Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No stranger bond - 3

(This is the third part of a short story No stranger bond. You can find the full story here.)

Shuja saw himself crossing a street. There was suddenly a lot of vehicles honking away from all sides. The drivers were yelling at him. He was confused. He did not know where to go. He started taking hurried steps towards one side. Suddenly he saw a huge lorry coming really fast towards him. He was trying to run but his legs were not moving. The lorry was not stopping. He was about to be hit by the lorry. He raised his hand and shouted, "Nahin!"

Shuja awoke from his dream in a start. He was sweating profusely. Masih, who was sleeping in the attendant's couch in the room of the Gangabai Memorial Hospital, also was woken by the shout. "What happened, Abbu?"

"Nothing, just a bad dream."

"Ok, would you like to have some water?"


Masih went over and poured out a small quantity of water for his father. He remembered what the doctor had told him that evening when he went to meet him. "Only one liter of water a day."9

He got his father to lie down again and try and get some more sleep. He checked his watch. It was about 4:30.

Masih was quite worried. Dr. Bhalla had told him about his father's condition. Shuja Mohammad had chronic kidney disease. He probably had symptoms for some time now but he had ignored them. That morning, as he was sipping his tea reading the morning newspaper in his apartment in New Delhi, he collapsed. His son and daughter-in-law rushed him in their car to Gangabai Memorial Hospital where he was taken to the casualty immediately. A few hours and tests later, he was found to have a Serum Creatinine of 10.2! He needed dialysis immediately. He was taken to the dialysis unit where a femoral catheter was inserted and dialysis was started.

That evening Masih met Dr. Bhalla. Dr. Bhalla explained that his father would need dialysis for some time. Dr. Bhalla also told him they would also need to create an arteriovenous fistula for the dialysis. This would be a small surgery which they would plan after a few days of dialysis. Masih did not like the sound of all this. It looked like some major problem.

Sharada Subramanyam woke up as usual at around 6. She quickly had her bath and went over to the kitchen. She had decided to make idlis that morning. Cooking came easily to this Tamil lady. She had learnt the ropes from her mother. She loved to cook and feed her husband when he was alive. Even after her husband had passed, she did not let the loss diminish her love for cooking. Her son and daughter-in-law, both complete career people were ardent fans of her cooking and loved the keenness with which she would use only the correct and the best ingredients and churn up one South Indian delicacy after the next. Madhu did the basic stuff but let her mother-in-law do things she enjoyed.

Idlis were Sharada's strength. "It is easy to make a good dosa but it is equally easy to make a bad idli!", Sharada would tell anyone who cared to hear.

That morning she gathered the boiled rice that was brought from Chennai ("the Delhi rice just doesn't cut it!") along with the urad dal and put them in the wet grinder. Many South Indian families had settled for the mixer-grinder to prepare their batters. Not Sharada. She strongly believed that the wet grinder had an equally important role to play in the making of a good idli as the quality of the rice itself.

One thing Sharada hated though was that she couldn't eat the coconut chutney that she made to go with the idlis. She had to make do with sambar and that too with such less salt that it took away half the pleasure of eating the idli. The excess potassium in the chutney could actually kill Sharada10. Despite this, Sharada would make the coconut chutney for Bala and Madhu and they relished it totally. Idli mornings were happy mornings in the Subramanyam household!

Shuja Mohammad woke up around 8:30 that morning. He found Masih reading the newspaper. The nurse came to give him a sponge bath. He declined. Masih understood. Dr. Bhalla came to see him at around 10. They asked him the plan for the day. "Complete bed rest", Dr. Bhalla said. "Tomorrow, we will give him another dialysis. We will need to do some more tests and then plan for the fistula surgery. Once the fistula surgery is done, we will send you home."

"It is all a money making tactic", complained Shuja once the doctor had left. "Let us go home right away. I am feeling totally all right. Just a little bit of weakness."

Masih replied, "Let us not be in a hurry, Abbu, now that we are already here, why be in a rush to go back? Let us do the tests and then make sure you are totally all right and then go."

Masih had done a lot of research on the internet that morning. He had realized that his father was seriously sick. Kidney disease was now a reality he would have to live with lifelong.


(Acknowledgements: Jayadeep Thum for suggesting footnotes to explain terms that may not be obvious to those unfamiliar with dialysis. I have also updated the first two parts with footnotes.)

9 - Dialysis patients need to restrict their fluid intake because since their kidneys are not functioning, the excess fluid is not being removed from the body. Typically, most patients are advised to restrict their fluid intake to about a liter per day.

10 - Potassium is one of the toxins that the kidneys remove. Though potassium is essential for muscles like the heart to function, too much potassium can cause the heart to beat too fast and when the quantity of potassium becomes too high in the blood (typically when the kidneys are not functioning), the patient can also die. Coconuts are sources of high potassium and dialysis patients are not allowed to have even a little coconut due to this.

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