Sunday, April 27, 2008

Oh gosh!

(Warning : medical gobbledygook ahead)

I recently met a senior colleague of mine who is attached to the ETU (Emergency Treatment Unit, a.k.a. A&E) of a big hospital in Colombo. Little beads of sweat dotted my forehead as I listened to his experiences there. The trauma scenarios he described were horrifying, even though I have had a decent training at NHSL.

A few weeks ago, a youngish guy had been admitted following a road traffic accident (RTA)... a nasty collision with a train during the wee hours of the morning. While the rest of the body was ok, he had severe injuries to the head, including facial fractures that were a combination of Le Fort II and III. In other words, his facial bones were in 4 fragments... (shudder).

My friend and his team had been trying disparately to intubate the patient, as that was the only way to secure the airway and ensure he didn't aspirate from the torrential bleeding. Every time they tried to insert the ET tube, part of the face would move forward or backwards or sideways....making the task next to impossible.

That's when they decided on a radical approach, one I had never heard of before. They created an emergency tracheostomy and inserted the guide-wire of a CVP line upwards through the larynx and out of the mouth and then guided the ET tube down the wire!! I was open mouthed with admiration at whoever came up with this maneuver. Thanks to their quick action, they were able to get the patient stabilized on a ventilator.

I'm not sure what happened to the poor guy, but I hope he survived.

My applause goes to all innovative doctors out there.... for their clear headedness in the face of the seemingly impossible - a trait that saves lives.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bus rides and perverts

Ok, I admit that public transport is not something I brave very often these days. Mind you, when I was in school and during the first uni. years I used to travel all over Colombo by bus. Then chronic laziness set in.

Anyway, last week, there I was, sitting on the aisle seat of a 176, minding my own business and mentally preparing exactly what I was going to say to Mr. R at the meeting. The guy next to me - a gaunt, middle aged fellow - kept shifting around with the parcel on his lap, and what do you know... less than two minutes into the ride, the guy is fumbling around my leg. Just below the femoral triangle.


I scowled at him and moved myself away. Wondered whether to start yelling but felt doubtful. Maybe it was an accident and he was just fumbling with his parcel... Hmmmp... Anyway, he didn't try any more monkey business and I kept quiet as my halt was quite close.

What are the odds of something like that happening on the way back? Pretty high as it turned out. This time it was the guy standing near my seat, ignoring the practically empty bus area in front of him and oblivious to the conductor yelling "issarahata yanna, issarahata yanna" into his ear. Perv #2 was having fun rubbing his crotch against my shoulder... and getting harder by the minute!


I scowled up at him... stale breath courtesy of a poor quality distillary wafted all over me. After trying unsuccessfuly to move away (the guy kept moving with me) I finally elbowed him out of the way, got up and moved to the front of the bus.

The fact that Sri Lankan public transport reeks with maggots like these does not surprise me. What surprised me was my reaction - or rather, my lack of any. I was shocked, disgusted and felt dirty and violated. I like to think of myself as a strong person. When faced with such a situation, I had always expected myself to be very vocal, yell and make a big scene etc. Instead I just felt bad about myself. Not blaming myself but just generally icky.

Couldn't wait to go home and shower!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chuti Junior?

Last Sunday, Brother reported a strange creature in his sock drawer. I went to investigate and found what looked like an oversized hoona (gecko) lying amidst the shredded remnants of half a dozen socks and what was once a rather dashing blue tie.

Yup, you guessed it. One tiny baby squirrel (even smaller than Chuti when I found him) that probably got the shock of his short life when faced with my searching fingers. I just sat down and groaned "not again...". The thought of going through that saga once more, only to have another innocent die in my hands was not a bright one.

Since neither of us actually touched it, and therefore hopefully not transferred our scent, we kept the doors, windows and the cupboard open hoping that mummy-squirrel would show up. The little fellow kept squeaking hungrily the whole day and it was all I could do to harden my heart and not give a few drops of milk. Happily around 4.00 pm darling noticed what looked like a streak of brown furry lightning scampering up the stairs, which reappeared shortly afterwards as the mum, grasping the baby by the scruff of his neck. Much relieved, we promptly closed all portals... and cleaned out the sock drawer. :)

Only one question remains... why reproducing rodents find Brother's room so attractive...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chuti.... my first pet... and only

I guess many of you know about the life and death of this cute little critter. I still can't help feeling guilty that he died... even though numerous people have told me that baby squirrels are notoriously difficult to raise. Darling points out that if I hadn't adopted him, no one would have even known it existed until Brother started wondering why his room was more odiferous than usual.

I always used gloves to handle him... forgive me, oh, ye animal lovers. I am merely an animal liker and anyway, my precautions were justified when the little blighter pee-ed on my hand. He was the most adorable creature and always running around after me, squeaking his opinion on the little obstacle courses I'd place for him on the floor so that he could learn to climb. Field visits to the garden meant scaling mango trees and he had just about learnt to jump from one branch to another the weekend before he fell ill.

