Thoughts on American healthcare

For lunch on November the 20th, I was trying to struggling with a can of refried beans. This was one of those difficult cans without a pull tab, and we had no openers at home. The frustration led to a moment of madness where I just decided to stab the can top with a large meat knife. Pop-pop-pop and stab! Yup, I looked down to find I had stabbed the webbing of my left hand. Only a moment later there was blood oozing out left and right. Perturbed by all the blood, I decided to stop everything else and run to the Northeastern student health center.

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Before we begin here, its important to share that this was my first experience with any American medical facility. Now healthcare is not too bad back home in India either. In a similar situation in an Indian college, I would have gone to a dispensary, possibly gotten roughed up by a couple of nurses and “compounders” over the unavailability of the correct doctor, but eventually stitched up with a pair of sterilized scissors and new tapes.

With the insurance card in my pocket, I entered the health center. First impressions – it was nothing like any dispensaries back home. There were four booths and students in small queues in front of those. I went up to one of them when it was my turn. The lady at the booth asked for my college ID, and pulled up my record. They already knew I had had a tetanus within the last year (yeah I keep doing these things). She pulled up a number from my insurance card, gave me an appointment number and asked me to wait in the spacious waiting area. She added I could use one of the self check-in terminals (placed on the sides of this first room) next time.

I had barely waited for 5 minutes when a nurse came out of the clinic door looking for me. I followed her in an entered one of the rooms. She asked me to place all the stuff in my pockets on a table, and stand on a weighing scale. To me, this was frivolous. Why would anyone take my weight for fixing a knife cut? It only got weirder when she next placed a blood pressure clip on my finger and took my temperature! Seriously, what was going on? In fact at this point, I went ahead and insisted once again that I was only here to get a cut fixed, pointing at my broken webbing. She replied she knew, but wants to go through procedure to see if anything else was wrong. She left once she had taken my vitals and asked me to wait for the doctor.

Next up – the doctor. She was probably no older than 30 and beautiful, I must confess. My next interrogation began with a series of questions about the injury, followed by my history of bruises, allergies and reactions. She looked at the wound for a bit and decided that we would need a couple of stitches. Next, she pulled out a square box case – about 6 inches side – broke open a seal,  pulled out a syringe and a small bottle of numbing anesthesia and began with the, by now seemingly mandatory, disclosure about anesthesia and its effects. I declared I was okay with all that and just wanted to get the procedure done with. She cleaned the wound, numbed the wound and pulled out a brand new pair of surgical scissors and cut a small piece of the surgical thread for stitches. Diligently, she applied two stitches and rubbed a small gash of disinfectant on the now closed tear.

While all the care by this moment had been overwhelming enough for me to actually bring up the differences with the Indian procedures, what happened next flummoxed me completely! She trashed the entire kit with at least 15 other medical supplies such as unopened packs of tapes, bandages, scissors, ointments, etc in it. Unbelievable! Totally new, those could have been used by another patient bringing healthcare costs of the system down, or even sent for medical relief to another country. Additionally, it would have saved all that extra medical waste to be dumped. Anyway, albeit stupefied, I thanked her, fixed the followup appointment on her computer and asked if I had to pay anything. To my surprise, the expenses (apart from the care, wonder what that kit had cost) were covered by my insurance. So I left the health center, fixed up and not a penny lighter.

Since then, while I commended the excellent care received, I’ve asked my friends about the wasteful medical policy of dumping the entire supplies kit. Matter-of-factly, they replied it was routine procedure and pointed that the kit “wasted” in my little procedure was nothing compared to the ones thrown away during complex orthopedic or internal surgeries. The inefficiency it seems, is because of the supplier-hospital contracts in this capitalist economy which stipulate the hospital to use an tool kit only once after its seal has been broken! An unbelievable and inhuman requirement at so many levels, only in place to maximize supplier profits. Hospitals don’t care because in the end its the doctors who receive royalties for the products developed.

So while America contemplates the pros and cons of Obamacare, deep rooted capitalism kicks humanity hard.

 

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Says Yoda, he does – With you, the force shall be

Bring to you news, I do tonight. Not any exciting news, that is. About my tiring day, this news is. Just getting better from a flu, I was, when as usual, to office, I had to venture. Decided for a team lunch today, my boss had. Traditional, the food at this restaurant called ‘The Village’ was.

Back to the office it was then, an hour later. Free lunch in the tummy, loaded with work I was. Won’t let me keep my eyes open, the food inside of me; but on my head all the time, the boss was. Slogging for hours, then I was, when eventually finished the all that work was. Looked up and 10 on the clock it was. Skipped the dinner was. Tonight, the lunch it shall be, happy that keeps the tummy.

