(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He picked up the call he awaited desperately. She was ecstatic.. “Happy Birthday! I have been thinking about what you said. I have feelings for you too. Can we meet at the tea break around 4?” She asked. “Yes” he replied, excited.
“Oh yes and I also wanted to tell you that I got my visa yesterday”.
“Yes, congrats! See you at 4. I will wait” he said hastily, and disconnected. Another call was waiting, from the hospital. “Sir there is an admission, paralysis since yesterday. He had stopped his BP medicines two months ago. Now vitals stable, lab sent.” said the CMO.
“Get an urgent MRI, and shift to semi-ICU. I am on my way” he instructed.
He answered all the questions about “complete cure and guarantee” by relatives, and also listened to their hidden threats. He did not want to spoil his mood especially today.
He had left without breakfast, so went to the canteen and brunched a hasty sandwich and a coffee. He mused about her. After a long time he had liked someone, and wanted to take it further. She was a paramedic, and the kind of guileless straightforward, soft, smiling person he required to be with him all his life. He felt her affection in everything that she said to him. She seemed usually unaware that almost every head turned to look at her. He decided to make the best of today’s meeting. Life was going nowhere outside the hospital any ways otherwise. He had even forgotten birthday celebrations long ago.
More patients kept him busy for the whole noon. The poor had an unsaid plight coupled with their fears: of the illness, of the surgery, of the expenses, of the big city, big hospital, and even of the doctor. The rich were mostly ill-behaved, irresponsible and seeking ways of taking advantage: to avoid tests, visits, payments, vehemently reluctant to give up their addictions: alcohol, smoking, weed and money. Few kind patients realised his gloom and made an effort to soothe him with compliments, make him laugh.
He had no time to think or plan what he was going to say to her. They knew each other for over three years, but had not been able to spend quality time because both were PGs till three months ago, lucky if they had their meals and sleep. Now that they were out, they had to work harder to survive in the competition. He desperately wanted to spend his life with her. This was his last opportunity to say it properly.
Because she planned to leave India in a month, and if he didn’t speak his mind today, he would have no chance again to do so. He wondered about the coincidence that this was happening on his birthday. “She should not accept me just because of that” he thought. His inner voice said “Its ok even if it is that. You are going to make her happy in either case”.
It was 3.30 PM. There was no time to go get a rose or a greeting. He pictured for a second in his mind that he is romantically kneeling in front of her in his blue suit, holding an open box of a beautiful sapphire ring, and she, ever gorgeous, surprised and pleased, tearful and smiling, is holding his face.
The junior doctor came running. “Sir, there’s a traffic accident, head injury, unconscious, intubated in casualty”. They went to the casualty. Twenty years old, no helmet. Bike slipped and his head hit the pavement. Shocked, panicked and angry, the relatives thought everything was wrong at the hospital. As he ran to the patient, five relatives surrounded him and asked questions. He politely asked them to wait till he examined the patient. “When did this happen?” he asked the junior “Sir eight hours ago” he replied.
Pale and cold. Pupils not reacting. No Doll’s Eye movements. No spontaneous activity. No reflexes. No response to caloric tests. Heart rate high. BP low. CT scan showed large bleed, multiple skull fractures, and a compressed brainstem. Sodium already high. Beyond surgery. Beyond possibility of survival.
“Did he have any earlier illness?” He asked. The uncle replied; “He used to have fits. It was his birthday yesterday. He may have had some drinks with his friends”.
It was difficult to look at the face of his mother and father, lakes of hope, shock, trauma and expectation in their eyes. “We will make an effort, but things look quite bad as of now” he told them. “Do everything, doctor, call the best doctors. Just save my son. Don’t worry about money” said the father.
He lost his mind for a split moment. The doctor within him was crying for the lost patient. If you had all the money, why didn’t you buy a helmet for your son? Why did you allow him to drink and drive? How come his epilepsy medicine was stopped? But there was no use thinking about it all now.
He wrote the orders, and waited to answer the crying mother, who begged him to get her son back. He thought about his own mother and her anxieties for him. Helpless, he even felt at one moment that he had chosen another profession than to face this every other day. For it was not the courage or goodwill, it was not the hard work that tormented him daily, but it was the scars that each such event bruised upon his soul. For years.
He realised that the phone was ringing. It was 4.45. He ran to the canteen. She was already a little upset, but conjured a smile. “Happy Birthday” she said, and handed him the greeting and the gift. Thanking her, he sat there, the sobs of that mother in casualty still continued in his mind. “So, did you think about what I said?:” she asked, and continued: “my parents will accompany me there, stay for a week, and then return. I won’t be able to return for at least a year. The curriculum is too tough. What’s wrong with you? Are you listening?”
He told her about the near dead patient in the casualty. She became silent. He talked superficially about her travel plans, her parents and her stay there. He could not bring himself to speak of his love at that moment. Death, anyone’s, stuns most around.
They finished the coffee. With cordial words, asking him to take care of himself, and a promise to stay in digital touch, she left.
“It is your choice, your duty. You must think of the service you are doing to this society. Death, shock, trauma and illness are a daily routine for you, why does it even bother you any more? People get sick, die almost every day, and you have chosen to spend life in hospitals. Why can’t you learn to be insensitive, unemotional to medical issues?” asked a part of his mind.
The other part of his mind, stunned in an abyss of a silent agony, because a lifetime of love had just passed away, did not answer.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande