Sunday, March 18, 2007

A RUNNING NOSE

My husband’s problem began when we went to the US last time. Within a week of our arrival he caught a persistent cold. Change of weather could be the cause he insisted. He refused to see a doctor and stuck to mild, over the counter pills that we had taken along.
A fortnight went by and there was no relief. My husband calls me adamant but he was now stuck with a companion that made me appear the most adjusting soul mate. It was perhaps due to non - stop air conditioning I suggested and my daughter regulated the temperature to a suitable level. Two months gone and still there was no relief.

“My system is perhaps used to air pollutants so this dust free environment does not seem to suit me” my husband tried to make a joke of it. I knew better. He was beginning to get worried. A running nose was now accompanied by a nagging headache and breathlessness.

“His resistance is low mummy ask him to give up tobacco” whispered my daughter.

I knew that it was easier said than done so I kept quiet. We finally cut short our trip and returned to India. I was kind of certain that once we reached India his condition would improve but that was not to be. Courses of antibiotics supplemented by steam inhalation, a switchover to homoeopathic treatment, and chest massage with mustard oil were all tried but none of these gave him any relief. Now I was beginning to get worried. I hadn’t realized that a common cold could give us sleepless nights. Unknown to him I looked up the Internet for the various causes of a running nose. We finally thought of going for master check up and headed towards Chennai.

Now, Chennai is a metropolis a far cry from the cozy township we live in. There were dozens of well-established hospitals and private nursing homes and each one of them seemed to have an impressive record. My husband suffers from selective xenophobia that gets worse when I’m with him. He is never comfortable with taxi drivers and prefers to take a bus. He is forever unsure of the routes and the mortified look on his face was sure to reveal that we were new to the place to anyone who had the time to observe. It took us a day to choose an appropriate nursing home that would cater to our need and suit our budget as well. We finally decided on a clinic that clinic looked impressive. We walked in and asked to see the doctor at the reception.

“Please pay an advance of Rupees Two Thousand at the counter” said the receptionist in an artificially sweet voice.

“We’re here only for consultation” I said “that can’t cost so much.”

The receptionist began to get impatient.

“Ma’am” she said in a tone that now contained no artificial sweetener “ any one who comes here has to have a few routine tests performed. The senior doctor will see your husband only after that.”

“And what would those ‘few’ routine tests be?” Now it was my turn to lose patience.

“ECG, chest X ray, lipid profile, CT scan, blood sugar and pressure, urine creatinin and culture test and any other test as the junior doctors decide as imperative. Next” the receptionist called out to the next patient.

“ What did she say?” my husband who was standing by my side asked.

One would have thought that he did not understand Tamil. I patiently repeated the entire conversation.

“ Ask her if we can get these tests done elsewhere.” My husband behaved as if he avoided talking to ladies.

Like a mediator I repeated his question to the lady at the counter.


“No way!” the lady seemed appalled “ The senior would never trust results from any other lab.”

We paid the money and awaited our turn. My husband continued to rave and rant against the system. His tirade continued non-stop making other patients turn around and take notice. I had a tough time in getting him to calm down.

It took us two hours to get all the tests done and finally a team of junior doctors examined my husband.

“Sir, your problem is due to water filled nasal polyps caused due to allergy” the doctor said “ the senior will see you and decide on the line of treatment.”

We waited patiently for another hour. There was no sign of being called in by the senior.

We went to the junior doctor to find out whether his senior would make himself available that day.

“He is now in the middle of a teleconference” he said “ he will start seeing patients once he is through”

Another hour passed. No sign yet of the teleconference having ended. The junior doctors continued to laugh and talk among themselves.

My husband just could not take any more of their apathetic attitude. He walked into the senior doctor’s chamber unannounced.

The senior doctor was seated in a high chair talking over the phone while taking sips of hot coffee in between.

“How is the weather in Singapore?” he was asking, “raining? Why don’t you send us a few showers? We’re being burnt alive in Chennai. We plan to come over to shop for our daughter’s marriage.”

We could only hear his side of the conversation and he continued.

“I’ll be sending you an experienced technician. Pay him 40,000/- dollars per annum. He will not agree to anything less than that.

He stopped short on seeing us at the door.

It was my husband’s turn to talk.

“Sir, so this was the teleconference you were having when at least a hundred of us waiting for our turn to see you. Don’t you realize that its our money that will pay for your trip to Singapore apart from the commission you may be earning by recruiting nurses and technicians for your friend….”

He might have continued but I managed to drag him out of the room.

In the meanwhile the junior doctor who came rushing apologized profusely first to his senior and next to my husband. As a reward for his outburst my husband was sent in immediately.

