Survival Of The Quickest

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This young and brilliant man, Adil Masalawala, suddenly appeared to have changed. His behaviour became different and unusual. He started mumbling and replying irrelevantly. He also had fever intermittently. His caring and worried wife Mrs. Venus consulted a physician who sent them to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist checked Adil and advised him admission. He started with some medicines, but suddenly Adil’s behaviour became hyper, his body started becoming stiff. Then he became drowsy, and his body started shaking violently. An MRI of the brain was reported normal. That’s when the psychiatrist advised a reference for neurologist.

When I first saw the patient, he had many features that could also be caused by side effects of some medicines. Sometimes it is impossible to conclude whether it is the disease or the medicine which is causing certain symptoms. I suggested that we stop all antipsychotic medicines. That could also be a dangerous decision. The family was counselled, and they agreed. Adil’s drowsiness improved, but he became very agitated, and his stiffness and shaking worsened.

There are many neurological diseases of the brain which start as abnormal behaviour. Strokes, some infections, tumors and swellings are examples of treatable, but there are many untreatable and dangerous conditions too. The only way was to urgently investigate the patient further. Although the family was baffled and panicked, Mrs. Venus expressed complete trust in our decisions, and allowed us to shift the patient to the ICU. I could not answer many of their questions, I did not clearly understand what exactly was happening, but this uncertainty and challenge is what medicine is all about.

There is fluid in and around the brain, which nourishes the brain and also acts as shock absorber between the skull bone and the brain. Many diseases like cancers and infections can be diagnosed by studying this fluid, which can be taken out by inserting a needle in the lower (lumbar) spine. We checked this fluid, and we got the first clue: that we were possibly dealing with a viral infection of the brain. Many more costly blood tests were required to find out which virus was causing this. The family clearly stated “Do whatever is needed in your opinion”. We sent the tests and found the answer: Adil had one of the most rare and dangerous viral infection of the brain, called Japanese Encephalitis.

About 30-40 percent of patients with this diagnosis do not survive. There is no definite treatment for this virus, but many of the manifestations can be treated and excessive care is required to avoid life threatening complications of the swelling that it can cause in the brain.

On the fourth day, Adil had convulsions. His condition worsened. We kept on treating each complication as fast as possible and tried to balance the effects and side effects of the many strong medicines that were being used to control convulsions, shaking, and the brain swelling. Besides knowledge, wisdom and experience, our major strength was the trust of patient’s family who never questioned any decisions.

Many patients who develop abnormal behaviour are mistreated as having a psychiatric problem. Most qualified psychiatrists are aware of the red flags and refer patients for a Neurologist’s opinion. However, a majority of patients with psychiatric problems in India are first taken to quacks, magic healers, mantrik-tantriks, who delay the whole process of correct evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. This leads to many deaths, and this is worst in case of cancers treatable in earlier stages.

False advertisements, some even approved by highly placed offices, celebrities and authorities attract people from all classes and cause severe delay in initiation of the correct scientific treatment. While our governments rightly pressurise allopaths to write generic medicines, they mostly turn a blind eye towards rampant misleading false advertisements claiming cures of incurable diseases and centers that flourish reaping from the hope of millions of illiterates.

We almost thought we had lost this case to a permanent disability. Adil’s body had become completely stiff, his memory had become unreliable to a great extent, and he had an incapacitating tremor. After a few days we could gradually stabilise his general condition and shift him out of the ICU. In a few weeks he was discharged, improving slowly. His family, especially his wife fought for his normalcy like a true warrior, and once he resumed his senses, Adil too made every possible effort to recover fast. One day after a few months, he was back to normal again, we declared him cured and fit, physically and mentally. He resumed his job.

Today after about ten years, Mr. Adil Masalawala and his wife Mrs. Venus came over for some trivial issue, and we recalled the horror that we went through and his victory over it. In this case, I thought it was the “Survival Of The Fastest” as the family did not waste any time in quacks, arguments, objections or mistrust, and let us doctors do the best for the patient in the fastest possible way. We are grateful to the family for this trust, and Adil’s survival and recovery itself is our reward. God bless the couple with a long and healthy life!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Real Story, Real Names, With Patient’s Express Permission. Grateful to Mr. Adil and Mrs. Venus for the permission to share the story of their victorious battle.

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150000 Deaths, 500000 Accidents Or A Strict Law?

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist Pune/ Mumbai

Ask any doctor in India, how traffic related deaths and injuries cause havoc in the casualties every day. In a country with nearly five lakh traffic related accidents and one lakh fifty thousand deaths every year, with many more lakhs seriously injured and disabled for life, the strictest of the traffic rules and highest penalties are not only justified, they are mandatory. Any doctor will testify the daily typical histories of drunk driving, unqualified driver, jumping signals, overspeeding, gross neglect of lane and general traffic discipline. Add parents who allow under-age children to ride and drive, husbands who wear helmets while rest of the family rides on two-wheelers without helmets and so on. Most horrific is the case of people with medical conditions unfit for driving: thousands are out there with heavy vehicles, risking the life of everyone around. This is gross negligence.

