Coping with Death!

Birth and Death are the two absolute truths in life, there is no other side to these events. The birth in any family brings joy, and death brings sadness. In the case of birth, it is expected to be a natural progression after marriage. But for some couples giving birth to a child becomes a very complex event. But in the end, it is a joyful event.

Any death is a sad, dreadful event. Humans expect everything to happen sequentially. Humans hope that the parents will die first then the children and then grandchildren and so on. As we know, life is not so simplistic. Deaths can happen in any which way and are pre-decided by destiny. Though we know that such a catastrophe can happen, nobody is ever prepared for the break in the death sequence. In fact, we are not ready to accept death. Death is a daily occurrence in life, we directly get involved in very few of them. In India, when a death occurs, the body is generally cremated. In many communities, children and women do not go the cremation ground. We tend to shield them from death. This lack of mental preparation makes it challenging to handle death.

Death11

This morning, I received an email from a close friend of mine, about the sudden death of his 35-year-old niece. She died in her sleep. The reason was a heart attack. The family is devastated. I immediately called him, and we talked about life. Both he and I have gone through cancer treatment. Though the onset was not significant in both our cases, it was a sudden reminder sent by destiny to both of us. It was a wakeup call saying that we are not infallible. Both of us are nearing 70 and have generally lived a happy life. But this out of turn death has really shaken me. I had met his niece a couple of times, and I remember her as a lively person. How can such things happen? How her parents, siblings, husband and other close ones must be feeling? I am not really sure that in such deaths, how even the excellent healer time will help.

Another event occurred a month and a half back, when a 42-year-old son of another close friend of mine, died of a heart attack. The son had a heart condition and was taking treatment under expert guidance. The therapy included some exercise. He was told to exercise in the hospital gym. While exercising he collapsed and died. People were around him, he was only 100 meters from the emergency room. He could not be taken there; he died before that.

It can happen that if the child were 4 or 6 years old, others might understand the grief caused by death. Some parents might feel that life is unjust to them and will think that all the sense of Godly support is over glorified; it will not be a surprise if they challenge the spiritual beliefs. When an adult dies, the person is still a child for the parent, whatever the age. Outsiders may not understand the shock of such deaths on parents. In such cases, it can so happen that the sympathy and focus may shift to the spouse or the children of the person who died. People sometimes fail to realise that the bond between the child and the parent is powerful, whatever the age. In such a case, the parent cannot be deprived of the right to grieve.

Death13

When an adult dies, the life of his/her parents becomes more complicated as the parents are already going through a series of problems. Parents may be able to understand at some stage after the death that love is stronger than death, though it cannot stop the death from happening. One thing is sure, love ensures that attempts made by death to separate people from love do not succeed. Death cannot take away memories. Maybe life is stronger than death.

Death12

Each religion, each philosophy has thought processes which provide solace to humans who go through extreme events like the death of an adult child. How far these are successful, I am not really sure. Such incidents have their own vagaries. It can happen that parents may not be involved in funeral arrangements for different reasons. Parents may not be in conditions to travel. Parents’ relations and interactions with the child’s spouse and the grandchildren may change, sometimes permanently. It is possible that they may be required to grieve commonly, with the spouse of the child and their other relatives. Private grief at that time may not happen. As seniors, parents may have to support younger members in the family, by keeping their own pain aside. Things can be tough.

Practical aspects will be dependent on whether the child was married or unmarried. In the case of an unmarried child, all the responsibility about banks, investments, properties, informing the employers will be with parents. The friends of the child will want to help, take it. Don’t forget that friends are also grieving and want to help. I am sure that the most challenging part will be how to handle the future. Every individual will do it differently, but a good idea will be to plan.

When I write a blog, I try to come to a conclusion at the end of the blog. But this blog is not a blog, in the real sense. I have just written down thoughts as they came to my mind. I pray to HIM to give strength to the family and friends to somehow cope with such stressful events. I also pray to the almighty, that fewer families are required to face such catastrophes!

Sudden ….

Some things happen gradually, and other things happen suddenly. What is reasonable, gradual or sudden? It depends on circumstances and events. In sporting events like hockey and football, there are sudden death goals. Till the last moment in the game, it is possible that team A is controlling the match but is not able to score the coveted goal. But at an opportune moment team, team B gets a chance to score that goal! The goal scored causes “sudden death”! The only word to explain such an event is destiny!

