Category Archives: Healthcare India

Yes: The Most Powerful Word.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mohanad, child of a small time mechanic in Yemen, developed a devastating condition called “Transverse Myelitis” which causes sudden damage to the main connecting cable from brain to the rest of the body, called “Spinal Cord”. He not only lost all sensation, but was completely paralysed below the waist, his control over passing urine was also lost. That was seven months ago. He was told that his remaining life will be in a wheelchair. He wasn’t convinced.

His mechanic father and farmer brother decided to get help and travelled with him to India for his treatment. When he came, he could not feel anything below waist and had no movement at all.

One beautiful thing about being a child is that you don’t have inhibitions, fears or anxieties like adults. One can learn from children how to be optimistic beyond par. They have more “Yes” in their minds.

When I met him for the first time, I thought the child was a little upset with his own situation. To boost his morale I told him I was going to make every effort to make him walk again, but I needed his help.

He smiled.. “Yes, I want to walk. I will walk. I will run” he said.

He worked hard. Took medicine without complaining. Never cried. Did all that was planned for him.

Today after three months, he has started to gradually improve. Most of his recovery is natural, with some supplements and nerve strengthening medicines, and physiotherapy. He came in with a cute big smile to report this improvement today. He will travel back to his country next week. He knows there’s a long long way to go before realising his dreams, but that’s the beauty of dreams: when they come true, they make you proud of yourself that you overcame all that stood between you and your dreams.

Mohanad deserves a big applause for his grit and courage. I pray that he always smiles this beautiful smile all his life! I have become a fan of his “Yes I can!”.

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The Euthanasia Named NMC

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Sweet Poison, Gorgeous Vamp, Philanthropist Criminal or NMC. All of these have one thing in common: the taste, the appearance is deceptive.

Just a while ago, doctors had complete autonomy and freedom to elect the best to the medical councils. They failed. Doctors had chances to unite and rectify glaring obvious malpractices in their own profession. They failed. Doctors had a freedom to pressurise elected medical council members to enforce ethics and discipline in Indian medicine, to arrest corruption. They failed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

The parliamentary standing committee said something like “MCI looked only after doctor’s interests, not that of public, it is necessary to reduce the monopoly of doctors, so there should be diverse stakeholders at the helm”. The fact was that MCI looked only after its own interests, not even those of the real doctors of India: the thousands who were shouldering the actual healthcare burden especially in govt hospitals and rural areas, underpaid and unprotected. Malpractices became rampant. The general social jealousy about doctors which was earlier suppressed by respect converted into open anger and fuelled a paranoia that did not spare the best of the medical practitioners. For the sins of few, majority suffered. Patients too suffered at all levels. Govt medical services were always pathetic (and will remain so even after NMC), and there was no reign over the corporates who dominated and dictated the scene. Competition and petty egos destroyed any chances of any good unity among doctors. There could not be a deeper nadir for the profession. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

That fathered the NMC. Doctors will need to unite now like never before if they want to change this “Law”. Laws can be changed. But is it necessary in this case? Decide for yourself.

1. The ultimate, complete control of this “Autonomous” NMC is is in the hands of the central government. Majority members are govt. officials, a minority are to be chosen by medical professionals, and in every case, all that the central govt. decides is going to be a binding upon the NMC. That is like cutting off the wings of a bird and naming it “Independent and Free”. NMC, its advisory committee search committee or its four component boards will all be dominated by govt.’s chairs. Central Govt will also decide about the funding and salaries of the NMC members and its Chairman. We all know who sits in the top chairs of govt. institutes and how many among them can speak against the govt. So tomorrow if the govt wants to make ANY decision about ANYTHING that governs Indian Doctors, it can. Who will stop them if wrong? Such is the control of Central Govt. over this NMC, that if a doctor is unhappy about some decision of state medical council, he can go to NMC, and if unhappy about NMC’s decision, he will have to appeal to….? Courts of law? No. Something higher: the central govt!! So every medical practitioner’s career is ultimately in the hands of the central govt. Better join the party. Or quit medicine.

2. The entrance examinations are more simplified. All undergraduate examinations will be through NEET. All who have completed undergraduate course (MBBS curriculum) will appear for the Final MBBS exam which will also be common National exam (NEXT) for Medical Licence and PG admissions. Due to legal status of institutes like AIIMS, PGI, etc., they will conduct a separate PG entrance exam. Although this appears simplified, given the history of corruption (at almost all levels) in such exams and delays that waste millions of youth-years, one is worried about an undercurrent ‘sale’ of PG seats. But wait, not everyone must pass the licensing exam. You can entirely skip the difficult MBBS course, do something else, and bridge over in 6 months, without having to pass the licensing exams. That’s the third bullet.

3. Some AYUSH doctors are better than some MBBS doctors. Many who can not get into MBBS in spite of merit opt for other streams, with a hope to become a good doctor. They are actually contributing a lot to our healthcare, many of them know their limitations. One cannot object to their wish to practice allopathy if they want to study and upgrade themselves, the only objection is to exempt them from the common licensing exams. That will be very unfair to our society, most of whom will never know whether the doctor treating them has adequate experience, qualification and wisdom.