He'd keep me company when I'd have trouble staying awake, waiting for Darling to come home. When his box was open, he'd stand on hind legs and poke his head out to inspect all four sides before deciding to come out. When he'd spot me, he'd be on his hind legs again, fore-paws held out, begging to be taken into my hands. Maybe this is a common thing to people who have had pets... but it seemed wonderfully loving to me.

Funnily enough, he never accepted anything but milk. I tried banana mush, but it was disdainfully rejected. Ditto for bread and cream crackers. When the bread was soaked in milk, he just sucked up the milk and squeaked hungrily for more. Whenever I'd murmur "Chuti-Chuti" he'd always wake up and scramble around his box, eagerly anticipating the feed...never drinking more than 3/4 tblsp... maybe that was all his little belly could hold.

Even when he was sick, he managed to hold up his head and look interested when the milk came. Sigh... and he choked on it... died with milk flooding his lungs. I guess I just pushed the plunger of the feeding tube too fast. :(

I really have to thank Aunty Chandrani who looked after him when I was at work, setting the alarm so that she could feed him on time... even during the busy hours in the lab. Also Dr. Tharanga and Dr. Mangala who looked at him and recommended treatment, Pets V Care for advising me over the phone (one the day I found him) on how to feed baby squirrels, and for treating him when he fell ill and Dr. Kodikara (2-853087) for trying so hard to save him that last day. (Yup, Chuti was shown to 4 vets... I was so worried). Im really grateful to Al Juhara for having the numbers of the vet surgeons on her blog... that helped me when I was desparate.

I guess this is a final farewell to Chuti. He's buried under a tree near our front gate. I wanted to do something like give away some packets of rice 7 days later... but things didn't workout. I know people will call me silly, but I do transfer merit to him when possible. Afterall, it's because of the lack of it that he was born an animal and died young and in pain.

Thnaks all, for your comforting comments and apologies for the long and tragedy queen type posts of late.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The lowest ebb

I know a young lady, K, who works as a secretary in a government institution. She's charming and intelligent and never failed to help me on the occasions I toddled over to her office to get something done.

Her cheerful manner masked many problems at home. The rising cost of living was taking its toll on her family, just like millions of others in the country. The biggest problem, however, was the inability to conceive, even after 5 years of marriage. They had gone down the usual paths, timing the cycle, ovarian stimulation, IVF. The tension was driving a wedge between K and her husband. Then, when they had almost given up hope, the pregnancy test came up positive. Her quiet glow of happiness was beautiful to behold. Parents, in-laws and relatives fussed over her, her husband became the doting lover of years gone by and life was good.

A couple of months later, her husband P wasn't feeling well. Their little world came crashing down around them... at barely 40 years, he was diagnosed with rectal cancer. The malignancy had already invaded the surrounding tissues and his liver was dotted with secondary deposits. Surgery was performed as soon as possible, leaving P with a permanent colostomy. K held him close and comforted him through all the pain and distress of surgery, chemo and radiotherapy.

A few weeks went by and suddenly K felt a sharp pain deep inside her. To her horror, her water bag broke shortly afterwards and life blood started to drain out from their precious baby. She was rushed to hospital and with the medication, rest and perhaps the prayers of her loved ones, the miscarriage was averted.

Since then she has been lying on a bed in a gynae ward... doctors had warned against any unnecessary activity or mental stress. Just relax and take it easy, they told her. Her friends and relatives visited daily. Little gifts were always near her bedside. Bottles of Horlicks. A fluffy new towel. A pink bed-jacket trimmed with dainty ribbons. Her mother kept a watchful eye on her, seeing to her every need.

Aunty (K's mum) wasn't too well herself. Poorly controlled diabetes topped the list. Maybe she didn't have the time or energy to care for herself. Maybe it was the stress. Maybe it was just meant to be. Aunty woke up one day and found that she could only mumble. She could barely lift herself off the bed and her limbs on one side felt useless... she had suffered a stroke. Another admission, this time to the stroke unit.

P was meanwhile in and out of hospitals. Maharagama, NHSL and back. He was stick thin and getting weaker by the day. He worried about his unborn child, about K, her mum and their deteriorating finances. Worsening bouts of pain would rack his body, seemingly unaffected by morphine. When I saw him 2 days ago he was lying crumpled on a bed, his entire body twitching due to low serum calcium (tetany). He stared dimly at me with sunken eyes. I spoke his name, but not an eyelid flickered in response.

P died early this morning.

K, devastated by grief insisted on going home. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and sadness she is experiencing. I continue to pray for her unborn child. I dread meeting her at the funeral tomorrow... my own inadequacy to comfort a sorrowing fellow human being shames me.

Bad things all too often happen to good people.