Many such events happen in life. We think that these are sudden events, but not all are sudden. Heart attack in sporadic cases is sudden. A friend ten years senior to me is a retired Air Force pilot. Once we were discussing heart attack, he said, “ Heart attack is a failure of hydraulic systems in different ways. Aeroplane and heart are very similar. In the aeroplanes only one hydraulic system needs to be checked while flying; crews can check all other systems on the ground. When a plane crashes, it is either due to pilot error or maintenance failure.”

I checked on the net and found that there are very few situations where death is instantaneous. The so-called sudden events always have some history in the background. The situation is getting developed which we miss out. In the case of health, we miss out on body signals. In case of relationships, we miss out on indications. In the case of professional work, there are precedents known, and histories are available about failures. But we think that those are sudden failures, which they are not.

Years back there was an event where I was deeply involved. I family friend called me, I was in the office. She said, “Please drop everything and come to my home immediately.” I rushed. She said that mother of her son’s girlfriend had called. The couple fought, and it appeared that the girl tried to immolate herself. But my friend said, “ This is sudden, and  it is impossible. They have broken off more than six months back. How can this happen?” I took some action by which would get some time. I made the Son “vanish” or sent him to a location not easy to find. The act was to buy some time if the police started looking for him. By that time, her husband came back from office. Her husband and I went to that girl’s home. The girl had locked up our man’s scooter to a pillar using a chain, proving that the boy had visited them. On discussion, we found out they were regularly meeting for the last six months even after the breakup. They had exchanged letters and gifts. Somehow we managed to settle the problem. But there was nothing “Sudden” as my friend had said. The boy’s family was unaware of their meetings, but the girls family knew everything.

Accidents do happen suddenly. In such cases, sometimes we get time, sometimes we don’t. US Airways flight 1549 was climbing up after take off. That afternoon’s events were at 3.24 clearance, 3.25 take off, at 3:27:11 there was a significant bird hit. At 3:27:33 the pilot declared MAYDAY, a major emergency. At 3.31 water landing in Hudson River in New York. The expert pilot Sullenberger and his co-pilot managed to land safely, and all 155 people survived. Could they have done something differently? I don’t think so. The expert panel had suggested the pilots could have landed at an airport based on the evidence available. But it was proven that there is reaction time to be considered in case of such emergencies. Humans take time to absorb the shock and react. After the bird hit, for about 20 seconds the pilots were stunned and could not respond. These 20 seconds converted the event into “sudden” catastrophe variety. Luckily there were no deaths.

A 42-year-old son of a friend died recently. He had some medical history and was going through rehabilitation under medical guidance. He was doing some exercise in the hospital premises, about 100 meters from a trauma care facility. But he got such a massive attack, one of those rare events, that he could not be taken across for treatment. This death is a sudden event, and there is nothing humans can do about it except accept the fact that the event has occurred.

Some unforeseen events give us joy, for example winning a lottery ticket. Nobody can predict the winning of the lottery, and it can provide humans with great pleasure. The death of the man is also a sudden event which brings extreme sadness in our lives. As explained the tiff of the lovers was not sudden but was unexpected for the boy’s family.

Falling in love in life is one of the most pleasant events in life. This event is also described as Love at First Sight! Such an event occurs in case of very few lucky people.

sudden1

Consider the earthquakes. An earthquake is an event which occurs suddenly. The above diagram indicates the science behind earthquakes. This science is not yet perfect and even the scientists who are trying to track when an earthquake can occur, are still unable to do so. For you and me it is a sudden event, and all that we can do is pray! Volcanoes, Landslides also come under the same category as earthquakes, and we can hope that the eruption is not too severe!

Lately, a new man-made thing which is causing real worries, is Terrorist Attack! These have started the world over in late ’70 s and are unexpected events. There are many things happening world over like illegal migrations, the tyranny of dictators which lead to such attacks. Even the best of the security majors are not able to prevent them entirely. These attacks come under sudden category!

Another pleasant sudden event is Inheritance. Some people are lucky to get it, but most don’t.

Friends, my experience is that the “Sudden” events in majority cases, are not pleasant ones. Why does this happen? Is it because we always assume that bad things will never happen in our lives? There is a saying “Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst”! What does it mean? It means that we must have a positive attitude but be prepared for a bad outcome. But we don’t follow this idiom. By doing this, we manage not to get entangled in situations that are “Sudden”!

Cheers! I suddenly remembered that I was expected somehwere two hours back!

