Sunday, November 25, 2012

rehab 2.0 complete!

Finally the hypodermic needle is off from my hand! The doctor says I do not need any more IV fluids bombardment! I finally have a concession that I am going to need only oral drugs!

It sucks to be in a hospital! No wonder, I  escape from the guard and slip into the coffee day  whenever possible- or just love to stroll around and see those kids play in the playfield opposite tthe block I am hosted in Apollo.

It is interesting to see how quickly human brain cribs about small discomforts! Just a week ago - In the ICU I was struggling to lift my left hand and left leg! And now I crib that I do not have enough outdoor time :)

It has been a week - but let me be as accurate as possible for chronicling the events here. This Otherwise usually personal blog of mine- I intend to open it to upto larger audience for scientific scrutiny to help them understand what are the critical factors in battling for health.

C and I were discsussing some plans of how we would launch our next product...19th Morning around 1 am or so - C noticed that I was repeating things and was getting drowsy. i told him that I need to lie down immediately.... something told me i needed blood to flow to my brain. I asked for pillows to be stuffed under  my legs and then I told him he needs to call my dad immediately and to take me to the hospital.I knew I was struggling to speak and noticed some slight slur..So I checked with him "Am I coherent?.. Even though he said "yes" - I wanted a paper and pen and I scribbled "call dad.. Take me to hospital"... I then said search for my uncle's number on my phone and call him or my aunt and listen to their advice. He could not locate their numbers easily... but he could reach dad.

It was gettig scary every minute...I lost sensation of my left leg and left hand. I needed re-assurance.. I held my left hand with my right ... and I told C- " right hand knows i am holding something.. it might as well be yours! there is nothing which tells me that I am holding my own left hand - except visual evidence that my left hand is in my right hand!."

Even in that time of panic,,, a very interesting thought appeared in my mind "why the hell am I speaking in English and not telugu?". It still is a mystery that I felt at ease with my english than with telugu at that instance.

I always knew that I was blessed/cursed with the ability to analyze my own thoughts... Neela calls it a blessing... but a lot of times I felt otherwise. For a person who can analyze his own thouhgts... a powerful relaxing tool called "rationalizing your acts/behavior" and "blaming it on others or circumstances" is literally non-existent!.

So over last few years, with Neela's help I learnt to be comfortable with myself and not be too harsh with myself. I can never thank her less for her help. She would  credit either "efforts at japa/meditation" or" Guruji's grace...and she could well be right. But intellectual side of my brain tells me it is her extreme patience,  love , care and "extremely practical mentoring " that helped me work on ways to be comfortable with my shortcommings.

The ability to record and analyze my thoughts at "one-level-above" was active even in extreme scenarios. I knew every minute and thought when I had my heart stroke 6 years ago. And ditto last week when my brain was under attack! How else could I explain why I was questioning "dude!why are you speaking in English?" at a time of emergency.

Dad came in ... and I was rushed to Apollo on uncle's advice. I was desperate to vommit on the way .. I had some junk biryani -Remember Swami Vivekananda's suggestion " anything that harms your physical or spiritual progress.. avoid it like poison?"- I hope to remember this piece next time I am tempted to eat anything which can be very harmful!

I needed re-assurance... My left hand and my left leg.... were totally numb.. i kept feeling them with my right hand... sleeping in the backseat. I was happy that I was able to "process" information.. "I was safe to continue to do what I love most - my job -it revolves around  my ability to analyze situations..and motivate my team to next levels... and I was wondering how I could do that if i  cant speak?" Yes - I was getting anxious now!

In retrospect it is laughable that I even thought of Stephen Hawkings... and the ways people have figured out for him to communicate to the world with his fingers! While that was refreshing... a thought said "dude! he is a genius.. you are at best a bit above average levels of human intelligence... the world will not go that far to help you out! They will not invest to understand your thoughts!" So it was clear to me that I had to fight this out by myself!

I could not and I still can not imagine a life with out being able to do what I love most - software and interacting with people! so I was bracing up for the battle...

Then there is something which  came to my rescue...  realized that I can THINK and I am still processing information... huge re-assurance!" And I still can not believe that I remember all this line by line as if someone recorded my thoughts... will have to check with my doctor if this is an evolutionary survival trait that human beings have inherited?" It leads me to believe that every incident is recorded in some format in the universe- I always thought that this whole universe had a "turing machine" which records everything... and one of my theories of God has been that 'God' could well be that machine.. which determines next state based on the current states of this colossal "state-keeping" machine!" Damn! Dr.S would be proud of me if he knew that his most "indisciplined  student who walked into his classes late  often in shorts and coffee in one hand with no notebooks to take his notes" actually is trying to use something from his "theory of computation courses!" after a decade and half  - lying supine in the back seat of a car....

