Category Archives: Healthcare India

That Order To “Stop Saving Life”..

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Arrest! Sir… Code Blue!” the nurse shouted. The casualty was full, all eight beds had serious patients, and their relatives waited near them. Every second matters.

“Everyone out” my co-intern shouted. Some moved out, some stayed. Two other interns were already attending similar patients, two of us ran to the arrested patient. The nurse had already started the chest massage. I gave patient the position for inserting the breathing tube, as my co-intern Dr. Ajoy took over the cardiac massage. The senior medical officer, Dr. Hazare, experienced with a lot of medical wisdom, stood near the bed. He calmly gave orders for the last-attempt medicines in such emergencies.

The chest massage to save lives is rather forceful, its force has to reach the heart. The chest wall has to be pumped down 2-2.5 inches with every compression, and this has to be real fast: over 100 times a minute. It looks very traumatic, but it is useless if not done exactly like this. It is quite a disturbing scene for the relatives. The patient’s son kept on shouting “Don’t hurt him” loudly. The medical officer repeatedly asked him and the five relatives around the patient to leave. They refused.

The Medical Officer Dr. Hazare then asked us to stop the CPR. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We were baffled. How could one stop the life saving CPR?

The patient who had arrested was from a nearby slum, father of a local goon out on bail, like most goons in India. He (the patient) was in his late fifties, a chronic alcoholic and smoker, with severe liver damage. He’d had excess alcohol on the prior night. That morning, he had had a convulsion, and was brought to the casualty after many hours of delay . An arrogant, drunk, politically supported crowd posing as relatives accompanied him, a common nuisance in almost every Indian hospital.

We continued the CPR. Dr. Hazare went out.

After a direct injection of adrenaline into the heart through the chest, the patient’s heart restarted, and he started to gasp, making some movements. We quickly shifted him to the ICU. The proud feeling of saving a life gripped us. There was no time for celebration, but Dr. Ajoy kept whistling on the way for our midnight tea.

Later that night, Dr. Hazare called us. He was angry, yet calm and smiling, an ability that only the most evolved souls can have.

“Listen, we are in India. Most of the people around us are not only uneducated and ignorant, they are also quite violent and paranoid. Emotional dramas are considered a normalcy. There’s a tendency to shift the blame of delayed treatment and bad outcomes on to the doctors. You were risking your life. If the patient’s heart had not restarted, the relatives could have blamed you, even hurt you”.

“But Sir, they saw that we were desperately trying to save the patient’s life” I argued.

“YOU think so. They don’t know anything about the CPR. They refused to go out. You saw how arrogant they are. These things work only when the outcome is good. If the outcome is bad, the doctor is automatically held guilty. I told you, we are in India. People like to think that doctors are wrong, whatever you do. ” Dr. Hazare said. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We didn’t think he was right. Still, we respected him for his wisdom, so we just apologised and went on to deal with the casualty again. It was a busy night, still a very negative feeling about what Dr. Hazare had said kept shadowing my thoughts. How could such a senior doctor ask someone to stop CPR?

Dr. Ajoy went to his room at 5 AM and returned by 7 AM to relieve me. I went home at 7 AM, had a quick bath and breakfast, to return at 9 AM.

The casualty was all devastated, ruins were seen all around. Many doctors were rushing in and out. All beds were empty except one.

Dr. Ajoy was on that casualty bed, unconscious, intubated and with blood soaked bandages on his head. He had many cuts on his entire body. Our colleagues were trying to push intravenous fluids fast into his veins. Dr. Anirudh, another intern with us, told me even as he could not stop crying: “That patient we had resuscitated yesterday evening… he had another cardiac arrest in the ICU this morning… his relatives came down and attacked Ajoy. They said that the patient died because of the forceful CPR. They stabbed Ajay and hit his head with iron rods. Dr. Hazare came and tried to rescue Ajoy, they even attacked him. We were waiting for you. Do you have his parent’s contact?”.

In a state of shock, I could not speak. I reached out for my bag, got my diary and called Dr. Ajoy’s father in Calcutta.

“Why?” Dr. Ajoy’s shocked father asked when I told him Ajoy was attacked, injured and serious. How could the father of a thin built, cute, brilliant scholar ever understand that people could brutally attack his child for trying to save their loved one?