Shifting Milestones!

I was chatting with my cousin who is 72, three years older than me. They had taken a ten-day holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia. He said the youngest person in their group was 65! Of course, 65 is young, today! In our life, we have different milestones like births and deaths, education and work, marriage and children and so on. But there has been a tradition to celebrate when people reached certain age milestones like 50 or 60 or 75. Celebrating the hundred-year milestone is a rarity even today.  

When I was in school, celebrating the 50th birthday was a big event, and 60th was a significant. The importance of age milestones in our lives is decided by the average lifespan in society! Average life expectancy till the ’50s in the last century was well below 40, before 80’s it was below 50. It crossed 60’s in the year 2000! Currently, it is 67 and expected to cross 70 in the year 2050! Use this link to get details. 

http://www.me-jaa.com/October2015/LifeTable.pdf 

Now that the boring statistics are done, they were essential to know the meaning of celebration of 50th and 60th birthday while I was in school! Achieving these age milestones was indeed an event worth celebrating. When we talk of average expectancy it means the average age at which the people are expected to die; the people in families who can afford to eat healthier food, get better medical facilities and a cleaner environment, lived longer. It was no surprise to know that in my family, there were five deaths between 1976 and 1980; only my grandfather died at 89, all others were around sixty or below. These figures generally matched of the life expectancy of that period or were slightly above expectancy level. 

This indicates that the life expectancy in the type of families I have mentioned above has definitely gone up to 70 plus now. Better medical facilities of current times, have increased cure rates of cancers and heart attacks, it won’t be a surprise if the expectancy age crosses 80! Wow, this is extraordinarily rapid progress in a short period of 20 years. What could be the reasons other than those already mentioned? One definite and significant reason is the much-maligned social media! The FB’s and WA’s of this world have definitely helped. What the media has done is that one could locate old friends and foes alike! One could identify ex’s easily in the privacy of their own accounts.

In the old age in modern society, the first phase of the post-retirement period passes with fun. You really don’t have to wake up early every day and go to the office. (You can sleep in the afternoon too!) Being away from the grind is fun. At the same time, you may want to do things for which never got enough time. You travel, you meet friends and see places. But as the years pass, there can be some limitations which may come up with some deterioration of health. This is where the problems start coming up. Younger people from the family may not have time for you; maybe they live in different cities or countries. Not everybody can keep themselves happily or productively busy. Then you start feeling cut off! This is where social media has helped, provided it is used correctly.

When people start becoming lonely, they lose interest in their lives, and some even lose the will to continue to live! Social media has helped a great deal in last ten to fifteen years to provide the reason to get keen to meet “friends”, it has increased enthusiasm in people to chat/talk with each other. You always have something to look forward to when you wake up every day! Social media shares with us an enormous variety of music, songs, articles and videos!  

How did social media really help? 

  1. Friends 
    1. It has never been easier to make friends than it was before. Just a few decades ago it was pretty tough to connect with people unless you were the overly outgoing type able to make conversation with anyone at a party. 
    2. The rise of mobile phones helped change this, connecting people in a new way, but then social networks sprang up, and the whole idea of friendship changed again.  
    3. It’s entirely possible to have hundreds of friends on Facebook. They may not be friends you know on a personal level and spend time within the real world on a weekly basis. But they’re friends nonetheless. There are several people I consider friends who I have never met — in fact, I may never meet them — but that doesn’t lessen the connection we have thanks to social networks. 
  2. Empathy 
    1. Each of us spends a little too long talking about ourselves on social networking sites, even if we’re casually surfing. Which is perfectly natural. We’re sharing our lives — the ups and downs, the twists and turns — with people we think will care. 
    2. They generally do care and will tell you so. Friends will listen to what you have to say, and help you deal with any problems you may be facing. Your near  and dear ones do not have time, you interact with newer ones! 
    3. The point is that by all of us sharing our experiences, both good and bad, on social networking sites, we’re able to empathise with each other. A friend may have gone through a similar ordeal that you are currently going through, and they will be able to help you get through it. 
  3. Speedy communication 
    1. I really don’t have to say about this. It is a revolutionary change and is really inexpensive. 
  4. In touch with the world 
    1. You remain in touch with the world through most of the times virtually. Such relations honestly are not very close but between shallow contact and good (virtual) contact with the outside world and latter option is always better. 
  5. Building relationships 
    1. There is no doubting that social networking sites can lead to the breaking up of relations. But there is another side to the story, which is that people are moving onto other, perhaps better, relationships. Social networks can put you (back) in touch with people who you have lots in common with, and that common ground is often the starting point for long-lasting relationships. 
    2. As painful as breakups can be, they can sometimes be the right thing for all concerned. What’s to say that the new relationship, founded on the steps of Facebook, isn’t the one that will last? Even if it doesn’t turn into a spectacular coupling, it could be the friendship that is needed at the time. Which has to be a positive thing. After all even virtual friendship also keeps positivity. 
  6. Finding common ground in an open society 
    1. As previously mentioned, social networking sites can help you find people you share interests with. Facebook, for example, asks you to list who and what you are interested in right from the start. This makes it much easier to find common ground with other users. 
    2. Keeping key personal information private is necessary, but sharing your likes and dislikes, interests and obsessions, and thought and views actually contributes to an open society. 

