Well, there’s an often heard saying that goes like this: You can only plan for what’s in your control; you can’t plan for the uncertainties. The last 3-4 months have reaffirmed my faith in this saying. I am one of those guys who’s more organized than any of your average guys. I like having things planned in advance and I like being organized. It’s just the way I am. But I always had this saying at the back of my mind.
Things were fine up until 3 days before Christmas. I had even planned on a holiday at my aunt’s place in Ahmedabad for the Christmas weekend and had my tickets booked. Heat boils are common and little did I know then that a small, seemingly harmless pus formation could ruin all my plans for the next couple of months and lay me low.
This post is a recollection of my hospital experience - my hospital diaries.
My Hospital Diaries:
Day 0 (December 21st, 2015): I felt a slight pain in my seat. Noticed a small heat boil. Have had heat boils before. Felt that I should drink lots of water and it’ll go away, like usual.
Day 1 (22-12-15): Woke up with a slight fever. “Let me take the day off from work. Have enough leaves left, anyway.” Took the day off, from work.
Day 2 (23-12-15): At work. “Oh, I am not able to sit straight continuously. Should go to the doctor in the evening.” I visited a doctor in the evening. Doctor said that it was the onset of an ano fistula. Said that it was alright and I’ll be fine soon. I read about it online. Details were scary. But my symptoms were different. Mild in nature. I consulted my uncle who’s a doctor and took a medicine that he prescribed.
Day 3 (24-12-15): Pain subsided a little. The boil remained a small one. I took the bus to Ahmedabad that night. Was supposed to return to Mumbai in 3 days. Little did I know then that I won’t be returning to Mumbai for another 2 months.
Day 4 (25-12-15): Christmas in aunt’s place at Ahmedabad. Slight pain was there, but the boil remained the same. No growth. Felt that there was no cause for worry, as there was no abnormal growth of the boil.
Day 5 (26-12-15): The pain spiked. The boil had grown a little – from 4 mm dia to 8 mm dia. Decided that it was best to consult a doctor. Visited a doctor with aunt and Arjun (my brother) in tow. Doctor examined the boil. Confirmed that it was a fistula and that it had started growing. He told me that the boil had to be surgically removed in a couple of days, if it does not burst on its own. He prescribed some medicines.
Day 6 (27-12-15): The pain shot up even more. The boil had grown to about 2 cms in dia. “Oh, no. Guess it’s now infected within, like the doctor had predicted. Should undergo the surgery then. No other go.” I informed my parents and they arrived in Ahmedabad that night. I decided to have the surgery the next day, as the boil showed no signs of bursting on its own and the sooner it was removed, the better.
Day 7 (28-12-15): The boil had grown incredibly to about 10 cms in dia. I got admitted in a hospital that was suggested by the doctor. Even he was surprised at the rapid growth of the boil infection. He called a senior surgeon to examine it, before he could operate. The senior surgeon said that the infection has spread rapidly and the boil had swollen so much because blood supply has been cut off to that place. He recommended surgery by that night itself. He informed us that I may lose some skin in that region while the infection is surgically removed and that I may have to undergo a skin grafting surgery later on, to replace the lost skin. He also recommended that I be shifted to a bigger hospital in the city, as he felt that the present hospital did not have the facility to cater to such a surgery. So what was supposed to be a minor surgery a few minutes back, had now become a major surgery. Oh, God! I was shifted to a bigger hospital in the city in an ambulance and was taken straight to the ICU. I was prepped for the surgery in the ICU. At 9:30 PM, I was taken to the Operation Theater (OT). I saw a teary-eyed mom wish me luck as I was being taken in. I was given anesthesia and was sedated. I fell asleep. I don’t remember anything that happened over the next 2 hours. I was woken up by the doctor at 11:30 PM. He smiled at me, indicating that the surgery was successful. I was brought out of the OT. I could see the anxious faces of my parents, brother, cousin and aunt. They were all smiling at me. Guess the doctor had informed them of the successful surgery. I smiled at them and then I was taken to the ICU.
Day 8 (29-12-15) & Day 9 (30-12-15): Post surgical recovery in the ICU. The ICU is such a unique world. I could see a few other patients lying in beds like me. Each one was fighting his/her own battle. I was fighting my own. I was bedridden. I could not get up, but the kind nurses took care of me and my needs. God bless those souls! To be a nurse (male or female) is indeed a noble thing. Only a few souls who have the innate quality of service within them, can be a nurse.
