Category Archives: Social work

The Parceled Sandwiches

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Entering the hospital that morning, I was wondering if I could finish early and go for a relaxed dinner with a friend who was visiting. Iwas in an excellent mood when I entered the hospital at about 10 AM. That’s when I heard the noise.

In the entrance lobby, there was a group of men, women and children, wailing, crying, shouting, pulling their hair, beating chests, and throwing their hands and legs around lying upon the floor. Few of them were shouting loudly “All doctors are looters. They robbed us and still killed the patient. How can our patient die? Catch them. Kill them. Burn the hospital” this was accompanied by abuses that cannot be mentioned. The security staff and PROs were patiently trying to tell the violent relatives that there were other patients and relatives, that there were women and children around, but the most vulgar of the abuses continued.

I walked past the abusive crowd and met my resident doctor in the ICU. The first case was that of an old man who had had a fall a week ago, but was treated at home for the first three days. Three days later, the old man had suddenly become unconscious, and on admission was found to have a large bleeding in his brain. If not operated within minutes, he would have died. Our neurosurgeons rushed in and operated him with a huge risk. Now he had just started responding, but was still not fully conscious. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Why is he still unconscious, doc? Was the surgery not done correctly?” the son asked.

“We have repeatedly told you Sir, the delay in admitting your father has caused a lot of damage in his brain. We cannot predict when and how much he will recover. The surgery was done to prevent imminent death. In my opinion, he is steadily improving. ”I explained again.

One after another, different faces of suffering and allegations, pain and expectations kept mounting and in a few hours it became difficult to feel happy. I am seriously not the type who can keep a perpetual meaningless smile upon my face without actually being happy. However, I must keep calm and smiling, because the next patient will be coming in with a lot of hope, expectation and fear. I did my best.

But my hope of having a relaxed dinner with the friend was gone. All I wanted now was to go home, take a hot shower and try and kill the negativity that was cluttering my mind. The wails and cries of the crowd were still noisy in my heart. “Who must have died? What must their family be going through? What about their children and spouse? Was this preventable?” I was curious. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The casualty called. A young girl had come with fits. Her old farmer parents had brought her. Stabilising her, and completing the examination, I asked questions to her father. With teary eyes and folded hands, he told us “We have no one and nothing left. Please do something”. Reassuring him, I messaged my CEO, who graciously allowed to treat her as a free case. I started writing notes.

“What was the ruckus in the morning?”I asked the resident doctor standing besides me.

“Oh that!” he replied “That patient was admitted for a head injury two weeks ago. He drank too much alcohol, and his bike had slipped. We admitted him as an emergency, and treated him on compassionate grounds as he was comatose. The relatives were well aware about the poor outcome. We did everything we could. I don’t know why they reacted so. Someone told me that the local politico wanted to extract some funds from the hospital”. This was not unknown, but loss of life does cause unexpected reactions, the doctors and the hospital staff bear the brunt.

Many patients were treated that day, many came cured, many went home happy, many expressed gratitude. But the fact remained that I was unable to forget the wailing family and the accusing son of the ICU patient. Am I supposed to smile and be happy for those cured and improving, or am I supposed to feel sad about the death and suffering I see every day? The emotional highs and lows that happen in every doctor’s day are too wide, too heavy and dynamic. It is not easy to forgive and forget bitterness, thanklessness and paranoid accusations on a daily basis for years, and keep smiling in between. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My friend called. “Rajas, I am standing outside your hospital. Come let’s have a quick bite. My bus leaves in anoter one hour” she said. We entered the nearest restaurant. Her witty words indeed relaxed me somewhat, and she ordered soup and sandwiches, knownig my favourites. As the steamy soup eased my throat, I started telling her about my day. My cellphone rang.

“Is that you, doctor Deshpande? Do you remember my father Mr. Ramakant who you were treating? He passed away today. We were supposed to come to you three months ago, but as I was out of India, I couldn’t bring him. He had stopped all medicines”.

I winced. Mr. Ramakant was fairly healthy, happy and stable on medicines, they were told never to stop the treatment. How should I react?

“Very Sorry to know” I said.

“That’s okay doctor. My problem is that no doctor is giving a death certificate for him, as he had not seen a doctor since long. We need it for the funeral. If I come to you now, can you please write a death certificate for him? I will pay your charges” he said.

“Sorry, someone has to examine him and issue a certificate. Please call your neares doctor home, or take thepatient to the nearest hospital” I told him. As I kept away my cell, I avoided looking at my friend.

