My Experiences WIth Medical Care In India

I’ve been to India so many times I was bound to need some medical care while there. I have found the medical care to be quite good and inexpensive, but there are some differences from the US.

My worst accident occurred on my 2nd day of a month-long trip. The airlines misplaced my luggage and I had gone shopping for some essentials to tide me over. I was on a city bus with 2 bags in each hand. The bus stopped and I moved to the spiral type stairs to descend from the bus. I was not holding the handrail because of the shopping. The crowd behind me surged and I was basically shoved out onto the Amritsar street. My hands landed, thank God, protecting my face and head from injury, but my arms were separated from my hands, totally crushing both wrists. Immediately my hands began to swell. In just a short time they resembled boxing gloves!

I made my way back to my friend’s house, my bags hanging on my elbows. I could not take care of myself. I couldn’t comb my hair, dress, brush my teeth, or go to the bathroom. My friend’s young sister was given responsibility for me. She slept in my bed and would get up with me if I had to go to the bathroom. She dressed, fed, and cared for me for a couple of days until the swelling began to go down, then we finally decided to go see a doctor.

First we needed x rays, so we stopped by a radiologist’s office and asked him to take pictures of both wrists. The x rays were not ordered by the doctor. We just walked in and got them taken. The equipment they used was probably used equipment from the West. It was old but it did the job and the cost was minimal, under $10. Then we went to see the Orthopaedic doctor. He took one look at the x rays and said he had never seen wrists more crushed than mine and recommended that I extend my trip and hire someone to care for me. He wanted to put plaster casts on BOTH arms! I had to meet one of my young spina bifida patients later in the trip and had also planned to travel to some areas I had not seen. I asked for an alternative. “There is no alternative I would recommend,” the doctor said. I told him I would have to rely on Velcro braces for each arm, which could be removed when I needed to care for myself. He reluctantly fitted me with two braces. He said, “I feel so sorry that you have come all this way to do something for India and you have wound up in this condition.” “There will be no charge for your pain med, the braces, or this visit.”

My decision not to have the plasters was not a good one, but something I had to do to get me through the trip. My friends were wonderful. My friends in Delhi and Khajuraho seemed not to mind feeding and caring for me. People have asked me how I managed not to cut the trip short and it’s due in most part to the spa like treatment I received from my friends. I love them so much!

I am right-handed and I guess I may have used my right hand a bit too much and it didn’t heal right. I wound up having to have surgery on that arm when I returned. Lesson learned: Always hold the rail when getting off of a bus.

On another trip I was running down a marble staircase to show off some new Indian suits I had just picked up from the tailor. I slipped on my dupatta (the scarf that accompanies the outfit) and fell backwards. Again it was my fault. I failed to turn the light on the stairs and was running in the dark. Luckily I didn’t hit my head on those hard stairs, but I did hit my right shoulder causing a hairline crack in my rotator cuff. It was a very painful injury. I was rushed to a small doctor’s clinic and x rays were taken. My arm was put in a sling and a doctor was assigned to take care of me. Dr. Singh came to my residence every day to check on me. He was diligent and kind and monitored my pain level and range of movement. I was very satisfied with the oil I was given to massage into my shoulder and his attentive medical care, but strangely he never physically examined my shoulder. He seemed frightened to touch me! Lesson learned: Always turn on lights and never run on the stairs!

On another visit I was off the sidewalk in an area that was rough. I tried to step up onto a wall and my clog fell off, causing me to fall and hit my knee on the marble walkway. This was again my fault. I knew I had a sore knee but I didn’t realize it was swelling so badly. I got back to my hotel and discovered I had a huge knee and had to have water removed from my knee. The care I got was good and painless. Lesson learned: Stay on proper pathways!
Note:  Even proper sidewalks have a lot of potential hazards. Always look down when you are walking to avoid any broken sidewalks, potholes, etc.

I’ve had Delhi belly a few times but I now know what pill I need for that and normally go straight to a pharmacy when I arrive and get a handful of them. I never needed a prescription for that and I don’t even know the name of the medicine, but I know what it looks like. I ask for the long yellow pill for diarrhea and they know what I am looking for.

One of the worst cases of this was in Jaipur. I was on the back of a friend’s motorbike and we were heading to one of the forts surrounding the city for a picnic with a group of others. We passed a man on the side of the road that was frying chicken and it smelled really good, so we decided to take some to the picnic. Everyone that ate it got sick within a few minutes. We were on top of a mountain and all on motorbikes. We couldn’t get home fast enough. Hahaha Lesson learned: Never buy meat on the street that hasn’t been refrigerated.

Another time I seemed to have a urinary infection on the day before I was scheduled to take the 23 hour trip home. I called the doctor on a Friday and he kept the office open, and the lab staff there, until my urine was tested. Sure enough I had an infection, which I am prone to. I was given the proper medicine and one pill cured me. Total cost for this was $50. Not bad for an after hours visit, lab work, and medicine.
Overall I’ve been quite satisfied with the care I’ve received in India.

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