My father lies in the Intensive Medical Care Unit at St. Isabel’s hospital in Chennai. He’s been unconscious for four days now. Every breath is a small miracle.
My mother realized something was wrong when he didn’t wake up one morning, She called the ambulance right away. And called me a few hours later from the hospital. Less than five hours later, I found myself in a car heading to St. Louis and then on a plane later that night heading back home to India to be with my family.
Appa looks fragile and shrunken. A mass of tubes snake their way around his bed and into his body through intravenous drips and ports: A glucose drip entering his neck, an oxygen mask covering his face, a nasal feeding tube winding its way across his face, a medication drip entering his arm on either side, a urinary catheter, a pulse meter attached to his finger. Machines surround him. Quietly humming and beeping in turn.
His hands are covered in purple bruises. The blood thinner meds they gave him to remove any possible blood clots in his brain, ended up bursting the clots on his arms. His arms bled for a while and were bandaged at regular intervals.
His face is bloated. The skin is dry and scaly. His eyes are shut tight. He looks nothing like my father.
His sugar levels dipped to 15 a few days ago and he’s been in a diabetic coma ever since. The doctors now say he’s also had a stroke. His entire left side has been affected. Breathing is torturous. He is an advanced COPD patient. No one knows if he will survive.
Visitor’s keep stopping by to say their goodbyes. I’m not ready to let go as yet. I don’t want him to suffer.
I sit outside the IMCU, with a bunch of others who all have relatives who are critically ill. Visiting hours are only between 5 and 5:30 p.m. everyday. That’s a measly half an hour, to be shared with a hundred other relatives and friends who want to see my father.
So I tip the security guard and sneak into the IMCU when it’s not visiting hours.
I whisper into my father’s ear, “Appa, it’s me, your first born. You can make it if you want to. Please come back.”
At other times, I pray he dies. He's suffered enough. And I don't want him to anymore.