Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Remember this when you next think "Kuchh nahi hoga"

On the 26th of June, the Kingfisher Leh-Delhi flight was cancelled. Kingfisher forgot to inform all the "guests" who checked out of their hotels, with kids as young as 1.5-2 years old, and got to the airport, only to realise that there is no flight. There was no problem with the weather. The problem was a "technical snag" which means their plane broke down and they did not think of a replacement at all.
So there it was, a bunch of over 200 people (it was a full flight) , with their baggage, outside the Leh terminal, in the blistering sun, because they were denied entry into the airport terminal. These people had connecting trains/flights, had checked out of their hotel. Some of them were unwell and were looking forward to being in the pressurised container to help ease the mountain sickness.
There is only one ATM in Leh, and that one was not working. Which meant that these people were there - with no accomodation (in this season, if you check out, fat chance that you will get that room again without a prior reservation) , no cash, not too well, and in the hot sun. No explanations either.
Happens all the time, and the airline expected them to whine for a while and then go try and find hotels or whatever. The airline maintained that they are a budget airline and there will be no help at all - no acco, no alternative flight, not even an attempt to help.
EXCEPT that in this case, the passengers did not let up. They kept at it, kept asking the airline staff for reasons, for alternatives, and kept asking for the Kingfisher Airport manager to step out to tell them what's happening. Finally, the airport manager came out. He had not expected this. Passengers are expected to whine, give galis, and then go away. 2 hours later, they were still around, asking him why no alternative plane was arranged if the airline knew at 4 a.m. that the plane will not take off from Delhi.. and other very relevant questions. The Airport manager went back in, accompanied by some passengers. The airline finally agreed to give refunds, and very few passengers took that refund. The others stayed on, asking for the alternative aircraft.

When a young child showed obvious signs of illness in the hot sun, the father put him on the airport door and insisted that the terminal be opened for women and children at least. It was opened, because all the other passengers stood behind that family.

A little later, the airport manager finally managed to get an alternative aircraft for the stranded passengers. Yes, they did. And the "budget airline" also magically managed to get tea and breakfast for people who literally, hadnt had a sip of water since morning. In Leh, that can be very destructive.

Finally, about 4.5 hours after the scheduled departure of that plane, the alternative flight took off. Full marks to Jet Airways for everything. Kingfisher managed the check in queue that was allowed entry into the airport check in area, and that was a nightmare. However, from there, Jet took over and was one impressed! Queues rationalised, staff holding children so parents could check in fast, staff helping women and children to the seated area so the queues are shorter and check in faster. There are days when Jet behaves like the new IC. That day, however, one saw a glimpse of the old Jet Airways again. Thank you Jet, and no thanks to Kingfisher.

But the moral of the story is, remember that if you stick together, you CAN force even the mighty to do what they should have done right in the first place. This is the first time in all one's life, that i saw people power at work. Remember this post when you feel helpless again. All one needs to do is stick together. :-) To more such days!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Ladakh Diary - Day 6

This was the last day of our stay. We were soo looking forward to going back to terra firma where we may breathe again without worrying about breathlessness. Lots of tourists, domestic and foreign, come here and get unwell. The hotel manager was very used to taking guests to the Civil Hospital. But i did not find this mentioned in any online travelogue. Please do remember that anyone can get sick there. its not related to ur past performance in the hills at all.

Also, please dont get confident if you get through the first 72 hours. Mountain sickness can strike at any time. And it can get serious very fast.

On this day, one saw, for the first time, PEOPLE POWER at work. More on that in the next post.

The Ladakh Diary - Day 5

The mighty yet tranquil Indus - a river to love
On this day, The Other was not well and decided to stay at the hotel. He did not want a hospital visit.
I really wanted to visit Pathhar Sahib, so went on the Srinagar route.

There are some spots on this route - The Sangam, the Rafting, Hall of Fame, Magnetic Hill, Pathhar Sahib.


Sangam: The Indus meets the Zanksar at this point. The Indus is a lovely river.. blue, and tranquil even close to its source.. it gets muddy in the monsoon, but at this point, it was peace personified. The Sangam is an interesting place, but that river has touched me like no other has.
But notice the stone on the riverside. Even after centuries, these stones are not rounded like the other rivers. They are sharp - so sharp that you cannot walk there barefeet. BIG surprise, and one is still thinking of this.. why?

Magnet Hill: If you leave your car at this point, the car goes uphill without gear. The hill opposite to the spot is supposed to be a huge magnet. it takes about 5 minutes here.

Pathhar Sahib: Attached to a legend about Guru Nanak, its an important place for the Sikhs. For the others, its another tourist place. What impressed about the place was that the whole place was manned by army people who run all time tea, warm water to drink, cold water and food at lunch. It was a very clean Gurudwara and everyone was very affable. This was a special experience too.