I had no answers. Dr. Hazare’s sentences kept ringing in my brain, I could not utter them. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Eventually, Dr. Ajoy recovered. He is now in the UK. His father came over last week, for a check-up. While leaving, he kept his gracious hand upon my head and said with immense love: “Save many lives beta, but take care of yourself first. I still cannot sleep well due to what happened”.

That night, I stared at the sky, and kept thinking: Actually, this is why no doctor ever sleeps well in India. Saving lives comes with the inherent risk of losing one’s own, and this happens only in our beloved motherland.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Real Vertigo

(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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The Sensitive Girlfriend and The Monster

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“She is oversensitive, Doc. I try to explain to her that this is so dangerous, yet she does not want to change, and continues to suffer” said the boyfriend.

As a doctor, I am expected to be sensitive. I cannot be a phony and pretend to be sensitive while not being so. Fortunately, life and times, parents and teachers have always insisted that I remain sensitive to the core. I think that is one of the most precious quality any human being can have after peace. Naturally, I am biased towards the sensitive.

However, there is a big difference between the ‘hysterical, dramatizing’ ones and the truly sensitive.

“Can you give me an example?” I asked him, as the girl looked at him curiously.

“Yes” he said, “Her boss keeps on saying demeaning things to everyone, and she almost always comes home hurt. Even if I comment anything adverse, she gets hurt easily. Like yesterday I told her that she should be more practical and instead of asking to spend time with me, do something of her own. We had a great fight after that”.

“What were you doing when she asked this?” I asked him.

“Oh I was at home, relaxing, as I was tired from work” he said, cautiously.

His girlfriend smiled “Doc, he was playing games on his cellphone. I was tired after work too, but he refuses to spend quality time with me as he is now almost addicted to social media and games. The only time he wants me is when he is hungry”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I saw at once what was happening. I was myself quite addicted to social media once, but now I have started to de-addict myself. It is indeed difficult, but for a doctor it is quite essential, nay, life-saving. My patient’s life and health depend upon the accuracy an wisdom of my decisions, and that is possible with only a hundred percent concentration. But that wasn’t what bothered me here.

I have been told umpteen times by people in the ‘business’ that “sensitivity and kindness” comes in the way of making money and other professional goals, that people skin and eat you alive so long as you allow them to exploit your sensitive nature. ‘Sensitivity’ to other people’s feelings is considered a weakness in most business circles, and right from the student days, we meet people who take advantage when you respect their feelings. This ranges from exploiting those who are mannerful, helpful, and kind, to creating a deliberate emotional disturbance for the competitor during a competition. Surprisingly, this is taken as a normal strategy even in such a gentleman’s game as cricket.

I could not find it in myself to be insensitive to how others feel. I could not switch on and off my emotional responses and sensitivity. Yet, I never felt that it was a shortcoming or a weakness. In fact, most of the patients I connected best with have told me that they find it very reassuring when a doctor is sensitive. Hence I devised a personal strategy: to keep away the advantage takers, the drama people, the insensitive robots who are only after money without caring about the feelings of others around them. Observe behavior rather than words, and you know a person well. This helped me quite a lot. I earn a little less than I would want, but I think that is a universal feeling, and that is never the prime aim of life.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

It made my life beautiful. Sensitive people bring much positivity, trust, faith and contribute significantly to the inner peace of others. With them around you are assured that you will not be deceived, not taken advantage of. That brings you the highest luxury upon earth: peace of mind.

Most bosses work on the perpetual Indian Corporate Philosophy “Unless you squeeze and crush, there’s no juice”. Employees at all levels are overburdened, asked to do a lot more than their job profile, forced to finish within insane deadlines and still treated like they are easily disposable. Employee health, physical or mental, is never the concern of any boss. A fault-finding, comparing, humiliating language is usually what bosses prefer and most employees accept. This builds up a culture of rudeness that is now accepted as a ‘reality and normalcy’ of any business. Very few honorable bosses treat their employees according to their sensitivity to enhance productivity. I wonder if Human Rights commissions or agencies, federal or private, ever notice this.

I asked the girlfriend if she wanted to contribute. She said she understood that he was stressed, but she worried about a ‘mental disconnection’ so common now because of digital addiction, and wanted to destress him by making him laugh and feel loved. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“I want a mental bonding with him and that is not happening, as almost all the time he is home he is occupied with his cellphone. In fact, doc, when we started dating, he used to tell me that my sensitivity attracted him most, he thought I could best nourish his soul” said the tearful lady.

