“Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You)

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the plane landed, I called up the driver who was scheduled to pick me up from Goa airport.

“Hullo, Mr. Clement? I’m Dr. Rajas”

“Haan daktar. Tu aaya kya? Bahar nikalke miss call de mai ayega” (Have you arrived? Come out and give me a missed call, I will come there”) . He would have said the same sentence to the President as well. Goans are least hung up on artificial flowery language, they are the friendliest lot as a society. It was after a year, that the same Clement said to me: “Tere liye apun jaan bhi dega parwa nai” (“I can give my life away for you without any hassles”), when I thanked him for something.

Goa has some excellent Neurologists, and my visiting is actually redundant. Yet somehow, maybe because they keep quite busy, or sometimes patients seek a second opinion, I have been seeing a good number of patients every visit. In the very first visit, after I saw an elderly lady and explained her the treatment, she bowed and said “Dev Borem Korum Doctor”. That means “Thank You Doctor”.

Then I pleasantly noticed: irrespective of what was the diagnosis, what treatment was given, whether there was treatment for the patient’s condition or not, whether the patient improved or not, almost every patient said either “Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You) or “God Bless You Doctor”. Even if surgery was advised, even if there were side effects of medicines, even if the outcome was not as expected in rare cases, the “Thank You”and “God Bless You” never changed. It had nothing to do with any particular social class. The rich, the poor, the educated as well as the uneducated, people from every religion, every age group said it. It is a part of that culture: the Goan culture.

Late one night after the OPD, when we were driving on a beautiful long empty Goa road near the beach, I mentioned this fact to my friend Dr. Samuel (God Bless Him for the exotic dinners he takes me to!), he stopped his car and looked quite affected. “I wondered whether anyone else had noticed that. It feels so beautiful! When the patient is grateful and brings you blessings, you automatically feel responsible to do the best for them. Money never matters in that relationship. We must never take patient’s kindness for granted. So many of them actually say Thank You, God Bless you, but sometimes we are too preoccupied with work, anger, ego and other things to reciprocate and encourage that kindness”.

I told him about my late Professor Dr. Sorab Bhabha, who stood up and greeted every time a patient entered or left his cabin. The onus of initiating a good doctor-patient relationship primarily lies upon the doctor, and it is extremely essential to follow the best of manners and etiquette, kindest of language when dealing with patients.

A very sweet girl who followed up for epilepsy recently told me that she visited me not only for medical purpose but because she was inspired by the way I appear calm and composed, the fact that I never raised my voice and always spoke compassionately with everyone. I had to tell her the truth. “Thank you mam, but I am quite short tempered outside the hospital. Even the junior doctors working with me sometimes find me intimidating. But I have to change when I am with a patient. I don’t think that any patient comes to me because I am any better than anyone else in the profession. I prefer to think that they choose me because they trust I can solve their problem. Will you be rude to someone seeking your help? Then how can I get angry with a patient? Every patient coming to me has that hidden trust, which I must justify. Only rarely, if the patient misbehaves or says something insulting, do I lose my calm.”.

“That’s what I like. So humble!” she had to have the last word!

Yes! The day I bring my ego inside the hospital, I will no more be a good doctor. Even the most illiterate patient understands when the doctor is being rude or artificial. Only when it is genuine, the patient will feel the warmth of my compassion and care. It has nothing to do with sweet talking or a show of affection. The only way to do this is to actually incorporate it within one’s depths so that it becomes one’s originality. Kindness and compassion must be the original, genuine qualities of every doctor who expects gratitude from each one of his patients. It does work in most cases.

After dinner, Dr. Sam took me with two other friends to the beach and we silently stared at the luminous moon for a long time. The music of those waves matched the dance of that moonlight upon the ocean. Just as one can feel the glow of the moonlight upon one’s skin, I could feel those numerous blessings keeping my soul warm and happy.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Slaughtering The Precious

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

At the casualty door she started shouting at me even before I went in. “We don’t want any tests. We don’t want to admit him in any critical care unit. Keep him in the general ward you have, we are now financially exhausted. Give basic medicines only “. Mrs. Julie, the patient’s daughter, went on:”We have already signed palliative care form”.

“Let me see the patient first “ I said and went in.

The resident doctor had earlier told me that the patient, an old man, was conscious, speaking quite well, aware of his illness. He was intermittently getting unconscious for a few minutes. He had high grade fever. He had lung cancer, and a brain scan a few days prior had revealed that that he had a secondary in the brain too. He had just completed his chemotherapy. The resident doctor had already started medicine for fits just now.

As I examined him, the jovial Mr. Shaw smiled back and told me that he was feeling a little giddy and tired, otherwise he had no complaints. He could even stand and walk without support. His blood pressure was normal, but the heart rate was quite high due to the fever.

“I think you have probably developed seizures due to the secondary in brain. There seems to be some infection too, we will run some tests and start antibiotics” I told him.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“When will I feel better, doctor?” He asked, “I want to be home and spend every possible day of my remaining time with my grandchildren. I want to also finish a book I am writing. I am told I have only a few months left. How much time do I have? Six months? Four atleast?” he asked, still smiling. Only doctors know what a smiling face with a crying heart actually looks like. “Every passing moment is extremely precious for me, doc! Please cure me fast” he said.

I assured him that if the tests showed nothing serious, he could go home once fever subsided, but the fits needed long term treatment. While we were having this talk he suddenly stiffened and his body developed jerky movements, then he became unconscious.

Ordering the emergency injections for fits, I told the casualty doctor to shift him to the critical care unit.

Coming out, I explained this to the angry daughter.

“Doc, we don’t want to treat him in any ICU. We also do not want any tests now. Please give him tablets instead of injections, we want to take him home as soon as his fever goes down” she replied.

This has become very common now, relatives of elderly people admitting them in hospitals, but refusing to do any tests, use injectable / costly medicines or shifting to critical care units. A doctor cannot refuse patients in such a condition, and it is an extremely painful, stressful situation to not be able to correctly investigate, treat a patient because relatives are unwilling. Ninety Nine percent of the times, money is the only reason. There are many charity, low cost and even good government hospitals, but the relatives also want the “show”of having admitted the patient at some posh hospital. Beyond a certain level, Private

hospitals cannot go on funding tests and treatments of hundreds of such patients even on a compassionate basis, because the poverty in India is never ending.

Compassion is the most abused entity in India.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I told her that even if they had signed for palliative care, his current condition was treatable, his fever and fits caused him distress and could be treated, but she staunchly refused to let us send any tests. We started with oral medicines after a lot of deliberation, keeping fingers crossed that he responds. He did.

On the third day, Mr. Shaw walked out of the hospital with his patent smile.

Just next week, his daughter returned to the OPD: “Doc, dad passed away two days ago. After going home he had fever again, but we decided to manage him at home. Somehow he could not get through this time. I have come to get your signature on these bills from his last medicines, we want to get reimbursed”.

“Was he seen by a doctor at home?” I asked her.

“No doc, we gave him the same medicines that he was earlier given for fever. We also searched online and ordered them. But in a way we also feel he is now relieved of all his troubles” she said, hushing up the topic.

I signed the papers, a duty and an obligation.

In every hospital, every day, we see parents rushing, crying, selling everything they have, urging doctors to save their children on one side, and grown up children urging doctors to hasten up the deaths of their parents on the other . Many sweet, politically correct and legally blurred terms are now available for masking these murders.

A patient with a terminal illness may himself sign for “non-aggressive / palliative” care (meaning pain relief, superficial / minor treatment without aggressive effort to save or maintain life), or if the patient is not in a good mental condition to sign such a consent, the relatives may sign so. However, in India where children mostly are responsible for the medical bills of the elderly, they flatly refuse to treat even treatable, reversible conditions citing “öld age” as a reason. Even in case of patients with terminal illness, to presume that someone is immediately unfit to live, or fit to die is like saying it is okay to terminate their life at someone else’s wish. This is cruel, unethical, immoral, and should stand supported in no courts of law.

