by Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Readers who had been following my Delhi Diary may have noticed that I had missed a column last Friday. There could not have been a more serious reason for doing so because I narrowly missed having a massive heart attack the previous day and thankfully lived to tell you about it this Friday !
It was a routine Thursday evening and while most of you were relaxing in your homes after having celebrated Sankranthi, I was relaxing too at home with my family. My brother was trying to draw my attention to some files but I found that I was having some difficulty in concentrating on them. I had just then begun to notice that my chest was feeling unusually heavy and I told him so. When I tried to get up to tell my wife also about it I found that I felt dizzy and began to break out in a cold sweat, the two classical signs of rapidly falling blood pressure, to any doctor.
Quickly suspecting that I was having a heart attack, I pulled out my wallet in which I always carry some emergency medications and popped a tablet of Nitroglycerine under my tongue and told my family members about it. I then lay down on the sofa and asked my daughter to get me aspirin tablets from our medicine cabinet and put eight of them into my mouth. I also asked her to calculate and tell me the total dose. Satisfied with it, I chewed them up quickly and asked my wife to elevate my legs and hold them that way to prevent my blood pressure from becoming dangerously low.
Having done all that could be done by way of first-aid at home, I asked my daughter to call up my Interventional Cardiologist friend Dr. Arun Srinivas from my mobile which she did and announced that he was on the line. I quickly told him what had happened and what I had done and explained that I would not be able to safely reach Apollo Hospital, the place of his work due to the long distance and would therefore proceed to Vikram Hospital which was much closer to my home and heart too!
Without a second thought he said that he would himself arrange to rush a cardiac ambulance with a crisis team to my house and would meet me at Vikram upon my arrival. My brother suggested that he would drive me to the hospital immediately in the car without wasting any more time but I explained to him that an ambulance would be better because it would have a supply of Oxygen and a defibrillator on board.
A defibrillator is a machine that delivers an electric shock to re-start the heart in case of a cardiac arrest. I knew that at this stage as things stood now, the odds of my dying versus surviving stood at 75:25! Although we doctors on many occasions give patients more optimistic figures, here in my own case I could not dodge the truth. But after having done everything possible by way of first-aid, there was nothing more I could do while waiting for the ambulance except hoping for the best. I then said a silent prayer for my recovery and lost myself in the calmness of my own thoughts till my reverie was broken by the distant wail of the ambulance siren.
Although there was a doctor and a nurse on board, all along the route to the hospital I kept asking for the readings of my blood pressure and oxygen saturation. It is a very difficult situation when a doctor becomes a patient but being my colleagues the poor duo put up with my insolence without a murmur of protest. As I was wheeled into the CCU, I saw my friend Dr. Arun smiling at me with his entire crisis team standing in readiness in the background. He was the nimble fingered ‘Angioplasty-Man’ whose competence I had trusted over more than a decade to look after not only hundreds of my cardiac patients but also dozens of my close relatives. And, Vikram Hospital was home turf for me where ever since its inception until the very same morning I had been playing the life-saving game with the very same team that was now standing in readiness to save my own life! Dr. Upendra Shenoy, the Chief Cardio Thoracic Surgeon was there with his assistant Dr. Sujay. Dr. Seethalakshmy, the Chief Cardiac Anaesthetist was there with Dr. Ismail Khan, her assistant, which immediately reassured me that my chances of surviving now probably stood reversed from what they were half an hour ago!
While preparations were being made by the staff to get me ready for an angiogram and a possible angioplasty, I discreetly called the two anaesthetists to my side and sheepishly told them that my pain threshold was very low and so they had the most important job of the day. I requested them to see that I got a shot of Midzolam, the short-acting general anaesthetic before Dr. Arun was even allowed to touch me, which they promised to do.
Just four days ago, at Geeth Gaatha Chal, the doctors’ musical programme, Dr. Seethalakshmy had lilted the audience with her husband, singing “Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin.” Now with her at my head end, I had absolutely no ‘shikwa’ and so I closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes without having felt the slightest discomfort, let alone pain, I could see on the monitor in front of me that blood was once again flowing freely through the arteries around my heart. In a jiffy Dr. Arun had performed a successful angioplasty having cleared the offending block that had threatened my life until five minutes ago. God had been kind and with the help from family and friends and modern technology, damage to my heart had been averted and my life had been saved!
