He lives on forever …in our hearts

And once again the same hospital room. Appa liked Room 202 as it was airier than the rest. It wasn’t like the dark, musty smelling 204. The chemotherapy should start at 10 am if all goes well.

“Go and see what happened to the blood report” That is appa’s order to me, every 15 minutes. Things move at their own pace here at this hospital. Nobody is in any particular hurry except the disease which spreads like a raging fire, silently sometimes, unnoticed. All are cancer patients in the adjoining rooms, some as young as 8 year olds. These children, laugh and run about in between IV bottles…Do they know that a ghastly demon has taken over their little bodies?

“Can you see whether Dr. Padmini has come?” Now Appa is exasperated. Patience was never his virtue. I walk towards the Nurse’s station and of course its deserted. They are always understaffed. I stopped a nurse rushing into 206 and asked her retreating figure whether the doctor had arrived. I heard a muffled not yet.

Appa is battling Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since 2000. It started as the follicular type and all was well till 2008 March. I still remember the day vividly. It was the day when an article was published in Aval Vikatan about LBN. It was a great 2 page article talking about my sister, Indu and me and the kind of business we were in. Appa was sick that very night. He had the most horrifying back ache which did not allow him to rest on his back even for a minute. All night he was walking about in pain. We ran out of pain killers that night and I took a walk at 4 am to see whether any pharmacy had opened. No, none were and I came back empty handed. Later after a biopsy it was found that the disease had changed its type, become more virulent and had started spreading. The chemotherapy began immediately.

It was in and out of hospital after that. All was seemingly well till November 2010 when the PET scan was taken . NHL had spread right up to his lungs and needed immediate attention. So again Chemo, this time with a different set of drugs. The blood report indicated that Appa’s Urea and Kreatinin levels were high. So no chemotherapy for the next 3 days. Just normal saline administered intravenously. Doctors can be the worst patients. Especially General physicians. Appa kept constantly worrying about his bloated stomach and there were times when he would sit silently in a chair bending his head in deep thought or worry or frustration.

He was discharged on 19th November. But the sense of well being which usually comes after taking steroids never did come. Appa lost his appetite forever. No more dry rotis with fancy side dishes. Just bread soaked in milk was all he could eat. Even his favorite fruits lay strewn on the table un-eaten.

Shweta, Appa’s granddaughter’s wedding preparations were going on in full swing. The first ever wedding in this generation for the entire family. Lots of excitement, shopping, visits to the tailor, packing and planning the pre wedding ceremonies were going on. But all came to a standstill when appa got ill again and was hospitalized on the 27th November. It was his last hospitalization. All the pain, the suffering, the worrying came to a dramatic end too early, on December 2nd at 10.06 PM.

On the 27th morning, he said, “I want to talk to you. Don’t shout at me for what I am going to tell you”
I listened silently as I knew what he was going to say.

“Don’t stop the wedding, even if I go away” I did not know what to say. I said ,”You don’t look that sick, come on pull yourselves together, Pa”

But he knew! He knew that he may not last till December 9th, the day of the wedding. The chief doctor, his assistants, the nurses and the para medics came to know about the wedding and kept visiting the room, while appa became worse by every passing hour. His two daughters and grandchildren from the USA arrived. His last smile was when he saw his grandson Prashanth. His favorite grandchild. He always used to revel in his antics and kept talking about him for hours together. He kept saying that he was going to visit the USA next summer, to see his grandson.

On the 28th afternoon, he told me that if he dies within the next 2 or 3 days, it would be better for us, so that we can complete the last rites and then go on with the wedding preparations. He kept saying ,”I feel guilty, I may not last that long..I will go away soon”

A big Sumangali Pooja was organized at home on December 2nd. The house was decorated on the 1st evening with beautiful orange flowers and a huge rangoli. It looked so good. After the puja all of us rushed to the hospital as Appa had become worse and seemed to be asking for Shweta, the bride. It was the worst evening of our lives. We knew that he was not going to last the night.

The end was blessed as Appa had no pain. His daughters and grandchildren from the USA were there with him when the end came, thanks to Shweta’s wedding. At the age of 75, he had fulfilled all his family duties, 3 daughters all married with children. He has left behind Amma, with enough money to take care of herself comfortably and a whole lot of patients in Triplicane who will never forget him as long as they lived. Today if you stop a person in Triplicane and ask about, Dr. S.B. Mani, “Kai raasi kaarar, never used to take more than Rs. 20 as fees…” These are the kind of remarks you are bound to hear. He was known for his simplicity.

But, I cannot wipe away the regret which rises ever so often from the pit of my stomach, and brings instant tears flowing down my face and the thought,”Appa was not there to bless my only daughter on her wedding….he missed the wedding by a week, just one week …”

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