These last days have been the pits. Still fever-y, throat is still sore, lymph nodes are still the size of one of Jupiter’s moons (albeit, one of the smaller moons I would say). Also, my poor laptop is dead. dead. dead. Which means no movies. And very little contact with the Western hemisphere. I’ve finished reading (and then re-reading) all my books. So I pretty much nap all day. I’ve been averaging about two hours of sleep for every one hour of being awake. In between naps I listen to my ipod. Its a pretty boring existence.
So on Sunday I convinced Theresa against her better judgment to go with me to the bookstore, in order to replenish my reading stock. We got a car to take us downtownn to Bhanjara Hills (which is the rich and fabulous district in Hyderabad.) They have a mall there with a McDonalds (that delivers! oh la la!) and a bookstore that carried novels from the UK. Theresa was nervous about me being anywhere but my bed, but I was ecstatic to be in a bookstore–my home away from home (away from home). Theresa kept telling me that I looked like “a jumping fish” because I was so excited. Books! I bought 12.
I was more content than the lizards who live in my sink (i’ll tell you what, those lizards are happy campers) because I had booooks! Novels! Long ones! But my poor mother (and father, and boyfriend, and grandmother, and extended family members, and close friends) have been very worried about my non-specific India fever. I had zero response to the antibiotics, which successfully ruled out strep. And I was starting to develop a “rash” which is really just a few red dots on my torso. I have been inciting mass panic in Cleveland, so I agreed to go to a major hospital for blood testing.
While everyone else in my life was worried about malaria (dum dum dummmm), I was worried about getting stuck with a needle. I spent waaay too much time seeing patients with blood borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis to feel comfortable being pricked in an unfamiliar hospital, in an unfamiliar country.
So today I went to NIMS (a large hospital here in Hyderabad) with some general angst. This time I was on the other side of the Indian health care system, and had no idea what to expect.
Being at NIMS was just surreal. I timidly walked into a sea of indian people, just waiting. The outpatient department is an open air square, and the perimeter has offices and labs all around. In the middle of this huge space were hundreds of people, just waiting. The sun shines down into the space, but otherwise it is pretty intimidating with all the concrete, tile and fluorescent lighting–a far cry from the painting and fountains at University Hospitals! There don’t seem to be any appointments in the out patient department. You just walk in, register, and wait. Sometimes all day, I suppose.
Dr. Y’s colleague who agreed to see me was named Dr. Subblaxmi, and she was very kind. She emailed me her office number, and told me to just come right in at 9:30. I bypassed all the paperwork, long lines and waiting. She handed me a form, I filled it in, and we were good to go.
Dr. Shubbalxmi was in her 40s I would guess, and usually works with HIV patients. But she saw me as a favor to Dr. Y. After checking me out she ordered lots of blood tests, just to be on the safe side. My palms were a little sweaty, and I asked her if all the needles were disposable. She looked affronted, if not insulted, by the question, and nodded with a raised eyebrow. She even asked a male nurse to take me to the blood draw station.
Sitting outside the station, I was feeling pretty anxious. There was an 11 year old boy sitting next to me with the same uncomfortable expression. I reached into my purse and gave him one of the Mickey Mouse stickers my aunt had sent for the Orphans, and he smiled. We were both worrying about the needle. I took great comfort in my solidarity with this little man. When it was my turn to go in, he gave me a grimace that said you can do it! I nodded back at him solemnly. I took a deep breath, and in I went.
I’m pleased to report my blood draw was completely uneventful, and my angst was an unreasonable overreaction. I saw a needle come out of sterile wrapping, I was tested with perfect sterile procedure and into a biohazard bucket it went. All of my concerns were met. They tested me for malaria, dengue, encephalitis, in addition to a regular blood count that includes hemoglobin and white blood cell counts and a whole bunch of other tests I couldn’t quite distinguish on my chart. (In interesting news, in India it seems all patients are responsible for his or her own chart. You carry it around with you, you bring it to the doctor, to the hospital etc. They write in it, and hand it back to you and you take it to the next doctor or to the lab or the pharmacy. Even Madam’s HIV patients bring in their own chart. Isn’t that bizarre?)
After the blood test, my male nurse escort led me through another sea of waiting sick people, and dropped me off at radiology. Here, I waited an hour. In radiology I was most struck by a sign above the room where the ultrasounds were done. I even copied it down, it read, “Determining the sex of the foetus in any pre-natal diagnostic test is a seriously punishable crime for those who do it, those who get it and those who advocate it.” Why is it illegal to determine the sex of a fetus you may ask? Theresa told me its because girls get aborted at a much higher frequency. No one wants girls, they are too expensive to marry off and a burden to their families. It made me really sad.
I had an ultrasound done on all my internal organs. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I’m guessing because in malaria cases the spleen gets enlarged due to the destruction of the red blood cells?
There were no ultrasound techs, it was a radiologist who operated the machine and went over with me everything as it was happening. All of my organs are great. Not like I expected anything not to be, but I guess the doctor also wanted a status update on my spleen, liver and appendix for good measure. All of which are fine.
Interestingly enough, all of my ultrasounds, printouts and consultation with the radiologist cost me 300 rupees, or $6. My bloodwork was more expensive, for over 10 tests it was 1,200 ($24). My travel doctor at UH, Dr. Armitage, told me not to worry about any kind of health insurance because its cheaper just to pay out of pocket- and he sure was right! Apparently you can get a total hip replacement in india for like $5,000. Socialized medicine. Crazy.
I tested negative for all the scary jungle stuff (I could hear my mom’s sigh of relief halfway across the world.) In the end, they went with an unofficial diagnosis of “acute mono.” I don’t think they ever did a mono spot, but whatever they saw in my bloodwork was apparently enough to make a diagnosis. Additionally, the “rash” I had is a pretty typical outcome of patients with mono who take antibiotics due to misdiagnosed strep.
It also explains all the napping.
lots of love,