The senior doctor repeated what his junior had already told us and suggested that his nasal polyps be surgically removed.

“Sir,” said my husband “ How much would the operation cost and would the cure be permanent?”

“No guarantee” the doctor replied, “ The operation can improve the quality of your life for the time being but if your system is exposed to the allergen polyps can recur.”

“Sir” my husband asked, “Is there any means of identifying the source of allergy?”

“Dr. Mukund” called out our senior doctor “What are you doing yaar?. Why don’t you clarify this gentleman’s doubts? I cannot talk to him all day.”


His junior promptly led us out of the chamber and gave a new list of tests to be performed at the laboratory of the doctor’s classmate.

“Why not elsewhere?” my husband asked. “Sir, we are new to the place and have a lot of trouble in tracing different localities. There is a lab near the place where we are put up. Why can’t we get these tests done there?”

“The choice is yours,” said the doctor “you either go to the place suggested by us or go elsewhere for you treatment. But remember if you change doctors at this stage the tests already done at our clinic may not be acceptable to your treating doctor.”

“My mind is made up,” replied my husband “ I’m not interested in sponsoring your senior’s trip to Singapore. I prefer to pamper my running nose. Goodbye”

We left the place wondering if this is what educated people like us faced what would be the plight of villagers and the many who come to Chennai not knowing a word of the local language. God help them!

32 comments:

Usha said...

Oh my god, I thought this was a funny imaginary tale - you mean this REALLY happened? I am shocked. I hope I never have to visit such clinics. How are we going to afford medical expenses in our old age?

Altoid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GettingThereNow said...

This confirms my view of the Indian Doctors and the Healthcare system. One childbirth experience in India and I am totally disgusted with the whole system (okay, there were a number of other small incidents here and there to contribute to this state of mind).

Anyway, the main reason I stopped by to comment is this - my husband had almost similar symptoms for more than 5 years. Then his brother (who is a doctor himself - an anaesthesiologist) believed him and referred him to an ENT specialist. Diagnosis was polyps. Answer to the question about the permanancy of the solution (surgery)was the same - it can and will recur. We went the homeopathy route and are glad that we did. His condition is getting better. You might want to try that too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Grandma,

Sorry about your experience....but me being a chennaiite can assure you that there r good clinics and hsopitals that will offer you services....instead of using the net, ask people in chennai(friends/relatives) to recommend. People from so many places in India and world come over for treatment, surely cant be that bad can it?;-)
Ranjani

Balaji said...

Dear Gmom,

A suggestion,

a) Please name the clinic
b) Please name the doctor

It will be good Anyone who is reading this blog need to know these things. And yes this is one major use of blogging so that people like me do not repeat the same mistake as yourself in going to that particular hospital.

venky said...

Nani,

Ditto to Balaji - name the dr and clinic and I would take care of the rest...how dare they treat my nani and thatha that way ???

And hey I almost forgot, how is thatha faring now ? Has he recovered ???

itchingtowrite said...

why didnt u check with us on the hospitals. agree that most docs insist on the reports from their hospital itself but then they do not behave the way u hav written. i go to malar usually.. and the doctor always examines and then tells us to do teh tests

mnowluck said...

Quacks!!!! U should file a complaint against them to the police.. bastards..!!! LOL!

passerby55 said...

Preeta,I have had a similar incident.

When my son had a bad back problem. We did the tests suggested and heard to what the doctor had to say.

A close relative suggested its better to take a second opinion. So we visted another Specialist. HE refused to look at the Xrays done at the pathology in the next street(suggested by the earlier doctor). He told us to go to another lab. and get the x_rays and see him with them the following day.

Every doctor you visit insist on such. I wonder where this is leading to?

We INDEED are paying for their Singapore trips!

How is your hubby feeling now?

Altoid said...

Hey HHG

Hope your husband is feeling better now, though in the US as well getting doctors to diagnose a more serious problem than the flu and viral infections is nothing easier either. Pillar to post is just as rampant only its done so subtly that one doesnt feel as aggravated as in India.

take care
--altoid

Hip Grandma said...

Hi all,
sorry for giving a wrong impression that all this happened recently.actually this happened in 2004 after our return from our first visit to the US.He was subsequently operated at a lesser known clinic and his treating doctor had no problem accepting the test results of the previous clinic.there was another kind of problem here which we realized only after we checked out of the clinic.The doctor was unwilling to give us a proper discharge slip or receipt money paid in cash for the operation. The polyps did recur and a second surgery was done in 2006 just 1 and a 1/2 years after the first one this time in jamshedpur.It was when the treating doctor asked for the discharge slip of the previous operation.that we realized the mistake we made in our desperation.there seems no point exposing these clinics.We need to know about good clinics in Madras and B'lore.may be ITW and Artnavy can help.and usha can you take up B'lore??you all can post details of such places for the benefit of those of us who come to the south for treatment.i agree with Ranjani that not all clinics are like this or else so many would not be going to chennai for treatment.thanks for your concern and enquiries.My husband is still prone to cough and cold and avoids AC travel.As suggested by GTN we plaan to go for homoeopathy.My husband feel puffed up by your concern.He thanks you all for the same.