A newly passed out lawyer cannot do a “Six Month Bridge Course” to become a High Court Judge. A new recruit in Police cannot become an Inspector though a “Six Month Bridge Course”. A Municipal Councillor / Nagarsewak cannot “Bridge Course” himself into a Health Minister or Prime Minister. One needs to qualify though a common mandatory process. After MBBS, one cannot do a “bridge course” to become an MD that requires three years of intense responsibility handling, studying, treating patients under supervision and obtaining a deep insight into that subject. It is not possible in six months even for an allopath. Likewise, if an AYUSH doctor must practice allopathy, they must go through the necessary training (two to three years) and more importantly qualify the same common licensing exam before they practice the complicated allopathy.

AYUSH is an excellent idea, but it is immature as of now.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

4. The Doctor:Patient ratio in India is misquoted. Due to poor payments and infrastructures, very few doctors stay either in rural areas or govt. services, and the whole equation is skewed. The very purpose of AYUSH was to bring in more medical personnel, but that would work if these (3.5 lacs) “bridge” course doctors honoured the opportunity and worked only where there was a scarcity of doctors (urban and rural). What is more likely is that these additional doctors will also join the existing urban trend. Who can blame them for wanting a better life?

5. The newer policies of “more data, more paperwork, more record keeping, tighter control” over doctors will only result in private practitioners becoming more paranoid, giving up all the voluntary charity that they did every day, spending more time per case: and that will reduce numbers and spike fees. I can foresee most private practitioners closing down clinics. More rules and paperwork mean more corruption and exploitation in our country. This will turn into higher cost per consultation. Private healthcare will be out of reach for the poor. The good doctor will no more sit in his own clinic, he will turn to a safer corporate hospital. (Is that the aim?).

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

6. The NMC bill entirely skips any word about regulating the large private healthcare sector. It does not have any provisions to protect new and good doctors from the tyranny and forces of corporate expectations. Some private hospitals have excellent policies and ethics, some corporates are very doctor and patient-friendly, but many remain to be corrected. There is no authority to the NMC over such hospitals.

7. There is no mention about improving staff and facilities at govt. hospitals, about any rules that ensure the best free healthcare for millions of poor patients in India. The ground reality that many patients suffer and die due to lack of staff, medicines, technology, tests and surgeries at government hospitals finds no mention in the reports of the Parliamentary committees that suggested the NMC. They did not mention the pathetic, unsafe and inhuman conditions in which Indian medical students and resident doctors live and work. They did not mention who will be responsible if a patient dies in a govt hospital due to lack of facilities or medicines. They appear to be more concerned about the price control of 40 percent seats in private medical colleges.

It is sad that in spite of many doctors in and around the central government, the medical field’s autonomy died with this bill. Shall we call it Euthanasia or “Physician assisted death” of the autonomy of medical profession? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. In the era of the MCI, doctors were orphans, now in the era of NMC, they have become slaves.

The corrections in this bill will have to be put forth and pursued by a totally unified doctor’s organisation. “Painkiller Agitations” will not work. We must ask for complete release of the NMC from the cages of central government. Like in the UK, Indian NMC should be made up of 50% Senior Doctors representing all states and specialties, and the remaining 50% can be selected by the patient organisations: Judges, Media Stalwarts, Journalists, Artists, Ministers and Eminent Social Personalities. We must ask for transparency and fool-proofing of all medical entrance exams. We must ask for the right education, experience and licensing of AYUSH doctors, and welcome them once they qualify.

This article is written with my heart which bleeds for my profession and my patient alike. Bharat Maata Ki Jay!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Thank you Dr. Avinash Deshpande, Aurangabad, for some valuable inputs. If there are any technical mistakes, please let me know so I can correct.

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The Secret Illness Of Doctors

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

She threw the file upon my table.

“I have no relief doctor. This giddiness is killing me. None of the medicines ever works. No doctor is able to understand my illness. Just give me some tablet and end my life” she was shouting and crying. Her parents accompanying her looked at me with anger and disdain.

She had been to many speciaalists earlier. Most earlier doctors had “wisely shuttled her off to another specialist” due to her hysterical behavior. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I ordered a coffee for her and her parents, asked them to calm down, and explained that I had not found any abnormality upon her physical examination. I told them once again that sometimes we do not recognise stress playing upon our minds. We all think that we are supermen or superwomen who can tolerate any mental activity, behavior or abuse of our physical and mental capacity. Explained, they calmed down, open for suggestions. I referred them to an excellent psychiatrist colleague.

My colleague emailed me the next day after meeting them. The girl was being sweetly pressurised by her family for marriage, and the fear of having to leave the “overcaring and comfort” of her parents was stressing her out. She dramatically improved with counseling for the whole family and medicines for her. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Only recently, a case of bleeding in the brain due to high BP was quite critical, and the entire family kept blaming, screaming at and in general mentally screwing the doctor’s team as the patient did not improve as quickly as they expected. Patients with bleeding in the brain may take months to improve. The worst ‘shouter’ in this case was the patient’s elder son. Many days after the patient improved, the family revealed that this elder son had had a continuous fight with his father, the patient, for many days prior over property, and on the night before admission he had slapped his father. That’s probably why the patient’s BP had shot up, causing bleeding in the brain. They had never told us this part earlier.

