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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recovery From Cardiac Bypass Surgery: Day 8

This day began pretty much like the previous day. I had my breakfast, and then I was pacing around the house as is my wont. My cousin's mother noticed and started feeling sorry for me, thinking I was bored out of my mind with nothing to do. And obviously, she thought I had nothing to do because I was staying at a stranger's house and feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing. So, she repeatedly asked me to feel comfortable and make myself at home.

The fact is that I was quite comfortable staying there. Obviously, I did not feel entirely at home, but I was not feeling much discomfort because of that. I did not have much to do, for sure, but I am a pretty contemplative person, and I am quite happy in the company of my thoughts even when I have nothing to do. I hardly ever get bored just because I have nothing to do, because I can keep myself occupied with various pseudo-philosophical ruminations and day-dreams. Sometimes, I do get antsy and impatient when I am waiting for someone else to make some decision and I am left in the lurch while that decision is pending. But when I know what I have to do, and it is just a matter of spending some time with myself before I have to do it, there is usually no question of me getting bored.

But when I am in a contemplative mood, and mulling over things in my mind, I tend to pace, fidget or engage in some other repetitive physical activity without even realizing it. I do it at work also when I have a complicated programming problem to tackle and I am trying to weigh my algorithmic choices, for example. I have gotten strange looks from colleagues as I walk back and forth in front of their cubicles, lost in my own thoughts. I have even been told by some that I make them nervous because I look as if I am in some kind of trouble!

I did not know of any way to convince my cousin's mother that I was comfortable, and not bored or anything like that. I assured her that I was not bored, but I don't think she entirely believed me! In any case, I stopped pacing, and instead started working on my laptop, putting together new blog posts, and rereading and editing previous ones (they were all still just text files on my computer because I had not had internet access to actually put them online yet).

I made it to the hospital just before 10 AM just like on the previous day. Today was the big day when they were going to remove my father's sutures. Nothing had happened yet when I reached the hospital, and nobody who came to the room to take his vitals or give him medicines seemed to know the exact schedule of when anything was going to happen. It was quite frustrating since his discharge from the hospital also depended on an examination by the doctors after his sutures had been removed. If the removal of the sutures was delayed, then that examination was going to be delayed and everything that followed would be delayed too. Obviously we were not keen on our return home being delayed by some bureaucratic snafu for no medical reason. Of course, nothing was under our control, so we just sat around and waited for things to take their own course. I had brought my laptop with me today also, so I continued working on it, practicing some Vedic Mathematics, and putting together more blog posts. I also took my father for a couple of short walks around the ward as part of his exercise routine.

Just before lunch time, the nurse informed us that she was going to stop by to remove my father's sutures. She showed up about 10 minutes later to do her work. It turns out that the main incisions in the chest and left leg had been sutured up with absorbable sutures, requiring no removal of sutures at all. There were a couple of other minor incisions that had been made just above and below the long incisions. It required only a couple of snips with a scissors to remove these sutures, and the nurse was done. Our cardiologist came right about then and examined my father for a little while. He asked us if we have a preference for when he would like to be discharged and gave us a choice of that day or the next day.

It was quite an unexpected, but pleasant, development since we had fully expected the sutures to be removed today, but for the discharge to happen only the next day since no doctors had stopped by today to examine my father. Obviously, it presented some complications that we had to work out in terms of logistics, but we opted to get discharged the same day. My mother started working the phone to arrange for the logistics of transporting ourselves back home in a safe and efficient manner. My cousin had already offered us his car for this purpose, but he was out of town and the driver he trusted was not working on Tuesdays. It would have been the ideal solution, but unfortunately that was not going to work.

We have some other relatives who have access to their own transportation and also employ drivers to drive their vehicles rather than driving themselves around. Some of these relatives even have more than one vehicle at their disposal. Being a work day, many of these vehicles were sitting unused at their places of work, with their drivers probably just waiting around for the end of the day to drive the owners back home. When these relatives have visited the US, I have taken time off from work to shuttle them around for sight-seeing, transport them between my home and the airport, etc. My mother spoke with a couple of them and asked them diplomatically for suggestions (rather than requesting their assistance directly) in the hope that they would offer some assistance. But none of them offered to lift a finger for us.

My wife and mother agree on one thing even though they tend to disagree more than they tend to agree. It is that they have a keener read on people than I do. They always tell me that certain people change colors very quickly. They tend to be very nice and courteous when they need some assistance from others, and then tend to become aloof and put on airs when others require assistance from them. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and very rarely attribute malice to their motives and actions, in spite of what my wife and mother point out as inconsistencies in their actions and words over time. It takes time for me to read characters, and it does take time to convince me that others may not be as willing to help friends in need as I am, but I was slowly but surely coming around to their side when it comes to these particular relatives.

In the meantime, I started finding out what the procedure was for getting my father officially discharged. The nurses told me that my father's cardiologist was the final decision-maker as far as discharge was concerned. There were no other doctors to see or consult. That was the good news. But there was lots of paperwork to be completed before the final discharge could take place. Back home, bureaucracy is a fine art that is fully developed to the maximum extent possible. The movement of a piece of paper from one place to another requires an army of intermediaries to approve and sign off on it. Not only does it delay routine processes, it also gives more people more opportunity to sit on paperwork until the right kind and amount of grease is applied to their palms!

So, I went around collecting the various pieces of paperwork that were required for final discharge and sat near the person in charge of billing for 15 minutes to oversee the preparation of the final bill. That was taken care of by 4 PM, after which I took the final bill down to the cashier's cage and settled the charges with my credit card. The cashier then provided me with a piece of paper certifying that my father had settled his bills in full and could be discharged legally. This was dutifully filed away by the nurses at the nurses' station. I also went out and bought some sweets at a corner snack store for distribution to the staff in celebration of my father's safe discharge.

Then came the task of packing up everything in the room to take back home. In the hurry-burry of bringing my father to the hospital, my mother had packed everything she needed into one small suitcase. The problem was that during the hospital stay, a lot more things had accumulated, including a lung exerciser, lots of medicines and medical reports that had probably resulted in the death of an entire forest! Packing all of them up was a bit of a challenge as we stuffed them as efficiently as possible into the suitcase and into multiple grocery bags.

My mother had arranged for a taxi service to pick us up from the hospital at around 5 PM and transport us home. When the taxi arrived, an orderly wheeled my father out to the taxi in a wheelchair, and we started making our way home. We stopped at my cousin's place on the way home to pick up my luggage, and then crawled home over traffic-choked roads that still had more potholes than vehicles on them!

The rest of the evening was spent in making phone calls to relatives and friends to inform them of my father's discharge. Then, I went out and bought some drugs that were needed during his recovery at home, which the hospital had not provided enough of. After dinner, we went through an elaborate exercise, figuring out what medicines had to be administered in what dosages to my father, and cross-checking and double-checking these to make sure that no mistakes were made. After that, it was off to bed.

I was happy to be back home, though I was going to miss the company of my cousin's kids in the evenings. My parents were happy to be back home. My cousin's family was probably happy I was back home too. Our saga at the hospital was finally over and everyone was relieved to be back in more familiar environs.

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