“What happened?”my friend asked. Looking at my face, she sensed it.

“Oh. Sorry” she asked the waiter to parcel the sandwiches.

Both of us knew that neither was going to eat them.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please share unedited. Please let the society know what a doctor’s day is typically like.

“My Turn Now”

©Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I don’t want to live like this. I have stopped eating since today. Please do not be angry with me for this, but I cannot see you and my children suffer because of my illness. Let me go with peace” Geetanjali said to her husband.

Eighteen years after her marriage, in her late thirties, Geetanjali suddenly lost the function of one half of her body. Her children were still in school. Her husband Gajendra Jagtap works as a school teacher and does some farming on a small piece of land they own. The whole family was shocked and shattered with this calamity that befell Geetanjali. But Gajendra Jagtap decided not to be broken down by destiny, and took his wife immediately to the best hospitals in Mumbai. They were told that Geetanjali was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. After a few days of treatment, they could not afford to stay in Mumbai and came to Pune as it was nearer to their village. The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Pune extended its helping hand. Geetanjali was yet unable to stand up or walk. ‘This illness is totally unpredictable, anyone can develop blindness or disability anytime’ doctors told them. Geetanjali felt hopeless. She was very depressed with the thought of stressing her husband financially to provide for the treatment expenses. She also worried if her children’s education will suffer due to her illness and financial constraints. This was the reason she decided that she did not want to live any further, and gave up eating or drinking anything.

But Gajendra was not the typical Indian husband. This B. Sc. Graduate who had taken up teaching in a rural school as his profession had a big heart, and harbored principles of equality and respect for women, just like a highly educated spouse in a developed country. He told Geetanjali, ‘You have served me and our children for over eighteen years now. When I was working in the school or in the farm, you looked after the home, cooked for us and fed us sumptuously. Now give us a chance to repay for what you have done for us. It’s my turn now. I am going to take care of you just like you cared for us.’ Geetanjhali could not hold her emotions and sobbed when she narrated this story to me.

‘At that point of time, I felt like living only to help my family. I decided to use whatever few healthy days I had to make my husband and children happy.’ She started to fight her disability with a new spirit, and in a few months could walk very well again. Since then she had attacks of this disease many times, but vehemently fought it to recover every time, with the help of her husband.

Gajendra told me “I explained my children our situation. I told them that we don’t have much money left, and that they must only complete their education based upon merit. We are very fortunate that our children decided to grow up quite early in their childhood. Both of them studied very well, and my elder son is now doing his post graduation which he got through a scholarship in Delhi. Even my daughter got excellent marks and is now pursuing her post graduation by winning a scholarship. Both of them take care of their own expenses, and never bother us for money. Even I have decided that whatever our destiny presents us with, we will face it with a smile, and never accept defeat in any situation. We have to visit hospitals many times, spend on treatment and investigations, travel many times, but we do it all with a spirit of winning together. Whenever she can, she still takes care of the home, and when she can’t, I do it with the help of my daughter. But we never feel desolate or depressed”.

In the developed world, people suffering from this illness get a lot of healthcare facilities, and even income tax concessions. However, this farmer from a lower middle class background who does not receive any such help, has not only resurrected his family, but created a new life for his wife with his sheer love and determination. The most admirable thing about his love story is the respect and feeling of equality with which he thinks of his wife. Geetanjali also stood up firmly with him to conquer this illness, with all her love and might. Together, they have indeed defeated their destiny.

We sincerely pray for the excellent health, well-being and long life for each member of this wonderful and ideal family.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist, Pune

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Hats Off, Phoenix!

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

She had paralysis, over eight times in last six years. Lost vision few times. Lost balance many times. Even lost speech and bits of memory. Severe vertigo wouldn’t let her move for days. Many hospital admissions, many injection courses and tests. Barely two weeks ago, she had come to the OPD unable to walk at all. Yet, when she entered the OPD today, walking with a spring in her steps and a smile upon her face, the first thing she said was “I am joining my office tomorrow, Doc! You must convince my husband to let me. I am all fine now”.

Dinaz Dastoor, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a cruel, unpredictable and disabling disease of the brain and spine, sets an example of grit and positivity for patients and doctors alike! She refuses to be defeated by the disease, does not take any advantage or ask for sympathy, and deals with it like a phoenix: whenever it gets her, she rises above it and flies again.

