(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“What’s the nature of your work?” I asked the patient.
“Nothing much.. I just sit like you all day long. It’s an office job” he replied, and winked looking at his wife, who rebuked him visually. I chose to ignore the sarcastic slur. I wanted to concentrate upon the diagnosis. After a thorough examination I wrote him a prescription and explained him changes in lifestyle.
When I advised him sleep and food discipline, he proudly told me “That I am very particular about.. since so many years I eat three times a day and sleep peacefully over eight hours”. I had a strong urge to tell him that in last twenty-five years of practice, there was never a night of undisturbed sleep thanks to hospital and patient calls, and there rarely was a straight week without skipped meals. I held my rebellious tongue, another patient waited outside. All said and done, I had myself chosen this career, and the fact that people were bitter towards doctors didn’t deter me from offering to solve their health puzzles.
The next patient walked in with a big “Hullo! Raja, pehchana kya (recognise me?)?”.. he was an old schoolmate, had come with his wife. She had had complicated neurological problems. After a lengthy clinical examination, review of many reports, and a long consultation, I wrote her a prescription. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“You charge so much for only writing these few words on the paper?” asked my schoolmate, desperately trying to sound jovial but overtly being critical and again, sarcastic.
I politely asked him to sit in my chair. “Please sit here and see if you can write the same three lines” I requested him. He hesitated at first, but then came over, held the pen and asked me: “Tell me what to write..”.
I told him to first write his wife’s name on that paper, date it, and then write Rx, which begins the drug prescription. Then I told him the name of the first drug. He wrote it down correctly.
“What’s so difficult about that?” he asked..
“Now tell your wife that this drug can either do good or bad, it can solve the problem in most cases, but it has a potential to cause serious side effects, including death if she is allergic to it. It may cause bleeding in the brain, stomach or anywhere, it can cause asthma-like cough, or any unpredictable reaction”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
His wife looked suspiciously at him. “Why don’t you let the doctor write?” she said, and then turning towards me said, “Bhaisaab, my husband has this nasty habit of arguing with everyone. Excuse us, I know it takes decades of study to be able to write that prescription”.
My schoolmate was not done with being offensive yet. He smiled sarcastically. “You are trying to scare me. Have you seen any death due to this simple medicine?” he asked.
“Yes” I replied him in truth. Aspirin causes many deaths indeed!
“Write the second medicine now” I told him, “it can have reaction with the first medicine or other medicines she is already taking”.
“What to do in that case?” He asked, now hesitant.
“It depends upon what side effects emerge. Many possibilities, many different answers. But each of that line has a potential to cause serious damage.” I replied.
He rose from my chair.
“Sorry yaar. I thought you were just charging fees for sitting there and writing effortlessly. How do you remember so many hundred drugs, their side effects, their reactions with each other? Aren’t you scared?” he asked.
“I am sometimes scared. Every doctor is. You never know which prescription can turn into a nightmare. The more you have studied, the more you have experienced, the safer you feel. You can imagine the stress of writing forty prescriptions a day, an average for every doctor. Still more dangerous is the surgeon’s job, every patient entering an operation theatre has some degree of fatal risk”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Oh so that’s why doctors charge so much fees for every prescription!” He was indeed a fighter!
I didn’t want to explain to him that the land, the rent, the petrol, paper, and time cost the same to a doctor just like any other citizen. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Just then there was a loud noise outside. We rushed out. A patient’s child was having a fit, her body all twisted and eyes white. Such was the impact that her head was bleeding, and she was frothing at mouth. The nurse was already by her side, I wore my gloves and tried to stop the bleeding, comforting the head of this child. In some time, the fit stopped, and the pateient became all floppy. Her respiration had been blocked by the blood and froth that choked her throat. A resident doctor ran around to get a crash cart, we opened the patient’s mouth, sucked out the blockage as the nurse pushed in the injectables. The child stabilised, her breathing resumed. As the wardboys kept her on the stretcher, I noticed my schoolmate behind me who was watching this in horror. He suddenly held his head and sat down.