Social media when used correctly is a companion, free of cost and with much fewer efforts. In 2018 we have read about security breaches on social media, but checks do evolve over a period. It might be a good idea not share things that matter, e.g. your bank details etc. But there is no harm in publishing your likes for dramas and books, hiking and playing musical instruments. You will make more friends. You get wide publicity to show and share your talent with others, free! Blogging is a classic example of this. 

This is going to definitely increase life expectancy in society. There will be more and more people celebrating the age-related milestones, past 70 and 80. All the time there are going to shifting milestones. I will end up with a small suggestion on my favourite topic.  

Friends, by all means, celebrate 70th / 75th   and 80th birthday. It is a matter of celebration. If you are going to spend Rs.1/ lac on the party, try and prune the budget to say Rs. Ten thousand. Give away remaining Rs.90000/. Ask your friends and dear ones to donate the money they were going to spend on you, to charities! Azim Premji has set an example in his son’s marriage. He gave the amount equivalent to collective gift amount given by friends and dear ones, to charities! Thank you, Premji for setting a great example.     

 

 

 

 

 

Declog your Mind!

Clogging and declogging are the terms used by Cardiac Experts and Plumbers. The blocks formed in arteries reduce the flow of blood and depending on severity can cause the heart attack. Similarly, when we don’t take care of the home or city plumbing system, the pipelines clog and cause problems. At some stage both need to be attended to or there can be catastrophic results.

But we forget that same logic applies to our mind. When our mind is clogged, we don’t think properly. Different thoughts keep on coming in our mind in a cyclic manner and we are not able to attend to the problem that needs urgent attention. We are simply not able to concentrate.

 

You know the terms thinking, worrying, stressing, freaking out — call it whatever you want. I call it preoccupied mind. And with what? I feel that 99% of our thoughts are useless. Many people think that they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices in their mind. Many moons back a friend had a breakup. We were both young. We had full night sessions on what to do next. On the third night when we met, I asked my friend what he really wants to do. We thought that we had discussed a lot but had never come up with any plan or conclusion about what to do next. Most of the time the friend was ranting how he was cheated, and he will do this and that! I asked him a blunt question, “Is there any chance of reconciliation? Has the lady really cheated you?” He then did not speak for a few minutes. Then he said, “I am a damn fool; the situation is neither her fault nor mine! Why am I thinking in such a harsh way?” Then again, he became quiet for ten minutes. Really concentrated and said, “The subject matter is over! I will let go! She will remain close to my heart all my life; what a fool I was to think about her the way I did”! Friends, this was the effect of declogging of mind!

Clogged mind creates a lot of stress. The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. Pragmatism believes that a mind is a tool. Your mind should work for you, not against you. People who don’t master their mind, don’t believe it’s possible to do so. They will always keep saying, “I can’t help but think of these things.”

Well, you can stop thinking on a subject but with enough practice. It’s a skill. You have the ability to decide what you think. Or, you can choose NOT to think.

What is the downside of thinking too much? I will tell you my example. When I am writing, some thoughts are very clear in my mind. I am able to complete my basic blog writing in a couple of hours, then I spend an hour on proofreading, refining, fine-tuning, changing a few things. I generally do the latter part, early morning. When I get up in the morning after my quota of sleep, there are not many thoughts in mind other than completing the blog. My mind is fresh. Since I get up early, I feel a little hungry. But I plan what I am going to eat on the previous night. I don’t like to overload my mind to decide what to eat! Sometimes, I do do the basic writing also, early in the morning. (See my mind wavered a bit and wrote “do” twice) For me, this time is quite productive.

