Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What your orthopedic doctor won't tell you :-)

He was about 78 then.

An avid practitioner of Yoga since his teenage years, he was finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that despite a weight-under-control, and blood tests with values, which would qualify for a special framing , there was this pain in his back that refused to go away. A very exercise conscious, enthusiastic walker, and admirer of all things Ayurvedic, he sometimes handled things on will power alone, and managed to succeed.

Something his children observed , again and again, as he traipsed through his geriatric years.

In their own childhood, his children often practiced their own version of yoga alongside him, trying to copy him, as he did his deep breathing and Pranayam, often exhaling in a certain audible tone, (which was how the exercise was actually supposed to be done); and his children would sit, performimg alongside and suddenly "up" the volume of their moans, as they pretended to follow, till out of the corner of their half open eyes, they saw their mother approaching them , reproach in her eyes, shaking her head, and signalling them to vamoose from there if they couldn't behave. Headstands were an opportunity to test how books balanced themselves on his upturned feet, till the children themselves grew up and realized the merits of trying to walk with books balanced on their heads.......

By and by, the grandchildren happened. Trips to visit him were always fun for them, as there were numerous visits to parks and hills near their homes, where interesting snacks like peanuts and cucumbers were carried alongside, and imbibed by sweating, red-faced kids, as they looked forward to a visit to the sugarcane juice person on the hill temple, who was so old, he had even served the juice to their parents.....

There would be yoga exercises after returning, and recitation of prayers, and lots of giggling over some young cousins' drastic mispronunciation of Sanskrit.

This time his back started hurting really badly. To the point that he couldn't sit on a chair at all. He could stand, or lie down, and nothing in between.He would lie on his stomach and his wife would help him with the tray of food, as he occasionally winced in pain. He would come up with these amazing Ayurvedic herbal wraps he wanted his wife to prepare. This were things which were grated,cooked, mixed, applied and smeared on his back. His wife was an angina patient, almost his age, and apart from the varied preparation at odd hours, she was not able to help him turn, which involved a bit of lifting, which was contraindicated for her.

His married daughter was visiting then and his wife conspired to get him to go see an orthopaedic surgeon nearby. The daughter and son-in-law would assist with the lifting etc. Of course, sitting in a wheelchair was out.He simply refused to hear that.

His wife had earlier briefed the young orthopaedic doctor on this possibly difficult patient. In the community, she knew most of the doctor's aunts and uncles, and as such, the doctors were always respectful of age, as they dealt with wilful folks. She had rejoiced with their parents when , as youngsters, they got admission into med school, and given them gifts when they came by; almost always to bend an touch the feet of elders, as they distributed sweets to celebrate the success.....

They were called in as soon as they arrived. The old man assumed the demeanor of someone actually doing a huge favour to the doctor by appearing there.

He winced as he lay down. Looked at the doctor with skepticism as he listened to talk about X-rays, MRI's and even surgeries. Shook his head.

"I wont do any X-ray or MRI. If you want you can look at my last years stuff. its just a way of enhancing the cost to the patient.....And why do you talk about surgery ? So much expense, people believe you, and then things continue , as they have been before. Hmm. What a rip off ......"

His daughter looked down. She knew where all this was leading. She quickly brought up the topic of pain relief . The doctor prescribed a bunch of stuff, carefully explaining what each medicine did. NSAID's, antacid/enzymes to ease the stomach after ingesting the meds, and so on.

"Are you sure you are NOT giving antibiotics ? Because I will not take them ", and he glared at the doctor and his daughter.

You normally didn't glare at your son-in-law.

They came home. That night,
lying down horizontal, he argued with his daughter for an hour about taking the pain reliever.

She was the only one, who never gave up. Probably got it from him.

With a great celebration of relief the prescribed pain reliever was taken, along with the various wraps and stuff that were a nightly program.

Next morning, when the daughter woke up, she saw her father, miraculously , sitting at the dining table, having his breakfast, with her mother. She knew it was the NSAID, which had brought temporary relief, and thereby a little enhancement in quality of life. And here was her father, waxing eloquent on the use of herbal wraps, how the stuff had worked for him, how the doctor was actually useless, and how this was a victory for Ayurveda. Sometime during the day, when the pain looked like it was returning, he quietly took another pill.

What he did after that was amazing.

His was a case of severe disc herniation. Age was a big cause. He used the relief from the NSAID's to go visit a yoga-orthopaedic clinic run by an orthopaedic surgeon who adapted yoga for his use. They taught him exercises , mild ones, to be done, in the house, using some kind of thickish rope, and the dining table surface. Some exercises were done with pillows.

He religiously did these exercises every single day. He visited the clinic once a fortnight where they evaluated his progress, and advised some alternate exercises. Soon he was up and about. They had a problematic car sitting in the garage, he didn't like it at all, and he always walked to the clinic.

He would walk past the original orthopaedic doctor's office, and kind of give the place a smug look, hoping that the young doctor would look out of the window and see him saunter by.

His daughter came by for a visit during her children's vactions. He was back to his activities with the children. Visiting parks, the hill. Their car had been, in the meanwhile, repaired , much to his chagrin, but it worked for driving short distances when the children were there, the cousins joined in, and taking the car was a good management alternative.

He was out with the children once and going through a rather biggish pothole, the car battery left its moorings, and tumbled down on the starter, where the spilling acid, burned up stuff and there was a loud noise and smoke. The children thought this was super exciting, he had an "I told you so" , look on his face, and that was the end of the car. He preferred to walk...

Into his eighties, he continued his yoga and his walking and the special exercises. Niggling health issues were summarily dismissed, as were some doctors. After the death of his wife, his daughter took upon herself the mantle of consulting suitable doctors, as age related medical situations arose. There was always a separate visit by her to the doctors, which was required before he agreed to see them. This was so she could alert them about his convictions and apologize in advance for any fearless drastic telling-off that he might do.

