospital a number of times. Since appa was eligible for a special room, the atmosphere was not bad.I used to go daily after having early lunch (around 10), taking appa's food as well as my tiffin along with 3, 4 magazines and paper. Appa used to read the paper and sleep most of the time, sometimes in the sitting posture with a pillow pressing his stomach. That posture of his disturbed me a lot. He was a very active person and we always found it difficult to walk at his pace as most of the times we were made to run! But here he was lying on the bed. At around 5 in the evening, I would start from there. I was able to go there daily as I had just finished my college exams. I think appa was there for 3 weeks. In December 2001, Appa had a stroke and was admitted in G.H. I came from Mumbai and was shocked to see him in that paralysed position.Raghu,Vidya and Nitya were also there and I cannot forget how shaken Nitya was on seeing appa as well as the general atmosphere of GH.

I don't think amma went to any hospital before she was 80. When she was staying with us in Aynavaram, I used to take her to Dr.Satish Rao in Trinity Hospital in Mylapore. Anna and Santhanam anna would come there directly. The hospital and the doctor were both good. Amma used to go to G.H. both as outpatient and inpatient once or twice in a year.But the atmosphere in the Nephrology section was nauseating. There used to be at least one death a day and the patients would howl with pain which made us sick. There are two amusing incidents. The first was when an ayah had been arranged for the night. We told amma to remember her name which was Panchali. Amma replied,’ I won't forget. I'd associate it with the Pandavas.' Next morning she called out for Draupadi! The second was when amma told me with a serious face, ' They are taking so much blood from me that I feel they are selling it.' GH, Chennai after renovationAmma spent her last days in GH. But this was in ICU which was cleaner and GH itself had been renovated when Jayalalitha was Chief Minister. I still remember how happy amma looked when all of us - my husband, Harish, Archana, Aarthi and I called on her (Hema and Nitya were already there) on the evening of 1st December 2006. Of course she was very sad at not being able to attend Harish-Archana's wedding that morning. She spent quite some time talking with us.

My mother-in-law was admitted in Raju hospital near T.Nagar bus-stand in 1996, when my husband was in Tinsukia. Aarthi and I had come to Madras and I was with her for 2 days during the day-time. That hospital was o.k. She was there for 2 weeks. She was later admitted in a small Nursing Home in Mandaveli run by Dr.Madhavan in the year 1999 where she spent a week. She spent more than a year in the Geriatric ward of VHS Hospital, Adyar where we've visited her a number of times - during every visit of ours from Mumbai to Chennai. By then she was already bed-ridden. Once my brother Raghu (who had come from Australia) and I went in the evening and there was not much light in the ward. But she said,' Vaa Amritha. Raghu, eppadi irukke?' I was amazed by her sharp eyesight even when she was nearly 80. She also spent her last days in a hospital, viz., Railway Hospital, Perambur. But since she was unconscious and was in ICU, we could only see her a few times a day.

I remember the time when Vanajakka underwent a major operation at Isabella Hospital and there used to be a lot of visitors for her. At any given time, there would be at least 5 people. Of course, that is normal in our family. In the year 2003, she was admitted in the B.S.S. hospital near Mandaveli terminus for low sugar and the doctors and nurses were very strict in not allowing the visitors, thus spoiling the family's image. We also went to Kaliappa Hospital in R.A.Puram once to see Vanajakka. She was in ICU and only one at a time was allowed inside that too with the pass for carrying food. So each of us carried the same tiffin box inside, saw her, came out and handed over the pass and the tiffin-box to the next person. I don't even know whether the tiffin-box contained anything! We remembered this incident when we recently went there to see Jaya akka (sister of Adyar athimber as well as Vijaya manni). We also saw that the name of the hospital has been changed to Billroth Hospital.