She refused to take costly medicines with many adverse effects. She refused to give up her chosen duties: housekeeping and bringing up two daughters while fighting with this monster called MS. She attributes all her victories to an ongoing support and encouragement from her husband Rohinton Dastoor and their daughters “ Everytime I feel low, every time I am down in with disability, my husband sits by me and tells me that I am going to recover. He and my daughters have adjusted their lifestyles to accommodate the unpredictable attacks of my illness. Even when growing up, my daughters took care to keep troubles out of home, never argued with me. They all kept stress away from me. Without this supporting family, I won’t be as strong as I am today.. I am really lucky” says a smiling Dinaz.

She started working and is carrying on her job very well, of course her office and superiors have been quite accommodating, a rare scenario in India.

Her husband, one of the most polite and sweetest gentlemen I have ever met, handles all situations with a smile. The only time I ever saw him worried was when Dinaz had once developed a very severe attack and was paralysed below neck. “Do what is best for her, doc. I have complete faith in your decisions” he had said.

Today, he opened up when I requested their permission to share their beautiful story. “It is not that we didn’t have to compromise. There are many desires we had to curb: traveling, adventure sports, and what not. But I always tried to imagine myself in her shoes: what if this had happened to me? How would I have liked her to understand and accommodate my troubles? That way, it was easier for me to make decisions. There are more things we can do together even now than what we can’t. We always think about what we can do, never about what we can’t”. He had just said something that would put so many “MCP” husbands to shame, especially those who ill-treat their wives holding them guilty for their illness.

“A patient and her family only expect that the doctor spends enough time with us to listen to what we have to say, understand and address our concerns, and cares for us” Mr. Dastoor commented.

Meeting this smiling couple not only brightens my day, but makes me feel grateful that I can witness this happen, and write about it!

Hats Off to this beautiful couple, who define the spirit of love in its purest form.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Medical Profession and Charity:  A Guideline For Medical Students (Speech at a recent Medical Event)