Finally, home I was. Had decided to study, I had; but taken its toll, the day had. On the tele, played football they did; and rather gave up studying to watch I did. Time to write the blog it was then, when Master Yoda, came to me he did. Said to me he did – Enjoy life shall you, you geezer. Share my message, you will. With you, the force shall be then.

Not bash me for this post, you shall. Came out of a tired mind, it did. Make more sense, I shall tomorrow.

Looking beyond the AIEEE

Tonight I share an article where my father expresses his views on a situation many Indian parents end up facing  –
9th June, 2012 11:44pm
 
I was half sleep when a text message woke me up. It read – ‘AIEEE 4111′. It was from one of my ex-colleagues whose son was aspiring for an admission to one of the top engineering institutes in the country. The rank, 4111, was a really excellent one  in the AIEEE exam, considering especially that more than a million candidates appeared for the exam in May. In fact, what makes this rank even more remarkable is the fact that the first 3000 – 3500 students may not even join any of the institutes available through the exam as they would be most probably be joining one of the IITs or dropping an year to improve their JEE ranks the next year.
 
The message made me wonder about 2 other students, whose parents I knew.  I informed them immediately that the AIEEE results were out. On calling them the next day, I found out that one of them had secured a rank of 45,000 while other had ranked around 2,35,000. Creditable as they were, such is the cut-throat level of competition for the limited number of seats, that they would normally not be enough to make it to one of the  nationally reputed top engineering colleges.
 
The first question that came to my mind was – What should be the next step for these two students ? What if one of them was my own son or daughter? Would I consider this a failure on my child’s part? Sadly, in India, most parents do. What they need to realize is that this is definitely not the end of the road; but rather a great chance to explore other exciting education and career opportunities. We have, over the years ended up building a regime of expectations from our children, where the two most direct routes are –
 
Engineer -> MBA
 or
Doctor
 
In my view, only if a student is really interested in the various engineering courses offered, has appeared for other entrance exams like the BITSAT or State entrance exams and scored well, should he/she opt for pursuing the engineering route. To me, it makes no sense what so ever, in both settling for a mediocre institute or in bluntly keeping on banging for an engineering birth by dropping an year (and possibly more). I would rather sit with my son; discuss our options; take a hard, long look at his interests; and pursue a field that would play to his confidence.
 
I would not really go into great detail, but here are some of the opportunities (assuming a science background in the +2 years of school) you might want to explore if you find yourself in a similar situation –
 
-A direct officer level entry to the Indian Navy (Logistics Branch) or a Marine engineering degree through the navy or otherwise.
-Look for an esteemed career with the Indian Army beginning at the NDA
-If you have a penchant to sketching or design, try for an admission to one of the top architecture or fashion design institutes.
-Take up an under-graduate course in Hotel Management or Business.
-Take up a course in sciences if your child has a dream for it. Remember, there are always excellent opportunities available in R&D, especially in bio-sciences, pharmaceuticals, space, etc.
-There are several courses very similar in structure and opportunities to engineering like BSc (IT), BSc (Computer Sciences). One could always pursue them even whilst preparing for another attempt at the engineering exams, instead of entirely wasting an year.
The list is of course long, and great success always follows wherever passion and hard-work are. I can only advise and eventual success depends upon the individual’s drive. In the end, it is of utmost importance to understand the psyche of each individual student and providing the right counsel.
– Sudhir Kumar Pant
With over 30 years of experience in IT & Telecommunication, Sudhir is one of the founder members of the safalmantra initiative and the prime visionary behind the idea. Over the years, his counsel and initiative has been helpful to many young students looking for the best career option.

Captain Planet

Captain Planet, He’s our hero; Gonna take pollution down to zero

 Watching Captain Planet team up with the Planeteers, fight against the perpetrators of environment crimes, is one of my most cherished childhood memories. Sadly, as it later dawned, Captain Planet existed only in the cartoons.

Now I’m not claiming to be an environmentalist here. In fact my habits would show I’m quite far from being one. But why I refer to this iconic planet-protecting superhero of my childhood this World Environment Day because he had a simple message for all of us – “When our powers combine, we can save the planet.” It is with this spirit that I can look into myself and realize I can make a difference.

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Saving the planet should not necessarily have to be about fighting pollution crimes. It begins with me – I can start with the basics, for eg. by using the air-conditioning judiciously; by applying proper waste disposal by using the correct bins for plastics and organics; by not letting the water run incessantly in the washroom. Its little things like these that will help bring about a larger change. We may not realize it yet, but the biggest challenges that lie ahead of us ( and in very near future ) are going to be those of sustainment and replenishing energy. Is it so difficult ?

It might be very little, but I convinced my flat-mates to keep the air-conditioning off tonight. In fact, its been a wonderful wind circulating through the house all evening.

Lets do our bit – Reduce, Replenish, Recycle. The power is yours.

