29 August 2020

The curtains – they are a-closing

It has been a very painful two weeks for him and everybody around. The last three days have been excruciatingly so. His level of pain has become unbearable for his own body. And worse for those around him who is forced to watch him writhe in agony. In the last 24 hours alone, he had three near-transition moments and each time, he pulled back. The organs are still fighting for some last gasps.

For the last two days, my brother has been trying to arrange for a hospital to take him in to see if the pain level can be brought down. And not let others see him suffer.

As of a few hours back, finally, a bed has been found. To try everything to alleviate his pain, we are going to try a Hail Mary and commence a dialysis on him to see if that gives the kidney a boost for some time.

This picture sent to me by my brother from the hospital as he was leaving is a poignant description of the moment. The curtains are closing in on him.

It is one thing to die.
It is another to suffer immeasurably while dying.
And then there is the trail of despair and helplessness watching somebody near and dear die.

20 August 2020

Got some of his humor back

It would appear that dad has stabilized a bit after coming back from the hospital. What seems to have worked wonders is realizing that he is surrounded by his grandkids. Both my nephews from Kolkata are with him and the niece, of course, is downstairs. Especially the elder nephew – who has always been very fond of grandfather – is giving him a lot of company. And the reports say that he has been busy Googling a lot of my dad’s symptoms to weigh in on the discussions that my brother has been having around the path forward.

The grandkids, in their effort to cheer up grandfather, also make video calls to me so he can talk to me.

One of the more humorous stories from today…

We were video conferencing with each other as one of the nephews held up the phone close to him when he asked…
“Kaaney tulo diye rekhechhis keno?” (We have you put cotton plugs in your ears?)
I could hear the nephews whispering “What?”
After I stopped laughing, I told them that grandfather won’t understand bluetooth or Airpods.

And then we could all hear dad continue “Taaka chaibo boley?” (Are you afraid I will ask you for money?)
All I could see is a flash of his face as he started laughing at his own joke.

And then I saw the ceiling.
Apparently, the nephews burst out laughing, were literally rolling and the phone lying somewhere on the floor after bouncing a couple of times – no doubt!

It is then that I realized that at your old age, medicine is not what the doctor really called for. It is being surrounded by your near and dear ones who you can talk to.

In an irony, they still won’t let me visit the hospices here (because of Covid)

15 August 2020

The scene has shifted to the hospital now

In the end, the suffering was too much at home for him as well as the care takers. Brother reached after midnight on Thursday. Yesterday, the situation reached a point that he had to be moved to a hospital.

Right now the situation in India (at least in Bengal) is fairly grim. Due to Covid, getting ICU beds has become very difficult. And nothing can be done before Covid tests – which can take three days, as I understand. Fortunately, since my brother is in the medical line (he sells medical machines in all hospitals in Bengal) and my brother in law is a doctor, they were able to pull enough strings to get one ICU bed in a hospital in Kalyani.

The initial diagnosis is – as was being feared – multiple organs – kidneys, lungs and heart are starting to fail. But apparently the root cause might be the kidneys. The plan is to see if dialysis makes any difference. However, everything has to await the Covid results.

Meanwhile, he seems to be in a stupor. Which is not bad … I assume he is not feeling the pain then.

14 August 2020

Not looking that good

My niece set up the video call on my sister’s phone so I could see dad. He clearly was struggling. It appears that three of his organs – lungs, kidneys and heart are worsening. As a result he is not able to breathe well.

He was laying down there – but was able to hear. When my niece let him know that I am there on the phone, he did open his eyes and even made an effort to get up. Had to be helped a little and was clearly in pain.

Sharmila, Natasha and Nikita gathered around me to see how he is doing (you can see us all in the inset on the top).

Let’s hope his pain subsides – one way or the other.

13 August 2020

It is probably coming down to the short strokes now

The good news is that he was recovering from the smaller stroke fairly fast. However, the problem in breathing has lingered on. And in fact getting worse.

This is not COVID. He was always a COPD patient. I am sure decades of smoking unfiltered Charminars somewhere caught up with him. Last ten days, mom has been increasing the nebulizer frequency steadily to help in his breathing. From once in two days to once a day to twice a day to eventually thrice a day.

Unfortunately, this is not improving the situation much. However, taking him to a hospital is not an option. He will surely catch an irrecoverable infection.

This morning, things have reached what looks like the onset of a point of no return. He just cannot breathe much. Has been getting up and lying down constantly in bed.

One of the greatest blessings I have is that my sister lives downstairs from him and my brother is a couple of hours drive away. My sister and brother in law have arranged for an oxygen cylinder at home (which during these days of ventilator shortages is a feat unto itself).

