The Higher Suffering
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Stuck in the heavy traffic due to rains, I tried to remain calm. The cellphone kept on ringing, patients who were waiting, those who wanted appointments, those who were to catch their ride out of station anxiously asked when will I reach. Some lost patience and raised voice. In addition, there were calls about the patients admitted in the hospital: critical decisions to be made, idiotic questions by insurance companies to be replied to. There were huge processions, the traffic was diverted, without any arrangements for ambulances. Impatient, aggressive and violent people is a reality on almost all Indian roads now. No one cares for law on the road. You are at the mercy of anyone who chooses to pick up a fight with you.
There were some issues at home too, the cook had called in sick, we had to do some emergency cooking. That had delayed my start.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
At last, an hour late, I reached the OPD, and entered running. Faces with controlled anger greeted with cultured politeness. Prepared for bitter comments, I called in the first patient.
This was a free patient, she did not need a follow up. But being free, she visits almost religiously every month, whenever she has a fight with her husband. Sometimes, when the only guaranteed compassion is from a doctor, it can be misused. However, as I was late, I decided to respect their patience, and told them to visit a counselor. Nevertheless, my irritation heightened, that this added to the wait of other patients.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I certainly am impatient with meaningless waste of time, and sometimes the traffic, the sudden changes in schedules due to someone’s irresponsible behavior, and misuse of compassionate services bring me to the edge of a reaction. This was one such moment. My face must have become grim.
The next patient walked in, an elderly gentleman with Parkinson’s disease. He was accompanied by his wife. They were supposed to come back three months later, but had followed up early. I examined him, found him quite stable neurologically, but the usual twinkle in his eyes was absent. Even his usually smiling wife appeared lost. It must be the traffic, my late arrival or something likewise, I thought, and curbed my curiosity to ask them. Today was heavy and behind schedule, I must wind up fast. Yet, as I explained them that everything was stable and alright, that they need not worry, I noticed the unspoken uneasiness in their body language. A little reluctantly but keeping up with the expectation of my own heart, I asked them: “You look quite disturbed and stressed. Is anything the matter? I am sorry I came late today”.
“No, no doctor, it’s not that. But yes, he is stressed and disturbed said the wife, and looked inquisitively towards her husband. ”Shall I tell him?” she asked.
Looking down, hiding his face, the husband nodded.
“Doctor, we lost our only son ten only days ago. Someone killed him on the road. Some drunk goons dashed his car from behind, and when he got down to check the damage, they attacked him and hit him on the head with some rods. He was lying on the road for a long time, and by the time police took him to the hospital, he was gone. We came to know after a few hours. He was our only child, an engineering scholar who had returned to India with great dreams .”
The lady was silently weeping as she kept her emotions in control. The patient was sobbing, I called the receptionist to get a glass of water.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“We have done so much for our town and the society” said the patient, “but now I feel it was all useless. No one is safe even on the roads. We see so many rules and laws broken, so many violent and aggressive people that it has become difficult to question anyone even when they misbehave”.
I had no words to pacify them. What can pacify the parents of a dead child, that too a victim lawlessness?
The receptionist called “Sir, the next patient is shouting” she said.
“Five minutes” I requested her.
“You are busy, doc, we will leave. But I brought him here only because he feels better when he meets you. Once you reassure him, he will feel a little secure. Even I feel better when I see you. Otherwise we sit at home just staring at each other’s sunken souls. We have no relatives”.
That was a bitter eye opener to me. They had chosen me to be their lifeline in the worst times of their life, and here I was, thinking about my worries, my time, and the inevitable small happenings that block the path of every working person every day. I had momentarily ignored the fact that I must still enter the hospital with a smile, push behind myself all the negatives that pull me down. For every patient here to see me comes with a hundred fears and a thousand expectations, the least I can do for them is be compassionate and reassuring, whatever may have happened till that moment.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“You may see many patients in a day and listen to their troubles, doc, but you are the only doctor your patient meets in a long time. I don’t know about you, but we always feel good when we see you”. The wife added.