Indians take pride in describing the how safe and peaceful it is to drive in a Western country, where everyone follows traffic rules, but the same Indians gladly use the philosophy of “If everyone follows the rules then I will also follow” to break rules in most cases. In fact, a national shame is that many take pride in breaking traffic rules, disrespecting and attacking traffic police, and indulge in road rowdiness.

This new traffic act is a bold and welcome step by Mr. Nitin Gadkari, and every right minded doctor and intellectual should welcome it in the right spirit. In a completely unruly traffic scenario, the fines and punishments should indeed be intimidating to prevent traffic crimes. Any effort to dilute it is like saying “Let People Die”.

To please the society by diluting this act so as to allow risking the lives of thousands is a dangerous and foolish proposition. At least doctors should strongly stand by this act. The Hon’ble Minister also posed a logical question: “If you do not break the traffic rules, why should you be afraid of being fined?”. This law and the high punishments are all indeed in the best interests of tyhe society and the nation.

The only probable amendment to request in this act would be to also add severe penalties and punishments to the contractors who have ruined roads by substandard work, potholes also cause many a deaths. A huge population comes with spinal, vertebral, neurological and orthopedic problems created by bad roads. Let the ones who make such roads or do not maintain them also face law with the same equality. There also should be non bailable arrests and severe punishments for road rage and violence.

Congratulations and Thank You, Mr. Nitin Gadkari, for this act.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist Pune/ Mumbai

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Marathi Version on my FB page.

The Fairy And The Prince

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful radiant lady wheeled in the patient’s chair and wished me with a pleasant smile. Some smiles, however beautiful, have a tragic shade. I looked at the patient Rohan. A very well built fair young man in his late twenties, must have been very handsome in the past. He sat paralysed below the shoulders, one eye closed, face twisted, and a large surgical scar upon his head, partially covered by a cap. He could not speak. Any movement would cause violent tremors. He was wheelchair bound and had to be assisted even for toilet.

Rohan and Riya had married just two years ago, against the wish of their parents. Both from very affluent, but uneducated families. Both worked at the same office. In a few months after marriage, Rohan had developed high blood pressure, and was advised treatment. Unfortunately, he got carried away with some false claims about some herbal medicines shown on National Television channels and stopped the BP medicines. The obvious happened: one of the blood vessels in his brain ruptured due to high BP, and there was a huge bleeding. A Neurosurgeon had done an excellent job by taking this high-risk case on operation table in emergency, to suck out the blood clots and save his life. However, the damage was already done by then, much of his brain was damaged on one side. Riya had been caring for him since then. She looked after him just as a mother cares for her newborn.

“Doctor, we know his paralysis will not improve now. But he is brilliant, I know his brain thinks fast and accurate. Since this stroke he cannot speak. We have come with some hope for his speech. If he could just tell me what he feels, if something is bothering him, what he wants, etc., I will be very grateful” his wife said.

We started treatment. In a few days, Rohan could speak legibly, so she was very happy. Rohan’s parents were very happy too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One day, Riya’s father came with her. He asked her to wait outside my room for a few minutes, she reluctantly left. With folded hands and tears, he spoke: “Doctor sahab, my daughter married against our wish. I have forgiven her now. But I cannot see her spending her life like this. She was the most brilliant girl in our town, she had even rejected job offers to go to America because Rohan wanted to stay in India. You can see that she is still young and beautiful. Anyone will marry her; she is one in a million. I’m not saying this because she is my daughter, but you can see for yourself from how she cares for her husband. She has become his attendant now. What is her fault? How can a father see his daughter wasting away her youth like this? They have no family life. I cannot even speak to her about this. Her mother tried but Riya refused to speak. She speaks very highly of you, so I have come with this hope. Please help us”.

This was very difficult, but a duty too. If not me, who could even attempt to resolve this?

“Let us ask her about her thoughts” I told her father and requested him not to react when she spoke. We called her in. I told her in short how her father felt. She sat straight. Her face became distorted and she wept silently. Her father kept on patting her while weeping himself.

“Papa, when Rohan could recently speak after so many months, the first thing he told me was to leave him and marry someone else. He refused to eat his medicines, saying that I should leave him. Then I promised him that I will leave him after two years. That was a lie. I know he will die if I leave. I could feel his love even when he could not speak, that’s something more precious to me than whatever you think I will get if I marry someone else. Till the day he had this bleeding in the brain, he made sure I was best taken care of. He never had his food before me. How can I spend even one happy moment with anyone else knowing that Rohan is suffering in this same world? Would you be proud of me if I did that? Did you teach me to be so selfish?” She broke down. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Her father did not say anything. They left.

