My Earning As A Doctor
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It was an emergency night, and we were trying to cope up with the excessive load that every government hospital must accommodate. One of my early postgraduate emergencies. The living, the dead and those in between were being rushed in continuously, and we were dealing with the emotional ups and downs at an almost impossible pace. In the same moment we were Gods and heroes for some, and devilish villains for others.
Nature, age, illness, delays, illiteracy and poverty are easy to fight with sometimes, but not what people expect from a doctor.
I was writing on the ward desk, filling up the necessary paperwork, an irritating interruption in a clinician’s life. Trying to recall something, I stared for a moment at the long stretch of that huge ward. My senior resident Dr. Sunil was performing a procedure called pleural tap, where fluid is removed from the chest. He was from a very poor and rural background, but had excellent merit. Most people made fun of his looks and language, that made him silent and aloof. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
An old man came out of the toilet, accompanied with his wife. He was about 80, was admitted and had recovered from a stroke. He was scheduled to be discharged next morning.
While walking to his bed, this old man suddenly collapsed, his wife unable to hold him. He was about 10 metres away from me. Sunil and myself reached there immediately, shouting for the crash cart, and started resuscitation. We tried for many minutes, as the patient’s wife stood a few metres away, sobbing.
He was dead. He had had a sudden cardiac arrest.
It was the third death in the ward that day, among the thirty emergencies admitted.
Dr. Sunil went to the patient’s wife. and informed her. He got her some water, and sat with her for some time. Then when he resumed the paperwork, I noticed he was feeling sad and tearful too, like myself. The old man and his wife had both been so nice to us. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Only a doctor knows the traumatic feelings of having to resuscitate someone who was talking to them a few moments ago. Believe it or not, almost every death certificate makes a scar on a sensitive doctor’s mind. The trauma is perpetual, hidden, but also real.
As we arranged for their transport (the couple had no relatives and were from a nearby village), the old lady sat by her husband, touching his face and crying. When she left, she said “God bless you, you people still tried so much. We are both old, what can you do! This is my destiny. I hope God takes me up quickly too, I have no purpose in life now”.
Sunil went to the doctor’s room and broke down. This was unusual. I tried to console him, myself feeling very sad. Then, Sunil looked out of the window and said in a heavy voice: “My mother died exactly like this, in a hospital ward, when I was a child. I was with her. That is when I decided to become a doctor and save lives. At such times I feel very hopeless”.
“Oh”, I said, not knowing how to react, “Where is your father now?”
“He passed away long before my mother, he had fever, but they did not have money to take him to a hospital. He died at home.” Said Dr. Sunil.
In some time, we went for a tea and composed ourselves again. The night was to bring many more who needed us stable, so we returned in few minutes.
The next day, we presented to our professor the forty two cases admitted in emergency, a usual count at most medicine emergencies. Going home after over 36 hours, I could not eat that day. A doctor should not be too emotional, but then no one makes themselves, one can only control reactions. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Fast forward to the future: my father, one afternoon at home, collapsed suddenly and was taken to the nearest hospital three minutes away, but could not be resuscitated. I was in Mumbai, far away from him. That phone call still rings in my ears. Sometimes I have to sit down at the memory of that call, it breaks me.
I did not curse that doctor to whom my dad was taken. I did not blame anyone. I did not go to the press or police. I did not think that the doctor was wrong or was working for money when someone was dying. It is impossible. One who thinks that a doctor will think of money in the face of a dying patient is probably also the one who never fully believed in God, and also questioned their own mother’s love for themselves!
Like almost every sensitive doctor, like Dr. Sunil, the only way for me to forget the agony of losing my dear ones was to prevent this from happening in anyone else’s life.
So what if most of them think I worked for money, so what if they refuse to ever acknowledge gratitude in words or in deed. So what if they only look at the money I earn through my hard work.
My real earning, like that of every sensible doctor, is the reduced burden of suffering in the human world. The tax I pay is my blood and sweat. Those who do not use these currencies will never know their value.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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