Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?
©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
A hungry poor man named Atmaram went to a big hotel, had a nice big meal, and told he had no money to pay. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. He was released after a warning and a slap.
Next day he filled up petrol in his bike, and said he couldn’t pay. He was again beaten up, handed over to the police. Then he went to the medical shop, bought medicines and mineral water, ate the medicine, drank water from the bottle, and again said he couldn’t pay. He was now jailed for a week.
Next week his house was damaged by heavy rains, so he went and requested to be allowed to sleep in the house of the chief minister. He was arrested again, thrashed up.
As angry Atmaram shouted at the police, he was beaten up by them, another crime was added to his offences. In the court, Atmaram insulted the lawyers and judges and accused them of accepting bribes and charging too much. The judge punished him extra for his behaviour. Atmaram was angry and threw his shoe at the judge. His punishment was extended.
“You must respect the authority “ the court said.
“But I am poor, I need free food and petrol and medicines. I need sympathy too” Atmaram argued.
“You should have begged and applied for favours and eaten in places that provide charity meals. Petrol, however essential, has the same price for everyone. You can sleep on the footpath, and above all, you are not allowed rudeness and violence because you are poor and needy” The court said.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
When released from the jail, Atmaram drank a lot of desi alcohol, had an accident and fractured many bones. He went to the best private hospital, got operated and refused to pay his bills that crossed one lac rupees. When the hospital insisted, the operating doctors were beaten up by Atmaran’s relatives, the hospital was vandalised, the police arrested the doctor who saved Atmaram’s life, the government closed down the hospital, while the media and the society kept villainising the entire medical profession.
The headlines next day reported the sympathy expressed uniformly by wag addicted tongues: some said the entire profession was tainted, some blamed the greed of the doctors, even some doctors desperate for attention shed crocodile tears about the ethics in this profession. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In the courtroom, during the trial, Atmaram sat facing the doctor, still heavily bandaged.
The hon’ble judge, kind but surrounded by security, told the doctor accused of negligence and malpractice in the court: “You as a doctor carry more responsibility for ethical behaviour upon your shoulders. You should never turn away the poor”.
The doctor, defending himself, asked “but Milord, doesn’t our constitution insist on equality? Why do you yourself or ministers get security but not the doctor? Why isn’t everyone supposed to stick to ethics in every profession including politics, police and judiciary? Why are others exempt? How do you explain beating up of doctors while also saying that the society treated them like gods?”.
There were no answers. The kind court asked if the doctor had to say anything else in his own defence.
The doctor said
“Yes Milord, but the real answers will hurt:
Jealousy against medical professionals across society and many other professions is a reality. Why else will anyone who couldn’t qualify to become a doctor try and teach the qualified doctors what they should do?”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“A culture of exploitation of non-votebank groups
and a complete failure of government healthcare with no one accepting responsibility is well known to everyone, but even judges have no courage to suo motu question this and correct it, even when they see the poor dying”. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“In a country with never ending poverty, how much free can a healthcare facility provide? For how long? This is already forcing closure of hospitals and exodus of good doctors out of the country.”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Milord, can you assure that every doctor will get his/ her fees as per his service to every patient, and if the patient can’t pay, that much charge will be exempted from the income tax of that doctor? How else do you except a doctor to meet his needs and dreams? Just because there are millions of poor patients, is the doctor’s life and hard work taken for granted? If there has to be financial sacrifice, why not have everyone contribute to it by creating a national health tax fund for treatment of poor patients? Why healthcare is subsidised only at the cost of a doctor?”
Just at this point, Atmaram, who sat in front of the judge, collapsed unconscious, almost blue black.
The shocked judge requested the doctor to examine him.
“He is no more” said the doctor.
“What could have happened ?” asked the kind but sweating judge.
The doctor told the court about three possible reasons. Two of them were scientific and medical: a sudden cardiac event or a large blood clot in the lungs common after fractures and trauma.
The third non-medical, unscientific cause made the Judge seriously ponder.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Will this court be now closed down, Milord? Will your efficiency be questioned, will you allow the relatives to attack you and understand their sad situation at the cost of your murder?”
“I understand what you mean” said the kind judge.
Needless to say, the doctor was released without a blame.
Can anyone please solve the mystery of the third non medical, unscientific possible cause of Atmaram’s death?
