Monday, March 3, 2014

Soy Milk and Yogurt

There has been a consistent and worrying drop in the Albumin levels for my father since we started him on a Naturopathy diet - more on that for later.  The accepted minimum norm might be irrelevant for someone like my father who isn't mobile or active like most people.  Thats what I tell myself to avoid panic attacks over the seemly alarming dip.

Almonds and peanuts were given to get his levels up.  They turned out too hard for him to digest and he developed constipation and lost weight.   The next hope was on Ragi (finger millets).  We had to soak, sprout, grind, boil and reduce it to half, & finally mix it with a banana.  Will elaborate on this drink in a different post, it was delicious. Everything was followed religiously.  He developed violent diarrhea and lost weight.  Meanwhile the albumin levels kept going down.

Dr. Arun Sharma, our natural hygiene doctor / Naturopath then suggested soy milk.  Online resources like the Instructables and Sharan were highly helpful along with friends who practice organic farming.

Steps for Soymilk

I soak 100gms of soybean and get around 600ml of soymilk.  The following recipe can be for any size of 1 cup.  Keep the quantity small for the first time. 

Things you need
  • 1 cup soybeans 
  • 13 cups of water 
  • Blender 
  • Strainer 
  • Thick bottom pan 
  • Container 
Making Soymilk

  1. Wash and soak 1 cup of soy beans in a pot that has enough room for the beans to expand. Change the water after the first hour.  I was recommended this as a step to further clean the beans.  Add 3 of the 13 cups of water when soaking next.  Let it soak for atleast 8 hours.   
  2. Finely grind the beans in a blender using the soaked water. Add more if necessary. 
  3. Strain the milk using a cloth (which is what I use) or a strainer into a thick bottom pan. 
  4. Blend the pulp again with some water and strain.  
  5. Repeat the previous step after exacting the milk for the second time
  6. You would have blended the bean and its pulp 3 times in total. 
  7. Divide the 10 cups of water (minus the 3 cups used for soaking) equally while blending each time. 
  8. The milk is raw now.  Heat it in the think bottom pan for around 20 -30 mins.  Keep in low to medium heat and keep stirring. 
  9. Let it cool and strain the milk into your storage container.  
Making Soy yogurt

Its the same procedure as making yogurt from cow's milk.  Through some trial and error I've figured that the soy milk can be (not should be) slightly warmer than cow's milk for fermenting.   I use cow milk yogurt as culture for my soy milk.  No fancy starter.  Maybe this is cheating, but it works.  Also unlike the regular practice of just a tiny bit of yogurt for culture, I use a full table spoon, have found this to give a thicker yogurt. 

Some Dos and Don'ts
  • Was strictly instructed to procure only organic soy beans.  I read an article that India doesn't have much of GM (Genetically Modified) soy bean.  However to be cautious I get only certified organic soy bean. 
  • Thinner the Soy milk the easier on the stomach to digest.  If I use store purchased soy milk, I ensure its organic and thin it considerably. 
  • Fermented Soy milk much better than non-fermented for digestion.  Although non-fermented soy milk did not cause any digestion issues with my father, I stick with the fermented - soy yogurt.
  • Homemade soymilk stays good for atleast 3-5 days.  If one wants to store for longer, heat it and refrigerate once it cools down. 

The smoothie

Blend one banana, add the yogurt and blend again.  Adjust thickness with water if necessary. 

I am starting to drink this with my father.  Happy soy drinks. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Care. Connect. Community. CARE3 - Support Group for Caregivers

Early this year Mr. Ravi from Pain and Stroke Rehab Center called to tell me about one Ms. Rama Murali who wants to start a support group for caregivers.   The call made me jubiliant as it had been my great desire to have or start such a group in Chennai.

Sometimes the promise of something is greater than what it ends up offering, thankfully it wasn't the case this time.   Following a good conversation on the phone, Rama and I soon met up.   She was passionate and persistent about the support group.  Had been working with IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), Madras, to develop a communications App for caregivers and had come with the name Care. Connect. Community CARE3 (read CARE cube) for the group.

She had put in a lot of work hunting for families, spending time with them and drafting objectives of the group.  When we met she was yet to have her first meeting.  Now the group has had over 6 - 7 monthly meetings, a newsletter, over 100 members / families as a part of the support group.

It amuses me to think how desperate I was to have a support group merely a year ago.  Somewhere when looking for families and getting them together, I lost the conviction that Rama exudes.  Anytime away from my father was guilt ridden and forming such a group was highly labor and time intensive.  This, and my realization that I am no compassion incarnate but mildly tolerant made withdrawing from the efforts easier.