The Ladakh Diary - Day 4


On this day, the Other went to see Lake Pangong, and I went to see the Sindhu Darshan Festival. After the lovely experience of Day 3, I did not want to attempt 17,500 feet. However, the doctor on a visit to the hotel (to see another unwell patient) checked my saturation level and at 88%, cleared a local trip.

What happened at the Sindhu Darshan festival was another story altogether. The first part of the day was dedicated to speeches by politicians and other important people. Then started the cultural festival. I just wanted to sit by the river, so went there by default.

At the river, one was apalled to see plastic floating everywhere.. people oblivious to the Seven Ups and the Aquafinas that they were surrendering to the holy river. So one got cleaning up and soon another lady joined in. Within that hour, we pulled out almost 1.5 kilos of plastic waste from 50 metres of the river stretch. But the remarkable part is what happened next.

Yours truly went looking for a dustbin. The first person in saffron whom i asked directed me to a side that had ice cream vendors and the like. I asked the vendor "Where is the dustbin?" "Just throw it here." I asked him "Is there no dustbin in the entire venue?" He stopped pulling out the icecream long enough to say that there isnt. Then, i went right to the podium, and asked for someone from the organising committee. A distinguished looking person said "Bataiye" so i asked "Sir, dustbin kahaan hai?" (Sir, where is the dustbin?) No kidding, the person looked at me as if I'd asked for a piece of the moon. He just stared for a while and then said "Aap ko dustbin kyun chahiye?" So i told him that we have abt 1.5 kilos of waste waiting for a dustbin. He understood this was a "environment vaali" and said "Mangva dete hain" .
To cut a long story short, i waited next to his seat for abt 1 hour, almost in a Gandhi style dharna. I was told that the dustbin is on its way from Leh, and Thank you for letting us know we missed placing the dustbins.

This was the second day of the 3 day Sindhu Darshan festival, with more pilgrims than you can count, and NO ONE THOUGHT OF THE DUSTBINS!

The Other liked the Pangong lake and realised that its a salt water lake, AFTER getting there. but its 9 hours in the car for about an hour of being at the lake. No tourist brochure tells you that.

Also, we found out that its possible to get mountain sickness later in your stay, because the next day, The Other got up not so bright and positively unwell.

The Ladakh Diary - Day 3

This was the day we took a trip to the Civil Hospital.
As it happened, yours truly had a case of oedema and was sent to the hospital for a checkup. Though we were expecting some degree of mountain sickness, we weren’t quite prepared for this. I was admitted on the spot and the doctor said “Under observation till 6 p.m. and then we will see.” They did not even let me go back to the hotel to grab a book! So there it was, a day when we should have been at the Tsomiriri lake, we were at the Sonam Norbu Memorial Hospital. It has really committed nurses and good doctors. The manager of the hotel came with us to make sure all went well with us. There was no place in the “tourist ward” which meant I stayed in the standard “Casualty Ward” with the oxygen pinned in. The Other was there throughout, and I felt bad for ruining his holiday. Finally, at about 5, he came back to the hotel and I got out at 6 myself. Back at the hotel, I felt much better, but that room doesn’t do much to promote one’s health, so I stayed clear out of it.
At night, the rooms get warm enough, so it was easy to manage at night.

The Ladakh Diary - Day 2


Disclaimer: This series is being done only for the benefit of junta planning a holiday to this destination. This is just our experience. Take it or leave it, or skip it.

Day 2:
We decided to start with the palaces and monastries in the Hemis Monastry segment. This trip also gave me first hand exposure to the Tibetan refugees. And the incredible wealth of the monastries. Mentally, I calculated the power and the wealth lying there, and gaped in open shock. I had no idea!!

On another note, at one place, much to our delight, the lamas were practicing the lama dance and we had such a great time watching them.

We also covered all the 3 palaces – Shey, Stok and Leh. Leh palace – the oldest and the best by far. THAT, is a piece of history, and VERY intriguing. Unlike other palaces, this one has no public gallery, private quarters et al. There are no guides, no printed material to guide one through the maze. But this, if anything, is the most intriguing part of Leh, if history is any interest of yours.

The Ladakh Diary - Day 1


This is a detailed diary being written for the benefit of junta planning a holiday to Leh - Ladakh.

You can easily skip the entire series if Leh is not on ur interest antenna.
Day 1:

We got to the airport and then to the hotel. As the taxi drove into the small guest house kind of a place, we visibly groaned. Small just about describes it. The two other guests who had arrived with us were also very disappointed. One of them asked for his money back and the other couple just left. Sure, the staff was very nice and all that, and the hotel has history attached to it, as we later found out. But if its one thing, its HUGELY overpriced. And just like a guest house, hot water is only available in the mornings and evenings. Great website, and maybe if it didn’t over promise, so many ppl wouldn’t ask for a refund. I could go on and on about the hotel, but lets leave it at that.

