Friday, 11 September 2015

Living in the moment

How do you deal with a life change…from being fully charge of your life physically and mentally to seeking help to brush your own teeth?

Honestly…you just do!

People who know me from work or from anywhere before in life, have a recurring conversation “You haven’t changed a bit” “You are still crazy” “You still have a big smile” – well I haven’t changed internally, externally yes! I believe I am the new improved Shalini V 2.0.

I went through various phases to get to where I am today. To look at the mirror and not find anything amiss, other than the question most women ask “Does this dress make me look fat?”

Having said that, it's not all blue sky and yellow tulips - I do have bad days, but they are fewer and far between.

The first three months were easy, because I believed I would be back on my feet and life would go back how it was.....until the gangrene set.

Before my brain and heart accepted it, my nose smelt the rot!

It was probably the worst thing to wake up and  go to sleep to – the smell of rotting flesh and disturbing signs of what is to come. We were at that point working with a doctor on an alternative treatment to see if we could regress the condition.

I hated everyone, and I just shut the entire world to my life. I asked for no visitors, no friends, no family – I did not want to believe in my fate, neither did I want people to see me in this state!

I had numerous conversations with myself, went through my entire life with a fine comb looking for something that would explain this. Obviously it's bad karma – I must have done something bad to deserve this. The only thing I could come up with a few nasty conversation(I am known for my acidic tongue at times), a few lies, nothing that would explain the quantum of my suffering both physical and mental.

I for a period in time used to go to the hospital to have parts of my flesh removed by doctor. It was painful, I bawled like a child, the nurses and people around me shed a tear probably for my fate! It was agony to say the least...on the bright side I got to eat the best bhel puri ever outside the very same hospital!

Then of course Ayurveda happened, a leash of new hope and injecting a whole lot of optimism. The gangrene went and things were looking good. The crazy concoctions though left a bitter taste, filled my soul with hope.

In between this, a setback. I managed to break a bone in my left hand(amazing right!). We found a brave doctor who said he would try fixing it. Being rolled into the OT, while I was prepared for the worst, I still believed I would be fine. Post surgery all I could see was a massive dressing on my left arm, I kept trying to see if it was the full hand or half of it. I beckoned a nurse and asked her, she looked extremely uncomfortable. She faltered, cleared her throat, looked around and in a quiet voice said “It's amputated” and walked away.

Everyone visited at the hospital, my room were filled with people ‘trying’ to accept what happened, unshed tears, nervous laughter, everyone being brave for me and themselves and more than anything else not sure how to deal with me or the uncertainty of life itself. I think all of us lead our lives reading the paper, watching news, on the internet read stories like this, but we believe ‘it would never happen to one of us’ – well reality arrived in our lives.

Six months later my right hand auto amputated. For those of you who have not heard of this before, it literally is the body shedding a part it no longer needs. In my case it fell into my brother in law's hand. A look of disbelief passed through the room, my mom the only witness. While we did not know what do with situation, I knew this was a sign – a sign to move on.

We took the decision to go ahead with amputating the legs the next month. I was relieved - I knew I could only move forward now and there is no stopping me.

I arrived at the hospital with the brightest purple nail polish on my feet. If my legs were going out, they were going to go out in style!

How did I go through all this – I honestly don’t know.

I lived each day at a time, made small achievable goals for myself, read every book I could lay my hands on and like my life depended on it, learnt classical music, looked forward to friends visiting – more than anything else hoped and believed that tomorrow will better…I knew tomorrow will beautiful because when you hit rock bottom, the only way for you is upwards!

So walk in the rain, stick your tongue out and catch the raindrops, hold hands, feel the grass under your feet, smile at strangers, admire good looking men/women, fall in love, call someone you have been meaning to, give big tight hugs, kiss a boy or girl(if that's your thing), flirt, dance till you drop, wear your red lipstick, join that class you have always wanted to, buy the shoes you want, write a book, sing aloud, learn to play an instrument, bungee jump, sky dive, travel to Antarctica for all I care – LIVE TODAY AND LIVE IN THE MOMENT - you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Suspended between Worlds

I do remember being admitted into the hospital, and after a really difficult night, having a conversation with the ICU entourage(Senior doctor, junior doctor, intern, trying to be intern, senior nurse, junior nurse, almost nurse, might/might not be nurse) on being moved to the ICU.

I was moved into the ICU, battled for life, and woke up on my birthday! 

While I only know of what happened to me because of what others told me, I do not remember the pain or my struggle nor in any way aware of what my loved ones went through. I did not know of my friends cancelling their Goa trip and travelling through three states of India to reach the hospital, nor of my entire family and friends waiting for the clock to strike 11:00 am as that is when the ICU doctors gave them an update - if I would make it alive. They walked on thin ice, praying and waiting from the first 24hrs to the next. And they battled death too - with prayers and hope.

While suspended between life and death here are a few snippets of what I believe I saw or heard or probably a figment of my imagination...snippets which mostly might not make sense. But this is my attempt to try and make any sense of it.

I remember waking up in the middle of night (or day), and there was a nurse by my side holding my hand, praying and drawing a cross on my head, we made eye contact for a bit, I might have smiled because she did smile back at me...

I always heard people speaking, and the curious logical me, tried to always decipher what it was (so I can tell you for a fact that you can hear during a coma). I knew at times it was Prashanth, at times I guessed it must have been the nurses. I specifically did hear a nurse crib about someone not coming into work and how she had to work the extra shift (I thought to myself what the hell its the same issues I have at work).