However, these murders are a daily routine in India, and law has tied the hands of treating doctors and hospitals as one cannot investigate or treat a patient when the relatives haven’t given a consent. An evolution in the fraternity as well as in this society is necessary if a change is expected.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Otherwise, when we all will eventually be old, however much we want to live on for a few more days, one day someone will decide that we don’t deserve to continue to live, without ever wanting to know what we wished.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Most Precious Jewels Upon Earth

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir, next is our old free patient” my receptionist announced on the phone.

Divya, the smart young girl of 8 years jumped into my cabin, and grabbed her chair with an authority. Confidently looking at me, she questioned, “how are you today?”

Her parents, embarrassed and charmed at the same time with her sense of ease in this big hospital, facing a doctor, hesitantly stood behind her. I requested them to sit down and went through the routine questions.

“She is all good now, no fits since last two years. She has been regular in her school and has started studying well too” her father reported.

I examined her and wrote her a renewed prescription. I noticed the mother wiping tears.

“What happened?” I asked.

Quickly smiling, she just gestured with her head “nothing” and looked at her husband.

“Do we need any tests, Sir?” Her husband asked, “We will do whatever is required”. I could feel his palpitations. They were scared that I may tell them tests, and that would mean financial disaster.

He works as a pantry boy and can barely pay the home rent with his salary. His wife somehow makes ends meet, looking after this sweet daughter and a younger son.

At the age of five, Divya had had her first convulsion. Her parents had rushed her to the government hospital. They did not have the money required for Divya’s tests and medicines even at the government hospital. So they resorted to something that hurt them worst: they had to sell little Divya’s silver jewelry, which was the most precious thing in their house. Even that was not enough, so they borrowed money and started her treatment, her father worked extra hours.

That was about three years ago. Divya’s fits continued, but her parents did not give up. Their whole life had but one aim: to stop her fits. Even after being less educated, Divya’s parents decided to go with scientific treatment, ignoring all pressures to take her to different weird people including magic healers. They did not give up hope, their will power was their boon.

Two years ago, a doctor friend sent Divya to me. With some changes in prescription, her fits completely stopped, she has now become just another normal child.

“No tests are required. Please make sure that she is regular with the medicines” I told them.

As I wrote this, I got a little emotional myself, this was the first time I had heard of any parents having to sell their daughter’s jewelry for her treatment. On one side, I was proud that even after being surrounded by perpetual pits of poverty, this girl child’s parents did not skimp upon her treatment just because she was a girl child (this often happens), but on the other I felt anger and shame that my country still lacks a basic healthcare infrastructure that can offer free quality treatment to at least children.

Yet, this had taught me my lesson. Willpower and hope are the mightiest and most precious jewels upon earth, far tougher and far more beautiful than any diamonds. For there are many who own diamonds but have neither willpower nor hope.

Meeting this rich family today was joy enough, but a greater bliss was when the kiddo put her arm upon my shoulder with the same confidence. The world is indeed hers!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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“If Only”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dr. Raina sat devastated in her chamber. Medical tragedies are a part of any doctor’s daily life, but this was cruel, because it was preventable.

A young patient in 20s, Mr. Pandey, was brought to her, with mild headaches. He had started dieting and exercising a month ago, and the entire family was hooked on to some herbal preparations that claimed to confer health without any side effects. His examination was completely normal. The patient and his highly educated parents were extremely anxious. Dr. Raina had explained to them that even if the examination was normal, sometimes headaches may be the only early warning sign of some diseases, and hence she would recommend an MRI of the brain.

“Is it necessary? Does his examination tell you something is wrong?” asked the father.

“His examination is normal, however, in many diseases that manifest only as headaches, one may not find anything wrong upon a clinical examination” Dr. Raina explained.

“Like what? Which diseases?” asked the mother, hardly aware that her anxiety was adding to her son’s distress.

Dr. Raina hesitated. When the patient or family is already so anxious, how can one utter names like cancer, tumor, aneurysm, etc.? If the doctor uses such words, some patients lose their sleep for weeks even if the tests reports turn out normal. A doctor has to be wise enough to avoid worrying the patient unnecessarily. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Well, infections like sinus disease, pressure changes in brain water, and some others which are rare” Dr. Raina said cautiously.

“Any dangerous diseases? How much is the possibility? Can we wait?” the father bombarded.

Dr. Raina controlled her discomfort and agitation. Educated or not, when a patient visiting a doctor talks as if they know better medical decision making than the doctor, the doctor mentally switches off the ‘compassionate involvement of a doctor’ and becomes a ‘legally alert’ medical professional. Questions are welcome, suspicious cross examination is not.

“The possibility of finding anything grievous like clots or tumors is extremely low, but this is usually the standard investigation to complete the evaluation of the case” she replied. She had told them to get the MRI done. They asked if it was an emergency. She said it didn’t appear to be, based upon the normal examination. She wasn’t ‘God’ to see inside the body.

She prescribed the patient some simple medicines for headache, preparing for another round of questions.

“Are these steroids? Are these antibiotics? Do these cause addiction? Do they cause damage to the liver or kidney?” she patiently replied to the family. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Why won’t a doctor think of these things when writing a prescription? Do you ask a pilot if his steps while flying are correct? Do you cross question a Judge about how he makes his decisions? Do you ask a soldier fighting with terrorists why he is firing, how many bullets, and in which direction?

The mother checked the medicines and said “Don’t mind doc, but I will first google these medicines and then start in a day or two. We will also think about the MRI”. They left.

Just two days later, the patient was found unconscious in his bed at home. Rushed to the hospital, his brain showed blockage of the venous channels in his brain, that had caused huge bleeding. He was operated in an emergency and was now paralysed on one side. He had also lost speech. The surgeon who operated the patient could manage to save his life with a great effort. The parents were still suspicious about the surgery being wrong. Many opinions were obtained, and it finally dawned upon them that what was being done was the best. The combination of unknown content medicines, low water intake, atrocious dieting and exercise had probably caused clots in his brain, leading to the blockage and bleeding.

One evening, when Dr. Raina was passing by the wards, the patient’s mother stopped her. “He is our only child. Our whole life was woven around him. Will he ever speak? Will he ever walk? Please tell us the truth”.

“We will try, although it looks quite difficult. It may take weeks to see some improvement. But we have seen miracles, let us hope for another” Dr. Raina replied. It was useless to blame anyone now, she refrained from the obvious ‘if only’. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They came back in a few weeks after discharge. Now the son was in a wheelchair.

The mother proudly told Dr. Raina: “You know doc, after discharge we took him to a remote village in south India, where he was given special massages and an ancient secret diet. That’s why he is now improving, he has just learnt to say “Aai (mother)”.

Dr. Raina did not reply. There was no cure for the disease of faithlessness in the society that she worked for.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Light Divine

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The lady in the ICU appeared quite disturbed and shaken. Bewildered, she kept looking at her husband’s face, wiping her tears and his forehead with a corner of her saree.

Her husband, Mr. Mohan Vitthal Kadam, was critical, he had also gone completely blind suddenly and paralysed. While working as an electrician with a company in Jejuri, he was often noticed to have high blood pressure inspite of taking regular treatment with his family doctor. One day at work, he suddenly had a severe headache and went completely blind. Terrified, his colleagues rushed him to the nearest hospital. His blood pressure had shot up far above the dangerous levels. The local doctors gave him emergency treatment and sent him over to Pune. That’s why I had come to the ICU.

I introduced myself politely to his wife, and asked her the details. Sobbing intermeittently, she told me what all had happened. I examined Mr. Kadam. His BP was still high, but not in dangerous zone anymore. He was confused, unable to speak clearly. His left side was paralysed too. He pointed towards his head, indicating that he had a headache. His MRI showed many areas of his brain damaged due to high blood pressure. The areas which control the visual information coming from the eyes were damaged heavily. His brain was swollen dangerously. He could need an emergency surgery.

This condition, known among doctors as “Cortical Blindness” is a common but griveous condition: the patients eyes and the nerves are intact, they actually can see and carry the images to the brain, but the visual areas in the brain cannot see / read that information, because they are dead or injured. I informed this in simpler words to Mrs. Kadam.

