Friday, July 22, 2016

That Sound of Bubbles Escaping to Freedom

Photo Courtesy:
If you like water, then you will understand when I say that one of my favourite sounds is that of bubbles. Bubbles forming and escaping to freedom through water.

As a child I remember sticking my head under water, releasing air from my mouth and feeling the bubbles with my hands as they rose to freedom from my lungs.

Photo Courtesy:
The first time I realised that bubbles can be caused by other parts of the body was when one of my many swim-mates teased me about bubbles from my bum! You got it! Bubbles formed by farting underwater. And even tho' I denied it vociferously, I was teased by one and all. Now that I am older (much older!) and wiser, I realise that these swimming mates must have farted themselves in the water to know that bubbles can be created that way too!

I also remember how natural it felt to put an empty bottle, mouth first, into a bucket of water, and tilt it slightly to release the air trapped in the bottle, to form bubbles. I was the saviour, releasing them to rise to freedom. That plop-gurgle sound is the sound of fun.

Photo Courtesy:
The sound that you get when you blow air thru a straw into a glass full of juice or milk. Blub-plop-gurgle. Blub-plop-gurgle. The dance of the bubble tribe!

What does this have to do with Anna?
A lot.

As I shared with you, Anna has been losing weight over the last 10 months even tho' he is eating OK. His energy levels are low. His breathing laboured after the most minimal of movements. Then the poor man gets viral fever and cold.

10 Jul 2016
Before the Viral Fever

At Saket Select Citywalk
Photo: Mamta Murthi
My sister who is here for 10 days, to give me some respite from my father's care-giving responsibilities, monitors his viral fever like a hawk. Hourly temperature is taken and recorded. Cold compress on his forehead, hands and feet is used in-between Crocin doses. Steam inhalations are done three times a day, to the tune of Anna's whimpers of "Aiyoo-Amma"!

When I talk with the doctor, he tells me to bring Anna to the hospital if he stops eating, and that the viral will have to take its course.

Anna's food intake becomes smaller and smaller.  A man who normally eats 4 idlis for lunch, eats only 1 and a bite. He refuses to eat roti or the peas in his upma.  On 20th, he manages to drink 2 half-glasses of lassi, barely enough to keep a small pet alive. So, on the day my sister leaves, I take him to hospital.

He is breathing heavily. There is no to little response to questions we ask. His BP is OK and he has a low grade fever. His lungs are congested. We admit him and he is put on an IV. After settling him down, we return home.

I just have time to have a shower and eat something, when I get the dreaded late night call from the attendant. "Please come. Anna is not doing well."

Sanjiv and I rush to the hospital. On our way we get a call from the resident doctor telling us that Anna is critical and to get to the hospital fast. Even at this time of night, the traffic prevents us from reaching there quickly. Fear and frustration are intertwined.

22 July 2016: Anna at Neptune Hospital
I run up the stairs to Anna's room. There are so many people there! Doctor, ER Nurse, Floor Nurse, and Attendant.  The doctor tells us that pulmonary aspiration caused his breathing to become laboured, heart rate to skyrocket and oxygen levels to fall to dangerous levels.

Anna is on the bed, his nose and mouth covered by an oxygen mask, a monitor beeping his heart beat. Out of Anna's mouth comes the sound of bubbles. Bubbles struggling to escape. Every heave of his weak shrunken chest is accompanied by a dull gurgle, and ever exhalation  is the sound of bubbles pushing past thick viscous fluid. It is a horrible sound.

Not a sound, but a horrible long lament of lungs desperately trying to take in and hold air. To just breath.

Now the sound of bubbles do not bring me fond memories of childhood or of teasing farting mates in a swimming pool. They are no longer fun, or comforting.

Anna's O2 fell below 60% and his BP shot through the roof.
He is on IV fluids and oxygen. 
He is unable to swallow more than 2 half teaspoons of water.
We have been unable to wean him off external oxygen support.


  1. Hope Anna gets better soon and his parables continue to amaze and inspire many like me. Wishing Anna a super speedy recovery.

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  3. Hope Anna feels better soon. Sending best wishes. Take care.

  4. You should have sent a text immediately. Please tell me how he is now.

  5. Anna is pretty much the same as he was. Fed half teaspoons of a cup of coffee and soup today in addition to IV fluids. Still on oxygen.

  6. I would be happy to help. Please let me know. Regards Srini

    1. Thank you Srinivas. Will reach out to you.