Day 1 was spent acclimatizing. Which basically meant sitting and reading in the hotel garden. There were some books in the hotel office and I picked up one of them.

Later in the day, we did a round of all the other hotels that we’d considered from Delhi. Here is our feedback:

Our criteria:
1. Distance from hustle, bustle, main roads and crowds. ( we wanted it far)
2. Running hot and cold water.
3. Some comfort would be nice. Electricity backup especially.
4. Warm rooms and decent view.
5. Service and warmth.

Hotel The Grand Dragon: Its situated pat on the main road, and is comfort itself. The rooms look good, the service looks ok, and we have kind of decided on this hotel for our next visit.

Hotel Namgyal Palace: Again pat on the main road, no one’s dream come true. The fittings are cheap and we basically did not like a lot about it. The website gives you views from the rooms, but does not tell you that some of the rooms open into a public patio and that the front of the hotel is on the main road.

Hotel Omasila: Pat in the middle of the market, smaller than a guest house. Am sure that the service is great, because the hotel has got great reviews from people who stayed there.

Hotel Cho palace: We saw this hotel on the fourth day, but since the reviews of all hotels are here, will add this here too. The fittings are not cheap. In fact, the rooms are very well appointed. The service looks ok and the pricing is very attractive. In short, after the Grand Dragon, this will be our second choice. And “Hotel” Shambhala, just doesn’t make the cut of a hotel. This one is on the Airport Road, so while it may not be as crowded as a main road, it is not entirely isolated. However, the village Skara is a very nice place.

Hotel Shambhala: Hugely overpriced. It IS located off the main road. Mr. Wangchook, the manager is warmth personified and was very nice to us and the other guests throughout our stay. He basically made it worth the while to stay there. We decided to continue with Shambhala for the rest of the trip, for its location and for its staff. Really warm, nice people. The hotel itself is not too well fitted. Amenities like running hot and cold water all the time, or power backup, or good rooms that dont look like a budget acco, or Wifi that is reliable, or newspaper every morning, or even a decent view, must not be expected here. What you will get, however, is no noise, clean air, a small garden that is enough for the 25 rooms, some view from the terrace, great staff (and not so great service and food).

End of Day 1.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tat Tvam asi.. sah aham asmi.. aham Brahma Asmi.

In science as we know it, there are living things and non living things.

What are the characteristics of living beings?
1. They grow.
2. They eat/consume .
3. They excrete.
4. They grow old.
5. They die.
6. They are born.

There are creatures that hibernate for centuries. Some hibernate for months. During this period, they do not eat or excrete. So, partial fulfilling of these conditions could still qualify as living, right?

Consider the human hair. It meets all the conditions above. Is the hair on our body a living thing?
Consider the things in our house. On a bad day, we find that things get misplaced more often. They are tired at the end of the day. They are better in the mornings.. even the air around us talks.

Can you imagine the difference in our perspective if we were to treat everything as if it were alive, like us? A part of the same Brahma ?

Tat tvam asi, means, you are That.

Sah Aham Asmi, means I am That.

Aham Brahma asmi, means, I am the Supreme Knowledge. I am the Brahma.

Between them, these three lines unite every living thing with each other, and with the Supreme Creator.

तत त्वम असि.
स: अहम अस्मि.
अहम ब्रह्मास्मि.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why i prefer "Blind" to "Visually Challenged"

This has been a long topic of discussion.
In general, words do not mean negative or positive. Over time, we load words with negative or positive connotations. Then, when the negative impression becomes difficult to handle, we simply replace the word with a new one, and start loading that new word with the negative connotation! How cool is that?!

What we should be doing instead, is getting rid of that negative connotation in our HEADS! For instance, take the word "blind" - its a statement of fact. Someone who cannot see. Thats all there is to it. I love this word. Being blind means i am different, not that i am in any way less or more than the next person. I dont have eyes that see as perfectly as the next person. I may have other gifts or talents.

Over a period of time, what do we do? Make "blind" a bad word, and come up with gems like "Visually disabled" and "visually challenged" . NOW it becomes a problem. disability means "the lack of ability" Challenge means.. well, challenge. Not being able to see is a statement of fact. I much prefer it to these euphemisms. We do not need euphimisms, we need to get rid of that bias in the head!
Whenever i talk to people about Esha, and mention that our beneficiaries are blind professionals, the person sometimes corrects me politely, "you mean you work with visually challenged people" In the same polite vein, i answer "No, i mean i work with people who cannot see. They are neither challenged nor disabled. The only challenge we have is that the rest of the world finds it a problem to accept them as they are."
And that, really, is my problem with euphimisms. To be deaf-mute is a factual state. To be termed challenged because of that, is really a function of an environment that makes it challenging. NOT a function of whether i am comfortable with the rest of my senses.

