Category Archives: pediatric

The Good News: ‘Life Is In Brains’

Last three years we were planning a beautiful, comprehensive and patient friendly, “All under one roof” Neuroscience set-up at Ruby Hall Clinic.

Specialty Clinics for Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Epilepsy, Vertigo, Stroke, Brain Tumors, and all neurological investigations will be available here, on this floor. Also Neuropsychology, Speech Therapy and Counsellor for family members dealing with difficult illnesses.

My dynamic CEO Mr. Bomi Bhote has long dreamt of a world-class Neuroscience department at Ruby Hall.
“Give our society something to remember you for” he said often. I have tried my best to design this fully new Superspecality Neuroscience Department. After many meetings and many precious inputs from Dr. Purvez Grant, Dr. Manisha Karmarkar (COO), and Dr. Rebecca John, and the blessings of senior Doctors like Dr. Ravi Gulati, MD Dr. Sanjay Pathare we added one stop troubleshooting and convenience so that patients do not have to roam around.

Mr. Iqbal Chaney, Dr. Abhijit Rokade, Mr. Shailesh Kelkar, Mr. Avro Chatterjee, Mrs. Nilofer Shaikh, Mr. Tushar Patil, Ms. Ansha and so many others contributed to the efficient beauty of this set-up.

One item on the top of my bucket list thus ticked off: giving Pune, Maharashtra and India a Neuroscience Department to bank upon. This is just the beginning.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Change The Medical Scene, India: Article One. Healthcare Failure In India: Problems And Solutions

1: Etiopathogenesis
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This is my heartfelt attempt towards initiating a change in the Indian healthcare system. We all, even the government, wants it to improve but nobody seems to know where to start.

I appeal the younger generation of doctors to please think deeply about this article in terms of your future, unless you want to face the same humiliation, insecurity, inhuman attitudes, suppression and threats all your life, just because you are divided. I intend to offend no one, my non-Utopian aim is that every patient as well as every doctor should be happy, healthy and satisfied. There indeed are more good than bad doctors in India, but guess who dominates the scene.

In this series of articles I have tried to first identify the basic problems, and will propose probable answers in my later articles. Before we analyse outsiders, let us first take an honest look at ourselves.

Problems Within Medical Community:

  1. We have many class differences between doctors. This is the most prominent cause of non-unity of doctors. These class differences may be summarised as (a): Intellectual: some doctors are far more intelligent and skilful than others. (b): Cultural: some doctors know the best ways to behave and speak with patients, others have an arrogant, ill-mannered, abusive and sometimes filthy, inviting a bad reputation. (c): Academic/ Clinical: some doctors are trained at extremely good institutes, some put in gigantic self-study efforts, and therefore are academically and / or clinically better even if their medical degree is the same. (d): Financial: some need financial support and critical effort to survive through medical courses, fighting till in their thirties to settle down, while for some others, financially it’s a cakewalk.
  2. Shameful tendency amongst doctors, of discrimination based upon State, Caste, Region, Religion, Academic Institute, City, Financial Status or Political party, generating an “Insider-Outsider” culture. This has also resulted in many hospitals employing doctors from a particular religion or socio-cultural/ financial status even if better candidates are available. Few honourable exceptions.
  3. Jealousy, Insecurity and Envy: There are successful and struggling doctors in every branch. The shameful tendency of some established doctors to suppress and disallow juniors in their institutes is well known. Most wise institutes now employ two or more competing masters in every branch and fire up their egos against each other, to have them fight tooth and nails. Guess who profits and who bleeds. The comic tragedy is that even very brilliant doctors fall prey to such tactics. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
  4. Financial desperation: Juniors who come from poorer backgrounds, in spite of better abilities, have no money to invest, make their own hospitals, and must work at bigger hospitals under such competing seniors, and the only way they are allowed to survive is by getting better numbers. This results in a very hostile, bitter work culture.
  5. Killing Humanity: The entire medical community is guilty of perpetually ignoring, intimidating, suppressing and blackmailing medical students, especially postgraduate resident doctors. India has probably the worst inhuman treatment for its budding and junior doctors, with no one interested in addressing their problems. They live in most pathetic conditions, often six in a single room. They are inhumanly overworked, with a shameless answer “We did it, now you do it” from their seniors. “No food and No sleep” is nothing to be proud of, it is Torture. Post graduate students and resident doctors are not only FORCED to work far beyond human capacity, they are overtasked with mindless curriculums. The “Slaves” in our history were far better off compared to how the resident doctors are treated today in India.
  6. Extremely low quality medical institutes: Guess who owns and runs these, still churning out valid degree holders.
  7. Nepotism: Where “Premium” students, often children of the powerful, politicians, administrators, doctors, socially prominent are treated differently, groomed specially and airlifted to success while others, however meritorious and efficient, are humiliated and suppressed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
  8. Master-Slave Culture: In every private or Corporate owned hospital, there is an unwritten rule: never cross the Master-Slave boundaries, never ask questions, you are here because we allow you to be. Should you dare to correct someone about policies, ethics, financial irregularities, excess profiteering, you are unceremoniously thrown out, given the title of a rebel, a troublemaker, and your reputation as a doctor is torn beyond redemption. This is the worst for surgeons than physicians, as ‘badmouthing’ / deliberate ill-reputing of a surgeon can ruin their entire career. Unfortunately, it is not only the hospitals, but different classes of doctors mentioned above participate in this mudslinging too. No institute in India has an honest troubleshooting department for doctors. There is no respite, there is no organisation, doctor’s body, government department that protects a doctor thrown out, defamed or harassed by corporates or big hospitals. Very few hospitals are doctor- friendly.
  9. Even in government service, sycophancy is the strictest tradition.
  10. The SP Syndrome: Shoelicking-Postholders are the worst tragedy in healthcare. Even after being qualified doctors, these ‘doctors’ have learnt the quick-ladder culture to sit in a medical administrative chair. They know which side to please, and are seldom seen working in the interest of either the doctors or the profession. They have but one agenda: strengthening their chair-bum glue. They are found almost everywhere in healthcare, and many enjoy the administrative superiority and control over better qualified and even senior doctors. There are rare honourable exceptions who try and balance the hospital and doctor’s sides. However, those involved in policy making are rarely in direct contact with the patients, have rarely had a reputation / experience of good medical practice, and are happy with hypothetical speeches sweetened for their powerful masters. Senior doctors have never stood up for an unfairly fired or colleague, and often our own community disowns a doctor harassed by healthcare giants or government. Thousands of excellent doctors have either left the country or live in dark anonymity just because there was no Godfather for them. This is a major cause of policy failures and pathetic research in Indian healthcare, inspite of having some of the best medical brains upon earth.
  11. The only thing that helps a good doctor is long-term goodwill generated over years, where patients spread a good word about their relief from that doctor. Against this is pitched the permission to hospitals for self-advertising, which often misleads the society.
  12. Once a doctor starts a hospital, there are so many taxes / overheads that he / she must shoulder, so much paperwork, that it is difficult to concentrate upon patients alone. Add innumerable laws, restrictions, rules that make it impossible to sustain over long term. Bribes are a stark reality wherever rules, restrictions are involved. This is why many doctors have closed down smaller hospitals.
  13. While doctors are only allowed to charge their (mostly) limited fees, almost everyone else in the profession earns a lot more profit, often unjust. From rooms, service, nursing, gloves, catheters, to procedures, from canteen to labs to radiology to pharmacy, the hospital and pharmas earn profits everywhere (this is acceptable in proportion of the investment). The one paid least in the final bill is the doctor / surgeon, who usually earns a piddly sum in spite of being the most important factor in the chain. The doctor is also primarily responsible medico-legally for every case. Patients are upset with the doctor even after saving their lives because the bill is fat, not knowing that most doctors have no say in hospital billings. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
  14. The Corruption: There is no denying the fact that some doctors participate in various “unethical” means of earning via “commissions”. While all corruption is wrong, this is an extremely hot and debatable issue, where many questions are unanswered. For example, if a doctor owns a hospital and a lab and a pharmacy, he can profit under all three headings, but if a doctor working with him is also paid from this profit, it is presumed unethical. Our society is too financially biased, and it will never accept the necessity of profits in healthcare. However, the same society or its government has no answers to what a good ethical doctor should do if there are financial emergencies like this pandemic where his / her income is near nil. Hence the doctor is left to ensure his / her own income, with or without patients. Our society will preach doctors a lot of pompous lessons of ethics and compassion, but won’t feed the doctors family if he is in financial trouble due to all the good and free work he does. To completely eliminate “backdoor incomes”, the only way is that the doctor’s fees will shoot up.
  15. Over-smart Attention seekers: This community of doctors will do anything to garner attention. They will make news for being cheapest, they will construct new theories of individual, private research and blabber about them on national / state channels, massage the egos of power, speak against their own colleagues just to get praise from society and media and so much more. They hunt celebrities and powerful to be seen with, always speak the language of “Sweet, Beautiful, Positive” and imply from their wisely framed speech that only they can understand compassion and patient’s feelings while other doctors don’t. These are the usual early birds on TV, who criticise their own professional colleagues whenever there is violence against doctors, preaching about communication, making the society feel that ‘bashing up of junior doctors’ is justified, just because they could not communicate well. They will go to any unscientific extent to fool the public to be in good books of the government and administration, and completely vanish when their profession is suffering. This attention-seeking community has done the worst harm to medicos and the reputation of our noble profession.
  16. Doctor’s Organisations: “………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………” .