(C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
A continuous beeping filled up the air in the ICU. Over twenty hearts kept making rhythmic sounds, the nurses kept on silencing the false alarms that rung every now and then, and informing us about the ones that needed attention.
We had kept the cake in the doctor’s room, we were waiting for the right moment. It was well past midnight, we had all wished Dr. Steve a happy birthday, but the ICU was full and busy, we waited for an opportunity to cut the cake.
A very old Parsi man, just recovering from a massive heart attack, was not maintaining his blood pressure. As his alarm sounded again, we rushed to attend him: Dr. Steve, myself and our nurse Ms. Divya. As we adjusted his intravenous drips, he asked us our names. He was funny, and always made us smile in spite of the deadly shadows that surrounded us. When we told our names, he smiled. “See, there’s a Hindu, a Christian and a Parsi happy in this small 10 by 10 room, but they cannot all stay peacefully outside in this big country!” .. Dr. Steve, always interested in one-upmanship, smiled and said, “If you want, we also have a Muslim and a Sikh doctor outside. Shall I call them in?”
With the typical instant Parsi wits, the old man replied “Arrey no no bawa, all our ********** (I did not completely understand that word) political leaders will die if people from all religions come together”.
It was difficult to say whether we were treating his heart attack or he was treating out tired minds. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The CMO called, there was a new patient coming up, a young lady in respiratory failure due to pneumonia. As the nurses prepared the new bed, Dr. Steve took down notes from the CMO. Ms. Divya was one of our most efficient and agile staff nurse. Very beautiful and brilliant, she took responsibility upon herself with a passion that would put to shame even some doctors. We all knew that there was something going on between her and Dr. Steve, but both of them kept mum. I knew for sure though, because Dr. Steve had once confided to me about this crush he had upon her. However, overwork always suffocates personal life in a hospital.
The stretcher rolled in, noisy with calls of panic. The patient was gasping. Urgently shifting her on the ICU bed, Dr. Steve intubated her. She coughed a lot, and both Dr. Steve and Ms. Divya were showered with blood stained secretions. Dr. Steve had his mask on, but Ms. Divya had not had the time to put hers on. He angrily shouted at her, while adjusting the patient’s tube, to wear her mask. I finished securing the IV line, and started pushing in the emergency medicines. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The patient was a young lady, who had suddenly developed fever, cough and cold. On the second day she had become restless, was admitted in some nearby hospital, but as she continued to worsen in spite of treatment, she was referred to us. It was a viral pneumonia, an extremely invasive and dangerous viral infection had started filling up her lungs with fluid and blood. Just as her oxygen levels improved, she developed an irregular heart rhythm: viral infections often cause severe damage to the heart, a condition called myocarditis. In two hours after admission, the lady died. Horrible moments followed, telling her broken husband and stunned kids that she was gone forever. Completing the formalities and paperwork, we returned to the grind: we were medicos: there’s no choice for us to sit down, panic, repent, mourn or run away.
No one was now in a mood to cut the cake. No one even spoke about it. Next night, Ms. Divya bought another cake, and we all silently wished Dr. Steve a belated Happy Birthday.
Jutst ten days later Ms. Divya developed fever, cough and cold. The same deadly virus, most likely. We all panicked. Dr. Steve took leave and attended her, as her family was far away in Kerala. She had come to Mumbai to earn enough for her family. In spite of all efforts, Ms. Divya passed away in just three days. The faces of her elderly parents and younger brother became one of the worst memory-scars in our lives. Shortly after, Dr. Steve developed the symptoms too, but survived.
I took him out sometimes, to bring him back from the pit of depression and shock that he had sunken in. One evening, when we sat silently on Marine Drive, he said, “I will never have a Happy Birthday again. You know, Divya’s family has no support at all. I have decided to help them out for some time, till we find an alternative”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Staring at the ocean, I kept wondering: In this country, where crores of rupees are thrown almost every other day for even miniscule achievements in cricket and cinema, where millions are spent from public funds upon the useless travel, security, meetings and social dinners etc. luxuries of the super-rich MLAs and MPs, where billions are spent by every political party in elections, there are no funds for the nurses, doctors and other staff who risk or lose their lives serving their patients. If a bridge collapses and many die, if there’s a major accident due to lapses in administration, there is immediate compensation, in an attempt to seal complaining lips. But if a medico is injured or killed, the best thing our society has to say is: “This is because all doctors work for money, it must be the fault of communication on the doctors part!”
