The best way to really understand Care at CMC is to listen to patients tell their stories. Brave, heartwarming and human, these tales will transport you to the heart of CMC—the relationship between the people and all their caregivers.
LCECU’s Holistic Approach to patient care – Mrs. X is a 37 year old woman from one of the urban slums in Vellore Town. She presented to LCECU with complaints of headache, giddiness and vomiting. She was seen in the government medical college and the CT scan taken there was reported to be normal. As she had clinical features suggestive of an intracranial tumor and she was advised to have an MRI of the brain at CMC. An MRI taken revealed that she had a schwannoma with raised intracranial pressure, and she was advised urgent surgery. During a visit to her home by the social workers, it was found that the economic condition of the family was bad; alcoholic husband spent all his income on drinking; strained relationship between her and her husband; husband rarely comes home and often use to drink and sleep on the roadside or in his friend’s home; her two children (9th and 12th grade) were not able to concentrate on studies due to mother’s health, father’s abuse of alcohol and poor family economic condition.
Intervention: The estimated cost of surgery was Rs.2, 00,000/-, however Neurosurgery Unit I offered to do the surgery free of cost and she only had to contribute a nominal, affordable amount towards the final hospital bill. LCECU’s intervention was not only limited to referring the patient to the concerned department in CMC, helping her to get the surgery done and to buy the medicines but also in counselling her husband to stop abuse of alcohol and to start him on de-addiction treatment. This included multiple visits to their home and counseling to bring him to LCECU for treatment. The Psychiatrists from Mental Health Center Unit-III saw him at LCECU on their Friday, regular Psychiatry Clinics. He is currently under treatment and is taking part in the Alcohol group counselling as well. During a recent home visit, he was found to have resumed his work and has started contributing to the family. ‘All her sorrows were turned into joy’ because of the timely and holistic approach to health care at LCECU at the Christian Medical College in Vellore.
These excerpts are republished from a patient’s blog.
Not to be Ministered Unto, But to Minister
Sam, a soft spoken physiotherapist once tried to explain to me what the words in the title of this blog mean when I asked him. These words quoted out of Mathew 20:28 literally mean “not to be served but to serve, not to be tended to but to tend”. Just the way the son of God, Jesus Christ, chose to serve mankind, healing them and guiding them and ultimately sacrificing Himself instead of demanding to be revered and worshipped. I am glad I took the lesson from Sam and not google. “Not to be ministered unto but to minister” happens to be the motto of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, the wonderful hospital at which I had had the pleasure of being treated. And yes, I mean it when I say pleasure. This institution is the abode of the last of the few really good people left in the world. I had never seen a bunch of doctors and therapists, as a matter of fact a bunch of anything or anyone, friendlier, humble and dedicated. Every passing day has only reinforced this opinion.
By the end of the first week it was confirmed that I would be transferred to CMC, Vellore which, we were told, has the best rehab in India. After speaking to several doctors and someone who had once been in the rehab with a spinal cord Injury, my parents made the decision.
A Few Firsts and a Beginning
I once told a friend that I’ve met so many good people since my accident and I’ve changed so much that it almost makes my fall worth it. Almost. Almost but not entirely. She said that the day the scales are going to tip isn’t far and I might be too busy with my life to even notice it.
True acceptance is hard. Tricking yourself in to thinking everything’s going to be the same again, when deep down you know it’s not going to, is just a temporary patch supporting your leaky dam of denial. The longer you patch the dam the harder it breaks. I tried patching my dam for the longest I could. Did me no good when it broke but I’m glad that at least there was someone who could take it when it did.
One of the things you’ll hate the most when you have to always lie down is the fact that there’s direct light in your eyes constantly. Sources might vary but there’s always light in your eyes. This world is not meant to be ambulated on a stretcher. For the first time in two weeks, when I was finally in my cozy alpha bed in CMC Hospital, I saw nothing but reflected light. I’m basically a nocturnal creature. Hate bright lights. Love dark corners (dark, clean and dry. Not dark and slimy). After having direct fluorescent light in my eyes for two weeks, having nothing but ambient light enter my eyes was bliss. A few doctors came to visit and let me know that there’s a whole team of them working to treat me. I was then greeted by the nurses, dietician, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. The doctors weren’t kidding about the team. With no direct light in my eyes, I slept like a baby that night.
