The call that saved my life


January 26th has a historical significance in Indian Independence chapter. It was the day that India was declared as a republic when the Constitution of India came into effect in 1950, one year after adopted by Indian assembly in 1949, November 26th. It was one of three national Holidays in India.

26th January 2014 finds a providential place in my life too! A severe heart-attack hit me with all its deadly force. There are the days when I’m drifting through hard times. Five months back, one day my wife on complaining a mild breathing difficulty which revealed, on examination, all of a sudden, a heart problem was ticking in her. Twelve hours later she underwent a coronary angioplasty.

As said miseries come in a series, days seem to turn unfair and oppressive; legal issues, financial troubles, conflicts with siblings, impoundment threats by bankers; all snowballing into a pile of stressful load on my chest. At one point I felt that I can’t take it beyond the tolerable limit, finding all my emotional energies at an irritating low. I know that my wife stands by me at every turn of tough events: at this point, she, with her failing health, was as helpless as I’m clueless as to how I would find a workable end to these worries. It’s plainly evident to me how these matters seem encroaching my normal health and mental grip.

My daughter married six years ago settled in the US, we had kept her out of these menacing episodes. But my son who just turned twenty-eight, well-educated and mildly mannered was looking after one of our schools. He, however, seemed silently following the unfolding of unpleasant prospects encircling the family-owned educational enterprise.

It was early morning of 25th January 2014; I have reached Hyderabad to attend some business meetings. The day was pleasant but the morning traffic looked as usual chaotic, and frightening. Sometime of the day, late afternoon after lunch I’m heading in a cab to a place deep in the city for a meeting. It started as a mild discomfort in the chest, and I noticed a wave of pain like flowing down my right hand and persisted for next couple of hours. On the way back, I toyed with checking at a hospital where one of my childhood friend and schoolmate, Padma, is working but I didn’t pursue that option. And therefore, how much trauma and grief my brief carelessness would cost me I would later realize. It almost could have endangered my life and thus my family.

The lingering shoulder pain, I remember having been told, is the first hint of an imminent heart-related problem. But I wasn’t sure because, for my style of living, it is very unlikely. I’m a non-alcoholic, non-smoking, almost vegetarian kind of personality. But the overriding doubt in my mind went on an overcautious mode and compelled me to take a late evening appointment with a cardiologist at a hospital close to the place I stay in Hyderabad.

I haven’t yet informed about my dilemma to my son who was waiting for me in our apartment. Or to my wife, who I believed, on hearing, would get overly tensed, as she very well knows the size of stress I’m loaded with.

The doctor, who is a cardiologist at the nearby hospital, just a fifteen-minute drive from the place I stay, has done his preliminary tests and a routine ECG but casually instructed me to take additional tests the next day. He appeared not so alert when I’m relating my discomfort or neither added any precautionary advice upon screening me. He sounded as if my symptoms did not add up to any forthcoming offensive! His prognosis was misleadingly wrong that I would get to know twenty-four hours later.

Next day the 26th January happened to be a Sunday, and the country was celebrating Republic day ceremonies all over. I’m supposed to visit the hospital for further tests, but I selected to get it done in my place where I thought I would be more comfortable. The day proceeded uneventfully allowing me some rest and a few hours of reading. I informed my wife about my next day’s travel plans, and as my son is along with me, she made no further inquiries. The previous day’s discomfort didn’t shove its presence down my arm, and I have settled in my usual “books and computer’ way of spending a holiday.

I was flinging around on the bed, and my son on the other side was readying himself, to sleep. Doors open allowing cool breeze gently lulling me to sleep; it was around ten thirty almost deep dark outside; then it struck me, like huge floodgates of pain left open in my chest, and it suddenly spread down my entire arm and next thing I found myself profusely sweating. I gave a quick instruction to my son, “take me to the hospital” and I frenziedly dashed towards the lift and down to my car.