“Will he ever see me again? Will he see our kids? How can he live the rest of his life with such blindness?” her questions came mixed with sobs and tears. I had very few answers, but I told her I was hopeful of a recovery. “We will first concentrate on reducing the swelling upon his brain, so we can avoid surgery” I told her. Their son came over and attended his father alternating with his mother. Mr. Kadam ‘s brain swelling gradually reduced, surgery was no more required. His BP was well controlled in two days. His paralysis also improved, but he still was completely blind.

Once he could understand the situation, he asked only one question: “Can I see my wife and children at leaast once in life again?”.

“We will try, I am hopeful” I replied. We had started with all the supplements that help recover brain damage. When he was discharged after ten days, he was still not able to see anything. He returned today.

“After we went to our village, many people told us to abandon allopathic treatment and go for secret herbal medicines and magical remedies. Somehow, myself and my wife decided to have complete faith in what you had told us. We continued your medicines and kept praying. The only light in my life then was the trust I had that I will get better. After two months, I could suddenly see a light bulb at night in our home. I immediately called my wife and told her so. Then onwards, there was a gradual improvement. I tried every day to see the faces of my wife and kids. In another two weeks, I could see them again That was the happiest day of my life.”. Mr Kadam became emotional. “Doctor, my company offered me a substantial sum as disability compensation, but I did not want money. I only wanted to see my family. Now that I can, I came here to thank you. Now I can even read a newspaper…but the darkness of being blind was far less hurtful than the thought of never seeing my dear ones again.. I cannot forget that. Thank you again, You are God for us” Mr. Kadam said.

I told him that I was just another doctor, that we were both cared for by the same God, that any qualified doctor would have done the same. I had not done anything extraordinary. But it is difficult to control a grateful patient.

“No doctor, we believe that doctors are God’s hands specially made to treat patients” he persisted.

I could only thank him. Thousands of doctors all over the world, all across India, do this every day, and receive blessings and gratitude that fills up their hearts with a joy that cannot be described.

Now I think there is a reason why Mr. Kadam came today. Many good and bad things happened in 2018. While making resolutions for the incoming new year, I was thinking once more what is most important in life. Mr. Kadam provided with many answers to that question. What matters is gratitude for what you have, especially health, gratitude for your family, and the ability to help others through their darkness. Who except a doctor is better placed to help others with health and life? Whatever other resolutions a doctor may make, one of them remains a universal favourite: ’ Let all my patients improve, and live happily a long life. Let me make every effort for that.’

Thank you. Mr. &. Mrs. Kadam, for allowing me to share this story.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Be A Woman!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A major part of the pride of being a doctor is the freedom from any discrimination between humans. Every woman or man, from any religion or country is equally important, and also equally cared for.

Yet as a doctor I have often witnessed women being stronger than men when life presents any calamities, however explosive. Women are probably more emotionally destroyed with a traumatic event, yet they pick themselves up and fight like a mother for whoever they choose to stand by and protect. And we know, a mother makes a strong army! Any patient cared for by a woman heals faster, be it a nurse, a sister, servant, daughter, wife or mother, be it a girlfriend or just a woman without any relation. In any family, it is usually the women who keep the bonds of humanity and culture alive. We have so many biases about cultures and how women are treated, but it is an unfortunate fact: that women do things men find impossible. Hence the title, Be A Woman!

We often hear from working men in the metropolises how they cannot bring a parent in wheelchair to the hospital as it would be a lot of trouble and time.

Ms. Eshrak (a psychologist) and her sister (a bank employee) brought their mother on a stretcher all by themselves, all the way from Cairo, Egypt, to Pune India, in a hope to see her walk again. To travel to another country without knowing anyone there wasn’t their biggest problem. Reaching India from the war-torn middle east is a nightmare, but once they reach, local Indians, especially police officials are very cooperative in helping out especially patients coming for treatment to India.

They found a friend in a local Arabic student Mr. Ashraf Olafi, and had him search my clinic (I am sure any good qualified neurologist could have treated them equally well!). Their mother, suffering from Parkinsons Disease, walked after many months today, so they came with the two greatest gifts for their doctor: a smiling gratitude and blessings. Of course they brought a material token!

What better proof can there be of women not being dependent upon men? If only we recognised how incomplete and incompetent humanity would be, without the strength of women!

To artificially write about gratitude for women in one’s life and to thank them superficially to impress press and public has become a fashion, few do it from their heart. I pity those “high flying, successful” men who boast about how they respect women and consider them equal, while their wives are in fact taking care of their home and children, opting for hugely compromised careers. The truth is, a man, however strong, is always indebted to some woman!

Be A Woman!

That should always have been the correct slogan..

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Poverty Vow

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Long day. Came home. Ritual steamy hot bath to wash away the hospital feel, followed by steaming hot dinner. Switched on jazz, and I picked up the pasta. Heaven descended upon my tongue.

“How perfect this moment is!” I thought, and that’s where I was wrong. The phone rang.

“Sir, 18 year old buy, had fever since a day, took some tablets, became unconscious, now comatose. Vitals are stable, although he is coughing occasionally. No past history significant. Poor family, cannot afford treatment. Father is a labourer. What should I do?”

“Get him into the ICU, intubate if required and stabilise. Arrange for an MRI”

“OK Sir, but Sir they don’t even have a deposit. They had first gone to the government hospital, but as they were not happy there they have come here”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We will work something out. I am on my way” I replied.

In an hour, after examining the boy and seeing his MRI and other tests, we concluded that he had viral encephalitis. The standard medicines were started.

The boy’s father, an obvious poor slum dweller, was in a state of shock. The mother, sobbing, told me the history. I reassured them. When I explained the diagnosis and treatment they asked some questions.

“We don’t understand anything, we are illiterate and poor. Do anything Sir, Just save my son, Sir” the father folded his hands together. Private hospitals have a quota for free patients, but usually it is always overloaded. I requested the hospital management to please make this a free case, they accepted.

The next day, the child opened his eyes. On the third day he started responding. I was quite elated to have his mother speak with him. However, his respiration was still shallow, and blood presure very low. His heart rate was fluctuating due to the effect of viral infection. He was still critical. I spoke to his parents twice every day, specifically reassuring them. Poor patients must never feel that they are not equally cared for. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

That evening, as I attended my patients in the OPD, the patient’s father came in, requested that he wanted to have a word. He came in with six other people. None of them could possibly be poor, given their get ups.

“Yes?”I asked.

The patient’s father looked at the giant next to him. “You ask” he said to the giant.

The giant, chewing his gutkha, askked me “What’s wrong with his son?”

“I have explained them thrice”I replied, “he has viral infection of the brain. There’s a lot of swelling upon his brain”.

“How come he is not improving? His BP was normal when he came. He did not have any heart problems. Now you tell us his heart is not functioning well” asked another medical superstar with white linen and gold teeth. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Yes, this happens commonly with viral infections” I replied, feeling hopeless. How to teach complicated medicine to this pure- muscular class? I wondered.

“But you said he had infection in the brain. How come now he has it in the heart? Is the treatment wrong?” Asked someone similar among them, in a tone nastier than medical examiners.

I looked at the patient’s father. He was looking at the ceiling, deliberately avoiding eye contact with me.

“Listen, Sir”, I told them, “Your patient has viral infection, it has primarily affected the brain, but involvement or dysfunction of other organs is well known with such infections, this is not something new to us. We are on guard, dealing with the situation. Nothing is wrong about the treatment, in fact his brain swelling has improved, and he is conscious now. Ask his mother” I looked at her.

“I don’t know” she said, “we don’t find any improvement in my child. Nobody tells us anything”.

“Haven’t I explained you and his father patient’s condition every day?” I asked. They did not reply.

The white linen gold teeth spoke again: “We want a report. We want to show the case to another doctor”

That was a relief. I gladly wrote them a report. They went doctor-shopping all day. They returned next day. Almost everyone had asked them to continue the same treatment that we had advised, except some desperate non-specialist telling them to shift the patient immediately for a surgery at his hospital. Even our gold-toothed medical superstar understood that it was wrong! (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We will continue treatment here only. But our patient must survive” came an open threat.

”I will do my best, but I cannot guarantee you anything. You may please transfer the patient under the care of any doctor of your choice” I told them.

“No no, you continue to treat him.But if anything goes wrong, we will file a police complaint. We will ruin this hospital”said one of them.