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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My dear friends, you will receive many sermons about your responsibility to do charity and social service from those who do no charity themselves. Many who have never done anything worthwhile for the society will remind you of your Hippocratic oath. Beware of these distractors, your social service and charity is your own choice. Thousands of doctors who chose to settle down in the remote place, purely with an intention to serve people, and carried on general practice for over 50 years are now dependent upon someone helping them for their own medical treatment. Neither the government, nor those whom we help reciprocate. Those who lecture doctors about serving the society never answer this simple question: what if a doctor serving the society very well, needs help? Who will help him? The answer is clear. First safeguard your career, reputation, family, home, parents, future and then do charity like a king, confidently, freely and with pride. Professional goals are not the same for everyone.
Some base the entire concept of charity on the low fees, without any analysis of the quality of medical care provided and the outcomes. A patient treated free but wrong, a patient treated at a low cost with a poor outcome cannot be considered charity. “Self-Declaration” of numbers of such patients treated without an analysis of outcomes and patient feedback is nothing but cheap hidden advertisements.
All of us don’t come from the same background: Some families have lived in perpetual poverty, selling off land and compromising quality of housing, clothes and even food to send their children through the medical education. Some must repay their loans, some must attend too many family duties and some just struggle to survive with a middleclass lifestyle. The first thing that we must overcome while doing any charity or social service is the feeling that those who are unable to do it are somehow lesser to us. That discrimination must go. A doctor doing his / her job well is enough charity, they have sacrificed their youth for the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Let us look at the career options most Indian doctors have.
Medical teachers have already accepted a very low salary compared to what they truly deserve, The average salary of a medical professor in USA and UK exceeds INR 8 lacs per month, working 8 AM-4 PM, with one emergency per week. Although I do not contribute to the school of thought that one must accept the low Indian financial status, at one-fourth salary per month, our medical teachers work three times more than the doctors in the developed world (because in India the staff is never filled adequately) . Still they continue to put in their blood and sweat, training thousands of medical students, working almost 24/7, seeing far more number of patients in OPD, IPD and Emergency. This is the best possible medical social service, nay, charity being done in India, let me first respect and salute this unrecognized social service. This is an ideal premise for those who want to continue to be available for the poor masses, keep themselves abreast of the most modern medical knowledge, and impart it to the meritorious future generations of doctors.
A similar career is working as medical officers in rural / semi-rural areas, where doctors are most deficient. In most Medical Institutes run by the government or municipal corporations, sycophancy and suppression , hopeless bosses, poor administration and heavy paperwork, punishment transfers and bribery are huge limitations for those who want to honestly serve patients. Life isn’t easy in rural surroundings. Right from the lack of basic amenities like water, electricity, good schooling and transport, to a severe threat to personal security by the rampant Political Gunda culture in a superstitious, orthodox community. Who will want to voluntarily expose their family to these? However, if one does have a social standing in one’s homeland, it becomes an excellent option to serve the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Coming to the non-government career options in medicine, one is either left to private practice as an individual practitioner, which offers a lot of freedom but limited resources, or a salaried practitioner at a corporate hospital.
In the corporate hospital culture, individual charity and social service becomes almost impossible. Contrary to the image created by the media, most of the corporate hospitals actually comply with the mandatory charity, worth crores of rupees every month to those BPL, but the need of our society is far more than that, the demands are never ending. The new doctor who wants to earn a good name and income, but also wants to do something worthwhile for the society as a free service, the corporate culture offers two options: a low-salaried position for looking after the mandatory charity, or working in their low input peripheral schemes. For a beginner, especially a specialist, these are both excellent options . © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Coming to the last option: an individual private practitioner, there are many choices but also a stark reality: you are on your own, and on the day that you don’t earn, no one else pays for your innumerable bills. Remember that when you are an independent medical practitioner, you have zero income every day that you don’t work, so a single illness or problem that keeps you home for a month will bring your bank balance to zero. Unless there is an alternative source of income, which is rarely the case with a doctor, this jeopardizes your whole existence. You may be prepared to walk through this, but you will be doing your family a great injustice if you push them into this fate. Look at those who have done the greatest charity upon earth: Bill Gates, JK Rowling etc. They have first earned, secured themselves and their dependents and then returned in plenty to the world. That is the safest way to serve the society effectively and for long.
I know almost everyone in this hall is eager to help the downtrodden, poor and helpless. But there are some things you must first thrash out for yourself. Firstly, do not feel any obligation to copy charity. You can discover your own new ways to serve the needy. Completely ignore those who tell you what should be your financial worth. Once you decide what lifestyle you want, you can chart out how much percentage of your time you can work for charity. You may want to reserve one hour a day or one day every week. Be comfortable, choose what does not become a stress factor, but please stick to whatever you decide.
One hour a day by an Indian doctor means 4-5 free patients a day, that is 30 patients a week, that is 120 patients per month, and 1440 per year. If one consultation is 300 rupees, this way you are giving 4 lac 32 thousand rupees worth service free to the society.
There is a major problem : those who take advantage of free medical service. There already are many affording patients whom most doctors voluntarily see free: relatives, teachers, other doctors and their family, classmates, staff in their hospitals, maids and servants, watchmen, neighbors etc.. There are also others who demand free consultations: administrators, politicos, local heavyweights, ministers and even top businessmen who our bosses accompany. People often say that free service does not have any value, it is not respected, but I will make a small exception here: I feel that the really poor and helpless genuinely respect your free service, remember it for life and place you near God. It is the affluent who are usually thankless for free services, and it is high time that we should stop serving them free, so that we are able to serve the really deserving ones. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
False poverty/ income certificates, visiting repeatedly for trivial / tiny complaints, daily questioning, become a huge limitation in extending free services openly. Pune teaches you many tricks to identify and deal with such people.
An equal legal responsibility for even the free patients is the law, and a major limiting factor for private practitioners as well as corporates. However careful one may be, every doctor does commit mistakes, and our courts of law are yet unevolved medically, only rare judges are mature enough to understand the intricacies of medical decision making and still rarer doctors understand the law. Look at the big picture: a doctor is treating a poor patient as charity, and unfortunately something goes wrong. The instant conclusion that it was the doctor’s mistake, the sensational news story that follows, and the threat to personal reputation all come to play together. The chance of “Extracting” money from the hospital or the doctor, in case of any complication or death, is considered a lucrative opportunity by many local goons.
A poor young lady with a stroke presented to my free OPD. I found her to have a valvular heart disease with a clot in the heart. We arranged for her free treatment, the best cardiac team in the city operated her free, for a major valve replacement open heart surgery. Everything including all complications was explained, poof on paper. In a month, she developed valve failure, a rare but known complication. The relatives returned with a gang of goons, threatened us in the OPD with dire consequences and legal action. The very family which begged for concessions with folded hands a month ago now spoke of vandalizing the hospital, beating us up. We explained to the patient and family that this is not a surgical mistake, that this is a rare but known complication, and it was still possible to correct it. Fortunately for us, the patient herself agreed for a redo surgery. The cardiac team operated her again, free, and the patient went home walking in a few days, but no one from the family ever expressed any gratitude. We had learnt a precious lesson: do not risk your career for charity or social service, because medical degrees, once cancelled or suspended are almost impossible to get back. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
My friends, the real richness is that of the soul, and by becoming a Doctor you have already proven all that you need to prove about your soul. Whatever I must earn, I must proudly earn without causing hurt or having to deceive anyone. And believe me, Lord has provided enough for me always. Yes, there was a time when I sat in my hostel room and sung that song “Chaand Taare Ttod Laoon” from Yes Boss . Over the years, the kind Lord has responded to most of my prayers. There is no other profession in which you have such huge opportunity: your charity and service will bring people health and life: so use it freely, every day, always. Just make sure to protect yourself to help others for decades to come, and to pass on this light to the future generations.
Jai Hind!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Nightmare

