Category Archives: neurology

An Interview With a Neurology Legend

An Interview With a Neurology Legend

Dr. Satish Khadilkar

MD, DM, DNBE, FIAN, FICP, FAMS, FRCP (London)

Dean and Professor and Head, Department of Neurology,

Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences, Mumbai.

He is a living legend, one of the best neurologists anywhere, a stunning example of what an ideal doctor should be like.

He needs no introduction to those in the medical world: he has carved his golden name in global neurosciences with his passion for Neurology and especially NeuroMuscular diseases, pioneering this specialty in India. I am grateful to Dr. Satish Khadilkar for agreeing to guide us all.

Q: How does it feel at the top?

A: Grateful to life!

In the health pyramid, ‘top’ really means ‘more useful’! And there are at least three parts to being useful: providing service, teaching and conducting research. Indeed, I am grateful to life for having provided me with the opportunities to be useful to colleagues and disease sufferers in all the three spheres.

Q: What are the most essential qualities that a doctor must possess?

A: As mentioned above; service, teaching and research are the three main pillars of medical careers. Each of these requires different virtues. Service requires patience, availability, affordability and the capacity to empathize with the sufferers. Teaching requires clarity of ideas and the ability to be inspirational to the new entrants and younger colleagues. And research requires an analytical mind to understand questions, be unbiased to design experiments in search of the answer.

Depending upon which field you choose, relevant qualities will need to be enhanced. In my mind now, as I have gone on, service has emerged as the noblest frontier for the medicine man. So the essential qualities are compassion, knowledge and the desire to help.

Q: What do you suggest we do to improve the clinical sense among newer generations of doctors?

A: Simple answer: bedside clinics by masters of clinical medicine and shadowing them to see how they utilize the limited resources.

Q: How do you deal with the ever widening knowledgebase while effectively practising as one of the busiest practitioners in the country?

A: Knowledge is of two types, one to know it yourself and the other, to know where to find it! In the present times; we have moved on to the second mode. The great thing about this era is that knowledge is freely available. We only need to develop the ability to design the search to get rapid answers to our questions. There are courses available to this effect.

While this is true for problem-based daily issues, in one’s own area of interest, one has to acquire all the manuscripts and threadbare them, assimilate them and understand them, for deeper knowledge.

Q: How do you handle the incessant negativity which doctors face while dealing with so many incurable conditions and gradually deteriorating patients?

A: Negativity in the doctor’s mind stems from the perceived personal inability to help or to provide solutions. Doctors need to appreciate that their role is limited to being knowledgeable helpers. If we keep in mind the inadequacies of medicine as a science and our restricted role, negativity is less likely to take roots.

Q: What is your take on making holidays, vacation compulsory for doctors to overcome stress?

A: Personally, I do not see the need to take holidays, as my daily work itself is a never ending holiday! I do not remember taking a holiday in last three decades. The better you gel with your work, less it stresses you and less is the need to break.

Having said that, as our work relates to human life, we have to make sure that we take adequate rest and are “on the top of our game” for the hours that we work, as our shortcomings can have consequences.

Q: What advice will you give about handling family responsibilities and duties to the new generation doctors?

A: Human relationships take very long to build and only one indiscretion is enough to undo these. So, in relationships and family, equal attention needs to be given, as you would in your profession. In today’s competitive India, we tend to take the family granted and actually end up doing the least for those who matter most!

It is best to think of this early on while planning the professional career.

Q: What best can be done to stop the exodus of doctors from India?

A: Talented Indian doctors need to be appreciated by the society and the health system in India. System needs to be more humane and responsive to the doctors’ needs. Doctors also need to understand the process of medicine, its goals, trials and tribulations. Till this happens, we shall see movement to greener pastures, where this process has evolved better.

Q: Your guiding thoughts for future Indian Doctors?

A: Let us all remember that we are in medicine to help suffering people. That is the core of medicine. We are healers and scientists. If we don’t veer from this ideal and have patience, all material wants and requirements will automatically fall in place. So to understand medicine, one must never forget that this is the noblest of all professions. I have chosen its nobility as a guiding principle for myself. I found my solace in drowning myself deep in the vast oceans of knowledge about neuromuscular disorders and using it in the service of suffering multitudes.

©️Dr. Satish Khadilkar & Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Take me for granted

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

“Is your food more important than the patient?” asked a angry voice on the other end of the phone.

It was a Saturday night, about 11 PM, and I had already had a tough day. I had not had time for even lunch, my head was hurting already. I had known the patient for over five years, her husband wanted to “discuss something” urgently. I had requested him to call next day, honestly mentioning to him that I was on my way for dinner. That’s when he asked if food was more important than patient.