The rest of us do not hear or smell as well as a dog, and a dog would find us horribly challenged. But the dog is too polite to say that. And we do not think we are inadequate in any way. So why should the blind or the mute be made to feel that they are inadequate?

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Indus Valley Quiz

Yes, i am into creating quizzes these days. You can also attempt this quiz online and check your score here.

Please post your responses in the comments. Enjoy!

#1 Which of the following was not a city in the Indus Valley civilisation?

A. Mohenjodaro

B. Harappa

C. Tunis

D. Dholavira

E. Lothal

#2 The civilisation was literate - True/False?

#3 Mohenjodaro, in the local language, means "the mound of the living." - True/False?

#4 Harappa was a port city with international trade. - True/False?

#5 Which of the following is not a remarkable feature of the civilisation?

A. International trade

B. Planned cities with drainage and water supply

C. Literacy

D. Earliest known dock found in the world

E. Use of iron

#6 Which of the following is NOT a well known piece of art excavated from the towns of the civilisation?

A. Dancing Girl - Bronze

B. Priest King - Terracotta

C. Drunk Woman - Sandstone

#7 The houses of the civilisation used burnt bricks for construction, much like our times. - True/False?

#8 The Swastika can be found among the motifs in the Indus Valley script. - True/False?

#9 The use of wells in this civilisation is established.- True/False?

#10 Barley is among the known crops of the region.- True/False?

Attempting VBAC? Read this first aka Rashmi's Horror Story

This post is inspired by this horror story. Do read:
http://vijayashankar.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/all-about-wockhardt-bannerghatta-road-bangalore/

The no. of things that were done wrong in this case is way too many to be listed at one place.

If you want to help, please talk to Wockhardt and ask them for explanations. Like a pest. Again and again. If you are considering Wockhardt for a procedure yourself, DON'T, and tell them why you are not coming.

This is murder, because the child was ready to be born and by all indications, was a healthy child raring to start his innings in the world. More than Rashmi, I am worried about their older child. What is it like, to be 4 years old, and waiting with mixed emotions, for a new child to come into the family, and then to find a mutilated mother instead?

After the hugely popular Mad Momma blogged about it, within hours, Wockhardt responded on her site with their version of the story. Thank you MM!!

Without going into the details, lets just say that i read the hospital's response VERY carefully. And found holes aplenty in it. Read it for yourself.

I have written a detailed post on my experience with similar circumstances on Ishaan's blog. You may want to read that if you are considering making a decision about now.

Edited to Add on 17.06.2009:
Wockhardt Hospitals – End of Episode

Wockhardt has said that everything they did in Rashmi’s case was right and that they will do the exact same thing for the next person who comes in. Do I want the “next person” who comes in, to be someone I know.. ? Take a wild guess..

To me, that is the end of episode. There will be no more questions to Wockhardt. The decision is made.
If I know you as a friend, I will not let u go to Wockhardt. Not even for a small splinter of a cut. If you do go, don’t tell me. If you lose your child, I will blame you for it.

Nobody wants to take even a 1% chance with their baby. If you are among the people who do not mind taking that chance, don’t look to me for sympathy when it ends badly.

Rashmi was asked to pay 2.2 lakhs for her dead child. That is excellent burial money for a child that was healthy and raring to be born. All that was to be done was to bring him from inside the uterus to outside.The heart aches as I write this.. because I’m thinking of Ishaan.. of how, at the end, I used to talk to him as if he was outside the womb already..

If you are considering Wockhardt for medical tourism, you will do it with the knowledge that when things go wrong, you will be alone in a foreign country, with no one to help you, your body damaged and your money gone. If all of us together could not even get an independent enquiry for Rashmi’s case, what do you think your options are?

End of post and end of discussion. Please don't spam this space any more. The discussion route was open, but as soon as someone chose the spamming and personal abuse method, that route has been closed.

