Monday, January 31, 2011

iPhone trouble

My original iPhone 2G suddenly bricked a few weeks back. It just died and wouldn't even boot up. No matter what I did, nothing. It simply wouldn't start. I connected it to a power source. Tried DFU. Did everything under the sun. No effect. I had almost given up. Then my brother told me about a place in Secunderabad where they repaired iPhones.

So, I went to this place called Aanand Mobiles, in Emerald House, on S. D. Road, near Park Lane, Secunderabad. I showed them the phone and they said they would try to fix it. I had no problems with that because I had really given up on the phone so, whatever they would do, I had nothing to lose. I would realize later of course, how horribly wrong I was!

So, the guy there called me after a couple of days and said that they would need to change the power switch and it would cost Rs. 1,600. I asked them to change it. Then I got a call after another day and they said that they would also need to change the display and the mother board. It would cost totally around Rs. 6,500 (including the earlier Rs. 1,600). I thought for some time. Rs. 6,500 was a lot of money for an old phone. By then I had started using a spare Nokia phone that costed around Rs. 800 and it was worse than Chinese torture. Go ahead, I told them. I got a call after a few hours telling me that they are trying it but it may or may not work. Obviously, if it does not work, I don't pay anything.

I got a call in a few hours that they had fixed the phone and that I could collect it. I was thrilled. I went over to collect it and it seemed totally fine. I paid the money and walked out of the shop, a happy man.

My joy was short-lived, however.

Within a few hours, the battery drained completely. I charged the phone completely. A couple of hours later, the battery drained completely again. This happened again and again. I called the guy. They asked me to bring it over. A day later, they gave me the phone with my original battery. The battery problem was resolved.

For two days after that, the phone worked perfectly. Then suddenly the phone went off. Only connecting to a power source would boot it up. When booted up, the battery would be at where it was earlier, not drained at all. The phone date and time would be reset however. I carried along for some time. Same thing again and again. Strangely this happened only when a sim was inserted. If no sim was put, the phone did not seem to die. I switched to my Nokia again. I took the phone back to Aanand Mobiles yesterday. They decided to observe the phone for some time. In the evening, when I went back, they said, the phone was working perfectly. They showed me the call log and sure enough, there were calls made and the phone did not die at all they said. I took the phone back and said I would watch it for a while. I put in my sim and left.

By the time I reached home, the phone was dead.

I have given up. Back to my Rs. 800 Nokia.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sleepless nights

For the last few days, I have been having problems sleeping at night. I go to sleep soon enough but only partially. I feel like things are happening all around me. Some very urgent things. I can actually hear people talk and I respond, like it is day and I am working. I am not fully awake for sure. It is almost a state of limbo - neither sleeping nor awake!

The things that are happening are of two kinds - either it is related to the new Peritoneal Dialysis program we started at NephroPlus or it is related to Aashayein, the patient event we are organizing next Sunday. I have been very closely involved with these two and my mind is quite obsessed with these two things. So, I think this is carrying on to my sleep as well.

Yesterday, I had quite a terrible night. The whole night was one chaotic one. So much noise. So much tension. And to top it all, my mind caught on to a 'click' sound made by the blood pump of the dialysis machine. No matter what I did, I couldn't get my mind to ignore this sound. The dialysis machine probably made that before too but I never noticed. Last night however, I couldn't get my mind off it. I also tried putting cotton balls in my ears. This didn't work either. Probably because it was my mind hearing it rather than my ears.

At around 4 in the morning, I got frustrated and closed the dialysis session myself before the scheduled time had completed. Only then could I go to sleep. Sound, blissful sleep.

When I awoke however, I felt horrible. Like a zombie. Like how the surface of a drum would feel when it has been hit by a stick. It was like my whole body was vibrating at a low frequency. A slow buzz. I was feeling drained and week. I rested the whole morning. Only after lunch did I start feeling better. My closing weight was a good half kilo more than my dry weight so it wasn't excess fluid removal too. What was it then?

Last night, I decided to skip dialysis. I badly needed a good night's sleep. The fluid weight gain was also not much. So, I decided to take the night off. I had an excellent sleep and here I am, awake, fully rested, writing this post!

Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

'Aashayein' - a fun day for dialysis patients!

Hyderabad Kidney Foundation, a support group for kidney disease patients in Hyderabad is organizing an event exclusively for dialysis patients. The event called 'Aashayein - Let's celebrate life' is a going to be a fun day for folks lucky enough to be on dialysis. There is going to be a skit by patients, a beautiful fistula contest, some games, some education, an elaborate lunch (as per the renal diet) and a whole lot of gifts. And the best part - its all FREE!!

The event is being sponsored by NephroPlus and Dr. Reddy's Labs.