“He gets a chakkar (giddiness) when he sees blood” his wife told me.
The earlier patient, who had commented “I sit like you all day” was also still in the lobby, watcing this whole episode. . He came over. “I help people too – just like you. People come to me every day for my advice. I am a social worker for XYZ political party. I have also saved many lives like you doctors.” he said.
I had no prescriptions for his mentality!
No pharmaceutical makes a common sense tablet, and there’s no injection for jealous egos!
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I entered the ICU in a torn and angry frame of mind. An old patient had had fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure all night, and was on the thin line between life and death. Irregular heart beats had clotted his blood and he had developed a paralysis.
I had had a terrible argument with family that morning, and had left home without a breakfast, thinking that I will catch up in the canteen if hungry. The traffic on the way was as usual bad, it further worsened my mood. Messages kept pouring in: pending bills and health enquiries that were an attempt to avoid a proper consultation. One can ignore, but sometimes ignoring is stressful too!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
As I entered the hospital, I was told about some machine not working. The technician had commented that it was beyond repair now. New one would cost over 30 lacs minimum, and this machine was required on a daily basis. My head started pounding. Another loan now, another recovery period!
As I passed the billing counter, an imposing rogue with a group stopped me. “Sir, the bill is too high, do something”. It was an open threat worded technically as a request. The relatives who folded hands to save the patient till yesterday were standing behind that rogue, looking unconcerned, not even happy that the patient was alive and being discharged after a life threatening illness. I sent them to the charity cell.
I entered the ICU, staring into my cellphone where angry messages of argument kept pouring in, a dear friend was upset that I was not available to see his relatives in another hospital immediately. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The old patient was sleeping. A glance at the monitor revealed that the patient’s BP was now stable. His heart rate was regular too. What a relief!
The patient’s wife got up, she was in her 80s. Fair, all white hair, and the confidence of culture upon her face, she smiled through her wrinkles and troubles. The Kumkum on her forehead was bright and fresh. She wore a torn saree, and had no ornaments except a thin thread with black beads that made her Mangalsutra. She was bending forward due to age.
She then said “He spoke to me this morning. He is feeling better than yesterday. I know he is old, but please give him the best treatment. We have been together since childhood.” Her eyes became wet.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Then she made an attempt to touch my feet, something that woke me up with a shock. A tingling feeling ran through my body. I held her hand and reassured her that it was ok, and returned the gesture by touching her feet too. I told her I will try my best, and that her husband appeared out of danger at that moment.
She gently prodded the patient: “Look, our doctor is here. He says you are getting better. Do you recognize our doctor? Say Namaskar to him”.
Confused for a moment, the old man stared first at his wife, then at me.
He then tried to lift both hands, but only one went up, which he raised to his forehead and whispered “Namaskar”.
The old couple, the age of my parents, was saying Namaskar to me and touching my feet, although I was many decades younger to them, because I was a Doctor. They never knew me until two days ago, but had trusted everything I said. They did not question my ability or intention. I like to be professional, but that should never compromise my manners.
I switched off my cellphone.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I suddenly felt ashamed of the mood that I was in. They did not deserve it. Their complete faith was to me the best return and reward of my efforts of so many years to become a good doctor. No amount of money ‘thrown at me’ by those who think of ‘buying my services’ would actually be my interest or aim. This was.
I smiled at the old lady, and told her that should she have any concerns, she can ask the staff to call me anytime, I would be glad to come over. Then, to repay her for bringing my smile back, I wrote on the billing sheet: “No charges for me in this case”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
When I walked out of the ICU, I was feeling proud and smiling. The faith of this patient and his wife had cured me of my bad mood too. I was prepared again to forget my personal woes, to take over the faithless hundreds, still do them good, in an attempt to reach out to the really deserving faithful, who knew their doctor would only do them good. That is the essence of my profession, my education, and my intention.
A patient who trusts a doctor earns for himself the best in that doctor. Always. Although we do not expect it to be understood by everyone.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Why did this happen to her, doc? She is so young and had no problems till now..”asked the angry husband, who had accompanied his learned wife down with severe vertigo and headache. His tone was quite accusative, and voice raised.