No sooner the car parked in front of the hospital, I just bang opened the door and almost raced into the emergency room, my son followed me, luckily, the same room I was examined the previous day. Unable to carry myself with pain and profusely sweating, I have managed to inform the confusedly staring nurses and in-charge-doctor, my hand on my chest “it’s something unbearable.”

I don’t know for sure that my son has sensed the severity of my convulsions. But at one moment I had a faint suspicion, “that I can’t make it, the pain, slowly squeezing the life out of me” the stabbing spasms were hitting with all its force, my bodily responses starting to fail, and breathing became difficult. I saw my son making frantic calls from my cell-phone to doctors at my place and a few of my relatives. A twenty-eight-year-old, he was too stunned to make out what is happening to his dad.

As I lay palpitating, wriggling on a narrow bed in the emergency room, wondering, would I be able to see the next daylights? Exhausted, too weak to endure the thrust of spasms, and seeing my son helplessly dazed to take any decision; I signaled him to get my mobile, and with my damp, shivering fingers located one contact under name “Kosaraju’ pressed the dial- button and gave it to him.

I’m becoming slowly aware that I’m slipping into an unconscious state, and could feel little droplets of tears forming in one corner of my eyes.

As luck would have it; I didn’t know then, that miraculous subconscious instinctive judgment; that split second, sixth sense gut feeling to call my childhood friend and schoolmate Padma would save my life. Kosaraju, was her family name as it is on my phone contact list. Strangely, my son never met her and had no inkling who she is. But he made the phone call, and on that near fateful night, her ‘in a flash’ springing into action, discretion and foresight saved my life.

Padma was a class topper in our school in Vijayawada back in the late seventies. Nirmala High School, where we had studied together was one of the best elite schools. Recalling, I can boastfully attest it as the best turf for a wholesome education. Besides, it had played a rewarding and evolutionary role in binding us as a close-knit bunch of friends ever since. From then onwards we have become a part of each other families. She is bubbly, bold, and has a very decisive approach handling any situation. And is a knowledgeable and active participant in all our batch reunions. I always benefited by literary rapport of hers.

Fifteen minutes later, as she received the phone call, she arrived at the hospital along with her husband. The moment she entered, taking in the scene looking at me; heavily breathing, profusely sweating she quickly assessed a severe heart attack situation is in progress. After consulting the doctors present and calling over doctors in the hospital where she is a consultant, it became clear to her that I cannot be moved to any better facility.

Except my son, now a helpless bystander, finding no one other than him, it became evident to her that unless she takes a quick decision, for which the doctors are waiting; not knowing who is responsible for any further action, and my life is in grave danger as minutes are dangerously ticking.

The weirdest issue at the moment in the hospital was that to take me to the operation theatre and start the required angioplasty procedure; they are waiting for an advance payment of nearly two lakhs. The time was then around midnight. I’m deliriously unaware of anything around but desperately waiting when my discomfort would subside. My son was now frantically making calls to my wife and my relatives some 300 kms. away.

The kindest and luckiest part in my survival episode was the gesture: Padma and her husband Raju immediately swiped in two lakhs, and then I was rushed to the operation theatre where a stent was inserted, and the procedure lasted for about an hour. All through, I recall Padma holding my hand assuring me that I’ll be alright, and later waiting outside the operation room watching me on the monitor as the angioplasty procedure was in progress. I have finally come out and shifted to ICU for a day. After six hours battling a near-death experience I found myself alive and breathing and free from pain.

Three years have passed since that unforgettable fateful event. I seldom forget the day and the string of events. Thoughtfully and gratefully I preserve a permanently etched gratitude to the wonderful couple Padma and Raju who literally and covering all graceful tenets of good friendship, had helped me to pull out from a near-death situation. Two good souls there for me at the right moment, having true spontaneity, with the right emotions, admiringly defined the right lines that signify being there for a childhood buddy. My brief rendezvous with death: 26th January 2014.