PS: In case you do not want to link hop, here is the whole story of Rashmi:

A Small Note… and a Request
I hardly know Rashmi. In the 30-odd days since I met her, I have grown to admire her courage and strength of conviction.
As many of you know, I have grown up around doctors, and tend to shy away from lending credence to “hospital horror stories”. As you also know, I tend to be a very unemotional person. And very hard to convince.
So it’s taken me a little over a month to agree to post this. A month in which I myself have presented the medical facts to several leading gynaecologists; met the medical services director of Wockhardt in an attempt to convince the hospital to conduct an unbiased investigation; done a lot of independent reading and research of my own. My conclusion: THIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG.
Please do your bit to see that as many people as possible read it. Circulate it via email, via Facebook, and any other means you can think of. Talk about it. If it can help prevent even one more incident like this, it will have done its job. Hopefully, someone, somewhere will lend their voice to Rashmi’s.
Thanks.–RegardsVijayashankar
——————————–****************************___________________&&&&&&&&&
Rashmi’s Story
My name is Rashmi B.T. I am 35 years old, married to an air force officer, Vivek, and have a four year old son, Dhruv, delivered by emergency Cesarean section in 2004. On March 4th, 2009, my life was changed unalterably. I lost a baby that I had carried inside me, completely healthy, for a full 41 weeks.
I understand that doctors are human, that mistakes happen. However, I have come to believe that what happened to me could have been prevented if the doctor and the hospital had provided the most basic level of care and expertise. What’s worse, they refuse to take steps to prevent someone else going through the same nightmare, simply because they want to protect themselves from the possibility of litigation – something I am not interested in unless it is the only way to force them to change their protocols.
The Beginning
In June 2008, Vivek and I learnt that we were expecting our second child. The pregnancy was uneventful. I was healthy and fit. Every prenatal visit and test showed that the baby was healthy and developing well. During my 35th week, I decided to consult Dr. Latha Venkataraman at The Nest, Wockhardt’s Bannerghatta Road maternity facility to see me through the rest of my pregnancy.
Despite the fact that I had already undergone a C-section, she urged me to opt for a V-BAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section) or in layman’s terms, a normal delivery. She brushed aside my concerns, telling me that a second C-section would be six times more risky and assuring me that a V-BAC would be less risky and almost pain-free.
My due date was estimated as 26 Feb 2009. I visited Dr. Latha on 28 Feb. She wrote on my record: “delivery will be attended by Dr. Latha/Dr. Prabha.” Since I had neither met, heard of, nor been examined by Dr. Prabha before, I was concerned. Dr. Latha explained that Dr. Prabha Ramakrishna is another consultant at Wockhardt, and that it was a hospital requirement for her to write both their names down as possible attending doctors for my labor/delivery. However, she assured me that it was just a formality, and that she would be the one to attend to me when I went into labor.
On 3 March, I visited Dr. Latha again. Since I was so far past my due date, I requested that a scan be done to check on the baby.
When I called her to read out the results of the report, she did not want to know anything other than the liquor content, though I specifically asked her if there was any other information she would require from the scan. She told me I could either wait for labor to start or choose a day to come in and have my labor induced.
The Nightmare Begins
I went into labor at 2am on 4 March, and got admitted to the hospital at 5.15am.
By 7.45 am, I was experiencing contractions less than a minute apart. Dr. Latha came and did a quick examination. I was shifted to the labor ward at 8am where I remained until 1.50p.m., under the sole care of nurse Savitha. Dr. Latha was not present at all.
A junior doctor, Dr. Shirley, was available intermittently. She spent most of the time on her cell phone, talking to her husband. She was keen to see him before he left on an 11-day vacation. A Dr. Chetna substituted for her while when she went to see her husband off.
There was no other doctor present. Dr. Prabha was called each time the fetal heart rate fell (this happened a couple of times). She was seeing outpatients and attending two other deliveries simultaneously, so she was only able to come to the labor ward to see me four times, for less than 5 minutes each time.
At 10am, I was given Syntocinon, a drug used to enhance labor; the dosage was increased at 10.45am. At 12.30, there was vaginal bleeding, and the nurse phoned Dr. Prabha, who advised her to “keep a watch”. The bleeding reduced, but I began to feel pain of increasing intensity during contractions. Dr. Shirley reappeared at 1.00 p.m., examined me vaginally and announced that I was almost fully dilated and would deliver by 1.30pm. I complained several times of excruciating pain but was told that it was normal. At 1.30pm, Dr. Prabha came in and was told by Dr. Shirley that I was fully dilated and would deliver any minute. Despite that, Dr. Prabha breezed off to visit another patient in the OPD.
I felt no urge whatsoever to push, yet was asked to do so. The stirrup on the delivery table kept breaking off – I was told that this is a recurring problem that “needed attention”. At 1.50 pm, the fetal heart rate dropped to 80 beats per minute. Dr. Prabha was called again. She checked the fetal heart rate on the CTG, explained that this was normal when the baby was passing through the birth canal, and asked me to hold my breath and push hard. I felt no sensation in my cervical area, but felt intense pain tearing my stomach apart. I felt like my baby had rolled into my stomach and could see its body pushing up against my ribcage. I was screaming, pointing at my stomach, and telling them that my stomach was hurting, and there was no urge to push. But she told me to “push, push harder”. I then heard Dr. Prabha saying “Get the OT ready”. She told my husband that she was going to attempt to deliver by forceps – if that was unsuccessful, she’d have to do a Caesarian.
The OT wasn’t on standby, wasn’t ready. I was numb with pain. They wanted me to get up and move to the operation table. I couldn’t move. They eventually slid something under my back and I pushed myself on to the OT table, as there was no transfer stretcher available. I complained of severe shoulder and chest pain. No one paid me any attention; everyone was busy preparing the OT, and the anesthetist was attempting to top up my epidural. The fetal heart rate was never monitored in the OT. Dr. Prabha unsuccessfully attempted a forceps delivery at 2.20 p.m., and then cut me open. I heard a deafening sucking sound, after which I must have passed out.Later, I learnt that my uterus had ruptured along the scar of my previous Caeserian section. My baby was found floating in my abdomen. He had no heartbeat and he wasn’t breathing. He had been deprived of oxygen for a long time – 43 minutes. They “resuscitated” my son and put him on a ventilator.
When I opened my eyes I saw Dr. Latha leave, followed by Dr. Prabha. Dr. Shirley was suturing me while laughing and talking with another nurse. I felt reassured that my baby was okay, even though I had neither seen nor heard him.“Don’t Worry, You Can Conceive Again”At 3.30pm, a nurse struggled to take my BP reading; the BP apparatus wasn’t working and had to be replaced. Dr. Latha met Vivek at the NICU and told him that the baby was doing fine and had to be kept under observation. She also told him that my scar had ruptured, but said that I was okay. At 4.30 pm, my husband repeatedly begged the nurses to give me pain relief. I was then shifted to the ward.