In a few weeks, Rohan followed up again with Riya. He is now gradually learning to operate a computer. He plans to start his own online business. Riya is helping him do that, while continuing to work. They are now planning for a child soon.

This fairy I met was more beautiful than any other in the dreamy stories I had heard all through my childhood. I am glad that I am a witness to this divine fairytale.

I know even of another couple, where the girl had developed a paralysis in her college days. I had counselled her and her boyfriend about future uncertainties and a possibility of a compromised married life, given her illness. “That’s not the most important thing for us” he had said. They married. Today, about 8 years since then, they have a healthy, happy kid, and he still cares for her as much, now when she is in a wheelchair. This knight lives in a rented house, runs a small grocery store, rides a bicycle, wears the simplest of clothes, yet has a heart that would put to shame many a real princes!

My world as a doctor is full of beautiful fairies and knights, named caretakers. It is because of them that thousands of patients are surviving with dignity today. Medical care is so incomplete without them! I remember my favourite author Richard Bach’s words from “The Bridge Across Forever”: “Princesses, Knights, Enchantments and Dragons, Mystery and Adventure… not only are they here and now, they’re all that EVER lived on earth!” How true!! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Among the stories of sadness and suffering, most doctors also come across best of the human hearts and minds, highest forms of love and care. Such patients and relatives reinforce our own trust and faith in the ability of human efforts to heal. Thanks to what I learn from my patients, my gratitude for being a doctor is endless!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all caretakers, young and old, who silently sacrifice much of their life caring for their loved ones.

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“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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Mumbai Diary -1. Deeply Yours

Mumbai Diary-1

Deeply Yours

After finishing the day-long opd at Lilavati Hospital Mumbai, I rushed out with an intention of driving back to Pune in four hours. An old friend- a junior doctor from Mumbai (don’t think too much in depth about her) was waiting for me in the lobby.

“There’s a Starbucks in the next lane. Have a coffee before you take off” she said. I am not a sinner to decline a coffee. And this beautiful genius doctor always enriched my soul in magical ways. Usually a double shot kenya roast espresso shoots up my IQ by a few hundred points and makes my brain tap-dance for atleast three hours. She sat in the car and we went to the coffee shop. There was no place to park, so she went in to get take-away cups and I waited in the car. The bandstand seashore was only three minutes away, We decided to go there. With Shahrukh and Salman living there, no one bothers to look at us in that area, and we can thus have a cool few minutes for coffee etc. (I repeat, don’t think too deeply about this).

Just a few feet away, an elderly fruit vendor with a ripened straight proud face, white hair and a thick white moustache was sitting with his legs folded backwards. The heaps in front of him were full, most likely he hadn’t had much business today. He stared at nothing in front of him, completely unaware of the rush hour noise.

I felt for him. I wanted to see him happy, help him without hurting his pride.

When my friend returned, I requested her “Hey, could you please do me a favour and get two kg apples from that uncle over there? Give him this, and ask him to keep the balance. Make it look polite and casual, as if at the spur of the moment“. I gave her some notes. We didn’t need to impress anyone, she would have naturally done it herself too, that’s the reason we have been friends for so long.

My friend returned with the apples, and I waited a few moments to sip some coffee, actually I wanted to witness the smile on that old fruit vendor’s face. He counted the money twice, smiled and came to our car, knocking at her window.

“Beta (my child), I have enough by the grace of God. I am happy. One has to account up there for everything they take without working for it” he pointed at the sky. Then he kept a large custard apple in my friend’s hands, and said “This if from me to you and your friend with the necktie”.

Then, smiling proudly, he went back and sat in his place.

Now, please think in depth about that.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mumbai/ Pune

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Doctors & Manners

“During my postgraduate training in Britain, I once wrote a psychiatry reference for a man whose symptoms appeared disproportionately out of range for most neurological conditions” one of my Neurology professors was telling me.

“After the psychiatrist saw the patient she agreed that the patient had some issues with depression due to chronic stress, and started treatment. However when I went on the next day for rounds, the patient smiled at me and spoke with some distaste: ‘Doc, thank you for referring me to the psychiatrist, I feel better after talking with her, but don’t you think you should have first discussed with me before referring me to her?’ I realised my mistake and apologised to the patient. That day onwards I never took for granted any patient.”

This Profeesor had taught me one of the best secrets of good patient care. I am forever indebted to him for this invaluable technique he taught me. Yes, genuine respect and politeness for the patient is a technique most essential for every doctor to imbibe. It is NOT artificial sweet-talk or show-compassion that matters, it is an inner wish to solve their problems when possible, to counsel the best even if there’s no treatment or cure, and to treat them equal that makes the core of a true doctor.

It is indeed true that many doctors behave in a manner-less, high-handed way with patients, speaking only medicolegal language and maintaining a distance from the patient. The other side is an artificial sweet talker whom most patients can now identify.