(Picture courtsey Benprice )

Crazy day ( & a Hazard )

Right now, at this moment my head is mixed with confusion, panic, jubilation & surprise. This day was certainly one that began all too well. Work was largely smooth & excitement brewed up constantly on twitter as Eden Hazard’s next destination seemed more & more likely to be Chelsea. Surprisingly, I was almost free from work at around 7.30 in the evening; when ..well, everything got screwed up, or rather someone screwed everything up. I choose not to share publicly how my professional life goes, & so I shall stay mute.

The confusion brings back memories ( and not so happy ones) of a not too distant past, and it really craps all over my mood. The evening, as a result has largely been an anxious one. To these thoughts, I remind – Every morning is a new opportunity. I hope to sleep over the confusion & have a fresh start tomorrow.

As for Eden Hazard, well, you already see a certain CR7 in him, don’t you ? Arrogant, attention-seeking, naturally gifted & world-class ! After, rounds & rounds of sly promises/interviews/tweets & what not over his next destination, this is what he came up with sometime back –

” I’m signing for the champion’s league winner. “

The media has already declared this means he’s joining us, but with the kind of day it has been, & remembering how fickle ( never-mind attention-hogging ) Hazard can be, I fully expect him to join any of Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool, Aston Villa, or even Nottingham Forest ! He has confirmed in the past, that he’ll be joining an English club, limits that list down to 5 past Champion’s League winners. Man City, Arsenal & Tottenham (when was he ever even thinking of them ? ) surely miss out on the Hazard boat then ( unless he meant I’m joining the champions, league winner ! )

I wish you & you a good night. And some good for self.

The times, they’re always changing

I posted on twitter (tweeted) for the 5000th time today. I usually keep this practice of dedicating my landmark tweets (generally the thousands)
to something or the other. It may be something close to my heart, a topic that I might have been discussing a lot on the website; it could be
about people, things or events that inspired me, or phenomena that amaze me.

Today, I’d been on the bus back home from Pune, posting about the journey as I realized I was approaching the landmark. I had to stop, think and pay a fitting tribute to the “occassion”. And, just as I was tapping the keypad on my phone contemplating, it struck me. I came up with a series of 3 tweets which read –

“T-5000 To technology.Back in ’99,I remember my first windows PC & modem internet connection.Those modems were huge & beeping all the time..”

“Internet was confusion,yet exciting.Today I’m posting on a social networking website (an idea beyond the wildest imaginations back then)..”

“for the 5000th time from my phone ! The times, they are always changing #challengeeverything “

We keep talking of a massive paradigm shift coming up sometime in the near future, but aren’t we part of one all the time ? Ideas, once inconceivable, are today’s everyday reality. I mean, for eg., very few, if anyone, would have imagined it to be possible one day that 2 people thousands of miles apart could watch eachother walk and talk in real time – Stuff of Star Wars ! But, the webcam and video calling are so common-place today, we never stop to marvel this achievement. Magic turns into reality every second !

Who’s to tell us what is not possible tomorrow ? I imagine a world where my mom would cook me dinner in Mumbai & I’ll be able to have it in Delhi. A future where “real” physical objects could be transmitted/replicated over extremely advanced intelligent networks, the 10Gs & 11Gs who knows, in real time ! In fact, I’d go so far as prophesying that this future turns to reality within my lifetime. There are crazy possibilities awaiting us. Imagine. Challenge Everything.

Follow me on twitter @kartriter

Why don’t you smoke?

I’ve come across this question quite a few times, and frankly, the reason is, its purely out of choice. In return, I always come up with, “Why do you smoke ?” And generally, nobody has a clue, as they give me a puzzled, all confident smile.

The reason I’m jumping my ass into this ever controversial tobacco battle tonight is something I witnessed about an hour back. I was inside this grocery store, buying some random stuff, and amongst the small crowd, there was this really cute little girl not more than 6 or 7, buying herself an ice cream. Seemingly her parents had sent her to the shop, just outside the apartments’ gates, to pick her favorite ice cream. I was looking through the rack for the stuff I had come for, while noticing how cute the entire thing seemed as she kept contemplating between the flavors. Just as she finally decided on the dessert she wanted, she went to the counter, and muttered, ” I want this ice cream, and 2 cigarettes “. I was aghast, shocked with complete disbelief. What did this little ice cream girl have to do with cigarettes? The shopkeeper, almost matter-of -factly, handed her the 2 smokes, and she happily exited out.  Just as she was leaving, I asked her, almost calling out, “Aapko cigarette kyu chahiye ?” (Why do you want these cigarettes? ), and in unison with the shopkeeper, she replied, her dad wanted them ! It was just plain, disgusting parenting, and I didn’t know what this kids parents were upto.