When I was working full-fledged, my early mornings were used to writing important emails or creating documents. Sometimes, I used this time to read important things received on the previous day. I will share with you a very important experience. During a business telephone meeting with a customer, years back, one of the officers, from the customer side, who was close to us, took a very awkward stance. This would cause us a financial hit for no fault of ours. At the end of the meeting, he also told me that he was being transferred to another country. I was upset and wrote a very nasty mail. I read it a couple of times and saved it as a draft, instead of sending it. I slept over the meeting. When I read the draft mail again early morning with a de-clogged mind, I realized that the mail would not serve any purpose, looking at the long-term relationship. I created an internal mail on how to avoid such situations in future. I deleted the draft and sent our friend a two-liner mail. In the mail, I thanked him and also registered our mild protest against the decision.

खयालोंमें is an appropriate word in Hindi, which fits our state of mind when our mind is clogged. We really don’t know what we are thinking about. Our mind whirs like a motor and jumps from one thought to another and to another! But we need to be pragmatic on how to handle this!

While writing this particular paragraph my mind was खयालोंमें, and I was thinking of our groups’ lunch next month, the work to be done in the bank today and about a probable business meeting tomorrow. When we are in खयालोंमें state, we need to pinch ourselves and ask “Are you back to reality? Do you feel your eyes are reading the letters on your screen? Do you feel your phone in your hand? Are you thinking about how to complete the blog?”

When should we think at all is a question that comes to mind these days. With waterfall type information flow that each individual gets and new entities like WA groups, FB groups and so on have formed. To me, these are mainly for entertainment or even worse, time-pass. What happens should be treated at the same value; if one is an admin he should try and keep a semblance of control. Do your work seriously, don’t take yourself seriously!  Don’t think too much about it! Unless you are personally involved in correcting status of the world, leave it a that. Use your mind for better things and pursuits.

You use your mind, and don’t let it be the other way around. Now, keep using that brain of yours. It is the best tool we have, make use of it! As my friend Vijay said the other day, your brain gets sharpened by more use; use it in the right place and time! I hope you don’t MIND this bit of advice from me!

My friend Dhananjay shared the link of this Marathi Poem मन वढाळ वढाळ …….  by Bahinabai Choaudhary, which is very appropriate for this blog! Thanks Dhananjay!

https://www.aathavanitli-gani.com/Song/Man_Vadhay_Vadhay

 

What to do with galloping Technology?

Exponential

The curve above is representative of how technology is developing at a breakneck speed. The title is neither a rhetorical question nor a controversial statement. This thought came to my mind while I was reading about the galloping speed of progress in many areas the humans are making. In the movie “Back to the Future” (1985) the person goes back to the year 1955 using a time machine. The differences he sees are interesting but not surprising. There was nothing exceptionally different or path-breaking in those 30 years. Had the movie been produced in 2015, the time machine would have taken the person to 1985, with 30-year logic. That change would have been exceptional for the person to guess!  What is the meaning of life with no PC’s, no Cell phones, no Internet, no WA, no FB? The person would not believe that life only 30 years back was so different.  

Just imagine that a human being was transported from 12000 years back, pre-farming era, to the year 1500. The cities, the carriageways, farming equipment would be such a big change that this person suddenly exposed to so many changes, might die of shock. A person from the year 1500, will be reasonably shocked to be taken to the year 1750 but he won’t die! How much change can human mind accept and absorb at a time? The rate of change is really galloping in the recent past. Change from the year 1500 to the year 1750 and the change from 1750 to 2015 cannot be compared. Change of scene that we see in the year 2015 compared to the year 1985 is really vast. But the human mind will not be able to accept changes from 1750 to 2015, the person could also simply die! It initially took 12000 plus years for such deadly changes to occur but later it took only 250 plus years for similar deadly changes. We can call such changes as “Deadly Change” (DC).

This comparison tells us that the rate of change is dependent on how advanced the society is at that time, it is the datum level that is important. For obvious reasons, we see terrific changes happening in the Bay area in the USA. We know that such change was happening in the area of Electronics, Computers and the Internet; but along with these changes, it appears that this area may also surge ahead in Car manufacturing as indicated by Tesla! We really don’t know where Apple and Google are the car domain but one thing is sure, they have technical wherewithal, passion and money. All changes are not DC type but the rate of change is galloping.  

