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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Article About me in OPEN a Magazine published in India

“I am not a sweet person,” says Samiir Halady, denying that his kidney failure was caused by diabetes. It has been 11 years since both of Halady’s kidneys failed, when he was only 28. Since then, he has needed dialysis to survive. But still, Halady says proudly, he has managed to live life with few compromises.
An MBA from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, Halady now heads the marketing team of a digital agency, which manages advertisements on the internet. It was sheer courage, once his body started failing him, that kept him going. Halady’s condition means that he cannot ever cheat on his special diet, and has to undergo dialysis twice every week. He recognises the severity of his condition, but says he has learnt to live with it, and in spite of it. He says that 11 years ago, when life took this sudden turn, he made a promise to himself that he would not let his debilitating and life-threatening condition affect either his professional or private life. And it certainly has not stopped him from pursuing his first love—hiking. He has kept his promise to himself. But the going has certainly been tough.
Till 2001, Halady’s life had taken no strange trajectory. A bright boy, he was waiting for a brighter future. A habitual trekker, he would hike for days on end. Everything was as normal as could be till he injured his right thumb. He went to the doctor only when the injury took longer than usual to heal, and found that his pulse rate and blood pressure were very high. Concluding that this was due to work-related stress, the doctor advised him to take a break from his sales and marketing job.
However, Halady’s condition did not improve. His blood pressure continued to soar. After some more tests, he was diagnosed with a serious kidney malfunction—an end-stage renal disease by the name MPGN (Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis), which affects the filters of the kidneys. His case was a rare one, idiopathic, or due to an unknown cause, known to generally affect people between the ages of eight and 30. Halady was told that his kidneys were on the verge of collapse; his kidney function was only 5 per cent of what it should be in a healthy body. Halady was prescribed a strictly regulated life and diet.
Halady tried naturopathy, which seemed to work well in his case, till he slipped on the stairs of a railway station and had a nasty fall that hurt his lower back. It was August 2002. He was bedridden for 20 days, but never really recovered. His kidneys stopped functioning altogether.
A complication in Halady’s case ruled out a kidney transplant. His blood urea (a waste generated by digestion of protein) level started shooting up. Since then, dialysis has become his lifeline.
Halady is a believer. He doesn’t complain, but seeks strength from different sources. His father, a retired Reserve Bank of India official, and his mother, a homemaker, are his constant support and source of courage. But in his worst moments, spiritualism came to his rescue. Daily yoga and pranayam keep him going. Life is tough, he says. But then adds with a smile, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” He finds huge inspiration in Swami Vivekananda’s words. “The solution to weakness is to think about strength,” he quotes.
However, he admits, this is far easier said than done. The weak moments come often. There are times when the toxic level in his body darts up. The body revolts, it aches severely, and Halady has little energy to spare. When this happens, Halady says, “I try to take it in my stride.”
There are mornings when he feels drained. He cannot get out of bed, let alone think of going to work. But he doesn’t let his spirit collapse. He forces himself to go to work. “I have made a commitment to myself. I will not let my health problems affect my professional responsibilities,” he reiterates.
Dialysis itself is an energy-sapping procedure, after which Halady needs at least three hours of rest before he can face the world. Therefore, so as not to miss out on any action, he gets the dialysis done very early in the morning, between 3:30 and 4 am, so that he is fit to go to work by 10.
The life-sustaining dialysis, too, can be an ordeal sometimes. He describes this on his blog, ‘The moment they started dialysis, both sides of my chest and my lower back started hurting. I called out to the technician and nursing staff at the hospital. Luckily I called out to them just at the right time as by the time they reached my bed, I was totally out of breath. I was unable to talk. I had terrible pain in my lungs as if they were about to burst. Similarly with my lower back... this pain was in my kidney area... I was unable to communicate. I was [gasping] for breath. For life. I felt as if it was all over. Suddenly my visibility became poor.’
“These things do happen and are very scary,” he says of the treatment. So how does he get back in a positive frame of mind within hours of dialysis? “Well, I have never thought about it,” he pauses to think before saying, “I live in the present.” But isn’t the present traumatic? “Exactly. I live the trauma, experience it in full measure, so that when it is past, subsequent moments are nicer and [this] encourages me to fight back.” He adds as an afterthought, “The pain becomes a memory. So when I get ready to go to work, I do not think of what happened an hour ago.”
Halady has made a well-deliberated decision not to marry. “It will be unfair on my partner,” he reasons. He has never been in a relationship either. He pines for companionship. “This urge, like pain, will pass,” he placates himself, “it’s part of life.”
‘Life with renal failure and hemodialysis is not so bad, after all, there are ways to live king size,’ he asserts in his blog. And he does that while trekking. While he can no longer go for long treks, he is always game for a trip that takes a couple of days. But even when out in the wild, he takes care to stay constantly aware of his body. He has to make sure that he does not sweat away too much of his body salts. It can happen easily in this condition. So, he carries salt supplements with him. He knows the exact nature of pain caused when sugar or sodium or potassium levels go down. He has a fistula (a surgically inserted access created between the native artery and vein for dialysis) in his left arm. He cannot put weight on this arm, and even outdoors, has to be absolutely certain that his fistula remains infection free.
The philosophy of his life is reflected in his passion for trekking. He blogs: ‘Lots of newcomers drop out of treks only because it’s raining heavily. But we go on. The trek needs to be completed come what may. The thrill is more, the fun is more when we complete the trek. Life on dialysis can be compared to such a situation. Our aims and ambitions in life remain… the situation is suddenly so much more adverse. But the adventure remains. Life has in store for us so many more surprises… hence the uncertainty is much more…despite these odds, if I am able to fulfill my ambitions, I am sure I will feel so much more content and happy. And yes, truly complete!’
Halady does not like to think about his future, but he is not in denial. He insists that his life is as uncertain as anyone else’s. “In my short but full life, I have seen so much change, so much uncertainly, each incident introducing a totally new set of variables, making life a much more interesting and complete experience.”

