Category Archives: Indian Doctor

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

The Remedy of Trust

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I entered the ICU in a torn and angry frame of mind. An old patient had had fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure all night, and was on the thin line between life and death. Irregular heart beats had clotted his blood and he had developed a paralysis.

I had had a terrible argument with family that morning, and had left home without a breakfast, thinking that I will catch up in the canteen if hungry. The traffic on the way was as usual bad, it further worsened my mood. Messages kept pouring in: pending bills and health enquiries that were an attempt to avoid a proper consultation. One can ignore, but sometimes ignoring is stressful too!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As I entered the hospital, I was told about some machine not working. The technician had commented that it was beyond repair now. New one would cost over 30 lacs minimum, and this machine was required on a daily basis. My head started pounding. Another loan now, another recovery period!

As I passed the billing counter, an imposing rogue with a group stopped me. “Sir, the bill is too high, do something”. It was an open threat worded technically as a request. The relatives who folded hands to save the patient till yesterday were standing behind that rogue, looking unconcerned, not even happy that the patient was alive and being discharged after a life threatening illness. I sent them to the charity cell.

I entered the ICU, staring into my cellphone where angry messages of argument kept pouring in, a dear friend was upset that I was not available to see his relatives in another hospital immediately. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The old patient was sleeping. A glance at the monitor revealed that the patient’s BP was now stable. His heart rate was regular too. What a relief!

The patient’s wife got up, she was in her 80s. Fair, all white hair, and the confidence of culture upon her face, she smiled through her wrinkles and troubles. The Kumkum on her forehead was bright and fresh. She wore a torn saree, and had no ornaments except a thin thread with black beads that made her Mangalsutra. She was bending forward due to age.

She then said “He spoke to me this morning. He is feeling better than yesterday. I know he is old, but please give him the best treatment. We have been together since childhood.” Her eyes became wet.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Then she made an attempt to touch my feet, something that woke me up with a shock. A tingling feeling ran through my body. I held her hand and reassured her that it was ok, and returned the gesture by touching her feet too. I told her I will try my best, and that her husband appeared out of danger at that moment.

She gently prodded the patient: “Look, our doctor is here. He says you are getting better. Do you recognize our doctor? Say Namaskar to him”.

Confused for a moment, the old man stared first at his wife, then at me.

He then tried to lift both hands, but only one went up, which he raised to his forehead and whispered “Namaskar”.

The old couple, the age of my parents, was saying Namaskar to me and touching my feet, although I was many decades younger to them, because I was a Doctor. They never knew me until two days ago, but had trusted everything I said. They did not question my ability or intention. I like to be professional, but that should never compromise my manners.

I switched off my cellphone.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I suddenly felt ashamed of the mood that I was in. They did not deserve it. Their complete faith was to me the best return and reward of my efforts of so many years to become a good doctor. No amount of money ‘thrown at me’ by those who think of ‘buying my services’ would actually be my interest or aim. This was.

I smiled at the old lady, and told her that should she have any concerns, she can ask the staff to call me anytime, I would be glad to come over. Then, to repay her for bringing my smile back, I wrote on the billing sheet: “No charges for me in this case”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When I walked out of the ICU, I was feeling proud and smiling. The faith of this patient and his wife had cured me of my bad mood too. I was prepared again to forget my personal woes, to take over the faithless hundreds, still do them good, in an attempt to reach out to the really deserving faithful, who knew their doctor would only do them good. That is the essence of my profession, my education, and my intention.

A patient who trusts a doctor earns for himself the best in that doctor. Always. Although we do not expect it to be understood by everyone.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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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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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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