Some of the doctors looked upon him with awe. Many times he would surprise them, with his energy and blood values, not to mention, his firm conviction that they were wrong. :-)

Diagnosed with an abdominal aneurysm beyond the danger size, he was soon uncomfortable with the exercise restrictions the doctor suggested, and threw away the medications that the doctor said would not worsen things. Whats more, he called up the doctor and told him that. (His daughter was distraught. The doctor told her that a simple fall could burst the aneurysm, and it would be instantly fatal. )

His organs were tiring out, his legs didn't support him anymore, and he actually used a "chair with small luggage-type wheels" rather than a wheel chair, around the house.

Sometime during his last days, a doctor /surgeon friend of his daughter, who came to visit, was alarmed at how blithely we treated the abdominal area (whenever we had to move him), where the aneurysm could now be visually noticed, thanks to his minimal fat.

Then, on examination, he found out , something nobody had realized. The dangerous, shaky walled aneurysm , hitherto considered a danger thing, had actually calcified, and was actually not a threat anymore.

A few months before he passed away, he once sat in the balcony, having a herbal tea with his daughter , and told her, how more than anything else, a mental attitude, that said "I will overcome this" , repeated to yourself frequently, actually helped you heal faster.

She had a distinct suspicion, Someone Up There had been listening to him all along.....


  1. Cool post. :) I should make someone out here read it too.

  2. Lovely post!

    Maybe what he (your father?) believed is true. There are so many things that cannot be proved or disproved by science.

  3. G have a look at kabir Baug . Dr Karandikar is the person who treated him.

    manjuThank you. In fact , it has been even scientifically proved that a certain mindset/frame of mind/attitude, actually helps heal better, and its not always about medicines...and did you recognize the "rasacha gurhaalwala" on Parvati ?:-)

  4. Sometimes when there stories like these you realise that it is indeed possible that you could bend a metal plate with your mind !

    Well, thats almost whats happened here. With steely resolve if what was an 'unretreivable' situation was retrieved...well, what else isnt possible.

    And then, it makes me look around and my daily rants of my 'problems' and suddenly feel 'pygmied' !

    You inspire.

  5. He sounds like my father in law in his stubborness to accept "modern" things. He had a heart attack and didn't say anything for three weeks. There was some damage to his heart, but he is now 92 and he and my mother in law, 91, are still living on their own.

  6. I have always believed that attitude is 90% of the healing process. My brother, a cancer patient, continued to live for several years after being diagnosed as terminal. He always said, "This isn't going to get me." He did, however, continue with chemotherapy and followed doctor's orders.

  7. mental strength has always been a strong part of the healing process... you have to believe you will be well.
    I like the diagram you made of doing the exercise using the dining table :D

  8. My Dad is the same. Do you do yoga? I think I would like to harness some of their grit and determination!! Brilliant story Ugich.

  9. My sister is 77, lives alone, mows her own yard with a push mower, has not been to a doctor in years and does not even wear glasses to read. She takes no medicine and does not believe in doctors. She recently lost her youngest daughter to cancer. She is the strongest woman I have ever known and always manages to amaze me. She totally believes that your mind controls your health and that attitude makes a big difference.

  10. inspiring story, ugich! and i take from your post something valuable as always...

    now, to make it work :)

  11. heheheh.. Oh Suranga, this one fairly cheered me up and I could see in my mind's eye my Dad doing the same thing... It was Alzheimers combined with a cold going into a bad chest infection that finally took him.

    He walked for miles throughout his lifetime and even in his latter stages (78 yrs) he walked about 18 miles to the golf course one day where he had a part-time job after he retired because he had got it into his mind that he was on duty that day. (his job was as a sort of night porter- which he loved). My Mum was demented with worry. The police found him and brought him home...

    He used to give us butter or margarine dipped in sugar if any of us had a sore throat - eeeek! disgusting!! Oh the memory!

    These oldies could teach us a thing or two...

  12. Kavi You got it right. Yes. One suddenly does feel pygmied. And one feels priviledged to have been there to learn about life.

    Amber star, Darlene I always feel these folks have so much guts to face life and anything that it brings. I wonder if we can ever measure up ...

    Roshni I have been privildged to meet so many elderly folks of this type, and its a great learning opportunity.

    Lilly With all our fancy technologically enabled lives, we are not a patch on these elderly folks and their ability to face things with guts and grit.....

    Judy I would have loved to meet your sister ....!

    Suma You know , when you yourself hit 60, you start being amazed at how much you learnt from these folks and how right they were at times....

    kate Yikes. Butter/Margarine dipped in sugar ? My father followed naturopathy, and he used to call butter, white sugar, and refined flour the three poisons.....

  13. Determination so often does what doctors cannot.

  14. A few months before he passed away, he once sat in the balcony, having a herbal tea with his daughter , and told her, how more than anything else, a mental attitude, that said "I will overcome this" , repeated to yourself frequently, actually helped you heal faster.

    This is so true. Firm positive faith .

  15. Sucharita, Vinita At the end of the day, its all about mental strength, isnt it ?

  16. There's no doubt in my mind Suranga that 'mind over matter' is a very strong philosophy.

    I love the little MSPaint image ...
    June in Oz

  17. He sounds so much similar to my mother in law. She just refuses to take any medicines other than ayurvedic. She tremendously trust everything yoga and everything suggested in naturopathy. But unlike him she doesnt totally refuse to go to the doctor. She gets the diagnosis about her condition from the doctor thru blood tests etc and treats herself with yoga and Ayurveda.

  18. Totally agree with your suggestion.. Very nice post and good information here..Thanks for posting that.... Read