Monthly Archives: September 2020

The Future Girl and Her Message


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

At about 7 PM, I was about to finish the OPD at Ruby. One last patient was waiting, I could see her in the waiting hall outside.

My N95 was on since 10 AM, and I hadn’t had an opportunity to drink even water since I entered hospital at noon. Fatigued, thirsty and heavy-headed, like most doctors today.

‘This isn’t fair’, I was thinking, ‘I don’t deserve this torture after so many years of hard work. This pandemic seems unending, this stress is piling up on my mind and body now,. The world seems to have come to an inhuman standstill’.

The last patient walked jauntily in, a young girl of 27, her eyes smiled excited. She’s been my old case of epilepsy since last three years. She works in a virology research set up, and had told me six months ago that she’s working on Corona. Her parents are working as labourers in a local government factory.

“How are you?” I asked, mustering a smile she couldn’t see.

“All fine Sir, no fits at all. I just came to share a good news. An American University has liked my virology work and offered me a job for three years. I am leaving in three days. I will begin a new life, I have decided to spend it for virology research. I just came to say bye to you. I will of course keep in touch, but I will miss you there” and she touched my feet.

“God bless you. Stay safe at all costs. I am sure you will reach great heights and win a Nobel. Don’t forget your parents. Let me know if you need anything anytime “. I said what I could.

I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy for her career leap, and sad that such a brilliant scientist was leaving India.

I was startled that she had shaken away my fatigue and the pandemic rust that was accumulating on my mind. A sign of youth, she had taken the burning world around her as an opportunity rather than being cowed down by it. She was going to wear a mask almost all her career life, and the thought didn’t seem to affect her. She had accepted the reality faster than anyone I knew. A mind made for the future, she was travelling to the US (she has reached now) at a time that the world was locked down.

The world hasn’t come to a standstill, I realised. It is picking up. It will thrive again and boom in few months. Till then I must keep all negativity away. Till then I must do whatever it takes to survive and live the best life possible even in a pandemic. She had unknowingly come to deliver that special message before she left.

She left teary eyed and yet with a smile. My tiredness was gone. My spirits felt rejuvenated, I was grateful that she visited. Like every doctor who gets up and puts on his mask every morning for seeing their patients catch on with their life again.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Standing Ovation, Doctors with Hemlock

Standing Ovation, Doctors with Hemlock
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is not new that the world has chosen to torture and kill the right and good. From Socrates to Mahatma Gandhi, the speakers of truth and advocates of good have been punished by a majority addicted to the illusions of both. Socrates, who was declared guilty and awarded death by drinking poison hemlock, had a chance to escape. He chose not to. ‘A true philosopher is not afraid of death’ he said. He chose to drink the poison.

At this very moment, thousands of young doctors all over India have chosen not to run away from the deadly virus: because they believe in the ultimate sacrifice: for saving the life of millions. They are the true heroes of India. If a soldier dies, the whole nation rises to salute the sacrifice. Nearly 400 doctors die, and our administrators said they did not have information about it in the parliament. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Digital India, where there wasn’t a day without messages about Aadhar cards, PAN linking, etc., and so many other messages reached everyone, yet unable to know tell how many doctors died. We can tell exactly how many patients were positive, how many tests were done, how many discharged or recovered, but we cannot tell how many doctors died while treating them. Shame!

Thousands of junior / PG doctors, interns and medical officers are being forced to work not only against their wish, but against all fair constitutional rights. They are being threatened and punished even after overworking. Their salaries have been cut, some have not been paid for months now. Everyday, patients too are frantically searching for good covid care beds.

Hospitals are overflowing, no beds available in some places, many centers are closing down because of lack of resources, but what we really need now is an IPL. We don’t have money to pay the doctors, create more healthcare resources for thousands of dying patients, but we can definitely watch cricket and forget all that. There’s nothing wrong with sports or entertainment, but is this the right time? Will the IPL profits be used for creating more hospitals? All through the economic crisis, I was amazed by the perpetual news of few Indians getting higher on the list of the richest in the world. I do believe that they are good at whatever they do. However, what was most ironical was that yesterday I read the news of people urging one of India’s richest businessman to buy the Man-U team. Mind you, people did not want a hospital for the dying poor, people did not ask the billionaire to pay the unpaid covid warriors, they asked him for buying a football team!

Add to this the new law about Violence against healthcare workers “During pandemic”. How can this be best described? “No murders, crimes, corruption during summer months”? Or “No stupid talking between 10 AM and 10.30 AM”?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The point is, dear Covid warrior doctors, please understand that the society does not want you, it only wants your free service without offering either respect or remuneration. The government has not even responded to our petition about human rights for doctors who have been slogging, carrying the pandemic burden on their shoulders as everyone else hogs the credit of recovering patients. Postgrad medical students have been denied education in their own branch for over six months now. They have been denied leave, permission to meet sick parents, or even a quarantine after exposure that is followed world over. They also face extremely hostile relatives and goons every day in hospitals. Many doctors who died just as they started their careers, are not even acknowledged! Just as every responsible institution in the country has taken precautions to safeguard itself from the virus, working online, just as the parliament is mulling over whether to cut short the monsoon session as some members were positive, no one wants to think about those actually dying every day facing covid patients: our doctors.