Yes, I had heard that earlier, in my teacher’s cabin. Once a patient develops trust in his / her doctor, they look upon the doctor as one of the most reliable resource for courage, compassion and troubleshooting, even beyond the expertise of that doctor. As doctors, we must never forget this, and stand up tall above all our personal problems to be the supermen and superwomen, the Messiahs, the Saviors that we are expected to be. Law and some idiots do push a stick in our wheels, but then the patient is far above both. A patient’s suffering is always far above that of any doctor.
I stood up, held the patient’s hand, and reassured them: that they do have a relative here in Pune. “According to the Pune tradition”, I said, “one should offer tea only when the guests are half out of the door, but I will make an exception today .”
Having them sit in the next empty room, I proceeded with the OPD. Ordering tea for everyone in the OPD waiting room, I stole a few more minutes to calm the ruffled souls of those two, and asked them to see me again, whenever they wished.
As I returned late after dark, even through the rainy night, a sweet moonlight made the raindrops glow. Just like every doctor brings back the smiles to the burning hearts of their patients!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The Unforgettable Compliment
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
All six casualty beds were full, the room was full of noises: nurses, fearful and angry patients, relatives, and wardboys trying to move stretchers and wheelchairs in and out. This chaos didn’t affect my concentration anymore. It was late night, heavily raining, my colleague Deepa and myself were the only two doctors- interns then- in the civil hospital casualty. She was finishing the paperwork in the side room. Behind a curtain, I was trying to remove a metal piece stuck in the back of a kid who had blown a firecracker bomb with a tin container covering it. I started stitching the gaping wound once the metal piece was out and cleaning was complete. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Just then a girl walked in, all wet and panicked, with another small girl upon a stretcher. I recognized her instantly: she was a classmate from my junior college, Ruta. As the patient was shifted to the bed, Ruta frantically shouted, enquiring for doctors. The nurses had already started checking her patient’s vitals. I finished bandaging the stitched wound, and came out from behind the curtain, removing my gloves. She saw and instantly recognized me too. “You are Rajas, right? Remember me? I am Ruta, your classmate.” She started sobbing, now that she met a familiar face. Her sister, about 15 years old, had had a head injury, falling from a bike, and had just vomited. She was woozy, irritable and confused. I ordered an X ray (CT scan was not available in that civil hospital) of her head and neck. IV line was started and necessary drugs injected. I reassured Ruta that her sister was stable, and continued with other patients.
My subconscious kept on playing memories of the past on some deep screens.
Ruta was exceptionally beautiful and vivacious. She had many fans. I liked her too, but there was no interaction: her group unlikely to engage with nerds like myself. They were a group of happy-go-lucky, good looking and muscular guys and stylish, good looking girls. They were mostly into movies, masti, dance, gymming, rides and food. I was not only preoccupied with a lot of classes and study, but also too shy to belong to such a group. Somewhere I envied those boys, they had so much advantage interacting with girls, with all the time and money they had. However, muscles are not my kind of statement, although (Thank God!) I have always enjoyed excellent health and fitness. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Once we finished the junior college, I never saw them. Medical courses hardly allow any time for extracurricular activities. The only silver lining was that there still were beautiful and intellectual girls in the class, and some of them respected and liked nerds too!
As Ruta waited by her sister, I kept on attending the cases that came in. From women in labour to heart attacks in shock, from bullets in the chest to rapes, one night in a casualty shows more pain than many know in a lifetime.
A foreigner couple came in, with their small boy bitten by a bee, he had developed severe reaction, his breathing was obstructed because of the throat swelling from inside. They kept on weeping as we all rushed to inject steroids and other medicines to the child. In some time the kid stabilized. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Then the police brought in a drunk driver who had rammed his Bullet bike into another’s. Our duty was to perform a detailed examination, collect blood sample and opine whether he was drunk or not. I was shocked: he was my schoolmate. He recognized me too. “Raja? Dekh yaar ye log mujhe andar kar rahe hain (Look these people are jailing me) he said, “Tu kuchh kar yaar (please do something)”. This was difficult. He was going to hate me for life probably, but I had no choice. I wrote his report. I felt sad, but there was no time to express it.