We walked that whole night, along the ocean, silently crying. Sometimes the only solace for a medico is the thought that someday someone will desperately need a good doctor or a good nurse, and not find them around. Many medicos who do extraordinary good to their patients do not get any certificates for what they do. Most don’t care. Because we carry our death certificates in our pockets every day. One last certificate that we work very hard for.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Dedicated to the nurses and doctors, medical staff who suffered / died because they served patients, saving lives.
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Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir, she cannot walk, she is paralysed below chest since last few days. Her husband doesn’t care, he has abandoned her. She has no money or insurance for tests or treatment. I want to help her, I don’t know what to do” I told my junior consultant, who was having his coffee break with senior consultant and the departmental secretaries. He looked at me in a nasty way, and said “Why don’t you marry her?” and they all laughed aloud. However, although my professor smiled with them, he asked me to get the patient’s papers.
She was a case of Multiple Sclerosis, in her early thirties, and had lost ability to walk. Her sensation below the waist, control over urine was also lost. This ghastly illness of the brain and spine often cripples the young. In many cases, when such disability develops, divorces follow. The world as we doctors see it is far more cruel, deceptive and dangerous than most illnesses humanity knows. She was left with a small daughter and no income. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I felt insulted, but I was in a foreign country. The junior consultant was known for his sarcastic humour and enjoyed impressing women around him, often at the cost of others, like so many dwarfs who take advantage of their chair to achieve what they otherwise cannot. I chose to ignore him, and got the papers to our boss, who called a colleague to enrol the patient in one of the upcoming research trials. That would ensure her free tests and medicines for a few years. I told her the good news. She started sobbing, then handed me a note written by her:
“I am killing myself as I have nothing left except my daughter, I cannot look after her with my disability. I have no complaints against anyone. Please look after my daughter”.
In some time, after she stabilised, she said “Doc, I had come prepared to kill myself today. My daughter is sitting in the cafeteria. If you had not told me what you did just now, believe me, I was planning to drive my wheelchair off the roof today”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We called her 10 year old daughter from the cafeteria. Little did the cute child know how lucky she was to see her mother again that day.
That evening, my boss, the senior consultant, took me out for a dinner. Once the red wine loosened strained faces, he started to speak: “Rajaas, I know you are kind and you want to help others. I know you feel for your patients. But I must caution you, don’t get carried away. Your job is clear: to listen, to advise the best line of investigations and treatment, to explain, and to compassionately guide. Don’t carry too much weight upon your shoulders”.
“Why, Sir?”I asked politely, “I feel inner peace when I walk an extra mile to help my patient. How can that cause me any harm? Didn’t this lady survive just because you helped her today?”
“Because it is a never ending burden. To be able to effectively help everyone coming to you, you must have too much money and too much time. Doctors seldom have either. I lost a lot of time and money, to realise that this cycle never ends, that newer and more people need your help every day, all your life. I almost went bankrupt, collapsed and quit under stress. Then I realised that I must limit this so I could serve them best the next day”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It felt like dry reasoning at that moment. However, boss continued to help patients beyond duty whenever I asked him. Over years, I realised how correct Boss was!
My dear british colleague Dr. Mindy was trying to help a patient through her divorce, I accompanied her. As the patient opened up, she revealed to Mindy that although she enjoyed marijuana, her husband was involved in the sale of other illicit drugs, and that was one reason that she wanted to divorce him. Dr. Mindy involved a counsellor to help her out. However, after they decided to patch up their marriage, the patient told her husband that she had confided in Dr. Mindy. The husband came over and politely threatened her to keep all the information only to herself, otherwise be prepared for dare consequences.
We all spent many a restless nights after that.
Emotionally disturbed, helpless patients, those who are treated unfair by family often depend upon a kind doctor. They get quite restless at times, worry a lot and then expect an immediate hearing and resolution from their doctor. From suicide threats to blackmails, there are messages that pour in once that channel is opened. This sometimes wreaks havoc in the doctor‘s life, because being disturbed affects clinical practice and decision making. The small time left for self and family is thus shot dead. A patient who becomes emotionally dependent upon the doctor can turn into a nightmare for the doctor. Over years, I learnt to balance this, going out of the way only for the few truly deserving patients.
