Message In A I V Bottle-Srinath Sridharan

Message in a (I.V) bottle It was a fabulous Thursday morning. I was busy writing a chapter of an ESG research paper for a global university. Had finished my usual home cooked breakfast and was set to head for multiple external meetings that day.

Also that upcoming weekend was special – I was going to talk to group of deserving students who are trying to break above the glass ceiling of privilege and social discrimination ; and to another group of students looking to fast track their careers after completing PG this month ! Hopefully I shall finish both of these interactions in the next few months to come. I had been having on & off leftshoulder & shoulder blade spasm for previous 2 weeks. Which I attributed to typing on my phone while walking, bad posture at times etc.

Well what started on a note of a thoughtful-Thursday, turned terribly-different, very quickly…I started having sudden shooting pain in my left shoulder and I sweated bucket loads and tried lying flat on the ground to relieve the pain. Tried the usual suspect – ice pack and muscle relaxant spray.

Pain become unbearable and I rushed into the shower to stand under a cold blast of water -just to get rid of that burning sensation.

When I came out to dress, I was sweating buckets and shooting pain increased in the chest & shoulder blade (feeling as if hundreds of red ants were stinging me) and I was gasping for breath. All these in less than 10-12 mins.

I sensed that something was majorly wrong.

Managed to type multiple short messages to postpone meetings for the day (still don’t know how I found the strength for it).

In 10 mins, K (my bedrock) had got me to the emergency ward at the nearest large hospital. And she had also called our doctor-friends who were kind enough to drop their work and rush there and to have a senior cardio surgeon ready.

In short, i was in throes of a massive Myocardial Infarction (colloquially – cardiac attack) and in another in 90 mins, i was in the ICU, after been tested, probed, angioplasty done & stented for removal of multiple artery blocks. And also been told that since I have a heart of kindness, most portion seems to have been used up !

As they say, you can be a fit person, with super disciplined health & exercise regime, healthy food, no smoking vice, calm composure, time management, no prior health issues, not on any medication except multi-vitamins and regular health checks.

On hindsight, if I not been as disciplined as I was, I might have been a candidate few years earlier!1.

And getting to the emergency ward, in what they call the “golden hour” saved my life. It is indeed a Higher Energy ( call it Bhagwan, God, Almighty, Holy Father, Allah, Gurudev or any other term), who in the form of these medical professionals, healthcare staff and nonhealthcare support staff, have given me a new life. Thank you ! I should start celebrating July 8th as my gratitude-birthday!

Lessons for you: 
If you are above 35 years or work in stressful roles or industries (startups, media, treasury functions, high-paced Law etc), or have anger issues or pre-existing health issues like high BP, diabetes, or smoking or junk food habit, get your & your spouse’s annual health check up done. Just remind yourself of your family and that’s a great motivation to stay fit. (Been told by my doc that “40 is the new 60” for cardiac issues).

2. If you ever have symptoms like I did and if you are ever dependent on muscle relaxant and antacid for more than few days, don’t wait. Head to your cardiologist. If I had known this a fortnight ago, I probably would not gone through this.

3. Have an adequate health insurance (hospitalisation + Critical Illness cover). (My hearty thanks to my friend who had advised me and got me to do the relevant & adequate cover !)

4. Have an emergency kit with photocopies of your health insurance policy, your recent health records / medical prescriptions / Adhaar card / PAN card etc. Add to it, list of emergency contact numbers (of your doctors, the key staff at your office who handle Mediclaim, etc). Keep some cash in that kit. You never know when you need it. At our house, we call it “the runaway kit”. It came handy ! (Without having any morbid thoughts, keep your Organ Donation card in that kit, assuming that you have signed up for it -even one’s death can bring quality living to many affected patients!)

5. If you still handle your family’s primary bank account as single person operation, time to make it “either or” account with your spouse. How will your spouse access the funds, if you are the only signatory to the bank and you are incapacitated?

6. If you have not written a Will of Succession, pls write one. Last year Covid impact in most of families & friends showed us how life is fragile, anyways !