At 9.30 pm the neonatologist told Vivek that the baby had been deprived of oxygen for over 40 minutes, possibly resulting in “some extent” of brain damage. This was the first inkling we had that something had gone wrong.
The next morning, I was given a sponge bath at 6am. I then lay unattended until 2.30 p.m., when Dr. Prabha, Dr. Latha, and Dr. Prakash (the neonatologist) saw me for the first time after the operation. Dr. Latha unceremoniously ripped the dressing off my wound without using any gel or spirit, and pronounced the wound clean.
We were told that our baby would be kept under observation for another 24 hours. Later that night Dr. Latha came in at 9.50pm. Her only words to me: “Don’t worry, you can conceive again. Your uterus is intact.”“Do Japa and Tapa To Get Better”"None of the consultants saw me on 6 March. That night, my milk came in, and my breasts became swollen and painful. I asked in vain for assistance. After repeatedly begging for help, I sent Dr. Latha a text message at noon on 7 March. At 4pm, a nurse told me that the doctor had instructed them to use a breast pump to relieve my pain – however, since the hospital didn’t have one, I would have to go and buy one.
Dr. Latha finally visited me at 7.30 pm. She confessed that she was unaware that there had been a 43 minute delay in performing my C-section. She also admitted that instructions delivered over the phone could never substitute for personal supervision. She said, and again I quote, “Do some pranayama, japa, and tapa to help you get better.”
Throughout my stay, nurses didn’t know what medication I had been prescribed. They kept asking me what medication I was to be given. They had to be repeatedly reminded to give me medication.
For the next 13 days, Arnav was in the NICU on a ventilator. Throughout that time, he was completely reliant on ventilator support, his eyes were dilated and non-responsive to light, and there was no sign of movement. After a week, the neonatologist asked me to express milk and said they would feed the baby with a pipe inserted from his nose to the stomach. I did this for the next six days.
On 16 March, we decided to let Arnav go. We requested that he be removed from life support.
“We Would Do Exactly The Same For The Next Patient Who Walks In”Vivek and I wanted to learn what had gone wrong with such a healthy pregnancy. Basic reading indicated that scar rupture is a well-known risk when you attempt to deliver vaginally after a first C-section, and must therefore be monitored very closely by a doctor if attempted at all.
We met with the hospital administration and the doctors. All we wanted was an explanation. To hear the words, “I made an error in judgment”. Instead, we were met with a wall of defensiveness. Dr. Latha said that despite knowing the outcome, she would take exactly the same steps with the next patient who walked through her door.
I decided to get a second opinion. And then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. Three of Bangalore’s best-known gynaecologists (and other doctors too) categorically stated that given my age (35), the estimated weight of the baby (> 4 kilos), and the duration of gestation (>40 weeks), a vaginal birth should never have been attempted, and scar rupture was a logical, obvious outcome.
All reading I have done has backed this up. Even a layperson’s book like “What to expect when you are expecting” (pages 363-364) says that abdominal pain during a V-BAC indicates a scar rupture and outlines the procedure for safe delivery of the baby. Given that I was complaining of excruciating abdominal pain, shoulder pain and chest pain, the doctor should have known my scar was rupturing. I should never have been asked to push; it exacerbated the rupture. Nor should I have been given a drug that intensified my contractions. By Dr. Prabha’s own admission, she did not know about the rupture until she opened me up.
Several doctors have also told us that keeping Arnav on the ventilator for 13 days was an exercise in futility from the first. At no point were we told that he would never survive if taken off the ventilator – had we known that, we would never have subjected him, or ourselves to two weeks of anguish. All we were told was that he “might be” brain damaged to “some extent” but they couldn’t predict how bad it would be.
A Brick Wall of Defensiveness; Discrepancies Galore
When I attempted to engage with the hospital to ask them to change their protocol of treatment based on an unbiased review conducted with the inputs of external gynecologists, I was met with a brick wall of defensiveness. They refused to conduct a fair, transparent investigation, claiming that their internal investigation showed that they had done everything right and that losing the baby was “my destiny”. Dr. Latha went so far as to say that since I am educated, I should have been better informed about the procedure.
I don’t want to sue them for money. I just want them to change their policies and protocols so that this doesn’t happen to someone else. I have been hitting a brick wall for two months, and feel that the only way to make them pay attention is to tell my story to people.
There are many discrepancies and attempts to cover up the hospital’s inefficiency (to name a few: baby’s weight recorded as 3Kg despite the fact that he was never weighed; post-facto note of fetal heart rate as 180bpm despite the fact that the heart rate was never monitored in the OT; discharge summary says “live term baby extracted” even though Arnav had no heartbeat or respiration at birth; half-hour discrepancy between CTG trace and labor room clock). I asked questions to which I was given ludicrous answers (Eg: Our pediatrician is very experienced, so he can guess the weight of any baby just by looking at it).
We were charged approximately Rs. 2,20,000 by Wockhardt. Of this, we found over Rs. 7000 billed for things that had never been done (spinal anesthetic, an extra day of room rent, food not consumed). We subsequently found more extraneous charges, amongst them an amount billed for tests that were performed on 18 March, two days after Arnav’s death.
My Story Has Just Begun…
My uterus is still healing. My back still hurts from the trauma. And my heart aches for Arnav, the baby I will never hold.
More than that, I am filled with the fear that this will happen again. After all, Dr. Latha says she would “do exactly the same again” even though she knows the outcome. And the hospital agrees that she – and they – did everything right.
Wockhardt delivers approximately 80 babies each month. With BP machines that don’t work, a delivery room stirrup that’s falling off and that has “needed to be fixed for a while”, nurses who don’t know what medication they are supposed to administer, and one (yes ONE) OT dedicated to emergency deliveries. That OT wasn’t ready when I needed it. What guarantee do you have that it will be ready when you need it? Sure, they claim to have nine other OTs in the hospital – but if they are all as woefully unprepared as the one I was in, my story could be yours.
I want them to change their policies, and I won’t give up until they do.
Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer: Rashmi's story is as received from the source mentioned above. The views in this post are obviously purely personal views (like all other posts on this blog). They are not a specialist's opinion. The source of Wockhardt's response is also as indicated in the link.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Ladakh-Sikkim quiz