This is a form of abuse that almost every medical practitioner faces on a daily basis. Quarrels and stresses at home, guilts and anxieties, work pressures, irregular and atrocious lifestyles, eating habits and addictions, relationship frustrations of all kinds, personal failures and insecurities are some of the common reasons angry patients and their families unburden themselves upon the medical practitioner. Many want to avoid in-laws, pregnancy, transfers, heavy duty etc.Many do not follow medical advice and experiment upon themselves. Most of these blame doctors for their continuing ill health, little realising that the actual medicine is omitting the cause of their stress. The doctor can only help one identify this cause, suggest strategies to deal with it, but the actual action has to come from the patient and family. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“Doctor Abuse” is common all over the world, but in India it also converts into frank violence. Blaming ‘compassionate communication failure” by the doctor is a joke, a society where even the closest family members do not understand each other for years, how does one expect a doctor to make someone strange ‘understand” a complicated situation? Will our courts and police “explain and communicate effectively” with criminals so that they do not commit crimes again, or will they “warn and punish” the abusers and miscreants? Abuse and violence are NEVER justified in any civil society.

The stress of such “Doctor Abuse” is phenomenal! It has now become so common, that many doctors have stopped admitting patients, many have reduced work hours, and some have even quit the profession. “Excessive stress and fear of abuse” is a secret illness of almost all doctors now!

If a doctor wanted his patients to suffer or die, why will he/ she even go to the hospital? There’s better money in almost all other intellectual professions, why would one choose to spend a lifetime amongst the sick and dying? Most doctors are doing their best for making the patient happy. A little understanding and cooperation from our society will encourage the good doctors to be better, and the bad doctors to follow their example. Violence and force will only worsen the situation. Doctor abuse must go. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Always praying for the best health of patients and now, even doctors!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Harassed Patriot

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir Can I come to meet you this Wednesday? I am in Delhi right now, I will be coming to Pune on Tuesday to see my parents” Dr. Aman asked. He sounded different from his usual jovial self. I was with a patient.

“Sure! Everything alright with you?” I asked hesitantly.

“I will come and see you sir, I want to tell you something”.

I finished my OPD and went to the cafetaria, feeling nostalgic. Dr. Aman was a brilliant student from one of my earliest batches. You know, when you have just passed out Neurology DM, and you are a teacher to those 3-4 years younger to you. It’s a guarded friendly relation more than a teacher-student one. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

His parents were uneducated, his father ran a grocery shop in a small town. Aman had mostly stayed in charity hostels almost all his school and college days. He had maintained a high merit but also a very polite behavior, enabling him to get support from his teachers. I met him first during his last year of MBBS, I was in the last year of my MD Medicine. We became friends because both of us were night owls, preferring to study late in peace. The city bus-stand was about two miles away from the hostel, and we went there together to snack and have tea etc. early morning at 4 AM, after having studied till then. We did not discuss anything academic, we were more into Richard Bach and Ayn Rand stuff. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Once during that 4 AM walk to the bus stand, he said “I want to do the best for my country, Dr. Rajas. My dream is to open a hospital where all poor patients can get the best treatment completely free. Not the ‘charity’class cheap and superficial treatment, but the best treatment that there can be anywhere upon earth”.

“I agree, I want to do something similar too, but where will the funds come from? World class treatment will mean world class doctors, staff, technology, set-up and even world class medicines. Who will sponsor it all?”I asked. This thought crosses the mind of almost every medical student while studying medicine, because there’s no one else other than medical students and resident doctors who witnesses the real health-related suffering of the poor. All the rants of socialists, politicos and other famous preachers die when they actually have to help from their own pockets to treat the poor. Every Indian doctor does it daily, without advertising.

Dr. Aman spoke as if thinking aloud: “Yes, I know it is difficult. But I was thinking that I will urge our society, lawmakers and others to fund my hospital for the poor by using the funds donated by people for greater purposes. The taxpayer should have a choice to directly deposit tax in a fund meant exclusively for healthcare for the poor. Highest donations in India are made for religious purposes, to various religious places. What best use for these billions than to start a free hospital? Will any God of any religion not be happy if those donations are used for the poor patient’s treatment?” he innocently asked. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

That thought never left me.

After my MD I went to Mumbai for DM, and Aman came there in a year for his MD. We caught up occasionally at night in the famous tea stall opposite KEM Hospital. Dr. Aman earned himself the best reputation that a doctor needs: hardworking, studious, and very well behaved with the patients. He was already handsome enogh to be envied by his colleagues, but kindness, compassion and genius gave him an edge above others in everything. When I left Mumbai to go to Canada, he was still studying there. Upon my return, I came to know that Dr. Aman has joined a government hospital near Delhi. We almost lost contact. Then this call. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He came on Wednesday as planned. I was shocked, his handsome face had a large raw scar.

“What happened?”I asked.

“Two weeks ago, I was in the casualty, when a young lady was brought in unconscious and gasping. She was frothing at mouth, had many bruises on her body. Her husband and two others accompanying him were drunk , incoherent. There was a smell of insecticide, so I started treatment accordingly. There were no ventilators available at our hospital, we have requested the government many times but were told there were no funds. We were trying our best, but within minutes she passed away. As it was a suspected poisoning, a postmortem was necessary. We advised so, but the relatives declined. I explained them many times that a postmortem is legally necessary. Then they called a corporator, who came with his goons. One of them attacked me with a knife. The nurses tried to restrain him, but he attacked them too. Four of us were injured by the time that police arrived. They did the postmortem, the report says that lady was killed”

“That I could have survived, Dr. Rajas. But the next day we were told to withdraw police compaints which we had made against the attacker with knife and the corporator. The administration refused to stand by us”. Dr. Aman was now charged, angry and almost tearful. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I don’t want to work here! Many times over now, I have realised that people do not want good doctors, they want chained, frightened slaves who cater to their illegal, immoral demands. I wanted to serve mother India” he now sobbed “but apparently mother India does not want the likes of me now. Last three years I had received many offers from UK and many other countries, but I had proudly declined. Now I have accepted an offer from Oman. They are paying me twenty times what I am earning here, with a two-month paid annual vacation, free housing and food. I feel bad, I don’t want to go, yet I do not want to work here now. I came to you because I have faith in your advice, you are like my elder brother. Please tell me what I should do”.