If such changes have happened in the first 18 years of 21st century itself, what is lying ahead, we simply do not know. The changes that happened between the year 2000 to the year 2015 could get squeezed to seven years between the year 2015 and year 2022! Enormous changes can happen initially in 7 seven years, then in 3 years and then one year and then one month and then one day! Friends you may think that Pramod is dreaming and writing a fictional scenario of how things will change. But I get a feeling that changes that are going to happen in future will take an exponential curve.

The curve shown above displays the rapid speed at which things are moving.

  1. The rate of change can be represented up to the year 2000 by the slope at value –1 on X axis! What we are going to get in future will be slope after that! The high growth slope at +1 value is due to Microsoft, Google, Facebook coming in the picture during that time period between years 2000 and 2005. 
  2. Our historical perspective has been up to –1 value so we keep on thinking and expecting that the change will always be gradual and slow!  
  3. We are “Old people” of the gone era and I am talking of people in 50’s too! We are stubborn and we say that change can happen only so fast! How can change happen exponentially?  

But something is already happening in the background; you, me and the general public think that AI is something that is shown in Sci-Fi movies. It is for graduate students to take up the projects as a requirement, it is not real life! When we talk of AI, we always think of Robots; Robots are containers for AI stuff. AI is the brain and Robots is the body. When we talk of AI, we always think of computers but do not forget that another area which is making progress in leaps and bounds is biotechnology. The progress in this area is the result of tremendous progress made in the last 30 years; along with this terrific progress is made in the medical field too! These technologies are going to be the drivers of rapid change.

All this lead leads to a question of how much is the shelf life of technology? To me, some will evolve slowly and the concept will continue for a long time. For example, aeroplanes. Aeroplanes have been there for more than hundred years, only major has been jet engine! But no other path-breaking stuff is visualized. The telephone also has been around for a similar time but this technology has also changed slowly. The change now is faster after cell phones arrived on the scene. But now cell phone is really evolving in a different animal, fast! It is getting converted into a personal tool which might do everything for you, from phones to camera, to photo repository, to the music system, to chat system, to a chequebook and a bank! This change has really happened fast in the last 15 years and what form and shape it will take, only God knows. 

Biotechnology and medical fields are progressing rapidly! Last hundred years have seen some major breakthroughs in reining in epidemics. People dying in hundreds of thousands or in millions due to illnesses,  was a norm, in old days! There was plague, there was black death. The systems and the doctors just could not contain them and the way was you die or you run away elsewhere! Medicines and cures were, more prayer and faith-based than science-based. Last fifty years have seen the dramatic change in this scenario; when AIDs became rampant, doctors found basic details about it, in 2 years and now they know that it is an Auto Immune thing and per se is not as dangerous as it looks. A person with AIDs dies with other infections! Had AIDs appeared 500 years back, half the then population of the world could have been wiped out. Ebola came but was reasonably well controlled, quickly!  

This speed is good for humans but technology changes in day to day stuff can be difficult to handle with galloping speed. We have seen in front of our eyes, pagers come and go, so did fax! Cameras with the film are a history and music pieces can be composed in two different continents and a song gets created in the third continent.  

Some of these changes, humans will handle well and others can be tough to absorb. The working population will have to get themselves reskilled every ten years (am I too optimistic?) or perish. You can’t become a banker and a chartered accountant and work lifelong in the same career. Block Chain technology may eliminate such concepts! Experts may make a lot of money by the time they are 40 and may want to retire! And do what? Some young friends of ours are already contemplating this scenario.

Average Deepak or a John did not have face Cancer or Heart Attack because he never lived that long. With better products, diagnostics tools,  and cures, better solutions from biotechnology, the lifespan of Deepak and John is increasing rapidly. With better cures, these dangerous diseases are also more controllable and many times curable. Now more people die of old age instead of dying due to illnesses.  

Friends, I am very positive that humans will find a way to handle these galloping changes but some thoughts and concepts will change on their heads! Don’t be surprised if you meet a banker friend of yours after ten years and find him growing organic farms or has become potter of beautiful ceramics! We always find our path, some find it quickly, some find it late and some don’t find at all! Darwin’s theory of “Survival of the fittest” is one thing that will never change!  

 

 

 

Who is the best doctor for you?