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“Wake Up! Wake Up!!!” shouted the wife frantically. The husband did not respond.
We told her to remain calm.
“How can you tell me to remain calm, doctor? Are you insane? Do something.. he is dying. What will I do without him? I have a two small kids… I beg of you, doctor! Here, I touch your feet! Please save my husband!” the lady kept shouting, panic-struck.

Her husband was riding a bike with a friend just an hour ago, and was dashed by a high-speed truck. The friend had died on the spot, and this gentleman had suffered a head trauma, with fractures in the bones of one hand and both legs. He was unconscious since admission. We had sutured his wounds, the bleeding was controlled, but he had already lost a lot of blood and his blood pressure was low. He was receiving blood transfusion now. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I was an intern then, at the civil hospital Nanded. Our Surgery medical officer had examined the patient, and suspected a bleeding in the skull / brain. There was no CT scan or Intensive care facility available, and the nearest city with a CT scan or ICU was Hyderabad, some seven hours away. The wife decided to shift him to Hyderabad. The MO told them that travel involved risks, the patient could worsen. He also suggested that he must not travel without an accompanying doctor.

“Please come with us” the wife requested me with folded hands. I convinced another intern friend to join me. That was at about midnight, the month was December. Very cold.

We prepared the emergency kit, including various injectables, tubes and Ambu bag required in case the breathing stops. We started in a basic “Ambulance”, with a reluctant driver motivated by the obvious. The night was as chilly and dark as it could be, the road bumpy and dusty, and the ambulance, except that there was a patient and two doctors in it, had nothing else to qualify as an ambulance. The only positive thing about it was its speed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient mumbled something and became drowsy again. We requested the wife to please not be affected by such fluctuations, common in patients with head injury. We kept on measuring the blood pressure and pulse rate manually (there were no monitors then). We also kept a watch on his pupil size, as unequal pupils are a hint for swelling or bleeding in the brain. An hour into the journey, the patient had a convulsion. We had already given him an anticonvulsant, a standard protocol, but now we also had to give him diazepam to abort the fit. The fit stopped, but the blood pressure started dropping. We used steroid injections and increased the intravenous fluids. The use of diazepam may depress breathing, but we had no choice here. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient’s wife had bouts of extreme panic and kept weeping. Her suffering was justified, we tried not to let that affect our decisions. Two other relatives who accompanied her tried to console her. A doctor cannot run away from or avoid any situation, we were learning our lessons.

By 2 AM, the patient appeared relatively stable. The relatives slept off, the wife became silent, occasionally dozing off. I’m a nocturnal animal, but my friend was feeling very sleepy.

At about 3 AM, the ambulance suddenly stopped.
“I cannot drive anymore. I am tired and very sleepy. I need to have a tea and a smoke, otherwise I will fall asleep driving” the driver said. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
There was no choice. We saw the small tea stall by the roadside. The relatives and patient’s wife had tea, my friend intern went out and had his cigarette and tea, then he sat with the patient while I had my smoke and tea. It was only after we started again that we realized how vital it was to have taken that break! The ambulance gained speed steadily.

An hour later, the patient became quite rowdy, and started to violently throw about his hands and legs, trying to get up. We tried to restrain him, but it became quite difficult, especially because the ambulance was running high speed, and the wife was now almost in a state of shock. We had to use diazepam again. His breathing became shallow, pulse rate started rising. We prepared for artificial ventilation.