Then I was moved in an ambulance to another center because MRI was not working at that facility! Shows how much we treasure human lives in India! If this can happen at Apollo what could be fate of lesser hospitals and poorer people in our country? 6 years ago- i was in similar shit... the ambulance driver was having "chai" and I lost precious time before i was rushed to a bigger hospital in bangalore! Does that explain why we Indians are so fatalistic about lives?Id that We leave everything to God? Because of human lapses?

Let me not complain too much though.. as at the end of the day .. I was saved on both counts by competent and kind human beings! But I remember barkingout orders to my dad.. " I need the doctor to go with me in the ambulance to the MRI scanning place" ... the CT was done.. and they were now sure it was a clot in the right brain... soon .. medication started... and I was on blood thinners.

Dr. SV came over and said "can you lift your hand?" I tried and I could not... and that scared me a bit.....Then I tried with my leg. After a while... with great difficulty I lifted my hand and leg... and I knew things were going to be normal again! I felt a little embarassed at first but I said " if screaming out instructions to my legs and hands is going to help me I am going to shout "UP up" and then lift them .. even if it would appear awkward to others around me! I was happy that it was working..."Up and up" i could lift both of them a bit !

Every second there was a parallel thread in my head checking for re-assuranaces...

I knew I had the best possible doctors attending to told me and explained to me that uncle called Apollo team and we have the best people working on me. So i was searching for "what else can i do from my side?" and i had a quick echo "keep positive"

"That is fine but anything else i can do?" Oh yes... there is someone else who can help... who? Guruji!Then my monkey brain went into "is it fair that you go back to him only when you are in distress?" While I have always loved him and Neela as extremely kind, loving and helpful human beings... i was never hundred percent sure about their "other powers"- but yet.. i would shamelessly go back to her and "seek healing for my kids" once in a while... so I said "just shut the f**ck up! I need help and i am going to get it from wherever it is accesible from".. so I started "sitaram chanting" and tried to "connect with Guruji"- Dad called Neela.. I spoke to her.. she said .. I am sending you healing.. do not panic. tell yourself - wherever the clot is.. it should be destroyed by sitaram .. and with that intent.. continue chanting sitaram.. she was clear in her instructions.. she insisted that i not be   specific about the location of the clot (brain).- let the burden of locatin the clot be left to sitaram.I closed my eyes and all ready for carpet bombing to kickin!

i imagined..war planes... flying in my body ... targetting the clot... and aiming and destroying the clot.. i do not know why i imagined fighter planes.. but it was fun.. and i was enjoying the "video game"... soon the mind strayed.. why are you being so agressive? remembered a different blog that i read... and said "this time i will take care of it using love!" love can move things... i prayed gently.. "and started talking to the clot" - "listen buddy! i love you.. but you need to dissolve for me to sruvive! can you please do that? there was silence and I bombarded it again with sitaram. the agression in my thoughts returned... the fighter planes were whizzin around again!"- In retrospect it is actually scary that my mind was jumping around even in crisis and not fully  focused. Now i understand the import of what every saint says "mind is a monkey!"

i moved my left leg and left hand.. but realized i could not control my fingers.. and sometimes the hand was moving involuntarily... i soon started debugging my system.. i drew boxes to represent  "brain"  and "receivers"and i had an instant theory ready to explain this  crazy behavior.. there was 'noise' in the communication between my brain and the receiver... stray electric signals must be firing i concluded.. which is why my hand is moving involuntarily!? or perhaps... the "hand is not able to forget the previous electric signal it received to move it!" - whatever is the explanation - I am not going to dwell on this further - for all i wanted was a re-assurance that i am still able to analyze situations and construct models to explain situations.... so my training in problem solving was not affected! isnt that cool?!?!! this was the biggest re-assurance i was searching for- that i can go back and continue to architect software solutions!

things were getting overwhelming...i suddenly thought about my wife and kids..suddenly i was frightened that V1 might no longer be able to stand on my shoulder and shout "i have grown big!" - my younger one,v2 never did that even once so far. what would happen if i dont get my hand to operate again? i was slipping into negativity? i realized this in no way is going to help me...  i made a quick decision - i am going to manage my negative thoughts and that does not equate to supressing them!! I am going to express myself - i need to flush out this overwhelming negativity and self pity! but how? i told my mother in law that I need to see my dad immediately! And there he was next to me!.. I told him "listen.. I am fine.. but i need to flush out things from my system and i need to cry.. do not react.. just be my side- do not react and do not stop me... i need to get the damned thing out!" i held his hand tight and  i burst out! then my mom came in rushing.. and she started interfering with my plan...thankfully my dad intervened to get her to stop .. so i got what i wanted -  40 seconds of venting out any helpless feelings in my system. i soon felt lighter after i cried out.. it was not easy to not break down when so much was going on. around me. But now it was time to recover and get back... i imagined my lovely sons and me playing again.. and suddenly i found additional strength and hope. i told myself.. they deserve the best in the world.. and i will be there fully fit to present them that!

