(This series describes the run up to kidney disease, the diagnosis and my first transplant)
11th July 1997, Chennai, India
"Counter Number 4, please", the magical words of the Consular Officer at the US consulate! No questions asked. He just looked through my papers and said this. This meant I was being given my student visa for pursuing my master's in the US. "Thank you sir!", I said and rushed over to the queue at counter #4 to pay the visa fee.
As I was leaving the consulate building, there was an extra bounce in my step. I was extremely happy. This was the end of a long journey. A journey that enabled another journey. I would go to the US to study. Great opportunities lay ahead.
I saw my father at the gate waiting anxiously to know what happened. I signaled with a thumbs up sign. He was relieved. The tension that accompanies the whole visa approval process not only engulfs the candidate but his immediate family as well. It is a big step in an individual's life. One that dictates the next few years of and possibly his entire life.
We celebrated that evening by going to my favorite restaurant in Chennai called "Dasa". Some relatives in Chennai joined us.
The next day, we headed for Hyderabad.
13th July 1997, Hyderabad
My brother Prasan had given a small ad in the local newspaper to celebrate another event - my winning a gold medal for topping my college exams! So, a few people called and came home to congratulate me for that rather than the visa!
I started preparing for the move to the US. The first thing I needed to do was to learn how to cook. Guess what I started off with? Dal Bati! Probably one of the most complex dishes! I explained to my mother that though I was learning the whole dish, I could actually make it in parts or try it on a Sunday!
14th July 1997
I went to the Institute of Preventive Medicine. I had to get vaccinated for Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Measles, Mumps and Rubella. This was a standard thing which everyone who was going to the US did. I got the vaccines. I was told that there could be some fever as a side effect.
Towards evening, I did get feverish and took it easy.
I started planning a small party for a few friends to celebrate the gold medal and the visa. The next morning I went to my college where I was scheduled to meet up with a few friends and plan the party and invite the guys. I was feeling a little queasy and attributed it to the vaccines.
However, unknown to me, there were some changes that were taking place inside me. These changes did manifest in external forms. But I had no clue on what was happening. My blood cells had started breaking. My platelet count started decreasing and my nephrons, the building blocks of my kidneys started failing.
I went ahead and booked my tickets for the US.