When I turned and looked through the observation window into the console room adjacent to the Cath-lab, I saw the smiling faces of many fellow doctors. Dr. S. Bhaskar, Senior Physician and the Director of Vikram Hospitals, was there with Dr. C. B. Keshava Murthy, the Chief Cardiologist. Dr. Janardhan, another Cardiologist friend too was with them. Mr. Dayashankar Rao, the General Manager, was there, not surprisingly, in his house clothes. On hearing about my problem, he had rushed to the hospital without wasting time even to change. They were all showing me thumbs up signs to reassure me that everything had gone well and I in turn waved out to them to tell them that I was feeling fine. It was a perfectly timed, rescue angioplasty described as the ideal in the text books.
After that it was an endless stream of visitors while I was recuperating in the CCU. There was no way they could be restrained from coming as the doctors and nurses amongst them far outnumbered the others. SOM too was very much with me. KBG called up from the distant land where he was on a holiday even as his son Vikram Muthanna was holding my hand in his by my side. Just a few moments ago, Meera Appaiah, the lady sub-editor was there with an anxious look plainly visible behind her smile and with her finger on her lips like a nursery class teacher, urging me not to strain myself by speaking! It was a strange situation. Everyone was asking me not to speak and here I was eager not to seem like a sick man, by remaining silent.
That is why when my cousin Dr. Irfan Riazi, who is also a poet, came to see me, I just uttered Allama Iqbal’s couplet… “Yeh dastoor-e-zaban bandi kaisa teri mehfil mein? Yehaan to baat karne ko tarasti hai zabaan meri.” (What kind of a strange restriction is this on speech in your gathering? My tongue is in fact dying to say a few words here!” Then came Dr. Lata Muthanna, my close friend and professional colleague whose sense of humour was what I was waiting for since morning. She said that I should not have had this setback just because I should not be getting such easy topics to write about in my column! She was the one who suggested the title that I have chosen for this article today. I did not have the courage to ask her for any alternate choices for fear that she might end up suggesting something like: “A Plasty even for the Nasty!”
I had spent exactly four decades going in and out of hospitals as a doctor but this was the first time in my life that I had got admitted to a hospital as a patient and it was a very different kind of experience, being at the receiving end of medical care. But the care that I got, not only from the doctors but also from the nursing and house-keeping staff at the hospital was what touched me most. While we all think that the role of doctors is indeed unique, after my brief stint as a patient I could not help feeling that while they do touch our lives, it is actually the work of the nurses that touches God’s heart!
Upon my discharge I insisted on driving back home myself which I did just to reassure my family members that I was once again in good health. Long before I got married I had read somewhere that the secret of being happy in marriage lay in the dictum, “No matter how well she looks after you, you must always manage to look a little sad!” Perhaps it was now the right time to put this to the litmus test. So the next day I perhaps managed to pull this off admirably well as my wife after trying to keep me comfortable for a good part of the day probably sensed that I was not as cheerful as she wanted me to be. So she softly asked me if I would like to visit the book exhibition that was going on in the city. Feigning a look of utter surprise, I nodded my head imperceptibly and said that we could do that for just a few minutes. We spent well over an hour there while I picked up enough books for a year’s reading and said goodbye to my fake sad look, happy that it had worked!
Having pulled my hand away from the icy cold clasp of the angel of death, I have now realised how uncertain this journey of life is. No one could have described it better than the poet Mirza Ghalib when he said “Rau mein hai raksh e umar, kahan dekhiye thamein. Naa hee haath laghaam pe hai, Na paaun hain laqaab mein.” (Life goes at a galloping pace… who knows where it will stop. Neither are my hands on the reigns nor my feet in the stirrups!) Do ponder over it… like how I’ve been doing since last week!
[To be continued]
source: http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> Feature Articles / January 23rd, 2015