When you move to a land far, far away, you have to put your life as you know it on hold for a while. One important change is how you manage your health. As you know, a company nurse scared us out of our minds explaining all the evils we would be facing living in India. We got all the necessary shots and then some, we are careful with water, religiously apply mosquito repellent when we go out, avoid petting dogs and care for minor cuts and scrapes. We did all our yearly checkups before boarding the plane. We were shown the “good” doctors when we had our orientation. We have medical insurance coverage, though their list of approved doctors in town does not take into consideration the size and traffic problems of Bangalore, directing us to a doctor four hours away. Useless. There is a state-of-the-art international hospital within walking distance but it’s not on our list of approved doctors. Frustrated, expats often get their check-ups and booboos attended to when they go home.
But life goes on. You may have a scooter accident and have to visit the local hospital! Or you face the fact that some elective surgeries that you had considered in the past are now a necessity and not an option. That’s when you take the plunge and delve into the realm of foreign “third world” medicine.
The insurance battle began. Of course they wouldn’t cover the procedure in India. Of course they then denied the surgery even in the U.S. The HR guy back in San Diego did try to get the insurance to cooperate, but then, frustrated, chimed in with: “Why can’t you wait until your assignment is up”. Dude, that ain’t cool, and it’s not your job. It’s hard enough to have non-medically trained bureaucrats working for insurance companies decide what procedures are necessary, contrary to doctor’s orders; we don’t need input from a benefits coordinator.
So we bit the bullet and decided to pay for it ourselves. No questions asked. No one to breathe down our necks. No paperwork, no delay.
E. found a great doctor in a great clinic. One look at E.’s medical history and a battery of tests, and the surgery was scheduled. Just like that. This is how the medical profession should be run. Dr. M.G. Bhat is so kind. You talk to him and him only, not a slew of administrative assistants and physician’s assistants and registered nurses. The doctor only. Himself. And this guy is so nice, warm and charismatic. Not pushy, not arrogant, not condescending. We met a few of his patients who described the journey to recovery. We even met most of his staff and team in advance. Impressive.
So off to the Nova Specialty Hospital we go, in Koramangala. It’s a private clinic of course, and not an emergency room. Since it’s a bit far from home, we got a hotel room close by so we could be there at 7 am. The hospital had set us up in a room with not one but two nice sofas for me to sleep overnight! Imagine that in the U.S., where hospital visitor hours are managed the same they are in a penitentiary. We waited a bit, they took some vitals, the doctor showed up and they dressed my hubby in a funny looking pink gown. He looked like an Easter Bunny! We didn’t take a good picture of the room, so here’s only half of it. Add two black comfortable chairs and another sofa in the right corner.
During the surgery, I slept upstairs. Sweet slumber was the best way to fight off the stress. One cleaning lady took a shine to me, holding my hands, hugging me, asking me if E. was my husband or brother, where we live, where we come from, telling me where she lives, asking if I wanted food. Everybody was concerned about my food intake: “Did you have your breakfast, lunch, dinner?” They apologized for only serving South Indian food but could order me anything from outside. They brought me idlis for breakfast and their veg meal/thali for dinner was yummy! The cleaning lady brought me sheets and blankets and a pillow. Just like that, without asking, out of kindness.
The surgery went well. They called me the minute E. was wheeled into the recovery room. He was still a bit loopy for the anesthesia, with all the good and fun medicines they had pumped into him. He kept telling me how much he loves me! I stayed a while, then got kicked out so he could sleep as I was too much of a distraction for him. Around 6pm, he was taken back to his room.
The night nurse was fun. We talked about Manipur, her home state, her IT professional husband, the difficulties of working a nightshift. Around 2 am, E. and I both feel asleep but I heard her come in regularly, every two hours or so, checking the IV fluids and his pain level. A sweet lady. All nurses were wonderful, kind, efficient.
I will spare you the details. But what should have been a two- or three-night stay turned into one night only. I believe that the great care E. received contributed to his recovering a bit faster.
We are aware that this is not every day Indian medicine. This is not the local hospital around the corner from us. We got top-of-the-line service. It doesn’t hurt to have cash and to be white and residents. They were all very curious, and very proud that we trusted their country for this procedure.
Thank you India for creating some of the best doctors in the world, and not exporting all of them.