“No. Food is not important than the patient”, I said, “Please tell me.”

“Listen doc, today after dinner me and my wife had our usual walk in the society, when we met a neighbour who told us about a new herbal treatment for neurological patients. He said it worked like magic in paralysis cases and the cure was guaranteed. He had some extra bottles, but it is very costly. So we decided to call you and ask”.

“What is so urgent about it?”I asked.

“Not urgent, but we were both very excited and anxious, so we decided to call you and ask” He replied. I told him that that they were free to try anything they wanted, yet cautioned him to check the contents and then alone take any medicine.

I wasn’t angry.

The next morning, I had to visit a government office. There was a huge queue. By noon, as the queue extended, the officer got up and with a calm face went for his lunch, displaying a a sign “Lunch Hour”. I wasn’t angry.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I remembered the time when I had to visit a minister, a bigshot political leader for some issues about resident doctors. We had to repeatedly call for appointment, it was cancelled many times, then we were made to wait for hours, securitymen surrounded the elected representative, considered a public servant. Then at six he suddenly got up and left, quoting an urgent meeting. I wasn’t angry.

Because as a doctor I am perpetually alive to the fact that people take me for granted. That they will misuse compassion, avail of my private time for trivial reasons without feeling any guilt or compensating for it. That they will expect me to be sympathetic even with arrogant, abusive and blatant liars who treaten me with assault.

Because big ministers and political leaders who have a checkered past and disrepute of lying can openly make allegations that tarnishes the image of all doctors in the eyes of our “Election Elite Public”. Blanket allegations by many that accuse all doctors of indulging in malpractices and foreign tours or worse, ‘asking for women from pharma’ have become common.

Don’t these people know that thousands of most successful doctors in India are in fact women, and it is such a huge insult to those as well as the glorious careers of many thousand other medical professionals who live a life of an ideal doctor, who have trained millions of medical students successfully in that tradition?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

More than half of those in the parliament must have been successfully delivered by a qualified doctor, and most of them must have had their children brought up/ treated by expert doctors. Most politicos must be under the treatment of some or other specialist, so that they can work well, still they have this habit of “Attention seeking” by trying to disgrace the whole profession of best qualified people of their own country.

What ingratitude!

The other day I also saw a video of some sermon in some village, making fun of doctors and specialists. The religious speaker, who could have easily qualified as a stand up comedian, and had no clue what a doctor does and why, was making cheap fun of doctors. What was more alarming was the way public was laughing and clapping, thousands of them! I wondered how many of them, their family members were treated by some doctor, and how many of them remembered it. I can understand and enjoy jokes and fun. But this was maliciously criticising an entire profession of highly educated people serving India 24/7, inspite of the hate and paranoia that surrounds them, that too by a person without any medical background or qualification! Many comedians have actually gone beyond “graceful” and “quality” comedy to cheapest low levels to criticise doctors. Hope they meet good doctors who avoid head traumas at least when their children are born!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

You cannot and should not make fun of militarymen. That never means there cannot be anyone wrong in themilitary / army. But there’s a system to deal with that, it is not open for politicos, temporary ministers, and self proclaimed godmen / women / artists to criticise the military. The guilty must be punished, whether in any profession or service, and it should be done legally, and others should stop speaking about it. This should apply to the medical profession too. There indeed must be some doctors who are wrong, they must be dealt with, but we do not go out and blame everyone from other profession!

The most common allegation is about doctor’s handwriting. Well, if you have the guts and patience to listen to over 50 crying/ complaining people every day, while writing for them a “Scientific” list of medicines, which can save life or kill, without committing a single mistake, for decade after decade, then you are welcome for a handwriting challenge with doctors. Google the word “Scientific” and see how much of your speech is scientific before you speak abut doctors! For government hospitals, the daily patient number crosses 150 per doctor. Every prescription is a huge liability. If the chemist can read it and others cannot, who is illiterate?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I have seen the most artistic and best handwriting by doctors at all levels: students to specialists. Indeed, some doctors may have a bad handwriting, but in a country that has many illiterate leaders, some who never completed school or college, a society with one of the highest illiteracy rate in the world, it is such a paradox that they all have such a unity when laughing at doctors who write 40-200 pages every day, each page bringing back someone or other from suffering to relief, from death to life!

No amount of a leaders’ loud and chest thumping speech will ever save a patient from a heart attack or paralysis. No amount of comedy will take off the ventilator of a comatose patient in critical care unit. No poetry in beautiful handwriting will safely deliver a child. No political leader can stay awake in a casualty to treat a dying poor found injured on the road. All Doctors do this.