My elderly professor Dr. Desai did not look up, he continued to write the prescription quietly. He had just explained in detail to the patient and her husband that this was a simple positional vertigo, which happens episodically in some patients. Although it is scary because the patient feels the world spinning suddenly, it is also called ‘benign’because it does not cause any harm beyond this spinning sensation. Some other dangerous illnesses that could cause such spinning sensation (tumors, blood clots) were already ruled out by Dr. Desai, after a thorough examination and relevant tests. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Ï just explained that to you” said Dr. Desai to the patient’s husband, “keep some patience, take rest, and take this medicine”.
“But why did this happen to her?” repeated the husband, this time louder.
“I don’t know, many factors like allergy, infection, some internal defects can cause such problems. In case of your wife this seems to be due to the viral infection she had few days ago.” replied Dr. Desai.
A long list of patients waited outside, and he had already explained courteously whatever was necessary, spending extra time instructing the patient about care to be taken to avoid such episodes, and exercises for the same.
“So this treatment will cure her permanently?” the husband asked. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Dr. Desai, known for his patience, smiled and replied “Look dear, this illness is like cough and cold. You treat it when it happens, but that does not permanently cure it for life, one may have it again and again. You just treat it when it happens. Now you must excuse me, other patients are waiting”.
The patient went outside and wrote an extremely negative internet review about Dr. Desai.
The fact that he was seeing the seniormost doctor in the specialty who had over 30 years of experience, the fact that the doctor had spent extra time to explain and instruct, the fact that the diagnosis was accurate and that the treatment was exact did not make a difference. One little unpleasant thing – that his repeated questions were not entertained – had resulted in a negative online rating / feedback for what was an almost a flawless consultation.
Some patients ask the same long list of questions every time they visit, which frustrates the doctor. Decline to answer a repeat question, and you get a negative, angry review.
It takes long years to understand some medical concepts. Ususally experienced and clever doctors devise their own simplified versions to make laymen undertand these concepts. However, to understand some concepts or diseases, it requires a lot of different basic bits of information, which it is impossible to make the patient understand. Most patients are quite happy with the simplified versions of disease, diagnosis that their doctors tell them, but some want to dissect every word and understand everything. If the doctor cannot make them understand, they simp jump over to another doctor. While smart communication is an essential for a good doctor today, this has now resulted in another dangerously funny phenomenon: doctors who don’t know much medicine, but can make such patients happy with wise wordplay. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
A few days later, an old farmer from a village walked in. He had the same medical condition. After checking him, Dr. Desai started to explain him the diagnosis. He laughed, folded his hands, and said “Doctor saheb, if I had a capacity to learn medicine, I would be sitting in your chair! I have complete trust in what you do. Just tell me how to take the mediine, what I should not eat, and I will be on my way. I only understand farming well”.
Dr. Desai looked at us students, smiled, and said “When educated, we forget that the real talent lies in knowing what we cannot understand. Some people never get the fact that ‘not everyone can understand everything’. They keep circling in the same ignorant, egoistic efforts leading to frustration. That is a different vertigo, with no treatment. This farmer’s trust saves him such trouble”.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
At the casualty door she started shouting at me even before I went in. “We don’t want any tests. We don’t want to admit him in any critical care unit. Keep him in the general ward you have, we are now financially exhausted. Give basic medicines only “. Mrs. Julie, the patient’s daughter, went on:”We have already signed palliative care form”.
“Let me see the patient first “ I said and went in.
The resident doctor had earlier told me that the patient, an old man, was conscious, speaking quite well, aware of his illness. He was intermittently getting unconscious for a few minutes. He had high grade fever. He had lung cancer, and a brain scan a few days prior had revealed that that he had a secondary in the brain too. He had just completed his chemotherapy. The resident doctor had already started medicine for fits just now.
