©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Religion and medicine should never be mixed. Yet it is extremely necessary that a good doctor understands the mindset of a patient, especially a frightened, disturbed patient, and holistically plan the treatment rather than just writing a prescription for an ailment. To calm the mind of an irate patient, it is necessary that the doctor has that ability and self restraint, acceptance and compassion. A doctor who thinks in terms of religion and has a resultant bias can never understand patients even from his own religion as there’s no single path in any religion.
Science has to think of human body and mind only logically, with a sharp reasoning and on the basic presumption of equality. Genes may differ across races, but their numbers, function and dysfunction are the same across the human species. Racism is a serious disease of human mind. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I have always lived a parallel, isolated life to evolve mentally to be able to understand myself better. Only if I understand myself, my fears, my wants, necessities and my preoccupations, my expectations from others and my thought processes well, will I understand other human beings- in my case, the patient. This inward journey makes me a better doctor than knowledge, experience and information alone. This understanding is superior to even medical and social wisdom.
To achieve this, I have kept acquiring insights and inspiration from various religious texts and their translations, commentaries on religion and philosophy across cultures, and of course many scientific analyses of human mind. This of course comes after the dedicated time reserved for studying scientific medical sites and texts on a daily basis. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
One prominent requirement of today’s doctor is to advise on meditation as many patients seek that from their treating doctor. I cannot advise something impractical or anything which I have not found myself to be useful. Researching this, I came across a beautiful article written by an army officer about the essence and technique of meditation. He had suggested this book above as an ‘Ultimate’ commentary on the science and practice of meditation. It has nothing to do with religion, it is an effort to delve into the depths of human nature. I reiterate, when I go to the hospital (and outside my home in general), I don’t see myself as belonging to any religion. I truly believe in the equality and beauty of every human being. Starting to read this immensely complex book today, hopefully it will help me and my patients too.
©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
As the plane landed, I called up the driver who was scheduled to pick me up from Goa airport.
“Hullo, Mr. Clement? I’m Dr. Rajas”
“Haan daktar. Tu aaya kya? Bahar nikalke miss call de mai ayega” (Have you arrived? Come out and give me a missed call, I will come there”) . He would have said the same sentence to the President as well. Goans are least hung up on artificial flowery language, they are the friendliest lot as a society. It was after a year, that the same Clement said to me: “Tere liye apun jaan bhi dega parwa nai” (“I can give my life away for you without any hassles”), when I thanked him for something.
Goa has some excellent Neurologists, and my visiting is actually redundant. Yet somehow, maybe because they keep quite busy, or sometimes patients seek a second opinion, I have been seeing a good number of patients every visit. In the very first visit, after I saw an elderly lady and explained her the treatment, she bowed and said “Dev Borem Korum Doctor”. That means “Thank You Doctor”.
Then I pleasantly noticed: irrespective of what was the diagnosis, what treatment was given, whether there was treatment for the patient’s condition or not, whether the patient improved or not, almost every patient said either “Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You) or “God Bless You Doctor”. Even if surgery was advised, even if there were side effects of medicines, even if the outcome was not as expected in rare cases, the “Thank You”and “God Bless You” never changed. It had nothing to do with any particular social class. The rich, the poor, the educated as well as the uneducated, people from every religion, every age group said it. It is a part of that culture: the Goan culture.
Late one night after the OPD, when we were driving on a beautiful long empty Goa road near the beach, I mentioned this fact to my friend Dr. Samuel (God Bless Him for the exotic dinners he takes me to!), he stopped his car and looked quite affected. “I wondered whether anyone else had noticed that. It feels so beautiful! When the patient is grateful and brings you blessings, you automatically feel responsible to do the best for them. Money never matters in that relationship. We must never take patient’s kindness for granted. So many of them actually say Thank You, God Bless you, but sometimes we are too preoccupied with work, anger, ego and other things to reciprocate and encourage that kindness”.
I told him about my late Professor Dr. Sorab Bhabha, who stood up and greeted every time a patient entered or left his cabin. The onus of initiating a good doctor-patient relationship primarily lies upon the doctor, and it is extremely essential to follow the best of manners and etiquette, kindest of language when dealing with patients.
