A Thumb Impression Of Our Society

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the highly educated family: patient, his wife and daughter stared at my face, I bought a moment of thought by continuing to write instructions. Although the intensity of what I was going to say would affect them now, I knew what the future held a difficult and mentally traumatic, draining corridor they would have to go through in coming years. How to say this? I felt sad. Even after decades of experience, no doctor feels comfortable telling the patient or relatives about a bad or incurable diagnosis. It is a curse we must shoulder. Because someone must say it, someone must sympathize and stand by the patient and family, someone must face the anger and frustration of a family that was till yesterday living in the comfort of good health, completely oblivious to the fact that things may go wrong anytime with anyone. . © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“You have a type of Parkinson’s disease with dementia. The Parkinson’s is causing your slowness and stiffness, and the dementia is causing the memory loss and change in personality. It is good that you have come at an early stage, we will be able to prolong lifespan with a better quality of life. With your cooperation I think we can do the best possible for the patient. I will give you some links to read from. Please read them and meet me again next week, I will be happy to answer all your queries, doubts and concerns”.

The stunned wife started sobbing. The husband closed his eyes in agony. The daughter, unable to speak, held her father’s hand. Offering them some water and coffee, I explained the daughter instructions about the medicines, tests to be performed, and asked them to see me next week. I wanted to spend more time with them, but the relatives of a critical patient in ICU were waiting outside for me.

“Dr. Rajas, my husband has been a brilliant scientist. He loves reading, writing and intellectual interactions. In fact that’s why we fell in love back then when I was his student. Intellect is his life. We will both die if that is taken away from us”. It was then that I looked at the lady carefully, because till now my mind was occupied with the patient. A very graceful, intelligent, upright and hence beautiful face, the one that tells stories about the highest culture and upbringing that there is. The grey hair added to the loving kindness of her expression. Intelligent Humility, that one element often absent from so many beautiful faces, was abundant upon hers. Somehow I remembered my mother.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I understand, mam. Things are not so bad as of now, and we are still in the evaluation phase. I can give you a better idea about the future once I see the results of all the tests.

It was then that the daughter spoke: “Doctor, I am in India for only the next week. Can we complete the workup before next week, because I cannot postpone my travel back to the US. And yes, I want the best to be done for my father. ” the daughter said.

“Ok” I said. I have now come to accept the socio-cultural changes.

They came next week, the diagnosis was confirmed, I counseled them.

Then I explained the medicines and other care to the patient’s wife.

“Did you understand it well, mom?” asked the daughter, “because I will not be able to help you with this everyday”. The mother replied with her kind smile.

Three months later, the patient came back, with the daughter and her husband.

‘Doc, mom passed away with a sudden heart attack a month ago. She never told us she had any complaints”.

This happens so often: that when a family member is affected, everything revolves around their health, and the warning signs of caretaker’s disease are ignored till the last moment.

“Dad has become worse now. He doesn’t eat well, doesn’t speak with us. . We tried to encourage him to make new friends with his old age home society, but he doesn’t want to interact with others, he has always been stubborn. We have arranged for a caretaker, but dad doesn’t talk to him either.”

Looking at the patient, I realized how much emotional support he needed at that moment.

“I am sorry to know about your mother. Such a nice and kind lady!” I said.

“Thanks, doc. But now you must help us. Please help us find a good old-age nursing home for dad. I cannot stay back. We can pay well”.. she had a hint of “please let us get this over fast” in her speech.

“You said you wanted to do the best for your father. The best would be for you to be with him in these days, talk with him, connect him back with life for whatever remaining awareness he has left. There’s no other person upon earth that he will ever connect with, so this becomes your responsibility”. She knew the truth well, for she broke down. “I know doctor, but I have my family to look after. I cannot take my father with me. I am sorry”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

She visited again with the patient, before leaving for the US. A bank officer and a lawyer accompanied them.

“Dr. Deshpande, I need a certificate, my father cannot sign, and is in no condition to think coherent now. So we want to get his banking and legal formalities about our property completed with thumb impressions. I need you to authenticate dad’s thumb impression”.

The old man printed his thumb impression in my presence. Somewhere within, I knew he was violently crying although he must be hiding it just so that his daughter doesn’t feel bad while leaving him.

That Thumb impression, Decoded, was in fact the stark face of today’s society.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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