Enjoy! And post your answers in the comments.

#1 The Indus and Zanksar rivers can be seen in __________.
Sikkim
Ladakh
Neither
Both

#2 Leh is the capital of Ladakh.
True/ False?

#3 Ladakh is an independent state of India.
True/ False?

#4 The Teesta river can be seen in:
A. Ladakh
B. Sikkim

#5 The Yumthang Valley is in:
A. Ladakh
B. Sikkim

#6 Which of the two is closer to the state of West Bengal?
A. Ladakh
B. Sikkim

#7 Which of the following is a cold desert?
A. Ladakh
B. Sikkim

#8 The Nubra Valley is located in:
A. Ladakh
B. Sikkim

#9 Gurudongma Lake is a magical lake that is revered by at least 2 religions. Where is this lake located?
A. Ladakh
B. Sikkim

#10 The Sindhu Darshan and Hemis festivals are held in the months of June and July. Where can they be enjoyed?
A. Ladakh
B. Sikkim

You can also try this quiz online and check your answers here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

On being a Sikh and other things

In the very recent past, two things have happened, that impact the way i view this religion and an association with it.

1. The Vienna Attack: In short, the story was that in a Gurudwara in Vienna, some people killed a priest and wounded another badly. The causes were one or more of the following:
A. The growing power of the Dalit Sikhs.
B. The collections being divided and diverted from one Gurudwara(allegedly, the Pro Khalistan one) to another (the pro Dalit Sikh one)
This led to more riots in Punjab and Haryana, principally among the Dalit and non Dalit Sikhs.

