During the last couple of weeks, I suffered an insult and an injury. The injury came first.
I have been suffering from horrid back and abdominal cramps since Kavita was born. The first time I got them, I was in agony and, couldn't find any respite sitting or lying down. The pain was in my back and in my tummy. I closed myself in the bedroom and paced up and down. Haresh came in to check on me. I think I yelled at him and told him to go away. Sorry, those cramps made me really angry. It went on for a good hour or so until I threw up. I thought it was a nasty case of food poisoning although no one else in the house got it.
The next time I got it was after a very decadent meal at one of my favourite restaurants in the world: Lagon 2 in Dakar. This was last year in August. Haresh, Kavita and I were in town for a holiday and, in fact we stayed at the same hotel, too. The cramps started late at night and, went on for even longer until I displaced the decadent meal in the bathroom that looked like it was onboard a cruise ship.
These episodes occurred a few more times and, no one besides me seemed to be getting food poisoned.
I googled the symptoms and, it seemed I had some kind of stones lodged inside my body which were making all this trouble. My heart of course sank when I read this and, the freaked out part of my brain tried to deny it.
How could I have stones? I have never been sick in my life. Sure, I do have a sweet tooth, like to eat junk food when worried or depressed, and love my burgers and fries but I have never been sick.
I met with our family doctor in Monrovia who told me to get an ultra sound. Did I get it? Nope.
I got an attack when I first got here and, told my mother I think I have stones. She booked an appointment at an ultra sound clinic. I drank litres, in fact a sea, of water. We promptly arrived at the goddamn clinic (you'll see why I use this epithet) but whaddya know? There was a mismanaged queue. I patiently waited for a good 20 minutes and drank even more water like a good patient. Kavita was running around, busy in her explorations. I kept going up to the receptionist to ask when next? She said, 'But is your bladder full?' I said yes, but I can drink more water to be sure. I kept on hydrating myself. Another 30 minutes passed. There was no sign of my turn coming up. I went up to the reception and told her my freaking bladder was full and when was I going to go in. She tells me to relieve myself but only a little. I looked at her. I was already bursting and she told me to pee. "But just a little." I looked about wildly, trying to cross my legs but also had to hobble after Kavita. I waited some more. All the time, my mother was giving me death stares since I was embarrassing her. I would look at all the certificates on the crummy wall of that goddamn clinic and ask my mother, "See this certificate? Fraud." My mother was getting madder by the minute and my bladder was near bursting! I angrily asked the lady besides me what was going on. She had been there a half hour before me and, her turn had not even come up. I lost it. I marched to the one dirty bathroom they had and, took a big pee. I stormed out. Went up to the lame receptionist, demanded my fees back and left the building. Of course, my mother was quite furious at me not having enough patience. She gave it to me the next morning. Not the same day. Not the same night. The next morning!
This was back in March.
Just as I was wrapping up my trip and planning the ten last days (it included me taking a driving lesson, archiving our family albums before Kavita destroyed them, doing some strategic planning, and some sight seeing in Abbottabad, Murree and Taxila), I got another attack. It was those damn cramps again.
I remembered what my doctor in Liberia told me. Go and get an ultra sound while you are having an attack and, try to see a doctor at the same time.
I went to the Emergency at Maroof. My father regularly goes there for his eye check ups. It is nearby and seems to be a decent hospital. So, I went there and thought I would be in and out. The cramps were not so bad. Well, I ended up spending a good few of hours there getting all sorts of tests done. They confirmed I had stones in my gall bladder. I got discharged after receiving some medications intravenously. They also recommended a specialist at Maroof.
I met with him a few days later. Actually, we first met his chatty "assistant" who kept referring to himself as the "shagird" of this specialist. He accidentally fell off the chair at one point. He did draw me a convincing diagram of my gall bladder and liver, though.
The quiet specialist came in later and looked at my blood reports and, saw that some dudes called LFTs (liver enzymes) were too high. And, I still had an infection. So, he prescribed some meds and told me to check back in ten days.
I was pretty sick for the next few days. I ached all over and had no appetite but gradually the meds kicked in and, I have been back to normal.
In fact, today I met with the quiet specialist. He actually wanted me to check back in another week until I told him, "Hey, I need to get back to Liberia." He ordered another blood test. The results did not come out for 2 hours. We went home, had a late lunch and watched some TV. We went back and, met with the chatty "assistant" who asked me whether I was ready for surgery. I looked at him nervously and cautiously replied, "depends." He looked at me funny and, told me, I better get ready and not tempt fate. He started telling me a story of his near-escape from death. I realised I was stalling again and, told him OK, let's do it. He told me to come in tomorrow just after lunch. We discussed a few details. After that he started explaining modern bad diets and, how KNS was especially bad. Then somehow the conversation turned religious and he said on the day of judgement, our hands would themselves admit all the sins we have committed.
