By Emil van der Poorten –
I have, from time to time, when writing about other issues, dropped in “vignettes” from my time in a Provincial facility designated as a “Teaching Hospital.”
Those remarks made in passing have not been complimentary and might I say at the outset of this piece, that the criticisms I have made were understatements rather than hyperbole. The same goes for what follows.
Very nearly a year has passed since what I am about to recount unfolded and, certainly, what I am about to commit to this column is after sober second thought.
Early in 2016 at the direction of my Cardiologist, I channeled a person who, I was given to understand, was the only one practicing as a Cardiac Electro Physiologist in town. I will describe this person hereafter as CEP #1. I was directed to have a Holter monitoring device fitted, which, to put it simply, provides a 24-hour long Electro Cardiograph. Despite the inconvenience of driving into town on two successive evenings, the first to be fitted with the device and the second to have it taken off twenty-four hours after its installation and for the results to be provided to the consultant. I did so. There is another little tale attached to that adventure with the fitting, taking-off and results analysis but it can wait for another day!
Shortly thereafter, I “channeled” CEP #1 to provide an expert analysis of the results and make appropriate recommendations to my cardiologist.
Thanks to a memory that, as I approach the four-score mark leaves something to be desired, I forgot to take the document when I saw this consultant! I was summarily booted out of the consultation chambers no sooner this error was discovered! In retrospect, there was enough time left when my omission was discovered to have asked me to go home and bring the document to the consultant before the clinic time ended. But that is hindsight!
A little chagrined I reported (by SMS ) the state of affairs to my Consultant who I was scheduled to see in a day or so because he was leaving the country for a conference of some kind. To my query as to what could be done in the circumstances, I had a one-word reply – “Colombo.” Despite my limited internet skills, I found a Cardiac Electro Physiologist and travelled down to Colombo at the crack of dawn the next day having “e-channeled” him and having obtained the services of a driver to take me to the capital city, my own physical condition precluding my steering a vehicle for such a long distance – better than a hundred kilometers each way.
A very pleasant surprise awaited me! A doctor in the same specialty – CEP #2 for purposes of this discussion – as the one who had turfed me from the consultation room in the hill capital, spent about three-quarters of an hour explaining what ailed me and my future prospects in that regard. He also gave me a letter of introduction to another Cardiac Electro Physiologist in the same town.
On my return, I saw my cardiologist and then channeled the doctor to whom I’d been given a letter of introduction, for purposes of this narrative CEP #3. My subsequent visits to him suggested that there were doctors to whom the Hippocratic Oath did matter!
Alas, he was transferred to another hospital far, far away, but was considerate enough to give me the name of yet another specialist in his field in the same jurisdiction, CEP #4 for purposes of this discussion.
Another good relationship had to be terminated as that doctor, too, was transferred to the capital city!
I now had no choice but to return to CEP #1!
Another “Holter” was the first outcome. Then the determination that I should have a Pacemaker installed followed. I was informed that this was a very simple procedure, did not require operating theatre facilities and would be done by the man seated before me in CEP #1’s Consulting Room. A side bar here: I have never, in my better than three-score-and-ten years on this earth, ever had two doctors for the price of one in the same consultation room unless it was to share complementary expertise over very difficult problems! And that is in three continents! However, it was subsequently told that CEP #1 had a health condition that precluded anything even as physically non-taxing as a pacemaker installation. Looking at the minion in the room I inquired, only half facetiously, “Does he know how?” The huffy response was that he had done “many dozens,” if I remember right, of these implantations successfully. I had a vague feeling of unease, but who am I, a mere layman, to dispute the opinion of a specialist in the cardiac field?
The next step was the purchase of a Pacemaker at a cost of approximately Rs. 300,000. There went another term deposit! This had quite a rigmarole attached to it and required yet another trip to town for the purpose.
Done, and now the big day dawned!
I went down to the Teaching Hospital and registered myself in the appropriate ward and the process of preparation for the procedure began.
For the uninitiated, a Pacemaker is little bigger than a matchbox, if that, and requires an appropriate-sized incision on either one’s left or right pectoral muscle to insert it.
The nightmare began when an attendant very brusquely informed me that I should have shaved my entire body before I came to hospital. I hadn’t because I hadn’t been told to do any such thing. My neighbor, a young soldier who was the other patient awaiting the same procedure that day, offered his brand new disposable razor and a new, unopened blade for the purpose. The attendant rejected the offer and wheeled me in a gurney into a toilet facility that didn’t exactly epitomize cleanliness. In the area adjacent to the toilets and where the wash basins were located were broken-down wheelchairs and other unserviceable flotsam and jetsam. This is where the shaving procedure took place.
He proceeded to shave my entire body, holding the razor blade between his fingers. Considering what was being done and the tools employed, and given the fact that this was the 21st Century, he did a marvelous job, only nicking me once!
The description of this procedure would not be complete without reference to the fact that I was subjected to a barrage of questions as to my ethnic origin, with seeming disbelief about the fact that I was born and raised in Sri Lanka. I insisted on conversing with the man in my more than passable Sinhalese and told the man that I was born in Tumpane, raised in Harispattuwa and educated in Kandy. I only make reference to this because at one point of the shaving procedure he was asking me, quite aggressively, whether I was a Muslim. That was distasteful enough, but the added, scary, dimension was that he had in his grasp, as he asked the question, a part of my anatomy which, given the circumstances and his being in control of a very sharp cutting tool, could have had me walking out able to pass for an adherent of Islam!
Ah, well, at this time of one’s life one tends to charge that to experience!
– More to follow in a future instalment (or instalments?)-