Virus Bonhomie!

Virus Bonhomie!

This blog is about a specific group, but I have tried to make it as generic as possible. But it applies to all the groups of friends.

Once upon a time, there was a set of retired people and not so retired people, who lived their life, enjoying their golden period. Things were quite good. They were travelling, enjoying with family and had a great time with their grandchildren, once in a while. They had illnesses, they had their anxieties but were game at carrying their burden, gracefully. Of course, the children were around but there was a small issue, they were around the world, for many. Children and their family was a great solace, once in a year or two years, in some cases after five years! There were WhatsApp messages and Video calls, all keeping them very happy in the winter of life. Everything was smooth; children were very caring; they ensured that there were caretakers available round the clock if needed. Everything was hunky dory! Once in a while, there was a cool breeze and warmth of good old friends. The breeze came out of the blue and kept people gasping as they had gone their separate ways in the journey called life. Friends from the old gang were expected to meet only once in a while. Yes, these folks were also in college once upon a time; had groups and great friends!

A few years back suddenly, a species started appearing on the horizon! It looked like UFO; nobody initially knew what it was. On searching Google, people came to know it was called Bonhomie! (Oxford meaning of Bonhomie is cheerful friendliness) As usually happens, nobody was sure what was happening. These people realised that two naïve guys were bringing in an unknown creature called Bonhomie in their lives. Thanks to WhatsApp, FB and modern technology in general, things started moving fast. The group of people was a little confused; they were not aware that they were getting converted into “group of friends, close friends!” The thought itself was breathtaking. Am I going to meet my long-lost friends again? Am I going to meet Ashkya, Dhanya, Panya, Didya, Sharya again after so many years? What fun we had when we were together in college?

Lists were made, groups were created thanks to technology and two idiots! Phone numbers were shared and, in some cases, photos were exchanged. Calls were made and demeanour of all the people enjoying the golden period slowly started changing. People at home were surprised and took some of them to doctors. Doctors said that there is a new virus spreading fast, especially in people who are enjoying a golden period. There was just no cure to that. Sometimes these people show signs of Euphoria. But let them be. This virus can cure many ailments in that age group. Of course, Bonhomie is not a cure-all. It cannot cure cancer, heart attack and stroke! But this virus is an antidote to overcome anxieties created by such illnesses. Stresses in life, worries in general, feeling of loneliness!

Finally, the D day arrived for the group to meet! Meet they did at their favourite place near the river! Words like Mithi, Salya, Jadya, Taklya, Lambya were thrown in with gay abandon. There were slaps on the back. There were bear hugs, and of course, some tears of joy (which I have even while writing this piece too!) And the party started. There would be formal meets maybe twice in a year. Friends began meeting in small groups; old gangs came together! Bonhomie virus was spreading, and parties started in Mumbai too! Small picnics, big parties, idli/dosa at favourite joints was the name of the game.

As the gang became closer, good old fights and skirmishes began; it as if they were young adults again. The resolution in all the cases was always virtual or sometimes by a phone call. Group magazine started to keep bonding; it died its natural death over a couple of years. Photo albums were created to be shared with all, but this also stopped after a period, a natural thing. But after every meet, there was an only one discussion, “When are we meeting again?” And the party continued. Joy was spread among friends regarding achievements of next generations, some of them in studies, some in art, some in painting. Travel photos and experiences were shared and advise taken from others for the next holiday.

Honestly, things were too good to be true! But bonding continued. There was sharing of sorrow due to the demise of family or friends. There was real enjoyment when some long-lost friend suddenly started meeting again; then a friend started sharing his old passion, paintings. He started getting time for his love and made everybody’s life all the more enjoyable by sharing his art. Everybody looked forward to his paintings.

