Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sunburn and Eosinophilia

The sun shines after days of pollution haze
In the middle of December, suddenly Delhites felt strong sunlight shining in clear blue skies. The terrible pollution haze faded. And the weather got cooler.

It was time for Anna to spend an hour a day soaking in the sun. It's warmth would remove some of the cold from his bones. It's light would ensure the production and absorption of Vitamin D.

sun burned thigh

Within a couple of days, Anna's legs, mid thigh down, were red. Within 12 hours, the redness had spread and there was a little rash and swelling.  I thought it was a sunburn.  The doctor concurred, but suspected more.

A blood test revealed that Anna has eosinophilia. And a sunburn.

Anna finds it funny.

Anna: "It's just a little photo-sensitivity."

Me:  "Yes, Anna. Your skin has become very sensitive with age. You have got sun burnt."

Anna: "We Indians are born with an ISI mark on our skin colour. 'Permanent. Fast colour guaranteed'. So we shouldn't get sunburned."

Really dad?!

Anna's pills
I explain to Anna: "I have added an additional tablet, 3 times a day, to treat your eosinophilia."

Anna responds with: "I already take 2 dozen pills, 3 more won't make a difference!"

Very mature and stoic, you think.  

I am now preparing for the days when Anna will count the pills he takes. 

He will recognize that there are more pills than the number he remembers. He will either refuse to take his medication or call me in panic fearing that he is being over medicated.

I will have to explain the sunburn and eosinophilia to him again. And I will smile as I tell him that the ISI mark "Permanent. Fast colour guaranteed" does not work.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Only Thing I Have Achieved Is To Make You Miserable

Patiently waiting
for breakfast
on a normal day
Anna's still has the throat infection that started just before Diwali. The doctor decided not to give him any medication and advised steam inhalation 2-3 times a day.  We have been doing this religiously.

Then one morning, around 9:30am, I get a desperate call from his attendant saying that Anna is refusing to eat breakfast and have his medication.

I run to his place to find Anna sitting stubbornly away from the dining table. He, like an ostrich with its head in the sand, has his eyes closed, thinking that if he can not see us we are not there.

Me: Anna? What's the problem? Why are you not eating breakfast?   Pause.

Anna: I don't want to eat breakfast.

Me: Anna, you need to eat breakfast so that you can have your medication.   Pause.

Anna: I don't want to have medication.

Pills and Pill Boxes
Having been thru' this conversation chain many times before, I try what has been successful before.

Me: Anna, if you don't want to take all the pills, I can take out just the Carbidopa-Levodopa for you.

Normally this works, as Anna knows that he has to have his critical Parkinson's medication, without which he stiffens up and can not walk. However, this time I get no response much less an affirmative one. He continues to sit like the Buddha.

Me: Anna, you do need to have your Syndopa Plus (the brand name of the Carbidopa-Levodopa formula he uses).

Anna: I don't want to.

Me: Anna you know that having Syndopa is critical. You have to eat something before taking it.

Anna: I've had coffee.

Me: Anna, that was at 7am! You have to have something more substantial.

Then there is a long break. We are at impasse. He won't eat, and I don't know what to say or do.

And then Anna says: If I don't eat and have medicine, I can die faster.

Oh boy! Now what do I do?
I decide to ignore this statement, and talk about food.

Me (trying to tempt him): Anna, shall I make uppitu (upma) for breakfast?

Anna: No. I don't want breakfast.
Anna's jar of Nutella
I run down all the options and get a simple "No" to all of them. No poha. No daliya. No omlette and toast. No dry fruits and oats. No cornflakes and fruit. No sooji. No to everything.

If I wasn't worried and frustrated, I'd be angry at this childishness!!

Then I ask, Anna, will you have a slice of toast with something? Peanut butter? Jam? Chocolate spread?

I hit pay dirt. His eyes open. He looks at me. He says Chocolate spread.

Before he can change his mind, we move him to the dining table, and quickly put Nutella on hot toast. He eats it with glee. After he finishes it, he licks his sticky chocolate-peppered fingers.  And then has his medication.

Me: Anna, will you now have a nap?

Anna: Yes.

Pause.  Long Pause as he slow walks / shuffles to sit on his bed.

Anna: Sangeeta, so all I achieved was to make you miserable.

Yes dad. You did.

And I know you are going to do it again.....

Friday, December 11, 2015

Saving Sethumadhavarao

Thoughts of water and its dangers continue to be top of mind for Anna after the terrible Chennai rains.

But instead of hallucinations, he tells me the story of how he and his brothers saved his 50 year-old maternal uncle, Sethumadhavarao, from drowning in the Bhavani river. Sethumadhavarao was a pigeon-toed, six-fingered teacher who was considered by the family as a prime candidate for diabetes, as his small frame carried over 200 lbs of weight. Most of it on his paunch and bottom.
Map data (c) 2015 Google

At the time of this incident, in 1948, Sethumadhavarao, was living in Jalakandapuram, a town in Salem District, Tamil Nadu. Jalakandapuram was, and by all accounts still is, a small town (population <20,000 people), with no water bodies - no river or lake.  Even the 60 feet-deep wells had only a few inches of water.

