“Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood,” - Hellen Keller.
The five days, I spent in anxiety, waiting in front of the Intensive Care Hospital, Mumbai, have given me an insight and outlook, that helped me to see things in perspective.
It was one of those harrowing moments, when something that dreadful and least expected happens. My father, a person at the ripe age of 88 but bubbling with positivity and a will of steel fell down while picking a TV remote…for no apparent reason….sustained injury at the back of his head, was bleeding profusely and was rushed to the hospital and admitted to the ICU.
I rushed to Mumbai to see my Dad, to comfort my sister who was facing the grim situation boldly trying to ensure that he gets best medical attention.
The doctors went about their routine…”trying to do their best” in a complete dispassionate style, perhaps they were seasoned and seeing people suffer illness, injuries or even death would not affect them anymore…
It is only so much that we could do to alleviate his pain and to pray and seek divine intervention!
My sister and I joined the band of anxious men and women of different ages, different backgrounds, and different issues all facing the same problem that of a loved one struggling with his/her life in the ICU.
The nurses used to call out the name of the patient and his relatives would rush to the door of the ICU. They would sometimes ask to procure medicines, sometimes advice that additional investigation tests or even announce the passing of one the patients in a very routine manner, with no emotions. It was just a job for them. During the course of their work in the ICU, perhaps death was a routine.
The wailing of the relatives or the depth of their grief did not affect them.
During those anxious moments in front of the ICU made me realize a strange paradox.
For us, the waiting relatives, the anxiety and the grief of the relatives of other patients, was not routine.
I realized that perhaps, I was more softhearted than I thought I was. But strangely, people around me tried to insulate themselves from the plight of others and tried to focus on their anxiety and the plight of their relative alone. To me, it seemed an extremely difficult exercise.
An old “auto-rickshaw” driver in his late sixties brought a patient with a cut on her head and wrist. Due to heavy rains and a fallen tree on the road, the driver did not see the woman cross the road. While he tried his best to prevent the accident, it happened.
Being an honest man, the old driver brought the patient to the hospital for first aid.
The woman had a relative who worked in the hospital. The hospital staff saw this as yet another business opportunity.
The doctors declared that the patient would have to be admitted in the ICU and kept on observation for 24 hours, undergo a CT Scan to rule out any possible head injury, X-ray for her wrist….the list was endless.
The relative of the lady and hospital authorities demanded Rs.5,000 from the driver, towards the same, since he caused the accident.
The poor man started to shiver like a leaf….pleading with them, that he was a poor man and he could not afford it.
Unfortunately, his pleas and requests fell on deaf ears.
Those by-standers in front of the ICU, showed complete apathy by trying to “insulate” themselves from the event.
I could not hold myself and could not remain apathetic. I approached him, offered him water, and tried to calm him down. I told him to relax and cautioned him about his own health.
However, he could not listen, comprehend or even think of anything that I told him, since he was overwhelmed by the demand of money, which was way beyond his means. He found a sympathizer in me and said, “Sir, I earn my daily bread by driving the auto-rickshaw, I have a wife who is ailing and our sons have deserted us” I do not even earn Rs.5000 in one week….from where can I raise the money?”
I could not bear the tears of the man. He was shivering with fear and tension. I was carrying cash for the treatment of my father.
I just took Rs.5000/- and placed it in his hand.
The old man was speechless! His shivering stopped. He stared at me in dismay and disbelief.
Then his chivalry came to play. “No, Sir. I cannot accept the money. I cannot return it”…he pleaded.
I pacified him and said, “Just take care of the issue at hand and God will take care of me”. As an afterthought added, “Please pray for my father who is in the ICU”.
He brought his palms together as if to thank me. I held his palms together, with my own and gestured to him to move on…, which he did.
Other by-standers and the hospital security started staring at me, perhaps some appreciated my gesture and some others thought I was being naïve or foolhardy.
I did not care. I derived great satisfaction in seeing the old man relieved.
Perhaps, the old man did pray for my father. Three days later, his condition improved and we were able to bring him back home for further treatment from home.
My father is still fighting hard towards achieving complete recovery, we are praying for him and I am sure the auto-rickshaw driver will have a word of prayer for us.
With all the Prayers and Blessings, I hope we will have our father back on his feet… soon.