Saturday, December 31, 2011



My wife and I returned after a train journey back to Chennai at 14 hours on 30 Jan 2011 from Trichy. True there was a cyclone warning on the telly- a huge cyclone was going to pass via Cuddalore and Pondicherry that night and travelers were advised by weather department to avoid coastal routes that day.Our earlier plan was to drive in 2 cars that afternoon to Chidambaram a small town near Cuddaore to leave my son Pravin with his wife and spend the new year weekend with them.After consulting some well meaning friends we decided to stick to the old plan, but shift to one vehicle for travel- namely the sturdy SUV Scorpio.

It was raining a bit when we started out at 1430 hours on 30 Jan, 2011. We took turns at the wheel , generally avoided Pondy and the coastal route and reached Chidambaram by 1730 hours. The sky was grey and cloudy and it rained a bit in patches on the way.

When we put on the news on TV that night the weather forecast was scary with the police evacuating all the coastal folks with the advice to the rest of us to stay indoors. It was also strange that there were no birds around; the animals - the stray dogs, cows et al which we see by the roadside were conspicuous by their absence. Another strange thing was that electricity kept going off after 9 pm.I know it as I was trying to read 'Timeline 'by Michael Crichton... in small print!. Finally all the electrical power went off and I had to only rely on a candle to read my book. The rain had picked up pace and there was a fair amount of wind.

At 4 am on 31 Dec - saturday, I woke up with the windows banging , doors slamming. There was a constant howl and it was of course dark when I looked out of the window.The cyclone was in full swing. This was my first time in a cyclone. The power was out and no TV; electrical charge on the computer was out and no internet too.It was too early to ring up friends to find out what was really happening in Chidambaram.

Over the next 3 hours, we saw nature in all her fury. There was no sun rise that day, the day just go lighter and finally we could see what was happening around. Though I tried to get some videos of the early 4 or 5 am views of the scenery, it was too dark. There were so many bizarre events.Though it was constantly drizzling, the downpour was horizontal due to the heavy winds. There was a deafening noise all around as though we were inside a cement mixer. Every tree in sight plant, shrub or grass was wavering with the wind. The furious cyclone broke branches, uprooted large and very large trees, tore down the power supply by sheer uprooting of the electrical poles; there were flying missiles in the form of stones, objects around at terrific speed.No animals were about.

The clouds were rushing in the sky at a terrific pace I had never seen before.... like some of dream scenes one sees in movies when the hero remembers his past in a flash!My son who tried to go to his hospital for work at 8 am had to return as his scorpio was being tossed about in the wind like a tincan and there were too many fallen trees blocking all the exits in the street. After 0930 am , the wind velocity dropped a bit and the rain took over. Still the winds continued till 1 pm or but more tolerable.

The devastation had to be seen to be believed. First and the most prominent change was - no electrical power. So no TV, and the cell phones needed charging . Water was running short everywhere as we needed power to pump up the water. Food was in short supply in shops which had uniformly closed everywhere. No milk, petrol had to be pumped with generators.

My wife and I took the journey back on 31 Jan cutting short the vacation. We started out by a different long about route to Chennai as the travelers on the way told us to avoid Pondy which had suffered severely. 3 large multi axial vehicles which lugged giant wings of solar power generators had been overturned by the wind. Large containers with heavy metallic cabinets had been rolled aside by the gusty Thane. Telephone polls, electrical poles, trees, house tops had been totally displaced.

But there was plenty of human spirit around. People were helpful, the few cars on the road were very considerate to the people in the middle on the road. There was no honking by the motorists. The number of hotels which were open was limited. Less traffic, less people on the road, less animals on the road today similar to some 3 or 4 decades ago. But there was some sunshine about at least in the morning. We reached Chennai by a circuitous route after 5 and half hours. Even as I write, in Chennai , it is drizzling.

Very severe cyclone Thane was the strongest tropical cyclone in 2011.It left at least 33 dead in Tamil nadu and Pondy. Fishing industry was affected a great deal along with the agriculture due to gross destruction of the crops.Government of Tamil Nadu had warned people well before and and had ensured that most of the electrical power had returned within 36 hours which must have been an enormous task by itself. Naturally it would take much longer to rehabilitate the state considering 700 fisher men who had been stranded and the money needed was to the tune of 150 crores of rupees.

I was indeed much relieved to be back in Chennai during the aftermath of the heavies cyclone having travelled into it and back. I do hope that I would appreciate life much more after this episode of adventurous holiday. Happy New and Blessed year in 2012 to each and everyone of you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dogs and Sickness

Dogs and Sickness

Dogs make great pets. Folks have pets for various reasons – companionship, security,children like them and to be part of family. Dogs make people happy. It is always refreshing to come home after a tough day at work s, stressed and anxious, to be loved by a welcoming dog at home. For the dog, you are everything and she totally trusts you with all her loyalty.

"The greater love is a mother's; then comes a dog's; then a sweetheart's”-Portugese saying.

As far as I can remember we always had dogs at home. We had a Pomeranian dog Caesar since 1997 for the past 14 years. He grew up along with my kids as part of the family. Among the two larger females, a German Shepherd Dog (GSD)and a Great Dane who towered well over him in size, he still ruled the roost. He recently was acting his age. He was moaning a lot and was slow to move around. He stopped barking and kept coming into the kitchen all the time to lie down at the feet of my wife. The vet said he was just old and he passed away 2 weeks ago.

We decided to have another male dog in the house and opted from a breeder for a 42day old pup- a GSD. 3 days later, Dino became very sick with parvo virus with marked vomiting, bloody stools, fever and dehydration. Vet gave him 5-10% chance of living.

So at home we rolled up sleeves and decided to make him better. My son with his wife (surgical trainee and physician respectively), my wife a pediatrician dripped him with IV fluids and hemacoel, antibiotics for secondary infection and other drugs like for children.

He looked so sick like a ragged doll. He yelped in rhythmic fashion denoting abdominal spasms. We were helpless except to support him with correction of dehydration and hoping he would get better. And that he did thanks to support from friends and help from above.

As a Gastrointestinal surgeon, I am concerned about the spread of diseases from dogs to humans. In most countries, dogs form popular pets. It is reassuring to know that some diseases such as common cold, canine parvovirus, canine bordatellosis, heartworms do not spread to the humans. Though these can be severe and sometimes fatal in dogs, they do not affect humans.

Infections which spread to humans from dogs include rabies, tick borne diseases, lice, scabies, hydatid disease (dog tape worm), toxoplasmosis(parasite), salmonella (typhoid),etc. Generally small infections do not spread from the dogs to human. It is important to keep the dogs vaccinated and healthy. When concerned about spread of disease from dogs to humans, please contact your vet or your doctor.