One definite reason for aloofness of doctors is that many patients are indeed suspicious of the doctor’s intentions, ability and integrity. Many patients actually behave quite rudely with the doctors, asking questions beyond the sphere of relevance, directly questioning the experience and accuracy of doctor’s diagnosis and treatment, expecting to understand everything about the complicated medical condition in five minutes what can only be understood over years of actually dealing with patients.

Still, it is the good doctor’s responsibility to simplify and write down his opinion about the possible diagnoses and encourage patients to read from some standard sites. That prevents many misunderstandings.

Many medical institutions have included training curriculums for doctors to learn how to behave with the patient, but these are grossly insufficient. The internal effort to treat the patient like an equal must only be self-taught by every doctor who wants to become successful in long term. To even treat an angry, paranoid patient with dignity and respect is an art. That said, there indeed are aggressive and violent patients and relatives in India, whom no doctor can tolerate. The doctor should also learn how to avoid them without being impolite.

I am grateful that I had professors like Dr. Sorab Bhabha and Dr. George Rice who took me to another level in both Neurology and best patient care including bedside manners. I may not be able to solve every medical problem, but behaviour with patients will never be a problem for me, thanks to what they taught me.

Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist Pune / Mumbai / Goa

Doughnuts, Laddoo, Anyone?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He was so cute and plump as a child, that everyone started calling him “Laddoo”. Soon this became his name. His parents were both hyper-educated, and both owned google browsers, so they studied about parenthood in-depth every day, and decided to provide Laddoo with the best parents and upbringing. They had many fights about how to do it right, but they took care that they never ever fought or argued in presence of Laddoo. They never raised their voice in front of him. Laddoo therefore grew up thinking that any arguments, disagreements or raising of voice was so uncivil and wrong. In a calm, disciplined home, he was being given the best of parenthood as suggested by the best parenting websites in the world.

Laddoo’s parents took care that he could only eat the most fresh and clean, organic food. Laddoo was proud that he did not eat garbage like other children of his age. He often envied those who could eat spicy, oily roadside food, especially the panipuri, kachori etc., but he remembered what his mom-dad had told him about the bacteria and viruses in such dirty food. So he never ate anything like that, but he started developing anger towards those indisciplined kids who could eat and digest anything they wanted. In the midst of beautiful, clean plenty, Laddoo started growing up resentful of everything around him. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. At home though, Laddoo was always a prince. To encourage free thinking, his parents had decided never to shout at him or punish him. They chose only logical, scientific, calm explanations when he was wrong. Once a maid-servant who was cleaning their home shouted sarcastically at Laddoo: “You call yourself a grown up, can’t you keep your clothes in a little order?” Laddoo’s mom was shocked, she fired the maid immediately. “Such ignorant, stupid illiterates! These slumdwellers have no idea how to raise children!” she commented, patting Laddoo on his head.

“You are stupid, Mom, you and Dad both!” Laddoo shouted, “Why do you stay in India with such people around?” His mom was so thrilled to hear this, that she immediately WhatsApped Laddoo’s words to her friends’ group, adding “Laddoo has become so mature now, he’s speaking exactly what I think sometimes. I am so proud!”. Laddoo was pampered more. All that he wanted was being made available. If he did not get what he wanted, he would throw a tantrum, accuse his parents of cruelty, and write about his parents in his famous blog “Parents and Children’s Freedom”. He had many followers. His parents oozed with pride when they referred to their Laddoo as a “Child Celebrity Author”. His proficiency with cellphones and gadgets was their pet boast.

The thoughts that “I can be wrong, someone else can be better than me, someone else can grasp better, be more intelligent or successful” never crossed Laddoo’s mind. “What I think must be the final word” became his perpetual attitude. If at all anyone was successful in proving his mistake, Laddoo would immediately state how some fault of his parents, teachers or friends led him to commit that mistake. He freely used words that scared elders: abuse, violence, childhood trauma etc. This would usually hush up the matter, and Laddoo always kept on convincing himself and others that everything good that happened in his life was solely due to his own heroic efforts whereas everything bad that happened was the fault of someone else. His parents did not want to ever shake his self-confidence, so they never made an effort to correct him.

Once Laddoo spoke arrogantly and then argued rudely with his class teacher. She was so upset, that she scolded him in front of the class, called him stupid, and gave him a punishment of standing for an hour till the class was over. After returning home that day, Laddoo complained of severe pain in both legs and giddiness. He was taken to the best child specialist, then a neurologist. “There’s nothing major, please take him to a counsellor” they were told. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“Indian doctors really cannot understand a thing” said Laddoo’s father, and sent his reports to Laddoo’s aunt in the USA. The experts there commented that the child may have suffered a mental trauma due to the scolding and punishment by his teacher. Laddoo’s parents immediately filed a police case, wrote blogs against the school and the teacher, and then also complained to the school about the teacher with threats of legal prosecution. It was only after the teacher and the school apologised to Laddoo, that the cases were withdrawn, and his pain and giddiness improved. No teacher ever scolded Laddoo throughout his career thereafter.