I am allergic to threats. I don’t allow them twice from the same source in my life. How could any doctor guarantee that there could be no complications? How could I say that the patient could not react to any medicine in such a critical condition? If every patient could have guaranteed improvement, what’s the need for a doctor?

“I am sorry, I am planning for a leave next few days. I won’t be able to see your patient. I have requested our management to transfer your case to another doctor” I told them.

There was a movie “Teesri Kasam”in which the lead character, at the end of the movie, vows never to help the character of the lead actress in the movie, because the very wish and effort to help her has shattered his life, caused him regret. Most Doctors are now being forced to take such a vow. Urban Poverty is not so simple and innocent in a hospital as it appears to the media and society. Whether it is the roadside rowdiness of slum dwellers who roam around with weapons or a maid’s drunkard husband in civilised society, we all understand the misuse of poverty status well anywhere outside hospital, but somehow when this happens in a hospital, the blame is automaytically pinned upon the hospital or the doctor.

But who among the vote-mongers will speak against the majority voting bank?

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“My Turn Now”

©Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I don’t want to live like this. I have stopped eating since today. Please do not be angry with me for this, but I cannot see you and my children suffer because of my illness. Let me go with peace” Geetanjali said to her husband.

Eighteen years after her marriage, in her late thirties, Geetanjali suddenly lost the function of one half of her body. Her children were still in school. Her husband Gajendra Jagtap works as a school teacher and does some farming on a small piece of land they own. The whole family was shocked and shattered with this calamity that befell Geetanjali. But Gajendra Jagtap decided not to be broken down by destiny, and took his wife immediately to the best hospitals in Mumbai. They were told that Geetanjali was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. After a few days of treatment, they could not afford to stay in Mumbai and came to Pune as it was nearer to their village. The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Pune extended its helping hand. Geetanjali was yet unable to stand up or walk. ‘This illness is totally unpredictable, anyone can develop blindness or disability anytime’ doctors told them. Geetanjali felt hopeless. She was very depressed with the thought of stressing her husband financially to provide for the treatment expenses. She also worried if her children’s education will suffer due to her illness and financial constraints. This was the reason she decided that she did not want to live any further, and gave up eating or drinking anything.

But Gajendra was not the typical Indian husband. This B. Sc. Graduate who had taken up teaching in a rural school as his profession had a big heart, and harbored principles of equality and respect for women, just like a highly educated spouse in a developed country. He told Geetanjali, ‘You have served me and our children for over eighteen years now. When I was working in the school or in the farm, you looked after the home, cooked for us and fed us sumptuously. Now give us a chance to repay for what you have done for us. It’s my turn now. I am going to take care of you just like you cared for us.’ Geetanjhali could not hold her emotions and sobbed when she narrated this story to me.

‘At that point of time, I felt like living only to help my family. I decided to use whatever few healthy days I had to make my husband and children happy.’ She started to fight her disability with a new spirit, and in a few months could walk very well again. Since then she had attacks of this disease many times, but vehemently fought it to recover every time, with the help of her husband.

Gajendra told me “I explained my children our situation. I told them that we don’t have much money left, and that they must only complete their education based upon merit. We are very fortunate that our children decided to grow up quite early in their childhood. Both of them studied very well, and my elder son is now doing his post graduation which he got through a scholarship in Delhi. Even my daughter got excellent marks and is now pursuing her post graduation by winning a scholarship. Both of them take care of their own expenses, and never bother us for money. Even I have decided that whatever our destiny presents us with, we will face it with a smile, and never accept defeat in any situation. We have to visit hospitals many times, spend on treatment and investigations, travel many times, but we do it all with a spirit of winning together. Whenever she can, she still takes care of the home, and when she can’t, I do it with the help of my daughter. But we never feel desolate or depressed”.

In the developed world, people suffering from this illness get a lot of healthcare facilities, and even income tax concessions. However, this farmer from a lower middle class background who does not receive any such help, has not only resurrected his family, but created a new life for his wife with his sheer love and determination. The most admirable thing about his love story is the respect and feeling of equality with which he thinks of his wife. Geetanjali also stood up firmly with him to conquer this illness, with all her love and might. Together, they have indeed defeated their destiny.

We sincerely pray for the excellent health, well-being and long life for each member of this wonderful and ideal family.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist, Pune

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The Secret Illness Of Doctors

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

She threw the file upon my table.

“I have no relief doctor. This giddiness is killing me. None of the medicines ever works. No doctor is able to understand my illness. Just give me some tablet and end my life” she was shouting and crying. Her parents accompanying her looked at me with anger and disdain.

She had been to many speciaalists earlier. Most earlier doctors had “wisely shuttled her off to another specialist” due to her hysterical behavior. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I ordered a coffee for her and her parents, asked them to calm down, and explained that I had not found any abnormality upon her physical examination. I told them once again that sometimes we do not recognise stress playing upon our minds. We all think that we are supermen or superwomen who can tolerate any mental activity, behavior or abuse of our physical and mental capacity. Explained, they calmed down, open for suggestions. I referred them to an excellent psychiatrist colleague.

My colleague emailed me the next day after meeting them. The girl was being sweetly pressurised by her family for marriage, and the fear of having to leave the “overcaring and comfort” of her parents was stressing her out. She dramatically improved with counseling for the whole family and medicines for her. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Only recently, a case of bleeding in the brain due to high BP was quite critical, and the entire family kept blaming, screaming at and in general mentally screwing the doctor’s team as the patient did not improve as quickly as they expected. Patients with bleeding in the brain may take months to improve. The worst ‘shouter’ in this case was the patient’s elder son. Many days after the patient improved, the family revealed that this elder son had had a continuous fight with his father, the patient, for many days prior over property, and on the night before admission he had slapped his father. That’s probably why the patient’s BP had shot up, causing bleeding in the brain. They had never told us this part earlier.

This is a form of abuse that almost every medical practitioner faces on a daily basis. Quarrels and stresses at home, guilts and anxieties, work pressures, irregular and atrocious lifestyles, eating habits and addictions, relationship frustrations of all kinds, personal failures and insecurities are some of the common reasons angry patients and their families unburden themselves upon the medical practitioner. Many want to avoid in-laws, pregnancy, transfers, heavy duty etc.Many do not follow medical advice and experiment upon themselves. Most of these blame doctors for their continuing ill health, little realising that the actual medicine is omitting the cause of their stress. The doctor can only help one identify this cause, suggest strategies to deal with it, but the actual action has to come from the patient and family. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“Doctor Abuse” is common all over the world, but in India it also converts into frank violence. Blaming ‘compassionate communication failure” by the doctor is a joke, a society where even the closest family members do not understand each other for years, how does one expect a doctor to make someone strange ‘understand” a complicated situation? Will our courts and police “explain and communicate effectively” with criminals so that they do not commit crimes again, or will they “warn and punish” the abusers and miscreants? Abuse and violence are NEVER justified in any civil society.

The stress of such “Doctor Abuse” is phenomenal! It has now become so common, that many doctors have stopped admitting patients, many have reduced work hours, and some have even quit the profession. “Excessive stress and fear of abuse” is a secret illness of almost all doctors now!

If a doctor wanted his patients to suffer or die, why will he/ she even go to the hospital? There’s better money in almost all other intellectual professions, why would one choose to spend a lifetime amongst the sick and dying? Most doctors are doing their best for making the patient happy. A little understanding and cooperation from our society will encourage the good doctors to be better, and the bad doctors to follow their example. Violence and force will only worsen the situation. Doctor abuse must go. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Always praying for the best health of patients and now, even doctors!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Harassed Patriot

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir Can I come to meet you this Wednesday? I am in Delhi right now, I will be coming to Pune on Tuesday to see my parents” Dr. Aman asked. He sounded different from his usual jovial self. I was with a patient.

“Sure! Everything alright with you?” I asked hesitantly.

“I will come and see you sir, I want to tell you something”.