7. Don’t wait for the next New Year Eve to decide to get into healthy lifestyle & a fitness regime that works for you & is needed for your health.

Time to OTT Once
I have energies regained, I should collaborate to write a series of non-medical articles or even theatric-script on “ICU stories”.

It’s lot of human stories & emotions, fragilities of human behaviour and vagaries of Nature or destiny, personalities of various kinds – be it patients or their families, observations of checklist and strict protocols that saves lives, as I observed in my few days there. Also the human emotions of jealousy, competition, ego, anger, greed, kindness exists in the ICU hierarchy as well.

I should also add volumes to the above OTT script &/ OpEds about how one needs a stronger heart and cooler mind to deal with the painful paperwork and lack of sensitivity training, seen in hospital (non-medical) administration and health insurance industry.

(On both these count, I was lucky as i knew people from both of these sectors. Imagine plight of those who don’t !). To my OTT producer – director -writer friends – we should chat once I recuperate …. You can give me credits as the “Pav-Dilwala” ! 

Humour does work, even in “serious”conditions : 
I asked my ICU doc if she could allow me to have my phone in airplane mode for me to type a journal of sorts. I knew I had pushed the limit, especially after I told the doc that only my heart is on slowdown and not my brain, and that I was not able to sleep despite being heavily medicated and hooked up to various monitors and probes.Guess what – I was offered a paper and pen to write whatever I wanted. Only my docs understood the writing well – she said it’s like my ECG reading and that it says that I need full rest for many weeks ahead !

Well, she was kind enough to allow me a rare privilege in the ICU – (old) newspapers and magazines (except the medical encyclopaedia that I asked for).

Friends & Family 
It’s been a rude shock to my family. Thanks to K, she is holding all of us including our young daughters through these traumatic times.

I am back at home now, resting, and healing. It’s a process for many weeks ahead.

We are touched by so many of you reaching out, outpouring of kindness, offer of help. Hearty thanks to those who heard and sent / organised prayers, prasadh from across your beliefs. It is these prayers which make miracles possible !

For all those friends who helped us with kind comforting words, thoughtful gestures, be it helping us get that ICU bed without much waiting or the private recovery room or that caring thought of dropping bag of fruits or snacks for the kids at home, taking care of our daughters, stepping in to be my care-taker in the hospital ward to relieve K for few hours or personally driving us to/fro hospital or doing those errands, etc – a big hug ! And thank you to your families, as it surely took you away from them for those days. Thank you to those friends who even offered to rush to hospital to pay any bills if needed. Muc
h kindness !

Emergency reach-out protocol 

We have a simple protocol at home : in a medical emergency, which of those 4-5 friends to call, so that access to speedy healthcare, etc can be managed with their help, and without fuss.

Upon stabilisation of the emergency, which of the next 5-10 people to let know of the situation. They can pitch in with help in getting daily lives to normalcy and will be selfless about it and would add solace to our emotions.

Once the emergency is settled, then inform all others – family & friends, especially those outside of Mumbai – there is no point in creating stress in their lives; especially when they are so far away.

And it would save time /energy / efforts for the primary care giver from giving hourly updates on what’s happening ! And especially during covid times, most of them, can’t even travel and even if they did, we would not have had the luxury of time and energy to arrange hospitality etc.

It’s a practical protocol, without factoring in make-believe hierarchy of family vs friends. (On the lighter side, this might be one of the most effective viral messaging protocol that ever happened. Have to figure the formula for my friends in marketing?)

No to Post-Facto ideas 
We are also touched with people offering various alternate medical intervention ideas on what could have been done as the primary treatment. Thank you, but no thank you. In an emergency, we went with our doctor’s diagnosis & treatment and his expertise saved me.

Add to it, our doctor-friends who were there to guide us, know their medical science !

Our request : since I have to stay under strict hygiene protocol to avoid further infections and with covid worries still all around, we request you to avoid home visit for sometime; pls do stay in touch with K over WhatsApp.

