A Real Princess and Her Ferrari!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Make way! The princess is coming in her Ferrari” said Mr. Rajender Suri, and indeed, people made way for them to pass by!
Just as I had stopped believing that real life love stories with princes and princesses can still weave magic, I met the Suri family.
When I first saw Mrs. Vinod Suri about a year ago, she was already diagnosed with dementia, and was undergoing treatment, but her family was quite disturbed because of her hallucinations, behavioral changes, and forgetfulness. She needed an urgent admission, and with the help of my psychiatrist colleagues, we could control her symptoms and discharge her. She is quite stable now, behaviorally, although her dementia continues to progress. We are trying our best to slow down the process.
But the point is not that. When I asked her husband Mr. Rajender Suri about her current status today at Lilavati Hospital, he described things that made me feel I must write about what was happening.
After her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia, Mrs. Suri’s family went through much emotional trauma, but quickly decided to face and fight the monster with all their determination.
Mr. Rajender, who is now 77 and still runs his Book Shop full time at the Churchgate Station, made many arrangements and adjustments for his wife, with the help of their sons Lokesh and Bhuvanesh. They started monitoring her via CCTV, and a full time cook and attendant. Although the sons live in Pune, they call their mother every day on video calls and sing bhajans with her, entertaining her and often, when she sulks, persuading her to take her medicine.
The patient’s husband, Mr. Rajender told me that he will never give up on her care and in his effort to tell her any which way he can, how much he loves her. Like a teenager, and with the same spirit at 77, he calls her ‘baby’, ‘good girl’ or ‘Princess’, making sure to never offend her.
It is indeed devastating for him that she often forgets who he is. Then he goes out and calls her, surprisingly she remembers him on calls and asks him to return. Sometimes she cannot remember at all, despite all efforts. Even if he breaks down, Mr. Rajender doesn’t show it and does whatever he can to comfort her.
Two years ago he took her to a cruise. He named her wheelchair as “Ferrari”, and told people on the cruise that she was to be addressed as Princess. “Make way!” He would say, “The Princess is arriving in her Ferrari”, and people complied.. it is not surprising that even after almost two years, this patient of Alzheimer’s Disease still remembers bits and pieces of good times on that cruise!
Mr. Suri, a very strong personality, had tears in his eyes today: “Sometimes I am frustrated, angry when some people don’t understand our concerns. Then I lose my patience and feel guilty about it later. I realize that this is a ‘Part of the game’, and don’t waste time thinking about it too much. I am myself very prompt and particular about everything as my father was an army officer, but my wife’s malady has taught me a lot of patience. I have learnt to do things as she likes it. The most disturbing thing is that she often forgets who I am, and then I feel lost. But I must recover soon, to attend her”.
Her cook Mr. Padam makes whatever she wants to eat. Her children and their families visit her frequently and participate in her care, insisting on giving some time off to Mr. Rajender.
In our country that lacks understanding care of patients with dementia, where many families are more inclined to “Dump” dementia patients on old age homes, this family stands out for an extraordinary effort they make for their beloved lady, who doesn’t anymore know well who they are. Their love is the purest, knowing that there are no returns. As a Neurologist I feel that this is the single most important factor in long term care for dementia patients. Mrs. Vinod Suri, I feel, knows and feels the love her husband and family bestows upon her, and that has significantly slowed down her disease.
Respect, love and all the best wishes for this family, who took away my ‘Neurologist’s Frustration’ of having to deal with poorly cared dementia cases in India. The ability to deal with what life throws at one decides the depth of their maturity and success. To call a wheelchair “Ferrari” and to make your spouse feel like a “Prince or Princess” at 72 are qualities of the most successful souls in my opinion.
Thank You, Mr. Rajender, Mr. Vinod and Mrs Vinod Suri, for allowing me to share this extraordinary love story!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Please share unedited for awareness 🙏🏻