A snake bitten farmer and a newly wed woman with over 70 percent burns were brought in almost together, both gasping. Deepa and myself ran around to stabilize them, the medical officer came in too, but the burns woman had arrested just as they entered the casualty. We intubated the farmer, who was sinking, while we struggled to get things right. He was shifted to the ICU upstairs. We started finishing the paperwork. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It was about 4 AM, now there was a relative calm in the casualty. Sleepy relatives had found corners to doze off. All six patients were relatively stable.
“Excuse me Rajas, Is there a canteen nearby where I can get some tea?” Ruta asked.
“Yes, across the road, in the lane opposite the gate” I replied.
“Will you please join me?” she asked.
Borrowing an umbrella from a ward boy, and informing Deepa, I walked Ruta across the street. We stood sipping the hot tea by the side of the road, under the beautiful rain.
“I have a confession to make” she said suddenly: “I never knew there was this side to life: I only thought my life was to be enjoyed without a worry. If someone had given me a million rupees yesterday to stay up all night listening to other people cry, see wounds and deaths all night, I would have declined and ran away. I cannot stand anyone whining, and here you all are, listening to nothing else, fighting not only death but also expectation, anger and uncertainty. We made fun of nerds like you, and today I meet one, saving lives! I don’t know if I will ever save a life, and here you are saving many every day! I feel how superficial I was! I respect you and what you do. I now think you docs are superheroes”.
We are used to such overwhelmed compliments by patients just relieved of fear. I just smiled. She read my face. ” No, I am not saying this because my sister is admitted today, but because I feel it inside after seeing what happened here”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I thanked her, adding that it was not wrong to have fun and look good, confessing that medicos often secretly miss those things, none of us gets any time for that.
Needless to say, I walked back thanking God, and feeling proud. This was one simple closure, yet so essential!
My co-intern Deepa gave me the expected wicked mischievous smile when I returned.
“Today the tea must have been very tasty na?” she asked, sarcasm overflowing from a face deliberately made over-innocent.
“Solid” I replied with matching sarcasm; “Oxytocin-Dopamine waali chai thi (It had oxytocin and dopamine)”.
We discharged Ruta’s sister the next day. After two days, I received a handmade greeting from Ruta, in which she had written the most unforgettable compliment I ever received:
“You healed more than what was injured. Thank You!”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Dedicated to all medical students, interns and resident doctors.
Please share unedited.
The Changing Blood Group
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“He is sinking” shouted Dr. Siya.
The casualty registrar rushed to the bed, checked the vitals. Pulse very fast. Blood Pressure very low. Lips and nails white, hands and feet cold. The young man, unconscious, was on the verge of death.
“He must be bleeding inside. Get an urgent sonography of his abdomen”said the registrar to Dr. Siya, and call the blood bank. He will need at least two units of blood urgently”.
It was Dr. Siya’s first week into internship, she was thrilled with the idea of actually saving lives. At the young age of 22, she was witnessing death almost every other day. Along with that she was amazed to see the darkest sides of human nature: the potential of humans to hurt each other: via rapes, accidents, murders, fights. She had decided to not let this affect her attitude, and to continue to try and save every life she could.
That late night, this young man of about her own age was brought in unconscious by someone, who had just dropped the patient in the casualty and left without leaving any identity of himself. “I found him lying unconscious on the road. I don’t know anything else about him. I am just doing my duty, I have a train to catch”said the stranger and left. The patient was reeking of alcohol. He had a visible head injury. A quick CT scan had revealed minimal bleeding due to a small skull fracture. He also had had bleeding from wounds from his hands and legs, they were sutured. The patient had no identity marks, wallet or cellphone. The policy of the hospital was to provide basic treatment and shift the patient to the government hospital. The police station was already informed. Treatment was started.
Dr. Siya requested two units of blood. The blood bank called. They had only one unit of the blood for his blood group. The registrar had the same blood group, and like many doctors working in the emergency departments, he went down to donate blood.
It was nearly midnight. The fate of the life of a young man depended upon what the junior doctor did just then. There was no one to sign any consents, the protocol was to inform the hospital’s medical director and obtain consent for emergency transfusion or procedure. Dr. Siya finished the formalities, obtained the permission, and started the transfusion. If the patient had reacted or something went wrong now, they all feared, there will be a havoc in the media: that they had let an unknown patient die because they wanted money!