So, I'm going in for surgery tomorrow. Usually, hospitals, needles and doctors freak me out. But I am surprisingly quite calm. I guess the experience of the C-section has made me less fearful. It has taken well over a year to feel fully healed. Since that was a major incision compared to the gall bladder surgery, I feel better at the idea that I will recover faster from this procedure.
Insult upon Injury
Another reason I have mentally prepared myself so well for this upcoming medical episode is that while I was quite sick and crappy, I nearly lost all my data.
I was attempting to write a blog post about the recent Karachi airport attack one evening. I went upstairs to pee and, left my Macbook on the sofa. Kavita apparently took my laptop and banged it on the floor. My mother heard the crash. My laptop became extremely slow and, I re-booted it. It did not re-boot and was stuck at the grey screen. I couldn't believe it. One little pee cost me my laptop! And, I am always so careful with my stuff.
I was very very nervous and stressed. Not only was I going to have surgery soon but insult upon injury, was going to lose my data, too. And, insult on insult, Kavita was the one! I couldn't even yell at her. And woe be upon me, I had foolishly not backed up my data. I mean, I had been backing up my stuff on Time Machine but my external drive crashed and I was just too lazy to get another one. I kept putting it back. Just like I had been a visit to the doctor to find out why I was getting such bad cramps.
I nervously took it to a shop in Blue Area the next day. I was too nervous even to enjoy being around techies. The first shop I went into had a young sales/tech support guy who looked at my laptop and, said my hard drive was damaged and needed to be replaced. "But what about my data?" I asked. I left it for a day until the fellow told me he can read the data but can't copy it. Truth be told, he was not so confident to begin with and, I was sure some other expert could do it. I took it two shops down. It was a much busier place and, the owner really looked like he knew what he was talking about. He advised this could take days and I needed to be patient. I was told his younger brother was at the Embassy right now (which Embassy, I wondered) and, was an expert and would handle it. I was impressed with the confidence.
Now, if you have not been to Blue Area, you wouldn't know that there are at least three or four plazas with dozens and dozens of computer shops selling hardware and offering IT support/repair services. So, while I was waiting for four years of my data to be recovered, I wondered whether I should have properly investigated all the places and, then decided where to go for data recovery.
My sense of anxiety, stress and doom escalated every day. I would call up the shop and, the owner would usually say, "I'm not at the shop right now. I'm going there now. I'll call back." And, he wouldn't. I would call him, nervously introduce myself, and ask the status of my laptop. I was told, "They're trying but so far no result." My heart sank.
I started remembering every single file, photo, e-mail and even my carefully maintained calendar. I tearfully remembered my meticulous file system: a maze of sub sub sub folders within master categories. I remembered how every document is accurately labeled and, even has a PDF copy stored in the same folder. I remembered how every single client of mine has a separate folder. I remembered all the company reports and analysis I had written for my own use. I remembered all my SOAS academic files. I re-called all the home videos of Kavita. I felt sick at losing the personal writing projects. And, my iTunes library! Oh no!
I felt sicker than I actually was. After all, I had a bad gall bladder.
I felt sicker than I actually was. After all, I had a bad gall bladder.
I went up to the shop itself and, met the Embassy brother. Now, he was a very chatty fellow who put me at ease. He called up his data recovery guy. The guy told him to call back. I nervously waited. We talked a bit about the Embassy. It turns out he has an IT contract at the Embassy of Italy. He calls the data recovery guy back. Apparently, he had made at least 6 attempts but the drive kept freezing. The guy tells him to return it. At this point, the data recovery guy tells him, he would try again. Ego. I was told to come back. I told them to start refurbishing and servicing my laptop in the meantime.
I really started to lose hope at this point. I sent sad messages to Haresh on Whatsapp: "Mera data, meta data." I updated my status on Whatsapp, my only and lonely connection to the world, "I am more grief stricken at the idea of losing my data than my gall bladder." It was true. I was not worried about the impending surgery. I couldn't care less.
I dreamed about my lost files. Floating in a lost digital world. I was really depressed.
So, I went back to the shop again to pick up my refurbished laptop so at least I could get back online. The younger brother was there. I nervously asked him about my data. He had completely forgotten! He called up the data recovery guy and, then stepped out of the shop. I was half depressed and half angry. I was debating whether to start yelling when he got back. He got back and absently tells me my data has been recovered.
I couldn't believe it! I started smiling. He went on and on about the damaged head, bad sectors and vectors. He booted up my almost-new laptop that was installed with a new hard drive and had been updated with the latest OS. He plugged in my old hard drive and sure enough my data was there!
I felt life returning to my body and soul.
The insult is no more
In conclusion, I will soon be rid of my injury, that is my gall stones although sadly, my gall bladder will also have to come out. It seems science has not yet found a way to remove the stones without the bladder. But it has found out that one can go on living without a gall bladder.
The insult that was thrown at me - my near loss of all my data, that is my files and notes and photos and promising manuscripts - was also transformed into an excellent experience of near loss, contemplation and lesson. Back up your data.