these emotions fazed a bit and there was an interesting pressure i realize building in me... a few months ago i wrote a mail to afrien who was battling bloodcancer which read something like ' do not let a a stupid imbalance in your blood overpower you! - it hit me back... wasthat just sitting-on-the-fence-remark? or am i going to prove it myself? next time i meet him in Bangalore.. i wanted to tell him.. buddy.. i did exactly what i wanted you to do! and then less than a month.. i told my sister to take life easy and accept everything that is given as a blesssing! and then i would often tell my entire team that if they work in conceptwaves.. i need one skill in abundance  - that i spoon feed none.. and being a part of a small team requires guts to face tough situations and be extremely comfortable with uncertainities.. and now... the stage is set for me to demonstrate what i have been preaching! I will have to take this... and I am going to lead the way in turning tables aroundin any situation.. imagine.. how much more easy it would be if i had a team with me brimming with super energy that they can do any thing thrown at them? while i was lost in these thoughts..

Then I heard the dr. SV  say " how are you amma? can you lift your leg and hand for me?" i have no clue.. but that voice sounded so refreshing and assuring.. i was about to tell him " you do not go anywhere but be around me please!".I tried real hard to lift  and i banged the table hard every time i could move my limbs! i was excited like hell and i needed that momentum.. nothing should stop that flow and rush of excitement! i was now very sure that i am back in  control. I heard my dad tell someone.. " this is nothing short of a miracle"... he came to me.. and told me "i know there is a very strong aura around you and nothing will happen to you... your sitaram will protect you!" - i reacted - "are you sure? or is it just the usual faith kicking -in when nothing else works syndrome comming into play here?" i then told myself "i am not questioning my dad's statement.. for prudence is in believing that i am being protected by some power instead of scientific accuracy of that statement. as an entreprereneur i have been very selective in interpreting signals.. i remember celebrating when i lost my second largest account! when i told my team "this is our second largest account in terms of revenues.. BUT i am glad its gone because it was sucking away disproportionate time from everyone...". i will admit that i feared some team member would laughat me as an incorrigible positive fool! buti decided to apply the same principle here.. if it helps me.. i am going to believe that this is indeed a miracle and i am being helped by a super power! and i do have an invincible aura! Thank you dad for reminding me at that critical time! i felt lot more confident when i acknowledged that.

i was later shifted to ICU after initial treatment and i started recovering ... fingers were clumsy.. i realized i could not hold the blanket and move it... but i knew i was improving... and i knew from here on it is just about keeeping positive and  systematic exercises to get fit again! - and that clearly is in my control - so i was a relaxed soul...

A doctor came and spoke to me ... he said that he was sorry about this .. i know you had a similar incident a few years ago - i quipped " do not feel sorry for me! ironically, doctor ,  i think it is the best thing that has happened to me!it made me realize a lot of things in life.. and since then i have relished every minute i had!"- he was kind enough to say "i understand what you mean ... i am not sympathising with you.. i am just empathizing with you.. he was very genuine in that statement.. and i could see the affection.. when he said "insha- Allah you will get out of the icu very soon ... you are too precious" he touched me on my forehead and pushed my rather unkempt hair backwards when he said that .. Touch can mean so much at times! I smiled back and said " the other alternative does not even exist!".

Then I slipped into deep sleep to be woken up by a young chap from the physio team-  he asked me to smile and was checking if I could smile.. lift my eyebrows etc... and then pull my tongue out and rotate it etc... i just told him.."damn.. pity me dude! i am doing kissing -101 lessons with a guy!" - he said "this will help you in future!"  - i had to tell him .. that i was married and a father of two kids!" we had a nice helped me to meet the very thoughtful doctors in the ICU with excellent sense of humor and empathy!

i was asked to touch the tip of my nose with my left hand... they were checking out the extent of the brain!he smiled and said "man! you are all fine.. why the hell are you here?!?"  i was like "tell me something i do not already  know.- ofcourse i am fine!"

what particularly moved me was the celebrations i could see on every one's face.. every time i showed progress - . from the housekeeping boys to the sisters to the brothers to the doctors were all celebrating every inch of an improvement in my co-ordination skills! i hardly know them.. but that care was genuine.. i could feel that! and i would be lying if i said it did not help me recover faster! It moved me from inside that someone i hardly know was so patient with me .. changing my clothes.. giving me scrubs...brushing my teeth all so cheerfully!I probably will never meet them again.. but they surely touched me! I was thinking of my grandmother during this time.. and how weneed to be patient with th older folks who can not do their work!

the doctor would pinch me and ask me what am i doing? it did not matter whether they touched or pinched - it just felt like someone using a blade and cutting my leg linearly.. it was burning! is there a lesson there?? yes! i was happy being cut with a blade! the burning sensation told me "i was feeling something.. even it it is not accurate- i could not calibrate the type of touch yet ... but i would take being burnt - rather than zero sensation!"- we are always grateful when we see something worse! On any other day i would have cried in pain if someone cut my leg with a blade!- but today was different.. i was welcoming the pain... i knew.. soon i will know the difference between a gentle touch ,a pinch and a real cut! for now - i will take this!