As we approached the city by the dawn, the traffic increased, and we faced many blocks. We reached CDR Apollo hospital, just as we intubated the patient and started ventilating him with the Ambu bag. Dr. Raja Reddy, Neurosurgeon there, immediately attended the patient and himself accompanied us to the CT scan room. The scan showed some contusions / injuries to the brain, but no major bleeding. Dr. Reddy reassured the patient’s family, and praised the efforts we had made, being interns. Patient was taken to the ICU.

We returned by an ST bus the same afternoon, after thanking the ambulance driver. Few days later the patient was back on duty, completely recovered. One evening when I returned from the hospital, my parents showed me a beautiful thick gold necklace.

“That couple had come. They wanted to thank you, they gifted this for your son” my mother proudly said. Although my one month son did not know anything about gold, and I do not understand metallurgy well, my parents indeed had very proud smiles for the next few days. The glitter of those smiles is the only Gold I have preserved in life, like many doctors who go through this ordeal every day!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to hundreds of doctors who carry/ transfer patients in horrible situations / conditions, risking their own life, all across India.

PS: This is a story circa 1993, the management standards and guidelines, facilities have improved a lot today. Of Course smoking is a bad habit and not justified.
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A milestone: An extremely proud moment for me.

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A milestone: An extremely proud moment for me.

Yash, my elder son (Red Shirt) joins the prestigious New York University for M.S. Data Sciences tomorrow, selected through stringent merit criteria.

I have grown up my children with similar principles as practiced by my parents: to become good human beings, to make the world a little better. I hope they justify this aim.

Many of my well-wishers helped me through this difficult journey (Thank you Axisbank Loans😊). I am grateful to all of them from the deepest corners of my heart!

I may not have been the best parent, but I certainly did my best to do whatever it took to be one. There is no career achievement in any field greater than passing on the power and legacy of “Good and Right” to the future generations.

Two things shook me.
Firstly, our society has taken for granted that fathers are secondary, and we were always bombarded through songs and movies and all possible sources that a life without a mother is meaningless. I think mother is synonymous with God, but so was my father for me. But for kids growing up without a mother, such social “prejudices” are quite offensive. In fact, most fathers I know are equally responsible and involved in the parenting of their children.
Secondly, whenever there was an argument between me and kids, I lacked the spouse-support, especially in matters where kids questioned my decisions and thinking. The only way to handle and resolve this was to explain everything logically, and apply the same rules to myself that were applied to them. I grew up!

A personal note: When I mention how difficult it has been to raise kids as a single parent, most people interpret it as a “bad past memory” that I am unable to “get over”. Some ask me to ‘forget it all’. It is like asking me to forget what I learnt while becoming a doctor. I can’t, because it makes me a better doctor to remember everything I learnt and then avoid the negatives.

The kids (like most) have always been a boon and a bliss, the difficulty was not them but with my highly stressful duty, the availability and the time required to be with them. They understood and supported me, compromised and forgave me, we fought and reconciled, cared for each other, laughed and cried together, and I cherished every moment of it all. Only a single parent who has raised two kids while working as a full time doctor will understand the effort. I don’t regret, repent or sadden myself about anything. I am seeking neither praise nor sympathy: just mentioning it for the many doctors who have to struggle very hard to attend this dual career.

If only, I am proud of our survival story. A major part of my struggle was not only to grow up the children well while not letting this affect my duties as a doctor, but to stay alive at all costs to be available for them till they became self sufficient. Uncertainty surrounds us all, but it haunts doctors worst. I did manage to be around till this day. That’s the milestone I refer to.

Of course there were serious readjustments in career (Thank You, Ruby Hall Clinic for standing by and supporting), compromises in personal life and social interactions (misrepresented for choosing to be asocial), but the reward is in this picture!

I seek blessings from you all to help us become the best we can, to make this world a better place.
Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Duty And The Reward

The Duty And The Reward

Highly educated and informed, Mrs. Vinodini Bapat came with a worried face about a year ago. Her MRI had shown a tumour. When I told her that it was likely a large Tuberculoma (A tumor mass caused by tuberculosis of the brain), she was naturally very worried. There was no definite way to know if it was a cancer.

After a long discussion based upon what she researched herself, helped by her loving husband and daughter, she was convinced that we can take a chance and start anti-tuberculosis medicines.

I was quite pleasantly surprised when I found that the whole family had completely trusted everything I had explained. To be very honest, doctors expect disbelief and multiple opinions mostly with the well educated and literate patients. However, although they asked many questions, tried and understood every step in the treatment, they were extremely polite and cooperative.

