On the 13th of March I had a BHR done in Chennai by Dr. Bose. I would like to give feedback regarding my observations and experiences while there.
I left Cincinnati, OH on 3-7, arrived Chennai, India 3-9. I flew business class and cannot imagine anyone doing otherwise. I would highly encourage anyone with the means to do so to fly business class.
I entered Apollo Specialty Hospital on 3-12, a day before surgery. They ran a series of tests, EKG, blood, urine analysis, etc. I spoke briefly with Dr. Bose and some of the other doctors who are part of the team.
The following morning, bright and early, I was greeted by the nurses and wheeled off to the surgery room. You are set aside to rest quietly until they are ready to bring you in. When things are ready they bring you in and lift you on to the surgery table. What will strike you is the temperature, which is quite cool, perhaps 62 degrees or so.
They will ask you a couple of questions, “William, how are you feeling?” “Are you comfortable?” and then they will begin a brief conversation with you. This will only last a few seconds. The next thing you know you will be in the recovery room. You will hear sounds and probably attempt to say something but not much else. For me, I had a slight sensation of choking. I do not know whether I still had a tube in my throat or whether it was simply a matter of being unable to swallow. Either way, I was mentally prepared for it since my father, who had been operated on by Bose about a year earlier, had prepared me for this sensation. You should be equally prepared. It made a big difference for me. I did not panic and the discomfort passed fairly quickly.
You are then taken back to your room to rest. An IV is placed in your arm which gives you a constant stream of pain killer. Surprisingly, there is not much discomfort, given the seriousness of the operation. Don’t misunderstand me. You will feel pain and there will be discomfort but it will not be unbearable or excruciating. The IV becomes more painful as the week goes on, with a slight burning sensation when they add new pain killer that intensifies over time. If it becomes too painful they can insert another IV in another location.
You will receive constant monitoring by the nursing and support staff. I had heard rave reviews about the nurses, how superior they were to American hospitals, etc. My take is a bit different. Labor is one of the cheapest commodities in India. Therefore, unlike the US and the West, there are plenty of nurses to take care of your needs. However, like anywhere else in the world, there were some good ones and there were some bad ones. VG was exceptional. Another young nurse seemed to drop every pill and syringe she gave me. On one visit she dropped whatever it was she was giving me 3 times.
The food is good, adequate. You have a choice between Indian or Western. The meats are prepared differently, even if you make the Western selection. For example, if you order fish you will receive a slice of fish with bones left in it. You must be very careful to pick through the fish so as not to choke on the small bones. I would recommend the Indian dishes as there seems to be greater attention given to their preparation. You can get as much fruit and juices as you want. Their sweet lime juice is a fresh squeezed juice made from a local lime that is sweeter and mellower than ours. This is quite good.
As the week rolls on you will become anxious to get out of the hospital and into your hotel. There are a couple of reasons for this. The new Platinum Wing has nice big windows in each room that look out on to Chennai from the hospital’s 4th floor. The only problem is the windows are not sealed, so it sounds like the Indy 500 is going on outside your window about 20 hours out of the day. This was a big deal to me since the noise kept me awake. I spoke with another person who had entered a week prior to me and he felt the same way. You are also awakened by the staff each morning around 6AM and sometimes throughout the night. It is a nice change when you are able to sleep through the night undisturbed once you are in the hotel. I was told by Dr. Bose that they had received feedback regarding the windows and the noise and they would be taking care of that. The sooner, the better. Also, because it is a newer wing, there is the sound of constant working, pounding, banging, etc. as workers prepare additional rooms for use. It all seems a bit incongruous for a hospital but it is the way things are in India.
I stayed at the Residency Towers prior to admittance into the hospital and then again once I was released. Most of the people I spoke to stayed at a beach resort when they left the hospital. My folks had stayed at Fisherman’s Cove. Another person I met with stayed at the Ideal Beach Resort. I visited both prior to going into the hospital. I had reservations to stay at the Ideal Beach Resort but decided to return to the Residency Towers once I had a chance to visit both beach resorts. Both are located in the same area and are a long way from Chennai and the airport. I decided to return to Residency Towers since I wanted to be close to the hospital and see some of Chennai. If you decide to stay at the Residency Towers you will want to request a room in a particular part of the hotel. First of all, you will want to be on floors 14 through 17 since there is a restaurant and a disco above and below the floors. This insulates you from the noise from these areas. Second, you want to be in a specific part of the floor. When you exit the elevators you will turn to your left until it dead ends at the front of a room, then you will turn right. The area where you will want to request a room will be down on the left hand side. These rooms on each of these floors are almost completely insulated by noise. Put another way, if are viewing the hotel from the main entrance, you will want a room in the upper right quadrant of the hotel.
You will go through an emotional roller coaster ride. You may experience anxiety leading up to the operation, euphoria for the day or two following surgery and then possibly minor depression when the euphoria of having the surgery behind you starts to ebb. I think this is all pretty normal since I had a chance to talk with a couple other patients who shared very similar sensations. Having someone along with you would probably make a significant difference. I did not have that luxury as my wife and I have two young boys and we determined as tough as it may be on me it would be even tougher on them if neither of us were there for them. Bring a friend if you can.
It is now two weeks to the day from surgery. I am home in Cincinnati. I was exhausted when I returned because I was unable to sleep on the flight home despite the fact I was in business class. I really cannot imagine making the trip in economy. I flew Air France both ways and was quite pleased.
The pain is nearly gone. I was able to walk the day after surgery and they will encourage you to do so. I had stayed in relatively good shape prior to surgery, swimming and lifting weights 5 or 6 times a week. I would encourage you to get yourself in the best shape you can prior to surgery. It will help immensely. I was using one arm crutch 6 days after surgery. Guidelines are that you should be using a single arm crutch by the 5th and 6th week. I also hiked about a half mile each way up and down St. Thomas Mount one week following surgery, so I have pushed things a bit. I am very careful not to twist or turn the joint, to minimize pain. If you do this you can almost eliminate pain.
In summary, I would give Dr. Bose and his surgical team an A. They are first rate. I would give the nursing staff and various other hospital related activities and accommodations, as related above, a C- . It is a long, tough trip but the end result is worth the short term pain and discomfort, in my opinion. I happen to have insurance and may have been able to have had this covered by my insurer in the US. However, after weighing all of the options, I decided it was wiser to go with a physician who had performed 800+ procedures and who had trained under McMinn and Treacy in the UK. Had my insurer paid for the operation in the US the net costs would have been roughly the same. I still plan on contacting my insurer, BC/BS to see if I can receive partial coverage. I will let everyone know how this goes.
I hope this information helps. I will be happy to answer any questions anyone might have. Good luck in your quest.