I met an middle aged lady today. She had come to hospital for uncontrolled blood sugar, ulcer on the foot and vomiting for a few weeks. She had been brought by her daughter. Before coming to Chennai, she had gone to a big hospital in another city, but apparently they couldn’t fix her problem. The woman was a widow and was living alone. Both her daughters were married.
Her kidney function was precarious and her liver wasn’t in good shape either. The creatinine and liver enzymes were high. It can happen with diabetes or with infection from foot spreading to the blood stream, a potentially fatal condition.
It wasn’t the medical issue that caught my attention though. Something about the daughter’s demeanour was off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it — but it’s one of those times when your instincts scream an incessant alarm.
On probing, we came to know that the lady was an alcoholic ! She had been drinking for the last 5 years — doing odd jobs to support her habit. Once in a while when the sisters visit her, she would be off drinks for a few days, only to seek solace in a bottle, again. Now, the problem was the daughter was in a delicate position — if her husband came to know of the situation, things can get ugly. After all, no son-in-law would agree to support an alcoholic MIL and pay for her deaddiction. In fact, there’s a faint chance that the daughter’s own future might be imperilled.
The two sisters successfully hid the information for years, while trying to fix it themselves in whatever way they could. The illness had simply blown their cover to pieces. Whisky on the rocks, eventually put her life on the rocks. In a last ditch attempt, they hid the alcohol history in the previous hospital — but then you can’t wish an illness away.
Contrary to their expectations, the son in law, took the information in his stride. It was anti-climactic. May be it was an instinct for self preservation. May be it was embarassment. I will never know which dominated her daughter’s thoughts.
She had ran away from light, fearing shadows. I remembered Thanos’ immortal words — “Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives, all the same”.
I wrote some insulin and moved to the next patient, fearing deep down that the liquid I wrote was no match for the liquid she preferred.