Still, I am not angry, because I have come to accept the fact that Indian society hates their most meritorious, studious children: the doctors.

Take me for granted, I am all yours.

For now.

An Indian Doctor, happy with his purpose of saving lives, reducing suffering of Patients from across the world, too busy to stand up and waste my anger on cheap attention seekers.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

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Diagnose This Indian Disease

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, we had gone to the UK” the patient’s husband was telling me, “What an advanced world that is! Extremely clean and very systematic! People are so well mannered, everyone is respectfully treated. So many facilities… and there’s no pollution at all! I think that world is at least thirty years ahead of us.”

His wife was an extremely complicated case of a subtype of Parkinson’s disease, under my treatment for over three years now.

“I agree”I replied, and I meant it, although it somehow felt sad about it.

“By the way, doc,” he continued hesitantly, “while we were there our son had taken an appointment with the best Neurologist there. Actually we had to pay 250 Pounds, but we thought we could use the opportunity to get a second opinion. We met the doctor there and showed your papers. He checked the patient and advised us to repeat all the tests. He confirmed the same diagnosis and asked us to continue the same medicines given by you, and said there’s nothing more to be done. I am sorry, we completely trust you, but our son insisted on a second opinion. Now we will continue to follow up with you”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I smiled and replied “I am absolutely not offended. A second opinion is a patient’s right and we all exist for the patient. I am happy that the neurologist there has agreed with the current diagnosis and treatment. The only problem is that you had to pay twenty three thousand rupees just for that one consultation ”.

“That was only for the consultation, doc! We paid separately for all the tests” his voice picked up.

Almost every patient who seeks medical care and treatment in the advanced world has experienced that things are easier, faster and cheaper in India when medical treatment is concerned. While Indian doctors may be equal to those in the western world, the technology definitely lags behind because of the red-tapism and taxation, the expectation of charity (and thereby socio-political misuse) from every investment. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

While the Western world is decades ahead of India, most medical specialists in India is at par with the western world, and are available at a far lower cost to almost everyone. Faster appointments, much faster turnout of investigations and reporting (probably the best in the world), diagnosis and treatment is something every Indian and especially administrations should be proud of. It takes months to get appointments with the specialist, for MRIs, and for treatments too in most cases outside India, so many from the advanced world actually travel to India for medical treatment. The costs are extremely high in most world, so are insurance premiums, and doctor’s salaries.

All the credit of this medical advance in India goes to the private medical practitioners and institutes, corporate hospitals. Yet most Indians speak in derogatory terms about them. Deliberate attempts of fault finding, accusations of greed and malpractice by politicians, society and media, allegations about medical colleagues by the dissatisfied, unsuccessful practitioners and seekers of quick fame, and an environment of perpetual mistrust and legal action has really made practising difficult for many Indian doctors. Still, we have the best turnaround time and accuracy at lowest costs. Some day someone sane in the administration will hopefully realise this.

When I handed over the prescription to the patient, the husband winked at me “Doctor, I am a pensioner old man. My son made me spend for all the medical in UK, as he had no insurance cover. Can you give us some senior citizen concession?”

Like every Indian doctor who accomodates every Indian patient, I did!

What do you call the condition where you do your best for someone, but the expectations of more never cease at the other end?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

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Lost and Saved Life: The Indian Puzzle

Mumbai Diary-2

Lost and Saved Life: The Indian Puzzle

© DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE

He had a sudden, severe chest pain, so he told his office-colleague so. The colleague first called his wife and alerted her “Bhabhiji please don’t panic, I am taking your husband to this hospital, please reach there as soon as possible and give me a call once you reach”.

The cab driver grasped the situation at once and drove as fast as he could. He prayed in his heart. Just a kilometre before the hospital, there was a huge mob blocking the road. A great leader was shouting aloud about his pride for his religion and patriotism, least aware that they were all blocking many children and mothers trying to reach home, patients and doctors trying to reach hospitals. The bought crowd was eagerly listening to the violence provoking words of this rich politician, also a convict and suspect in many crimes, There was less audience at the real places of God’s worship nowadays than at political speeches giving religious sermons, mixing them with the love for one’s nation!

The cabbie honked. Two monstrous looking goons peeped in his window and started abusing him insanely, least aware about the women and children around. The cabbie was abused first for his profession, then his language, and the state he had come from, threatened to be burnt alive along with family if he honked again when the ‘great’ leader was speaking.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The cabbie begged with folded hands: “Sirji forgive me, I accept my mistakes, but there’s a patient on the back seat. He looks serious, we must reach the hospital as quickly as possible. For god sake, let us go”.