After thinking a lot, I told him: “You should do what ensures your peace of mind. You can help Indian patients from anywhere in the world, or you can help them from within India”. I did not want to force him to stay back in India, because I was sincerely afraid about his safety

Dr. Aman left the country yesterday, like thousands of brilliant doctors in last twenty years. I feel as if a part of me died when he told me his decision, and the only thing I could say to him was : “I understand. To do good to others, you must first be safe, alive and at peace with yourself. Take care”.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Doctors from various states are welcome to translate this article in local language without changes, and post it with their name along with the original author credit. This will help us spread the message.

I am also translating this to Marathi.

Mob IQ Versus Indian Doctors

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Woke up with a bad headache one morning, probably a sudden change in weather. Felt lethargic, did not want to get out of the bed. It was raining heavy, a perfect day to stay in bed and snack with a book and a huge black coffee. But the usual inhibition of a doctor: that many patients will have travelled only to see me worried me. Another important fact that I still depend directly upon my daily work, that ‘No work’ translates into ‘Zero income’ for me like for every doctor, made it more difficult. Just then the cellphone rang.

“Can you see the patient in ICU urgently?” my colleague called, “The relatives are quite powerful people. Very troublesome”.

If it was only to help the patient, I would get up from my grave, but even for a million rupees, today I was not in a mood to balance wits and swordfight my knowledge with an over-expectant crowd whose only qualification to ask me questions was that their patient was serious and I was expected to be compassionate and courteous. But then, I could feel from his voice that my colleague was exasperated. “Okay, I will see him in an hour” I said. Two hot black coffees masked the headache (please don’t try this at home) and pumped some fuel into my blood.©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I noticed a huge crowd outside ICU. I went in and examined the patient. Indeed critical, a case of stroke. Educated young man, stressful job, smoker, high blood pressure, was given medicines to control it, but did his own “gossip research”, stopped medicines, some atrocious diet, some herbals and one morning suddenly had bleeding in the brain. A story that is a routine now.

I called in the relatives, expecting two, but about 15 people walked in. Few of them had the most deadly dress upon earth: stiff white linen with gold necklaces. As I explained them with two other senior Consultants, questions poured in. If it is plain curiosity and worry about the patient, one can be compassionate, but this was more like police grilling criminals. At the end of every sentence highlighting critical situation of the patient, came the same question: “But he will become normal again no? Do anything you want, we want him to recover”.

It was like throwing a stone at the sky, it never lands there!©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Where do these people come from? How can so many people wait with the sick patient? At one end we have labourers whose families must work to pay for their treatment in even government hospitals, at the other we have doctors who must work every day without any benefit for future. The whole spectrum is otherwise dominated by these crowds. What is the source of earning for these people in crowds? If these men in hundreds are here all day looking well fed and complacent, who is working for them and their families? Is India rich enough that people can do away with work?

Crowds with patients, with leaders, shouting and vandalising, mobbing.. who is sponsoring their livelihoods? Or is it that we have authentically become a country of slave mobs that entirely depend upon their leadership to feed them? Are we encouraging poverty and dependence to the extent that this makes it easier to control a majority?

Everyone who is working hard and earning, paying taxes is being implied to be not only a fool but a villain. It has become fashionable to be poor and become a mob. Then a majority vote bank, forgiven by those in power, you can choose to break and mend laws as per your wish, still get sympathy. Poverty plus majority together can control anything in India. Beggars everywhere is Indian specialty. Not surprising then that any political party or government promising ‘free’ stuff, subsidised stuff and schemes to look after generations and generations of poor youth at the cost of taxes paid by working class will not only encourage such ‘poor mobs’ to become lethargic, expectant, unproductive slaves, but also provide them with enough time to divert their youthful energy towards the temptations of violence thrown by the powerful. All this at the cost of taxes paid by every hardworking profession who cannot even afford a holiday!©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

While other professions escape the brunt of such free-monger mobs, medical professionals suffer the worst, not only because of over expectations of impractical charity, violence and vandalism, but because of the interference with treatment, duress, and most importantly the time they have to spend answering and explaining repeatedly to those who refuse to understand. Some are incapable intellectually to grasp complicated medical situations. How much time will a judge, IAS officer, minister or police officer spend with arrogant crowd explaining the same thing? Will they go on forever till the other person understands? If a doctor does not wait till the crowd understands, he / she is supposed to have not communicated effectively. Is an uneducated, illiterate, stubborn relative’s understanding and grasp a doctor’s responsibility? It is unfair waste of time. To expect every doctor to satisfy a mob of illiterates or even non-grasping literates is itself an indication of our social immaturity.