2. The high court ruled that a Sikh girl who does not have unshorn hair cannot be allowed admission as a Sikh into a Sikh institution. This is because the SGPC thinks that a girl with hair shorn is not a Sikh.

On the first, my feelings are expressed better by a reader called Dalbir Singh, and i reproduce his text below:
Tuesday May 26, 2009 Sikhs around the world are expressing dismay over the confusing and unfortunate events which took place in Vienna Austria and have spread to Jalandar India. Confusing because many components of the incident are completely contradictory to Sikhism and yet Sikhs are implicated. It has been suggested the outbreak of violence occurred in a Sikh temple, or Sikh gurdwara, in a clash between caste members, when there is no caste in Sikhism.

The temple in question, by all accounts, belongs to the Siri Guru Ravi Daas Society, a faction thought possibly to have splintered from Sikhism sometime during the 14th century, which is loosely associated with Sikhism in that it focuses on the writings of Ravi Daas whose compositions are included in the Guru Granth Sahib. It has been reported that a Sikh guru died, when no embodied guru in Sikhism exists. The Guru of Sikhism is the scripture known as Guru Granth Sahib. The incident, which apparently occurred over a slur to the Guru Granth Sahib, is reported to have been an offensive attack, when Sikhism permits only defensive action on behalf of the weak or innocent.

The perpetuators of the crime, while supposedly upholding the honor of Sikhism, acted in a completely reprehensible manner and un-Sikh-like fashion contradictory to the principals of Sikhism. Sikhism supports the right of all people to worship as per their understanding of the divine. Sikhism is about tolerance. In Sikhism there is no forced conversion. Sikhism is voluntary. It takes more than a beard and turban to make someone a Sikh. Respect for the Guru Granth Sahib and the principals of Sikhism cannot be expressed through murderous intent. One who resorts to slander may be called to account through a legal process. Protest may take the form of peaceful demonstration. There is no excuse for unjustifiable behavior.

The so called Sikh miscreants should be held accountable not only to the peaceful people they subjected to violence, they should be made to answer to the Global Sikh community for their misdeeds.

On the second, i have a lot to say. Most of it being derogatory and in unparliamentary language. But here it is in brief:
A. You cannot interpret a religion for me. Not when the head of SGPC goes with the name of A S Makkar. When did it become OK to add your caste based surname if you are a Sikh? (if you know me and know the kind of Punjabi galis i am capable of, insert them here)
B. You cannot decide what the rahat maryada of a religion is. Rahat is a model code of conduct, not a mandatory code of conduct.
C. Most importantly, Sikhism is about accepting people as they are, is about the absence of mandates. No priests are required to celebrate auspicious occasions, no priests are required even for final rites or for Pagdi Bandhai.. the prayer book, and faith in it, is all that one needs. Nor is Sikhism an exclusive religion. You can belong to any religion and pray in the Sikh Gurudwara, if you want to.
In short, as i know it, its a religion that is more abt personal spiritual quest with guidance from the Guru Granth Sahib, than about rituals and conduct. When the 10th Guru made some of his followers the Khalsa, he did not say that the others are NOT his disciples. What right does the SGPC have to say that?

My family taught me that there is only one Rahat for the Sikh "man neeva te matt uchhi" (Humility in the heart and high intellect/moral standards). Its a 5 word principle. Maybe the SGPC chief and others will want to reflect on that.

In short, do not be so blinded by power that you create opposition where none existed. The political parties of India have learnt that lesson very recently. Maybe Sikhism should too.

How to do a baby shower in 4 hours flat.

We had a baby shower for a colleague at my place. We were stumped by how little information we could get online about holding quick fix baby showers. So here's a guide to arranging a baby shower in 4 man hours flat.

Theme: Bollywood Gold. Pick up some posters and post cards of bollywood. Time taken - 40-50 minutes at most. For Gold, pick up the Gold Coin bars and coins to give away as prizes for games.
Everyone has to wear a Bollywood style dress to the party.

Games: We played a game called Sugar and Spice. Everyone writes down things they like abt the mommy to be (sugar) and things that suprise them abt the mommy to be (spice). The MTB reads all the chits and has to guess who has written which chit. Prep time - 5 mins pers person to write the chits. We made them before going to the party.

Song and Dance: We did a jig on the song "Solah Singar kar ke" from the film "Filhal" Prep time - everyone heard the 4 minute song once before the party.

Cake: We bought a cake from a store nearby. Time: 20 mins.

Food: Potlunch. Time to heat and place food on the table - 15-20 minutes.

Buying the gift: This took abt an hour and was the longest prep time activity.

We took abt an hour off to party, and did we have fun!!!