One of the goons opened the back door and asked this patient his name. After he saw the chest-clutching patient almost gasping, they made way and allowed the cab to leave.

Now the patient had started profusely sweating. His face had turned bluish, and he was making efforts to even breathe well. He could not speak. As they entered the hospital, the patient’s friend noticed that the patient had stopped breathing.

He shouted in panic. The wardboy and the cabbie lifted the patient on a stretcher and ran towards the emergency room.

A frantic, fearful sound of thuds of the last heart massage was now heard, along with breaking of many glass syringes and instructions shouted by doctors and nurses. A tube to restart breathing artificially was inserted in the patient’s throat. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There was no one to cry for this patient there. His friend was sitting outside the emergency room, clutching his head, stunned. The cab driver had left without taking his bills. Religion and Patriotism stayed outside the hospital campus, they couldn’t save lives.

A young and dynamic heart specialist who had just returned to India saw the ECG of this patient. An urgent action was required. He called upon the patient’s friend to sign a consent.

The friend hesitated and refused. There were a lot of news every day everywhere about doctors fleecing patients, earning money by misuse of stents and surgeries. The friend no more believed in what this doctor told him.

“I don’t know. Wait till his wife arrives, she will be here in an hour”.

Every millisecond was crucial. The dynamic heart specialist called his medical director. “Sir, I take full responsibility for this case, he needs immediate action”. The medical director cautioned him: “Doc, if anything goes wrong, if the outcome is not good, they will file a murder case against you. Why do you want to risk your bright career at the very beginning? You must also think that you don’t have any political godfather”.

The doctor rushed the patient to the cathlab and inserted three stents in the patient’s heart, that resumed the normal blood flow to heart. The patient’s heart function returned to near normal in an hour. By the time the patient’s wife arrived, the lost life of the patient was brought back. The next day, the patient could breathe well by himself.

Now the most crucial puzzles: which state did the cabbie come from? What was the caste of this patient? To what country did the helpful friend belong? Why didn’t they go to the government hospitals run by those who criticise private doctors and hospitals? And lastly, what was the religion of the doctor who saved this patient risking his own life and career?

Any sane person with an ounce of humanity in his heart won’t ask these stupid questions. But some Indian leaders and their followers do. And it is very sad and unfortunate that the answers to these questions cannot be openly revealed in my beloved India.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Mumbai/ Pune

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Survival Of The Quickest

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This young and brilliant man, Adil Masalawala, suddenly appeared to have changed. His behaviour became different and unusual. He started mumbling and replying irrelevantly. He also had fever intermittently. His caring and worried wife Mrs. Venus consulted a physician who sent them to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist checked Adil and advised him admission. He started with some medicines, but suddenly Adil’s behaviour became hyper, his body started becoming stiff. Then he became drowsy, and his body started shaking violently. An MRI of the brain was reported normal. That’s when the psychiatrist advised a reference for neurologist.

When I first saw the patient, he had many features that could also be caused by side effects of some medicines. Sometimes it is impossible to conclude whether it is the disease or the medicine which is causing certain symptoms. I suggested that we stop all antipsychotic medicines. That could also be a dangerous decision. The family was counselled, and they agreed. Adil’s drowsiness improved, but he became very agitated, and his stiffness and shaking worsened.

There are many neurological diseases of the brain which start as abnormal behaviour. Strokes, some infections, tumors and swellings are examples of treatable, but there are many untreatable and dangerous conditions too. The only way was to urgently investigate the patient further. Although the family was baffled and panicked, Mrs. Venus expressed complete trust in our decisions, and allowed us to shift the patient to the ICU. I could not answer many of their questions, I did not clearly understand what exactly was happening, but this uncertainty and challenge is what medicine is all about.

There is fluid in and around the brain, which nourishes the brain and also acts as shock absorber between the skull bone and the brain. Many diseases like cancers and infections can be diagnosed by studying this fluid, which can be taken out by inserting a needle in the lower (lumbar) spine. We checked this fluid, and we got the first clue: that we were possibly dealing with a viral infection of the brain. Many more costly blood tests were required to find out which virus was causing this. The family clearly stated “Do whatever is needed in your opinion”. We sent the tests and found the answer: Adil had one of the most rare and dangerous viral infection of the brain, called Japanese Encephalitis.

About 30-40 percent of patients with this diagnosis do not survive. There is no definite treatment for this virus, but many of the manifestations can be treated and excessive care is required to avoid life threatening complications of the swelling that it can cause in the brain.