To Be Continued
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Last Bullet For Indian Private Healthcare


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Many doctors, nurses and other staff, police officers are dying due to corona exposure. Recently the quarantine period of doctors was cancelled. To add to this, very ridiculously, doctors’ salaries were reduced, and covid funds were deducted from even frontline warriors’ salary. This is like taking money from a soldier’s paycheck to fund the army!!

When I recently heard some people shouting about excess bills in hospitals, doctors not working etc., I felt like shouting back too, but one cannot argue with a sold TV screen.

For decades India has had
Excess urban crowding,
Very poor hygiene.
Very high poverty and illiteracy.
Lack of town-planning for slums.
Severe lack of state/ national healthcare infrastructure.
Tiniest budget for healthcare.
Perpetually under-functioning government hospitals. Every season hundreds die due to epidemics.

Where were you till before the pandemic? Who is responsible for all of the above? Do you want to discuss these factors which are responsible for the pandemic chaos today? Or now you just blame it all upon Doctors and Private hospitals?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Only private doctors with small nursing homes and dispensaries, clinics were shouldering all healthcare needs that government hospitals could not provide. They had low profits and catered to middle and lower class. These were destroyed in last few years because of too many stringent regulations and costly licensing. Many closed down. Legal troubles by relatives, politicos supporting them and vandalising hospitals forced many private doctors to stop admitting patients. Protection to doctors was denied by almost all governments till before this pandemic.

Indian poverty is never ending, and charity cannot run anything perpetually unless there’s a strong fund generating mechanism supporting it. If someone expects that doctors charging 2 rupees fees are the ideal healthcare for all our medical needs, they should happily go to such a doctor. We highly respect them too, but it is their choice and there are obvious limitations to that. To develop advanced healthcare in India, higher profits were necessary for higher investment. Corporates, some businessmen and the likes of Mr. Ambani pitched in. Advanced healthcare with heart and liver transplants, complicated brain surgeries, cancer treatments came to India because of these investors. They accepted all the conditions of governments to accommodate over twenty percent poor, nonpaying patients via various schemes. The payments for running these schemes were delayed by various govts for years, and the hospitals were arm-twisted in still continuing to treat everyone. The only source of profits was private and some insurance patients who were paying a higher fees for facilities: from air-conditioning, food to choice of specialists. Higher quality of staff, especially nursing and technicians who can operate high end machinery and robotics requires very high salaries. Maintenance costs are heavy. A specialist cannot do much without such a very good team. Each of these requires good if not great salaries, as they are continuously invited by developed countries who pay far higher.

