Hospital Hijinx: India day 17 (Dehli part 2 day 3)

We get cheated I’ll say this for the East/West medical center. They took good care of me. In the two days I spent there, I met with three different doctors, always had a full saline IV, and had a battery of tests, all in less than 48 hours. Plus, they let Natacha stay in the room with me, and fed us three meals a day the whole time we were there. I really did get back to health during my stay there.

Only to nearly faint again. When they presented us with the bill.

If Insurance had taken care of it, I wouldn’t have had a problem. But the front desk screwed up the contact with our insurance company, so we had to pay it up front. Which is when we looked at the bill.

And saw that every saline bag, every bit of medicine, every stool test (the first one came back negative; they told us the last two were “just to make sure”), and all three doctors visits…they charged for everything.

We soon realized that, actually, we could have left the day before…but they asked us to stay just a bit longer so the senior doctor could take a look at me. That senior doctor spent five minutes with me and told me that I was looking good, but should stick around the night just in case.

And when they couldn’t over-service, they over-charged. They charged Natacha a full bed rate for staying in my room, when the first night she slept in a chair and the second night a mattress on the floor. And we still shared the room with Sven the asshole. In fact, there was a variety of things they charged us for that they didn’t even supply!

We could have left at 11 am that Sunday morning, but arguing the bill took so long—including angry phone calls with an off-site administrator—that we didn’t get out of there until 4 PM. We argued with the young guy at the front desk who didn’t know how to do anything. We argued with the doctor on call who told the guy at the front desk to do things he didn’t know how to do. We argued with on offsite administrator by phone. Little by little, we pared down the bill to as closes as could to a fair price. And it still wasn’t all that fair. Whomever coined the term “India always wins” wasn’t kidding.

On the one hand, I did appreciate that they took good care of me. The hospital was clean, theneedles were sterile, and the food was decent. On the other hand, they also wantged to prescribe an MRI to me, even though I didn’t have a concussion, just so they could collect the money on the procedure. They were clearly taking advantage of me in a time of literal weakness. That’s just fucked up.

And we weren’t the only patients complaining about our bill. The East/West Medical center had two other patients yelling at them at the same time we were.

Come on…who needs three stool tests in two days?

We did make one friend while there—no, not Sven, smartass. A sweet-natured French lady whose three-year-old son came in for severe dehydration. He was doing much better by the time we left, running up and down the halls in a cape and generally being a healthy little handful. Why a woman was traveling in India with a three-year-old is another story altogether, one which in interest of her privacy I won’t tell here (though it’s a GOOD one).

By the time N & I left, it was almost 5 PM and we didn’t have enough time to find a new hotel room. We had kept our super-grotty A/C cel at the Lords, so we stayed in that for the night. Thanks to the gents there for cleaning the place up before we got back.

Having been in the hospital for two days, the friends we’d planned on visiting in Varkala had already left there. But, they had just arrived in Delhi, to run some errands before traveling to Kashmir and eventually Germany. Dani is a filmmaker friend of Natacha’s from New York, who had been spending time in India working on a film about her friend Ashik. Ashik was a Kashmiri jewler who had met Dani while working in Varkala. Dani was planning to make a film about his sister’s arranged marriage in Kashmir, and the two of them were getting some production errands done in Delhi before going up north. Which was fortunate, as it meant we got to spend some time with them while I recovered in Delhi. We had dinner with them in the Paranganj, me with a huge bandage on my head from when I passed out & cut my forehead. We hadn’t seen Dani in almost two years, and watching her & Natacha reunite was a true pleasure.

Returning to the room that night, we found the hotel travel agent, so we could settle up for the transportation to the hospital that he had arranged that fateful night. He charged us about five times a normal rate. We talked him down to triple rate, and even at that price I almost spat on his desk. India always wins.

Introducing Sven, the biggest asshole I’ve ever met: India day 16 (Dehli part 2 day 2)

Sven the asshole Before I begin, let me stress that the Sven in this post is NOT the Sven I worked with at a recent job. That Sven is a bright, good-natured young man and a pleasure to work with.

No, I’m talking about my roommate at Delhi’s East-West Medical Center, Sven from Switzerland. The most horrid, little prick I’ve ever encountered. If not for his general insistence on making Natacha and I feel as uncomfortable as possible, I honestly think I could've left there at least a half-day-earlier.

The night before, when I was rushed to this hospital, I recalled my wife arguing with a heavy Germanic voice. It turned out that this voice was my new roommate, who, I also learned, (1) was supposed to have the room to himself, (2) didn’t want the A/C to be turned on, and (3) in retribution, planned to crank his music until the A/C was turned off.

He clearly could care less that that the guy who was wheeled into his room in the middle of the night (ie me) was (1) in no condition to be moved to an upstairs room, (2) suffering severe dehydration and as such might need his Delhi hospital room to be cool, and (3) might need to get some fucking sleep.

