When I heard the tone of her voice, I realized it was the latter.
My grandfather had gone to the hospital the night before. And he couldn't breathe. And they put him on a ventilator. In the ICU.
"What?I" I said.
And then my grandmother couldn't breathe either so she was admitted.
"What?!" I said.
My mom was going to try to fly out as soon as she could. My aunt in Lubbock was flying in Friday night, and I was going to be responsible for picking her up. I should call my aunt and uncle in Belmont to see if they needed anything. And I should go down and see my grandfather in the hospital after work.
As soon as I hung up, I burst into tears.
I called my aunt Minamami, who seemed much calmer about the whole thing. She told me that Dada had had a UTI that had gotten worse, and they had put him on antibiotics. He would be in the hospital for a few days at least, and they wouldn't know anything until Friday, so I should come on Friday.
(My mom had just been confusingly sensationalistic about my grandmother, as their conditions were not related. Medically speaking, at least. She just freaked out at her husband's condition.)
I shaved. "Might as well do it before you can't," I said to myself. If my grandfather died, I wouldn't be able to shave or cut my nails for a couple weeks. This was a very inconvenient time to die. My cousin's birthday was on Saturday. I had not planned on going down that weekend since I needed some time to catch up with everything and do my taxes. Rae was coming the next weekend, and who knew when the funeral might be? I really had enough things to deal with at the moment without throwing a dying family member into the mix.
As I drove to work, I tried to remember the last thing I'd said to him, the last time I'd seen him. I think he'd been sort of tired and sleepy, and I'd said goodbye to him before leaving. At least we hadn't had some fight that had ended with my yelling, "I hate you! I hate you and I hope you die!"
He wasn't supposed to die, what the fuck.
At 8:45, my dad called. He was also much calmer than my mom, but, as with Minamami, Dada was only his father-in-law. I'm sure he would have been a mess if it were his dad in the hospital. He tried to open with small talk, but I told him my mom had already called, so I knew what was up. He told me to go down today since I was close by. It was a forty-minute drive.
During our weekly team meeting, my mom called, and I immediately stepped out. She said Dada's kidneys had failed and he was on dialysis. And he'd maybe had a small heart attack or something. He sounded like one of the patients I wrote about. The ones who experience MULTI-ORGAN FAILURE (CTC GRADE 5).
Grade 5 means the event had a fatal outcome.
I went back to the meeting and tried to act normal. Apparently, I was not completely successful, as I got an e-mail from Francie later asking if something was wrong because I seemed upset or irritated. Aw, I love my co-workers. I told her what was going on.
After work, I went home to pack a bag. I called Minamami and let her know I was coming.
I hit a lot of stupid traffic on the way down to Rajumama's house. When I rang the doorbell, he answered, confused. He thought I wasn't coming until Friday. He was "shocked" to see me. I told him I felt like I should come down since I could. And you never knew what could happen. My uncle thought he would be fine.
He'd been up since 3 with all the hospital shenanigans, so he needed to sleep. He told me how to get to the hospital and find the room.
I found the room. My cousins and aunt were there. And so was my grandfather. In a hospital bed. With lots of tubes coming out of him. The machine breathing for him, his chest heaving up and down in a sickeningly unnatural manner. He was not conscious. He could have been just a body for all anyone knew. I didn't want to touch him in case he felt cold and lifeless.
Instead, I focused on all the IV bags, curious to see what all was going inside him. Some saline, some phenylephrine, some vancomycin. Ah, I knew vancomycin; I'd written about it many a time. That was the antibiotic. And there was heparin, of course, the blood thinner. I explained to my cousin Akash what the stuff was. We watched the monitors. He was on ice to bring down his temperature; he was at about 101.3 ºF. I couldn't remember what a normal pulse was, so I had him take his. I couldn't find my own damn pulse. We looked at all the numbers and graphs, unsure of what they meant. Every now and then, something beeped.
We went out to the waiting room, which was full of many old people I did not know. Word had spread quickly, it seemed. That's the Indian community for you. I gave Baa a hug. She was visibly distraught, and my cousin Nidhi consoled her, reminding her that Dada had a lot of willpower.
Minamami explained who I was to one of the old ladies and mentioned that they were looking for a wife for me. That's why I had come down today, of course. Got to make a good impression, after all. Ladies want to marry a guy who'll come see his grandfather in the hospital.
Akash and I went back to the room. His heart rate appeared to have dropped, which worried me. But he was being cooled, so maybe that wasn't out of the ordinary. A nurse came in and took some blood samples and fiddled with tubes. After she left, we noticed that his blood pressure had fallen significantly. We didn't know whether it was normal. On our way out, I decided I should say something to the nurse just in case, but she was way ahead of me, allaying my fears before I'd even explained them.
We went home, and I ate dinner and then watched Supernatural.
Sleep reset my emotions, and I was able to act like a normal person at work on Friday. I went straight to the hospital afterward, where my mom was waiting, having arrived that morning. I was informed that Dada had woken up. What? WHY HAD NO ONE FUCKING CALLED ME? Jesus Christ, freak the hell out when something bad happens, but God forbid you actually let me stop worrying several hours early.
What a gyp, though! All that worrying and everyone was flying out, and he's only unconscious for one measly day?