Thousands of patients have survived just because their doctor emotionally supported them in time, otherwise they would have died of lack of will to carry on. No one ever credits the doctors who become emotional back-ups for their patients: a service that costs them time and stress, without any income. That is unfortunately considered a “duty” of the doctor, to be kind and available at bad times, but to be forgotten in good times. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Many actually think that good words, compliments and “a satisfaction of serving” should be sufficient compensation for the doctor. Nothing fully compensates, although kind words do sometimes make one feel good.
However, what caused worse hurt to me was some of my own colleagues who made fun of me and many other doctors who went out of their way to help patients. “Impractical, unnecessary, worthless, drama”, and so many other adjectives are used by colleagues and even seniors/ some teachers for doctors, students, residents who walk an extra mile to help their patients. I was extremely fortunate that I met some good teachers who supported my efforts without mocking me, and I continue to meet students who carry on this noble trait forwards.
When I was leaving, the junior consultant came over for the farewell too, and told me in too many words how I must learn to be “Practical”. I gave him a reply that one teacher with advanced genius had taught me years ago, for people who do less themselves and advise others a lot. This reply saves a lot of time and energy, my teacher had told me, and its beauty is that people don’t even understand that you are saying ‘those two useful words’ when you reply like this:
I just smiled at him.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Unforgettable Compliment
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
All six casualty beds were full, the room was full of noises: nurses, fearful and angry patients, relatives, and wardboys trying to move stretchers and wheelchairs in and out. This chaos didn’t affect my concentration anymore. It was late night, heavily raining, my colleague Deepa and myself were the only two doctors- interns then- in the civil hospital casualty. She was finishing the paperwork in the side room. Behind a curtain, I was trying to remove a metal piece stuck in the back of a kid who had blown a firecracker bomb with a tin container covering it. I started stitching the gaping wound once the metal piece was out and cleaning was complete. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Just then a girl walked in, all wet and panicked, with another small girl upon a stretcher. I recognized her instantly: she was a classmate from my junior college, Ruta. As the patient was shifted to the bed, Ruta frantically shouted, enquiring for doctors. The nurses had already started checking her patient’s vitals. I finished bandaging the stitched wound, and came out from behind the curtain, removing my gloves. She saw and instantly recognized me too. “You are Rajas, right? Remember me? I am Ruta, your classmate.” She started sobbing, now that she met a familiar face. Her sister, about 15 years old, had had a head injury, falling from a bike, and had just vomited. She was woozy, irritable and confused. I ordered an X ray (CT scan was not available in that civil hospital) of her head and neck. IV line was started and necessary drugs injected. I reassured Ruta that her sister was stable, and continued with other patients.
My subconscious kept on playing memories of the past on some deep screens.
Ruta was exceptionally beautiful and vivacious. She had many fans. I liked her too, but there was no interaction: her group unlikely to engage with nerds like myself. They were a group of happy-go-lucky, good looking and muscular guys and stylish, good looking girls. They were mostly into movies, masti, dance, gymming, rides and food. I was not only preoccupied with a lot of classes and study, but also too shy to belong to such a group. Somewhere I envied those boys, they had so much advantage interacting with girls, with all the time and money they had. However, muscles are not my kind of statement, although (Thank God!) I have always enjoyed excellent health and fitness. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Once we finished the junior college, I never saw them. Medical courses hardly allow any time for extracurricular activities. The only silver lining was that there still were beautiful and intellectual girls in the class, and some of them respected and liked nerds too!
As Ruta waited by her sister, I kept on attending the cases that came in. From women in labour to heart attacks in shock, from bullets in the chest to rapes, one night in a casualty shows more pain than many know in a lifetime.
A foreigner couple came in, with their small boy bitten by a bee, he had developed severe reaction, his breathing was obstructed because of the throat swelling from inside. They kept on weeping as we all rushed to inject steroids and other medicines to the child. In some time the kid stabilized. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Then the police brought in a drunk driver who had rammed his Bullet bike into another’s. Our duty was to perform a detailed examination, collect blood sample and opine whether he was drunk or not. I was shocked: he was my schoolmate. He recognized me too. “Raja? Dekh yaar ye log mujhe andar kar rahe hain (Look these people are jailing me) he said, “Tu kuchh kar yaar (please do something)”. This was difficult. He was going to hate me for life probably, but I had no choice. I wrote his report. I felt sad, but there was no time to express it.