This is probably the first event in the city that is being held exclusively for patients. This is a great opportunity for dialysis patients to meet other dialysis patients, have some fun and get some information about dialysis, transplants, the renal diet and a lot of other stuff. There are going to be talks by a nephrologist, urologist, dietician, caregiver and patients.

I will be there for sure. If you are on dialysis and in Hyderabad on February 6th, please come for the event. Its being held at the Hotel Fortune Select Manohar on the Begumpet Main Road, next to the old airport. The event is free for dialysis patients and one other person. If you register early, you can get a free gift too! To register, call 4004-8000 or visit the HKF website.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Goa - Dialysis

Dialysis is an important part of any trip I do that is more than two nights. I have never spent more than two nights without dialysis ever since I have got on to PD in 1999! So, whenever I do long trips like I did to Goa, I need at least one session of dialysis.

I had booked my session about two weeks in advance at Goa's Vrundavan Hospital at Mapusa (pronounced Mhap-sa). I was given the 8:30 p.m. shift. No other shift was available. In one way that was good. I wouldn't need to spend valuable day hours on something as boring as dialysis! I confirmed my session a day before leaving for Goa. Everything seemed to be fine.

On Saturday, the second night of my trip, I booked a cab to take me to the hospital. There was a minor hitch. There are no cabs usually around 12:30 in the night in that area. That was when I would finish my dialysis. How would I get back? I told the hotel receptionist who was booking my onward cab that I would figure out something for the return. Just get me the onward cab, I told her. When I got into the cab, the cab driver asked me why I was going to Vrundavan. I told him about the dialysis. He asked me a few more details and I explained to him. I then asked him about the return. He asked me not to worry. He would figure something out. When we reached the hospital, he told me he would get his friend to be there at 12:30 in the night and drive me back to the hotel. He also asked me to pay for both the onward and the return drive after getting back. This was really nice of him, I thought!

I went to the dialysis unit and introduced myself to Prashant, the technician on duty. I remembered him from my 2008 trip too where I had undergone a session at the same hospital. Vrundavan Hospital's dialysis unit is divided into two parts. The bigger section has about eight machines all for negative patients while the smaller one has two machines for positive patients. Each section has one television set. The unit is slightly cramped. It is like your run-of-the mill dialysis center - purely functional without too much thought to cheer and ambience. Like 99% of units in the country.

They have this weird system in Goan hospitals where they require the patient to get all the consumables required for the dialysis session from the pharmacy. So, I was given a prescription for the consumables and asked to get those and pay for the session and come back. I first went to the cafetaria and had dinner - a simple thali and then bought the consumables (Rs. 1800) and paid for the session itself (Rs. 1000) and then returned to the dialysis unit.

The staff was quite amazed that I was cannulating myself. Prashant was not surprised. He had seen this before as well. Soon, I was on dialysis. My neighbor was watching a cricket match. Soon enough, he finished his session and I requested them to switch off the TV and all the lights. After that, I fell asleep. I awoke only a couple of times in between and then eventually when there were about 15 minutes of dialysis left. The best thing I can do on a dialysis session is to sleep! And luckily I could do that this time.

Prashant closed the session and weighed me. I lost about 3 kgs in that session. Good, I thought!

The techs and the nurses are very professional and experienced. They know their work very well and follow procedures very well. There are some differences in the way they do their stuff though. No neosporin is used (in Hyderabad, we make quite a generous use of neosporin). They use the regular sterile hospital kits for starting and closing compared to the readymade on-off kits we use in Hyderabad. Their food trolleys are much higher and are placed at the end of the bed (my leg accidentally hot the trolley once). In Hyderabad, the trolleys are kept at the side mostly. Small differences.

Once I was done, I wished them and then made my way out of the hospital where the cab was waiting for me thankfully! I got back to the hotel - feeling extremely light and airy, drained too. I haven't known that feeling for many years. This was so common when I was on in-center!

I went back to bed and fell asleep. The next morning we were scheduled to do Doodhsagar!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Goa - Doodhsagar waterfalls, Ashwem Beach

We slowly trekked down the path to the base of the falls. The trek was not very difficult especially for nimble-footed people like me! We reached the base of the falls in about half an hour. The falls were quite majestic. There was a huge pool of water at the base, from one side of which the water flowed downstream.

There was quite a crowd already. Few people ventured into the pool however. Some of my friends quickly changed into their swimming trunks and jumped right in. I changed and slowly got into the water. The water was freezing cold! I got into the pool on the side opposite to the falls. I took a complete dip and then started swimming to the opposite side. The water was so cold that my neck was almost paining. I wanted to stand so that I could get my neck out of water. The water was too deep to stand however. So, I had to continue swimming till I reached the opposite end where there were some rocks and the pool wasn't so deep. When I reached the other end, I was relieved as I would finally get my neck outside the water and get some relief from the cold!

