13 MayMore Business Travel. An Indian Hospital.

November 2003. Mumbai. My first ever trip to India. It’s hot and sticky as we move between meetings in the sprawling metropolis. The juxta position of affluence and abject poverty is s sight that shocked me then and on my subsequent visits.

As we meet with our clients I am feeling very queasy and consume a lot of water as I try to get through the day. Back at the hotel, I try to rest and feel a little better. We venture out to the hotel restaurant for dinner, but I am really not feeling better. I make my excuses and return to the room; clearly I must have imported something with me, as I have not been in the country long enough to have eaten anything, or to have drunk more than water. I try to sleep, without much success. In the middle of the night, the sickly feeling gathers pace. Realising that there is some bad stuff in my stomach that needs to come out, I head to the bathroom. That’s the last thing I remember before waking up on the floor of the bathroom, with a sore head, a gash on my forehead and a small trickle of blood on the floor next to me. It’s about half past four in the morning. I need to be up at six to head to the airport for a flight to Delhi. A little shocked at what has happened, I clean myself up and start to focus on the day ahead.

We head off to the airport, passing the amazing hotpotch of life on Mumbai’s streets: cows wandering around, seemingly unattended, small shacks selling drinks and snacks, people sleeping on the streets. A world apart from home in Switzerland. At the check-in, I ask if there is a medical centre at the airport. Fortunately there is, so I wander off to have somebody check my wound. The nurse is a little shocked by what she sees and tells me I cannot fly. The gash on my forehead needs stitches and needs to be sewn up within four hours. I ask for a hospital recommendation, but she does not have one. I have to and send my traveling companion on to Delhi on his own, no doubt with some delay after they have taken my bags off the plane.

Find a hospital. My mind pictures this as a daunting task and I have a vision of something out of a Dickens novel with masses of wretched people everywhere. My logical mind suggests going back to hotel and asking for help. Great idea that one; the place they recommend is right next to the airport. No huddling masses at all, in fact the hospital looks just like an NHS one in the UK, where many of the staff are Indian too. I am quickly at the front of the queue and then the staff spend an hour cleaning and stitching the wound. At the end, a long note is written about what has been done. I ask about the cost; about $15. Amazing; coming from the West, I was ready for several hundred dollars and a need for the credit card. I was then sent to the dispensary with a long list of medication I needed to collect. That was a unique experience; the pharmacist looked at every item and then carefully cut out exactly enough of each of the half dozen or so tablets. Blue: 5 days, 3 three times, 1 tablet makes 15 blues. Green: 5 days, 3 times a day, 2 tablets makes 30 greens. This just would not happen in a Western hospital or at a Western doctor. There they just give you the next best sized pack. My veritable cocktail of drugs cost me a whopping $3. I paid cash and figured I did not need a receipt for claiming on the health insurance.


My head was bandaged up, so I looked a bit battered, but was otherwise in good shape. I headed off back to the hotel to rest up for the final day of client visits. I looked a bit terrible in those meetings, but it was a good conversation starter. As we headed off home, I thought I needed to warn my wife about my accident, not wanting to startling her with my appearance. She was shocked and, being Swiss, very worried about the work done and this medication i had. I was commanded to see the family doctor en route home. This was quite revealing; he as complimentary about the quality of the stitching and his only comment on the drugs they had provided was in the West we had moved on from these and were some two generations or so ahead, but they would work perfectly well. I left, able to report that the Indian hospital was up to scratch.

I have a small scar to remember that first trip by. I also have lots of very good memories from my subsequent trips to India.

Lessons Learned:  Nothing wrong with Indian hospitals and in fact, they have a very smart way of dispensing medication. What you need rather than a packet with more than you need.

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