I explained to the boyfriend that sensitivity, so long as it does not impair normal functioning, is a very precious attribute, that he was extremely fortunate that she was sensitive rather than insensitive. To consider her “right to companionship, dedicated time together” as an unnecessary ritual, because he wanted more time for social media browsing and gaming was the actual problem. In these days of equality, to “want her to be sensitive and enthusiastic” only as per his convenience was an unfair expectation. He assured me that he will make an effort to implement a few changes in his routine. I thanked him for accepting reason.

As they left, a fairy-like young girl of about 7 years walked in with posh parents. Her mother kept looking into the cellphone, and her father started to tell me about his continuous headache. Like every normal child, the kid pointed at my stethoscope and said she wanted it. Just before I could allow her, her father shouted at her.

“No” said the angry father, and looked at her mother with an expectation. The mother kept on looking into her cellphone. Then the father thrust his own cellphone on the hands of the kid and said “Here. Play your game, I need to talk to the doctor”.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

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Doctor Abuse: A Medical Specialty

© 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.

Happy Doctoring!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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A Soldier’s Real Pain

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

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

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

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

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

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

Then he kept the album down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Hope-Milking: An Ugly Medical Curse

© 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.

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© 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!

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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A Dark Corner In My Medical Life

A Dark Corner In My Medical Life

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, she is becoming unconscious many times since last night” said the worried husband Mr. Robert Jolly, “even since today morning, she went blank twice”.

The young Mr. & Mrs. Jolly couple was married two years ago, and both worked high-profile. Mrs. Shona Jolly reportedly never had such problems in the past, as confirmed by her mother. Just as I was asking them questions, her neck turned towards one side and she appeared to have become unconscious again. The terrifeid Mr. Jolly tried to wake her up. I asked him to step aside and checked her pulse and heart. Everything appeared fine, but she did not open eyes.

However, while I checked her, Mr. Robert Jolly’s peeping over my shoulder annoyed me, but what really surprised me was the indifference with which Mrs. Shona’s mother was standing aside, calmly watching her unconscious daughter and panicked son in law. We neurologists learn after a long experience how to differentiate whether the patient is truly unconscious or just faking it.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We are not always right, sometimes the patients indeed have unexplainable symptoms or behavior. So we try to refrain from jumping to early conclusions. I explained them that we needed to run some tests before we could finalise the diagnosis. Mrs. Shona was admitted. The husband Mr. Robert shadowed her 24/7. As the MRI, EEG and almost all other tests turned out normal, I reviewed the case and examined her again. Everything was normal. Now was the time to ask her some private questions.

“May I ask her some questions in privacy?” I asked Mr. Robert.

“”Doc, we hide nothing from each other. I am sure she won’t mind if I stay here”, he said, and looked at Mrs. Shona.

Smiling heartily, she repied “yes doc, you can ask me anything. I don’t hide anything from my husband”.

I told her that as all the tests were normal, we had to look at the possibility of psychological factors like stress, depression or personality disorders etc. , which could cause some of the symptoms she had.

“Oh no no, not at all. I am very happy, I have no stress at home or workplace. I am sure doc, this is not psychological” Mrs. Shona replied. We then had two more opinions by senior consultants. They too did not find anything abnormal. Her “attacks”continued.

On the third day, outside the ward, patient’s mother waited in the corridor, where the couple couldn’t see her. She gestured to me, and whispered hastily “Sir, I am Shona’s mother. Please refer her to a psychiatrist or a counsellor. She has had similar problem in her past, and had felt better after a psychiatrist treated her”.

This was difficult. How could I pressurise the highly educated Mrs. Shona to visit a counsellor / psychiatrist? As her husband continuously accompanied her, it would also be unfair to refer to her past illness in front of him.

I asked Mrs. Shona cautiously: “I feel at this stage we must also involve a counselor, and request her opinion about what is happening”. They both agreed, and I sent her to a counselor. Next day, I received a feedback from the counselor: that the patient definitely needs to visit a psychiatrist. I told Mrs. Shona again that I wanted to speak with her in privacy.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

She quite emphatically said “Whatever it is, Doc, please say it in front of my husband”. Then I told her about the feedback from the counselor.