During a discussion about a surgery of a 91-year-old gentleman, a question was raised, how will his body handle this surgery? His physician was confident and his surgeon, a urinary expert, said he will perform laser surgery. The surgery was performed and a couple of days later the gentleman is recovering well. His surgery team also included an anesthetist. The surgery was nothing complex and for a younger person it would have been a routine surgery. Due to age the situation was a little more complex. But this team apparently was good, confident and more importantly must have handled such complications due to age, before. This last factor is very important.

Our body is a complex organism, on top of that, every individuals body behaves differently, reacts differently. When this surgery was discussed during a conversation with someone else, not from Pune, that person asked a question. Why with similar issues a person from their family was not being operated upon? This is a very valid question, but it also depends on the team of doctors who look after the patient. Such laser surgeries are performed in various cities now. This is not about competence of the team but there is a possibility that this team has never performed such surgeries on old patients. This other person is 80 plus and is suffering from the same issue. The surgeon may be confident, but physician may have different views. But the question is why this option is not even discussed about this patient. Performing or not performing any procedure will depend on different parameters but the most important is specific experience of the team of doctors in that area.

Another person I know about has been having heart issues since last several years. Recently when the person had major health crisis, the person was taken to a large hospital. Looking at the criticality, the experts decided to perform angioplasty as a last resort. This plasty improved the patient’s health many folds. The question arises why this procedure was not done several years back; this problem has been existing for years, but doctors in those times took a decision that angioplasty can not be done. Again, it boils down to the experience of the team to perform such procedures or it is about their opinion and decision not to perform angioplasty in that situation.

A friend of ours has been having health issues, she is same age as me. She was taking treatment from a physician. Once the friend said that she wanted to get herself checked by our physician. Checking was done, all tests were performed. Body parameters from previous tests and current tests were similar. But her previous physician had told her that everything was hunky dory though it was not. The results were so obviously out of range, even a non-medical guy could understand that she needed more control on her parameters. Why did this happen? I am sure that the previous doctor also had his views or may be his treatment is different. So, treatment again depends on the knowledge, experience of the doctors who treat you.

My father died in the year 1980 of a massive heart attack. My nephew Atul, who is a well-known physician in Pune, was a medical student at that time. Sometime recently, we were discussing about my father’s death. Atul said, “Mama, in those times the doctor’s knowledge was limited. Testing methods were also limited. So, the doctors could not judge the seriousness of his problems. I distinctly remember that he had back pain and was quite uneasy for 4/5 days before the attack.” Similar was the case of my father in law. He died a couple of years earlier than my father. He had a heart attack, was hospitalized and came home after 10 days. A few weeks after that, he was told during the follow up visit, that he was now hail and hearty and could now lead normal life. Next day early morning he died of a massive heart attack. Heart attacks are notorious for their behaviour but sometimes it also depends the doctor who is treating, his experience in handling specific cases. Was it a case of wrong judgment by the doctor?

Does it mean that our treatment and our health is based on luck? No definitely not. Doctors have good knowledge. But an individual patient may have some variant of a disease. If the treating doctor has never come across such variants, things can become complex and tricky. Most of the time, we may not take an opportunity for second opinion, even if the disease lingers on. It is sometimes good idea to take second opinion. By doing this we are just dividing the risk.

Honestly speaking, I also do not know how to handle situations discussed. Whenever required go to a good doctor. But one way will be go by the doctor’s reputation.  I know of a friend who decided to go take treatment from a certain doctor because he was near their home. There are far superior doctors available in Pune. Once you find a good doctor who could be a physician, stick to him and go back to the concept of “family doctor”, like we used to have GP’s in olden days. He or she will be your regular doctor, will know about your health in details. Any other health issue from different areas, should be treated through him by different specialists. They will work in tandem and chances of you getting superior treatment improve. Of course, the best doctor is NO doctor! But this can be only in our wish list!

 

 

Ignore body signals at your own peril!

Medical Illiteracy or Ignore body signals at your own peril! I was in two minds about the title for this blog. But the second option prevailed.

Not all of us are doctors by training and not all of us could have access to basic medical information, at least, during pre-internet days! It’s a highly specialized field. But in our day to day life health conditions keep on changing, as you grow older. Some changes can be discrete and some may be obvious. In our own and families interest, we should take care of having basic information and knowledge and decodify the signals our body sends.