On the fourth day, Adil had convulsions. His condition worsened. We kept on treating each complication as fast as possible and tried to balance the effects and side effects of the many strong medicines that were being used to control convulsions, shaking, and the brain swelling. Besides knowledge, wisdom and experience, our major strength was the trust of patient’s family who never questioned any decisions.

Many patients who develop abnormal behaviour are mistreated as having a psychiatric problem. Most qualified psychiatrists are aware of the red flags and refer patients for a Neurologist’s opinion. However, a majority of patients with psychiatric problems in India are first taken to quacks, magic healers, mantrik-tantriks, who delay the whole process of correct evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. This leads to many deaths, and this is worst in case of cancers treatable in earlier stages.

False advertisements, some even approved by highly placed offices, celebrities and authorities attract people from all classes and cause severe delay in initiation of the correct scientific treatment. While our governments rightly pressurise allopaths to write generic medicines, they mostly turn a blind eye towards rampant misleading false advertisements claiming cures of incurable diseases and centers that flourish reaping from the hope of millions of illiterates.

We almost thought we had lost this case to a permanent disability. Adil’s body had become completely stiff, his memory had become unreliable to a great extent, and he had an incapacitating tremor. After a few days we could gradually stabilise his general condition and shift him out of the ICU. In a few weeks he was discharged, improving slowly. His family, especially his wife fought for his normalcy like a true warrior, and once he resumed his senses, Adil too made every possible effort to recover fast. One day after a few months, he was back to normal again, we declared him cured and fit, physically and mentally. He resumed his job.

Today after about ten years, Mr. Adil Masalawala and his wife Mrs. Venus came over for some trivial issue, and we recalled the horror that we went through and his victory over it. In this case, I thought it was the “Survival Of The Fastest” as the family did not waste any time in quacks, arguments, objections or mistrust, and let us doctors do the best for the patient in the fastest possible way. We are grateful to the family for this trust, and Adil’s survival and recovery itself is our reward. God bless the couple with a long and healthy life!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Real Story, Real Names, With Patient’s Express Permission. Grateful to Mr. Adil and Mrs. Venus for the permission to share the story of their victorious battle.

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Robodoc

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“The doctor wasn’t even replying. He didn’t answer my questions” the patient, an angry lady, told me about one of my colleagues. The patient’s husband sat besides her, expressionless.

I reviewed her case in detail. She had had varying complaints for over four years, mostly severe pain at various points on her body. When a patient has symptoms (complaints) grossly disproportionate to the signs (doctor’s findings), there always is a suspicion of ‘exaggeration’ or ‘lying’. This can happen involuntarily due to stress, depression or anxiety, or voluntarily usually for seeking attention. She had seen many specialists, and had received strong doses of almost all types of pain killers and other pain control medicines, still her response after every course was ‘zero relief’. That was definitely suspicious. I looked at her husband. He appeared tired and aloof, reluctant to participate in any discussion. I had to make him talk.

“Is she stressed? Have you noticed any change in her personality?” I asked them the question that usually opens the dreaded can of worms.

“I am fed up, doctor” said the husband, “She needs continuous attention. Since our marriage four years ago there’s never been a month when we did not visit a hospital. All doctors tell her to go to a psychiatrist, but she refuses. The moment I return from office she starts complaining about her health. I don’t know what to do now, I feel I am better out of my own home” he avoided looking at her.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

His wife started crying, and in a shrill voice, shouted at me “Why are you speaking with him, doc? I am your patient, speak to me. No one believes me. I am suffering so much!”

I assured her that I was going to help her sort out the issue. Once she calmed down, I was able to explain to her the way stress affects human mind and body, and that it was possible to get well soon. I told her that being stressed was not a “psychiatric illness” but an overworked, burdened state of mind that needs attention, and that it can often be cured by speaking with the right person. She asked me many questions. As a special case, I made an effort to reply to each one of them, even the irrelevant ones, sometimes repeatedly. She agreed to visit an excellent counsellor colleague of mine. She drastically improved in a month after the counsellor worked upon her. However, she came back with new complaints within two months. She visited me twice more, and each time cried a lot, then when I pacified her, asked the same long list of questions mixed with new ones.

My sympathy and compassion started waning. I have promised myself never to be rude to any patient ever, and I religiously follow that. Yet my patience was wavering now.