A snake bitten farmer and a newly wed woman with over 70 percent burns were brought in almost together, both gasping. Deepa and myself ran around to stabilize them, the medical officer came in too, but the burns woman had arrested just as they entered the casualty. We intubated the farmer, who was sinking, while we struggled to get things right. He was shifted to the ICU upstairs. We started finishing the paperwork. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It was about 4 AM, now there was a relative calm in the casualty. Sleepy relatives had found corners to doze off. All six patients were relatively stable.
“Excuse me Rajas, Is there a canteen nearby where I can get some tea?” Ruta asked.
“Yes, across the road, in the lane opposite the gate” I replied.
“Will you please join me?” she asked.
Borrowing an umbrella from a ward boy, and informing Deepa, I walked Ruta across the street. We stood sipping the hot tea by the side of the road, under the beautiful rain.
“I have a confession to make” she said suddenly: “I never knew there was this side to life: I only thought my life was to be enjoyed without a worry. If someone had given me a million rupees yesterday to stay up all night listening to other people cry, see wounds and deaths all night, I would have declined and ran away. I cannot stand anyone whining, and here you all are, listening to nothing else, fighting not only death but also expectation, anger and uncertainty. We made fun of nerds like you, and today I meet one, saving lives! I don’t know if I will ever save a life, and here you are saving many every day! I feel how superficial I was! I respect you and what you do. I now think you docs are superheroes”.
We are used to such overwhelmed compliments by patients just relieved of fear. I just smiled. She read my face. ” No, I am not saying this because my sister is admitted today, but because I feel it inside after seeing what happened here”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I thanked her, adding that it was not wrong to have fun and look good, confessing that medicos often secretly miss those things, none of us gets any time for that.
Needless to say, I walked back thanking God, and feeling proud. This was one simple closure, yet so essential!
My co-intern Deepa gave me the expected wicked mischievous smile when I returned.
“Today the tea must have been very tasty na?” she asked, sarcasm overflowing from a face deliberately made over-innocent.
“Solid” I replied with matching sarcasm; “Oxytocin-Dopamine waali chai thi (It had oxytocin and dopamine)”.
We discharged Ruta’s sister the next day. After two days, I received a handmade greeting from Ruta, in which she had written the most unforgettable compliment I ever received:
“You healed more than what was injured. Thank You!”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Dedicated to all medical students, interns and resident doctors.
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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Rimless spects, ipad, T-Shirt and denims. Brilliant face, thinning hair. Attitude. A face carefully wiped off of any expression. The typical new age intellectual waited outside the ICU. Body language: severe anxiety.
“Doctor, do whatever you must, his convulsions must stop” said Mr. Prasad. His father was having continuous fits for over three hours, he was just admitted directly in the ICU after all the home remedies had failed. His oxygen levels had dropped to dangerous levels. Patient had ready aspirated during his convulsions. His food had regurgitated and entered his windpipe.
The last treatment for continued fits is completely paralysing the patient with general anesthesia, intubating and starting artificial respiration with a ventilator. There is risk, but lesser than if the patient continues to have fits. Every doctor, for every patient, must make a decision based upon the risk-benefit ratio. Every treatment, medicine or surgery, also has potential risks. The decision that can potentially cause someone’s death is not easy to make. Every doctor lives on the edge of this risk.
Add distrust and suspicion, and we are dealing with law more than with medicine. Welcome to the medico nightmares! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The critical care team had already explained the risk to the Mr. Prasad. He had signed the consent, including understanding of the critical condition. We intubated the patient and ventilator was started. The fits stopped. A chest physician was also involved in the treatment. Monitoring of the brain waves still showed abnormal currents in his brain, so he was kept paralysed next two days.
On the third day, the patient developed fever, most likely he had developed a chest infection, so common after aspiration. His condition worsened, his blood pressure dropped. We informed the family.
“Why didn’t you prevent this?” asked Mr. Prasad.
“Sir, have you ever had any cough, cold, fever?” I asked.
“Yes, many times. What has that to do with my father’s infection?“ he replied.
“Why couldn’t you prevent it?” I asked, “Anyone can develop an infection or a heart attack anywhere outside the hospital and it is ok, but if it happens inside a hospital, why does it suddenly become a doctor’s fault? Hospital acquired infections are possible in spite of all precautions, in the best of the hospitals across the globe. The elderly population is especially more prone for infections.”