I finished my OPD and went to the cafetaria, feeling nostalgic. Dr. Aman was a brilliant student from one of my earliest batches. You know, when you have just passed out Neurology DM, and you are a teacher to those 3-4 years younger to you. It’s a guarded friendly relation more than a teacher-student one. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

His parents were uneducated, his father ran a grocery shop in a small town. Aman had mostly stayed in charity hostels almost all his school and college days. He had maintained a high merit but also a very polite behavior, enabling him to get support from his teachers. I met him first during his last year of MBBS, I was in the last year of my MD Medicine. We became friends because both of us were night owls, preferring to study late in peace. The city bus-stand was about two miles away from the hostel, and we went there together to snack and have tea etc. early morning at 4 AM, after having studied till then. We did not discuss anything academic, we were more into Richard Bach and Ayn Rand stuff. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Once during that 4 AM walk to the bus stand, he said “I want to do the best for my country, Dr. Rajas. My dream is to open a hospital where all poor patients can get the best treatment completely free. Not the ‘charity’class cheap and superficial treatment, but the best treatment that there can be anywhere upon earth”.

“I agree, I want to do something similar too, but where will the funds come from? World class treatment will mean world class doctors, staff, technology, set-up and even world class medicines. Who will sponsor it all?”I asked. This thought crosses the mind of almost every medical student while studying medicine, because there’s no one else other than medical students and resident doctors who witnesses the real health-related suffering of the poor. All the rants of socialists, politicos and other famous preachers die when they actually have to help from their own pockets to treat the poor. Every Indian doctor does it daily, without advertising.

Dr. Aman spoke as if thinking aloud: “Yes, I know it is difficult. But I was thinking that I will urge our society, lawmakers and others to fund my hospital for the poor by using the funds donated by people for greater purposes. The taxpayer should have a choice to directly deposit tax in a fund meant exclusively for healthcare for the poor. Highest donations in India are made for religious purposes, to various religious places. What best use for these billions than to start a free hospital? Will any God of any religion not be happy if those donations are used for the poor patient’s treatment?” he innocently asked. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

That thought never left me.

After my MD I went to Mumbai for DM, and Aman came there in a year for his MD. We caught up occasionally at night in the famous tea stall opposite KEM Hospital. Dr. Aman earned himself the best reputation that a doctor needs: hardworking, studious, and very well behaved with the patients. He was already handsome enogh to be envied by his colleagues, but kindness, compassion and genius gave him an edge above others in everything. When I left Mumbai to go to Canada, he was still studying there. Upon my return, I came to know that Dr. Aman has joined a government hospital near Delhi. We almost lost contact. Then this call. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He came on Wednesday as planned. I was shocked, his handsome face had a large raw scar.

“What happened?”I asked.

“Two weeks ago, I was in the casualty, when a young lady was brought in unconscious and gasping. She was frothing at mouth, had many bruises on her body. Her husband and two others accompanying him were drunk , incoherent. There was a smell of insecticide, so I started treatment accordingly. There were no ventilators available at our hospital, we have requested the government many times but were told there were no funds. We were trying our best, but within minutes she passed away. As it was a suspected poisoning, a postmortem was necessary. We advised so, but the relatives declined. I explained them many times that a postmortem is legally necessary. Then they called a corporator, who came with his goons. One of them attacked me with a knife. The nurses tried to restrain him, but he attacked them too. Four of us were injured by the time that police arrived. They did the postmortem, the report says that lady was killed”

“That I could have survived, Dr. Rajas. But the next day we were told to withdraw police compaints which we had made against the attacker with knife and the corporator. The administration refused to stand by us”. Dr. Aman was now charged, angry and almost tearful. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I don’t want to work here! Many times over now, I have realised that people do not want good doctors, they want chained, frightened slaves who cater to their illegal, immoral demands. I wanted to serve mother India” he now sobbed “but apparently mother India does not want the likes of me now. Last three years I had received many offers from UK and many other countries, but I had proudly declined. Now I have accepted an offer from Oman. They are paying me twenty times what I am earning here, with a two-month paid annual vacation, free housing and food. I feel bad, I don’t want to go, yet I do not want to work here now. I came to you because I have faith in your advice, you are like my elder brother. Please tell me what I should do”.

After thinking a lot, I told him: “You should do what ensures your peace of mind. You can help Indian patients from anywhere in the world, or you can help them from within India”. I did not want to force him to stay back in India, because I was sincerely afraid about his safety

Dr. Aman left the country yesterday, like thousands of brilliant doctors in last twenty years. I feel as if a part of me died when he told me his decision, and the only thing I could say to him was : “I understand. To do good to others, you must first be safe, alive and at peace with yourself. Take care”.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Doctors from various states are welcome to translate this article in local language without changes, and post it with their name along with the original author credit. This will help us spread the message.

I am also translating this to Marathi.

Mob IQ Versus Indian Doctors

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Woke up with a bad headache one morning, probably a sudden change in weather. Felt lethargic, did not want to get out of the bed. It was raining heavy, a perfect day to stay in bed and snack with a book and a huge black coffee. But the usual inhibition of a doctor: that many patients will have travelled only to see me worried me. Another important fact that I still depend directly upon my daily work, that ‘No work’ translates into ‘Zero income’ for me like for every doctor, made it more difficult. Just then the cellphone rang.

“Can you see the patient in ICU urgently?” my colleague called, “The relatives are quite powerful people. Very troublesome”.

If it was only to help the patient, I would get up from my grave, but even for a million rupees, today I was not in a mood to balance wits and swordfight my knowledge with an over-expectant crowd whose only qualification to ask me questions was that their patient was serious and I was expected to be compassionate and courteous. But then, I could feel from his voice that my colleague was exasperated. “Okay, I will see him in an hour” I said. Two hot black coffees masked the headache (please don’t try this at home) and pumped some fuel into my blood.©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I noticed a huge crowd outside ICU. I went in and examined the patient. Indeed critical, a case of stroke. Educated young man, stressful job, smoker, high blood pressure, was given medicines to control it, but did his own “gossip research”, stopped medicines, some atrocious diet, some herbals and one morning suddenly had bleeding in the brain. A story that is a routine now.

I called in the relatives, expecting two, but about 15 people walked in. Few of them had the most deadly dress upon earth: stiff white linen with gold necklaces. As I explained them with two other senior Consultants, questions poured in. If it is plain curiosity and worry about the patient, one can be compassionate, but this was more like police grilling criminals. At the end of every sentence highlighting critical situation of the patient, came the same question: “But he will become normal again no? Do anything you want, we want him to recover”.

It was like throwing a stone at the sky, it never lands there!©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Where do these people come from? How can so many people wait with the sick patient? At one end we have labourers whose families must work to pay for their treatment in even government hospitals, at the other we have doctors who must work every day without any benefit for future. The whole spectrum is otherwise dominated by these crowds. What is the source of earning for these people in crowds? If these men in hundreds are here all day looking well fed and complacent, who is working for them and their families? Is India rich enough that people can do away with work?

Crowds with patients, with leaders, shouting and vandalising, mobbing.. who is sponsoring their livelihoods? Or is it that we have authentically become a country of slave mobs that entirely depend upon their leadership to feed them? Are we encouraging poverty and dependence to the extent that this makes it easier to control a majority?

Everyone who is working hard and earning, paying taxes is being implied to be not only a fool but a villain. It has become fashionable to be poor and become a mob. Then a majority vote bank, forgiven by those in power, you can choose to break and mend laws as per your wish, still get sympathy. Poverty plus majority together can control anything in India. Beggars everywhere is Indian specialty. Not surprising then that any political party or government promising ‘free’ stuff, subsidised stuff and schemes to look after generations and generations of poor youth at the cost of taxes paid by working class will not only encourage such ‘poor mobs’ to become lethargic, expectant, unproductive slaves, but also provide them with enough time to divert their youthful energy towards the temptations of violence thrown by the powerful. All this at the cost of taxes paid by every hardworking profession who cannot even afford a holiday!©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

While other professions escape the brunt of such free-monger mobs, medical professionals suffer the worst, not only because of over expectations of impractical charity, violence and vandalism, but because of the interference with treatment, duress, and most importantly the time they have to spend answering and explaining repeatedly to those who refuse to understand. Some are incapable intellectually to grasp complicated medical situations. How much time will a judge, IAS officer, minister or police officer spend with arrogant crowd explaining the same thing? Will they go on forever till the other person understands? If a doctor does not wait till the crowd understands, he / she is supposed to have not communicated effectively. Is an uneducated, illiterate, stubborn relative’s understanding and grasp a doctor’s responsibility? It is unfair waste of time. To expect every doctor to satisfy a mob of illiterates or even non-grasping literates is itself an indication of our social immaturity.