From there... with efforts at the rehab center.. i am almost back to my normalcy .. i could type such a long blog post! I  have now pushed the envelope further! - Guess what ? i am turning left handed by end of 2012 ! i am going to challenge my right brain to the next levels! - i ate ONLY with left hand now. holding the spoon .. use left hand to  carry things around etc!

being able to type this large a blog also means my typing  and multitasking skills are almost back! :) i do not want to spill cofffe again on another laptop because of my left hand forgetting it had a cup in it! :)

i just need to get my balancing skills right.. am not able to walk in a perfect straight line yet!- i will master that by end of this month! need to get my sensory skill also to 100% levels.i am already able to feel different textures with my hand and leg.. so should not be a challenge i reckon!

i can not single out one factor for my 'fastest recoveries from strokes - both heart and brain. but it appears to be a combination of the following -
a) timely access to competent doctors and modern facilities
b) grace of God- " I know God LOVES ME- howeever indifferent i might be to Him at times!"
c) love - from parents, family and friends!- biggest driver was their composure and faith in my ability to turn the tables around!
d) Guruji/Neela and my own japa- these factors probably  should not be ruled out - even if they do not fall under 'conventional' science window
e) presence of mind and positivity and willingness to fight back! and my love for life.. i was not a perfect guy.. but i will not change even a single moment even if you give me a second chance! i have relished every happy moment and learnt from every shock and disappointment... kept correcting myself.. and that is such a huge pride factor for me.

i refused to accept certain things..-  medical literature sometimes fancifully calls this "denial mode"..- i could jog with in 3 days i was out of the hospital after my heart stroke 6 years ago- and playfully driblled a football within 4 days of a brain stroke with my left foot ! explain that if you can with conventional wisdom!
 I do not intend to suggest that one should refute science baselessly.... have the prudence to know when to refute it.. and when to exploit science.

i am a man of science... but sometimes there are larger schemes in life which can not be comprehended by science the way we understand it! as a faithful scientist ( i fancifully call my self one!) - one should be OPEN to everything... science to me is beyond what it conventionally means to most people!

Hence i will not attempt to answer this phenomena by slotting in science and non-science buckets...
talk of  slotting - its an other dangerous ploy of human mind to slot everything into one of the known buckets!

a lot of people  (including a few doctors) try to slot me into one ofthe following categories to explain the strokes...
a) alchohol? - no sir! i drink even coffee ocassionally! leave alone alcohol!
b) smoker? - nope!
c) stresss?-  is what you allow it to be.. most people think  entrepreneurs have sstress... but for me .. i LOVE what i do.. i am passionate about my work! nothing else relaxes me more than what i do... it is like art and music tto me!
d) lifestyle? - excuse me.. i went to gym for 8 years with out a break!i used to play 8 hours a day!lets meet next week - and i can run longer distance than you! in fact last month i could do 45 minutes of sprinting!

no slotting please! doesnt work everywhere.. its a great tool to simplify daily activities in life and i use it too.. but we should know it always does not work!

final words to conclude.. i see no stigma in stating that i survived two strokes... in fact am proud of it... and i will share my story with anyone if it helps them cope with similar incidents in life...and if it helps medical fraternity understand factors that improve recovery chances.

remember just one thing... God loves you! not sure about you! ;-)
But God surely loves me...i know he has given these two hurdles - wait ....are they really hurdles??? depends on how you look at it.. i am glad That He has also given me the intelligence to learn from these lessons and move on in life! He protected me both times.. i could fight them easier with better recovery precisely because i am young to fight them! so over all ... no qualms about what happened 'at a young age'!

let me be humble enough to state one more secret? any idiot can show strength in times of trouble.. that is pure evolutionary mechanism built into us to for survival! But i am setting myself a new standard today... can i live with this heightened awareness of life under normal circumstances... every minute of normal life... i am going to try to set high standards for me for every living minute from today! .. at least i have a support system that can make it happen for me! i would be a fool if i still dont see how beautifully all this is set up for my own good.. God has His special plans for me... I will unravel them with time...

i want to be discharged from the hospital soon and be home for my 8th wedding anniversary with my parents, lovely wife and beautiful kids! and yes get back to work!