As I examined him, the jovial Mr. Shaw smiled back and told me that he was feeling a little giddy and tired, otherwise he had no complaints. He could even stand and walk without support. His blood pressure was normal, but the heart rate was quite high due to the fever.
“I think you have probably developed seizures due to the secondary in brain. There seems to be some infection too, we will run some tests and start antibiotics” I told him.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
“When will I feel better, doctor?” He asked, “I want to be home and spend every possible day of my remaining time with my grandchildren. I want to also finish a book I am writing. I am told I have only a few months left. How much time do I have? Six months? Four atleast?” he asked, still smiling. Only doctors know what a smiling face with a crying heart actually looks like. “Every passing moment is extremely precious for me, doc! Please cure me fast” he said.
I assured him that if the tests showed nothing serious, he could go home once fever subsided, but the fits needed long term treatment. While we were having this talk he suddenly stiffened and his body developed jerky movements, then he became unconscious.
Ordering the emergency injections for fits, I told the casualty doctor to shift him to the critical care unit.
Coming out, I explained this to the angry daughter.
“Doc, we don’t want to treat him in any ICU. We also do not want any tests now. Please give him tablets instead of injections, we want to take him home as soon as his fever goes down” she replied.
This has become very common now, relatives of elderly people admitting them in hospitals, but refusing to do any tests, use injectable / costly medicines or shifting to critical care units. A doctor cannot refuse patients in such a condition, and it is an extremely painful, stressful situation to not be able to correctly investigate, treat a patient because relatives are unwilling. Ninety Nine percent of the times, money is the only reason. There are many charity, low cost and even good government hospitals, but the relatives also want the “show”of having admitted the patient at some posh hospital. Beyond a certain level, Private
hospitals cannot go on funding tests and treatments of hundreds of such patients even on a compassionate basis, because the poverty in India is never ending.
Compassion is the most abused entity in India.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
I told her that even if they had signed for palliative care, his current condition was treatable, his fever and fits caused him distress and could be treated, but she staunchly refused to let us send any tests. We started with oral medicines after a lot of deliberation, keeping fingers crossed that he responds. He did.
On the third day, Mr. Shaw walked out of the hospital with his patent smile.
Just next week, his daughter returned to the OPD: “Doc, dad passed away two days ago. After going home he had fever again, but we decided to manage him at home. Somehow he could not get through this time. I have come to get your signature on these bills from his last medicines, we want to get reimbursed”.
“Was he seen by a doctor at home?” I asked her.
“No doc, we gave him the same medicines that he was earlier given for fever. We also searched online and ordered them. But in a way we also feel he is now relieved of all his troubles” she said, hushing up the topic.
I signed the papers, a duty and an obligation.
In every hospital, every day, we see parents rushing, crying, selling everything they have, urging doctors to save their children on one side, and grown up children urging doctors to hasten up the deaths of their parents on the other . Many sweet, politically correct and legally blurred terms are now available for masking these murders.
A patient with a terminal illness may himself sign for “non-aggressive / palliative” care (meaning pain relief, superficial / minor treatment without aggressive effort to save or maintain life), or if the patient is not in a good mental condition to sign such a consent, the relatives may sign so. However, in India where children mostly are responsible for the medical bills of the elderly, they flatly refuse to treat even treatable, reversible conditions citing “öld age” as a reason. Even in case of patients with terminal illness, to presume that someone is immediately unfit to live, or fit to die is like saying it is okay to terminate their life at someone else’s wish. This is cruel, unethical, immoral, and should stand supported in no courts of law.
However, these murders are a daily routine in India, and law has tied the hands of treating doctors and hospitals as one cannot investigate or treat a patient when the relatives haven’t given a consent. An evolution in the fraternity as well as in this society is necessary if a change is expected.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
Otherwise, when we all will eventually be old, however much we want to live on for a few more days, one day someone will decide that we don’t deserve to continue to live, without ever wanting to know what we wished.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Using the doctor’s private cell / social media accounts for free consultation, second opinion and opinion about investigations. Stalking to send reports, messages whenever online. These are now getting on the nerves of many doctors. I have completely stopped replying to any medical messages on social media / whatsapp.