Time has come now for doctors to take a firm stand: that we will speak to only two relatives, who have signed and accepted the responsibility of patient’s medical care and expenses, that we will reply every question only once, and explain once if necessary, that whatever we say will be first written then video recorded so there is no later ambiguity or common tomfoolery of lying. Informing and explaining once is indeed a doctor’s duty, but satisfying the relatives cannot be a doctor’s responsibility. No doctor can afford that kind of time and patience. Any further cross-questioning by relatives should be a paid service consultation based upon time. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Our patience, compassion and understanding is not for being taken undue advantage of.

Happy Doctor’s Day!

Jai Hind!

©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Sunshine Girl

The Sunshine Girl

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful 14 year old girl was almost motionless. Her body was completely stiff, eyes fixed in one position, she could not move at all. Any attempt to speak or move would send her entire body in violent spasms. She could not even cry for the fear of this painful stiffness, but her pillow was wet with the tears rolling down her eyes. Her parents had wheeled her in on a stretcher. They had landed just yesterday in Mumbai, travelling from Iraq with her. Her father was illiterate, while the mother was a science graduate from Baghdad University. While internally torn with the condition of her daughter, the mother very calmly and peacefully explained me the condition of her daughter Khazan.

On the day of school annual function just five months ago, Khazan’s teachers in Iraq noticed that she was limping while dancing on the stage. They told her mother about this. Khazan was taken to a Neurologist there, who found that she had some neurological signs, with brown coloured rings in her eyes. This ring called a ‘KF’ring is usually found in patients who have a rare disease called ‘Wilson’s Disease’. Due to a fault in Liver, copper cannot be excreted out of body, it accumulates in the liver and in the blood, rising to high, toxic levels. This excess copper in the blood then starts damaging every organ in the body, but first it causes severe damage in the brain and eyes. If not treated, the patient becomes disabled soon and dies. The biggest problem is that many patients may worsen with treatment in the initial phase, with medicines which act fast. The cheaper medicine (Zinc) which does not cause such worsening, is too slow to act, it takes months. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Khazan was started with the first medicine in Iraq, but unfortunately, she became paralysed due to the side effects of the medicine. The Neurologist in Iraq started with the second, extremely costly drug. Her parents sold off their land, business and even home, and shifted to a rental small house to afford this medicine that had to be imported from USA. As fate would have it, Khazan reacted adversely to this too and further worsened. She became completely paralysed, could not eat or speak, and was then advised the last option, the curative treatment for this disease: Liver transplant. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They applied for loans from some charity organisations, and landed in India for Liver trasnsplantation. “We were told that the doctors in India are the best in the world, and the cost of treatment is lowest in India. So we decided to come here” her mother told. Indeed, the cost of medical as well as surgical treatment in India is lesser than half compared to the developed world. For simple appointments with specialists, the waiting list in the developed world exceeds weeks to months, and surgical appointments take years. Once, in my childhood, one of my uncles gave me some dessert, like everyday, which I didn’t care to finish. My aunt asked me with surprise: “Why don’t you eat such a delicious dessert?”. My uncle immediately said “Because he gets it so easily. Ask those who don’t get it, they will love it”.

We found that Khazan was almost skin and bones, dehydrated, and anemic. She had developed many Parkinson-like symptoms and some psychosis. I explained her condition and told her mother: that she was semi-critical, that I wanted to start with the cheaper, third medicine and give her supportive care, but it would take a long time, I could not guarantee anything. Her mother told me via the Arabic interpreter Mr. Tabrez: “Doctor, we do not want surgery for her. Do what you would have done for your own daughter. We will close our eyes and do whatever you say. We will hope she improves, but we understand you cannot guarantee anything”. Now the onus was upon me, the responsibility was mine. We started treatment. Khazan’s graduate mother knew more about Wilson’s disease than many medical students, yet she never came across as arrogant or argumentative. She politely asked doubts. A good doctor grows with every patient. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My students started helping out the family, making Khazan feel at home. Love and compassion for the patient enhances the effects of all medicines in most cases. Add the trust and willpower of the patient, and you usually have a winning prescription. From the shadows of a near-certain death, Khazan’s body and soul started to awaken to the sunlight called life. She gradually started speaking, drinking water, and in a few weeks, eating small morsels. They had to return to Iraq, and we communicated via video chats. They returned twice to India for reassessment and change in treatment.

A few months after their last visit, I received a letter. It was written in English, by Khazan. She had joined college now, and wrote that she wanted to become a doctor like me. Her mother had added in Arabic: “My girl is the sunshine of my life, thank you for bringing her back from the claws of death”. I had received my reward. Khazan is doing very well now since last three years, with God’s grace. Of course I did not forget to remind her that most of the credit of her recovery was to the unparallelled grit and efforts of her mother.

Magical, Near-supernatural, Miraculous recoveries happen every day in India. Patients, young and old, with almost nil chances of survival, walk home smiling every day, in almost every Indian town, even in the most rural areas, thanks to the efforts of thousands of doctors working 24/7. These doctors are never appreciated or rewarded. This post is dedicated to those messiahs of Indian Medicine.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This story is real. Many doctor colleagues and physiotherapy students have helped me treat this patient over years. Wilson’s Disease can be completely cured, there are many experts working on tis in India.

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The Brilliant ‘Bad’ Doctor And Mossbacks

photo 19-09-16, 22 52 52
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Be careful”, my lecturer warned me, “He is a genius, but he is eccentric. Almost mad. You will easily pick up wrong traits from him. Take care that you limit yourself to only Neurology. There he’s a king”.

I was posted in another hospital as a part of my curriculum, to work with Dr. Shaw. He had worked in some of the best hospitals of the world. Most of his colleagues either hated him or were jealous of his abilities. He gave them nothing to criticize, so the most common ‘gossip’ about him was his being asocial, eccentric etc… but his earlier students had always told us: that he was the best teacher. His diagnosis was near perfect, he was excellent with patients, although quite sharply sarcastic sometimes.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
I wished Dr. Shaw as I entered his room. He was a picture-perfect doctor. Clean shaved, well dressed, smiling and emanating a healthy, positive feeling. He did not speak much. Patients started coming in, and I realized something different: he made no attempt to please patients by anything artificial. No extra words. No false reassurances or jokes. No pretending that he was being good to them. Case after case, he spoke maybe two sentences about the key pointers to his diagnosis, the most important tests needed, and started treatment. His manners with the patient were perfect too, he behaved with them with the same earnest kindness that he treated other doctors with. Still, he took care to be formal, to keep everyone at a certain distance where they could not get personal.

He worked incessantly. He thought and walked maniacally fast and took breaks only for his coffee during his long days. He achieved alone in a day what was difficult for four people working together, with less blah about it. I fell in love with his personality. Much like my hero, Howard Roark.

During such coffee breaks, I summoned courage and asked him questions.
“Sir, why are people so scared of you? Why do you maintain a distance from everyone?”

He spoke without hesitation or shame, as if he had answered this same question a million times. “Rajas, I wasn’t the same earlier. Then I started realizing that people hated anyone doing better than them. Even friends and family get somewhat jealous if you are above them. We are in a mossback society where you are traditionally groomed to hate anyone with a bigger car, better income or (he smiled) even a better girlfriend! People immediately presume that you must be doing something wrong, conning others, or that you must be easy on morals and ethics. People just cannot swallow the idea that someone can actually do better than them without doing anything wrong. Cyclewalla envies and hates scooterwalla while scooterwalla jealously loathes carwalla, travelling in the same direction on the same road. Translate that into intellectual achievements”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

There was no boast in his speech. I had realized this just as anyone else. “My abilities, my intellect and my hard work are not my crime. But the only reaction for those doing better is to throw stones at them or to subdue them emotionally. People want a rein for you in their hands. If not, they have a hunter ready. If you do not please them, they are ready to tear you apart, not by logic but by weapons like defamation, gossip, or forceThe same doctor who is like God while expecting free service becomes a corrupt devil when they see bills or if the outcome is negative. The law considers this a profession, while politicians and People still expect 24/7 free world class service. I want to be a professional, not a slave ”.