The more compassionate, patient, sympathetic a doctor becomes towards the patient and their family, the more it is taken for granted and misused. The doctor is then expected to be an unending source of “psychological support”, mentoring and motivating, and a punching bag or a cry-to teddy bear. While in a healthy doctor-patient relationship this compassionate attitude is natural and welcome, many doctors do not know when it starts growing upon them and stressing them out. It is not easy to listen to a continuous flow of medical symptomatology especially wrapped in negative emotions. While positive outcomes do bring back life into a doctor’s motivation to do better and more, this expectation to be a listener of all sorrows until the storyteller is satisfied is unnatural and impractical. It tells upon the doctor’s health. This is now happening in almost all specialties, and wise doctors are learning to separate patients into “whimpering, chronically-dissatisfied-with-everything storytellers” versus patients with genuine medical, surgical and psychiatric issues. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

To concentrate upon what can be corrected, to treat what is possible should be the right priority, and here’s where a doctor’s compassion, sympathy and patience are best employed. To expect a doctor to resolve issues like ‘Swabhav’ (inherent nature) of a human being is wrong. A doctor also cannot solve the root causes of stress like poverty, unemployment, interpersonal incompatibility, overambitious, over-expectant personality or attention seeking. Many patients and families expect the doctor to resolve ‘every minor issue’ related to ageing, refusing to accept that resuming complete normalcy of health is impossible after a certain age, especially with some medical conditions. Doctors can guide patients, but cannot accompany the patient and family to fine tune every minor issue.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Few paranoid, suspicious, accusative, aggressive patients and the types mentioned above have now made it necessary for the doctor to be extremely aware and alert, cautious, and to some extent emotionally aloof from the patient at least in the initial phase. Every word has to be spoken with caution. This “Robotic Doctor” or “Robodoc” is actually becoming a sad reality in the Western world where every medical consultation is considered a potential chance of litigation. A careful doctor avoids getting trapped into emotional exploitation. While this may upset some patients, much of the educated class is still happy with a proper professional consultation, diagnosis and treatment rather than only a compassionate sweet talk. Given the Indian scenario where patients are driven emotionally rather than scientifically especially in the illiterate and financially challenged echelons, a doctor needs to be better equipped for avoiding misuse of his / her compassion and sympathy, as it also converts readily into a permanent source of rewardless stress. This is unhealthy for doctors.

This is one reason ‘Robodocs’ are on a rise. A sad truth about an essential evolution in the medical profession across the world. The only thing that can change this is individualising patient care.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Cerebral Palsy and The Californian Driver

AlKhalil Mohammed Qasem was noticed to have one sided weakness shortly after birth. His parents were told that nothing can be done, they have to accept that the child will always be bedridden. They decided to fight fate. They knew that their child was intelligent, that he had only problems with movement. Cerebral Palsy is a most misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated medical condition. It is best handled by paediatric / adult neurologist or a paediatrician. There are some types of cerebral palsy where the child indeed has good intellectual functions yet severe abnormal movements, stiffness or imbalance. Few have fits too.

He came to us five years ago. There was a huge language barrier, I explained to his parents through the interpreter that all the medicines I wanted to try for him had side effects, some serious. They gave me permission in good faith. We started treatment. He improved. They went to USA. AlKhalil started going to school. He topped his class always. The parents made extraordinary efforts to provide best for him. His father works as a supermarket executive.

Now AlKhalil has finished school and joined college. He is also working part time to help his father at the supermarket, and drives his own car.

He came all the way from California today for a follow up.. He showed me his driving license with a pride and smile I have seldom seen! Driving a car is such a fond dream of everyone growing up!

AlKhalil and his parents have defeated cerebral palsy!!

Most cerebral palsy patients can have a significantly better quality of life if they reach the right specialist, usually a paediatric or adult neurologist as per their age group. I found no better example.

Miracles are not only possible, they are human too!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS

Cerebral Palsy care is a teamwork between neurologist, paediatrician, orthopaedic surgeon, speech therapist and physiotherapist.

Till I’m Alive

Over 4 years ago, a late night frantic call from the casualty baffled me. Quite a complicated case. After seeing the patient I met her anxious family and explained them my thoughts, that the diagnosis wasn’t clear yet, and that we needed to observe the patient. I had already started treatment based upon a presumption. The Mandke family, in spite of being extremely well connected socially and able to afford treatment anywhere they chose, still decided to invest their trust and faith in a junior Neurologist like me. The onus to prove them correct was now upon me.

In a few days Mrs. Madhuri Sudhir Mandke was completely cured of the transient illness she had developed, and discharged. After a few follow ups, I told her the good news: she no more required to see me.

Yet every Diwali, she comes personally or sends someone from her family with extraordinary sweets and gifts. When she came over today, I told her this was not necessary, I had just done my duty. Then she said something that moved me: “Till I am alive I you will receive these every Diwali”.

