The Wrong Blood
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In rolled the wheelchair. The listless elderly patient: a case of last stage of Parkinson’s disease kept staring at nothing ahead of him. He was stiff all over, drooling, and barely made any movements. His wife walked in limping, with the support of a wooden cane.
The patient needed better care: nursing, cleaning and feeding. He was developing bedsores. Once I examined him, I asked her why they had stopped his medicines. She was embarrassed to answer. “There are so many problems, doctor!” She replied, “I fell down while lifting him from the bed, my leg is fractured. I have diabetes and neuropathy myself, so cannot walk well. So I could not go out to get his medicine. I could not go to the bank also”.
I felt sorry for them, and started thinking in my mind if I should offer her free medicines till she can arrange. A pharmacist friend of mine is very happy to help out patients. By the time I finished writing prescription, she had called someone. “Speak to our son, Doctor” she requested.
Covering the microphone, I asked her where her son was. She told me he was in his office, a few kilometres away from the hospital. Angry and upset, I spoke to her son. He asked me the details of his father’s health, and also “How long do you expect this to continue?”.
I told him in short about his father, and also told him to see me as soon as possible to discuss about his father’s health. “Yes, I am busy now, but I will come and see you”. He replied.
His mother was smiling an awkward smile. “Everybody is busy with their work, doctor. We also have a daughter in the same city, but one cannot ask for help from a daughter’s family no? I just hope all this ends soon without much pain.” she said.
I wrote on his case paper with red ink: Patient’s son or daughter to visit with the patient as soon as possible for discussing his health. I told the patient’s wife to show it to her son and daughter. “He comes once in a month to meet us, I will show him then.” she replied. I gave her instructions for bedsore care.
They followed up after three months. The medicines were on, there was some improvement. However, the bedsores had worsened. The lady was still limping.
“Did you show my note to your son or daughter?” I asked.
She paused. Then, with tears rolling down her eyes, she said “Doctor, you help us so much, I cannot lie to you. Our children are not interested in us now. They do not care about our suffering. Both ask us why the other one is not available. I showed them both your note on the very next day: I went to their homes by an autorickshaw just for that, and both said they will arrange something soon, but now they don’t even pick up our phone except on Sundays. It’s Ok. Probably we didn’t grow them up well enough. Both of us were teachers, we were poor, but we had good cultural values. But our kids have time for vacations, parties, shopping, festivals – everything, except us”.
The restlessness in the wheelchair increased, and we noticed that the patient was in tears too, trying to mutter something, but unable to. His wife got up and wiped his tears. “Don’t you worry. I am enough to take care of you. I will not die before you. We probably had the wrong blood within us. This is our fate. We will manage”.
There is nothing that a doctor can do to bring the errant son / daughter to justice, I thought. Various courts of law proactively ordering gender equality in property distribution have many a times mentioned that neglecting age old parents is a punishable crime, but there are no examples of anyone set right. To expect parents to file a case against their own children is stupid.
I prayed for both of them, and also for a system where a doctor can report such criminal neglect to bring to books the irresponsible. But a doctor must take into their stride the dark side of humanity.
Whatever life brings on, tackle, overcome, and “Move On” for the good of the next patient is the holy code of action for every doctor. The next waiting patient needs to see a smile upon your face. So put it on, and Go!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Wrong Blood