Dr. Siya kept on managing the show. The angry and disturbed relatives of other critical patients kept on taunting her, speaking rude and reluctant to complete simple formalities and paperwork.
The sonography was thankfully normal.
Just as the first unit of blood was over, the patient became conscious, and revealed his name. He was quite shaken with the surrounding, but told in broken sentences about his friend’s number and address. He revealed that while returning from a party, his bike was interrupted by a bunch of goons, he had fallen down, they hit him upon the head and left with all this belongings.
The friend was called, and came in. He revealed that the patient was used to smoking weed and drinking alcohol in huge quantities. They were staying in the hostel of a famous college.
The second blood unit was started, and in a short while the patient threw a convulsion. He was immediately given injectables for controlling the convulsions, he slept off with the effect.
His parents arrived early next morning.. The shocked mother was consoled and explained about the situation by Dr. Siya. The elderly father, like all fathers, equally shocked but being a father unable to cry, kept mum, just holding hands of the boy.
When the patient woke up again, the father came to Dr. Siya, and touched her feet. Too embarrased, she told him that the registrar had donated blood for the patient. The father went and thanked the registrar, again trying to touch his feet.
As Dr. Siya had finished her night duty, she prepared to leave. “Beta, Will you come soon please?”asked the tearful mother to her. “Yes Auntie, I will be back soon. Don’t worry, he is ok now”she reassured and left.
On her way back her genius young mind tried to look at the situation sitting upon her shoulder, the little third person that resides within each one who has a conscience. That booze and weed was easily available to youngsters in almost all Indian hostels, that even educated people rode bikes without helmet, that crimes were happening almost everywhere that injured and killed people, that law and order was a laughable term in many parts ofthe country, that there was no government mechanism in place to provide emergency medical / paramedic support ambulances to raod / traffic accident victims: which one is the most responsible cause, when patients like these died? Who is responsible?
She reached home, told her proud parents what had happened, that she had helped save a life. Her mother folded her hands towards the sky, said “God, let my daughter save many lives everday”.
While having the breakfast, her father turned on the TV. A famous but ill educated political leader, in his mind-and-other- organs blowing speech in Karnataka, was explaining the illiterate public how all Indian doctors charged in excess, how they were only after money, how everyone except himself was the enemy of the millions of patients surviving from critical heart attacks, accidents, strokes and other diseases. All patients getting better all over te country was only thanks to himself and his government!
Dr. Siya’s father laughed bitterly. “Next time you need blood for any poor or unknown patient, call him” he said.
Dr. Siya replied, laughing “That kind of ëver changing blood group doesn’t match anyone, it is useless for any patient, Papa”.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Extinction of Precious:
A Medical Horror Story Happening Right Now!
©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir, we have come from Konkan”, said the father, “to seek your advice and blessings . My son has passed the medical postgraduate exams with national rank 30. He wants to decide which branch he should choose”.
I congratulated the genius. Passing medical entrances with high merit requires great talent. It does not earn the glamour, claps and appreciation of stage and limelight, for we live in a society that only worships looks, muscles, bhashanbazi, financial success and sports (sorry, one sport. Even if someone wins a world gold in any other sport than cricket, they go home in an auto rickshaw when they return to India!).
Speaking with the boy, I realised that he was very sensitive, compassionate and had an excellent logic and reasoning. Besides having a calm bearing, he was also a hard worker. A perfect blend for becoming a great physician or a surgeon, in a world that is fast losing able clinicians. I suggested him to prefer Internal medicine.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
They looked awkwardly towards each other. The boy garnered some courage to speak.
“Sir, I saw our family doctor being beaten up by a local politician, his clinic was ruined. He was humiliated in the worst language in front of his wife and children, and instead of protecting him, other patients in his hospital kept on recording videos of the incident, which later became viral. He left, we don’t know where he went. I cannot ever think of directly dealing with patients now. I want to choose a non- clinical or para-clinical branch.”
I appealed to the father: “Your son has a great potential and matching talent to become a good clinician, we desperately need many more. It is not necessary that he practices in your own town or even in India. The whole world needs good doctors. Please think about this”.
The father, a simple teacher from a primary school, thought for a prolonged moment. His eyes reddened up.