Now Laddoo is heading a major company in California. His useless, old parents live in an old-age home, pretending to be happy. They believe that their beloved Laddoo does not see them regularly because of their own parenting faults. They cannot express this to others, they just tell people “He is extremely busy”. Laddoos parents also truly believe that his success in grabbing a great job is the highest achievement of their life.

Laddoo does not have any friends. He only has drink-n-game partners in luxurious clubs. His first wife left him long ago (“She was ridiculously orthodox, she wanted to grow up kids and all”). His second wife owns a company in Washington DC, they meet twice a year. Both of them tell people how they are victims of childhood traumas., especially when they fail competing with those “unruly, ridiculously happy” colleagues. They have decided never to have children so as to compensate for their childhood traumas, bullying by friends, teachers and parents etc. “We cannot afford time for such traditional lives” they mutually agree. They believe, understand and cover each-other’s lies so effectively, that they find it difficult to grasp why others around them cannot accept those.

Laddoo does not like anyone arguing, asking him questions. “Geniuses like me do not owe an explanation to anyone” he says, often freely quoting the likes of Newton, Einstein and Steve Jobs. No one really wants to interact with him now a days. Just as people avoid the spoiled brats of rich fathers, knowing that they are beyond any resurrection, they avoid Laddoo too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“Thay are all jealous about me, my genius, my success” Laddoo thinks. His wife agrees. Both of them spend their time at home and work blaming the whole world, showing people down, being bitter to the happy ones, and repeating the stories of how they suffered in the past, how they struggled through those imaginary problems and how heroic they have been to reach where they are now. They compliment each other like the two halves of a doughnut.

I meet such Laddoos and doughnuts (men and women) everywhere now a days. They are frequent among Doctors, Patients, Engineers, Lawyers, Businessmen etc., but also very common in big offices, major posts in the governments and managements, professors, judicial offices, ministers and even among rulers.

Do you meet any?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Robodoc

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“The doctor wasn’t even replying. He didn’t answer my questions” the patient, an angry lady, told me about one of my colleagues. The patient’s husband sat besides her, expressionless.

I reviewed her case in detail. She had had varying complaints for over four years, mostly severe pain at various points on her body. When a patient has symptoms (complaints) grossly disproportionate to the signs (doctor’s findings), there always is a suspicion of ‘exaggeration’ or ‘lying’. This can happen involuntarily due to stress, depression or anxiety, or voluntarily usually for seeking attention. She had seen many specialists, and had received strong doses of almost all types of pain killers and other pain control medicines, still her response after every course was ‘zero relief’. That was definitely suspicious. I looked at her husband. He appeared tired and aloof, reluctant to participate in any discussion. I had to make him talk.

“Is she stressed? Have you noticed any change in her personality?” I asked them the question that usually opens the dreaded can of worms.

“I am fed up, doctor” said the husband, “She needs continuous attention. Since our marriage four years ago there’s never been a month when we did not visit a hospital. All doctors tell her to go to a psychiatrist, but she refuses. The moment I return from office she starts complaining about her health. I don’t know what to do now, I feel I am better out of my own home” he avoided looking at her.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

His wife started crying, and in a shrill voice, shouted at me “Why are you speaking with him, doc? I am your patient, speak to me. No one believes me. I am suffering so much!”

I assured her that I was going to help her sort out the issue. Once she calmed down, I was able to explain to her the way stress affects human mind and body, and that it was possible to get well soon. I told her that being stressed was not a “psychiatric illness” but an overworked, burdened state of mind that needs attention, and that it can often be cured by speaking with the right person. She asked me many questions. As a special case, I made an effort to reply to each one of them, even the irrelevant ones, sometimes repeatedly. She agreed to visit an excellent counsellor colleague of mine. She drastically improved in a month after the counsellor worked upon her. However, she came back with new complaints within two months. She visited me twice more, and each time cried a lot, then when I pacified her, asked the same long list of questions mixed with new ones.

My sympathy and compassion started waning. I have promised myself never to be rude to any patient ever, and I religiously follow that. Yet my patience was wavering now.

The more compassionate, patient, sympathetic a doctor becomes towards the patient and their family, the more it is taken for granted and misused. The doctor is then expected to be an unending source of “psychological support”, mentoring and motivating, and a punching bag or a cry-to teddy bear. While in a healthy doctor-patient relationship this compassionate attitude is natural and welcome, many doctors do not know when it starts growing upon them and stressing them out. It is not easy to listen to a continuous flow of medical symptomatology especially wrapped in negative emotions. While positive outcomes do bring back life into a doctor’s motivation to do better and more, this expectation to be a listener of all sorrows until the storyteller is satisfied is unnatural and impractical. It tells upon the doctor’s health. This is now happening in almost all specialties, and wise doctors are learning to separate patients into “whimpering, chronically-dissatisfied-with-everything storytellers” versus patients with genuine medical, surgical and psychiatric issues. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

