A Soldier’s Real Pain

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“There’s immense pain, Sir, in my thigh. I cannot bear it. I want to kill myself. Please do something” said the elderly man, with tears. A proud soldier from the army, he had fought three wars with bravery, and won many medals. Once a bullet had hit him in the lower back and had caused severe injury that bruised his nerves which control the leg sensation. The back wound healed, but the leg pain had stayed. Many drugs and injections had failed.

I somehow noticed that the brave soldier avoided to look at people directly in the eyes, and there appeared to be some unknown sadness behind this. I asked him openly about it. “Yes, I feel sad, but I don’t know why” he replied.

With his consent, I added an antidepressant (they are excellent in controlling pain too). He started responding well. In about ten days, he started to walk without support. Very happy about the pain being controlled, he expressed it with heaped praises for the doctors.

Once when I visited him, he was alone in the room. He was looking at a photo album.

“Come doctor, I was just remembering you” he said, “This is an old picture when I returned to our army base after an incident. There was a firing from the other side, we were not able to see the enemy soldier. It was a dense hilly area packed with trees. We started to move sideways and formed a “V” shape, moving towards where the firing was coming from. We spotted a hidden tank, and three camouflaged soldiers hiding behind it. They would climb up the tank and fire occasionally. Once we located them, it was all easy. We shot them down one by one in few minutes. Apparently, there were two more of their soldiers hiding at some distance, they started to fire. We fired back, they were injured, but managed to ran away. We took this picture just after that victory”.

Then he kept the album down.

“I was very happy then.But last few years, as I grew old, I often think about those I killed. I have no fear or guilt. Yet I feel bad about them. They must have had families and children. They must have left home with promises to return. Their parents, spouses and children must have prayed to the same God for their safety and return. I lost my colleagues too and I know how their families suffer till date. I am second to none in patriotism, but I think we must now evolve to resolve things without having to kill people. I love my country more than any politician, but I will be happy if the politicos of any country stand with the army at the border when declaring a war, handle a gun and feel the pain of having to kill another human being. That is what makes me sad”.

I remembered what one of my neurosurgery professors had once described in frustration after a marathon 8 hour brain surgery: “It takes our team such a huge skill, investment and scary hard work to be able to remove one bullet from someone’s brain without endangering the patient’s life. I can’t believe that we live in a world that still makes, sells and uses bullets and allows killing”.

A doctor is married to humanity. No doctor in the world will speak in favour of injuring or killing someone. A live being’s body is too precious to be cut through. It is indeed necessary to eliminate terrorists who kill others indiscriminately, or to defend the country’s safety, but to be “Proud of killing” someone is difficult to understand atleast for me. Just as I cannot understand the enemy’s happiness and pride if they kill a soldier on this side.

I understood the sadness in his eyes better now. I told him he was just doing his duty, he had no choice. He laughed and replied “I wonder if the ones who ran away injured are also suffering this same pain in their country. If they are, I wish they recover too, because it is difficult to live with this pain”. I told him I appreciated his benevolent statement.

One of the most influential sentences in human history has been said by Mahatma Gandhi: “An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind”. The likes of Einstein were in awe of this Indian who advanced humanity. There indeed are countries which have resolved issues between themselves and for decades have had peace, investing in health and development rather than defense. Patriotism and politics mixed will only pollute patriotism. If peace has a chance, it must be the only choice.

Life of every soldier is as precious as that of every decision-making politician in any two countries going to war. Many injuries last lifelong, many soldiers are disabled, many thousand are paraplegics who do not get help or healthcare access. Many a soldier’s families suffer in poverty. They have done their duty: gone ahead and fought with their life at risk, but the country does not seem to have enough resources to handle the requirements of injured soldiers, or support their families.

As in the case of every other social issue, there are thousands of “pseudopatriots” who shout and speak about their love for the country, encourage war and killing, but when told about the injured soldier’s woes, wisely avoid the topic. Every country respects a fighting soldier, but there are few countries which also take care of the injured soldiers and their families, or support a dead soldier’s family.

As doctors, we sincerely stand by those injured and suffering, and pray that there are no more injuries and deaths anywhere in the world. There is no difference in any two human beings for a doctor.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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