Sundaram Foundation hospital in Anna Nagar is a huge one and well kept. We went there first to see SriVaishnavi (my husband's brother Raghu's grand-daughter) who was born there in 2004. Later we went there to have our master check-up. We found the tariff to be reasonable and the doctors were also efficient. In fact we prefer to go there for our regular check-up even though Railway hospital is free. My husband says he does not trust Railway hospital for diagnosis, but that it is OK for treatment. We again went there when my sister-in-law Vijaya underwent a knee operation in January this year. The family norm of a large number of visitors had been restored. Of course Vijaya manni has 6 siblings. Once when we went there were already 7 pairs of chappals outside! When we went, Raman (her brother) came out and moved all the chappals inside as he felt that some doctor or nurse may object at knowing that so many visitors have come. After all enga kudumbam perisu (we're a big family)! We had gone to the Military hospital in St. Thomas Mount, Chennai only once to see Ravi (Urmila's husband). When we went there, the patient was nowhere to be seen. It seems Ravi was geting bored and had gone on a 'round'. One of our most recent visits to a hospital was to Ramachandra Medical College & Hospital in Porur when SriVaishnavi underwent her heart surgery. This is a huge hospital where one can get lost. I was amused when two persons were mechanically sticking the green-coloured 'visitors' stickers on the shirt or the sari of each visitor. I couldn't make out why it was done as nobody checked it nor was it handed over when we left. We could not visit my brother Raghu in Chennai, Gopalan anna in Bangalore and Radha in Chennai when they were admitted in hospitals as we were away in Chittaranjan, Vadodara and Mumbai and my husband could not get leave.

My manni,Rajeevi was in G.H. (I think GH seems to be the favourite hospital for the family) for a week. I had come from Mumbai at that time and had visited her a few times. I've visited Periya athimber (Adyar Kannan athimber) in hospitals twice. The first was unforgettable for us as it was when MGR died. We were coming from Bombay and came to know near Renigunta that MGR had passed away. When our train reached Arakkonam, there was a heavy crowd as many trains to Madras had been terminated there due to riots in Madras. Fortunately after a 2-hour halt, our train was taken to Madras and we reached at 10.00 PM. The Railway vehicle which was supposed to pick us up wasn't there. Autos demanded exorbitant prices and were unsafe as none could guarantee a safe passage upto Mandaveli. Finally we found that suburban trains were running. We (my husband, Harish, Aarthi and I) walked across to Park station and took a train to Kodambakkam where my sister, Pushpakka's house is opposite the Railway station. Pushpa akka would not at first open the door fearing we were rioters. Only after she heard my voice did she open the door. Periya athimber was in GH (same GH). We could visit him only after the funeral of MGR was over after which the city came to normalcy. Many people including patients suffered as food could not be supplied. But athimber's brothers Varadan and Raman cleverly managed to supply food to him. They carried the flag of AIADMK party on their two-wheeler and had no problem anywhere! The second time when athimber was hospitalised was in 2003 when he had the by-pass surgery done in Madras Medical Mission hospital at Mugappair.This was the best hospital among all the hospitals I have seen. Though expensive, the treatment, the attention given to the patients and the food were all very good. The Heart Department here has the statue of Anjaneya with Rama in his heart saying 'world's first open-heart surgery' and the Transplant Department has the statue of Ganesha saying 'world's first head transplant'!

My second Athimber (Mr.Varadachari) underwent Acupuncture treatment in 2006 at Nungambakkam and I went with akka and athimber to the dispensary once. The treatment seemed to be o.k. though Athimber didn't survive for long after the treatment. When he was staying with us in Arumbakkam, he was advised 'drips'. So we took him to Appasamy Hospital near our house. This is a nice and reasonably-priced place. But they are 'delay-masters'. Have you heard of anybody delaying the acceptance of cash? They took nearly 30 minutes to prepare the bill and take the cash. I cannot forget my next visit to see him in a hospital which was in Bangalore. It was sad to see him with all the tubes and suffering. When my husband, Choodakka, Pushpakka, Hema and I were on our way to the hospital on 2nd August 2006, we heard the sad news that Mr. Varadachari had breathed his last at about 10.00 AM.

The only times that I've visited my sisters in hospitals were when their children were born. Most of my nephews and nieces were born in Gosha hospital in Triplicane. The official name of this hospital is Kasturba Gandhi Hospital For Women & Children. But it is known to everyone only as Gosha hospital.

