Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Things we always knew......

There was a time when we were so smitten by "research" publishing per se, particularly in the medical field, that we regarded it, as words from some clever oracle. With the Internet came instant announcements of findings, mailing lists, and so on, and people like me signed up.

I have now come to the conclusion that all these guys are announcing stuff that we actually knew and practiced ages ago.

Take Gold . That, used in trace amount scientifically, it has curative properties was well known in the Indian Medicine Systems. The paper today suddenly highlights its use vis-a-vis cancer, as discovered by folks at Griffith University and University of Western Australia.

Then there is this amazing announcement that says, that walking around the hospital reduces hospital stays for the elderly, ( Archives of Internal Medicine. Drs Shadmi and Zisberg of the University of Haifa, Israel)

I've known about the first for years, and my late father was an avid practitioner of the second.

When my son was born, all the native traditions kind of kicked in , where his well being was concerned. Daily pre-bath massages with special oil, with attention to the fontanel area, massaged just so. A post bath nap in a room earlier subject to cleansing fumes from some vegetable seeds thrown on burning embers, warm water with honey, fed silver spoon by silver spoon.

But what was interesting was the water. Tradition and old native medicinal systems recommended that water with traces of certain plants and gold was beneficial. And so the water , that was boiled and cooled for drinking, enjoyed boiling with a small pliable ring of gold along with some colic reducing seeds , all this for say 15-20 minutes. It was important that the gold was pure, and the pliability ensured that. Making gold ornaments involved adding other metals to toughen and firm up the final product, and that reduced purity. And various social traditions ensured, that you always had a gram of pure gold stores away somewhere in a box in your cupboard. Of course age, increased activity, and a working mother ensured that by and by gold faded away from the scene, but the memories remain.

This business about walking to reduce hospital stays , actually happened by instinct.

Well into his eighties, my father had one parameter that decided how healthy he was. He had these daily walks, which were also incorporated into social visits when he had to take a rickshaw to go somewhere; he stopped the rickshaw, say, a kilometre away and walked from there. You can say walking was an obsession. It gave him a feeling of strength.

By and by , age started catching up, and he was scheduled for some Prostatic(BPH) surgery. He was asked to check in the previous evening, now that his pain and discomfort had subsided .

We went in the next morning, early enough, to find his bed empty, his stuff lying around, and he soon returned shaking his head disapprovingly. He had gone for a stroll around the entire wing, managed to see some newspapers which he brought back with him. Since this was a major surgery, we were worried about how he was doing, and he confounded all of us by commenting on how disgusted he was now with some political party he had supported earlier , because he read in the newspapers, that they had issued extra licences for beer bars in the city . He was still shaking his head in anger when the nurse landed up for the pre-op stuff.

24 hours after the surgery , he had 4-5 different tubes coming out of /going into his body, and was getting restless. A day later , only a urine catheter remained attached, and he was encouraged to sit up, stand , and had proper meals and stuff. I spent most of my days and nights at the hospital, because he was hard of hearing, people didn't realize that, and he used that to his advantage to do pretty much what he wished. I would interact with the doctors and nurses and other staff and listen to their instructions. The doctor visited twice a day and was quite happy with the progress.

The third day dawned, and I could see him getting restless. He declared he was just fine, and wanted to move around. Not just in the room, but outside too. I could see that he was doing OK, but the catheter bag would be a problem. He couldn't have cared less.

The bag was then attached to something on the side of the bed. He stood up, we removed the urine bag from the bed attachment, and I put it in a beautiful embroidered shoulder bag that I was using for some of my stuff. He put his hand on my shoulder for some support (just in case, you know :-)...), and the two of us set out into the corridor, a six foot father in hospital clothes, with a tube emanating from the side, leading to a beautiful bag on his daughter's shoulder.

We walked down the corridor, took a turn past the general wards, where my father smiled and waved at the people, and the people gave me confused looks. We soon reached a staircase. I insisted he take it one step at a time. Something made him listen, and a bit slowly, but confidently, he held my shoulder and elbow and managed that.

We were finally out on the ground floor, having descended two floors. We wandered by the entrance, the statues in the garden honoring the founder of the place, and the lobby people simply stared at us in awe when we sauntered in. I thought we had done enough, and cajoled my father into taking the elevator back up. He agreed. We slowly trudged back to his room, beautiful bag, urine bag and all, the tube linking us both.

We ran into his doctor who had come by only to see the patient had disappeared.

People in their eighties can get away with lots of things. The doctor checked him, declared he was doing fine, actually applauded the walk, patted him on the shoulder. He called me outside and told me to anticipate going home in a couple of days.

The whole idea of the catheter and urine bag seemed to be that you needed to ensure that the urine was normal in color,quantity and constituents (earlier it was reddish), before you could remove the stuff. My father seemed to think, that all this activity would actually sort of shake up things inside, and clear the stuff. Much like shaking your head to remove water drops after coming in from some rain.

Maybe its true, maybe it is a simplistic assumption
. But we were a popular sight for the next two days, as we took our walks with my artistic bag. Now even the nurses in wards waved to us, the other doctors and juniors smiled, and the folks in the lobby started to ignore us.

Soon it was time to go home. The bag was removed. The feeling of being unshackled was exhilarating .

The urine bag went to the incinerator. My embroidered bag went to the cleaners.

We went home. My father had just proved, so many years ago , what the fellows at the University in Haifa have now published.

I told you .


  1. 'My father seemed to think, that all this activity would actually sort of shake up things inside, and clear the stuff. Much like shaking your head to remove water drops after coming in from some rain.' This is so logical! Great man and great daughter combo!

    I felt I was watching a movie...the narration made me feel like that!

    My father was 'appa' for the whole hospital staff. Thanks for reminding me of my father. He was in the hospital for rectum cancer.

  2. I am not sure i shud say Wow or what .. you have told a story in such a way ..

    I liked the last two lines .. " My father had just proved, so many years ago , what the fellows at the University in Haifa have now published"

    YOU TELL THEM that ...


  3. Sandhya Thanks for the nice comment. My father was Appa too, and even the doctors called him that. It is easy to write about this now, but at that time I was at my wits end on whether to agree to what my father wanted to do , or wait for the doctor.

    Bikram Thank you.

  4. So true. Don't they say we ignore most simple things in life ?

  5. Touching story .Brilliant narration .I could relate to it in so many levels .I lost my dad to bladder cancer .He was 56 then.Have experienced being 'at my wits end' at that time .So many things that he said makes sense to me now.One thing that he always said was ... GHAR KE BANE MAKHAN MEIN FAT NAHIN HOTA ,KHAO CHUPCHAP....I hope that too comes true :);)

  6. Kavita Thank you. So sorry to hear about your dad. 56 is so young . You must have been so young then . But yes, its is always an honor to be the caretaker at such times, and we learn so much from that ....

  7. Wow, what a story! You had me enthralled from beginning to end.

  8. People of that generation were made differently. What a stupendous story ! Sometimes what stops us from going ahead is not in the barriers that the world imposes but rather, what the mind imposes !

  9. gigihawaii Thank you !

    Kavi I agree. My father even had a habit of patting the young doctors on their backs etc when he was very pleased with them. They would call him Appa (like we did). The best part was he always pretended to agree with the doctor, and later on would argue about the same thing with me, and do exactly what he wanted.:-)