Relatives, family and friends seeking free medical consultations on holidays, weekends. Directly coming home for a free consultation on holidays (On one unfortunate Sunday morning, back when I was naïve, one neighbour with a Luxury car came home and discussed his old age problems for two hours, reviewed his wife’s reports, then keeping 100 rupees on my table, said “Actually in my childhood doctors would charge only two rupees for consultation, but now it has all become costly”). I have now completely stopped this, refusing politely to see anyone without appointment, except in a true medical emergency.
Expressing Anger, Bitterness, Distrust and Sarcasm towards the doctor for diagnosis (especially incurable), for advising surgery, admission or costlier treatment options (the rich are unhappy with costly medicines, the poor usually do not complain). © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. I have now started to explain in the second consult, after finalizing diagnosis, what to expect, what not to expect.
Expecting the doctor to replace the lost bonds in family because the children do not want to spend time or efforts for their parents (‘you tell him, you spend some time counseling him’). I have started to refer such patients to qualified counsellors.
Taking an advantage of compassion and kindness to save money (Cannot bring patient to hospital, patient is too old, I am too weak to travel, we are out of station etc.). A general rule is that one must be treated, especially in emergency, only after a thorough examination by a doctor. I am now refusing to be emotionally blackmailed.
Seeking free consultations: relatives, friends, classmates, staff, other doctors, watchmen, maids, neighbors, drivers: there’s an unending list who the doctors are expected to see free. Add to these political leaders, VVIPs, government officials, administrative staff etc. Sometimes the doctor voluntarily waives off charges as respect, and some of the above actually request to pay themselves, but most expect a free consultation and in fact argue about it. I have made my own rules about treating only the deserving poor free, and those who need it. I refer them to the right center for help.
Multiple free consultations. This is a paradox: that many who get free consults / treatments usually think it is “not correct or adequate”, take a paid consult somewhere, and then come back knowing that the best was already being done for them. Such patients, when they know t is free, come every week even if they are told to follow up after three months. I have now started specifyinfg that the free consultation in a non-emergency is only once in three months.
Many patients book multiple appointments on the same / consecutive days and then do not bother to cancel the unused slots. This results in heavy losses for the doctor. Some patients call multiple times to book appointments and finally do not turn up, never bothering to inform. I have started to make a list of such patients.
Lying. Many patients / relatives lie about why they did not follow up in time, why they did not take treatment, why they did not do the advised tests, about multiple treatments at the same time, about their condition being an emergency etc.. Many a times parents are abused by their children, and multiple lies are told about why basic care was being denied to the patient. The doctor is supposed to cover up and compensate for the lack of care and compassion at home. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. I have decided not to cover-up, and to refer them to a family counsellor.
Unnecessary information: Many patients do a lot of unnecessary tests and expect the doctor to “just have a look” at those even when normal. Few understand that time is the most precious commodity for a doctor, (most efficient doctors run late because of unnecessary discussions) and when one seeks opinion, it should be a targeted exercise to resolve the immediate concern. For regular check-ups, one must prefer to visit their regular general practitioner. I have started to refuse to see tests I have not advised, if they are normal.
“Resolve all my life’s problems”: many patients, when they find the doctor caring and compassionate, expect him / her to resolve all the issues pertaining to their old age, relationship issues and spend a lot of time “listening to the sad stories” about their life, and their opinion / rants about them. While in some cases it is necessary to wholly understand the patient’s mind, this is primarily an issue to be addressed by a psychiatrist and a counsellor.
A patient in distress is often not in a position to understand the doctor’s expectations and the nitty-gritty of manners and etiquette, and while still being caring and compassionate, we doctors must learn to politely decline such abuse in the kindest words possible. Once educated, most patients follow the instructions well.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Mrs. Patel sounded very happy, almost on the verge of shouting: “Dr. Deshpande, did you see the new video? Finally there is a cure for my husband’s condition. I have already booked tickets, we are travelling tomorrow”.
