Arriving at the Hospital

May 10, 2015 (5:31am IST)

Since I last wrote, I have migrated to Vivekananda Memorial Hospital – where I will be staying for the duration of my trip. They have given me the freedom to return to Mysore on the weekends and stay in the hostel, however, to hold a room in Mysore is twice as expensive as it is to hold a room in the second floor of the hospital. I think I will stay here for a majority of the time.

How did I get here? VIIS hired another driver to take me to Saragur, about a 1.5 hour length. Again, the trip was quite exhilarating, as is any trip, I think, on any road in India. This trip involved a little more of the nature and wildlife of India, however. There was a bridge over a large lake and in the background the sun was rising slowly over a mountain (what they call “hills”) – easily the most picturesque scene of my life.

On our way we hit a dog. It appears stray dogs are relatively common in this part of India. I was keeping a count, but I stopped when it exceeded 25. I was not sure of the significance of handicapping a dog in Hinduism (the driver had a statue of Ganesh on his dashboard). From what I understand about the tenants of honesty and non-violence I have seen over my NGO’s walls, I thought the driver may have performed some “sin” (I don’t know if Hinduism has this concept). I did not look at the driver nor did I speak about what happened. I thought the driver, maybe early fifties with greying hair, was penitent. He seemed to slow down a little around turns, and was less aggressive with his tactics to get around every motorcycle (“Bike”) he saw. Yet, I misunderstood. The next dog we saw, he seemed to play chicken with even though the road was completely open. I think I misinterpreted his change in driving habits. Hitting the dog actually damaged his horn, making conducting passes a little less safe – probably explaining his momentary employment of “defensive driving”. This brings me to an error I routinely make. I never fail to overestimate, or misunderstand how Hinduism plays into the lives of its followers. I will elaborate as more examples come, but this is a pattern I have noticed in myself.

Upon arriving to VMH I met my point person at the hospital. She was wearing beautiful clothing and the requisite scarf. Her face seemed to have been pulled down slightly, giving her a look of being slightly tired, but also extremely competent. I cannot guess her age. She escorted me to a “Guest Room” with three beds in it. One with a mosquito net. Three windows dotted the walls of the room – 2 in the main room and one in the bathroom – all of which were open. All these windows were screened. The guest room actually has three amenities I did not anticipate. A washing machine, a fan, and a water heater (all only useful if VMH has power (which it does 80% of the time)). There is a desk connected to a cabinet to store clothes, and a lawn chair in the room.

She gave me a moment to freshen up and then I returned to her. She escorted me around the hospital and introduced me to every physician – even if they had patients with them. The most interesting conversation was with a dentist in charge of “Community Health”. This is not unlike the American idea of “Public Health”, but they opt for the word “Community”, I think, in order to focus their purpose. To serve the needs of this people. Not all people. This is a very clear tenant of VMH – it was made to serve the rural and tribal populations. He briefly went over 40 programs they have running – all of which are multi-incorporative: health, education, personal economic empowerment. VMH, and SVYM in general, is unparalleled in its multi-focal approaches to tackling issues that plague this community.

Since I did not know the Indian work schedule, I woke up the following day at 6:00am, just to be safe. Turns out the Indian work day starts closer to 9:00am and ends around 5:00pm. Also, and I find this quite interesting, the Indian work week is Monday-Saturday, with Sunday occupying the analogy to the American “weekend”.

Once 8:45am came, I began to observe in the hospital.  I will try to describe its basic layout.

When you walk in the front doors of the hospital, immediately to your left and right are passages to various administrative offices. Take a step further and to your left is a desk hidden behind glass (like some of the gas stations in downtown Cleveland) that handles payments and scheduling. To your right is the dispensary – the same thing as a pharmacy. Here also is a waiting room. The opening hall is divided into two sides. Black chairs are arranged in 5 tight rows on one side, and long benches on the other, each where the patients sit facing the open doorway. On either side of the waiting room are boards. One side is titled “Patient Rights” the other “Patient Responsibilities”. While I observed some of these to be conflicting, the transparency is overwhelmingly heartwarming. In urban centers in America those two concepts are not always known – the fault of the physician and the government as much as the patient’s.

After walking past the waiting room, there is a four-way intersection – all leading you to a different wing of the hospital. I will go through one by one.

When you go to your right, you are leading yourself to the “Outpatient Department”. This is probably the most fascinating part of VMH – the number of specialists is truly spectacular. In a rural area, these people have access to a cardiologist, a pediatrician, and even and Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.

If you go to your left at the intersection, you lead yourself to the specialized rooms – an X-ray machine, a blood bank, a testing lab, and several counseling centers. There is hallway with offices dedicated to HIV testing and counseling, as well as a room focused on pre-natal counseling.

If you go straight, this leads you to the bulk of the hospital. On the first floor are two “Wards” divided into (1) Woman and Children and (2) Men. There is no separation of patients based on ailment as there is in the American hospitals I have had experience with. At the University of Michigan, for example, patients with certain ailments will literally be in different buildings. Not here. Here they are in the same room.

If you go up the stairs you find the same thing replicated – in terms of wards and separation. There are also “Private Rooms” down a hallway adjacent to the wards on the second floor. I was told patients could request these rooms if they didn’t want to be in a ward, but I think their purpose is a little more complicated. On my first day shadowing, one private room was inhabited by a patient with a diabetic foot – her foot was decomposing, had maggots in it, and had an odor that needed to be contained. One room was occupied by an adult male with active tuberculosis. Another had a 90+ year old man who was completely bed ridden.   I think these private rooms are more to protect the patients in the ward than to protect the patients inside them – although they do do both.

I have not done the illustration of the hospital justice for I realize I forgot to mention that there is a dock for an ambulance, an operating theatre, a three bed ICU, a three bed NICU, and a one bed emergency room available 24/7. All of these are located on the first floor

An attempted panorama of the central grounds.

An attempted panorama of the central grounds.

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About Jacob Anderson

Jacob Anderson is a sophomore studying Cell and Molecular Biology in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Jacob plans to pursue medical school after graduation and has an interest in international and urban health disparities. Jacob will be spending seven weeks working with Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital. SVYM, in collaboration with other stakeholders, started the hospital and continues to oversee it. The hospital works to provide cost-effective health care services to rural and/or marginalized populations. Jacob will have the opportunity to not only shadow doctors, but work with administrators on a public health campaign. Jacob’s research project will involve collecting patient volumes on preventable health issues before and after the public health campaign to explore its efficacy and to make suggestions for future campaigns.

2 thoughts on “Arriving at the Hospital

  1. Hi, Jacob! I am so glad you arrived safely at VMH! I look forward to hearing more about your time there. Your ride to VMH sounds like it was exciting and beautiful. I am sorry you had to experience hitting a dog (and almost hitting a second dog). Many countries have very different relationships with animals than we do. This is an interesting story about dogs in India:


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