Pls don’t repeat any of the above data points as queries. It’s been exhausting for her to repeat the data points umpteen times. You will get a reply but probably delayed, as she is multitasking 36 hours a day. She also needs to rest as well, as my primary care giver and the multi-tasker for our nuclear family.

Work & ideas galore 
To all my friends with whom I am collaborating on a variety of projects : continue with it. 

Lots to be done yet. And I have many ideas around those projects.

My mood is that of eagerly looking ahead, and can simply be captured with the famous Arnold dialogue from ‘The Terminator’ movie – “I will be back” ! 

Idea : If hotels can have single window checkout facility, why can’t hospitals have similar ease of checkout, instead of making the patients’ families run around between departments ? Probably some IT firm to offer SAAS product of this sort ? (Knowing hospitals, they won’t want to invest upfront).

Idea : Probably there is a business opportunity to rent sleeping bags or sell low-cost disposable sleeping bags to those attendants of patients who can’t afford private wards and sleep on the hospital chairs and floors !

Idea : (To my team of productdesigner friends) How about designing a lowcost easy-to-maintain bed, with locally available material and adding elements of projecting videos (from cable or Bluetooth) onto the ceiling (instead of putting TV on the ceiling); if that video projection can be linked to the bed incline angle, it would remain stable for the patient to watch even if (s)he adjusts the bed angle. Add to this, speakers in the bed sides (with cutoff dB level) and add motion sensors to check on the patient’s movement. What a fabulous bed this can be for paediatric, geriatric, palliative care patients and bring them solace.

Lower the capex & lower the maintenance costs we can get this done in, (more) hospitals would adopt them !

A thought has emerged in wondering what would be the plight of thousands of Indians who don’t have access to hospitals, doctors, network of friends, doctors, ability to pay for medical care and at times, even the basic health care infra access, and more importantly not have the luxury to recuperate as their livelihood means might be limited. Who knows ? My recuperation time could be an enabler for me to read, research and think about potential impact creation in HealthCare access space ! It could be a combination of healthcare space, digital, BFSI & public policy! And also in the area of process-improvement of for-profit healthcare.

Note : Will be interesting to see how hospitals would rank in ESG scores (especially if factors include : transparency, ease of information availability, choices of treatment offered vis-à-vis quality of care and pricing, measure of success of their doctors vs commercial viability of the hospitals, patient’s comfort (as consumer) and the way their family (as the paying customer) has been treated during hospital stay, energy sources used, medical literacy imparted during the hospital stay, responsible financing options available for the patients, etc).

Have missed few friends’ birthdays past few days and will miss many such celebrations in weeks ahead.

Wish you a wonderful birthday and stay well ! For friends who know my love for reading, you now know where to ship those books !!

Summary: In the many hours in solitude in the ICU, I moved from “why me” to “what next” – and promised myself that I will learn what would be a new normal for my life and daily living, with enough restrictions on what I took for granted. And work in reversing this as much as possible. Well, when one has a quest for living, with making an impact on others, one learns quickest and learns anew. So I shall !

My recovery depends on how I take one day at a time… As the saying goes, “if Life throws lemon”.

Either let that large lemon hit you or you catch it and have a lemonade party with friends. I want to do the latter, once I recover.

Wana join ??

(BTW if you want anything more spiked with that, BYO).

Stay safe and blessed.

Look to catching up soonest.

PS: this note usually would have taken 75-90 mins typing during my morning walk. This took many hours over few days, with more spells of exhaustion. And it is important for me to thank all those mentioned above. Without names, they know who they are. 1. In my current state of not able to speak without exhaustion, this is the closest. I have promised to stay away from phone / social media /digital as I heal. But pls do drop your replies and messages – will read them as I recuperate.

For many of my friends who have messaged “Is all ok ? No OpEd for 7-10 days ?!”… thank you. 

(This article is not an exclusive one for BW Businessworld. Based on personal experiences, the content must be published by other publications too.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.