“I don’t know, Sir. When he said he wanted to become a doctor, his mother and I always thought that he will become a saviour, running around saving people’s lives. We were never interested in only money. But the day that we saw our own doctor being beaten up by a crowd and the local politician, we realised how helpless a doctor’s life is. We knew our doctor for over 25 years, he was like a God for many in our town. All he did in 25 years became a zero in a few minutes, thanks to a hooligan politico and his crowd. We don’t want our son to ever face that. If we had a daughter in his place, we wouldn’t even have made her a doctor, women as doctors suffer a lot more trouble and get no returns, sometimes even from their family. And this is our only son, we want him to stay in India near us.”
Somehow I didn’t want to give up convincing him, he was an ideal candidate for becoming an excellent clinician.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande “Think of the future. Hopefully there will be better laws, he can also consider working in bigger, safer hospitals if he is scared”.
“What would you advise your own son if you were in my place, Sir?” asked the father.
He had bombed my mind.
I was trained by parents and teachers to always do good, be compassionate and kind. My kids had a potential to become great doctors coming from this background. I worry a lot about the extremely critical condition of deteriorating healthcare standards and reducing number of good clinicians that is destined to cause a havoc in a few years. Still, honestly, I did not wish upon my children the insecurities and threats I face. I don’t want them to live under the perpetual fear of being vandalised, defamed, tortured by over-expectation and punished by committees made up of politicians and medically inexperienced judicial experts. I won’t want their lives, work hours and remunerations to be dictated by a corrupt bunch living for votes of free mongers.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It would be hypocrisy to advise someone else what I wouldn’t choose for myself. That’s how a doctor makes the best possible decision. With a heavy heart, I advised him what I always advised my children:
“I agree. Please choose what suits your heart most, what gives you fearless happiness in your work and also leaves you with some time for yourself and your family, ensures a good income and is not dependent upon jealous people’s expectations of what you should do and for what price. You have so many options for social service other than becoming a clinician. I am sure you will stay a good human being all your life.” I suggested him two para-clinical branches that offer good scope.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The world indeed will have to suffer the gradual extinction of good clinicians. We need many more excellent doctors in para clinical and non clinical areas too, but the face of the profession is the clinician, and we certainly, desperately need many thousand more. It is a fact that in spite of increasing number of doctors, patients still die travelling in an ambulance to reach good healthcare far away from most homes in India. Many federal orphans who cannot even afford government healthcare die at home.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The father asked his son to touch my feet. As he did so, the melancholy of my own advice bit my heart. I couldn’t let down the flag of my noble profession.
“Listen, dear. I am speaking this against my own convictions. I am struggling. Think about becoming a good clinician and practising in a safe country, take your parents with you. I will be happy whatever you finally decide, but not everyone has the ability and talent to become a good doctor, it is rarest of the rare traits.”© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
They left. So did a part of my hope for the future of good healthcare.
When the next couple walked in with an infant baby in their hands, I looked at the smiling baby, and forced a smile. She didn’t know it yet, but I had just bought a precious gift for her.
©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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What Your Doctor Never Tells You
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
This small girl who had had her third convulsion in last three days was now looking frail. Her mother, extremely anxious, asked me what can be done to “immediately stop” her convulsions. This hyper-mother had stopped all the epilepsy medicines of this kid few days ago. Patiently, I asked why.
“Because I read on an article describing ‘what your doctor hides from you’, in which the author had recommended a particular diet of natural ingredients “, she replied, adding “the article said that all allopathic doctors give you medicines that will keep you sick for longer, so that they can earn more. It also said operations like joint replacements or procedures like angioplasty should never be done.”
Needless to say, this lady was buying the “Purest Natural Guilt Free” products from that website, at a price that was way costlier than all of her allopathic medicine combined.
I told her that it was a mistake to stop the kid’s medicines, and issued her a new prescription. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“What do you do, mam?” I asked her.
“We run a bakery, I sell exotic cakes, muffins etc.” she replied.
“Do you lie to your customers? Do you sell them products that will harm or kill them?” I asked.
“No, never! How will my business run then? We have to obtain licenses for food quality.” she retorted.