I had seen the video. I knew from experience that it would not help her husband much. Yet, the words in that video advertisement were framed so effectively, that even a low-brainer medic would be confused about the truth.
The effects are indeed magical, but not for the patient. By the time the hype of such viral videos dies down, thousands of patients have already bought the product, earning unprecedented fame and/ or funds to the makers of such videos. This has become an excellent tool for attracting patients under a false pretext.
There are many medical conditions which have no treatment or cure. This is saddening, and we doctors face the justified frustration of such patients and their relatives many times every day. We are also equally eager for cures. It is taxing and nerve-wrecking to hear patients vent the pain of the same issues repeatedly for years. But for the sake of the patient, we must listen, be patient, and keep reassuring them with compassion and sympathy. But we must never lie to them. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Transfer the patient to our hospital, we will manage better” some doctors say, get the patient transferred under themselves, and after a lot of ‘costly surgery, treatment etc.” simply tell the relatives that it was all inevitable and unfortunate. Wrong assurances and milking the hopes of such critical patients is uncalled for, and to a great extent, unethical. Add the tags like “cheap, charity and low-cost” to healthcare, and such a trap is complete. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Many videos and articles claiming “dramatic relief, cure”, “new technology”, “diet therapies”, “herbal treatments”, “sexual weakness / ED”, “weight loss”, “sugar control”, “stem cell therapy in unindicated medical conditions” “hair growth” etc. circulate and become viral. Both educated and uneducated patients who hope for a better life fall pray to such hidden advertisements. Months or years later, they realize that their condition is the same or worse. Some develop adverse effects like damaged kidneys, liver or brain, and never realize that it was related to unscientific decisions from years ago.
This is medical pickpocketing.
The saddest part is this: many patients respond to any medicine or procedure / surgery (placebo effect) for a short while, and some with psychosomatic illnesses indeed feel a ‘dramatic relief’. Those who do not benefit seldom come forward. Such medical ads never show how many patients suffered side effects, how many did not respond, or what are the hidden costs. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It is sad that this “Hope-Milking” disease has spread rampantly among all streams, including allopathic / modern medicine. Some doctors now publish videos of their own personal discoveries, formulas, potions, without declaring contents, without scientific studies (or with mock/ manipulated scientific trials), as if there is no FDA, Medical Council, experts in respective fields or any such authority. There is no difference between such doctors and roadside herbal medicine quacks or different Babas / Maulas selling ‘magic medicines’ to a predominantly illiterate nation.
Besides being unethical, such practices falsely convey “I know better than all other experts in my field”. That is cheap! Medical councils, doctor’s bodies and IMA should strongly discourage such practices, from all genuine and other streams of medicine.
After a few weeks. Mrs. Patel followed up. “Dr. Rajas, I am sorry. We were carried away by the ad. Initially he felt better, we spent a lot of money, but now we realize it was too costly, it had a lot of side effects and it was not a permanent cure as advertised. We were happy with the earlier treatment”.
Just as I walked in the hospital lobby, I saw a large crowd in front of the television set. National news bulletin was on, dead soldiers and their crying families were being shown. Simultaneously running were the ads by different quacks. A lady was asking her son to jot down the number of a man who claimed to “completely cure all heart diseases with a single medicine”.
I prayed for the health of whoever her patient was, and walked ahead. I had a lot of genuine medical work to attend.
Written in the best interests of my beloved patients and profession.
Please share unedited.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
PS: My dear patients, before falling pray to any “new dramatic medical treatment/ cure” traps or ads, please consult your regular doctor and confirm authenticity. You can also visit authentic medical sites like Medscape, Medline Plus, National Institute of Health (NIH), Mayo Clinic, UpToDate to know about the latest approved treatments for all medical conditions. Do not rely upon blogs, support groups, viral videos or personal/ individual sites for making treatment decisions. This can be very dangerous.