Day 10 (31-12-2015): Was taken to the OT for a dressing. This dressing was done without anesthesia as recommended by the surgeon. It was the most excruciating physical pain that I’ve experienced in my life till now. I wish no one, I mean no one ever experiences such a pain. Horrible, it was! Thankfully, it lasted just an hour. But that was the longest hour in my life so far. Was shifted to a shared room in the ward, after the dressing.
Day 11 (01-01-2016): A new year in a hospital bed. Who would have imagined that? Certainly not me. Wishes came pouring in. I did not have my phone with me to see who all had wished. I got to see them only a couple of days later.
Day 12 (02-02-16) & Day 13 (03-02-16): Slow recovery in ward. Like the ICU, this room too had other patients fighting their own battles, with their family/friends in tow. I still did not have the strength to stand on my feet. I could sit with support, but not stand or walk.
Day 14 (04-01-2016): I was able to stand and walk slowly with support. The doctor heeded to my parents’ request to have me shifted to Coimbatore. He gave us the go-ahead. Tickets were booked and my doctor uncle agreed to come to Ahmedabad and accompany me on the trip to Coimbatore, the next day.
Day 15 (05-01-16): Flight to Coimbatore from Ahmedabad, via Mumbai. Was the most uncomfortable flight journey that I’ve ever undertaken. Was completely reliant on the wheelchair to move in the airport. Finally arrived in Coimbatore that night and was taken straight to Vallalar Hospital in a cab.
Day 16 (06-01-16): Another painful surgical disinfection procedure in the OT. “The next few days are going to be painful and challenging.”
Day 17 (07-01-16) to Day 23 (13-01-16): Painful recovery as expected. Was put on antibiotics to ensure that there was no further bacterial growth in the infected area, so that the skin grafting could be performed. Had many visitors – friends & colleagues of mom and dad and relatives, during this period. Barring my own office colleagues, roommates and a couple of my close friends who call me often, none of my other friends knew of my plight. And I was in no mood to inform anyone, as I did not want to be seen in the helpless bedridden state that I was in, back then.
Day 24 (14-01-16): The doctor felt that I may need some fresh air. He discharged me with the promise that I come for dressing twice every day. He told me that he’ll do the skin grafting surgery only when he’s fully convinced that the infected area was devoid of any bacterial growth.
Day 25 (15-01-16) to Day 30 (20-01-16): Pongal Celebrations and recovery at home. This period was somewhat fun for I felt that I was getting back to being normal again.
Day 31 (21-01-16): Readmitted in hospital for skin grafting surgery.
Day 32 (22-01-16): Had a sumptuous breakfast with mom’s delicious home-cooked food. Little did I know that it was going to be my last solid food intake for the next 10 days.
Day 33 (23-01-16): Skin grafting surgery. A layer of skin was removed from my right thigh and grafted in the infected region. Surgery went well. Was brought back to the room. Was asked to lie in the same position for the next 4 days, so as not to disturb the grafted skin.
Day 34 (24-01-16) to Day 36 (26-01-16): The most challenging days in this period of hospitalization. Had to lie in the same position for three days. Was so difficult and painful. Was counting down every hour, literally.
Day 37 (27-01-16) to Day 39 (29-01-16): The doctor was satisfied with my progress. He was impressed with my obedience and told me that the grafted skin had set in well and that the blood flow had started within. He agreed to have me discharged the next day.
Day 40 (30-01-16): Was discharged at last. Home again. Solid food at last, after 10 days. I had lost a lot of weight – 10 kgs to be precise, during this period. It was time for me to rest and recover at home and regain my strength back.
Day 41 (31-01-16) to Day 54 (13-02-16): Rest and recovery at home. Regained my strength. Did some office works too. Started walking well.
Day 55 (14-02-16): Went out for the first time in two months to celebrate parents’ wedding anniversary. Drove the car myself. Oh, yeah! It was a big relief that I was able to drive without any discomfort. Sign of returning to normalcy again. Bike, though, has to wait. Not allowed to drive a bike for another 4 months.
Day 56 (15-02-16) to Day 64 (23-02-16): Complete recovery at home. Felt normal again. Doctor gave me the go-ahead to return to Mumbai. Was eager to get back to Mumbai and rejoin work.