This being a routine question, there was no reason for me to lose my patience. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Our team worked hard to maintain the unconscious patient alive. His heart rate fluctuated, blood pressure dipped to non-recordable sometimes, blood sugars went high, liver and kidney functions were deranged, but we kept on playing the “Medical Chess”, where one doesn’t know what move nature will make next, the only possible next step is to accurately, promptly and wisely counter that complication.
His lungs started failing, the chest physician advised steroids. At this stage steroids could either be life saving, or could cause havoc by worsening the infection. Mr. Prasad was explained the situation.
“What are the chances of survival and complete recovery?” he asked.
“Unpredictable, Sir” I replied.
“Then why use steroids?” he asked.
“If we don’t, the chances are less than if we do”. I replied.
Steroids were added. The patient stabilised and then started improving gradually. Over next five days there was a dramatic recovery. Steroids were stopped.. Mr. Prasad remained expressionless, questioning every move. Three days later, once he started breathing by himself, the ICU team informed me that the patient could be extubated- the tube for ventilation could be taken out. I was in the OPD, I okayed the decision.
In a few minutes, Mr. Prasad rushed into my OPD.
“Doc, my father cannot speak. He has lost voice”. He was quite angry and anxious.
“Let me check” I said and went to the ICU.
The patient was otherwise fine. The throat tube inserted for ventilation sometimes causes swelling in the throat, involving the vocal cords, and such “hoarseness” or loss of voice is common after this procedure. Using steroids facilitates recovery, but in this case, it was now risky to use steroids. We explained the situation to Mr. Prasad. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“When will he recover from this?” he asked.
“Usually two weeks, but still one cannot say exactly” I replied.
“Why didn’t you tell this to us earlier? This is atrocious. I will file a complaint. We will go to the court. My friend is a reporter. I will also write on social media about this, that because of the treatment here my father lost his voice” he started shouting.
He did file a complaint with the hospital. Everything was on paper, everything was medically and legally correct. Still the administration must ask me questions and I must reply. Many long emails and documentations followed. One reporter called and enquired about the case, I explained her the situation.
I didn’t sleep well those five nights. Medicolegally we were safe, but who was to deal with the media allegations, the resultant defamation, irresponsible hurtful comments by every TDH on the social media?.
The patient was still under my care. I saw him daily, he was making good recovery. His voice became normal in next three days. He was shifted to the wards and then discharged. He was advised to continue anticonvulsant medicines. Mr. Prasad did not say a goodbye, didn’t write a feedback, he didn’t withdraw his complaint. They just disappeared, and did not follow up. I kept on dealing with the paperwork for a few days even after discharge. I still had a thin bleeding layer of patience left. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
About a month later, at late night, I got a call from the casualty. The same patient was convulsing. Mr. Prasad had requested to call me.
He revealed that after the discharge he had searched for ‘the best’ neurologists in India, took his father to two of them, and was advised to continue exactly what we had advised. Then he researched internet, found an “ancient remedy” for epilepsy rediscovered recently by a famous baba, that guaranteed complete cure. They had stopped the anticonvulsants advised by me three days ago, as the Baba’s site blasted all modern medicine and the dangerous effects of allopathic drugs.
My remaining patience was destroyed, However, the patient was my first responsibility. I advised the treatment, we intubated the patient and started ventilation again.
“What are the chances, Sir?” asked the rimless eyes with expressionless face.
“We have started with the emergency treatment, the patient will be shifted to the ICU. I cannot accept this case, please admit your father under another specialist” I said. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Look doc, I am sorry if you felt bad about last time. We paid full bills and we will pay again, we have mediclaim. I want you to treat him” he said.
“I don’t work for the mediclaim companies. You cannot pay me for the damage you caused to my peace of mind, the waste of time you caused by writing falsified complaints. You cannot pay me for the sleepless nights because of your threats” I told him.
His face changed. Panic appeared on that expressionless face. He folded hands. There were tears in his eyes. “Doc, I am sorry. I got carried away by what people say about modern doctors. I will do whatever you want. Please save him. I promise I will immediately write an apology to the hospital ”.
Needless to say, a doctor’s heart has many hard scars, but it is the easiest to melt. It did, once again!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Real experience, some facts changed to mask identity.
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The Changing Blood Group
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“He is sinking” shouted Dr. Siya.
The casualty registrar rushed to the bed, checked the vitals. Pulse very fast. Blood Pressure very low. Lips and nails white, hands and feet cold. The young man, unconscious, was on the verge of death.