This was magnificent revelation. There are many millions who earn better than doctors, especially politicians, but they forget that the respect that a doctor gets is not for his / her earnings, it is for the knowledge and wisdom, the hard work, the easing of suffering and saving of lives of thousands. That makes some of them so jealous that they have to ‘show down’ doctors in a bad light always, to suppress their fraternity. Most brilliant geniuses in history who took the world forward were not only hated, but hanged, poisoned, jailed and isolated. How else does one justify that people hate and attack some of the most intelligent non-violent beings in their own community? Some doctors are indeed greedy and corrupt, one can lawfully punish them, but otherwise how are millions of patients in India are getting better from even most critical conditions? Are our politicians treating them? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
Dr. Shaw did not mince words. “Is it a fault that I studied more, that I have better speed of thinking and analysis, that I got to learn from excellent teachers? Is it my fault that my patients like me? Yet I realized that this is exactly what I am disliked for”.

“I have many faults; I do not think I am superior to anyone. But if you still treat others as equal, they can not grasp it and keep reaping benefits from your association, while contributing nothing to your life. So I prefer to be alone, groom my life better than trying to average out with everyone around me. I have but one life, and I want to live it being myself, not a people-pleasing pimp”.

On my last day with him, I was too emotional, but still decided to ask him what haunts most Indian medicos: “Sir, then why are you still in India? People hate doctors, they cannot tell a good doctor from a bad one, they hate anyone who has intelligence or money. They think every doctor skins people for money. It is such a sad state.”

“I am here because I see the suffering of the millions of people who need good doctors. They may hate me, but I can still do them good. I do not want to beat drums and blow trumpets about my love for India. I leave that for politicians and those who have nothing else to do. If I leave, many will die. That’s why. The only care I take is to stay away from parasitic people, and unsafe patients. I don’t explain myself, those who have that ability and grasp will understand me.” He was beautifully, profoundly blunt, like a saint!

I had changed forever as a doctor, due to this “Brilliant, Bad Doctor” I worked with!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Wrong Diagnosis: The Secret Child Of Every Doctor

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“I don’t agree with your diagnosis” said the senior gynaecologist to me, as the rich patient and his family heard with interest and confusion, “I don’t think this patient has Parkinsons Disease”.
I had just returned from an advanced University Hospital in Canada after completing a fellowship in Parkinson’s Disease, a post-doctoral course under one of the best specialists in the world. This senior and famous gynaecologist with a large hospital had referred a case, I had seen the patient, after which he, the senior OBGY, had come to my room. I had spent over an hour studying the patient’s symptoms, and conducted the most difficult and extensive of all clinical examinations in medicine: the complete neurological examination. I had, like all doctors trained well by their teachers, deliberated the possibilities (what the doctors call ‘differential diagnosis’), and then come to this conclusion. There are no shortcuts in medicine, and I took pride in not missing any details. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I was open to the idea of my diagnosis being wrong. No doctor is above the patient, and ego cannot be a factor while making a diagnosis. But the ease with which this senior doctor had refuted my diagnosis without so much as touching the patient really offended me.
Obviously, this senior OBGY wanted to impress the patient by showing “I know better Neurology than this junior doctor”. The patient and his family were quite close to that senior doctor and had deep trust in his opinion. The look on their face changed immediately. They no more cared for what I had to say. My first response was anger. Then I remembered what one of my great professors had imbibed upon me: You cannot match the tendencies of some idiots. State your point, smile and leave. Truth will unmask itself in all medical cases.
“What do you think this patient has, Sir?” I asked.
“Maybe he is just tired mentally” the senior doctor said, and the family bobble-headed in assertion.
“I disagree with you Sir”. I said firmly, “All my findings are written on that paper, the patient can go to any qualified Neurologist. Only they can identify or treat such cases well”. I left the room without waiting for his infamous wise wordplay. Three years later, the same patient returned in a wheelchair, referred by another physician, and is now improving with treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The fact that he was deprived of correct treatment for over three years will remain a dark medical secret. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Two years ago, a seventeen year old boy was brought by his parents. He had fits, we had started him on anticonvulsants. Adequate instructions were given to reluctant parents, and the dangers of stopping medicine were explained. They never returned. Last month, his parents came. Few months ago, they were told by some doctor to stop the anticonvulsants, and start on some herbal supplements. “We thought let us try” the parents said, and stopped his medicine. The boy had a fit while sitting in his 9th floor balcony, fell and died with a head injury.
Many such cases, where light-gossipy comments by unqualified doctors about the (correct) ongoing diagnosis or treatment being wrong kill many patients with heart attacks, strokes, other heart and brain diseases, liver and kidney failures, cause worsening of otherwise treatable cancers, blood and bone diseases, and many more conditions in almost all specialties of medicine. Patients sadly prefer to choose what is convenient and cheap. Some doctors make personal comments about other doctors being wrong, corrupt, charging high, having no experience etc. Some doctors rely solely upon a “Low Fees and Sweet Talk (LFST)” formula of practice and keep on defaming the entire profession, gradually brain-washing a frightened, confused and frustrated patient. Unfortunately, many patients, both literate and illiterate, easily fall prey to such tactics. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
What if the diagnosis is really wrong? We often meet smartypants (and smartyskirts!) medicos who just go on challenging any and every diagnosis made by others, be it their specialty or not. A simple understanding of one’s own capacity is enough marker of the intellectual level of that person for me (recall the famous Dunning Kruger Effect). To translate this crudely, stupids seldom realise they are being stupid. They create confusion and wise wordplay to dilute the reality. It is only the idiotic ignoramuses among doctors who cannot ever say “I don’t understand, you know better”.
Medicine is a logical, scientific methodology of algorithms. If a doctor thinks someone else is wrong, they must first state in writing their own examination findings, diagnosis and reasons to refute someone else’s diagnosis. Then they should explain this to the patient, and then start treatment in view of their own diagnosis, taking responsibility if that turns out wrong, and telling the patient so too. It is also an offence in the rules of medical councils to defame a fellow practitioner.
Every person in every field makes mistakes, even the best minds. It is no secret that every doctor, however qualified or experienced, makes a wrong diagnosis many times in his / her career. In most cases these are simple analytical/ judgement mistakes, rarely dangerous. To concentrate on one’s own specialty, and to refrain from pretending being an expert in “all other specialties” is the key to becoming a great doctor, especially in these days of information flooding and subspecialty training. To say that someone else is wrong, a doctor should be equally or better qualified in that subject. Age has nothing to do with it.
In a hyper-emotional, media biased, politically influenced and mostly illiterate country like India, most doctors, however straightforward and honest, find it difficult to frankly tell about their own mistakes to the patient, as the reactions and defamation are out of proportion and our law is primitive still in this field. Sometimes when the patient is capable of understanding it, I have seen many doctors, surgeons explain their mistake and the patient graciously accepting that it wasn’t intentional. This is rare though. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We must educate the society in general that no doctor who says “earlier doctors were wrong” or speaks ill of fellow practitioners can ever be a good doctor. The patient should first ask such a doctor “ Have you never been wrong?” and listen to the wise wordplay that follows! While we often blame patients who are arrogant, those who do not trust treating doctors, those who google-treat themselves, and in general bring stress to the medical practitioner, we must first also look inwards for our faults that have multiplied and amplified such perceptions by the society.
What hurts me most is that this is almost exclusively an Indian phenomenon.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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What A Doctor Can Not Prescribe. .

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What’s the nature of your work?” I asked the patient.

“Nothing much.. I just sit like you all day long. It’s an office job” he replied, and winked looking at his wife, who rebuked him visually. I chose to ignore the sarcastic slur. I wanted to concentrate upon the diagnosis. After a thorough examination I wrote him a prescription and explained him changes in lifestyle.

