Indian Hospitals: Giving a Sample

Republic Day, Mysore, India – I guess the tea man can only speak, not read English because after hearing our summons to the room he ignored the note and still knocked to find out what we wanted. Oh well, tea and newspapers in bed still worked – even if we had to get up to unlock the door. Rich wasn’t feeling too well so Kate and I got up early and told Rich we’d be back to get him for lunch. The two of us headed to the base of Chamundi Hill and started to climb the 1,000 odd steps to the temple at the top. About half way up the hill we found Nandi – the stone statue of the Sacred Bull, which was big, surrounded by Indians and very boring. We hiked the rest of the way to the top and up[on reaching the summit we found the Chamundi hill Temple – one of the few where non-Hindus are allowed inside. We sat there and watched the people and priests give offerings of coconuts and flowers to the gods. After watching this for a while we sat outside eating our snack of fresh green coconuts when one of the ubiquitous holy cows came over and began accosting me for some food. The only was to get rid of it was to lead it away with a piece of coconut husk for it to lick clean. Kate and I headed back down into Mysore and went straight to the street corner where the locals sell their materials. Plus at Rs 16 (US$.64) a meter we couldn’t pass up buying a ton of it. You see, not ten meters from the door to our hotel are no less than fifteen tailors – all for hire. Boy did Kate and I have plans for them. We went to the tailors and got prices for the stuff we wanted made. Here’s the list: shorts – Rs 30, Pants – Rs 30, Boxers – 15, button down shirt – 30. We dropped off our material to be transferred into various chemises, then headed to the sandalwood stores to see if we wanted to buy anything to send home. Sandalwood is incredibly expensive, so instead of that I broke down and bought a large smiling Buddha made of rosewood for Rs 150 (US$5). After our shopping spree we headed back to the hotel to get Rich for lunch. We’d done all that before noon!

We went to lunch, but Rich wasn’t feeling well at all so we decided to take him back to the hospital to see the doctor again. Rich and I left Kate and headed over to the private hospital, but even though it was private it’s still the third world. It took us a while to get the receptionist’s attention and even then she told us to just sit down. We’d waited a while and then Rich laid out across the length of the bench in the waiting room because he really wasn’t feeling well. We were getting impatient with the attitude of the staff, and when the security guard told me to get Rich to sit up I screamed at him. “He’s sick! He needs to see a doctor!” I screamed this loudly across the waiting room in a very snide tone, but we’d learned that to get certain thing done in India that tone is needed. Rich was finally admitted to the hospital and put in his own room. They were going to check him out for kidney problems. Now even though Rich was in a “hospital” (quotes needed) I suppose the building was technically a hospital, but not what you’d expect a hospital to offer in way of services. This was a total do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) hospital. Rich was issued a prescription for his IV fluids, drugs, etc., but the nurses aren’t required to get you any of the stuff. I had to go downstairs to the hospital pharmacy (which doubles as a closet) any buy al the stuff – needles, tubes and drugs, in order for the doctors to begin his course of treatment. The DIY clause also includes all food, drinks, etc., Third world hospitals! So frustrating sometimes – they’d try the patience of a Saint! Rich was due to have some X-rays done, so when they took him down for them I left to go get him some food and tell Kate what was going on.

Kate and I returned to his room a few hours later to be told a story about him having to give the nurses a stool sample to test for Giardia. I was going to go to the loo, but was strongly advised not to go in there because of a mishap with the sample. The sample proper was in a specimen dish – it was getting it into the test vial the nurses had given Rich that seemed to be the problem. The vial was a small glass bottle with an opening not more than twice the diameter of the pen I’m using to write this sentence with. Rich was also hooked up to an IV so he was only able to use one hand, and the nurses had failed to give him any sort of instrument to scoop the sample into the jar. When one is in a situation like that you may as well make an attempt to help the nurses our and get some of the specimen into the jar. Rich thought the same thing and at that he scooped the jar across the specimen much the way you’d scoop a cup into a bucket of water thinking he’d get at least some of it into the jar. I never saw it, but I guess there was more on the outside of the test vial than actually made it inside. Rich just left it for the nurses thinking he shouldn’t have to deal with this, his quote to me being something to the effect of, “I hope the nurses are wearing rubber gloves when they come and collect that sample.”

Rich buzzed the nurses (they always appeared in twos) and when they arrived, sans rubber gloves, he told them the stool sample was ready in the bathroom. I was poised in my chair near the bathroom door so I could get a good view of the comedy about to begin. Nurse number one (who I named Sid) entered the bathroom and after surveying the carnage Rich had left behind – one second in there on her own – she immediately popped her head out the door and began yapping away in Hindi, very quickly, at nurse #2 (named Nancy). Sid had this semi-troubled look on her face and then Nancy went into the bathroom to help her out. Out in the room I could hear the two of them yapping away at each other about what they were going to do with this specimen jar all covered in specimen. A few minutes later the two nurses came out of the bathroom, both with glazed looks in their eyes. Nancy was carrying the specimen dish, but I never saw the test vial make a separate exit. I can only imagine it was still with the specimen – exactly where Rich had left it.

When they came out of the bathroom they found Rich, Kate and I doubled over with laughter, each beginning to tear up at the eye. How did they expect Rich to get the sample in the jar with an IV in his arm? As I said, sometimes you have to do dramatic things to get attention and get things done. Again, this was one of those times.

I sat with Rich until 8:00 p.m. that evening, then I headed out for I needed to send a fax to the insurance company in London to sort out who was going to pay the hospital bill. Back to the room and the insurance company rang me from London to sort out the details and get a better idea of what was going on out here. As far as we knew Rich was going to be in the hospital until the doctors figured out what was wrong with him. Who knows how long that could take.

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