“It is the same about us doctors, mam. All the medicines, stents and joints that your article has slammed, are approved by government, and additionally, they are scientific products, not just claims. The government also earns tax on each medicine, stent or joint sold in India”.
I was offended somewhere, and so continued:
“We come from similar families as yours, mam. Even our parents teach us culture, compassion and good habits just as yours do. We doctors learn in the same schools as you, and common school teachers have taught us the importance of good. We too have parents, spouses and family, kids whom we teach good values by practice. Why will such doctors hide the truth from you and suggest you something that will harm you, who have come to us in good faith? Do you presume that all of the thousands of brilliant patriotic doctors will hide a cure from patients, and continue to let people suffer? Just because some bakery is selling rotten cakes, how would you like someone badmouthing your bakery, your integrity? ”
“Not you doctor, but not all doctors are like you” she said.
“Thank you for your faith mam, but I know that most doctors are like myself, who have struggled hard to achieve their degrees, to be able to save lives and bring an end to the suffering of millions. It is not an easy task, there are many easier ways to earn money with lesser hard work and sacrifice. You will rarely find the children of stars, sportsmen, industrialists and other ultra rich becoming doctors, no one wants so much hard work for such less money.” © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“We cannot advertise, while most of the alternative medicine companies, gurus and babas keep on blatantly claiming cures for incurable diseases, spreading rumors about allopathy and some other recognised pathies, cleverly selling their own products to desperate patients who hope for relief, and spend far more in the wrong direction. Look at who all is earning crores while claiming that allopathic doctors are cheating people”.
She said she agreed, and won’t interfere with the right treatment of her child now onwards.
This is a complication of a deliberate and sick propaganda which has been orchestrated to tarnish the image of especially allopathic doctors, to be able to sell innocent patients one’s own unscientific products. It is sad that the very people who complain about the consultation charges of qualified doctors go and buy extremely costly “magic remedies” like some unproven, unscientific laser instruments, vibrators, garments, herbals, extracts etc. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The fact that vegetables and fruits are costlier than many medicines, that weekly vegetable expenses or family dinners in India are far more pricey than a specialist’s consultation which can be obtained urgently, speak a lot about where we stand. In the developed western world, there are year-long waiting lists to see most specialists. The fact that Indian doctors are the best and hardest working is appreciated all over the world, but so many Indian gurus, babas and fraudulent quacks run campaigns against our own doctors, in our own country! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Want to really know what the doctor doesn’t tell you?.
A doctor never tells you to go to herbal babas when you come to the emergency and need immediate attention. A doctor never asks you to take your lot to the websites that slam medical profession, when you need help. A doctor never abandons even a faithless and arrogant ignoramus, does not ask them to go search internet for blogs and natural remedies when someone is dying of a heart attack or a stroke or accident. While many recent fulminant ads claim that all doctors are greedy and deceptive, there are thousands of doctors in the hospitals all over world, who are not eating, sleeping or being with their family right now: not because they want more money, but because many will die if we don’t work hard. It is so sad that this had to be explained in India!
What a doctor really doesn’t tell you is: how difficult it is to treat and to save lives of the very people who have no faith in the one trying to do them good!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
PS: Recently the number of posts circulating to slam all medical professionals, especially allopaths, have increased, especially in an attempt to market certain products. This extremely harmful trend is ignored by all concerned authorities. This article is an attempt to defend the glorious scientific profession I belong to.
Please share unedited.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“How much is your experience, doc? Have you ever seen any cases like this?” she asked. She was accompanying her father who had Parkinson’s Disease, quite common all over the world.
Many hilarious and abrasive retorts came to my mind:
‘Do you ask such questions about the pilot or driver when you board a plane or bus? , Do you ask such questions when someone absolutely inexperienced is made a minister of important portfolios like health, defence, environment etc.?’ If you can have faith in them, why cannot you trust your qualified doctor?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
However, being on the doctor’s side of the table, I could not allow myself losing patience so easily. I chose the most professional answer, forcing a smile: “I am practicing since 25 years, over 15 as a Neurologist, and I have seen over two lac thirty thousand patients till now. Almost every Neurologist sees an average of 30-40 patients per day”.