This was probably the coldest water I ever swam in!

We then swam up to the point where the water was falling from above. The water was falling with great pressure. After playing around for about two hours, we decided it was time to head back. We got out, changed our clothes and then headed back. It was a great experience. This was probably the best waterfall I had ever seen.

The next day, we went to Ashwem beach. Ashwem beach is a half hour drive from Calangute. This beach is very quiet and peaceful. Very different from the hullabaloo of a Baga or a Calangute. You could lie down for hours together and not have anyone disturb you asking you to get a faux tattoo done or go for a water scooter ride. The incessant sound of the waves hitting the beach are all you have for company. A balm for aching souls!

It is good to go to this kind of beach as well, once in a way. Yes, no doubt, the frolic at Calangute was great. This wasn't bad either.

There is one thing about trips like these. Some people like to finish 'as much as possible'. I know a few friends who had a 'jam-packed' Goa trip. They saw like 8 beaches, 4 churches and 3 temples. All in a span of 3 days. My point is why go to Goa to do all this? Any holiday should have adequate time for rest  and relaxation. Many people, on the other hand do holidays and start checking off places on a check list. And they're really happy when they have completed all the items! Anyway, I guess its good for them.

For me, however, a holiday is mostly relaxation with a little bit to do thrown in. In this holiday we did only two beaches and a waterfall. I still felt we did too much!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Goa - water sports at the beach

I was excited about this trip because this was my first long trip after almost three years. And the first one with friends! It turned out to be quite a blast!

We got to Goa on Friday evening and checked in to the Casa Severina at Calangute, a five minute walk from the beach. We booked our rooms through Life is Outside. The hotel was excellent. Nice luxurious rooms with big baths with bath tubs and a great mini-bar. The swimming pool was also great. The best part of the hotel is it is only a few minutes from the beach.

As soon as we checked in at around five in the evening we went to the beach and played the fool in the water. We then got back and had showers and then decided to have dinner in the hotel itself. The food choice for vegetarians was limited but the quality was good. We then slept.

The next morning, we had a quick swim followed by breakfast (mainly European stuff) and then hit the beach. We did the water sports jig that day. The water scooter, the bumper ride, the banana ride and parasailing. I was glad I could do all this - something I couldn't have dreamt about at this time last year with my severe bone pain. I loved the water scooter and the parasailing. The parasailing looks more scary than it is. But the feeling of flying like a bird in the sky is unimaginable!

We had a late lunch at a beach shack - they take a long, long time to serve the average fare - serves the purpose however.

That night I headed over to the Vrundavan Hospital for dialysis. Details in another post.

The next morning, we headed over to the Doodhsagar Falls, a one and half hour drive from the main city. The road is excellent - most of the time you are on NH-4A. You reach a point where you have to switch to jeeps that are driven by the locals - probably part of some co-operative. We wondered aloud why we couldn't take our cars to the falls?

We soon knew why! The road to the falls from that point was  - wait a minute - what road? There was no road! It was a path full of stones, small rivulets, steep inclines and completely rocky terrain. Any thoughts of taking our delicate city-bred sedan soon vanished!

A half hour roller-coaster ride later we were at the spot were the jeep would not go any further. We were instructed by our driver to return within an hour. "Fat chance", I said to myself.

Continued tomorrow...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Off to Goa

I am off to Goa today!

I am really looking forward to the trip. At the same time I am a little apprehensive about the dialysis bit. I just got off a night session. I will not get any dialysis tonight. I will dialyse tomorrow (Saturday). That will be a four hour session and then I take a full two night break. This kind of a one-four-hour-session-in-four-nights thing is something I have not done in years now. I am hoping I spend enough time on the beach and in pools to not let it bother me.

I am also going to Goa with friends for the first time. I've been twice only with family. So, it is going to be a different experience.

I am most likely not going to be available by email or by phone so unless something earth-shattering happens like say if the state of Telangana is formed or if Sandeep Gudibanda responds to an email, please don't bother me!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Divide the state, but please don't expect anything to change on the ground

Undoubtedly, there is a strong sentiment for a separate state of Telangana. For years, promises by the political class to the people of this region have not been kept. The problems on the ground have only grown.

But to think that the problems are going to be solved by having a separate state can only be wishful. For example, I was told a few days back that there is a family supposedly from Andhra staying in their own house in Hyderabad. Their servants are natives. The servants apparently remarked that once the state of Telangana was formed, the owners would be forced to leave their house and the servants could take over the ownership!

In Uma Sudhir's blog, there is a similar sentiment echoed by one of the persons she interviewed. "Once we get Telangana, we can set up our own industries and generate employment.” Pray, what is stopping you now?