“He must be bleeding inside. Get an urgent sonography of his abdomen”said the registrar to Dr. Siya, and call the blood bank. He will need at least two units of blood urgently”.
It was Dr. Siya’s first week into internship, she was thrilled with the idea of actually saving lives. At the young age of 22, she was witnessing death almost every other day. Along with that she was amazed to see the darkest sides of human nature: the potential of humans to hurt each other: via rapes, accidents, murders, fights. She had decided to not let this affect her attitude, and to continue to try and save every life she could.
That late night, this young man of about her own age was brought in unconscious by someone, who had just dropped the patient in the casualty and left without leaving any identity of himself. “I found him lying unconscious on the road. I don’t know anything else about him. I am just doing my duty, I have a train to catch”said the stranger and left. The patient was reeking of alcohol. He had a visible head injury. A quick CT scan had revealed minimal bleeding due to a small skull fracture. He also had had bleeding from wounds from his hands and legs, they were sutured. The patient had no identity marks, wallet or cellphone. The policy of the hospital was to provide basic treatment and shift the patient to the government hospital. The police station was already informed. Treatment was started.
Dr. Siya requested two units of blood. The blood bank called. They had only one unit of the blood for his blood group. The registrar had the same blood group, and like many doctors working in the emergency departments, he went down to donate blood.
It was nearly midnight. The fate of the life of a young man depended upon what the junior doctor did just then. There was no one to sign any consents, the protocol was to inform the hospital’s medical director and obtain consent for emergency transfusion or procedure. Dr. Siya finished the formalities, obtained the permission, and started the transfusion. If the patient had reacted or something went wrong now, they all feared, there will be a havoc in the media: that they had let an unknown patient die because they wanted money!
Dr. Siya kept on managing the show. The angry and disturbed relatives of other critical patients kept on taunting her, speaking rude and reluctant to complete simple formalities and paperwork.
The sonography was thankfully normal.
Just as the first unit of blood was over, the patient became conscious, and revealed his name. He was quite shaken with the surrounding, but told in broken sentences about his friend’s number and address. He revealed that while returning from a party, his bike was interrupted by a bunch of goons, he had fallen down, they hit him upon the head and left with all this belongings.
The friend was called, and came in. He revealed that the patient was used to smoking weed and drinking alcohol in huge quantities. They were staying in the hostel of a famous college.
The second blood unit was started, and in a short while the patient threw a convulsion. He was immediately given injectables for controlling the convulsions, he slept off with the effect.
His parents arrived early next morning.. The shocked mother was consoled and explained about the situation by Dr. Siya. The elderly father, like all fathers, equally shocked but being a father unable to cry, kept mum, just holding hands of the boy.
When the patient woke up again, the father came to Dr. Siya, and touched her feet. Too embarrased, she told him that the registrar had donated blood for the patient. The father went and thanked the registrar, again trying to touch his feet.
As Dr. Siya had finished her night duty, she prepared to leave. “Beta, Will you come soon please?”asked the tearful mother to her. “Yes Auntie, I will be back soon. Don’t worry, he is ok now”she reassured and left.
On her way back her genius young mind tried to look at the situation sitting upon her shoulder, the little third person that resides within each one who has a conscience. That booze and weed was easily available to youngsters in almost all Indian hostels, that even educated people rode bikes without helmet, that crimes were happening almost everywhere that injured and killed people, that law and order was a laughable term in many parts ofthe country, that there was no government mechanism in place to provide emergency medical / paramedic support ambulances to raod / traffic accident victims: which one is the most responsible cause, when patients like these died? Who is responsible?
She reached home, told her proud parents what had happened, that she had helped save a life. Her mother folded her hands towards the sky, said “God, let my daughter save many lives everday”.
While having the breakfast, her father turned on the TV. A famous but ill educated political leader, in his mind-and-other- organs blowing speech in Karnataka, was explaining the illiterate public how all Indian doctors charged in excess, how they were only after money, how everyone except himself was the enemy of the millions of patients surviving from critical heart attacks, accidents, strokes and other diseases. All patients getting better all over te country was only thanks to himself and his government!
Dr. Siya’s father laughed bitterly. “Next time you need blood for any poor or unknown patient, call him” he said.
