I've been really breathless the past couple of weeks. Not the ditsy, 'Breathless-Mahoney-from-Dick-Tracy' kind of breathless. The actual 'unable-to-inhale-oxygen' kind of breathless. At once, I jump to the conclusion that I have Swine Flu, though I display only one of the ten or so symptoms, and am convinced I am going to die, so the doctor tells me to go to the Chest Hospital. Chest Hospital? They have a hospital for chests? Okay, I say, and troop off. In my state of oxygen-deprivation, I can't help thinking that if you went to the doc and she asked you "What's the problem?" and you said "Well, my chest's a size 32B but I'd really like it to be a 36C", would she look at you strangely, or would she just laugh? As you can probably tell, the oxygen supply to my brain is depleting really fast and I'm shortly going to be pronounced brain-dead.
I'm wearing an N95 mask in the hospital, and the particles from the mask are tickling my nose and getting into my mouth, and making the situation worse. I'm scared to take it off, though, because this looks like just the place to be attacked by primed and ready-for-action specimens of the virus.
They're quite courteous and all, the staff, which I find very surprising indeed, considering that this is a Govt. hospital (one of the few authorised to treat Swine Flu cases), and everything's where it should be. The departments have neat boards outside them, and the counters, files, vials and everything else is numbered. 5S, I think. They've been subjected to 5S too! They take a sample of my blood and put it in a little vial. They label it. They have a problem with my name. Most people can never spell it or pronounce it right. I help them with it. Yes, yes, S-W-I-N-G, I say, like in 'jhoola'. The x-ray technician makes me turn around and press my chest to a metal plate (yes, it's one of those old-fashioned things) and for a moment I feel like I'm going to be executed, western-style, where the captive is told to turn around, and is then shot.
They ask me to come back for my reports the next day, which I do. My blood's OK, it says. My Hb's 13.8. Healthy as a horse. All the other numbers on the report are in blue too, and nothing is in red, which means that all's right with the world.
I take my chest x-ray and look at it. Hmmm...I tend to think my chest is the size of a pigeon's, but this looks more like the x-ray of, say, an eagle's chest, perhaps. I bring it to their attention, that this looks a bit...large. The technician's assistant looks at my chest and then at the x-ray, as if to confirm. The assistant's a woman, which is a good thing for her, else she'd have been missing a tooth or two, by now. She checks and comes back with another x-ray, with something scribbled onto the report. I hold the x-ray up. Yes, this looks more like my rib-cage. I take it to the doctor, who peers at the unintelligible scrawl on the report. She mutters under her breath, something on the lines of "What the f*&% does this mean? Why can't they write more clearly?" She thinks perhaps that I don't understand what she's saying, because I've been speaking to her only in Hindi and English. She assumes therefore, that I don't understand Marathi, and swears some more. She holds the x-ray up in the light for a little while longer, and I look too. All I can see is an uneven patch in the middle of my chest. She decides that the report, which reads 'Mo chger mendutir +' or something to that effect, DOES NOT say 'H1N1 infection' or 'Swine Flu', so she prescribes me enough medication to kill a Great White Shark, and smiles when I leave. I am relieved ( I think).
So here I am, five days later, drugged to the eyeballs, and still unable to breathe. I just took my last dose of the medication this morning, and I noticed that this is the same as the medication they give Swine Flu patients. Yikes! So if I had it, it's now gone. I'm going to another doctor today who will, I'm sure, insist on another slew of tests, but this time, I'm going to insist on typed reports in English, not in Klingon. So there!