Reboot Fate, Kanika Is Here!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
At 12 years she was on the top, an athlete who also won the scholar badge for three consecutive years and special honors at her school. Just then, a rare neurological condition played havoc in her life. She had multiple tumors, suffered a paralysis, was wheelchair bound for over two years. Then she suffered from depression, suicidal thoughts, high blood pressure, and multiple health issues which sometimes threatened her life. She had to leave school. She suffered bullying by kids her age, she had severely painful muscle tears that made it impossible to move hand and leg. Many hundred blood tests, some invasive procedures like lumbar punctures, and even a biopsy were all inconclusive. She also went through medical horrors: rude doctors, huge expenses and uncertainty. Her diagnosis is still not fully established.
But her status as a winner in the battle with fate is well established. Meet Kanika Kesri. She walked again after two long years today.
In August 2015, Kanika started having fever and severe headaches, and started becoming weak. Lot of tests were done, and she was found to have a tumor in her abdomen. A surgery was planned in Delhi, she was taken there. The specialist decided to first biopsy her tumor. The biopsy revealed a possibility of tuberculosis, so anti tuberculous medicines were started. She developed paralysis of the face and eyes, nothing could be done as the only medicines that could improve her condition – steroids- could cause dangerous worsening of her tuberculosis. In December 2015 she developed weakness in the left leg and could not walk. An MRI done then showed that she had developed multiple tumors in the brain and spine. She was then diagnosed with the most dangerous and often fatal form of tuberculosis: MDR (Multi Drug Resistant) Tb.
She was started with additional medicines and her parents were told that nothing more could be done. Her condition worsened during one of the lumbar punctures and she became bedridden, almost completely dependent. Someone told her father one of the worst medical possibilities: that this could be some form of cancer.
One of my earlier patients, Mr. Rahul Agarwal, brought Kanika’s father Mr. Pankaj Kesri to me in a devastated frame of mind. Lost in uncertainty, extremely angry at the behavior of some doctors, and frustrated with the expenses while being away from the job for a few months, he was still very polite and humble.
Her case was indeed baffling. I went through all the details, involved my colleagues at Ruby Hall Clinic, and even some of my teachers in Mumbai. The answer was almost the same everywhere: don’t know what this exactly is, but don’t stop the anti-tuberculous medicines.
Something was wrong, the girl was deteriorating in spite of taking the tuberculosis treatment. In a discussion with her parents, when her father said he had complete trust in the way we were treating her, I put forth an option: to give Kanika steroids, and if she improved, to consider withdrawing the anti-tuberculous medicines. This involved a serious risk to her life if her presumed tuberculosis worsened. With a very heavy heart, her family consented.
We started steroids. Kanika improved. We stopped the tuberculosis medicines. She continued to improve. She could now stand with a walker. Unfortunately, twice during physiotherapy sessions, Kanika tore her muscles: once in the thigh, which made it impossible for her to walk. She was bedridden again.
Till this time, Kanika was all positive, vigorously working to recover. The long illness now started to affect her mind. She became depressed, her sweet smile vanished. She tried to join school, but isolation and bullying worsened her mental agony. She started having suicidal thoughts. Very mature for her age, Kanika decided even in that condition that she was going to defeat the situation. She confessed about her thoughts to her parents. We arranged a counsellor for her. Just as Kanika started to recover from depression, the side effects of steroids started to come up: weight gain and high blood pressure. New blood pressure medicines were added. There are some alternatives to steroids, but she did not tolerate them.
Kanika wanted to study further. She joined home schooling, an excellent option made available by the central government, through NIOS (National Institute of Home Schooling).
One of the most complicated cases I have seen in this young age group, Kanika suffers from a very rare autoimmune condition. Her immune system has some dysfunction that causes multiple tumors in her body, these tumors usually resolve with steroids as they suppress immune system. The closest condition that resembles this is known as Neuro-Sarcoidosis, but some of Kanika’s tests for this were negative too.
Kanika’s parents chose to always come across pleasant and polite. “I know my daughter’s health is above all my complaints. I have chosen to concentrate on the positives” Mr. Pankaj Kesri says. Kanika’s mother Mrs. Rajni had to face a double-edged problem: while adolescent Kanika developed many ups and downs in her moods, Mr. Pankaj Kesri was transferred out of Pune. Mrs. Rajni fought alone on many fronts, while also looking after Kanika and her elder sister Kritika, who they call their pillar of strength.