When I advised him sleep and food discipline, he proudly told me “That I am very particular about.. since so many years I eat three times a day and sleep peacefully over eight hours”. I had a strong urge to tell him that in last twenty-five years of practice, there was never a night of undisturbed sleep thanks to hospital and patient calls, and there rarely was a straight week without skipped meals. I held my rebellious tongue, another patient waited outside. All said and done, I had myself chosen this career, and the fact that people were bitter towards doctors didn’t deter me from offering to solve their health puzzles.

The next patient walked in with a big “Hullo! Raja, pehchana kya (recognise me?)?”.. he was an old schoolmate, had come with his wife. She had had complicated neurological problems. After a lengthy clinical examination, review of many reports, and a long consultation, I wrote her a prescription. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“You charge so much for only writing these few words on the paper?” asked my schoolmate, desperately trying to sound jovial but overtly being critical and again, sarcastic.

I politely asked him to sit in my chair. “Please sit here and see if you can write the same three lines” I requested him. He hesitated at first, but then came over, held the pen and asked me: “Tell me what to write..”.

I told him to first write his wife’s name on that paper, date it, and then write Rx, which begins the drug prescription. Then I told him the name of the first drug. He wrote it down correctly.

“What’s so difficult about that?” he asked..

“Now tell your wife that this drug can either do good or bad, it can solve the problem in most cases, but it has a potential to cause serious side effects, including death if she is allergic to it. It may cause bleeding in the brain, stomach or anywhere, it can cause asthma-like cough, or any unpredictable reaction”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

His wife looked suspiciously at him. “Why don’t you let the doctor write?” she said, and then turning towards me said, “Bhaisaab, my husband has this nasty habit of arguing with everyone. Excuse us, I know it takes decades of study to be able to write that prescription”.

My schoolmate was not done with being offensive yet. He smiled sarcastically. “You are trying to scare me. Have you seen any death due to this simple medicine?” he asked.

“Yes” I replied him in truth. Aspirin causes many deaths indeed!

“Write the second medicine now” I told him, “it can have reaction with the first medicine or other medicines she is already taking”.

“What to do in that case?” He asked, now hesitant.

“It depends upon what side effects emerge. Many possibilities, many different answers. But each of that line has a potential to cause serious damage.” I replied.

He rose from my chair.

“Sorry yaar. I thought you were just charging fees for sitting there and writing effortlessly. How do you remember so many hundred drugs, their side effects, their reactions with each other? Aren’t you scared?” he asked.

“I am sometimes scared. Every doctor is. You never know which prescription can turn into a nightmare. The more you have studied, the more you have experienced, the safer you feel. You can imagine the stress of writing forty prescriptions a day, an average for every doctor. Still more dangerous is the surgeon’s job, every patient entering an operation theatre has some degree of fatal risk”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Oh so that’s why doctors charge so much fees for every prescription!” He was indeed a fighter!

I didn’t want to explain to him that the land, the rent, the petrol, paper, and time cost the same to a doctor just like any other citizen. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Just then there was a loud noise outside. We rushed out. A patient’s child was having a fit, her body all twisted and eyes white. Such was the impact that her head was bleeding, and she was frothing at mouth. The nurse was already by her side, I wore my gloves and tried to stop the bleeding, comforting the head of this child. In some time, the fit stopped, and the pateient became all floppy. Her respiration had been blocked by the blood and froth that choked her throat. A resident doctor ran around to get a crash cart, we opened the patient’s mouth, sucked out the blockage as the nurse pushed in the injectables. The child stabilised, her breathing resumed. As the wardboys kept her on the stretcher, I noticed my schoolmate behind me who was watching this in horror. He suddenly held his head and sat down.

“He gets a chakkar (giddiness) when he sees blood” his wife told me.

The earlier patient, who had commented “I sit like you all day” was also still in the lobby, watcing this whole episode. . He came over. “I help people too – just like you. People come to me every day for my advice. I am a social worker for XYZ political party. I have also saved many lives like you doctors.” he said.

I had no prescriptions for his mentality!

No pharmaceutical makes a common sense tablet, and there’s no injection for jealous egos!

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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A Doctor’s Meditation

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Religion and medicine should never be mixed. Yet it is extremely necessary that a good doctor understands the mindset of a patient, especially a frightened, disturbed patient, and holistically plan the treatment rather than just writing a prescription for an ailment. To calm the mind of an irate patient, it is necessary that the doctor has that ability and self restraint, acceptance and compassion. A doctor who thinks in terms of religion and has a resultant bias can never understand patients even from his own religion as there’s no single path in any religion.

Science has to think of human body and mind only logically, with a sharp reasoning and on the basic presumption of equality. Genes may differ across races, but their numbers, function and dysfunction are the same across the human species. Racism is a serious disease of human mind. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I have always lived a parallel, isolated life to evolve mentally to be able to understand myself better. Only if I understand myself, my fears, my wants, necessities and my preoccupations, my expectations from others and my thought processes well, will I understand other human beings- in my case, the patient. This inward journey makes me a better doctor than knowledge, experience and information alone. This understanding is superior to even medical and social wisdom.

To achieve this, I have kept acquiring insights and inspiration from various religious texts and their translations, commentaries on religion and philosophy across cultures, and of course many scientific analyses of human mind. This of course comes after the dedicated time reserved for studying scientific medical sites and texts on a daily basis. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One prominent requirement of today’s doctor is to advise on meditation as many patients seek that from their treating doctor. I cannot advise something impractical or anything which I have not found myself to be useful. Researching this, I came across a beautiful article written by an army officer about the essence and technique of meditation. He had suggested this book above as an ‘Ultimate’ commentary on the science and practice of meditation. It has nothing to do with religion, it is an effort to delve into the depths of human nature. I reiterate, when I go to the hospital (and outside my home in general), I don’t see myself as belonging to any religion. I truly believe in the equality and beauty of every human being. Starting to read this immensely complex book today, hopefully it will help me and my patients too.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A Rare Case, Rarer Diagnosis

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He lost his ability to walk. He had to give up working. He was carried around by family members. His spine had to be operated. Still he couldn’t walk. He didn’t lose hope. He kept smiling, searching for treatments. His legs had become completely stiff like wooden logs, and they jerked violently even with the slightest movement, even if someone touched them. He couldn’t separate his legs apart. He had to use pain killers that would cause acidity, and muscle relaxants that caused lethargy and drowsiness. All this usually depresses most patients, and some lose their patience with life.

But not Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil. He was tougher than his problems.

“I never thought my illness was anyone else’s fault. I didn’t want to exploit sympathy by complaining about my troubles. I decided to accept my illness to fight it better. I wouldn’t tell my family about my suffering. They were always ready to help, but I changed my lifestyle and needs to suit my condition. They had their life too, I did not want to make it bitter with my troubles” said Mr. Patil, a school teacher from a small village Takarkhela in Jalgaon, recalling his struggle.

His son Girish told me “Baba never raised his voice or got angry with us. Even when there was extreme pain and disability, he chose to take rest and keep smiling. He continued to do what he could, and only needed our help when he couldn’t even stand up”.

After over eight years of this agony, Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil had another major problem. His disc in the lower spine slipped and caused immense pain. The stiffness and pain in his legs worsened, it was impossible for him to move. He underwent a spinal surgery. That relieved his pain and he could resume some movement, but his earlier woes continued.

Two years ago, one of his blood tests revealed that he had an extremely rare disease called “Stiff Person Syndrome”. Due to a defect in the immune system, there was damage in his spinal cord, which caused the stiffness in his lower body. He was given controlled doses of steroids under supervision to reduce the activity of his immune system. There was a dramatic improvement: now he walks comfortably without assistance, and has resumed his full time job of a teacher.

Today he had come for a follow up. When I asked him permission for sharing his story of amazing courage and hope, he smiled and said “Every patient must understand that they must accept the illness first to be able to fight it. One must never lose hope. I found an answer after over 8 years of not knowing my diagnosis. Some doctors had told me that my problem was psychological, that it was due to stress. I knew it was not, so I did not give up. The reward of my hope is that I can walk today”.

We often get to learn from our patients. Hope is indeed an amazing prerequisite of a good life. We congratulate Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil for his exemplary grit and pray for his best health always!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PC Aniket Yadav