Since this is a current ongoing medical event, I am not sharing the names, as I usually do! Yesterday, in my office I was talking to my colleague. Suddenly she said let me make an urgent call. She called and as the call progressed she sounded quite worried and anguished. After the call I asked her what happened? Her brother was not keeping well for ¾ days and she had called to find out how he was doing! She came to know all the details only after the call. He felt weak in the office; since he is diabetic and with BP issues, he asked his colleague to fetch a chocolate for him, to overcome low sugar issue, if any! He felt slightly better but decided to go home as he was uncomfortable. When he tried to use his scooter, he could not use his left hand properly; he felt very low strength in his left hand. Next day he saw a doctor who gave him some medicines and asked him to run tests. Sunday, he saw an eye specialist as he was feeling unease in the left eye!  The doctor indicated some distortion around the left eye. All signals were obvious but our friend probably lacked knowledge about the effects. I immediately coordinated an appointment with a neurologist. In next two hours he was hospitalized in a CCU. I shudder to think if my colleague had not made that call!

I will share many more such events but this particular event has made me very uneasy. It is just by chance, that I overheard a conversation and then got the wheels moving fast! There were specific indications, the person or his family did not understand the details of what was happening but can they also not understand that there was something going wrong with the body. How to inculcate this discipline in the whole family? These things are never taught in schools but these need to be picked up from someone or somewhere. A human being generally does not have detailed knowledge of most subjects other than his own subject. But health is one area which is common to all humans whether they are kings or paupers! I feel that this learning be made mandatory in school curriculum, so that people come to know basic symptoms regarding the emergency events, like heart attack, stroke and others.

In olden days there was the system of GP or general practitioners. GP’s were family friends, advisors, mentors for the whole family. I have known of GP’s who have treated four generations from families. For anything and everything related to health and not related to health too, the families would take advise of GP’s. So, they knew  most of the things about people in the family. If required, GP’s would ask the people to go to experts. In today’s times of no GP’s, I feel that a family should be going to a fixed physician and do things as per his/her advice and suggestions. Since our friend did not have “GP”, the doctors whom he saw, could not guide him properly.

It can be a good idea to guide people into basics of health management and emergency management. Basic training about patient resuscitation is one aspect but such emergencies don’t come so frequently. More than that, knowledge about basic symptoms is most essential. This will reduce time between symptoms and start of treatment. My friend Shashi has a history of stroke. A few months back when he had very high fever and felt faint, he immediately got himself checked from experts. This gave him peace of mind.

I will share one event with you to explain what I mean by lack of basic knowledge in other areas. A professor of arts with a doctorate, drove his car for two days. You will ask me what is so special about it? One of the tappets in the engine had broken and he drove the car with a lot of noise. To understand this, he did not need to know that tappet was broken but he only needed to understand that something was broken and was making loud noise. So, he should not drive the car! Period. But no! He drove on for two days accompanied by big noise! Is it so difficult to comprehend that there was something wrong with the car and not what is wrong with the car?

Two things generally happen. One is signals are simply not understood and sometimes signals are ignored. Our friend did not understand the gravity of the signals, the body was sending. However, I will tell you of someone, a few years elder than me. He apparently had good health, outwardly. He used to go to gym regularly. One day he went out, after  he came back he said that he was a bit tired and would rest for 15 min. 10 minutes later, he was dead due to cardiac arrest. He was diabetic but values were controlled. He was going to the gym regularly. Then why did this happen? When his papers were checked, the values were never good; he was informing his son, who lives abroad,  that everything was ok. He went to the gym every day; he always drove the 500 meters distance! Did minor exercise and chatted with friends, tea, have fried stuff and smoking followed. What he did was not accepting the true body condition, which further deteriorated with wrong food and smoking.

Let me assure you that our body and brain are very sharp in understanding the signals that are generated in our eco system. In young age we start knowing who our parents are, in adulthood we catch the right love signals. As we grow older, we know how to find better opportunities in jobs and in business. All this is done by capturing the signals, the indications that are emanating in our surroundings. But why can’t we catch our body signals which tell about our health? In life we master various things without formal training. Then why we cannot do it about our own health? Is it due to thought process that Cancer, Heart Attack, Strokes happen to someone else? Sudden deaths occur mostly in accidents, most other deaths  are because of ignoring the signal system created by HIM! So please keep track of these signals, it may be twitching of an eye, shaking of hand while holding a glass, heaviness in body especially on only one side, sudden sweating and so on. But at least “create” for yourself a GP system and take his/her advise as we grow 40 plus!

Cheers! Life is too beautiful to be wasted by ignoring signals from the world’s best design, “Our Body”!