The test time came when her brain swelling increased, as happens with some Tb patients in the first few weeks if starting the treatment, and she threw a mini-fit. We had to admit her and treat as an emergency. Many questions popped up, but the family was as cooperative as ever, with complete trust.

The medicines caused many side effects, and we adjusted the doses to suit the patient best. She was extremely patient and tolerant in spite of so many ups and downs.

Now, one year later, Mrs. Bapat followed up today with her fresh MRI scan: the brain was now completely normal, there was no trace of tuberculosis. The tumor had disappeared!

When she handed over this beautiful note written for me, I told her that she and her husband were extremely cooperative and I was grateful for that.

Then they told me what I Wish every medical student learns: that it is important not to get annoyed with patient’s questions so long as they are relevant, to understand that it is the patient’s desire and right to know the details of their illness, treatment options and side effects, to participate in decision making, and above all, to be treated respectfully with compassion.

Educated patients who keep their faith in their doctors intact, and ask relevant questions without paranoid accusations should not be misunderstood. It is the duty of a treating doctor to honestly keep all the cards on the table and let the patient understand and participate whenever possible.

Once again my day is blessed with the ultimate rewards in medicine: a happy patient and words of gratitude.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Humanity Face / Off

Humanity Face / Off

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Your father in ICU has probably had bleeding in the brain. We need an urgent CT scan” I told the son waiting outside. The old man was admitted late in the evening, although he had had severe headache and weakness on one side since that morning. His son had just returned after a “one-hour” quick meal. Besides flaunting many brands upon his person, he had already told me that he was the vice president of a well known software company.

“Yes, doctor, I am just waiting for the approval from his insurance company.” The son replied. For doctors running in and out of critical care units, the “Cool Calm” of such educated relatives is beyond understanding. Most insurance companies work office hours, approvals come at their own speed, they are least concerned about the patient outcome.

Everything was being kept on hold. Hospitals do not want to proceed with costly tests and investigations unless they are life saving, because most relatives flatly refuse to pay if the insurance company denies approval. The doctor suffers a double blow emotionally: because things are delayed and also because relatives blame only the doctor.

“This is urgent. Please consider making the payments and filing for reimbursement later, so we can make decisions faster” I told him.

“If it is urgent, why don’t you get it done? I will not pay, his insurance company will have to approve” said the son.

I thought about the patient. In the waiting room, the patient’s wife, an old lady, kept praying. I wished she was also praying for a better son. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. I requested the hospital authorities, and as always, they agreed to help. A CT scan was done, it did show bleeding in the old man’s brain. When informed, the son winced. “How many more days in the hospital?” he asked.

“Usually it takes a week for such patients to stabilize” we told him.

“Can you discharge him? I will arrange for some nurse to give him treatment at home. Just write the medicines he needs” he said. His mother, hesitant, asked “Is it necessary to treat here, doctor? If his health is in danger, we will stay”.

Angrily, the son cut off his mom. “No, mom, this has become a business. They will extend stay even if it is not necessary. If it is only medicines, why does he need to be in hospital?” he asked me.

“Because such patients often develop excess swelling in the brain, or other complications. They can also develop convulsions or lapse into a coma if swelling worsens” I unchained my patience.

“Do you guarantee that those complications will not happen if we keep him here?” he asked.

“No. Only that he can be managed in time, if any complication develops” I replied. There’s no word called “Guarantee” in the medical dictionary. It is only a quack’s favorite trick. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Then why stay here? I have a nursing home nearby, we will go there if there is any problem” the son said, turning his back upon his mother.

The open-secret was revealed soon: the insurance cover that he had bought for his father was minimal, it was over now, and he didn’t want to pay anything from the pocket.

I explained the patient’s wife about the medicines and care, updated her with the warning signs of danger in such cases. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, I am alone at home with my husband all day. My son and daughter in law both work and return late. What will I do in case there is an emergency?” I gave her some contacts near her home, ambulance numbers and doctors.

“Is it okay if she calls you daily to inform the patient’s condition and ask what medicines are to be given in case of an emergency?” the son asked.

“Sorry, we cannot manage patients on phone” I replied.

“Sorry doc, don’t take this personally, but there’s no humanity left in this profession now a days. No one wants to help even an old patient” he commented. I didn’t reply.

