Saifi Hospital located at Maharshi Karve Marg in Mumbai is a grand, regal and handsome building, outstanding amidst her neighbors that show age, torment and scars from Mumbai’s infamous monsoons. Built by the Bohri community of India, the hospital, unlike Leelavati in Bandra or Kokilaben in Andheri where the stiff upper lips of Mumbai’s recouparate, caters to the less financially endowed. The inside of the hospital is similarly striking; clean, efficient and modern. It is here I find myself laying on an examination table being scanned for woes in my abdomen. A smartly dressed (very) young doctor (intern?) frowns and asks me for the third time what ails me.
I have been told I have gall bladder stones…
He frowns. Huh…by who? By…a Doctor? A pause. A medical doctor?
Huh…really? Where, which Doctor? Did you have an ultrasound done to confirm this diagnosis?
I hesitate, don’t want to tell him I have flown all the way from Florida for treatment; this hospital is not very accommodating, understandably, to foreigners using subsidized facilities for Indian nationals. I give a vague response.
The Doctor grunts, prods my abdomen some more then utters Gall bladder stones my foot in disgust. A senior Doctor takes over prodding and stabbing the ultrasound scanner into my bladder, nods at his head wisely at his junior and walks away, leaving me rather bothered and perplexed.
Problem? I ask the young Doctor. He shrugs his shoulders.
Well, you have no gall bladder stones, for sure; whoever told you that is talking bakwaas. That is the good news. Bad news is you have a .9cm stone lodged just under your right kidney and other smaller ones as well. These are blocking the flow of urine, giving you pain and may cause major problems. You will have to talk to a urologist and have him remove the stone as soon as possible.
So within 45 minutes, I have a professional verdict that has cost me about US$25, for a (very) painful, uncomfortable matter that has been vexing me for over a month. How come Indian doctors are so good and accurate in their diagnostics? I saw 3 doctors in Florida; one said I have a bad back and 2 diagnosed gall bladder stones, none bothered to recommend an ultrasound, which would have confirmed a cause. Now, what medical books and or training do these doctors in the US read or go to?
Good doctors in India, at least here in Mumbai, are super busy and super rich. Later that morning, Dr. Ashiq Raval, a renowned urologist has promised to meet me at the crowded Prince Ali Khan Hospital Outpatients Ward. When I tire waiting over an hour, I approach a disorderly crowded desk and demand to see the doctor.
He is delayed, the irritated receptionist snaps, because he is still in OT.
And what is OT? I ask, equally annoyed.
The Hindu lady, with a slightly dislodged large red tikka on her harassed forehead widens her kohl-laden eyes in surprise, as if I have asked the most stupid question of the day.
Aree, OT yaar! OT! Operation Theater!
She clicks her tongue impatiently, dismissively and attends to a shrill telephone demanding attention. Dr. Ravel, when I meet him, is a short, heavy-set man with large doe-like eyes, sees me for but 3 minutes. He studies the ultrasound report, nods his head several times, as if what he sees is exactly what he expects, says he can remove the stones day after tomorrow, Friday at 10AM at this hospital, instructs me to get several blood, urine and x-ray tests done and meet him later in the day for pre-surgery orientation. And how much will he charge for the surgery? Lazy eyes appraise my worth for a moment. US$1,000 or thereabouts he replies carelessly, but pay US$20 for this consultation now. And the deal is done. When I come out of his office, there are about 50 other people seated outside, waiting to see him. I do the math; $1,000 earned in about 2 hours ain’t so bad. Later on, I learn he performs average of 5 surgeries daily, so that’s about $2,500 after splitting profits with the hospital. Yes, earning US$1.2 million a year living in Mumbai ain’t bad at all. I am not attempting to demonize Dr. Ravel’s earning skills here, mind you, he is a very good and adept urologist; more power to him.
The tests all done, I show up at the hospital to get a shock of my life; why, I would not have been more shocked if the Doctor had slapped me silly.
Yusufbhai, kaise ho? Now, I am going to insert a tube up your pxxxx and try removing the large stone, but I doubt that will work. So I’ll have to crush the stone into tiny fragments first and these will flow out with urine, theek hai?
I nearly choke at the protests that spring to my lips. You are going to do – what!!!?
I think the Doctor is as surprised at my shock; a lazy smile appears on his lips.
Hahaha, you didn’t think I’d cut you up, did you? Don’t worry, noting is going to happen to your pxxxx and you’ll be fast asleep to feel anything. I have done thousands of these procedures. They are very routine these days. And 100% safe. Now chalo, I will see you Friday, theek hai…?
Now, I not only have to deal with the pain but also fret about some guy messing around with my very private parts (VPP). I call up my cousin Dr. Afzal Yusufali in Dubai for advice but he is nonchalant about the procedure, recommends doing it.
Friday morning I am sleeping on my back on the operating table in the OT, waiting for the abuse to begin when I see Dr. Ravel peering down at me. But it is not only one set of eyes that gaze at me, there are several eyes, feminine eyes. I am introduced to the anesthesiologist, Dr. Patel, a pretty petite lady in white; I notice other eyes as well, all female. Eyes that will have unfettered view of my body, tubes being poked in me while I am dead, my VPP being violated. OMA, this is unfair, what about my dignity! I want to protest at the top of my voice, but these are unexpressed complaints, screams that echo only in my head. The humiliating process is already underway; I feel a prick of a needle, a mask is clamped on my face. From a distance, as if through a tunnel, I hear Dr. Ravel yell Sleep tight and a faint sound of feminine giggle before overpowering slumber overwhelms me.
I wake up to sting of slaps that Dr. Ravel’s heavyset assistant is tormenting me to. Mr. Yusufali, Yusufalibhai, uuthoo, uuthoo. Operation hojaya, the procedure went very well, Dr. Ravel managed to crush the stone, the bloody kidney stone, you are now very fine, very very fine.
I want to, because of this experience:
1. Thank Dr. Abbas Vakeel and Aliakberbhai Ratansi from Najfi House, Mumbai for arranging and facilitating the doctors, specialists and hospital. As easy as all these appointments seem from my write-up, the actual process can be a maddening maze of woozy headaches.
2. Thank driver Sarfaraz of Najafi House for all the care, attention and running around undertaken on my behalf.
3. In December of 2011, two poor full-term pregnant women in complicated labor attempted to drive to a government medical clinic, about 5 hours away, in the remote district of Dykoondi, Afghanistan. Tragically, their rented vehicle skidded in the ice and snow and crashed into a ravine, claiming all 4 lives, amongst others. While I have the blessings of Allah (S) and the good fortune to travel over 10,000 miles for my ailments, the poor and destitute of Afghanistan, especially women and children, have these tragedies to reckon with, daily.
This particular 35,000 strong community has no medical facility whatsoever and the government clinic may or may not have a doctor or (proper) drugs, even if the sick do make it to the clinic. CAI will, insha’Allah open her 3rd medical clinic in Afghanistan this spring in Dykoondi; this personal experience makes me want to redouble my efforts towards (attempting) some relief to these wretched people.