When we first arrived in India, we all suffered from swollen legs from the long flight. Four weeks later, poor Jennifer still had very painful swelling in her lower legs. A couple of weeks ago we took her to the ER because Janine and I found her in her room shaking uncontrollably with a 103 degree fever.
Since that first trip to the hospital, she has seen three doctors. They have all diagnosed her with a range of problems from colitis to a UTI to just plain needing rest. She hadn’t been examined and no tests were run to determine if she had any abnormalities in her blood or urine. As she became increasingly ill, we continued to get more worried.
After she spent a few days with a migraine (which she never gets) and constant asthma attacks (also very rare), she emailed her doctor at home and he was immediately concerned that she had a blood clot. We spoke to our Rotarian leaders and the district governor and they immediately formulated a plan for her medical care. It sure helps to be with a group where probably 1/3 of the 2000 men present are doctors.
They were the amazing. Within an hour, Jennifer and I were on our way to the hospital.
So, unsurprisingly, things run a little differently in other countries. Crazy right? Instead of individual offices with specialized doctors or appointments, everyone at this hospital is filtered through the ER. We only had to wait about 15 minutes which was truly shocking to us and she was on a bed in the ER. Once we were in, our group left because many of them had to drive several hours in order to get home.
We expected them to do a CT scan and then we would be released, but they decided she would be kept overnight since it was so late on Sunday and they couldn’t fit us in until the following morning. They told us it was easier to file with insurance when you stay overnight instead of multiple visits. Especially since it would cost us $200 each time we had her admitted. So, while she rested, I headed out to register her.
Holy confusion. There were about 100 people crowded around the desk and they were all shouting to the two guys processing registration. I had no idea what to do and I don’t speak the language, so it was a bit stressful. I also found out that the very expensive travel insurance company we were forced to use didn’t have an alliance with one of the four Indian insurance companies. So, we (me) had to pay up front or she wouldn’t be admitted. And I couldn’t call the insurance company because it was 4 am on a Sunday at home. I wasn’t frazzled at all by the thought of us being trapped in a foreign hospital with thousands of dollars in medical bills due before our release. Not at all.
We spent a long time going back and forth about payments and what they needed from me. Apparently, when you go to India you should keep several passport sized photos on you at all times. I had some in my suitcase at our home, but none with me. And Jennifer didn’t have any at all. Thankfully, at this moment Kennan (our driver) found me and saved the day.
That day will forever live in my memory as the day where I learned that Rotary is like the Indian Illuminati. He told them that we were here as guests of Rotary and all of sudden the gates opened wide, unicorns pranced, the red tape was gone, cherubs sang, and I was able to pay the admittance fee and get Jennifer to her room. A deluxe room at that. A room that we would never be able to afford in the U.S. We felt like Beyonce in there.
There was even room service that had pasta and tomato soup on the menu. We were in heaven.
That was really good, I swear. And the doctor brought us Oreos “because the white people always ask for them.”
I even had a real bed to sleep in instead of one of those crappy, squeaky cots.
Please excuse my face and awkward thumbs up.
Before bed they gave her some blood thinners and we passed out shortly thereafter. The next day they wheeled her out for her tests. Bye Jennifer.
They found something of concern and ordered more tests which meant another night in the hospital. We were initially not happy about that, but since we didn’t have a choice or transportation, we complied. We also got a surprise visit from our program coordinator (left) and Jennifer’s host family from Kollam. The drove over two hours just to make sure she was okay. Sweetest guys ever.
We were pretty frustrated before they arrived because we didn’t understand the communication system between doctors and patients in India. We felt like the doctors didn’t really care about finding out what was wrong with Jennifer because they kept giving her medications, but wouldn’t ever explain what they thought the problem was or why she was getting different types of shots.
By the time the Rotarians showed up, we were formulating a plan to bust out. Thankfully, they explained that they trust their doctors and don’t ask questions there. They take what is prescribed and believe that the doctor knows best. It is insulting to question the doctor. One of them explained that a law was recently passed regarding the patient’s right to know their medical information, but they largely respect the decisions of their practitioner.
This was a surprise to us as we are trained that it is our duty as the patient to ask a million questions and get all of the information that we can. After we explained why we were frustrated, they spoke to the doctors who came in and explained to Jennifer that she had a blood clot (which has now been dissolved thankfully) and an infection in her blood stream. She was a happy lady after that.
We said goodbye to our dear friends and settled in to enjoy some greatly missed HBO.
And look what was on! Miracle! Speaking of Harry Potter, I totally thought I had one on my hands when I was looking at the flat directory at my host parent’s building.
So close. She eventually got cleared and we settled the bill (thanks again to the Rotarians helpings us) and checked out of there. She had an IV line in her arm and she called to ask that they remove it because it was hurting and the nurse replied “have you paid?” Um… no. Jennifer asked if they would remove it before we paid and the nurse said “hahahaha no.” They are serious about getting that money. Luckily, that didn’t take terribly long to resolve and we made it home just in time for a seven hour power outage.
Never will I ever complain about my electric bill or fail to appreciate life with a consistent and rarely failing electrical current. India taught me a lesson every day.