Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Past 24 Hours

I am sitting in front of a huge window on the sixth floor, looking down onto the park below. It is just past eight in the morning. Six goats are running around, playing their goat games. Two of them have Dalmatian spots. From here, two of them look like little wind-up cows, all white and brown. The last two are black. One of the black goats looks like he is wearing white socks. I want to smile but I can’t.

I am sitting in front of a huge window on the sixth floor. If I look a bit further out, beyond the park I can see Qutab Minar, one of my favorite sights in Delhi. It is far higher than anything else in the panoramic view over South Delhi. The height makes it seem closer than it actually is. Coming through the window are the faintest hints of the traffic below. The fragment of boulevard I can see from here is surprisingly empty.

I am sitting front of a huge window on the sixth floor. I am at Max Super Specialty Hospital in Saket. Room 3629. I am looking out the window as I write. Behind me, Manuel is sleeping. One of nurses has just been by to start another round of IV antibiotics. Manuel was admitted yesterday evening with a fever of about 39.5 (over 103 F). His fever has been lingering for a week, yo-yoing between 37.5 and 39. I forced him to the doctor on Tuesday and some tests were taken. Malaria, which came back negative and some blood cultures for which we are still awaiting results. Yesterday evening I phoned the doctor as his fever had stopped yo-yoing and instead was climbing at a steady pace in spite of the anti-fever medication he had been given the day before. The doctor admitted him because of the fever and borderline severe dehydration.

After he was checked in and in bed, I grabbed a late dinner with Ankit, went home and pretended to sleep for a few hours. Now I am back at the hospital sitting here, looking out the window trying to keep my mind occupied with something, anything other than the possible results. At this time, there are a few things pointing to Typhoid and later today those tests results will finally be back. In the meantime they are pumping him full of antibiotics and in a few hours he goes for an ultrasound.

It is hard seeing him lying in the bed. I guess I figured I would be the one in the hospital at some point. Both of my parents have had cancer. Twice. My mom has diabetes and a slew of other health problems. Now that I am past forty, these things start becoming points of concern for my doctor. I have been mentally prepared to be in the hospital. Not that I want to be, I am just prepared in the event it becomes necessary. But I hadn’t considered that maybe Manuel would be in one. Certainly not before me. I guess it was a possibility my mind just didn’t want to consider.

So now there is nothing to do but wait. And think. And wait. And worry. And wait. It is one of those cruel tricks of nature that when we are having a great time, at a concert, on a fabulous holiday, time moves so quickly it seems if you blink it will all be over, a memory. But then when things are not so fabulous, the clocks seem to stop and time seems to hang. I can see it moving outside. I can gauge it with the coming and going of the nurses and attendants. I can gauge it with the traffic, the boulevard now more congested than a few minutes ago. Was it only a few minutes ago? I have been here for almost two hours this morning and it feels so much longer. Nothing to do but wait.

The doctor was just here. Manuel’s fever is heading back up again. His liver enzymes are spiking but still no definite diagnosis. Another round of blood tests have been ordered and Manuel will be staying here at least one more night. Nurses in Santa Fe green scrubs are here to take the bood. More needles. More test tubes. More bottles of fluids. The nurses leave and Manuel’s skin is getting hotter to the touch. Cold washcloths to the forehead, face and neck. Trying to bring the fever down. His heart is beating so hard his body seems to react to it. His eyes are quite watery. The dietician is here asking questions about Manuel’s eating habits. He doesn’t like Indian food. If he had his way, he would live off of pudding and ice cream. Right now he is fasting and is not allowed any food until after the ultrasound. He’s not hungry. Seems to be a typical symptom when the liver is having major issues.

I flash back six years. My father. His liver gave out. It was the end stage of the cancer he was battling. I know this is not what Manuel faces, but the memories are there. They swirl around inviting me to indulge them for a bit. I can’t. I need to stay composed. I need to stay positive. I know myself enough to know that any cracks in the armor can be disastrous.