Bhavani River,
Anna's family lived ~40 kilometers away from Jalakandapuram, in Kumarapalayam, Bhavani's twin town.  The 2 towns are separated by the great Bhavani river.

So when Sethumadhavarao visited his favorite younger sister, my grandmother Ananthalakshmi, the three brothers, Cheenu, Padu, and Krishna were charged with looking after him.

The three brothers who had all learned to swim in the Bhavani River thought that it would be a treat to take their water-deprived uncle for a swim. On seeing the great Bhavani river, in full flow, Anna says that Sethumadavarao went "ga-ga".

Cheenu, Padu, and Krishna took Sethumadhavarao to a place at the confluence of the Bhavani, Kaveri, and the invisible Amritha rivers.  At this spot was a 20 foot, 45-degree, natural rock slide into 2 feet of water. A calm, safe place for their uncle to take a dip.

Sethumadhavarao was convinced by three teenage boys that he was in safe hands.  So he stripped down into his kachhae and slid down the decline. Fast, very fast! Propelled by gravity and his not-so-light weight. Unfortunately, instead of sliding down on his ample nether region, Sethumadhavarao, slid down the incline head first, on his paunch!!

As his head went under water, he started to flail his arms, twisting his head, trying to keep his nose out of water. But weight and gravity will have their way and he continued to slide further in. In a couple of seconds, he is holding his body in a pushup position, arms on the rock under him, back arched, head above water. And he is panicking. Screaming that he does not want to die, that he is too young to die at 50. He invokes every God he can think of, pleading to be saved.

The brothers realize the danger and jump down the incline, bent on saving their uncle.  Fearing the wrath of their mother more than the death of their uncle.

Krishna, grabs Sethumadhavarao's legs and tries to pull him back up the incline. Padu, stands astride his uncle's more than ample frame and pushes at his hip and bottom.  Cheenu holds his shoulders and adds his strength to push Sethumadhavarao up the 45-degee incline, while he is still lying on his stomach.

It takes them buckets of sweat, torn muscles, and 30 mins to get 200 lbs of flailing dead weight to the top of the incline.

For the next 20 minutes they sit together, bound by sweat, fear and water, trying to catch their breath. And worrying about what their uncle is going to tell their mother. The brothers are sure Ajji will either kill them or throw them out of the house for endangering her beloved brother. All the while, Sethumadhavarao keeps repeating how he has "gone to the other world and come back".

When they get home, Sethumadhavarao has recovered completely from the ordeal. When Ajji asks him about his visit to the "great water way", all he says is that she has real gems as sons!

And our three heroes get to live another day!  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hallucinating on Chennai Rains

A township passes us by
Venice, Sept 2008

For the last few days Anna has been hallucinating about being on a boat / yacht / ship. His questions and comments range from, "This ship is well decorated" to "I want to go on deck" to "I have never been on a ship". And tho' I keep reminding him that he is at home and in Delhi (miles away from the sea) I haven't been able to stop the hallucination, tho' he does break out of it for brief periods of time.

Photo courtesy Madras Crocodile Bank

Yesterday, on his evening walk, I tell him that there is a rumor that 40 crocodiles escaped the Chennai Crocodile Park and are swimming the streets of Chennai. He finds this interesting and funny, focusing on the escape and not the fact that it is a rumor. I then tease him that he needs to walk more, to build up strength and stamina, so that we can send Cheenu, the famous Tamil crocodile tamer to catch them. He lets out a loud laugh!!

Smooth Sailing, Kronborg Castle, Helsingor
August 2009

This morning, we are again on a well managed and turned-out yacht.

Anna: This ship is well decorated.

Me: Anna, where do you think you are?

Anna: On a yacht.  I have never been on a yacht.

Me: Are you feeling unsteady? Is the ground swaying under your feet?

Anna: No. Everything is steady. Technology has advanced so much that I can't feel the yacht move.

Me: Anna, look at the floor.  Can you see the granite chips embedded in cement? Like in all DDA Flats? You are at home in Sheikh Sarai.

Anna: Oh! Pause. I have never been on a ship. I want to travel on a ship. Will you take me?

Me:  Anna, we are in Delhi.  We will have to travel to Bombay or Calcutta or Chennai.

Anna: Aren't we there yet?

And then it hits me!! Ever since the heavy downpour and floods in Chennai, Anna has been hallucinating about being on a boat or a ship or a yacht.

It is that simple.

So till the floods abate and Chennai limps back to normal, I know that Anna is going to be on a yacht or ship or boat.

The hallucination is now so much easier to understand and manage.