My mom had brought some Taco Bueno burritos for me. My cousins told me where to find the microwave in the basement, so I went down to eat them. They came down later with their own burritos.
The ICU was less scary now. Dada's kidneys had improved greatly, and he was off dialysis. He still needed the ventilator, but he was also able to breathe somewhat on his own, so it did not look as freaky. I still wasn't quite clear what had happened with his lungs; apparently some fluid had gotten in there when they were putting tubes in or something. The kidneys made more sense since the UTI had gotten into the blood and spread to the kidneys, and then the antibiotics successfully quashed the kidney infeciton. His temperature was down.
His eyes were open. He could see I was there, but he couldn't talk since the tube was still in his mouth. I held his hand, and his fingers curled around mine. I'd never felt closer to him.
Rajumama told me to talk to him since he could hear me, but I didn't know what to say. I'm way better at understanding Gujarati than I am at speaking it. Even in English, I didn't know what to say. I was just glad I didn't have to worry that he would die anymore.
I drove my mom back to Baa's house in my shiny new car. We ate dinner. I watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles while she talked on the phone to many people, and then I went to my uncle's house to watch Dollhouse since she wanted to watch her Indian shows. My uncle Dipakmama arrived.
Akash accompanied me on the way down to San Jose Airport to pick up Harshamasi. I plugged in Smellerbee and introduced him to some new music.
When it hit midnight, we celebrated Nidhi's eighteenth birthday. It was a good thing Dada hadn't died and ruined it.
The next morning, I was woken up by my phone ringing. My mom wanted me to bring over some Sprite because Baa was vomiting. I dutifully but blearily complied.
The Sprite was ineffectual, however, and a few hours later, they took her to the ER. She hadn't been eating or resting properly, and now she had vertigo. We went to visit her in the ER; it looked like they were going to admit her since she couldn't stand straight.
We also visited Dada and were told not to tell him that Baa was in the ER, as that would not be great for his recovery. They had taken the tube out, and he could breathe on his own. He could even talk a little, although he sounded parched and hoarse. His "Hare Om" was barely intelligible.
Later that night, after Nidhi's proper birthday celebration, Harshamasi and I delivered Baa some dinner. She kept calling her "Mom." It's always strange to realize that your grandmother was—well, still is—someone's mother. And that your aunts and uncles are brothers and sisters. With everyone living in different cities with their own families, it's easy to forget that they used to all be one family living together.
On Sunday, 05-APR-2009, Baa was discharged, the events having resolved. The investigator considered the events of VERTIGO (CTC GRADE 2) and VOMITING (CTC GRADE 2) to be UNRELATED to study drug, citing Other - Stress about sick husband as an alternative explanation.
Dada was moved out of the ICU (well, technically, it was the CCU all this time, the Critical Care Unit) and into a regular room. He was continuing to improve. He could talk a little more now. Also, now that he was in a regular room, we weren't restricted to two people at a time, which was good. We filled the room; the nurse was impressed with all the family love.
Minamami gave me a better story about what had happened. Dada should have come in a couple days earlier for the UTI, but he hadn't really identified it as such. He'd had a fever for a week or two, and the doctor had been treating the fever; the UTI symptoms seemed to have been lost in miscommunication. On Wednesday night, the infection had entered the bloodstream, leading to SEPTICEMIA (CTC GRADE 4) followed by SEPTIC SHOCK (CTC GRADE 4).
The kicker? He'd probably gotten the UTI from a diagnostic procedure a few weeks ago. And not, say, from my sick twelve-year-old cousin Shivam, who, as a little kid will do, believed his aunt and uncle when they joked that he'd gotten his Dada sick. So he locked himself in the bathroom and cried for a while. It was good times. Akash had to break in with a screwdriver.
After an hour or so at the hospital, some of us went to see Watchmen, which Dipakmama wanted to see. Then I dropped him back off at the hospital.
I drove back home that night. I hugged Baa and said, "I'm glad you're all right. Don't do that again."
I went back down on Tuesday after work. Just Baa was there, and Dada seemed to be doing much better. His voice sounded normal, and he was even able to get up and walk to the bathroom. I moved his IV tower for him. He walked around the room a bit, and I averted my eyes from his gown-exposed ass. I tucked him back into bed. I ate some of his dinner since he didn't care for the pasta.
Meanwhile, as I sat and read Death's Daughter—a title I had hoped was not tempting fate—and watched The Departed—ditto, now that I think about it!—Baa reminded me that I really needed to get married. I was the oldest grandchild, and I needed to get the ball rolling. If I just said that I would go to India and get married, everyone would be so happy, I wouldn't believe.
"But what about my [happiness]?" I said. "I won't be [happy]."
No one's forcing me to go to India, she said. Find someone here, that's fine.
My mom did once tell me that I needed to get married before my grandfather died. She was referring to my older one, but now it seemed her mom was picking up the grandfather-survival-dependent guilt trip.
In lighter news, The Departed edited for television is pretty freaking amusing.
They moved Dada to another room for some reason. He had a couple more visitors. I guess being in the hospital shows you who really cares.
As of now, he's still in the hospital. They're waiting for his fever to go away, which may not be till Friday. But otherwise, he's doing okay.
Thank God for vancomycin.