This gratitude not only increases my responsibility, it is also a perpetual reminder of how important it is for every doctor to take it upon himself/ herself to justify, to stand up to that trust which involves health and life. Every outcome may not be what one strives for, but every effort can be made genuinely to let the patient and family feel that they have trusted the right doctor. It is NEVER sweet talking, wise talking or jovial attitude alone, never pure medicolegal attitude, but a combination of scientific, ethical and compassionate care that brings home the rewards of appreciation by the patient: the highest achievement in medicine.

There’s nothing more precious to earn upon earth!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Doctor Who Took Fees: One Star Review”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

False reviews and online beratings against doctors and hospitals have become a reality. However much a doctor goes out of the way to do the best for his/ her patient, following are the reasons why negative reviews are still uploaded, some of them ridiculous:

1. Denial of false certification.

2. Recording truth on paper like addiction (smoking, alcohol, ghutka, sleep medicines etc.).

3. Mentioning preexisting illnesses which the patient / family had hidden from the insurance companies.

4. Denial to falsify diagnosis, treatment and inflating bills to claim medical insurance benefits.

5. Denial to give concessions in standard billing, consultation, visit fees.

6. Advising necessary investigations.

7. Charging for follow up visits (different doctors, specialties and hospitals have different policies, all are usually mentioned in the information prior to consultation. All follow-ups are not same). © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

8.. Waiting time: This is the saddest in India. The standard waiting times for specialists all over the world range from 30-90 minutes, sometimes longer, but it is only the Indian patients who convert this into a complaint. Sometimes earlier patients may have taken more time, asked more questions, sometimes patients cry when a sad diagnosis is conveyed, one cannot ask them to leave the room, there are incessant calls for emergencies etc. . The same traffic and weather conditions affect a doctor’s schedule too, but some are unforgiving. The fact that Indian doctors are available on usually the same day or mostly a week in spite of a heavy workload means nothing to our people, even those who have visited the Western world and witnessed that it takes months to years to get a specialist’s appointment there.

9. Behaviour of the doctor: Agreed that some doctors are indeed rude, some are in a hurry, and that is wrong. But usually doctors develop a lot of patience as they mature, dealing with all sorts of negativity continuously. Sometimes patients do offend doctors by asking illogical questions repeatedly, by challenging every word that the doctor says, or by making illogical demands. These demands include repeating long explanations about the diagnosis and treatment, requests to speak on phone with a distant relative to re-explain everything because they are too busy to come over, asking questions like “Are these medicines necessary?” etc. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

10. Unfair, illogical statements “I cannot tolerate any allopathic medicine” rules this section. What do you expect a physician to do?

11. Unfair, unrealistic expectations: Every drug has side effects, including vitamins, and these side effects are NOT the doctor’s fault. The doctor can alert the patient about common side effects, but cannot explain all side effects of every medicine, as it is impractical. Secondly, while some medicines act within seconds, some take effect over weeks to months. Those without patience who expect relief within few hours / one day usually upload angry reviews about both “no effect” and side effect” commonly.

12. Declining demands for admission. Investigations and OPD treatments are not covered by most insurance companies, so some patients demand admission even when not indicated. When refused, even if the patient was cured, the doctor still gets a negative review.

13. Google masters: Some patients bring a lot of irrelevant questions and conceptually wrong use of medical terms to the doctor’s table, and however politely one declines to waste time over such, a negative review is almost guaranteed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

14. Habitual negative reviewers: I once found a negative review of a patient who had actually responded well to treatment and was cured. He had complained about having to pay for a follow up visit after few weeks. A small google search revealed that he had uploaded many reviews from those about railway stations to collector’s office, from autorickshaws to five star hotels, almost all negative. Unhappy man!

12. Professional Competitors- this is a new reality: doctors hiring agencies to boost their positive reviews and add negative reviews to their competition. The simple fact check of how many positive reviews over how much time reveals the truth.

Some negative reviews are indeed genuine, I have had them myself, and called and apologised to the patient, clarified my stand too. However when they were malicious, I have informed the concerned site manager and also posted a reply about reality.

How to know?

A negative review must have a legitimate name of the person writing it, and details of date and time of the visit. That way the doctor can also confirm whether it is genuine and help resolve it. A nameless review is always questionable, good or bad.

In a recent news, a National restaurant association has decided to sue people who upload negative reviews about food: just because they want more or free, just because of their mindset is negative, just because they are insatiable. Even IMA should consider suing people who upload wrong, defamatory, spiteful reviews about doctors. Even the ‘hired good reviews’ by doctors should be discouraged.