To concentrate upon what can be corrected, to treat what is possible should be the right priority, and here’s where a doctor’s compassion, sympathy and patience are best employed. To expect a doctor to resolve issues like ‘Swabhav’ (inherent nature) of a human being is wrong. A doctor also cannot solve the root causes of stress like poverty, unemployment, interpersonal incompatibility, overambitious, over-expectant personality or attention seeking. Many patients and families expect the doctor to resolve ‘every minor issue’ related to ageing, refusing to accept that resuming complete normalcy of health is impossible after a certain age, especially with some medical conditions. Doctors can guide patients, but cannot accompany the patient and family to fine tune every minor issue.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Few paranoid, suspicious, accusative, aggressive patients and the types mentioned above have now made it necessary for the doctor to be extremely aware and alert, cautious, and to some extent emotionally aloof from the patient at least in the initial phase. Every word has to be spoken with caution. This “Robotic Doctor” or “Robodoc” is actually becoming a sad reality in the Western world where every medical consultation is considered a potential chance of litigation. A careful doctor avoids getting trapped into emotional exploitation. While this may upset some patients, much of the educated class is still happy with a proper professional consultation, diagnosis and treatment rather than only a compassionate sweet talk. Given the Indian scenario where patients are driven emotionally rather than scientifically especially in the illiterate and financially challenged echelons, a doctor needs to be better equipped for avoiding misuse of his / her compassion and sympathy, as it also converts readily into a permanent source of rewardless stress. This is unhealthy for doctors.

This is one reason ‘Robodocs’ are on a rise. A sad truth about an essential evolution in the medical profession across the world. The only thing that can change this is individualising patient care.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Gift From Heaven

He woke up today morning, caught a bus to his earlier workplace and collected some boxes. Then he got a bus again and travelled for two hours to reach me.

“I made these chocolates myself for you, doctor” he told me with immense pride.

He was paralysed on one side, since 17 years, at the young age of 23, due to stroke. He lost his job. About a year ago he came to my free opd for reduction in stiffness and weakness that had made his life difficult. After some weeks he responded well and has now resumed his work as a chef from home. I am as proud as him, and consider this Diwali gift a gift from heaven!

Thank you, Sachin Balasaheb Damle, and Hats Off to your patience, courage and grit!

Happy Diwali🙏🏻

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Medical Court Martial and the Punishment

The Medical Court Martial and the Punishment

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What is the exact diagnosis?” the patient, Mr. Abhishek asked.

In his early thirties and succesful, Abhishek was anxious too. I told him that his looked like a stress headache, migraine was a possibility, the tests I had told him would help us rule out other possibilities. There is no lab test for confirming the diagnosis of migraine.

“What is each one of these medicines for?” Abhishek asked. That the doctor had an experience equalling his total age had nothing to do with his right to ask questions. He was buying the doctor’s services after all! For a moment I wished I was not a doctor, that I could tell people off by snubbing them, that I could rudely decline to reply to questions that were against common sense. But then I reminded myself: that I did not have this liberty. I must face the court martial of a doctor, a chosen punishment, every time I see a patient.

“Sir, you have told me you had a headache. These medicines are for headache” I replied, smiling.

“Is it necessary?”he asked.

“No”. I said., “As a doctor I have only three options: prescribe you medicine which I did, recommend a surgery which is not applicable in your case, or suggesst you a non-medicine path like lifestyle change” I replied. Practice makes one patient too.

“Are these steroids or antibiotics?” his wife asked.

“No” I replied, and thanked God that they believed me here and did not ask for proofs.

“Are these tests necessary?” Abhishek.

I told him the pros and cons of doing the tests, and reassured that it was not an emergency. Even if they did not trust me, I had to do them good. That’s the duty of a doctor.

“What lifestyle changes do you suggest?” he asked.

“Ensure 8 hours of sleep every day, give up cellphone use after evening, reduce screen exposure to less than three hours at a stretch, maximum eight hours. Eat fresh and healthy home cooked food three times, and eliminate fast food. Resolve relationship and work stress issues. Reduce weight by consulting a qualified dietician. Start exercising.” I told him. This simple formula for a healthy life is mostly possible for the poorest of the poor illiterates, but impossible for the educated affluent! What a paradox!

“Impossible, doc! Tell me something practical. My work needs me to use screen and cellphone over 12 hours a day. I mostly work at night, I have to use fast food or tiffins. My wife also works, she has stress of her own, we haven’t had time to even have children yet! There’s no energy left for any exercise when I return” . Abhishek was genuinely frustrated with his schedule without even knowing it.

“Then Sir, please take the medicines as prescribed, and gradually make changes that eliminate stress. Please do these tests especially if you do not have relief in next two-three days” I thought it will be over now.

I was so incorrect!

“Do these medicines have any side effects?” his wife asked.