Time has come now for doctors to take a firm stand: that we will speak to only two relatives, who have signed and accepted the responsibility of patient’s medical care and expenses, that we will reply every question only once, and explain once if necessary, that whatever we say will be first written then video recorded so there is no later ambiguity or common tomfoolery of lying. Informing and explaining once is indeed a doctor’s duty, but satisfying the relatives cannot be a doctor’s responsibility. No doctor can afford that kind of time and patience. Any further cross-questioning by relatives should be a paid service consultation based upon time. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Our patience, compassion and understanding is not for being taken undue advantage of.

Happy Doctor’s Day!

Jai Hind!

©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Sunshine Girl

The Sunshine Girl

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful 14 year old girl was almost motionless. Her body was completely stiff, eyes fixed in one position, she could not move at all. Any attempt to speak or move would send her entire body in violent spasms. She could not even cry for the fear of this painful stiffness, but her pillow was wet with the tears rolling down her eyes. Her parents had wheeled her in on a stretcher. They had landed just yesterday in Mumbai, travelling from Iraq with her. Her father was illiterate, while the mother was a science graduate from Baghdad University. While internally torn with the condition of her daughter, the mother very calmly and peacefully explained me the condition of her daughter Khazan.

On the day of school annual function just five months ago, Khazan’s teachers in Iraq noticed that she was limping while dancing on the stage. They told her mother about this. Khazan was taken to a Neurologist there, who found that she had some neurological signs, with brown coloured rings in her eyes. This ring called a ‘KF’ring is usually found in patients who have a rare disease called ‘Wilson’s Disease’. Due to a fault in Liver, copper cannot be excreted out of body, it accumulates in the liver and in the blood, rising to high, toxic levels. This excess copper in the blood then starts damaging every organ in the body, but first it causes severe damage in the brain and eyes. If not treated, the patient becomes disabled soon and dies. The biggest problem is that many patients may worsen with treatment in the initial phase, with medicines which act fast. The cheaper medicine (Zinc) which does not cause such worsening, is too slow to act, it takes months. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Khazan was started with the first medicine in Iraq, but unfortunately, she became paralysed due to the side effects of the medicine. The Neurologist in Iraq started with the second, extremely costly drug. Her parents sold off their land, business and even home, and shifted to a rental small house to afford this medicine that had to be imported from USA. As fate would have it, Khazan reacted adversely to this too and further worsened. She became completely paralysed, could not eat or speak, and was then advised the last option, the curative treatment for this disease: Liver transplant. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They applied for loans from some charity organisations, and landed in India for Liver trasnsplantation. “We were told that the doctors in India are the best in the world, and the cost of treatment is lowest in India. So we decided to come here” her mother told. Indeed, the cost of medical as well as surgical treatment in India is lesser than half compared to the developed world. For simple appointments with specialists, the waiting list in the developed world exceeds weeks to months, and surgical appointments take years. Once, in my childhood, one of my uncles gave me some dessert, like everyday, which I didn’t care to finish. My aunt asked me with surprise: “Why don’t you eat such a delicious dessert?”. My uncle immediately said “Because he gets it so easily. Ask those who don’t get it, they will love it”.

We found that Khazan was almost skin and bones, dehydrated, and anemic. She had developed many Parkinson-like symptoms and some psychosis. I explained her condition and told her mother: that she was semi-critical, that I wanted to start with the cheaper, third medicine and give her supportive care, but it would take a long time, I could not guarantee anything. Her mother told me via the Arabic interpreter Mr. Tabrez: “Doctor, we do not want surgery for her. Do what you would have done for your own daughter. We will close our eyes and do whatever you say. We will hope she improves, but we understand you cannot guarantee anything”. Now the onus was upon me, the responsibility was mine. We started treatment. Khazan’s graduate mother knew more about Wilson’s disease than many medical students, yet she never came across as arrogant or argumentative. She politely asked doubts. A good doctor grows with every patient. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My students started helping out the family, making Khazan feel at home. Love and compassion for the patient enhances the effects of all medicines in most cases. Add the trust and willpower of the patient, and you usually have a winning prescription. From the shadows of a near-certain death, Khazan’s body and soul started to awaken to the sunlight called life. She gradually started speaking, drinking water, and in a few weeks, eating small morsels. They had to return to Iraq, and we communicated via video chats. They returned twice to India for reassessment and change in treatment.

A few months after their last visit, I received a letter. It was written in English, by Khazan. She had joined college now, and wrote that she wanted to become a doctor like me. Her mother had added in Arabic: “My girl is the sunshine of my life, thank you for bringing her back from the claws of death”. I had received my reward. Khazan is doing very well now since last three years, with God’s grace. Of course I did not forget to remind her that most of the credit of her recovery was to the unparallelled grit and efforts of her mother.

Magical, Near-supernatural, Miraculous recoveries happen every day in India. Patients, young and old, with almost nil chances of survival, walk home smiling every day, in almost every Indian town, even in the most rural areas, thanks to the efforts of thousands of doctors working 24/7. These doctors are never appreciated or rewarded. This post is dedicated to those messiahs of Indian Medicine.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This story is real. Many doctor colleagues and physiotherapy students have helped me treat this patient over years. Wilson’s Disease can be completely cured, there are many experts working on tis in India.

