TRIVANDRUM — I was supposed to be discharged from the hospital yesterday afternoon, but at the last minute doctors decided to move forward with additional tests. So against my wishes, I was forced to stay another night in this hospital hotel.
It's not that I'm not appreciative of the medical care. I greatly appreciate everybody going out of their way to make sure I'm well. But after a month of getting a short-hand diagnosis from doctors and feeling unwell with no explanation, I think I was beginning to accept that the only way I would get answers would be to get on an airplane, fly home to the States, and go visit an American hospital.
Medical care is much different in India. There are no appointments for anything. All hospitals, at least the past two I've visited, filter patients in from the emergency room. It is determined there if the patients will be admitted.
I was admitted two nights ago, and on my first day in the hospital, I met with about six new doctors, and about 10 residents, nurses and medical assistants who visited my room in 10-15 minute intervals throughout the day.
In between visits, I was wheeled around to various testing rooms, where I remained uninformed about what doctors and nurses were checking for, or what notes they scribbled in my file.
The process of diagnosing illness is altogether different from the United States, and even somewhat inefficient. Testing appointments never run on time, and I'm always the last one to hear anything about my medical status.
There is no doctor-patient confidentiality, and as an unmarried woman (a highly unusual status in India), the information about my wellness is passed along to the first available man, which in my case, means a Rotary member. So it is safe to say that at least 10 Rotarian men have been immediately informed of my medical status, and another few dozen have been filtered the information through various secondary channels.
My original host father, Baiju, his son, Charu, and one of our India Rotary Group Study Exchange coordinators, Ajit, drove to the hospital last night to visit and were well informed of my condition hours before arriving.
I was so touched at their visit because they have been my favorite Rotarians on this trip. And I needed to laugh, and I am always certain when those men are near, they will make me laugh. They visited for about two hours, and made sure the doctors were being thorough.
And it was also comforting having them here because they were able to explain the medical process in India, and subsequently relieve some frustration that I was experiencing with the doctors.
They informed me that Indian doctors often have trouble treating American patients because we ask so many questions. Indian doctors view our question-asking as an insult to their treatment and medical knowledge, whereas in the States we are trained to ask questions and follow up on treatment.
Patients under Indian medical professionals are supposed to trust their doctors and the treatment provided and assume they know what they're doing. So if an Indian patient wants further information, the polite thing to do is to sneak a look at their chart when the doctor isn't looking. (I definitely sneaked a look at my chart yesterday, which is how I knew I had an infection in the first place.)
I was growing frustrated earlier because I felt like they were treating my immediate symptoms, rather than seeking a holistic approach to explaining the previous month of leg swelling, fever, infection, pain, migraines, asthma attacks, etc, and how they may or may not be related.
So before Baiju and Ajit's visit, I was growing frustrated that none of the doctors were explaining to me what they were doing to my body. I was being poked and prodded, ultra-sounded and CT-scanned, weighed and measured and hooked up to intravenous needles on both arms, and wheeled around in a wheelchair like I was absolutely incapacitated. And each time I asked questions about where I was going, or what the doctor's treatment plan was, they kept smiling and laughing and saying, "You look normal, don't worry."
In fact, many times, nurses and doctors would walk right up to me and my GSE teammate, Cely Smart (who is staying with me at the hospital), and ask Cely questions about my past medical record, birth date, marital status and home address, rather than asking me directly. They often delivered her updates on my immediate medical status, rather than telling me first.
I wanted to look at them and say, "I'm sitting right here and I have not lost my ability to speak." But instead I simply answered the questions and listened to my status.
So toward the end of the day, I explained to my current Trivandrum host family that I no longer desired to be in the hospital because the doctors weren't listening to me. And I wanted to expedite my release and finish treatment in the United States.
After a long and tiring day, doctors determined I had some kind of cellular infection and determined a treatment plan for the next several days.
I'll likely run their diagnosis by an American doctor when I return home to Texas, but the hospital visit was a good one because at least I've been cleared to fly home with my team.
And I'll be discharged in time for our afternoon visit with the Trivandrum royal family, which is scheduled for tomorrow at the palace.
It will be an excellent ending to this entirely chaotic (and wonderful) trip to India. I'll keep you posted. Until tomorrow, Victoria.
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