After we moved to Madras, our house in Mandaveli Street was just opposite Dr.Krishnan's dispensary, where I had gone a number of times with tonsils problem. There used to be a dispensary near Venkatesa Pharmacy in Madaveli where I had gone 3, 4 times for treatment for fever. In 1971, I had a peculiar, rather embarrassing problem. There was itching in my left hand between the fingers and small boils erupted due to my constant scratching.Then,I used to think of Karna who didn't even move when the bee was biting his thigh due to which he was bleeding profusely but still bore the pain so that his Guru, Parasurama could sleep well on his lap. But I belong to the majority of people who scratch if it itches. Unfortunately, Hema also got it from me (Hers was not as severe as mine). She had it in 2 fingers. Since there was not much improvement in Allopathy, we went in for Ayurvedic treatment.I was given an apple-green coloured ghee and a'legiyam'.The ghee was supposed to be taken in the morning in empty stomach. I felt like vomiting when I took it on the first day. So amma used to keep a tumbler of water and coffee ready and I just gulped the ghee and drowned it with water and then coffee in that order! There was herbal oil also which I applied 2 times daily. The problem persisted for a month and then only gradually I became all right.Hema's vanished in 2 weeks. That was my only visit to an Ayurvedic dispensary.

After marriage in 1973, I don't remember visiting any hospital till 1975. We were in Secunderabad when I conceived Harish.Though I went to the Railway Hospital a few times, I don't remember much of the hospital as I had my delivery in the Railway Hospital at Perambur,Madras in September 1975. I stayed in the hospital for just 3 days. I used to go there for regular monthly check-ups with appa. Dr.Janaki, who attended on me, was very kind and I still remember her face. The hospital on the whole was quite clean as only railway employees go there and was not much crowded. The next time I went to Perambur Hospital was in 1979. The girl that was born survived just a few minutes. It was a traumatic experience and it took me a long time to stop thinking about that child.

Chittaranjan hospital was a small one compared to Perambur hospital. But Harish was a healthy baby and I think we went to the hospital just once or twice in our four-year stay. But when we were in Kota, he had tonsils problem and the doctor advised penicillin injections. Harish had nearly 50 of them! We had the first 10 or so in the hospital. Later the nurse used to come home and administer the injection to him. My husband was also admitted there for a minor operation. Later his colleagues were pulling his legs for being a brave man in getting operated by Dr. Sikrodia. So I was worried and asked a friend whether the doctor had a bad reputation. He smiled and said,’ No, Mrs. Parthasarathy. He's a very good surgeon, but has more family planning operations than any other surgery to his credit!' Aarthi was born in Vadodara Railway Hospital. My mother-in-law and my niece Chithra were there to assist me during that time. I remember the hospital well as I had gone there a number of times taking Harish and Aarthi. When my husband had a hair-line fracture (while playing wall-squash in the house with Harish), he had the treatment (dressing mainly) in the Railway Staff College dispensary.

BARC hospital in Anushakti Nagar, Mumbai was very good. I went there mainly for dental treatment and the dental section was much better than the ones in the Railway hospitals. One day when we were waiting for Dr. Munim, the dental surgeon to be free, my husband said, 'Poor Dr. Munim. I pity him. All he gets to see are the cavities and spoilt teeth in people's bad-smelling mouths.' I was laughing about this for a long time. When we lived in Juhu,we used to go to a lady-doctor for Aarthi as she often fell ill and refused to take leave from school (She had a 100% attendance throughout her schooling). So I used to take her to the doctor, get the medicines and then leave her in the school. Luckily she had afternoon-shift (1 to 5-30).So it suited us. The doctor was so good that Aarthi would become all right within a day! In an expensive place like Bombay the fee that she collected was just Rs.30/- which included the medicines for 2 days!

After coming to Badhwar Park, Railway colony,Colaba, we never went to any private hospital, except for Aarthi's and my dental problems, as the dental department in the railway hospital was not well-equipped. There was a dispensary in Badhwar Park itself and the main hospital for Central Railway was in Byculla and for Western Railway in Mumbai Central. I had gone to all of them a few times.