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Wrong Diagnosis: The Secret Child Of Every Doctor

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“I don’t agree with your diagnosis” said the senior gynaecologist to me, as the rich patient and his family heard with interest and confusion, “I don’t think this patient has Parkinsons Disease”.
I had just returned from an advanced University Hospital in Canada after completing a fellowship in Parkinson’s Disease, a post-doctoral course under one of the best specialists in the world. This senior and famous gynaecologist with a large hospital had referred a case, I had seen the patient, after which he, the senior OBGY, had come to my room. I had spent over an hour studying the patient’s symptoms, and conducted the most difficult and extensive of all clinical examinations in medicine: the complete neurological examination. I had, like all doctors trained well by their teachers, deliberated the possibilities (what the doctors call ‘differential diagnosis’), and then come to this conclusion. There are no shortcuts in medicine, and I took pride in not missing any details. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I was open to the idea of my diagnosis being wrong. No doctor is above the patient, and ego cannot be a factor while making a diagnosis. But the ease with which this senior doctor had refuted my diagnosis without so much as touching the patient really offended me.
Obviously, this senior OBGY wanted to impress the patient by showing “I know better Neurology than this junior doctor”. The patient and his family were quite close to that senior doctor and had deep trust in his opinion. The look on their face changed immediately. They no more cared for what I had to say. My first response was anger. Then I remembered what one of my great professors had imbibed upon me: You cannot match the tendencies of some idiots. State your point, smile and leave. Truth will unmask itself in all medical cases.
“What do you think this patient has, Sir?” I asked.
“Maybe he is just tired mentally” the senior doctor said, and the family bobble-headed in assertion.
“I disagree with you Sir”. I said firmly, “All my findings are written on that paper, the patient can go to any qualified Neurologist. Only they can identify or treat such cases well”. I left the room without waiting for his infamous wise wordplay. Three years later, the same patient returned in a wheelchair, referred by another physician, and is now improving with treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The fact that he was deprived of correct treatment for over three years will remain a dark medical secret. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Two years ago, a seventeen year old boy was brought by his parents. He had fits, we had started him on anticonvulsants. Adequate instructions were given to reluctant parents, and the dangers of stopping medicine were explained. They never returned. Last month, his parents came. Few months ago, they were told by some doctor to stop the anticonvulsants, and start on some herbal supplements. “We thought let us try” the parents said, and stopped his medicine. The boy had a fit while sitting in his 9th floor balcony, fell and died with a head injury.
Many such cases, where light-gossipy comments by unqualified doctors about the (correct) ongoing diagnosis or treatment being wrong kill many patients with heart attacks, strokes, other heart and brain diseases, liver and kidney failures, cause worsening of otherwise treatable cancers, blood and bone diseases, and many more conditions in almost all specialties of medicine. Patients sadly prefer to choose what is convenient and cheap. Some doctors make personal comments about other doctors being wrong, corrupt, charging high, having no experience etc. Some doctors rely solely upon a “Low Fees and Sweet Talk (LFST)” formula of practice and keep on defaming the entire profession, gradually brain-washing a frightened, confused and frustrated patient. Unfortunately, many patients, both literate and illiterate, easily fall prey to such tactics. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
What if the diagnosis is really wrong? We often meet smartypants (and smartyskirts!) medicos who just go on challenging any and every diagnosis made by others, be it their specialty or not. A simple understanding of one’s own capacity is enough marker of the intellectual level of that person for me (recall the famous Dunning Kruger Effect). To translate this crudely, stupids seldom realise they are being stupid. They create confusion and wise wordplay to dilute the reality. It is only the idiotic ignoramuses among doctors who cannot ever say “I don’t understand, you know better”.
Medicine is a logical, scientific methodology of algorithms. If a doctor thinks someone else is wrong, they must first state in writing their own examination findings, diagnosis and reasons to refute someone else’s diagnosis. Then they should explain this to the patient, and then start treatment in view of their own diagnosis, taking responsibility if that turns out wrong, and telling the patient so too. It is also an offence in the rules of medical councils to defame a fellow practitioner.
Every person in every field makes mistakes, even the best minds. It is no secret that every doctor, however qualified or experienced, makes a wrong diagnosis many times in his / her career. In most cases these are simple analytical/ judgement mistakes, rarely dangerous. To concentrate on one’s own specialty, and to refrain from pretending being an expert in “all other specialties” is the key to becoming a great doctor, especially in these days of information flooding and subspecialty training. To say that someone else is wrong, a doctor should be equally or better qualified in that subject. Age has nothing to do with it.
In a hyper-emotional, media biased, politically influenced and mostly illiterate country like India, most doctors, however straightforward and honest, find it difficult to frankly tell about their own mistakes to the patient, as the reactions and defamation are out of proportion and our law is primitive still in this field. Sometimes when the patient is capable of understanding it, I have seen many doctors, surgeons explain their mistake and the patient graciously accepting that it wasn’t intentional. This is rare though. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We must educate the society in general that no doctor who says “earlier doctors were wrong” or speaks ill of fellow practitioners can ever be a good doctor. The patient should first ask such a doctor “ Have you never been wrong?” and listen to the wise wordplay that follows! While we often blame patients who are arrogant, those who do not trust treating doctors, those who google-treat themselves, and in general bring stress to the medical practitioner, we must first also look inwards for our faults that have multiplied and amplified such perceptions by the society.
What hurts me most is that this is almost exclusively an Indian phenomenon.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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“Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You)

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the plane landed, I called up the driver who was scheduled to pick me up from Goa airport.

