The heart is essentially a pump that accepts blood from, and supplies blood to, other parts of the body. 15 So its effectiveness at pumping blood is the most important measure of a heart’s health.
The pumping of amma’s heart had gradually weakened over many years. Doctors call this condition a heart failure, a term the medical profession should reconsider. 16 The first time I heard a doctor tell me that amma had heart failure, I thought she had died – this was almost 10 years before she actually died.
With a weak heart, it was a good idea for amma to have a reasonably active lifestyle, but not so active that she overloaded her poor pump.
I never mentioned to amma about pumps, or for that matter the term heart failure – she would not have been able to relate to the first, and not cared about the second. Instead, I kept reminding her many times that her heart was weak and could give up if she did anything strenuous. To make the warning more effective, I clearly mentioned that it could result in very expensive hospitalizations, because I knew that amma considered spending money on hospitals a disgrace.
My entreaties, it appears, had not done their job well enough. Imagine my shock one sunny morning, about five years back, to see her pumping water vigorously using the hand pump at the back of my house, something that could tire even a fully healthy adult!
I cajoled, threatened and fought with her on this issue for more than a week before she finally relented and agreed to do only minimal manual pumping, but on the condition that I replaced her for the main hand pumping job.
Until that time, I was only vaguely aware that a manual water pump existed in my house. I did not see the reason we should have it when we had a motorized pump to pull up as much water as we needed, whenever we needed it. Heck, we were not exactly poor to be solely dependent on the municipal corporation water supply alone.
But that was not the way amma saw it. If the government was giving something for free, it was her bounden duty to take it with both hands. Not accepting it was sacrilege. 17
Here was a lady whose every hospitalization cost us a bomb, but she was fanatical about not wasting free water worth perhaps a few rupees, even if it meant she could get hospitalized again, or worse.
You can take a person out of the middle class, but you cannot take the middle class out of her that easily.
Amma would have made a fascinating subject for behavioral economists. 18
15. Even though it is only a sophisticated pump, engineers and scientists are still struggling to make a purely mechanical heart that can permanently replace a biological heart. This fascinating report from The Verge narrates the ongoing quest to find a completely artifical heart – https://www.theverge.com/2015/11/4/9665902/artificial-heart-transplant-cedars-sinai-clinical-trials
16. There are four stages of heart failure – stages A, B, C and D. Stage A, also considered pre heart failure is when you are at a high risk of developing a failure, Stage D represents an advanced stage of heart failure.
17. Municipal water in India is not exactly free as we pay a water tax as part of the water & sewerage tax, but this is not a large amount. In addition, as this is a sunk cost that we have to pay anyway, municipal water is perceived as free.
18. Behavioral economists however might not have been wholly surprised with amma. It is well-known in economics that we end up responding irrationally and non-linearly when the perceived price of anything reaches “free”.
Read Amma the fun way!
Do you know that you can read specific chapters alone of Amma depending on who you are and what interests you? So, we have selected chapters that could be of interest to young, middle-aged and old men & women, to medical and white collar professionals, to those wishing to know specifically about heart problems, blood pressure or leg ailments, medical management of seniors & elders, and even those interested in reading some fun and humour.
We even have a treasure hunt designed for you to ferret out 100+ interesting facts.