I am sitting in front of a huge window on the sixth floor. The goats have moved and are now invading the Cricket game in the park. For the first time I notice that the park has very little grass. It is mostly dirt. The boys chase the goats off and the goats decide to chew whatever tiny patches of grass are growing here and there. Grey clouds hang in the sky, taunting with the threat of another pre-monsoon rain. The occasional bit of sun shines through, but only for a few moments. There is a miniature forest just to the left of the park. Lots of trees. Lots of green. Not the kind of green you find in Singapore or Holland or California. It isn’t that bright, vibrant green but rather a dusty gray green. Almost like the green itself is a bit too tired to really shine. Manuel’s feeling a bit better again. Part of the cycle of the past week. He feels great for an hour and then miserable for five.

A Mynah bird is sitting on the ledge looking into the room through the big window. He squawks and looks as if he is trying to tell us something. Isn’t one Mynah bird supposed to be a bad omen? Or is it two? I always forget those kinds of things. Thirty more minutes until they take Manuel for his ultrasound.

Half past twelve and waiting for them to come take Manuel for the ultrasound. The pendulum has swung back the other way and he is once again feeling miserable and trying to sleep it off. I am hungry but want to make sure I am here to go with Manuel whenever they decide it is time. He doesn’t want to go alone. Backflow in the IV. Blood in the tubes. I quickly get a nurse. It looks far worse than it is. It is actually nothing, just looks like something. I ask about the ultrasound.
The ultrasound is over quick. We are in a room with a big sign that informs that pre-natal sex determination is a punishable offence. From the next “room” come the sounds of a baby heartbeat. I am in the room. I see Manuel’s kidneys, spleen, pancreas and liver. I wonder if I am looking at something that means something or if everything is as it should be. Back in the room the Mynah bird keeps coming to the window. Outside a small boy in jeans and red t-shirt is walking three goats through the park. A minute later and they have all disappeared beneath the canopy of dull green trees. We wait now for the results.

The ultrasounds are normal. Manuel manages to eat a miniscule amount of food and wants to sleep. I head out for a bit of air. I go to the market, I buy some magazines to give him something to do. He’s too tired to read but perhaps he can look at pictures. I am tired but can’t sleep. Every fifteen minutes someone knocks on the door. More liquids. Check the temperature. Check the IV. Bring in the parade of doctors to ask the questions.

I am sitting next to the big window. It is now evening and the sun is setting. The curtains are drawn to keep the room dark so Manuel can sleep. The IV has been moved from the right hand to the left. The Mynah bird has stopped visiting. Manuel is finally eating little bits of food here and there and sleeping. Still don’t know exactly what is causing the fever. The temperature seems to be on a very slow yet steady decline. Yet to dip under 100, it is heading in the right direction.

A few hours later. Manuel is sleeping, his temperature rising again. I just ordered dinner from the sandwich shop downstairs. Subway Club on oregano. I’ll stay here tonight on the sofa bed in the room. It is now 9pm and the next assessment is sometime after 10 tomorrow morning. Thirteen hours from now we will hopefully know more…

Just before 6am. The nurse has been in an out all night. Lights have gone on and off making sleep even more impossible than the sofa bed itself was doing. Manuel’s fever went back up to 103 and back down again to 100. 6am. Open the curtains just a bit and take a peek outside. Already Cricket is being played in the park. Muslim guys dressed in white, wearing skull caps. Green parrots bouncing between the trees, their bright color standing out against the gray green leaves. 6:45 and we are up. Sheets are changed and the sofa bed tucked away until next time. A boy cycles through the park and stops to watch the Cricket. The temples from Chhaatarpur peek above the trees on the horizon like a distant mountain range. The trees are moving. A breeze is blowing. A lone kite with red and blue stripes dances nervously above the houses across the street. Above the onion domes of the mosque. Another antibiotic injection to further reduce the fever.

9am and the doctor comes in for the morning consultation. Manuel needs to stay at least one more night. Not yet sure what is causing the fever or liver fluctuations, but the causes are getting narrowed down. Typhoid has been ruled out. More blood results this evening and hopefully then an answer. Three kites fluttering in the wind. The Cricket game continues in the park below. The boulevard is becoming congested and Qutab Minar stands tall, overseeing everything. I try to anything to keep my mind busy. I don’t want to think. Now we wait again.

Manuel has been released from hospital. Lots of bedrest and starchy foods for the next couple of weeks. Turns out it was just a nasty viral infection. It will run its course on its own and leave Manuel immune to ever getting it again, with no chronic issues at all...

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