I am all for a healthy world but started getting jittery that our group was travelling in the direction of destroying the virus of Bonhomie. Bonhomie is one virus that I want to be alive all the time. Google search was done. Google explained that there was a healthy antidote, for this virus, called EGO. The group was slowly managing to infuse this antidote daily. Some friends were getting worried; some were overwhelmed. Some were relentlessly doing it. One friend joined only to introduce this dose. Advise of the spin doctor was taken. The Doctor said that the virus of Bonhomie remains healthy with a regular dose of a vitamin called communication both verbal and written. The doctor suggested reducing the discussion for some time, to find out if his judgment and treatment indicated was correct.

Reduction of this vitamin indicated that the doctor was right. There were hardly 2/3 friends, who showed interest in checking out if the monthly meet was ON! The experiment continues. But the spin doctor also suggested a communication by way of a big write up, which sometimes kick starts the rejuvenation of virus Bonhomie!

Friends, don’t let this virus die. You will know it’s importance after it goes into a coma. Instead of the current two idiots, there can be 2/3 additional idiots who will nurture this virus. If not on first Sunday, friends can meet on second Sunday, at a different location, at a different time. Suggest whatever you think will keep the virus kicking! We all have a large stock of anti-dote EGO. Just dispose of it! Throw it away. It is true for all the remaining life of any person young or old, man or woman. Have fun, nurture friendships. God has gifted us three great things. Nature, the family and friends. You cannot destroy nature because it is self-sustaining and self-correcting. But others need to be handled carefully; they come with a label “Fragile! Handle with care”!

But rest assured that two idiots will not rest till the Bonhomie virus is kicking in again!

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”!

Good Samaritans!!

Doctors as a group are good Samaritans. Most of them are in the service of humanity, money of course matters but of many doctors that I have met and know of, are good human beings. My friend Vijay sent me a video in which a physician was speaking about heart ailments. This doctor had a very nice way of putting things across in a humorous way. He was putting his thoughts across that heart ailments can be cured without surgery, angioplasty and invasive procedures in general. Vijay asked me if this is really possible. When he asked me this question the whole kaleidoscope of my interactions with doctors, throughout my life, passed by quickly. This made me think of two things, about doctors in general and about getting well with their help.

My first reaction was that, when  doctors treated you as individual doctors they were simply good to superb, as is natural in any group of people. They always cared for you, they would try to give least amount of medicines as possible, and try and allow the nature to take its course; they would intervene only if needed. Over a period I have observed that doctors explain things in details about your ailment. On the flip side I know a doctor who instead of explaining gives you a link to his YouTube presentation about your ailment, which I thought was very impersonal.

The personal attention however changes when you are required to go to hospitals, where you are theoretically in a corporate environment. You would expect quick and efficient actions followed by continuous tracking as would be expected, as patients go to hospitals only when such need arises. I do not know what happens in that environment but things are sometimes at the other extreme. You will see inefficiency galore, delays, late responses, doctors just not being available and so on. (Oh don’t worry the intern will take care of you!) I remember when I was required to take my father to a large hospital due to heart attack. He was admitted under a senior physician. After initial checkups I was promised that the senior physician will shortly come and see my father. After a couple of hours I was coolly told that the doctor will now come the next day as he was now busy in his consulting rooms. For me it was it was simple, if the senior doctor is too busy to see my father then I would rather go to another hospital. When I said this to the junior doctor, he said we should not do that as my father was critical! I said if he is critical then why the senior doctor is not checking him? Within 15 minutes the senior doctor came!

I remember a case of one of our relatives; he was admitted to a major hospital due to stroke. He had diabetes, he was on dialysis, and he had high blood pressure. For two days doctors would just not share details hence I was called to talk to them. Hospital was trying to force a brain surgery on the patient (had put him on ventilator) but as layman I could see that it was meaningless. I took a young doctor to side and asked him his blunt opinion; he said the patients’ brain is 85% damaged and he has no hopes; he gave a sad smile and said well looks like commercial aspects have taken over the case! We managed to remove him from that hospital to another one where we knew the doctors well. Doctors gave the same opinion and advised that he should be allowed to die peacefully! We did!