“Yes, all medicines have side effects, these are the ones with least side effects for your condition” I started getting faster and shorter with my replies now.

“What if he develops any side effects? Can we call you on your personal number?”

How could I tell them that every doctor prescribed over 100 different medicines every day and all of them could have some side effect or other, minor or major, and that if everyone kept calling for each side effect, the doctor won’t be able to practice!

“Usually side effects are not seen with these medicines. If you have any allergic reaction, please stop these and report to the nearest doctor or hospital. I may not be reachable always” I wondered what people did before the cellphone era: how happy the doctors then must have been!

They appeared partially satisfied and left. My court martial in this case was over. “Only twenty more court martials remaining for today!!” I reassured myself.

After about two weeks, I received a call from the casualty. Abhishek was admitted in an unconscious condition. His wife was in a state of shock.

“What happened?” I asked her.

“Doc, sorry, but he did not want to take any medicine with side effects. So we went to someone who gives a herbal medicine without side effects, made at home. We took it for about five days. The headache improved first, then went on worsening. Then Abhishek had a lot of vomiting and did not eat anything for three days. Today he got up and collapsed while taking a bath”.

“Did you ask the person what was the content of his potion?” I asked while examining an unconscious Abhishek.

“No doctor, he says it was his own invention, a secret” she replied.

Abhishek was paralysed on the right side. His MRI showed many blood clots due to dehydration and a small bleeding on the left side of the brain. This is called cerebral venous thrombosis.

Many people who go on prolonged fasting, drink less water, overexert without enough hydration develop clots in the veins of the brain as their blood becomes thick. Some diseases of the blood and some medicines like hormonal preparations, alcohol, contraceptives etc. (even herbal) can exaggerate this tendency. This is a major cause of clotting, bleeding and swelling in the brain, resulting in paralysis or even death. One should never make sudden changes in diet without consulting a qualified expert.

We admitted Abhishek in the ICU. He gradually recovered over few weeks, but his speech remained patially slurred. His company ruthlessly fired him, they did not care how dedicated he was to them. The most fortunate thing was that he retained his intellect, memory and ability to move. The couple has now changed their lifestyle and are far happier although not richer. He is off all medicines now.

Almost every doctor bears the punishment for the few who overprescribe and overinvestigate: a trustless court martial, bitterness and allegations by not only educated but even totally uneducated patients. A doctor must be compassionate and kind, but the limits to how many unnecessary questions he should patiently reply to remains a dilemma.

This daily court martial of doctors must end. The doctor’s consultation time and peace of mind is as much important for the next patient as for himself. Newer generation doctors should also be taught to politely deal with such situations.

A polite reminder to ask only relevant questions, to book another appointment for more time is justified in such cases. The society should understand and accept that a qualified doctor has repeatedly proven his merit, acumen, ability and correctness before being allowed to practice.

Unlike the many we vote for.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Cerebral Palsy and The Californian Driver

AlKhalil Mohammed Qasem was noticed to have one sided weakness shortly after birth. His parents were told that nothing can be done, they have to accept that the child will always be bedridden. They decided to fight fate. They knew that their child was intelligent, that he had only problems with movement. Cerebral Palsy is a most misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated medical condition. It is best handled by paediatric / adult neurologist or a paediatrician. There are some types of cerebral palsy where the child indeed has good intellectual functions yet severe abnormal movements, stiffness or imbalance. Few have fits too.

He came to us five years ago. There was a huge language barrier, I explained to his parents through the interpreter that all the medicines I wanted to try for him had side effects, some serious. They gave me permission in good faith. We started treatment. He improved. They went to USA. AlKhalil started going to school. He topped his class always. The parents made extraordinary efforts to provide best for him. His father works as a supermarket executive.

Now AlKhalil has finished school and joined college. He is also working part time to help his father at the supermarket, and drives his own car.

He came all the way from California today for a follow up.. He showed me his driving license with a pride and smile I have seldom seen! Driving a car is such a fond dream of everyone growing up!

AlKhalil and his parents have defeated cerebral palsy!!

Most cerebral palsy patients can have a significantly better quality of life if they reach the right specialist, usually a paediatric or adult neurologist as per their age group. I found no better example.

Miracles are not only possible, they are human too!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS

Cerebral Palsy care is a teamwork between neurologist, paediatrician, orthopaedic surgeon, speech therapist and physiotherapist.

Till I’m Alive

Over 4 years ago, a late night frantic call from the casualty baffled me. Quite a complicated case. After seeing the patient I met her anxious family and explained them my thoughts, that the diagnosis wasn’t clear yet, and that we needed to observe the patient. I had already started treatment based upon a presumption. The Mandke family, in spite of being extremely well connected socially and able to afford treatment anywhere they chose, still decided to invest their trust and faith in a junior Neurologist like me. The onus to prove them correct was now upon me.

In a few days Mrs. Madhuri Sudhir Mandke was completely cured of the transient illness she had developed, and discharged. After a few follow ups, I told her the good news: she no more required to see me.