But, what happened tonight is obviously not the reason I don’t take to smoking, the reason I don’t is that I have a choice. I have the choice to avoid one of the ways to fall to something as fatal as cancer; I have a choice to keep my lungs clean, be able to maintain good stamina, to keep healthy, and to not slowly, voluntarily kill myself. I have seen and read about innocent people, little kids who’ve had to face life-threatening, and often fatal diseases, for no real faults of their own. Kids, who were born to HIV; people who faced cancer just out of sheer bad luck, whose bodies were messed up from the inside, and they didn’t have a clue about where it came from. I know, just as much as anyone that I could face it tomorrow. But I have this choice today, right now, in this moment, to make it less probable. I have a choice to a healthy life, and I know I’m not the cleanest one around, nor for a moment am I implying, that I don’t have habits that I don’t regret, but this is something, that never caught up to me, and so I plan to keep it that way.

As for that little girl, I really can’t come up with words to express how pathetic I feel about her parents. Your parents are the ones you look up to, especially, more so as kids. They are your role models, the ones you brag about, the ones you protect, the ones you defend, the one who defend you, but parents like hers, are shameless, and to say the least, not worthy for any child to look up to. I am just a young guy myself, but that right there, is something I would never be proud of, as and whenever I become a parent. And, to think that her father send her out at 10 in the night, to buy cigarettes, with the lure of an ice cream, just disgusts me to the core. Think about it, I don’t imply you were to ever do this, but unless you were to quit, you’d never know when it drove you to this !

The Enlightenment

Have you ever had this moment, this moment where you’re left dumbstruck, with retrospection, forced to look into yourself, everything you’ve been through, and where you’ve reached? And yet, at that moment you’re a lot more wiser, maybe not so much in actions, but in understanding the reasons, and you know a lot more, so much more.

Two weeks back, I had come home during the weekend, and I was waiting for the elevator, beneath my building. As I stood there, in the monotony of my pathetic little life, three kids came jumping around, discussing something. On listening in, I found out they were discussing their Beyblades ( or Tazzos ) or something. And they were really animated about it, passionate as they could be. Soon after, came in another couple of kids, and this one kid from the latter group started jeering about some particular beyblade he had acquired. All the kids were seemingly awestruck by this new acquisition, when the bully from the original group started shouting, that his beyblade was much cooler than this new one, trying to bring the attention back to himself. A fight ensued with heated shouting, lots of snatching and shoving, and one kid almost coming down to tears. And all this while, I just stood there, shocked, as the elevator door opened and closed on me.

I  stood there because I was dumbstruck, lost for words seeing how passionate these kids were for these little things, while I had become so estranged with the simplicity of life. I was shocked to see how much they could fight over a beyblade, while I had to cope with thousands of frustrations at work, with relationships, betrayals, infatuations, insecurities, expectations, addictions, and the myriad mixtures of the anxieties, moments, the depressions, moments, and the solace-seeking indulgences I had learned to live within. I could see myself, right there, in those kids, in my school days, fighting over Pokemon Tazzos, or Wrestling Cards, or just the simplest things of life. To quote Johnny Cash, “What have I become, my sweetest friend?” Why was life such a struggle now, when it was so simple and happy once? At that precise moment, I could see everything flash right in front of my eyes, and I so desperately wished that those boys never reach here. Their happiness was so real, so pure, unlike my much maligned, broken and superficial laughter.

Haven’t things just become so complicated, that its almost incomprehensible to imagine such naivety ? And, if at that moment, I could just get one wish granted, the wish of my life probably, it would’ve been – take this away god, Give me that back !

And there lied my Nirvana, and that was my Enlightenment.

Tattoos: Getting the first

Check out tattoo parlours. Look for these primariy:

1. Clean Environs

2. Experienced/Skilled Artists

3. Safety Measures

4. Appropriate per sq inch rates.

Believe me, it doesn’t hurt much, gives you only a slight scratchy/irritating feeling, and the only reason you begin to call it pain is because getting the whole thing done takes anything between 1 hour to several sittings. Although I must add that every individual has different pain withstanding capabilities. Mine took about 4 hours. Get your design done/ or choose 1 and give the artists a day or two to work on it.

Make your tattoo mean something to you, because its something you’ll carry on yourself as long as you live. Don’t fear the pain, get the ink done.

Kart’s Spring Summer Collection 2009

The best i’ve come across this year:

1. TV Show, UK- Skins

2. Song (+ lyrics ), Blue October – Hate Me

3.Movie, UK – Trainspotting

3. Movie, Indian – Dev D

5. Movie,Indian – Luck By Chance

6. Movie,USA – The Wrestler

6. Movie ( Series ), USA – Kill Bill

8. Movie ( Series ),USA – Star Wars

9. Movie ( Series ), USA – X-Men

10. TV Show, USA – Californication