Monthly Archives: September 2019

150000 Deaths, 500000 Accidents Or A Strict Law?

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist Pune/ Mumbai

Ask any doctor in India, how traffic related deaths and injuries cause havoc in the casualties every day. In a country with nearly five lakh traffic related accidents and one lakh fifty thousand deaths every year, with many more lakhs seriously injured and disabled for life, the strictest of the traffic rules and highest penalties are not only justified, they are mandatory. Any doctor will testify the daily typical histories of drunk driving, unqualified driver, jumping signals, overspeeding, gross neglect of lane and general traffic discipline. Add parents who allow under-age children to ride and drive, husbands who wear helmets while rest of the family rides on two-wheelers without helmets and so on. Most horrific is the case of people with medical conditions unfit for driving: thousands are out there with heavy vehicles, risking the life of everyone around. This is gross negligence.

Indians take pride in describing the how safe and peaceful it is to drive in a Western country, where everyone follows traffic rules, but the same Indians gladly use the philosophy of “If everyone follows the rules then I will also follow” to break rules in most cases. In fact, a national shame is that many take pride in breaking traffic rules, disrespecting and attacking traffic police, and indulge in road rowdiness.

This new traffic act is a bold and welcome step by Mr. Nitin Gadkari, and every right minded doctor and intellectual should welcome it in the right spirit. In a completely unruly traffic scenario, the fines and punishments should indeed be intimidating to prevent traffic crimes. Any effort to dilute it is like saying “Let People Die”.

To please the society by diluting this act so as to allow risking the lives of thousands is a dangerous and foolish proposition. At least doctors should strongly stand by this act. The Hon’ble Minister also posed a logical question: “If you do not break the traffic rules, why should you be afraid of being fined?”. This law and the high punishments are all indeed in the best interests of tyhe society and the nation.

The only probable amendment to request in this act would be to also add severe penalties and punishments to the contractors who have ruined roads by substandard work, potholes also cause many a deaths. A huge population comes with spinal, vertebral, neurological and orthopedic problems created by bad roads. Let the ones who make such roads or do not maintain them also face law with the same equality. There also should be non bailable arrests and severe punishments for road rage and violence.

Congratulations and Thank You, Mr. Nitin Gadkari, for this act.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist Pune/ Mumbai

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Marathi Version on my FB page.

The Fairy And The Prince

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful radiant lady wheeled in the patient’s chair and wished me with a pleasant smile. Some smiles, however beautiful, have a tragic shade. I looked at the patient Rohan. A very well built fair young man in his late twenties, must have been very handsome in the past. He sat paralysed below the shoulders, one eye closed, face twisted, and a large surgical scar upon his head, partially covered by a cap. He could not speak. Any movement would cause violent tremors. He was wheelchair bound and had to be assisted even for toilet.

Rohan and Riya had married just two years ago, against the wish of their parents. Both from very affluent, but uneducated families. Both worked at the same office. In a few months after marriage, Rohan had developed high blood pressure, and was advised treatment. Unfortunately, he got carried away with some false claims about some herbal medicines shown on National Television channels and stopped the BP medicines. The obvious happened: one of the blood vessels in his brain ruptured due to high BP, and there was a huge bleeding. A Neurosurgeon had done an excellent job by taking this high-risk case on operation table in emergency, to suck out the blood clots and save his life. However, the damage was already done by then, much of his brain was damaged on one side. Riya had been caring for him since then. She looked after him just as a mother cares for her newborn.

“Doctor, we know his paralysis will not improve now. But he is brilliant, I know his brain thinks fast and accurate. Since this stroke he cannot speak. We have come with some hope for his speech. If he could just tell me what he feels, if something is bothering him, what he wants, etc., I will be very grateful” his wife said.

We started treatment. In a few days, Rohan could speak legibly, so she was very happy. Rohan’s parents were very happy too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One day, Riya’s father came with her. He asked her to wait outside my room for a few minutes, she reluctantly left. With folded hands and tears, he spoke: “Doctor sahab, my daughter married against our wish. I have forgiven her now. But I cannot see her spending her life like this. She was the most brilliant girl in our town, she had even rejected job offers to go to America because Rohan wanted to stay in India. You can see that she is still young and beautiful. Anyone will marry her; she is one in a million. I’m not saying this because she is my daughter, but you can see for yourself from how she cares for her husband. She has become his attendant now. What is her fault? How can a father see his daughter wasting away her youth like this? They have no family life. I cannot even speak to her about this. Her mother tried but Riya refused to speak. She speaks very highly of you, so I have come with this hope. Please help us”.

This was very difficult, but a duty too. If not me, who could even attempt to resolve this?

“Let us ask her about her thoughts” I told her father and requested him not to react when she spoke. We called her in. I told her in short how her father felt. She sat straight. Her face became distorted and she wept silently. Her father kept on patting her while weeping himself.

“Papa, when Rohan could recently speak after so many months, the first thing he told me was to leave him and marry someone else. He refused to eat his medicines, saying that I should leave him. Then I promised him that I will leave him after two years. That was a lie. I know he will die if I leave. I could feel his love even when he could not speak, that’s something more precious to me than whatever you think I will get if I marry someone else. Till the day he had this bleeding in the brain, he made sure I was best taken care of. He never had his food before me. How can I spend even one happy moment with anyone else knowing that Rohan is suffering in this same world? Would you be proud of me if I did that? Did you teach me to be so selfish?” She broke down. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Her father did not say anything. They left.