Yet every Diwali, she comes personally or sends someone from her family with extraordinary sweets and gifts. When she came over today, I told her this was not necessary, I had just done my duty. Then she said something that moved me: “Till I am alive I you will receive these every Diwali”.

This gratitude not only increases my responsibility, it is also a perpetual reminder of how important it is for every doctor to take it upon himself/ herself to justify, to stand up to that trust which involves health and life. Every outcome may not be what one strives for, but every effort can be made genuinely to let the patient and family feel that they have trusted the right doctor. It is NEVER sweet talking, wise talking or jovial attitude alone, never pure medicolegal attitude, but a combination of scientific, ethical and compassionate care that brings home the rewards of appreciation by the patient: the highest achievement in medicine.

There’s nothing more precious to earn upon earth!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Doctor Who Took Fees: One Star Review”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

False reviews and online beratings against doctors and hospitals have become a reality. However much a doctor goes out of the way to do the best for his/ her patient, following are the reasons why negative reviews are still uploaded, some of them ridiculous:

1. Denial of false certification.

2. Recording truth on paper like addiction (smoking, alcohol, ghutka, sleep medicines etc.).

3. Mentioning preexisting illnesses which the patient / family had hidden from the insurance companies.

4. Denial to falsify diagnosis, treatment and inflating bills to claim medical insurance benefits.

5. Denial to give concessions in standard billing, consultation, visit fees.

6. Advising necessary investigations.

7. Charging for follow up visits (different doctors, specialties and hospitals have different policies, all are usually mentioned in the information prior to consultation. All follow-ups are not same). © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

8.. Waiting time: This is the saddest in India. The standard waiting times for specialists all over the world range from 30-90 minutes, sometimes longer, but it is only the Indian patients who convert this into a complaint. Sometimes earlier patients may have taken more time, asked more questions, sometimes patients cry when a sad diagnosis is conveyed, one cannot ask them to leave the room, there are incessant calls for emergencies etc. . The same traffic and weather conditions affect a doctor’s schedule too, but some are unforgiving. The fact that Indian doctors are available on usually the same day or mostly a week in spite of a heavy workload means nothing to our people, even those who have visited the Western world and witnessed that it takes months to years to get a specialist’s appointment there.

9. Behaviour of the doctor: Agreed that some doctors are indeed rude, some are in a hurry, and that is wrong. But usually doctors develop a lot of patience as they mature, dealing with all sorts of negativity continuously. Sometimes patients do offend doctors by asking illogical questions repeatedly, by challenging every word that the doctor says, or by making illogical demands. These demands include repeating long explanations about the diagnosis and treatment, requests to speak on phone with a distant relative to re-explain everything because they are too busy to come over, asking questions like “Are these medicines necessary?” etc. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

10. Unfair, illogical statements “I cannot tolerate any allopathic medicine” rules this section. What do you expect a physician to do?

11. Unfair, unrealistic expectations: Every drug has side effects, including vitamins, and these side effects are NOT the doctor’s fault. The doctor can alert the patient about common side effects, but cannot explain all side effects of every medicine, as it is impractical. Secondly, while some medicines act within seconds, some take effect over weeks to months. Those without patience who expect relief within few hours / one day usually upload angry reviews about both “no effect” and side effect” commonly.

12. Declining demands for admission. Investigations and OPD treatments are not covered by most insurance companies, so some patients demand admission even when not indicated. When refused, even if the patient was cured, the doctor still gets a negative review.

13. Google masters: Some patients bring a lot of irrelevant questions and conceptually wrong use of medical terms to the doctor’s table, and however politely one declines to waste time over such, a negative review is almost guaranteed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

14. Habitual negative reviewers: I once found a negative review of a patient who had actually responded well to treatment and was cured. He had complained about having to pay for a follow up visit after few weeks. A small google search revealed that he had uploaded many reviews from those about railway stations to collector’s office, from autorickshaws to five star hotels, almost all negative. Unhappy man!

12. Professional Competitors- this is a new reality: doctors hiring agencies to boost their positive reviews and add negative reviews to their competition. The simple fact check of how many positive reviews over how much time reveals the truth.

Some negative reviews are indeed genuine, I have had them myself, and called and apologised to the patient, clarified my stand too. However when they were malicious, I have informed the concerned site manager and also posted a reply about reality.

How to know?

A negative review must have a legitimate name of the person writing it, and details of date and time of the visit. That way the doctor can also confirm whether it is genuine and help resolve it. A nameless review is always questionable, good or bad.

In a recent news, a National restaurant association has decided to sue people who upload negative reviews about food: just because they want more or free, just because of their mindset is negative, just because they are insatiable. Even IMA should consider suing people who upload wrong, defamatory, spiteful reviews about doctors. Even the ‘hired good reviews’ by doctors should be discouraged.

Issued in the best interests of patients and doctors.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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