Eventually Natasha convinced him to dial down his pre-school negotiating style and agree to have the a/c on, sans music, and we all got to sleep.

I woke up that morning to find Natacha having a cordial but still tense conversation with him, wherein Natacha was pretty much charming him into keeping the A/C on.

This did not stop Sven from booting up his laptop and marking his territory by playing two kinds of music I hate, the latter I didn’t know I hated until I heard it that first time: (1) The Doors, and (2) Swiss hip-hop.

I ignored him at first, opting to use the bathroom. The sink had four little bars of soap on it, each one sporting pubic hairs. Classy dude.

Eventually, as some sort of peace offering, he asked us if there was any music we wanted to hear. He & I started talking all civilized-like, and I learned many things about Sven:

  • He was Swiss (/German), and was traveling through India to escape the Swiss draft.
  • Out of all the young Europeans I’d ever met, his English was the worst.
  • He liked America a lot, especially the “red Indians” he met on a motorcycle trip across the U.S.
  • His experience with the “red Indians” was why he kept a feather tied in his unkempt curly hair. Apparently he used to have an eagle feather, but lost it, so he took a feather he found on the ground in India and tied that into his hair instead.
  • He was in the hospital because he'd scraped up his leg while motorcycling in the North of India. Normally, a few scrapes wouldn't send you into the hospital. But someone told him to put some ointment on it, and just leave it. Not wash it, not change the bandage…just leave it. And he believed that. Two months later it probably looked like something Tom Savini cooked up and I imagine he almost died from it. He had been at the medical center for the past six weeks, getting a series of skin grafts.
  • Instead of a crutch, he “found” an ax handle on an Indian construction site and was carving it with the intention of putting gems in it and making it a “really cool” walking stick. It was too short for him, but he said he wanted to put some sort of skull on the top of it, like Snoop Dogg.
  • He didn’t have anyone to talk to at the med center, so he hung out on the outdoor patio and tried to chat with the copious Israeli backpackers that ended up there. They’d talk with him in English for a few minutes, then go back to talking to each other in Hebrew and ignore him.
  • He complained that the A/C made him cold, but refused to wear a shirt.

Sven was the classic Euro hippie wannabe: He chose the backpacker lifestyle not to learn about other cultures or to supplement his life experience, but because it was easier than dealing with real life, going to work/school, or bathing.

Every time we mentioned him to a doctor or nurse, he or she apologized for our having to room with him. He'd been terrorizing the staff for weeks.

You might think I’m overdoing it with my description of him. Perhaps because I haven’t finished my story.

Sven the assholeLater that day, we seemed to all be copacetic. Natacha & I were just finishing lunch (She stayed in the room with me, making sure I was being taken care of and that Sven didn’t pull any shit). Sven held up his headphones and said that they’re shorting out on him, would we mind if he played his music some more. I said no, I didn’t mind, but could he keep the volume down a little?

And he went off.

Oh, how he bitched and moaned, ranting again about the A/C, yelling about how this was HIS room, HIS insurance was paying for a single room, HE was cold and didn’t have a shirt (paying no attention to the freshly laundered clothes at the foot of his bed). On and on he went. All in his clunky English and heavy Germanic accent, which was the aural equivalent of getting hit with balls of raw dough.

All I did was ask him to keep his music turned down a little, and now the guy WOULD. NOT. SHUT. UP. Even the hardcore Swiss hip-hop was better than this.

Natacha and I both responded to him, trying to keep things civilized, trying not to yell back. Finally, we just plain ignored him, talking between ourselves and/or reading. By taking away the fuel, he could only do a slow burn on his own. Which he did.

He berated us with insults from his bed; the non-four-letter ones were “You are original Americans” (he meant “typical,” but it was funny given his love of native Americans) and told us we “loved Bush.” In between his smoke breaks and attempts to chat with the Israelis, he would come back and call us Bush-lovers and what not.

Oh, and "terrorists." He called us that as well.

Sven the assholeAt one point, he fired up his iTunes and loudly played a mix of anti-American songs at us. They included Frank Zappa’s “Bobby Brown,” and some sappy protest ballad called “Dear Mr. President.” (UPDATE: it's by Pink.) Charming. And mature.

All because we wanted to use a hospital room to heal and recover.

Congratulations, Sven, my roommate from the East/West Medical Center. In my umpthy-umph years on this planet, You are officially the biggest asshole I have ever met.

Bobby Brown - Frank Zappa [youtube=]


India at 80 KPH

A few thoughts while natacha’s off using skype

India Day 4: Musical Guesthouses

India Day 6: Huckster Ghats and Hippie Ghettos

India Day 7: Guilt and Papayas

India Day 8: City Palace, yes. Lake Palace…?