Dr. Siya replied, laughing “That kind of ëver changing blood group doesn’t match anyone, it is useless for any patient, Papa”.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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New Medical Criminals
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Doctor, Will My Dad Survive?” asked the anxious son.
“Very unlikely, we are trying our best though” said the desperate doc.
The highly qualified son had brought his father late night on a Friday, over 24 hours after he had developed a paralysis. Patient’s blood pressure was high, and heart status was fluctuating. An urgent MRI was advised.
“I will get the MRI done outside, I have a friend who gives me concession” said the son, and returned with an MRI after three hours, it did show a big clot in the patient’s brain. The son had insisted upon admission in the ward instead of a critical care unit, saying that his father “did not appear critical” to him and his family. “You want to admit in ICU because that will increase the bills. I know” he had bluntly told the doctor. The doctor had asked him to sign the refusal to admit in critical care, then sent the patient to the ward. Routine treatment for stroke and blood pressure was started, and tests sent.
“I will also get the medicines from outside the hospital, I have a pharmacist friend who gives me concession” he had told the doctor. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Early next morning, the father developed chest pain, and the cardiologist advised immediate stenting, as he was developing a block in the heart. . The son had insisted on using the cheapest stent. Although the angioplasty went well, the patient developed a bleeding in the brain, a complication known in stroke cases. He became unconscious. As the bleeding caused increased swelling and pressure upon the brain, a neurosurgeon was called in to decompress the brain (take off a small portion of the skull bone, to relieve pressure upon the brain). The surgery is usually safe, but the condition in which it is done is usually ultra-critical, thus risk to life is high. The son asked for a guarantee for a good outcome, and was explained that there cannot be any guarantees in medicine. He then refused the surgery, saying “I have read that surgeries are done without necessity by scaring the patient”.
Within hours, the patient’s brain swelling increased to the level of almost a certain fatal outcome. In the evening the son said he was willing for the decompression surgery, it was almost too late. The Neurosurgeon still operated him late night to make a last attempt to save life. After the surgery, the father was shifted to the recovery room. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It was here that the son had asked the doctor: “Will my father survive, doctor?”.
The doctor politely replied: “Sir, you have all the reports, you know what is his medical condition, so you can now google search and also ask your political leaders through their famous apps what will be the outcome, what is the next step”.
“But you are the treating doctor, you know better. You are like God for us” said the desperate son.
The doctor uttered the only two words that the doctor would want to use after hearing this:
Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the government and in the Media has become a critic of the extremely overburdened Indian medical profession made up of some of the best doctors in the world. Those who cannot run their own govt. hospitals well, cannot provide quality heatlthcare to the taxpayer, those who have corruption seeping through almost every office they own, those in whose authority (read govt. hospitals) hundreds of patients die helpless without care, compassion or treatment, those who suspend peons, ward boys, nurses and doctors for deaths that result from inadequacies like lack of essential facilities at hospitals owned by the govt., are out telling the world how Indian medical practitioners are corrupt, instead of praising how they shoulder what the govt. fails to recognize as its own responsibility: healthcare for the majority.
There are bad doctors, bad diagnostic centers, and bad pharma companies, protected by politicians and working on ‘lowest quality-lowest price’ principle. There indeed are “profit sharing set ups”. Among these, if a good doctor / specialist advises the patient to go to a particular doctor or lab or choose a particular brand, the patient automatically presumes that that the doctor is looking for extra money. So most doctors now tell the patient to “go wherever they want” for specialist consultation or tests. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
When I must refer a patient to someone, the only thought in my mind is to offer the patient the best: because the patient’s trust is most important for me. This is how most doctors think, every doctor wants to make a good reputation, which is impossible without also good outcomes. I need to be able to discuss and be comfortable with that specialist, so we can plan best for the patient. If a suspicion about financial misappropriation looms over everything that a doctor does, it is difficult for any doctor to work. There must be accountability, but for both: the treatment and the doctor’s time, energy and skill. The doctor must be able to choose the best for the patient and the patient should have more trust in the doctor than the rumors. .
The last person who should play with trust and faith in other professions is a politician.
The patient did not survive. Neither the leaders who spoke lose and caused paranoia to affect the outcome, or the son who delayed admission, the pharmacy that sold cheapest drugs, nor the family that refused a life saving surgery had any blemish upon their reputation.
It was easier for all of them to blame the doctors who tried hardest for the patient.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Thank You Dr Nusli Ichaporia for the technical assistance.
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