I have a hazy memory of someone praying by my side, hand over my stomach. I thought to myself why my stomach, then ofcourse I was like "idiot the baby".

My weirdest dream/reality/figment of my imagination was being outside my body. I knew I was sick, I knew I was at a hospital, but it was awfully quiet. I kept wondering where I was, as the place felt different (Then my logical mind worked out I was being shifted or moved out of the hospital)

I said to myself that you're sicker than you probably think, so Prashanth(my husband) is flying me outside the country and I am in a plane - obviously!! But where is everyone, shouldn't Prashanth be by my side? Then I thought they must have kept me separate - infection and all. But through this so called flight I heard people in the next room. After a break I was somewhere again - really quiet, just white, just really quiet. So then I thought "Great my surgery is done, but still where is everyone?" 

My next bit is hazier - too many thing happening around me so I assume I am at the airport, going through security (yes that's exactly what I thought). Am even thinking to myself, how would I go through the metal scanner - would they ask me to walk?!! I felt that they are stamping everyone’s exit on my passport!! I was worried - how would I explain this the next time I traveled?!!

Funnily, when I did wake up the first thing I asked Prashanth “Where did we go?”, he answered very confused “Cambodia”. I gave him the dirtiest stare ever (well I could be scary with a life support system - yay!). I said “No. Where else?” he said “Nowhere baby”, I said “Get me my passport”.

Here’s a little episode before I was moved to the ICU. As I mentioned earlier, I did have a difficult night at the hospital. In the early morning hours, I kept slipping in and out of sleep. At one point Prashanth did step out, and I felt someone in the room. Through my half opened eyes, I saw a really old man sitting in the chair just looking at me - for really long. He must have been 65-70, deep set eyes, grey hair, prominent nose, grey beard, white mundu and shirt, broad but shriveled with age, big hands - eyes boring through me. I opened my eyes to look at him properly - and poof he was gone!

My mom came a little later and I told her about my visitor, I described him; she smiled and said “Nothing will happen to you, you will be fine...because my father visited you”

I have never seen my grandfather as I was born much after this death. So I have no actual memory of him. I might have seen a picture of him when I was 16 perhaps so there is actually no way I could have remembered him. At all!!

Maybe high stress/pain can bring out repressed memory - perhaps!

I don't know if I did go to heaven or hell, I probably was precariously close to one of them.

I was on the life support system, my heart stopped twice, my lung were filled with fluids, all my organs failed. The doctor’s gave my family a 5% chance of recovery. The doctor told Prashanth that closest friends and family should see me, as this is probably the last chance to see me alive.

But I survived it - I survived only because of so many prayers.

I want to believe collective prayers, positive thoughts has the power to defeat death. 

I want to believe an angel visited me and that's the reason I live…

Believe - as the thought that miracles exists makes lives beautiful...

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Like a lot of you, i have spent a fairly 'normal life' ie., growing up, a decent education, lot of friends, kick starting a career and being successful at it - the usual humdrum. The occasional good looking client, night out with friends, office politics, email battle with colleagues, long coffees with girl friends, a great husband, a loving family - all in all a fantastic life!

I had it all going for a 32 year old!

Then a day comes.. with a switch of a button - change.

I came back from a holiday from Cambodia(yes, that was a tick on my bucket list), completed a stressful and decently successful client visit(for those in the BPO/ITES field, you know what this means) , knew that i was pregnant, knew that i would get promoted - all poised to only BIGGER things in life, well i had no idea how BIG a card life dealt me.

It started out with a fever, and then to multi organ failure, to a coma, to a tango with death(not going into details, as this is stuff i could make a movie on and earn copyrights!) and finally surviving it with a two year stint recovering, however losing all my limbs in the battle(if you are shocked, that was exactly what i was aiming for). I was affected by a rare bacteria Ricketssial with morts(a doctor told me that the only time he heard of this bacteria is in his exam paper!! trust me to find a bacteria so rare) which usually results in death, and along with my pregnancy related complications, it resulted in thrombosis(clotting of blood vessels)of extremities.

The two year stint involved meeting all kind of doctors, trying every medicine, prayers and offerings to all gods in the world, until we accepted amputation was the only way forward with life.

These years though difficult and painful(mentally and physically), opened my eyes to a very different world. I was upset, hurt, angry at everyone who could walk or even itch and the constant battle of WHY ME! In time, and with wonderful constant support of friends(I love you guys!) and my family i have now reached a state of liking who i am(with or without limbs).

However while i dealt with my inner demons, the world just stared at me for being disabled! A world at times, that would not make eye contact as they look away as you catch them staring, a world that feels they have the right to know what happened and follow it up by how sad or upset they are or how god could be so unkind...your so young(like if i were older that would be ok?!!) - a world that constantly make you feel different, though i feel i am the same, limbless but my soul, my intelligence, sense of humour, my idiosyncrasies - all me!

I walked into a lift recently, with a child and her father. The girl looked at me, and bless her, children have the best reactions, pointed out at me and said "Papa, see her hand". I smiled. The father, pulled the daughter away and had his hand practically over her mouth and trying so hard to distract her, and trying so hard to ignore the situation.

While i understood his predicament - it got me thinking.

We need a world where our children are taught thats its ok to be different. All the parent needed to do, was tell the child, yes she is different, would you like to say hello. The child then begins to accept people who are differently abled physically or mentally are just 'different' - human and real - no less!