But then every patient wants the highest facilities, best staff and specialist team, with no payment or basic payment. There’s no concept of billing beyond actual price of medicines and room charges. Service and maintenance is considered a ‘free right’. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Even in this modern era of equality, a higher class Indian officer like a minister gets a higher room, better food and other facilities, even higher medical bill sanctions, whereas the labourer from his department gets minimum basic facilities and bill eligibility only for general ward. Law allows higher healthcare’s standards and payments for higher officials. Why do they even have classes in railways and airplanes? If a “Gareeb bechara” migrant wants to fly home, should we offer him road transport or compassionate air travel? Why don’t we do for all the poor something that you all expect doctors and hospitals to do?

We don’t mind if basic and emergency healthcare is uniformly cheap or free for everyone. But when you force a high-end medical commodity (skill-time-investment-staff) to be sold at a loss or extremely marginal profit, you kill the system.

Doctors do not differentiate when making a diagnosis or treating anyone from any financial/ power background. But the private hospitals must be allowed to cater to different classes, earning their profits. That is their only stimulus to grow forward, engage best personnel and bring advanced healthcare to India. Different governments have failed at maintaining high standards of healthcare in their respective set-ups (with some proud exceptions- but because that’s where our powerful go). Some hospitals indeed take more bills for better class of services, including staff, but none of them forces a patient to come to them. Even these hospitals never deny free emergency treatment to anyone.

“But isn’t healthcare a charity? Haven’t you taken oaths to serve?” our loudmouth hypocrites ask.

Yes we have taken an oath to serve everyone rich and poor equally, but no, we have not taken any oath to neglect our own health and well being. Yes we have taken an oath to serve, but we have not taken any oath to live in perpetual poverty and financial stress. Yes we are under an oath to do our best for every patient, but we will not be bending backwards to fulfil their unreasonable demands. Yes we want to save every life, even if it is dangerous , but we will not unnecessarily endanger our own life because someone forces us. We haven’t taken an oath to abandon our families. The Hippocratic oath does not ask any doctor to stay hungry, work without sleep, and do the unscientific because various governments cannot pay for adequate number of doctors. Still we are doing all this already. Let us be clear: we proudly and intellectually serve our country, but we refuse to be considered slaves of either the system or the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Capping bills in private hospitals will be the last bullet for all advances in healthcare development in India. Be prepared to go back to the chaos of ancient times in that case. Quality will suffer most: right from specialists to nurses to medicines. You can of course force one generation of doctors to work like this, under low cost and excess work. People aren’t fools to send their children to such hells of social slavery. Yes you read that right. There’s a difference between service and slavery. Do not attempt to turn medical service providers into slaves. It will backfire very sourly.

Instead of this, the government can invest in existing private healthcare players to create low cost infrastructure alongside their private hospitals, or privatising its own healthcare institutions with increased capacity. Our governments do have friends in very high places who can invest.

We love India. We are not against any particular government, and this post is not against any leader or party. But we do feel very strongly that healthcare decisions must be made involving everyone concerned, that this people-pleasing for short term will turn out to be a huge disaster in long run, and it will be irreversible. If any government thinks that cancelling hospital permits and doctors’ licences in a country with severe shortage of medical services is the right way forward, God help it.

If private and corporate hospitals start shutting down now, it will be permanent. India will then have to mostly rely upon prayers alone for healthcare. And of course those who think they know medical science more than doctors. India has no dearth of such “fatally self-medicating” ignoramuses.

Jai Hind

© 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.

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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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

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.
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The Changing Blood Group

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!

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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

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.

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