Monday, April 23, 2012

Rest In Peace

This week we lost another mother. This one from a throat/lung cancer combo. It's the fourth parent my small office team of 20 or so associates has lost in the past 6 months. We have another dad, facing his second round with mouth cancer who is likely to be leaving us within the next month or so. The doctor's say there's nothing they can do. It's tragic. It's incredibly sad, and it's completely inexcusable. While I have yet to face the loss of a parent, it doesn't seem right that so many, at such a young age are facing such a situation.
It lead me to believe, and wrongly so, that India somehow had a higher than average mortality rate. So I researched it. According to the CIA World Factbook (, India experiences 7.48 deaths per 1000. It surprised me to learn that this is less then the rate experienced in the US at 8.38/1000, the UK at 9.33/1000, and Germany at 10.92/1000. The same countries claim the following at birth life expectancies: India at 66.8, the US at 78.37, the UK at 80.05, and Germany at 80.07. Indians can expect to die more then a decade before many in countries with even higher mortality rates. Maybe that's why I'm seeing a concentration of it impacting my young team.
I've heard many claims about the Indian medical system. A US friend had appendicitis and subsequently required surgery while travelling in India. At a follow up visit, her US doctor told her that if you have to have a laparoscopy anywhere, India's the place to do it. Elective centers are on every corner, specializing in cosmetic surgery, weight loss options, and fertility treatments, yet we can't keep our parents alive long enough to see their grandchildren grow.
Indians are dying every day from seemingly preventable diseases such as Malaria, Dengue, Typhoid. Diabetes, Cancers and heart disease are going undetected due to lack of affordable health care and as a result, the belief that symptoms can be controlled through self medication and natural/traditional healing options, without proper diagnosis.
Here, you can just walk up to a medical shop and get everything from laxatives to thyroid medication. What used to require me to go to the Endocrinologist twice a year for lab work in order to squeeze a prescription out of the doctor, can be procured by walking up to the closest medical shop (there are four on my street alone) and asking for the drug by name. If you don't know the name of the drug, you can just explain the symptoms to the person behind the counter, which results in them handing you an often unlabelled strip of tablets. No dosage info, no ingredient info. The only numerical information on the package that anyone seems to heed is the expiration date. Exchange the unknown strip of tables for a few rupees and you're on your way. No prescription required.
I don't know if it's the cost of consultation and treatment, the cost of procedures, the self medicating option, or genetics/environment that are forcing us to lose our parents early, but I don't accept it. I can't. My great grandmother lived to be in her nineties. My grandmother (her daughter) turned 87 last week and still lives on her own, drives a car, and works part time because it's a nice way to get out and meet people. I wish I had half the energy she does. Yet I see folks much younger, twenty years younger in fact, that are dying at an age that I just can't comprehend. I refuse to accept it. While my heart is breaking for those I know dealing with the loss of a loved one, I find myself incredibly angry that it ever had to happen. People here just accept it. It's all they know. Why? Why does it have to happen? Why is it acceptable just because this is the way it's always been? Somethings gotta change.

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