When the rural / illiterate populace asks these questions innocently, I am never offended, but if it is the literate suspicious kind who treat manners and etiquette as an ‘optional’ part of communicating with the doctor, I feel just like when someone spills my ice-cream. It is difficult to connect with a paranoid literate, however hard one tries.
Apparently satisfied with my experience, she shot her next google bullet: “Can this happen because of his low Homoglobin? I read it on a blog.”
“The correct term is Hemoglobin”, I told her, “and its low level does not cause Parkinson’s”.
It was over 45 minutes since they entered, I had replied to every point on the question paper that they had prepared from a Googlesearch syllabus. The next patient must be already angry now, I thought.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“How can you be so sure that this is Parkinson’s Disease? What’s the proof?” Fired she.
“There are many diseases where there are no proofs of diagnosis, some can be proven, most are based upon the doctor’s clinical judgement. Sometimes quite costly tests are required to prove what is an obvious diagnosis. You are welcome to obtain a second opinion” I replied.
“Can his Parkinson’s be the side effect of the knee surgery done eight years ago?” She.
I now issued a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my gasping patience.
Most doctors know the simplified versions of how to explain the patient in layman language about the common diseases/ disorders. Every type of case requires a lot of reading and actual handling / treating to gain insights about that condition, something that is impossible to explain exactly to the patient / relative, especially because they do not know the basic concepts, organs, their functions etc. What even the brilliant medical students take repeated readings and many case studies to understand well, cannot be simplified enough to explain to all and sundry.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Add to this: every patient even with the same diagnosis is different, needs an individualised approach, and no google guidelines or statistics can replace the doctor’s wisdom in making a treatment decision especially in complicated cases. To make the most accurate decision and to explain it is a doctor’s duty, but the understanding quotient of the patient or relative cannot be the doctor’s responsibility. Medicine is so complicated, that even the most experienced doctor in the world cannot say he knows everything about any single medical condition.
The more you attempt to educate some literates, the deeper in a quicksand you enter. Because they are not satisfied with the fact that the doctor is making the best effort to educate, but look upon this as an opportunity to question the knowledge and wisdom of the very expert whose opinion they are there to seek!
They try and catch words and cross question as if it is a legal argument.
“You said swelling: show me where is the swelling?” most common question.
“Well, it is called Inflammation in medical language, there is no accurate translation for that word even in Hindi, hence we commonly use the word swelling. It may not be a visible swelling”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It is not always the fault of doctor’s ability to communicate, it is often the over-expectation that one can understand everything. It is laughable that even those some whose life is a mess, who are failures in their own chosen paths try and argue about medical diagnosis and decisions with highly qualified doctors.
However profound a doctor I may think I am, there are so many things I do not understand: politics, finances, many people’s behaviour, mathematics, government, etc., and I am ok without ith not understanding most. However I do not have the audacity to ask an expert in these fields / professor / CA whether he / she has enough experience.
But with a doctor, these liberties are becoming rampant now.
“I think he has convulsions because of his spondylosis” one halfpant+crocs combo tried to punch a new hole in my knowledge recently.
“Let me decide that” was all I replied, rather than explaining how he was beyond wrong.
The shorter you keep it, the sweeter it remains. I would rather save and use my time for those worried, panicked patients who have enough faith in my abilities, who understand mutual respect, and who will have at least this insight: that the doctor knows best how to treat patients.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Of course I am aware that there are some doctors too, who initiate rude conversations, do not respect simple etiquettes, and are quite difficult to connect to. Most patients even when offended by rude doctors, kindly choose not to react although they carry home a bitter feeling. Every medical student, every doctor must be taught in the earliest parts of internship about the code of etiquette and mutual respect while dealing with any patient, and only then expect the patient to follow it too.
Coming back to this lady, I wrapped up the session by telling them to follow up after a month.
“Can he continue to take his three large pegs of rum every night? He cannot sleep otherwise” she asked.
“In my 25 years of practice, I haven’t met anyone whose health improved with alcohol. Do please google that.” I gave her the dose she had begged for.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Medical Secret Service: Unknown Angels
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Hullo, Vishwa? Please consider this an emergency. One of my rural patients is here, she is on XXX brand of tablets, she has finished the dose, needs more immediately for another three months. She cannot get them. She has to return by an evening bus. Can you do something?” I was in a hurry, between patients.