Mom is reporting that he is being too restless and taking off all the attachments from his face. From other behavioral descriptions (again forgetting names), he might be having a series of very small (ischemic?) strokes.

It will be a miracle and I will be very surprised if he can pull thru this one.

19 July 2020

This is why we should always smile

For many many years now, getting on a flight every quarter to see my dad has become as natural a habit for me as waking up and brushing my teeth. And in the interim 85 days or so, it is daily calls to mom to keep up with his health.

If my brother or sister calls any day in between, usually that is panic time. Such a call happened last week. It was early in the morning. I was sitting by myself having tea inside our house. Everybody was asleep. My brother called thru Whatsapp and I canceled it. He knows I will call back.

Took a few minutes to steel myself for potential bad news and then stepped out to call up India. (Did not want to wake up the sleeping Roys).

The news was not terribly bad but not very good. It appeared that dad fell down again. Has lost all ability to put any pressure on his right knee. Worse, he has not been talking. He is looking at everybody but not responding verbally.

My first instinct was that he has had yet another stroke. My brother rushed from Kolkata. A few of my school friends (thank you Debasis and Ansuman) were on the phone and to make a long story short, it appears that in all likelihood, he has had another stroke (albeit a smaller one than 2017).

I do not believe I will be able to visit India for at least another 6-9 months. So, last night, I had my brother set up Whatsapp video call so I could try to interact with my dad.

He is recognizing my brother but has no recollection of me. We asked him in many ways – “Who is this?” and “What is your elder son’s name” and “Who lives in America?”

Like the first picture shows, he would just listlessly look and then you could see visually that his brain was trying to compute something. But eventually, he would would give up and that is when he would put his head down (see second picture). That was our hint that his neurons and dendrons did not connect.

This time.

“Bachchu ke?” (Who is Bachchu – that being how he calls me)

Again about a minute’s struggle and then he put his head down.

When our call was coming to an end, I tried a last shot to see if he could associate thru events if not by person.

“Wheelchair-e beratey jaabey?” (Do you want to go for a stroll in your wheelchair?). As a background, most of you who follow my posts probably will recollect that every time I go to India, I insist on taking the wheelchair out and take him for a ride the couple of evenings that I stay there.

We could see that he had heard the question and was trying to compute with the frown on his face. After about 20 seconds, he had the best reaction we could have hoped for – he smiled! For the first time!!

Everybody else started laughing over the phone. Not sure whether he remembered me or remembered the wheelchair – something sure turned in his grey matter that was familiar domain to him!

Regardless of what he remembered, that is one beautiful picture of him – when he smiles.

And that is why we should always smile. It puts our inner beauty forward notwithstanding the situation…

4 April 2020

A eight year old tradition “grounded”

For the better part of eight years or so, I have been visiting my parents every quarter. Way back in 2012, sitting at a bar in Milton, Sharmila and I had decided that we will make sure that if and when one of our parents pass away, we would not have a regret that we had not been with them for a long time before they moved on.

The trips for me are very short – sometimes 2 days (like the last one) and rarely more than 4 days. In spite of 25 plus trips with predictable regularity, there have a been a few times that I was able to spring a surprise on them by showing up unannounced. Like the last to last trip. Of course, both my siblings and their families were out on vacations not knowing I was going to show up!! Guess who was surprised?

I had to break to my parents that I will not make it this month and in all likelihood, will miss this whole quarter. It is not that they minded at all. They have been hearing about a virus too. I am simply bummed that the tradition will be broken.

Last night, I video-called my niece and asked her to go upstairs to the grandparents. My dad – who has nary an idea about video calling – at first surmised that my niece was showing him a picture of myself.

“Chhobi ta katha bolchhey to. Ekbaarey Bachhu-r golaa-y”. He was startled to realize that the picture was talking too. Even more so since the voice sounded eerily similar to mine.

My niece did a great job of explaining to him in simple terms what was happening. His next question was – who was the other person in the picture (the inset). So, my niece explained that it was of course he himself.

That confused the living daylights out of him. He comprehended the bit about how he could see me and hear me – after all, he has seen a TV. But how both of us, sitting a world part appeared on the same phone seeing and talking to each other at the same time was totally beyond him.

After a few minutes he said something that proved beyond any reasonable doubt that while he did not get the technology, he had a fairly good grip on the broader impact though.

“Taholey to eta korlei paaris. Teen maas ontor ontor plane-r poisa-ta bechey jaabey”!

His suggestion to me was that I video call him every quarter and save myself the airfare!!

My dad, I tell you, will never change!!

Admittedly, the world is no worse for the wear for that either!!