My sister thinks CARE3 is my perfect situation where I get all the benefits with minimal effort. Thank you Rama.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Three months and two weeks since we have come to my Sister's place in Kochi.  How and why we got here is a different blog post.  A month ago there was one of the usual hartals in Kerala that gave my brother-in-law a rare day off which he did not want to spend sitting at home.  None wanted to go leaving the other with our father.  The best option was for all of us to go - parents, grandma, sister, brother-in-law, niece, driver, nurse and myself.

Although it was merely an overnight stay at the resort we needed to pack supplies for our father - Diapers, rubber sheet, urine can, catherter, urine bag, cotton, gauze, two wheelchairs, couple of gowns, towels, enema can, sterilium, nebulizer kit, BP apparatus, thermometer, record keeping book, brushing set and lignocane jelly - just a few items.

The hour and half drive to Kumarakom was pleasant, he sat next to the driver looking out through the window and munching Hide and Seek biscuits.  We made it there for breakfast, it was the whole family around the table ordering, chatting and yelling.   Almost three and half years since hemorrhage and for him to make to the breakfast table.  His eating isn't perfect, coughs and aspirates a lot, but nonetheless priceless to to have him around the table with all of us.

 Since our resort wasn't  built on lake side - Vembanad Lake the singular and worthy attraction of Kumarakom - the only way to view or enjoy it was to be on a house boat.  Each one of us had a senior citizen to escort, our 88 year old grandma thought she was boarding a ship anchored in an ocean, our mother with multiple leg surgeries thought the ramp might lead to another one of those, but our father on a wheel chair hoisted by couple of us was blissfully unaware of the rickety ramp.

He sat smiling on one of the chairs on the boat that gives a great view of the lake.  It is rare to see him smile spontaneously and the rarity called for clicking of a ton of pictures.

The trip did take a toll on him.  He had a fainting bout on the ride, slept for days in exhaustion.  But nothing could dampen our satisfaction of taking the family out on our first happy excursion.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Meditation

When living in the U.S. there were couple of times when I tried to do the 10 day Vipassana Meditation.   Something,  mostly work, would need me and I would end up cancelling in the last minute.  The first time around made me particularly sad.  Mainly so as I was to do it with a good friend Rohan. He had changed centers for me, we were to fly together to Boston and stay at one of my friend's place before heading to the center.  I had to back off the last minute leaving Rohan in a not too exuberant situation. 

During then and at other times when my desire to attend would obviously remain just that, I consoled myself that it wasn't for me.  Somethings aren't meant to be, not for us, not what we need, not in the plan for our spiritual path - so its been with me and Vipassana.

Since my father's hemorrhage I have tried to incorporate Vipassana philosophy into my caregiving and pretty much everyday being.  Days like today are particularly good practice days. Our nurse has gone for a few days to attend a wedding and I have taken over her role.  Today is just day two and I already feel closer to Nirvana than ever before.

Strangely when there is no help my father will develop some issue for the day.  Its stomach upset this time. I've cleaned motion and changed diapers almost 4 times of which three times I gave him enema.  The challenging part is not to know the cause of the problem and the solution for it.  Also, he is not too adept  at swallowing, this normally doubles the eating time and two hands are insufficient to clean his simultaneous secretions from trachea, mouth and nose when he aspirates or coughs.  Since he coughed most of the night last night, I bathed (sun bath, spine bath, regular bath), fed, changed, brushed and cleaned him in a sleep deprived stupor.

There is this zone, a thin stage that hangs in between all the physical and mental exhaustion, when body parts are numb, mind no longer wants to worry or think, when nothing seems to really matter.  This silver sweet zone as I call it makes all the past slights and disappointments a faded memory and apprehensions on future a futile thought.  No one or nothing seems wrong.  Every thought and movement is on present.  There is a Zen like acceptance to things.  This is my Vippassana meditation.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sister Moves Back to Cochin

On the day of our father's hemorrhage my sister flew in from Cochin and I followed her from the U.S.  For the next year and half we were like two peas in a pod.  There was practically no life outside of home.  We talked the most to each other and did everything together.  Most importantly each decision for our father was taken jointly.  

Being sisters we had ofcourse grown up together.   But the trajectory of growth in this period was steep and outstanding.  We learned to distinguish useful doctors from the smart ones,  to sport worthy service persons with five minutes in to the conversation with them, to decide on best course of treatment even in the face of conflicting opinions, and the list goes on.  My personal favorite for obvious reasons is when we play the good cop - bad cop routine, where I would invariably be the good cop.