But I know of a physician who treated a friend of mine for heart ailment; my friend did not have sufficient insurance coverage to have bypass surgery. This doctor explained to my friend how this can be handled without surgery but he needs a drastic life style change. This was 20 years back; my friend and I had coffee last week!

This reminds me of a story told to me by a young doctor. He was working for a small hospital. He checked a patient and felt that no tests were needed. So he let the patient go. When the hospital owner came he asked the details. When he shared details about this patient, the owner said “Is my father going to pay installments for the new test machine?” Our friend simply said “looks like it” and calmly resigned and walked out!

A student hurt himself while playing badminton. His friends took him to a large hospital. When his parents reached the hospital this student was very upset and said “Dad lets go elsewhere”. His father told him to let the doctors handle the basics then they can move. The student said that they took x ray of his ankle and later found out that the doctor had forgotten to put the film in the machine!

The stories can go on and on! But as in life there are good doctors and there are not so good doctors. There will always be some black sheep. But why the basics change in large hospitals is beyond my understanding. Are doctors not good managers? Are good managers incapable of handling intricacies involved in running a hospital? Well hospitals these days have software to handle their administrative work. What a hospital system does is to provide services required by patients. This is very similar to running a hotel or running an automotive workshop. These two also provide services. Did you ever find that garages and hotels took 3 to 4 hours to give you or your vehicle a discharge? Why is that hospitals take so long to discharge a patient? On the other side, I have experienced an extremely efficiently run pathological lab. They are very efficient and at stipulated time you get your reports by email! But the norm is inefficiency.

Coming back to the video, the doctor aptly said that if you want to get well then the patient has to follow ALL things told by the doctor.  He gave an example saying that if a tank has 15 holes, how can you fill it up completely? It is obvious that ALL 15 holes need to be blocked to fill up the tank. A patient with liver issues says what is going happen if I take a peg or two of whiskey? Then the patient is asking for trouble. A senior physician once told me that in diabetes, most of the patients keep on having issues as they do not follow the basic discipline of diet, medicine and exercise! He said a very small percentage of patients have really erratic body responses and have a tough time as diabetes remains erratic even after following ALL instructions. He also told me a story of a disciplined patient who in yearly checkups found that he had very high diabetes. But by following the regimen to the last dot on I’s and slash on T’s, in three years’ time the patient has become non diabetic, with medicines!

Friends I wrote this blog to suggest how health issues are handled and need to be handled. These thoughts come to mind probably because I am a senior citizen now!! I will add a few more points. All “Pathys” are as good as the doctor who uses them. Each pathy has its own benefits and down sides plus limitations. When you are having jaundice there is no known cure available in Allopathy! You have to take Liv 52. Similarly other pathys also have limitations. But we should not be very rigid in our thoughts about up & down sides. That Allopathy has certain side effects is a known fact but that does not mean there are no good sides! Allopathy is the best researched pathy and offers cures to many ailments, even the toughest of the ailments. Homeopathy and Ayurved have their own advantages and limitations. What happens is after reading something about side effects of Allopathy, some people tend to just ignore it, to me at least, and it is to their own peril. There are diseases like cancer, dementia and many such tough ones. Very strong Allopathy medicines are also not able overcome such ailments. In such cases people should NOT experiment! I will share with you an anecdote about a patient with blood pressure problems. He went to the doctor and got himself checked. His BP was 200/120! Doctor suggested that he get himself admitted to a hospital or take 100% rest at home for at least four days and then prescribed to him strong medicines. The patient probably did not understand the meaning of 200/120. He asked the doctor, “I am worried about Allopathy side effects. Can you tell me the side effects and try to reduce the dose”. Doctor said, “Let us experiment later, and at this stage let us act fast”. Patient still insisted on knowing about side effects before starting the treatment. Doctor gave him all the details and said, “As against these side effects, if you do not take medicines there is only one side effect”. Patient said “what is it?” Doctor said, “You may die”. Amen!!