In 1996, Harish, Aarthi and I had gone to Tinsukia from where Harish returned to Pune and the three of us came to Chennai. It was at that time that my husband had a heart problem. Fortunately the railway hospital in Perambur is supposed to be the best for heart-problems. I can never forget the journey from Adyar to Perambur in Santhanam Anna's car with Choodakka, Athimber and Santhanam Anna driving the car. We were all anxiously looking at my husband who was sweating profusely, but was adamant that he should be taken to Railway hospital only. But we were happy when the stretcher was waiting for our arrival and treatment started the moment he arrived. By God's grace, the angiogram showed an aneurism (a bulge in an artery) which was supposed to be congenital. In fact my husband was happy when Dr.Abraham told him that his problem was more common among the Japanese. We were all relieved that medicines, exercise and diet were only recommended. But the first week in the hospital of which 3 days were in ICU was the longest week in my life. I was so upset that I also became a patient in the same hospital and was administered drips. My husband was in ICU and I was in the special ward. Radha who came to see my husband was shocked and was nice enough to spend the night with me. Fortunately I became all right the next day. Though he spent another week in the hospital, it was eased by the visitors (as usual, large numbers of them), TV in the room and a feeling of relief. I remember that Pushpakka, Urmila, Radha, myself and the patient played 'mail' - the family's card-game.

In 2000 in Bombay, my husband had a peculiar problem of fainting suddenly. This happened for the first time when he fainted in front of his PA, Arun Nair. Arun got very scared and he immediately took him to the hospital. He rang up home and sent a vehicle for me. In the hospital, all tests were taken. He was kept for a day in the I.C.U and I too stayed with him. He became all right the next day itself, though I cannot forget the expression on Arun's face till now. After a year and a half one fine evening, my husband fell in the bathroom (The new-tiled bathroom was wet which he didn't notice and went in a rush with a glass in hand and fell). Aarthi and I ran to the bathroom and saw him lying on the floor, proudly showing the juice-glass and telling us "Paaru,Naan vizhundhalum glass tumbler udayalai" (See, the glass hasn't broken despite my fall).Then he got up, came to the hall to watch the Champions Trophy cricket match between New Zealand and India. After about an hour when I called him for dinner, he came and told me that his head was spinning and he couldn't stand and saying that he fell in a heap!Aarthi and I were seeing this for the first time and were very scared. Hearing our shouts, the servant,Sunitha came running from the kitchen and all of us lifted him and he gained conscience within a few seconds and talked normally.Aarthi immediately rang up for the doctor who was staying in the same building in a different floor.Harish who was in the bathroom, came running. We took him to the bedroom which was some 15 feet away and made him lie down. The doctor came and examined him and in his presence my husband fell down once again. Then a Neuro-specialist also came and they both examined him. They couldn't find anything abnormal and so told him to take rest that night without moving and go to the hospital the next day. That night turned out to be a sleepless night for both Harish and me. In the morning, ignoring my repeated requests to have his washing and cleaning the teeth sitting in the bed, he adamantly went to the bathroom telling me that it was just 4,5 steps from the bed! But alas! He again fainted and Harish got furious and scolded him for this. We immediately called for the ambulance and went to the Byculla hospital. Byculla Railway HospitalAfter several tests and C.T scan at Bombay hospital, they found out the cause. His body was not able to withstand the internal pain at the back. Whenever he pressed his legs on the floor to move, he fell down swooning. The black out lasted for just a few seconds. The technical name for his problem was told to us but now we can't remember it. All he needed was complete rest for a few days. So he was in the hospital for 4 days .We all went in turns to be with him. Finally, when he was able to walk continuously for 5 minutes without fainting, he was discharged.

The day after we moved to Aynavaram, Aarthi had taken some tablet which caused an allergy and caused swelling of her face. My husband took her to Railway Hospital, Perambur and rang up after some time saying that Aarthi is in ICU. I rushed there and found Aarthi surrounded by a medical team. She, however, looked amused and said,I don't know why for an allergy, so much fuss is made.' The doctor said she had to be under observation for 24 hours. By evening, however, she was discharged after we told the doctor that we were staying near the hospital. In the meanwhile, Pushpa akka had rung up for me and my husband had coolly said,'Amritha is attending Aarthi who is in ICU.' There were a lot of worried calls. But all's well that ends well. My most recent visit to a hospital was to Manipal Hospital in Bangalore on 24th April where Archana had been admitted for observation. I'd reached Bangalore by Lalbagh Express at 9.00 PM. After dinner, Harish and I went to the hospital and Archana was discharged at 10.30 PM.

My only wish is that I shouldn't be admitted to any hospital during my last days. My husband used to tell Aarthi when she was young "What you wish and what you get are two different things”. In this case I hope to get what I wish!.

June 2007

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