Our personalities complimented perfectly.  She would be impatient for results, ideas, and pretty much anything.  She also had no problem expressing herself at the highest audible levels with the choicest of words. In front of her I appeared rather calm and patient and sometimes too calm for comfort.   We divided performing tasks and dealing with people that suited our nature.

One ever present issue during this period was that my sister had left behind her husband and seven year old daughter back in Cochin.  She didn't know what to expect when she first come to help and with the situation so grave, couldn't fathom leaving our father or most importantly leaving us by ourselves.

Although my niece and brother-in-law would visit as often as school and work would permit it was no substitute for them living together.  All sorts of possibilities were discussed - maybe they should all move in with us, or my niece comes first then brother-in-law or my sister starts working and they move somewhere close to us.   In all the combination, the one thing she never contemplated much to my brother-in-law's dismay was moving back to Cochin.

After one of the particularly intense debates we somehow decided maybe it was best for her and her family to go back.  Since the day we decided this to the actual day she moved, she cried everyday.  She would alternate her reason for distress between our parents and myself, but cry everyday she did.  Finally end of summer of 2012 my sister and niece went back to Cochin.

I was most encouraging of her going, had a feeling of calm and peace about the decision.  But once she was gone I mentally broke down.  Thinking back, I think it was more like petrified.   Even though I was the one who was more hands on with our father, took him to the treatments, and sat vigilant through all the infection episodes,  I relied on her for most decision making.   My biggest fear was I would miss something that she might have caught.  To be solely in charge of my parents and grandmother was more than I would imagine.   I had attacks of paranoia on most nights, when that wasn't the case I ate a lot of desserts and watched a ton of movies.

Its been over a year since she moved.  During this period there have been fair share of starting new treatments, highly distressing issues and also thankfully some heartening progress.  We seemed to have survived better than I thought we would.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Yanking out the PEG Tube

Almost over a year and half after we inserted the PEG tube to feed our father, it was time to remove it this summer.  Hurrah.  He is able to consume food orally, although with some coughing and not at a stellar pace, but the good news is he can eat.  

Since inserting the PEG was such an adventure, we expected it would alteast be half as much for its removal.  Once this decision was made,  we wasted maybe another two to three weeks to arrange for finances.   It was destination Apollo, so obviously we deemed it necessary to be stuffed with money when we walked in.

We fixed an appointment with the same gastro doctor who had inserted it.   As usual had a bag full of questions for him - How long will it take? Should his stomach be empty?  Expected wait time for the procedure?  The cost? Any tests?  All the Doctor had to say for any question was that it was a simple procedure and to just get him to the hospital.

The Doctor walked in to the waiting room within five minutes of us getting there.  He asked to wait outside, I wanted to watch, reluctantly he agreed. He just twisted the PEG tube and yanked it out.  Thats it.  A little bleeding, a small dressing and we were ready to leave.  All this at no cost.

One of my closest friend's husband works in the Hospital's Management and was appalled to be informed only as we were leaving.  Graciously he walked us to our car.  Never had it so easy, happy and free at the Apollo. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Diagnostics labs in Chennai - Dime a Dozen


If one were to take a survey of the number of labs in Chennai, the city of our residence, a mindboggling but unsurprising number would show up.   

In our 5 months at Apollo Specialty Hospital (ASH) lab tests made up almost one-fourth of the mammoth bill.  As with many things we realized there is Apollo, and then there is rest of the medical world.   Apparently their equipments and diagnostic procedures are cutting edge, a line of reasoning used to justify almost double the cost of tests done elsewhere.   

Once out of Apollo it was surely a tough act to follow for some of the specialized test.  But for the routine ones - after two years, various labs and multiple tests I have a few favorites.  Lister Metropolis tops the list, other close runner ups like the ‘24’ hour Anderson Lab, Hi Tech diagnostics and Dr. Lal Path Labs, which is our friendly neighbor.

Lister home service is timely in response, punctual, reliable, and emails me the reports and couriers the hard copies.  They rarely fumble and when they do, are quick to apologize.  Like the time a phlebotomist couldn't find the vein and tested my patience and my father’s arm beyond endurance.  Or the time when one inserted the needle wrong causing excessive bleeding.  I of course wasted no time in reporting the incident to the management.  They surprised me with quick follow-up, apologies and an explanation of the likely mistake. 

Chennai also has home services for x rays and ultrasounds.   

Our city touted as India’s health capital is Mecca for the ailing,   I guess we are lucky to be sick in Chennai.