The next day a lean physiotherapist introduced himself to me as Neeraj. He brought with him something that, when pushed around, sounded like gravel being crushed. He called it a tilting table but I only saw a moving bed. Vinod, another physiotherapist, and Neeraj, put me on the moving table/tilting bed thing, strapped me to it and moved me to the gym. On the way to the gym, impressed by the thoughtfulness in installing diffusers for all the lights for patients on stretchers to be comfortable, I said, “this building is well planned”, to which Neeraj replied, “Um… Actually, this building is poorly planned”. As we entered the gym in our ward, I realized why. The room was just too small. Therapists working there managed space very well though. The room was equipped with many things and it was impressive watching therapists and interns make their way to nooks that you would think are impossible to reach. But I felt that the interns still needed to work on their techniques.
Accompanied by a high pitch whir, the table/bed I was on started tilting. Even though I had a collar preventing me from turning my head, through the corner of my eye (the collar actually helped me achieve excellent peripheral vision), I saw Neeraj holding down a button on a remote console in his hand while adjusting his glasses intermittently. I was pretty sure I had crossed forty five degrees when Neeraj stopped fiddling with his glasses, fixed his stare on me and asked “Are you okay?” Foolishly, forgetting that I had a collar on, I tried to nod, realized my mistake and managed to say yes in the end. “Please let me know when you feel light headed or you feel like you are blacking out”, Neeraj said. I said yes this time without attempting to nod first. I hit sixty five degrees when I was hit by a blackout. My clear vision slowly started getting fuzzy. It was like watching TV static. My ears started ringing. I narrated what was happening to me, as it was happening. “Breathe Sashank! Breathe!” Neeraj kept saying to me as the table stopped tilting for just a second before it started tilting the other way. And suddenly, I was fine. I blinked hard and rubbed by eyes. As my vision cleared, I saw the face of a nonchalant yet concerned Neeraj. His look said that he’d seen this happen before a thousand times and there’s nothing to worry about, which reassured me. “Sixty” Neeraj and Vinod agreed. But what I saw next was the real deal. I saw a wall! For the first time in two weeks, I did! And I didn’t have to use my peripheral vision for that.
When things settled, Neeraj put a tiny BP monitor on my wrist and started explaining something about autonomous disreflexia while I kept wondering if I would be taller than Neeraj. As I progressed to comparing the heights of everyone in the room, half listening to Neeraj, Vinod offered to turn the table so that I could face the window. When I faced the window I could see two huge liquid oxygen tanks and two ambulances parked in a corner (well, the corner of my view. Don’t know if it’s really a corner). And most importantly I was seeing daylight. Sweet sweet daylight. I was filled with warmth on that cold December morning and it wasn’t just the daylight. It was the sheer numbers of capable people at CMC, who, I realized, were concerned about me, cared about me and were set on making me better. At that moment I knew everything was going to be fine and I was going to get better.
The community health nurse and technician from the Community Health Department (CHAD) of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore were making a follow up home visit to Selvi. Selvi comes from a hamlet located on a plateau 2,000 ft. up in the Jawadhi Hills, a tribal area, which rises up to 3,000 ft. high to the east of Vellore. Nearly every home is a thatched mud hut. The nearest road accessible to vehicles is forty-five minutes distance, walking along narrow tracks, wading through two streams. From the village there is no other way to reach Vellore some fifty km away. For a number of years, in parallel with the Government, CHAD has been running community health initiatives and is now involved with programs covering up to 160 villages in the Jawadhi Hills. They include health clinics and self-help groups, education for farmers, young women and children’s groups, as well as vocational training and community mobilization. Villagers are referred to the CHAD hospital at Bagayam, on the outskirts of Vellore, and to the main CMC Hospital for medical treatment, if needed.
As is common, Selvi, aged 30, is part of a joint family, married to her cousin, Duraiswamy, aged 35. When she first married, the young couple lived with her parents. Although educated up to the age of 15, they are agricultural laborers, Duraiswamy and Selvi shared the work of cultivating the few acres of village land. Within a few weeks of marriage, Selvi became pregnant and in the fullness of time she had a healthy baby son. Things did not go as well during her second pregnancy. When she was seven months pregnant she developed fever and significant breathlessness, which frightened her. Leaving her 2 year old son with her mother, accompanied by her father, they made the long walk to catch the bus to go to CHAD.
