Bad Times

It’s been a while since I’ve been here and I’ve missed it. I had been on holiday but that’s not why. This summer we went to Switzerland and then France and then later in June we went to Coonoor and I wrote up a bunch of posts but then the terrible thing happened and those posts are tainted forever with that and they will never be published.

Because a very close friend who has had asthma for the longest time had a bad attack which did not respond to nebulizer or puff. After trying to find someone to take care of the kids that time of night, her husband and she gave up and banged the doors of the neighbours saying they had an emergency and to mind the kids while they left for the hospital. In the lift, she said she was dying. And then she had a cardiac arrest and collapsed. It took her seven minutes to get to the hospital. They revived her heart and lungs at once but the seven minutes was four minutes too many. She has been in a coma for over a month now.

I said she is a close friend. I could say that’s so because she was my senior in college and partner in crime through the best time of my life. Or that when I moved to Bangalore she was the one waiting for me at the airport. Or that she taught me how to cook. And our kids were born in the same hospital and have grown up together. She has been a part of my past, there in my present and assumed to be around in the future. Here on this blog she is probably the friend  I have spoken of the most. She went with me to watch OKK. I spoke about the projects she makes for her kids while complaining about Tuck Shops. We launched her into the air while in Goa. That friend.

But I am not sure why I am spelling all this out here with such painful attempt at clarity and accuracy. I am past the stage of denial. I know the stages of dealing with grief because I’ve been there. It always starts with denial. The first week she was in ICU I couldn’t shake off the feeling that if I picked my phone and called her, she would respond with a ‘Hi’ in her voice and in her style. That I would open the door one day and she’d be there with her family and this would all be a nightmare that we could forget about. But it’s been a month and more and I don’t think like that anymore.

Maybe it is because I have realised the importance of CPR. Unfortunately not enough to actually learn. I enquired about a course and found a youtube video but in an emergency I am quite sure I would not know how much to press to be effective and not break someone’s sternum.

Maybe I am campaigning for some more prayers on her behalf. But how can I do that? When my car stops at a traffic signal on my way back from the hospital, my thoughts wander to how unfair all this is and then my eyes spy a small child who has never known a parent’s care begging for food and my thoughts come back to mock me – unfair? But does one person’s grief make another’s any less?

Or maybe because this month has been all kinds of stress to all her family and friends and I am trying to deal with it.  I can’t even think about her two little kids. We spent the first month taking them out and distracting them but it is not what they need anymore.

I won’t think about her husband. Every conversation with him finds it’s way to a memory involving her and why would it not be that way? We are such self absorbed people, we think we and our stories are at the centre of the world and it is with a bit of a shock that the realisation hits – He loves her. Would it be less sad if he did not?

It is not much easier to think about the rest of us. One friend developed breathing trouble soon after this happened. Another fainted during a hospital visit and was admitted for a possible heart attack. I started having chest pains soon after the first MRI came out and doctors began asking her family questions about how long they would let a loved one suffer.

It could be that I am just trying to deal with the idea of mortality. It is not an alien thought. Like I mentioned, I have had my brushes in the past. But this cuts a little close. Which might be the age thing – this sort of thing is not supposed to happen yet. There is the fear of unfinished responsibilities.

I had a health check up done the other day and the doctor in charge of the treadmill test handed me a doctor’s reference to Apollo Heart Clinic and asked me about whether insurance would cover an angiogram. I ran as fast as I could for a second opinion which was reassuring but when my child came to my room coughing in the middle of the night the other night, I couldn’t stop thinking of these things as I gave him his medicine and rubbed Vicks onto his chest, staying awake long after he had fallen asleep. All this is too soon. I thought I had forever and now I think I need twelve more years.

While my friend and I would chat on whatsapp every other day, we used to meet maybe three times a month. Now I visit the hospital at least three times a week and sit there talking to her, not sure if she can even hear me. I don’t want to preach sermons about valuing life while we have it and all that. That sort of talk from people who care less has been annoying me since all this happened.

Some of this is overreaction and quite natural given the enormity of what has happened. So writing all this down is sort of taking stock.

I plan to take time off from work later this month. Both to be with her and to spend some more time at home with the kids and myself and think about things. What has happened has happened. It will take months now to bring her back. I believe she will come back. And meanwhile, it is time to go back to life. Stress plays a role in CAD. If I want to live long and healthy, I need to stop brooding too and go on with life.

So I have put all this down and will now take a deep breath and move on. I won’t stop visiting her and praying for her. But it is time to get back to the living as well.




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