“Hullo, Mr. Clement? I’m Dr. Rajas”

“Haan daktar. Tu aaya kya? Bahar nikalke miss call de mai ayega” (Have you arrived? Come out and give me a missed call, I will come there”) . He would have said the same sentence to the President as well. Goans are least hung up on artificial flowery language, they are the friendliest lot as a society. It was after a year, that the same Clement said to me: “Tere liye apun jaan bhi dega parwa nai” (“I can give my life away for you without any hassles”), when I thanked him for something.

Goa has some excellent Neurologists, and my visiting is actually redundant. Yet somehow, maybe because they keep quite busy, or sometimes patients seek a second opinion, I have been seeing a good number of patients every visit. In the very first visit, after I saw an elderly lady and explained her the treatment, she bowed and said “Dev Borem Korum Doctor”. That means “Thank You Doctor”.

Then I pleasantly noticed: irrespective of what was the diagnosis, what treatment was given, whether there was treatment for the patient’s condition or not, whether the patient improved or not, almost every patient said either “Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You) or “God Bless You Doctor”. Even if surgery was advised, even if there were side effects of medicines, even if the outcome was not as expected in rare cases, the “Thank You”and “God Bless You” never changed. It had nothing to do with any particular social class. The rich, the poor, the educated as well as the uneducated, people from every religion, every age group said it. It is a part of that culture: the Goan culture.

Late one night after the OPD, when we were driving on a beautiful long empty Goa road near the beach, I mentioned this fact to my friend Dr. Samuel (God Bless Him for the exotic dinners he takes me to!), he stopped his car and looked quite affected. “I wondered whether anyone else had noticed that. It feels so beautiful! When the patient is grateful and brings you blessings, you automatically feel responsible to do the best for them. Money never matters in that relationship. We must never take patient’s kindness for granted. So many of them actually say Thank You, God Bless you, but sometimes we are too preoccupied with work, anger, ego and other things to reciprocate and encourage that kindness”.

I told him about my late Professor Dr. Sorab Bhabha, who stood up and greeted every time a patient entered or left his cabin. The onus of initiating a good doctor-patient relationship primarily lies upon the doctor, and it is extremely essential to follow the best of manners and etiquette, kindest of language when dealing with patients.

A very sweet girl who followed up for epilepsy recently told me that she visited me not only for medical purpose but because she was inspired by the way I appear calm and composed, the fact that I never raised my voice and always spoke compassionately with everyone. I had to tell her the truth. “Thank you mam, but I am quite short tempered outside the hospital. Even the junior doctors working with me sometimes find me intimidating. But I have to change when I am with a patient. I don’t think that any patient comes to me because I am any better than anyone else in the profession. I prefer to think that they choose me because they trust I can solve their problem. Will you be rude to someone seeking your help? Then how can I get angry with a patient? Every patient coming to me has that hidden trust, which I must justify. Only rarely, if the patient misbehaves or says something insulting, do I lose my calm.”.

“That’s what I like. So humble!” she had to have the last word!

Yes! The day I bring my ego inside the hospital, I will no more be a good doctor. Even the most illiterate patient understands when the doctor is being rude or artificial. Only when it is genuine, the patient will feel the warmth of my compassion and care. It has nothing to do with sweet talking or a show of affection. The only way to do this is to actually incorporate it within one’s depths so that it becomes one’s originality. Kindness and compassion must be the original, genuine qualities of every doctor who expects gratitude from each one of his patients. It does work in most cases.

After dinner, Dr. Sam took me with two other friends to the beach and we silently stared at the luminous moon for a long time. The music of those waves matched the dance of that moonlight upon the ocean. Just as one can feel the glow of the moonlight upon one’s skin, I could feel those numerous blessings keeping my soul warm and happy.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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A Rare Case, Rarer Diagnosis

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He lost his ability to walk. He had to give up working. He was carried around by family members. His spine had to be operated. Still he couldn’t walk. He didn’t lose hope. He kept smiling, searching for treatments. His legs had become completely stiff like wooden logs, and they jerked violently even with the slightest movement, even if someone touched them. He couldn’t separate his legs apart. He had to use pain killers that would cause acidity, and muscle relaxants that caused lethargy and drowsiness. All this usually depresses most patients, and some lose their patience with life.

But not Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil. He was tougher than his problems.

“I never thought my illness was anyone else’s fault. I didn’t want to exploit sympathy by complaining about my troubles. I decided to accept my illness to fight it better. I wouldn’t tell my family about my suffering. They were always ready to help, but I changed my lifestyle and needs to suit my condition. They had their life too, I did not want to make it bitter with my troubles” said Mr. Patil, a school teacher from a small village Takarkhela in Jalgaon, recalling his struggle.

His son Girish told me “Baba never raised his voice or got angry with us. Even when there was extreme pain and disability, he chose to take rest and keep smiling. He continued to do what he could, and only needed our help when he couldn’t even stand up”.

After over eight years of this agony, Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil had another major problem. His disc in the lower spine slipped and caused immense pain. The stiffness and pain in his legs worsened, it was impossible for him to move. He underwent a spinal surgery. That relieved his pain and he could resume some movement, but his earlier woes continued.

Two years ago, one of his blood tests revealed that he had an extremely rare disease called “Stiff Person Syndrome”. Due to a defect in the immune system, there was damage in his spinal cord, which caused the stiffness in his lower body. He was given controlled doses of steroids under supervision to reduce the activity of his immune system. There was a dramatic improvement: now he walks comfortably without assistance, and has resumed his full time job of a teacher.

