Monday, May 30, 2011

Cell phone to the rescue

I was a late entrant into the world of cell phones. I used to think at first that only folks like doctors , emergency services like police, fire etc would benefit from these so they could respond faster.

Slowly, cell phones became a "required item" for everyone. It was de rigeur, to give folks minute to minute updates on your bus trips to and from work. It was de rigeur to do mass messaging of some stupid jokes. Amazingly, sometimes narcissism flowered unknowingly, as folks photographed themselves with their own cellphones, holding them in front, now that cameras had a become de rigeur on phones. And when all was done, you stuck two probes in your ears, wore wires like garlands, and walked around , looking, as if you were a lost case , and were talking and guffawing to yourself; all because you wanted to use what was called "hands-free".

Then I heard about the "missed call" system. Reams have been written about the innovative usage of these in India, from simply sending a preplanned message via a terminated call, to running an entire autorickshaw-on-request system, in Kakinada , at no cost to either consumer.

One birthday dinner at a well known Marathi traditional food place in Pune, saw a young girl photograph a wonderfully filled plate with all the goodies, and upload it on Facebook; her cousin in the US who was a FB friend was impressed , and immediately sent back a "like", and shared the photo with others, one of whom was actually celebrating the birthday at that moment in India, at the lunch !

I recently heard of a more serious use.

An old grandpa in Bengaluru had cataract surgery. He was so impressed with the results that he complimented the doctor profusely, and then decided to go on a special thanksgiving pilgrimage. Certain part of the pilgrimage was to be done barefoot. And by and by the family returned home. Except, grandpa was a diabetic for many years, and his foot had now caught some infection. Typically, the hurting foot was treated first with household remedies, wraps, massages, etc etc, without success. It was an angry reddish swollen sight, very painful, and mobility was getting affected. So it was finally decided to operate before the danger of gangrene manifested itself.

Grandpa's only son , X. , was there throughout , and everyone breathed a sigh of relief after grandpa recovered from the surgery and was brought into the hospital room. X was married to a girl whose mother was a doctor in Mumbai. The doctor from Mumbai had called earlier to find out how things were going. X took a photo on his cell phone , and sent it to his ma-in-law, so she could see for her self.

Soon it was evening, and a relieved family brought out their dabbas and had a dinner of sorts in the waiting area. Grandpa too, was allowed a meal. He was helped up , and he had some excellent home made food . The energy seemed to be returning back, and people stopped by to chit chat with grandpa. This went on for some time.

Sometime later, a cleaning staff member, on a routine visit to the room, suddenly looked aghast at grandpa's foot , and what he said threw everyone into a tizzy. The foot was slowly dripping blood, and a pool was forming on the floor. And no one had noticed, including grandpa.

It was sometime before the doctors would arrive, but X had in the meanwhile got alarmed, called his ma-in-law, and sent her the picture of the bleeding foot and its environs. She immediately realised that no one had informed the patient or his relatives about keeping the leg appropriately elevated, and not letting it hang down like this. She even uploaded the photo on her computer to see it in detail, and promptly told her son-in-law what was happening.

Grandpa needed to lie down, slightly elevating the leg. They needed to ensure that grandpa's loss of blood had not adversely affected his Hb levels, his blood pressure needed to be confirmed, and she stayed alert , as X , sent her photographs of the wound which was now being attended to by hospital staff, stitches being checked etc etc. When the duty doctor checked the BP and did blood tests , X informed her, so she could tell him if it was a cause for worry or no. The sight of wounds, blood, dressings, stuff dripping all over etc was so traumatic, that X also sent her pictures of the finished dressing , to confirm, if she thought it was OK. Naturally, given grandpa's age, and diabetes, loss of blood, surgery etc, she asked X to stay at the bedside the whole night and keep observing grandpa. Ensure that the leg was at a slight elevation, and not allowed to hang down . And contact the resident doctor immediately and then her, if he noticed certain signs.

The next day dawned , and grandpa had recovered well. The dressing on the foot looked a bit frightening. The wound and the blood was under control. X called his mother-in-law with the news (and latest closeups of the stuff), checked if he could leave for a short while and then left when some other family member took over.

Grandpa returned home after a couple of days and is now fine. This episode happened almost a couple of months ago.

It is a fact, that sometimes, health care entities do not educate the patient and the attending relatives on the things to be careful about , post surgery. Things like the post surgical normal position of the limb in question, whether the person can use a pillow, whether water can be given to a patient when demanded ; so many things. Even simple things like which pills must be given with food, and which ones when fasting. Sometimes patients hesitate to ask the doctors, sometimes overcome by the aura of the expertise. Some people hesitate to ask the doctor thinking he /she will get angry. I've seen folks going into huddled whispers when the doctor comes on a visit. When they should actually be listening carefully and asking questions related to the patients well being and perceived difficulties.

It's not as if grandpa in the above story, would have had problems , if X had not called someone who was a doctor in Mumbai and related too. But he was able to ensure that post bleeding, the blood pressure , haemoglobin was being checked and followed up, and was able to confirm with his Mumbai contact what the local doctor was saying. His ability to stay alert throughout the night checking up on grandpa, his sleep, alertness and movement of the leg, possibly also kept some local paramedical folks on their toes.

And there is something to be said, for a son, thanks to some reassuring advice, getting some peace of mind, after all that "bloody" excitement, as he sat by his father's bedside, the whole night, keeping the truant limb in sight.

Such a great use of a cell phone, for someone not familiar with medicine, surgery, and the likes. But very very familiar with what all the cell phone could do.

I just thought this was such an amazing use of the cell phone ....


  1. That is such a wonderful use of the cell phone..It certainly makes one feel good about the cell phone.

  2. Yes, X could have yelled for a nurse, who could have fetched a doctor, and everything would probably have turned out the same, but he wouldn't have had the peace of mind he gained from his mother-in-law's help via cell phone. With X feeling better about the situation, he would pass the secure feeling on to Grandpa, who would then sleep better with X watching knowledgeably all night.
    I'm an old lady, too, and not a big fan of cell phones, usually using mine when I'm in British Columbia visiting my family, or taking it with me when I'm driving in case of an emergency, but I certainly enjoyed reading about the role a cell phone played in this case. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. wow! hats off to the cell-phone in this case for doing the needful and some more :)