In a few weeks, Rohan followed up again with Riya. He is now gradually learning to operate a computer. He plans to start his own online business. Riya is helping him do that, while continuing to work. They are now planning for a child soon.

This fairy I met was more beautiful than any other in the dreamy stories I had heard all through my childhood. I am glad that I am a witness to this divine fairytale.

I know even of another couple, where the girl had developed a paralysis in her college days. I had counselled her and her boyfriend about future uncertainties and a possibility of a compromised married life, given her illness. “That’s not the most important thing for us” he had said. They married. Today, about 8 years since then, they have a healthy, happy kid, and he still cares for her as much, now when she is in a wheelchair. This knight lives in a rented house, runs a small grocery store, rides a bicycle, wears the simplest of clothes, yet has a heart that would put to shame many a real princes!

My world as a doctor is full of beautiful fairies and knights, named caretakers. It is because of them that thousands of patients are surviving with dignity today. Medical care is so incomplete without them! I remember my favourite author Richard Bach’s words from “The Bridge Across Forever”: “Princesses, Knights, Enchantments and Dragons, Mystery and Adventure… not only are they here and now, they’re all that EVER lived on earth!” How true!! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Among the stories of sadness and suffering, most doctors also come across best of the human hearts and minds, highest forms of love and care. Such patients and relatives reinforce our own trust and faith in the ability of human efforts to heal. Thanks to what I learn from my patients, my gratitude for being a doctor is endless!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all caretakers, young and old, who silently sacrifice much of their life caring for their loved ones.

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Quit Quit

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In the first year of medical school / MBBS, I had a heart break. It made me feel like quitting medicine as I did not feel like going to the same class again. I started bunking classes, spending a lot of time in a small book house which allowed you to read books without having to buy them. Costly coffee shops were not a fashion then. The phase lasted for about three months, till a professor (God bless him!) who knew me informed my parents when I bunked his class. A lot of firing, two tight slaps by mummy dearest, and I was back on track. I had hated that professor for some time and did not talk to my parents for the firing for a few days.

Towards the end of second year I got so engrossed with philosophy, poetry and study of different religious texts from various religions, that I was convinced I wanted to give up medicine and be a philosopher, author. I attended college but my mind was too occupied to concentrate. It was then that I came across a professor who was very brilliant and approachable. He told me to just ‘sail through’ and let the storms in my mind settle. “Teenagers like you must learn to tame the fires within” he said it wisely. I carried on.

Motivation to me is a myth. Some have it within themselves, some don’t. One who needs motivation keeps needing it all the time. I will do something else better maybe, but then I will have quit medicine. Over a period of time I learnt that no one succeeds by being half hearted. I don’t want to leave an unfinished task behind me. I didn’t want to be a quitter.

Then onwards I did fairly well and secured my MD seat. But a crueller test was written for my future.

I joined DM Neurology course in Mumbai. In a few days I had a terrible non-academic argument with one of the professors and was told to get out. Hurt, I left Mumbai and came to Pune. My sister had a rented flat, I stayed with her and mostly roamed alone, usually sitting and musing in a local garden Sambhaji Park. Grew a beard and a belly. I was ashamed to go back to my parents because I did not want to face them with an “I Can’t”.

A few days later, my father called. “Start the next thing today. Quit or don’t quit, but don’t waste time. Any decision in life should not take more than a few seconds to make. You only have to listen to your heart. Take a step, if wrong, correct it. Don’t hover”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I had desperately wanted to be a Neurology DM. That’s what my heart resounded. I joined back the next day. Since then, I have always made this rule for myself: never to prolong any decision making about my own life. It does not take more than a few peaceful seconds to listen to your heart and act upon it. The moment you allow others to choose for you, you create a mess. There are sometimes great sacrifices involved, one must give up a lot to pursue the path of the heart. But it is the most rewarding path to pursue. There’s nothing money can buy for an unhappy heart, so the choice of money over what your heart truly craves is always a mistake. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

There were times when I was angry and upset with parents, teachers, others who meant well and told me I was wrong. Looking back at what life has given me, I regret that. They too did not know the future like me, but they had deep faith in what I could achieve. Their anger, advice and reprimands came with the purest intentions of making my life the best it can be. Today when I have achieved more than what I set out to, I crave for one opportunity to meet each one of them and express my heartfelt gratitude towards them.

Medicine is gruelling. It is not for the weak hearted. Study for decades amongst a culture of corruption, socio-politically motivated decisions, unfair competitions, pathetic living conditions, and then face the tears, sickness, frustrations, accusations, deaths and ungrateful wrath of multitudes for all your life. But it is also the only profession which allows one human to literally take away pain, suffering and death from another. It is the only vocation that brings one closest to the highest form of human achievement: saving lives, easing pain, curing diseases. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Many medical students as well as doctors at different stages in their career feel like quitting. I just want to remind them: one saved life, one smiling patient defeats all other negatives about this profession. You are the ONLY ONE who can make this possible. Others may or may not recognise this, it is for yourself. This is the best gift you can give yourself: the ability to save life.

It is the tendency to hover upon indecision, confusion and delay that one must quit. Quit the choice to quit. Life’s too beautiful to waste time when your heart always knows where to go.

In the memory of my father Dr. Kalidas Deshpande, on his birth anniversary (Ganesh Chaturthi).

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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