Deepthi said...

gran,i hope granpa is doing well now.This is the case in many private hospitals these days.I hope that they will make doctors like they used to make before....and yes the plight of the common man is not much worse.i bet the trip was sponsred by another poor soul..

Monika said...

shit man... this is disgusting, sometimes u don't know how to react with these kinds of doctors... but there are both kinds trust me we recently met a doctor in bombay who is supposed to be india's best medical oncologist for the treatment of my aunt who was suffering from cancer and i have never myself seen a doctor so soft and good... so don't loose the faith in the system i agree that there is more % of arrogant people out there but surely there are good ones too ... as someone suggested use the contacts in chennai to get info (let me know if u needn any help)

Mahadevan said...

Many of the corporate hospitals run for profit. In government hospitals, we have no access to the doctors and the ward boys' writ run every where. But certainly there are a number of good hospitals and doctors and we have to look for them after making proper enquiries. Generally when we go through a known doctor, we are properly taken care of.

artnavy said...

This is terrible. I really hope u found a better doc and clinic-

was this A- with the tagline trust in A

Anonymous said...

Not "running nose" but runny nose!!!

Hip Grandma said...

all systems have their plus and minus points so it is up to us to get the best out of it.While it is important for doctors to show consideration towards the patient's plight and purse the patients should also know their rights.There no fool proof arrangement anywhere in the world.
anon:is that you rahul?in india we say running nose.i'll check about the correct version.May be others can help.

All Smiles!! said...

That is shocking!!!

Shreyasi Deb said...

Hey hip-hop Grandmom,
I loved visiting your page for the first time

Hip Grandma said...

a;; smiles,shreyasi:welcome here.Looking forward to more inputs

nz said...

Whaaat !! It has become a business, we all know that but such treatment after taking big bucks from their patients !! Shocking !!!

Has to be me said...

What attrocious treatment. I quite dread my return 2 chennai esp the hospitals. We are at the mercy of the ruthless docs! How sad. Hope he is doing well now.

Hip Grandma said...

nz,has to be me:he is better thanks.don't let my example put you off.We still have good doctors.I just wanted to alert you all.We need to be prudent in our choice that's all.Thosands flock chennai each mth/year.Doctors shud realize this and not misuse the faith laymen place on them.

Kalpana said...

It is a stupid system going over here. Can never trust any doctor. They just see the money from patient's pockets. For a small problem, they create a big scene. I went thru 1 experience too. Hating Doctors at times. How is he now? Hope, he is doing fine...

shark said...

Hi Grandmom,
These kind of hospitals are everywhere :(

I think it's always best to go to a hospital based on "personal" recommendation than searching on the net.

Hope Grandpa is feeling better now :)

Coffee said...

A few selfish docs are ruining medical profession these days..... they think that if the make themselves appear busy to their patients, their patients will think that he is in demand..... which means he is a good doctor!!!!!

When in a new place, always take someones recommendation and visit a doc. Medical treatments cut thru your pockets like anything!!!!!!!!

Hip Grandma said...

kalpana,shark and coffee:Thanks for your inputs,and I agree with you.My husband is better now thanks for your enquiry.shark&coffee welcome here.hope to hear more from you.

publia said...

I have allergies. When in the US buy generic Claritin, which is loratadine 10 mg. When you have symptoms, you take one once a day, and the "cold" is gone. It's available in Europe, too. Also India. It's an antihistimine.

Hip Grandma said...

publia:thanx for your reco.I'll ask my husband to try it out

Just like that said...

I was waiting for a nice ending to the story, even if it was real. Unbelievable that doctors can treat their patients so callously. I hope your husband is fine now after getting the right treatment.

Hip Grandma said...

Just like that:Thanx for your visit.The good thing abt the whole episode is that we realized that our small township is heaven on earth.

Vijay said...

I know its not fair to tag all doctors but these days the speciality clinics are akin to mechanic shops.. I have not seen a mechanic to date who looks at your vehicle and says "All is fine".. there is always a problem..

Its the same here.. once a patient steps in, he/she will be subject to all tests whether one likes it or not.. they need to meet sales targets...

Customer service and politeness at the desk are unheard of..

Your husband asked the right questions.