Today he had come for a follow up. When I asked him permission for sharing his story of amazing courage and hope, he smiled and said “Every patient must understand that they must accept the illness first to be able to fight it. One must never lose hope. I found an answer after over 8 years of not knowing my diagnosis. Some doctors had told me that my problem was psychological, that it was due to stress. I knew it was not, so I did not give up. The reward of my hope is that I can walk today”.

We often get to learn from our patients. Hope is indeed an amazing prerequisite of a good life. We congratulate Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil for his exemplary grit and pray for his best health always!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PC Aniket Yadav

When Money Rained In Our Hospital

When Money Rained In Our Hospital

©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

On a beautiful September midnight, I was studying in the medical college library, as the exam term had started. It was that pre-exam phase when the futility, cruelty, and stupidity of exam system hurts most, and new poetry starts stemming in one’s brain when trying to study difficult medical concepts. But that night was a pleasant exception. My gorgeous tall colleague with curly hair was besides me in the library. She had come in from a famous private hospital in Mumbai for studying with me (seriously), and I was drenched in the pleasure of her company, because we got along very well together. We divided topics, studied and taught each other, the whole process made learning Neurology so much more beautiful! She was brilliant and madder than me in her attempts to “know everything”about what we studied. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

At about 2 AM, we went out for a small ride on my Yamaha RX100 to Dadar station, where a tea vendor on a bicycle used to serve a tea that could possibly wake up dead brains. It was raining lightly, and the whole atmosphere was filled up with a sort of Kenny G’s ‘Songbird’. She sat huddled behind me on the bike, as we sipped tea in the silence of that atmosphere. It was more beautiful than anything we could speak.

Just then, the cellphone rang. I was on call, there was some emergency. Thanks to the RX100, I reached hospital campus in nearly three minutes. I dropped my friend at the library, and went towards the casualty. There was a huge crowd. Many patients were being brought in, some severely injured, some unconscious, most bleeding, crying and shocked. The atmosphere was filled with anger and wails of relatives frantically seeking medical help for their patients. Manyresident doctors from different specialties were trying to deal with the situation.

A building under construction near the hospital had collapsed. Over 8 labourers sleeping there had died, many were badly injured. Sirens kept sounding as ambulances brought new cases. Just then, a different siren sounded, with a lot of police whistles. A local elected politician had come in his red-light car, surrounded by bodyguards. The seniormost doctor was summoned by the authorities acompanying the politico. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Make sure everybody gets the right treatment. Don’t let any complaint arise. Keep mum, we will provide all the help you need” the Politico told the casualty in charge.

“But Sir we do not have enough beds or staff to handle this. Many will need blood, antibiotics which we have long ago requested but we havent received yet” the casualty in-charge said.

“Just shut up and give a list of what is required right now, we will arrange. Make sure that media is not allowed inside the hospital” said the Politico.

Then he gestured his assistant, who opened a bag and pulled out bundles of 1000 rupees notes. The politico went from bed to bed of the injured and the dead, placed one note in the hand of the patient or the relative, and whispered “I am with you. Don’t worry. We have ordered the hospital to treat you completely free. If you need anything please tell me directly. Don’t speak with anyone else”. If anyone spoke angrily, a few more notes were thrusted in their hands.

One elderly labourer, whose son was unconscios and bleeding with a head injury, started shouting “They killed my son. We had told them that building was unsafe. They forced him to stay there. I will go to the police”etc. The politico’s assistants took him aside, and whispered something in his ear. He returned sobbing, but he did not shout anymore. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The next day, there were headlines. They covered the pictures of the rubble of the building, the dead bodies, the injured, the shocked relatives, and the patients in the hospital. They wrote praises about how the local politico rushed and helped the victims, again with pictures. There was no mention of the efforts made by the doctors who had saved many lives that night. But what was most shocking was that there never was any mention of whose building it was, who was responsible for the gross neglect in safety precautions, who owned the construction. Many had died, many were injured, but there was no blaming anyone. A case was apparently filed with the police, but no labourer came forward to complain. Money chokes many a throat, poverty sometimes desperately seeks that choke.

Thousands of people, especially the poor and helpless, die in India almost every day due to the gross inadequacies and negligence of many authorities: transport, travel, aviation, road safety, building construction, food quality, school health are areas where there are glaring blunders sometimes costing people their lives. Traffic accidents are conveniently blamed upon drivers. Unclean food, drugs being licensed are a horrible reality. Mosquitoes and malaria, dengue cause hundreds of deaths every month. Yet no press is seen “investigating” where to pin the blame. No court orders suo moto enquiries in traffic accidents of bridge / construction collapses that kill many. Railway accidents are considered an ill fate. Those victims who raise voice against this probably face the threat of never receiving the compensation or financial aid. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Except when someone dies in a hospital, however serious they may have been. Then the whole world knows who to blame, punish or exploit. If a doctor or hospital had committed a mistake, the headlines would be totally different. The names of doctors who spent a lifetime saving lives would be painted in black within a moment, they would be labelled villains and murderers!

I could only meet my friend three nights later. When I told her the details of how money rained, she uttered a word about that politico. A word that was shocking, but perfect. I told you, we got along very well together! Of the many beautiful nocturnal rides and adventures in my life, the memories of that one night when money rained in my hospital come back to haunt me everytime I read of a new tragedy that kills people due to someone’s fault. What happens later is still the same though. Nothing has changed.

©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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