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dreams - Camera

I have been trekking for almost 20 years now. In the 90s friends who were trekking with me were working in the International sales department of my company and used to carry Digital Cameras. I had a good SLR the Canon AE-1 but it was way too heavy to carry on a trek. Also the fact that it had a 28 - 200 mm lens made it unweildly to carry.

I always had in mind that I should own a good digital camera. When I was about to buy my kidney ailment struck.

The years I have been on dialysis, just the digital cams started improving lots and the world of Digital SLRs was also booming.

I also wanted to own a good DSLR.

I simply didnt have enough money.

When we had been to Kas plateau last year, a couple of my friends had bought a DSLR and they really enjoyed clicking there. That was the right time to have bought the cam. At that time I had decided that before we went to Kas again, I should have one of my own.

This year the Kas event was declared for 29 - 30 september. It was already the 27th

I was biting me that I had made this promise to myself. But I have some money due which was promised only next month. I have never used my credit card for a higher value in one shot.

I discussed with my parents and shared with them that I have had this dream for a long time. They supported me and I decided to go in for the purchase the very next day.

I bought a Canon 60D which is a semi professional body and a 18 - 135mm body to go with it.

It cost me a lot of money. But I kept a promise I made to myself.

Dreams - Car

I had a few dreams. One was to own a car and another was to own a good Digital SLR Camera.

In 2002 March, it was when I decided that I would go in for a car, if not a new one at least a second hand one. My friends suggested a second hand one to start off with as I didnt have any experience of driving.

One of my close friends had just purchased a second hand car from a company and I called them up to take an appointment.

Since saturday was a holiday, I took an appointment for saturday.

However, on a friday, I had a swollen finger and I visited the local doctor to get it examined. He felt the thumb (base of the thumb) and realised my pulse was very high. He measured my blood pressure. It was 190/130

Well it meant I needed to rest. The rest all by itself didnt help so we went in for investigations that indicated an incurable kidney disease.

All my dreams were rudely jolted. All my attentions moved to getting my condition treated.

At that point in time I had a job but subsequently it all changed.

I was struggling and fighting for building a career from scratch. By this time I had started on dialysis and it was a tough time. Very few people were ready to employ me. My dreams became more and more distant. It  was tough going.

Slowly but surely, I was fighting it out. Progress was slow but it was there.

One fine day, I realised I was in a position to make one of my dreams come true. This was in Jan2011. 

I went in for a Hyundai i10 brand new car.

A Brand New Car - When my original dream was to own a second hand car

Dreams do come true in style !!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Plantar Fisciitis

The heel pain being excruciating and quite unbearable I went to an orthopedic doctor.

He confirmed that the pain was due to plantar fisciitis.

I tried to find out what exactly is the problem.

The plantar fascia is a tissue that connects the heel to the toe joint. Plantar Fisciitis is an inflamation of this tissue. The reasons can be varied.

In my case I am flat footed. Plus in July, I had done a lot of trekking. In fact trekked for 3 consecutive weeks and the last trek was in bad pain. I could not go back on a commitment I had made almost 6 months ago.

Also recent blood tests had indicated a deficiency of Vitamin D3. This is a common phenomenon amongst Dialysors.

In most situations, the condition is treated using ice packs, a set of exercises to strengthen the tissue and analgesics to help control the intense pain.

In dialysors, (patients on dialysis) or for that matter anyone with end stage kidney disease, analgesics are dangerous. So that was ruled out. It meant I had to live with the pain.

I decided to meet a physiotherapist (a friend) who promised to recommend an exercise regime for me.

But she clearly told me that I had to rest and therefore trekking to Bhimashankar on 18th August was ruled out. She said that if I was lucky the pain would go by 2nd September when our next trek is scheduled.

This is an easy trek and we are planning to announce it as a kids trek. Kids treks are real fun as it is a revelation for kids about how beautiful nature can be and a revelation for us about how energetic kids can be.

She also suggested that I use some ortho footwear. Since I am flatfooted, she felt it would help me.

I wanted to get it done asap. I decided to go in for all of what she recommended.
  1. Exercises
  2. Ice Packs
  3. Ortho Footwear
I called up the firm that consults for ortho footwear and took up an appointment for the same day.

I really didnt want to miss another trek. 

