Enjoying an Emergency

I was part of a party that admitted a not-too-old man to emergency at the Fortis Hospital on Bannerghatta Road. We went in at 10:00 PM. When we came out it was 2:20 AM. While we waited for the unfolding tests to end and thereafter for the reports to come in, we washed out hands again and again with sanitiser. They had planted bottles of the fluid all over, and they had large signs that told how to avoid contracting swine flu. Feeling thus secure, we watched cricket on the monitors above. In the pauses between matches, when the talking hosts came on, we went in to look after how our man was doing.

They wouldn’t let us stay long periods. “Radiation,” someone cried and shooed us out. Other times, a guard in blues came in and asked us to leave and we asked him back to leave us alone for a bit. He was nice. But everybody there was nice. We went out and waited, and watched cricket—re-runs of the ongoing World Cup cricket. The Indians were beating big, larger muscled others in the game, and, even as I felt guilty to be entertaining myself while our man suffered inside, I felt happy that Indians were faring so well in the cricket department.

But the hospital itself was world class. Quiet efficiency prevailed. Emergencies came in one after another. The triage went on in murmurs. People waited, they asked questions, and they sat and waited and went back to the nurses’ stations, and in all this nobody lost their cool. We didn’t mind our own wait, because we saw how work was going on, and in the end when we left we went out knowing our man was going to make it.

His hands have coin-size sores at the knuckles, he has such sores on the knee caps, his calves and feet have swollen and are dimpled with larger sores, his haemoglobin count is 6, he cannot breathe and is on oxygen, there’s mostly white in his lungs, and the slow-marching lines on the monitors shout bad news even to the layman. But our patient is going to be all right. We saw that in the attentiveness of the nurses; we saw it in the manner of the doctors; and most of all we felt it in the thick kind voice of a Dr. Richard whom I may never see again.