“Yes, Sir, I will arrange within a few hours” Vishwa said, and indeed, within two hours, the nearest medical shop called, saying that the medicine was available for the patient at a discount.
That evening I called to thank Vishwa, only to be shocked.
“Sir, you were in a hurry today morning so I didn’t tell, I had a heart attack last night, and an angioplasty was done. I am ok now.” said the 30 year old to me.
Like the thousands of his community, the Medical Representatives, he is immensely contributing to the healthcare industry, unrecognized and unacknowledged. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“”What is your job? Just passing on bribes to the doctors? My cousin said to me, Sir, and I did not reply. You should not argue with the one who has poison in his heart. People look down upon us, but they will never understand what we do” said a 60 year old man who had spent life as a medical representative, now a national manager. “We have no choice of judgment, our job is to be the link between the doctor and the company, and to make sure our medicine is available” he said.
Millions of busy doctors, overloaded with their work, have no clue how many pharma companies exist, what medicines they make, what medicines are newly launched, what is the brand name or price etc. It is not practically possible to read the whole new drug launch book every month. This community of medical representatives alone is the link between the pharma companies and the doctors, updating us about various new drug launches in India, their availability etc. They also arrange for academic events so necessary for the doctors and medical students. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Some Doctors are very good and treat us respectfully” said Janvi, who has spent over 20 years in this profession, “but some expect favours from the companies, in the form of tours, dinners and other things. Sometimes, I have had an occasional trespassing of moral lines by some doctor, but that was rare. One needs to be able to take care of one’s dignity and self -respect. Especially Indian women face a lot of difficulty and gender bias when making a career, at all levels.” she said.
“The pressure for women in this industry is immense, and like any careerist woman, I faced a lot of presumptive hate too. If a woman, and especially good looking, is successful, our society already has made its judgment as to the reasons of her success. Most Indian men do not tolerate the idea of a woman succeeding ahead of them. Of course, one must clearly set priorities as to whether one wants to make a career or family, and if both, where the compromises will be, because both are full time jobs at least for any woman. Most doctors have treated me well though, and most doctors also want to do good for their patients”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In my 20 years of career as a doctor, I have never come across a Medical Representative who turned down my request to help a patient: lacs of rupees worth of medicines I have asked them to arrange free for my patients, and they have arranged without a question. Thousands of poor patients receive free / discounted costly medicines, injectables, even stents etc., thanks to the generous efforts of this community and their companies. Thousands of medical camps are arranged all over India, where patients get free check ups from doctors and free medicines by pharmas, arranged by the Medical Representatives, but there is seldom any recognition of this service.
Unlike in most other professions, this community helps out its members without bringing in the competition, and in a recent event, when a regional manager suffered a critical head injury, MRs from different companies collected funds to pay for his bills.
Very few people notice how cruelly difficult the life of a medical representative is. They have to meet a certain number of doctors every day. They often stand for uncertain hours and have days longer than 18 hours, as some doctors finish their OPDs long after midnight. Family life is screwed. They are also responsible for making available the stocks of their brand medicine at different medical shops, and have to bargain with everyone: the stockist, distributor, hospitals, and sometimes the medical shops for making their brand available. The final sale figures are their assessment at every month-end. To achieve targets is essential in pharma industry as in any business, to survive. It is the Medical representatives community that faces the brunt on both sides: company pressure and the medical profession.
Unfortunately, our hate-bespectacled society cannot see anything beyond its suspicions: that all companies offer bribes and all doctors take them, that all doctors deliberately prescribe costlier medicine to earn cuts, and that the whole medical service is driven by money. This is somewhat like a suspicious husband who has a very beautiful and loyal wife, but cannot be happy with her because of his own paranoia. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I know many doctors who do not ask for any personal favours from the pharma, do not accept gifts, and pass on all the benefits to their patients. But I do not know any mention of gratefulness for such doctors anywhere. Without the medical representatives playing their part well, the medical profession will be quite helpless.
This article is to salute the thousands of medical representatives who work hard day and night, live an extremely compromised life, and still contribute to the service by medical profession, making life easy for millions of patients.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
If a medical representative has helped you / your patient, please share this article.