I have never felt so frustrated about the future of doctors in India. I have carried a proud torch of being an Indian medico and am blessed to have a great connection with most present generations of brilliant doctors, but I haven’t slept peacefully last few months knowing that my juniors, students are left to die in the pandemic. Every effort being made is quashed or falls on deaf ears.

I can only say to every doctor in the covid ward right now: humanity will always be grateful to you for drinking this poison hemlock just like Socrates did: bravely and in service of truth and good. If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, he won’t have published his own achievements, instead, he would have made the country realize how indebted it is to your sacrifice. I believe in the power of one. Mobs never achieve anything. Each one of you out there is a hero saving lives, even when your own countrymen seem to have forgotten and abandoned you.

My Standing Ovation to every doctor working right now anywhere in the world, especially in India.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Picture Courtesy: By Walter Crane The story of Greece : told to boys and girls (191-?) by Macgregor, Mary, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32804549

The Good News: ‘Life Is In Brains’

Last three years we were planning a beautiful, comprehensive and patient friendly, “All under one roof” Neuroscience set-up at Ruby Hall Clinic.

Specialty Clinics for Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Epilepsy, Vertigo, Stroke, Brain Tumors, and all neurological investigations will be available here, on this floor. Also Neuropsychology, Speech Therapy and Counsellor for family members dealing with difficult illnesses.

My dynamic CEO Mr. Bomi Bhote has long dreamt of a world-class Neuroscience department at Ruby Hall.
“Give our society something to remember you for” he said often. I have tried my best to design this fully new Superspecality Neuroscience Department. After many meetings and many precious inputs from Dr. Purvez Grant, Dr. Manisha Karmarkar (COO), and Dr. Rebecca John, and the blessings of senior Doctors like Dr. Ravi Gulati, MD Dr. Sanjay Pathare we added one stop troubleshooting and convenience so that patients do not have to roam around.

Mr. Iqbal Chaney, Dr. Abhijit Rokade, Mr. Shailesh Kelkar, Mr. Avro Chatterjee, Mrs. Nilofer Shaikh, Mr. Tushar Patil, Ms. Ansha and so many others contributed to the efficient beauty of this set-up.

One item on the top of my bucket list thus ticked off: giving Pune, Maharashtra and India a Neuroscience Department to bank upon. This is just the beginning.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Orphaned Doctor, Change and Future

Orphaned Doctor, Change and Future

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

For two decades, I have taught medical batches one highest principle in medicine: To go out of your way to earn the patient’s confidence and trust, make the patient comfortable, understand their anger and frustration, and to never lose temper with a patient. Unfortunately, Covid 19 has started to change some of that. Because some patients and relatives do not listen. They do not care if they endanger other people’s life. They have no concept of importance of time and avoidance of “medical gossip”.

We must now treat everyone a potentially infectious source and take adequate care. Longer the exposure to a potential case, higher the chance of infection. That creates a new covid19 complication in our medical practice: dealing with the adamant, the slow, the repeating and the illogical. The days of personally explaining everything logically and patiently seem to be over, at least till the pandemic lasts, as extra time now means that much prolonged exposure. We should now record history with direct questions, examine and diagnose the patient, handover the list of tests if required and a prescription, and arrange for a telemedicine follow up of limited time to explain and discuss. In confirmed diagnoses, we can give the list of authentic websites which patient can read from and get their answers. That will eliminate a lot of unnecessary discussion and “unlimited questions because I paid for this consult”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

To risk his / her own life can be a doctor’s choice, but I don’t think any doctor has the right to risk the lives of his / her own children, spouse and parents. I don’t think it is right for the doctor to ignore his responsibilities towards his children, spouse and parents because he has to serve others outside family.

No doctor can endanger other innocent patients and hospital staff by exposing them to adamant, careless patients who refuse to wear masks in waiting rooms. A doctor cannot have time to go out and fight, especially with our politically powered criminals. The only way-out seems to be politely refusing to see the patient who does not follow basic mask etiquette. What is the point of explaining to a patient or a relative who wears a mask on their neck, leaving the nose and mouth open?

Many a times the doctor can diagnose and prescribe for common ailments within minutes, but it is customary to listen to the patient, to pacify their anxiety, to explain in detail and address many a fears born of google searches. The more difficult a medical condition, the more frustrating it is to explain it to patients. In every branch of medicine, there indeed are many extremely complicated medical conditions, situations which the most brilliant doctors also must make efforts to grasp.

It took me 3 years of specialty education after completing DM Neurology to understand Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease well enough to treat it, and even after 25 years of practice, neither me nor any of my teachers- some topmost authorities in the world- who spent their life studying these conditions can claim to have understood them fully. There are far more complicated conditions of the brain we must still keep on studying. How can these be explained to everyone from every background in few minutes?