They returned in three days, the patient comatose. The brain swelling had increased to dangerous levels. Patient was operated in emergency, saved with a great effort. The son had to foot the whole bill this time. “This is quite unfortunate” he kept saying, reminding me to keep expenses “lowest” because he was paying from his pocket. Finally came the day of discharge. Knowing the questions, I explained them the medicines on discharge.

“Doc, he is a senior citizen. You must give us discounts” said the son.

“Sorry, the hospital decides the billing. My charges are already minimal”. I told him the truth.

“Just as I said, there’s no humanity left” he looked at his mother and said. It was now the time to chain my patience. I knew the right reply this time.

“Yes, Sir”, I said “ I agree. Humanity is indeed on a decline, but more in your family than in my profession”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Goddess Of Humanity

The Goddess Of Humanity

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When I entered the hospital today, little did I know that I would meet someone who changes lives by example.

Then I met Mrs. Jasmine Govindji Majethia. A lady far superior than most men I ever met, a spirit with an energy to defeat ten ripped-jeans-teenagers, a soul that can only belong to a saint in any religion!

At the age of 80, Mrs. Jasmine Majethia is working 24/7, traveling alone all over India to help patients with Thalassemia get treatment in time, to generate awareness among people and even medical community. She has been doing this for over 30 years now. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This morning I had received a call: “Hi. I am sending an old lady to your OPD. She has done a lot for the society. She has had some episodes of unconsciousness recently” said our Pathology chief Dr. Mrs. Nita Munshi, always out to help others full throttle.

Mrs. Majethia told me that her tremors were long standing, but recently she had had some episodes of unconsciousness. It had all started after a stressful event related to one of her Thalassemia kids.

“I cannot sit at home. I have so much to do. Tell me what tests are required, tell me what medicine I should take, but I want to continue my work” the lady had an authority difficult to match. I followed her orders.

Born and raised in Calcutta, married in Mumbai, she finished her family duties and joined the LTM Medical College Sion to work as a liaison officer with Dr. Lokeshwar, who invoked her interest in Thalassemia. Witnessing the plight of children with Thalassemia and their parents, she decided to make it the mission of her life to stand up for them. She established PATUT (Parents Association Thalassemic Unit Trust) to help the affected families with financial and other support for treatments. This Goddess of humanity has thus saved many a lives, roping in doctors, hospitals, trusts, friends, rich and poor donors to help this cause.

“Zero Thalassemia Birth Rate in India by 2020 is the mission of my life. I am not ashamed of knocking doors and asking for help because it is not for myself.” said the lady with a steel resolve. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“There’s hardly anyone who can resist helping her cause. She is like a gentle pinch of conscience for those who have excess, to help others” said Dr. Munshi.

Thalassemia affects over 40 million people in India and kills thousands every year, it can easily be prevented with simple precautions. Even countries far backward than India have rules that make Thalassemia screening legally mandatory before / during pregnancy, and thus prevent any child births with this condition (“Zero Thal Birth Rate”). However, lack of awareness and screening, apathy on the part of our governments has continued to increase the burden of this disease in India. The treatment is extremely costly in some cases, and out of reach for most common Indians.

Mrs. Majethia spoke with the passion of a revolutionary: “So many doctors all over the country, like your colleagues Dr. Vijay Ramanan, Dr. Nita Munshi and Mrs. Trupti Thanekar always help me in my cause, whenever I request help. But the sad part is that there is almost no health awareness in our country. Even if we offer free treatment, many parents do not avail of it until it is too late and the case gets complicated.”

“Yet I like to think that God has given me in excess than what I need. Even Life. It is my duty to give some of it to those who are unlucky. I tell myself that God has selected me to do this work, because I can.” Such simple words, yet so powerful in their meaning! I really wish that she must receive best of the National Honours and medals for her work.

Every now and then, some insurance agent gives me plans to retire early and still earn well. Some tell me how people make retirement plans by age 40. Until now, I didn’t find exact words to tell them that many of us do not want to retire, that I wanted to work till my last breath. This lady was the answer, the literal personification of the words I AM MY WORK.

Across the cultures, there are Gods and Goddesses of Beauty, Fame, Love, Sport and Affluence. Rarely do we hear of a God of Work or Goddess of Humanity. In Mrs. Jasmine Majethia, I found the Working Goddess of Humanity.

My highest respect to this lady, one of the most inspiring women I ever met!

PS: She agreed to record a short message for everyone including doctors, please click this link in my comment below this article to listen to her divine voice.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please share, to get this lady the respect and honour she deserves, and to spread awareness about her great selfless mission.