Issued in the best interests of patients and doctors.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Fairy And The Prince

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful radiant lady wheeled in the patient’s chair and wished me with a pleasant smile. Some smiles, however beautiful, have a tragic shade. I looked at the patient Rohan. A very well built fair young man in his late twenties, must have been very handsome in the past. He sat paralysed below the shoulders, one eye closed, face twisted, and a large surgical scar upon his head, partially covered by a cap. He could not speak. Any movement would cause violent tremors. He was wheelchair bound and had to be assisted even for toilet.

Rohan and Riya had married just two years ago, against the wish of their parents. Both from very affluent, but uneducated families. Both worked at the same office. In a few months after marriage, Rohan had developed high blood pressure, and was advised treatment. Unfortunately, he got carried away with some false claims about some herbal medicines shown on National Television channels and stopped the BP medicines. The obvious happened: one of the blood vessels in his brain ruptured due to high BP, and there was a huge bleeding. A Neurosurgeon had done an excellent job by taking this high-risk case on operation table in emergency, to suck out the blood clots and save his life. However, the damage was already done by then, much of his brain was damaged on one side. Riya had been caring for him since then. She looked after him just as a mother cares for her newborn.

“Doctor, we know his paralysis will not improve now. But he is brilliant, I know his brain thinks fast and accurate. Since this stroke he cannot speak. We have come with some hope for his speech. If he could just tell me what he feels, if something is bothering him, what he wants, etc., I will be very grateful” his wife said.

We started treatment. In a few days, Rohan could speak legibly, so she was very happy. Rohan’s parents were very happy too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One day, Riya’s father came with her. He asked her to wait outside my room for a few minutes, she reluctantly left. With folded hands and tears, he spoke: “Doctor sahab, my daughter married against our wish. I have forgiven her now. But I cannot see her spending her life like this. She was the most brilliant girl in our town, she had even rejected job offers to go to America because Rohan wanted to stay in India. You can see that she is still young and beautiful. Anyone will marry her; she is one in a million. I’m not saying this because she is my daughter, but you can see for yourself from how she cares for her husband. She has become his attendant now. What is her fault? How can a father see his daughter wasting away her youth like this? They have no family life. I cannot even speak to her about this. Her mother tried but Riya refused to speak. She speaks very highly of you, so I have come with this hope. Please help us”.

This was very difficult, but a duty too. If not me, who could even attempt to resolve this?

“Let us ask her about her thoughts” I told her father and requested him not to react when she spoke. We called her in. I told her in short how her father felt. She sat straight. Her face became distorted and she wept silently. Her father kept on patting her while weeping himself.

“Papa, when Rohan could recently speak after so many months, the first thing he told me was to leave him and marry someone else. He refused to eat his medicines, saying that I should leave him. Then I promised him that I will leave him after two years. That was a lie. I know he will die if I leave. I could feel his love even when he could not speak, that’s something more precious to me than whatever you think I will get if I marry someone else. Till the day he had this bleeding in the brain, he made sure I was best taken care of. He never had his food before me. How can I spend even one happy moment with anyone else knowing that Rohan is suffering in this same world? Would you be proud of me if I did that? Did you teach me to be so selfish?” She broke down. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Her father did not say anything. They left.

In a few weeks, Rohan followed up again with Riya. He is now gradually learning to operate a computer. He plans to start his own online business. Riya is helping him do that, while continuing to work. They are now planning for a child soon.

This fairy I met was more beautiful than any other in the dreamy stories I had heard all through my childhood. I am glad that I am a witness to this divine fairytale.

I know even of another couple, where the girl had developed a paralysis in her college days. I had counselled her and her boyfriend about future uncertainties and a possibility of a compromised married life, given her illness. “That’s not the most important thing for us” he had said. They married. Today, about 8 years since then, they have a healthy, happy kid, and he still cares for her as much, now when she is in a wheelchair. This knight lives in a rented house, runs a small grocery store, rides a bicycle, wears the simplest of clothes, yet has a heart that would put to shame many a real princes!

My world as a doctor is full of beautiful fairies and knights, named caretakers. It is because of them that thousands of patients are surviving with dignity today. Medical care is so incomplete without them! I remember my favourite author Richard Bach’s words from “The Bridge Across Forever”: “Princesses, Knights, Enchantments and Dragons, Mystery and Adventure… not only are they here and now, they’re all that EVER lived on earth!” How true!! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Among the stories of sadness and suffering, most doctors also come across best of the human hearts and minds, highest forms of love and care. Such patients and relatives reinforce our own trust and faith in the ability of human efforts to heal. Thanks to what I learn from my patients, my gratitude for being a doctor is endless!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all caretakers, young and old, who silently sacrifice much of their life caring for their loved ones.

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