The agitation has reached such a stage where people look at statehood as the end to all their problems. Well, here's some news for you, dear friends - nothing is going to change on the ground. One set of corrupt politicians will be replaced by another set. One group of ineffective bureaucrats will be replaced by another group.

There will be tremendous initial euphoria. Jubilation all around. Then slowly, the truth will surface. Nothing will change on the ground. The romance of the struggle will all slowly fade away. People will become more frustrated than before because the expectations were so high.

I am not saying don't divide the state. I am not even saying divide the state. All I am saying is even if you divide the state, nothing much wil change on the ground.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The medical mafia

There is a certain section of the medical industry that has become larger-than-life. At least they think so. They believe they are above all rules. They think both the patients and the institutions they work for are all dependent on them. They have inflated egos and no ethics - a deadly cocktail especially in this industry.

They are the middle layer in the medical industry - those between the doctors and the patients. They are somewhat qualified, somewhat experienced. Unfortunately, a lot of medical institutions depend on them to a large extent for patient care. This is where corruption has got so institutionalized that nobody bats an eyelid, there is no hint of guilt while committing acts that would have otherwise seemed entirely abhorrent.

This layer has become so unabashedly powerful that in many hospitals, even doctors cannot touch them. And patients? Patients quiver at their very sight. Those that protest are silenced by the threat of harm. Yes, it is true.

Sample this threat by one of these demi-gods to a poor patient: "You know what will happen if I open this clamp?", referring to the clamp that connects to the saline line in a dialysis circuit. If not closed soon enough, the patient can die of an air embolism. Later, the avatar of Yama, laughed it off as a joke. How can someone even joke about such a thing? The very thought sends shivers down my spine. Such is the breed. Many of them are not well-educated. Is that the reason for this callousness?

Not all are like this, for sure. Many of them are very dedicated, are in this for the passion, for the love of looking after sick human beings. But there are a dangerous few. Those that sully the profession. Bribes, commissions, lust for money and power, all dangerous traits. Each feeding off the others.

Even one such must be culled at once. How do we deal with so many?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chalo bulava aaya hai, Goa ne bulaya hai...

Its holiday time! It has become something of a habit to do some travel around January apart from the short trips around October. I went to Goa in January 2008 and 2009, Coorg in 2010 and now Goa beckons us this year! It is said that you never decide to go to Goa but Goa calls you and you answer the call. Hehehehe!

A few former colleagues and I will be going to Goa on 14th January and coming back on the 18th. We plan to stay close to the Baga beach since that's where all the action usually is. I am looking forward to a relaxing holiday interspersed with some water sports at the beach. We had a ball in January 2008 when we stayed at a hotel right on Baga beach.

I have already booked my dialysis session at the Vrundavan Hospital, Mapusa on Saturday night at 8:30. It is not very far from Baga. I will be getting a one day gap on Friday night and then a two day gap on Sunday and Monday (fingers crossed!) and will return in time for a session on Tuesday night. I must control my fluid during this trip especially after my dialysis session on Saturday.

We still need to figure out the accommodation. I am in touch with the great folks at LifeIsOutside and hopefully should nail down something soon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tax exemption on medical expenses - when will the government realize?

Currently, I pay my entire medical expenses out of pocket. This is a significant part of my income. The part that I don't like is that I pay tax even on the part of my income that I spend on my medical expenses. This is not fair at all.

This struck me as weird when I realized that if someone donates a sum of money to a charity, he or she gets exemption on the sum donated under section 80G. Now, there is an exemption for medical expenses for an individual under section 80DDB. However, this exemption is capped at Rs. 40,000 per year. I am, not for a second, arguing that the exemption under section 80G for donating to charities is wrong. But, taxing money used for medical bills is absolutely wrong. There should be no cap. Period. What is the argument for a cap? Someone, please enlighten me.

We have no healthcare policy worth mentioning in India. Ok, we have Aarogyasri but that is only in Andhra Pradesh and that too only for the very poor (on paper at least). Its not like people who can afford their healthcare expenses can do so for ever. The money that I spent on taxes year after year could have been saved and I could have bought the NxStage System One, for example.

There is so much wasteful expenditure that the government incurs every year. The Haj subsidy, for example. Even true Muslims resent this and point out that the Holy Quran forbids this. Then there is the money that is spent on implementing various government schemes named after one politician or the other. Remember Mayawati's monument mania?

Any amount spent by an individual on his health (backed by a proper prescription and bills) must be totally exempt from Income Tax. I have a lot to say about the duty on importing medical equipment or consumables but that topic deserves another post.

It is high time the government woke up to this stark reality. It should really get its priorities right. If you cannot make life easier for us, at least don't make it more difficult!