Day 65 (24-02-16): Flight back to Mumbai. Returned to familiar territory again, after two long months.
Day 66 (25-02-16) to Day 69 (28-02-16): Rest at home in Mumbai.
Day 70 (29-02-16): Rejoined work. Was welcomed with open arms at work. Oh, I missed this place and the people so much. Things are back to normal again.
1. Surround yourself with the right people: I had the good fortune of being amidst the best of people when the situation warranted. I had my parents, brother, aunt, cousins, all other relatives, friends and colleagues taking care of me, praying for me and wishing me well. All this made my recovery much easier. I can’t imagine what might have happened if I did not have the right people beside me when the situation warranted.
2. Have a good medical insurance cover: I was fortunate that my company was not only professional enough to give me sufficient time to recover (2 months, in this case), but also had an excellent medical cover for its employees. I’d suggest everyone reading this to go in for the best medical insurance cover available, if you do not have one. Even if you have a company-provided medical cover, there is no harm in going for a better cover on your own, if you feel that the cover limit is insufficient. Medical facilities are expensive these days and it’ll certainly burn all your savings, if you do not have a good insurance cover. Even if you’re the healthiest person in the world, I’d still suggest that you have a good insurance cover, because some things are uncertain and beyond our control.
3. Have a couple of good credit cards with you: This is something that really helped me like the medical insurance. In times of emergency, like when I was shifted from one hospital to another on Dec 28th and operated upon, credit cards came in handy. In such times, the hospital may not wait for your insurance agent to come and pay your surgery fees. Though you have facilities like cashless payment cards provided by the medical insurance cover, it really helps to have a credit card or two with you, in order to pay.
4. Be healthy, but be prepared: Apart from being a couple of kilos overweight, I was one of the healthiest persons around. I had a healthy lifestyle with clean habits. Even the doctors who treated me were puzzled as to how the infection became virulent and started swelling in my body. It was then that they told me that such bacterial growth in an infected area due to stoppage of blood supply can happen to anybody, anywhere. There may not be a particular reason for it, for the infection was caused by one of the most commonly found bacteria. It so happened that the initial pus formation managed to stop blood supply to that region and that helped its growth. So my takeaway from this experience was to be prepared for such eventualities. This takes me back to the saying that I started this post with. Some things are beyond our control.
5. Have a hobby: By hobby here, I mean something like reading. Let’s face it. Lying in a hospital bed all day with nothing to do but to stare at the ceiling, can certainly bog you down. That idleness may not help you in staying positive. This is where a hobby like reading helps. Even phones were barred. Got access to my phone only a couple of times, every day. But my doctors were kind enough to allow me to read for some time every day. And I read some books to keep myself engaged. Best of all, I got to re-read the Amar Chitra Katha’s version of the Mahabharata again. Even when I was back home, I could not go out. I had to miss out on a lot of things. Even my close friend’s wedding. But reading certainly helped me keep up my spirits during this period.
6. Be positive: One thing that I am really proud of is how positively I was able to handle the whole situation. Not for a moment did I lose hope or felt dejected. I really do not know how I was able to do it, but I did. Me staying positive, even in the toughest of times, helped my parents and those around me. There were people who kept telling me that everything happens for a reason. I was not worried about the reason for the thing has already happened. I had needles inserted in my veins and antibiotics were injected into them, twice a day. Every time a vial of antibiotic was injected, it was really painful. I’d have had atleast 50 hypodermic needles inserted into my skin during this period. It was always painful. But every time it pained, I kept telling myself that this too shall pass. I was always looking forward to that day when all this would have passed and I’d be able to sit and write about it in leisure. That day is finally here. The single most important sentence that kept me positive and kept me going during this period was this: “This too shall pass.”
I thought long and hard before I decided to write this post. I thought if it was necessary at all to talk about it. But then, I felt it was important to record snippets from this experience and preserve it for posterity, while it was still fresh in my memory. Also, I felt that it may also help the readers to learn a thing or two from my experience.
I wish you, the reader, that you never have to undergo any such experience like I underwent. I wish you a hale and a healthy life.
Here’s to a healthy life and good times ahead.
PS: No surgery is pretty and I decided to leave out some of the bloody and gory description of things, in order to respect the discretion of the reader. I just wish that no one ever gets to experience such things or pain in life.