While the medical treatment is the same for the intellectually challenged and endowed, the former takes the cake here because they stop once they trust their doctor, the later rarely can. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Indian Doctor has been long orphaned by all. The pandemic has revealed the cruelty with which doctors are being exploited all over the country: especially the UG and PG students, interns and junior doctors. It is high time that every doctor takes charge of his / her own career, come out of exploiting contracts and services, even go to the courts if necessary, to be relieved of injustice, and start a good clean practice. That way at least one can serve many more patients, earn peace, satisfaction and funds, while also fulfilling the responsibility to safely look after one’s family. Resident doctors should seriously consider a national level petition to the courts of law about the various unfair practices being enforced at present.

We cannot change the clumsy, clueless, perpetually failing yet adamant mismanagers of the situation who unfortunately hold the reigns.

I’ve worked with orphans. They are most self-sufficient, beautiful souls who learn how to survive independently in a big bad world. I have learnt a lot from them, but the best thing they taught me was to not be affected by the false sympathy, artificial display of love, sweet talkers with black agendas and mean exploiters. They taught me that just holding hands without words at difficult times is far more meaningful than any huge boxes of chocolates, gifts, and to wit: thali, diya etc..

The key to wisdom is in silence. Doctors should silently change now.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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#covid19, #pandemic, #India

Dear Indian Film Industry,

Dear Indian Film Industry,

We doctors support the sentiment of Producer’s Guild’s open letter today about relentless efforts to disrepute the entire film industry based upon some negative experiences.

But there’s a contradiction in that logic.

Please recall the umpteen times that the dignity of entire medical profession was decimated in films by showing all doctors and hospitals in poor light, casually beating them up by heroes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Thanks to the dialogues like “They hook up dead bodies on ventilators to earn more money “, thousands of Indian patients who could have otherwise survived were disconnected from ventilators and taken home to die.

Thanks to one episode of Satyamev Jayate, thousands of great ethical Indian doctors suffered mistrust, vandalism and violence at the hands of malleable filmgoers.

The very ugly, dirty, cheap and below-the-belt jokes being cracked to gain TRPs by dressing up as doctors in comedy shows, addressing kidney thefts in films as if every doctor is involved, showing street goons teaching doctors humanity and not to wait for paperwork (by the way, it’s not doctors who made the paperwork laws, and no doctor lets any patient die for lack of paperwork): how do you think this affects our now-maskless society?

Fortunately the pandemic has exposed how “disciplined and civil “ our society is, and what the doctors do.

300 doctors have died during this pandemic, serving India, completely ignored, but the news channels are hooked on to the news about film industry: that’s sensational! “Negative” attention burns souls: like ours when we doctors watch films with our children and the heroes beat up and treat doctors as they typically do: humiliating!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Entertainment at the cost of someone else’s pain and suffering hurts, do you agree now? If a few stars have cocaine, it is unfair to blame all. If a few rag others it is unfair to blame all. If a few doctors are corrupt, it is very unfair to defame all. Rarely do we see an Indian film about good doctors- honourably mentioning the good Indian doctors portrayed by few like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan or Mr. Pankaj Kapoor.

Add to this the uncalled-for and hurtful fun made of certain communities like Parsis (most valuable contributors to Indian Honour), patients with epilepsy/ disabilities, even those who have stammering or squint etc… who are already being shamed by our retro minded society. When will we cross the need to hurt/ shame someone disabled as a form of entertainment?

What goes around in films comes around in reality.

Let us respect each other. Like everyone else, doctors too enjoy watching good Indian films as stress busters, we are also your fans, but it really hurts when doctors are unnecessarily defamed/ shown in poor light in films.

I must mention, many of our critical patients watch your movies and songs on TV screens in ICU, and forget the pain, even imminent death because of your performance and talent. I have seen patients laugh on their deathbeds, thanks to some performers, actors and singers. We are indebted to you in that sense. One of my stroke patients who couldn’t speak suddenly started singing along with his favourite hero Mr. Dev Anand on screen (Khoya khoya chaand..khula aasmaan..), a phenomenon well known in Neurology. I really didn’t mind it when the relatives said he had recovered because of Dev sahab and that song!

Dear Indian Film Industry, We love you, (actually some doctors imitate you, dress up like you, and even flaunt their biceps to their colleagues). We adore your talent, but please recognise ours too, and stop defamation of medical professionals in films. Please don’t sacrifice medicine’s dignity to prove the hero’s greatness. Indian female doctors in reality are far beyond only good looks, almost none corrupt. India has given some of the best doctors to the world. We appeal to your sense of decency to consider this in future before bashing medical professionals in films. We can definitely accommodate healthy jokes and humour about ourselves, but spare us the perpetual role of real life looters.

Wishing you a quick and healthy recovery and waiting for our most handsome, beautiful and talented actors to come back with wholesome entertainment as soon as possible. Also exceptional gratitude to Mr. Shahrukh Khan for his huge donations of life saving PPE kits for doctors, and Mr. Sonu Sood for everything he has been doing for our society.

Coming soon in the nearest theatre to see all of you once more.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

#filmindustry #producersguild

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