The CHAD doctor reported that the young wife was suffering with empyema (lung infection), which would need draining. Selvi was referred to the medical department in CMC where a tube was inserted to drain the infection and antibiotics were prescribed. Selvi had been gravely ill, so it was 10 days before she was discharged and able to make the arduous trip back home.
A few weeks later her husband suddenly became ill and died before any help could be called. The young widow was left with a 2-year-old son and another baby soon to be born. Before long, in labour, she was taking the long walk to the bus and to the government Primary Health Centre 25 KM away for the delivery of her second son.
Now the community health nurse and the technician are making the long walk to check on Selvi and the health of her two little boys. She was given help with breast feeding and nutrition. The little ones are checked to see that they are healthy and meeting milestones.
The hospital bill for Selvi’s empyema treatment came to more than Rs.16, 845 ($267). This is a good example of CMC’s promise to give the best possible care for the least possible price. The family is very poor, as are most of the people in the Jawadhi Hills. When he was alive Selvi’s husband earned just Rs.40 (60 cents) per day. Now Selvi depends on her family for daily living. There is no way that this family could meet the cost of her treatment. Selvi pawned her jewelry and paid Rs.2,210 ($35) towards the cost. However this did not deter the staff in CMC from offering the best medical treatment possible. Fortunately there is a fund called Person to Person (PTP) set up by well-wishers around the globe that can help meet the costs of just such patients as Selvi. Rs.4000 ($64) came from the PTP. The balance, Rs.10,500 ($168) was absorbed by the hospital itself.
Selvi and her family are doing better and will always be grateful for CMC’s expert care, loving concern and financial help in her time of great need.
A Young Father Faced with Brain Surgery
This is an edited version of Mr. Krishnan Konna’s blog post about having brain surgery at CMC.
I was working at Ministry of Agriculture (when) I developed a brain tumor. I informed my family and colleagues and was quickly brought to CMC, Vellore of India. We reached there at about noon and instantly saw Dr. Ari C. When we entered Dr. Ari’s room, he looked at my CT scan and said that the tumor was benign (but that it should be removed). There were some risks from the surgery but it was important to remove it. I was admitted right away.
On April 5 my operation was performed. I went in at 7 am and the next thing I knew there were two nurses over me. Around me were lots of computers. I was afraid I would die; I moved my hand to call for a nurse who assured me that I would not die. Nonetheless I asked her to call my sister-in-law to tell her that if I should die she should take care of my two sons. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t allow my sister-in-law to come in, but they did not allow anyone near me. Once I woke up and saw Dr. Ari beside my bed with his team. He asked the nurse to bring a glass of water. It spilled everywhere (when I sipped it), but Dr. Ari. said that the operation was a success. I did not understand anything; things were dark and it felt like I had a marbles in my head. I told Dr. Ari that I wanted to live, I asked him to save my life. He didn’t say much; just that I would be in good health soon. Everyone there, all the doctors and nurses, acted as if they really cared about me and that with God’s grace they would save my life. They were like Mother Teresa; all night they sat in my room.
After twelve days I starting to understand things and remember things. I recognized my two sons in a picture, then my mother, brothers and sisters who came to visit me. Everyone seemed to be praying for me. Friends from the office were praying for me; even the Deputy Secretary was asking about my condition. My memory was coming back. Sometimes I was allowed to stand beside the window. I tried to speak. First I said “Twinkle, Twinkle little star how I wonder what you are!” I knew the month, date and time from looking at the calendar. Sometimes at night I went to doctors’ waiting room; some would be working on the computer and ask me ‘What’s happening?’ I told them about my job in the budget office of the Ministry of Agriculture, and that I worked there for 10 years.
Dr. Ari performed two operations while I was in the hospital at CMC. Both times they gave part of my operation as service to mankind. It was so wonderful that they were able to do this. I learned the name of Ida S. Scudder who was the founder of CMC. She observed lots of people dying and she went back to America to study medical science and return to India. When she came back she opened a clinic with one bed. Now the hospital has 2,300 beds! The doctors say that they are serving their religion—maybe this is why so few people die there.