They went to a psychiatrist suggested by the counselor. She was diagnosed with a condition, and when they followed up to inform me, her mother disclosed in front of Mr. Robert Jolly that Mrs. Shona had been diagnosed and treated earlier for the same. She also guiltily mentioned to Mr. Robert that Shona had threatened her parents that she would cut them off in case they ever spoke about her illness to him or his family.

Once her treatment started, she improved. In a shocking turn of events, Mr. Robert Jolly chose to file for a divorce. Six monts later, I received a bitter letter from Mrs. Shona : that I had not been fair to her because I had referred her to a psychiatrist in front of her husband, that I should have kept her illness confidential and hidden from her husband. She even went on to say that in a way I was responsible for her divorce.

I had done nothing wrong, but this was indeed an emotional blow.

Patients often confess to their doctors what they hide from even their closest family members. This includes many things unacceptable to the society: drug consumption, visits to commercial sex workers, abnormal thoughts and behavior including violence, confessions about the past, extramarital affairs, porn addictions, abuse, abortions and even some diseases like AIDS, Tuberculosis and psychiatric issues as mentioned above. In the extremely orthodox and prejudiced society that we live in, even the legal, moral boundaries of what constitutes private information in such cases are not clearly defined. A husband or parents are automatically presumed to “own”the patient and every bit of information related to the patient, directly questioning the doctor and refusing to follow simple courtesies, manners or etiquettes towards their own family members. There are no presets / guidelines about privacy especially related to women or children.

A doctor’s job becomes all the more difficult when dealing with aggressive, litigant, blame-game prone patients and relatives, from both high and low educated classes. One must treat such cases extremely carefully, and our medical bodies must form strict criteria about patient information privacy that cannot be violated by even their family members.

I kept feeling sad and somewhat guilty about what had happened. But that is also what a doctor must learn to digest. One more dark corner of a doctor’s daily life.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Most Precious Jewels Upon Earth

© 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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Doctor Arrested. Patient Died. Who’s Guilty?

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor arrested. Patient died due to a wrong surgery”.

The black headline was shining. There was a file photo of the accused doctor, and angry, crying relatives. Sad and angry, I read through the news that did not affect me directly, yet knowing that every patient who read that news will go further away from their doctor. The already delicate and dying bond will die a little more.

Is it enough to punish this doctor?

Who all is guilty here?

The parents who forced him to become a doctor because they couldn’t?

The corrupt educational boards which allowed leaking papers and increasing marks so the student could get a medical admission? (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The politicians who made it possible for even the undeserving, low-aptitude students (which has nothing to do with one’s caste or religion: it’s more to do with money and power) to become doctors and play with patient’s lives?

The governments who allowed the “Medical Business” by establishment of substandard medical colleges owned by the rich and powerful, to sell medical degrees? The managements of such substandard institutes who chose the “low”quality teachers who agreed to work at low salaries and tolerate all humiliation? The teachers who didn’t care how their student was trained? (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The medical councils which ignored the ‘temporary’arrangements made by such substandard institutes to just ‘Pass the Inspection’, never providing students with adequate education or experience?

The medical policy makers who made theoretical, mcq-type education more important than clinical training?

The offices of law which ignored the repeated applications and complaints of good students from such institutions about incompleteness of educational facilities?

The Universities that allow ‘manipulation’ of medical exam passing under influence of money or power?

Or the politics of allowing cross-specialty practice without adequate training, the ‘jump-over to any pathy’ decisions to please vote banks?

Or the corporate hospitals who prefer such “substandard” doctors because they can work at lowest payments? Aggressive and “market oriented” junior doctors are preferred by many commercial-headed hospitals over those with best academics and clinical knowledge. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is indeed a reality that some doctors cannot speak a straight sentence, some cannot spell medicine names correctly, some treat even what is not their qualification skill, and some substitute knowledge with style, overconfidence and sweet talking. At various stages in their career, there are teachers who have tried to correct them, but in these unfortunate times of “pleasing one and all” including students, it is quite difficult to ‘mentally’ train a doctor to be good and perfect.

If only the doctor mentioned above is punished, leaving all others above without correction, then it will be a classic example of example of medical negligence and injustice. It will be like treating only the heart attack without treating the blood pressure and diabetes which cause that heart attack. We know the outcome in such cases.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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