Hope my heel recovers by then.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Heel Pain

During treks in the last few months, I was getting slower.

My feet were hurting and more so after treks. This pain was normally receding completely within a couple of days but lately the pain was persisting. The heel specially was very painful.

In July this year, I did three treks in as many weekends. The pain was there. But yet the love of the sport kept me going.

However, after the third trek the pain was really bad and I was almost unable to walk. Also surprisingly the pain didnt recede after a while. On the contrary it was getting worse.

My favourite trek is Bhimashankar. V Hikerz had planned it for 18th August. I was looking forward to the trek. When the event was announced as well the pain was terrible.

In the event invite I shared my problem about the pain and remarked that I would be able to join only if the pain was better.

Someone in the group suggested it could be Plantar Fisciitis. This needed attention and some treatment.

I checked online about this condition and found the symptoms to be identical. I was worried.

My first reaction was to call up a friend who is an orthopedic doctor. He suggested I meet a local ortho immediately as the condition needed to be responded to.

I read a lot about this condition and realised that there is an inflamation in the tissue that connects the heel to the finger balls which covers the complete foot from below.

I was worried. Bhimashankar had been announced. I really didnt want to miss out on this one.

My foot had 10 days to recover for Bhimashankar.

It was imperative to rush to the doctor....................

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Trip to Chennai

I take hemodialysis twice a week. Normally on mondays and fridays.

I took the session in Mumbai on monday and left for Chennai on Tuesday. The induction was to start from Wednesday. I thought I would check out the hospital and complete formalities there on tuesday so I could focus on my induction from Wednesday onwards.

Luckily for me Apollo Hospitals was near my office so I decided that I would take my treatment there.

In Chennai local transport is expensive. A ricksha charged me 70 rupees to travel 2.5 km. Again the hospital is around a km away from my work place. My would be colleagues told me that it is better to take a ricksha.

In a way, I guess the rickshas charge that much as people prefer to travel by them even for short distances.

After meeting the HR at my new employers I decided to walk it down to the hospital. It took me around 20 minutes but it was a pleasant evening and I enjoyed the walk.

I had done a lot of groundwork from Mumbai itself so it didnt take me any time to complete the paperwork at the hospital and I was back in the hotel room.

I had my dialysis scheduled for Thursday. I was worried as I was consuming a lot of salt. But somehow did my best to reduce intake.

The hospital experience was unique.

Being a top hospital I was expecting the nursing staff and technicians to know a bit of english. However, to my surprise they didnt.

Fortunately the patient who was taking dialysis on my neighbouring machine helped bridge the language divide and I was able to communicate.

Another issue I had was there was no mobile signal. My friend Sanjay Nadkarni had promised to drop in just in case there was an emergency and he was trying to get in touch. My parents in Mumbai were also worried and were trying to contact me.

the signal used to just appear once in a while and I received several smses. Most of them were missed call notifications. Well that was my only connection with communicable people.

I messaged Sanjay to book a cab for me at 1 am (my dialysis was scheduled to end at that time) and also messaged my parents.

Mysteriously the signal picked up when the taxi guy called me to inform me that he was waiting for me at the hospital gate...

But thereon there were no further adventures. I was picked up at night and dropped off at the hotel.

It was quite late and my boss had offered to pick me up from my hotel at 9 am

It was time to crash out

Monday, 6 August 2012

New Place New Adventure

Who says only treks are adventurous ?

My trip to Chennai was one such adventure.

The start up that I had joined almost went bust and I was in bad shape financially. I had to pick up a job and quick.

I took the first offer that came up and it was a tough decision as it meant a continuous flow of income to meet expenses of my dialysis.

As a part of the induction process, I was required to travel to Chennai for a week. I did try to reduce the duration but it was not feasible. This meant two things

One : I had to depend on outside food (saltless is next to impossible)
Two: I needed to take one round of dialysis in a hospital in Chennai

I have taken dialysis in other centres earlier, but then there was someone from my family with me (was during personal visits)

This was an official visit and there fore I declined my dad's inclination to join me. Also it would have been very tiring for my dad as he is quite old now.

This meant I would be alone for my dialysis.

So I was having a lot of question marks. To add to it the uncertainty of being in a new place (almost alien as I dont have a clue about Tamil as a language)

In addition I would have to contend with the expectations of a new employer.

It was a bit tricky, but then I had to take a decision and I did.

I took up the challenge. Like I have always done.

Well Challenge might not be an appropriate word. Maybe Adventure is...........

Monday, 7 May 2012

Back to Blogging

Life has taken me thru lots of ups and downs. Its really adds to the adventure quotient

Amazingly it makes life more interesting and fun to live

At the same time it has been a huge while that I have penned something on this blog. I have been terribly busy, just coping with the amazing twists and turns that life has had to offer me.

More importantly I have missed sharing my inner feelings using this blog as the medium

I have decided that from now on, I will continue penning down my notes here and hopefully it will be as enriching an experience for me as it was earlier.

Enriching in the sense of being able to introspect more and thereby exploring my inner self much deeper to be able to understand myself better.

In a way nothing can be more adventurous than exploring our own selves.

And yes that makes me an Adventure Tourist !!