It all was rewarded today, when Kanika walked without support after almost two long years. I was so happy with the miraculous moment, that I called upon my CEO, Mr. Bomi Bhote, who has always encouraged highest standards of medical care, leaving no stone unturned to bring it under his roof. He was so happy to see Kanika walk again, that he recorded the moment himself. “My wish is to see you run” he told a smiling Kanika.
We learnt a lot: many a times, some patients tolerate a lot while facing medical issues: the worst being a rude doctor. We doctors must ourselves ensure that we offer the best compassionate counseling to each such patient before we demand their faith and trust. It is never automatic. The process of medical care is an ongoing one, and it must be guided by a single principle: decision making in the best interests of the patient. A lot of study and awareness of medical advances on a daily basis is essential.
Kanika to us is an example of exemplary courage, grit, maturity, positivity and patience. She is a role model for anyone who is going through a negative medical phase. May she get back to normalcy soonest possible, may she recover completely, may she achieve whatever she sets out to achieve. She has proven many times over till now that she is a born winner.
In the beautiful moment that Kanika walked again, I found the blessings of my parents and teachers.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
PS: Thank You, Ms. Kanika, Mr. Pankaj and Mrs. Rajni Kesri for permission to share this story of courage.
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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir, next is our old free patient” my receptionist announced on the phone.
Divya, the smart young girl of 8 years jumped into my cabin, and grabbed her chair with an authority. Confidently looking at me, she questioned, “how are you today?”
Her parents, embarrassed and charmed at the same time with her sense of ease in this big hospital, facing a doctor, hesitantly stood behind her. I requested them to sit down and went through the routine questions.
“She is all good now, no fits since last two years. She has been regular in her school and has started studying well too” her father reported.
I examined her and wrote her a renewed prescription. I noticed the mother wiping tears.
“What happened?” I asked.
Quickly smiling, she just gestured with her head “nothing” and looked at her husband.
“Do we need any tests, Sir?” Her husband asked, “We will do whatever is required”. I could feel his palpitations. They were scared that I may tell them tests, and that would mean financial disaster.
He works as a pantry boy and can barely pay the home rent with his salary. His wife somehow makes ends meet, looking after this sweet daughter and a younger son.
At the age of five, Divya had had her first convulsion. Her parents had rushed her to the government hospital. They did not have the money required for Divya’s tests and medicines even at the government hospital. So they resorted to something that hurt them worst: they had to sell little Divya’s silver jewelry, which was the most precious thing in their house. Even that was not enough, so they borrowed money and started her treatment, her father worked extra hours.
That was about three years ago. Divya’s fits continued, but her parents did not give up. Their whole life had but one aim: to stop her fits. Even after being less educated, Divya’s parents decided to go with scientific treatment, ignoring all pressures to take her to different weird people including magic healers. They did not give up hope, their will power was their boon.
Two years ago, a doctor friend sent Divya to me. With some changes in prescription, her fits completely stopped, she has now become just another normal child.
“No tests are required. Please make sure that she is regular with the medicines” I told them.
As I wrote this, I got a little emotional myself, this was the first time I had heard of any parents having to sell their daughter’s jewelry for her treatment. On one side, I was proud that even after being surrounded by perpetual pits of poverty, this girl child’s parents did not skimp upon her treatment just because she was a girl child (this often happens), but on the other I felt anger and shame that my country still lacks a basic healthcare infrastructure that can offer free quality treatment to at least children.
Yet, this had taught me my lesson. Willpower and hope are the mightiest and most precious jewels upon earth, far tougher and far more beautiful than any diamonds. For there are many who own diamonds but have neither willpower nor hope.
Meeting this rich family today was joy enough, but a greater bliss was when the kiddo put her arm upon my shoulder with the same confidence. The world is indeed hers!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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