A very sweet girl who followed up for epilepsy recently told me that she visited me not only for medical purpose but because she was inspired by the way I appear calm and composed, the fact that I never raised my voice and always spoke compassionately with everyone. I had to tell her the truth. “Thank you mam, but I am quite short tempered outside the hospital. Even the junior doctors working with me sometimes find me intimidating. But I have to change when I am with a patient. I don’t think that any patient comes to me because I am any better than anyone else in the profession. I prefer to think that they choose me because they trust I can solve their problem. Will you be rude to someone seeking your help? Then how can I get angry with a patient? Every patient coming to me has that hidden trust, which I must justify. Only rarely, if the patient misbehaves or says something insulting, do I lose my calm.”.
“That’s what I like. So humble!” she had to have the last word!
Yes! The day I bring my ego inside the hospital, I will no more be a good doctor. Even the most illiterate patient understands when the doctor is being rude or artificial. Only when it is genuine, the patient will feel the warmth of my compassion and care. It has nothing to do with sweet talking or a show of affection. The only way to do this is to actually incorporate it within one’s depths so that it becomes one’s originality. Kindness and compassion must be the original, genuine qualities of every doctor who expects gratitude from each one of his patients. It does work in most cases.
After dinner, Dr. Sam took me with two other friends to the beach and we silently stared at the luminous moon for a long time. The music of those waves matched the dance of that moonlight upon the ocean. Just as one can feel the glow of the moonlight upon one’s skin, I could feel those numerous blessings keeping my soul warm and happy.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He lost his ability to walk. He had to give up working. He was carried around by family members. His spine had to be operated. Still he couldn’t walk. He didn’t lose hope. He kept smiling, searching for treatments. His legs had become completely stiff like wooden logs, and they jerked violently even with the slightest movement, even if someone touched them. He couldn’t separate his legs apart. He had to use pain killers that would cause acidity, and muscle relaxants that caused lethargy and drowsiness. All this usually depresses most patients, and some lose their patience with life.
But not Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil. He was tougher than his problems.
“I never thought my illness was anyone else’s fault. I didn’t want to exploit sympathy by complaining about my troubles. I decided to accept my illness to fight it better. I wouldn’t tell my family about my suffering. They were always ready to help, but I changed my lifestyle and needs to suit my condition. They had their life too, I did not want to make it bitter with my troubles” said Mr. Patil, a school teacher from a small village Takarkhela in Jalgaon, recalling his struggle.
His son Girish told me “Baba never raised his voice or got angry with us. Even when there was extreme pain and disability, he chose to take rest and keep smiling. He continued to do what he could, and only needed our help when he couldn’t even stand up”.
After over eight years of this agony, Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil had another major problem. His disc in the lower spine slipped and caused immense pain. The stiffness and pain in his legs worsened, it was impossible for him to move. He underwent a spinal surgery. That relieved his pain and he could resume some movement, but his earlier woes continued.
Two years ago, one of his blood tests revealed that he had an extremely rare disease called “Stiff Person Syndrome”. Due to a defect in the immune system, there was damage in his spinal cord, which caused the stiffness in his lower body. He was given controlled doses of steroids under supervision to reduce the activity of his immune system. There was a dramatic improvement: now he walks comfortably without assistance, and has resumed his full time job of a teacher.
Today he had come for a follow up. When I asked him permission for sharing his story of amazing courage and hope, he smiled and said “Every patient must understand that they must accept the illness first to be able to fight it. One must never lose hope. I found an answer after over 8 years of not knowing my diagnosis. Some doctors had told me that my problem was psychological, that it was due to stress. I knew it was not, so I did not give up. The reward of my hope is that I can walk today”.
We often get to learn from our patients. Hope is indeed an amazing prerequisite of a good life. We congratulate Mr. Dnyaneshwar Patil for his exemplary grit and pray for his best health always!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
PC Aniket Yadav
When Money Rained In Our Hospital
©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
On a beautiful September midnight, I was studying in the medical college library, as the exam term had started. It was that pre-exam phase when the futility, cruelty, and stupidity of exam system hurts most, and new poetry starts stemming in one’s brain when trying to study difficult medical concepts. But that night was a pleasant exception. My gorgeous tall colleague with curly hair was besides me in the library. She had come in from a famous private hospital in Mumbai for studying with me (seriously), and I was drenched in the pleasure of her company, because we got along very well together. We divided topics, studied and taught each other, the whole process made learning Neurology so much more beautiful! She was brilliant and madder than me in her attempts to “know everything”about what we studied. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
At about 2 AM, we went out for a small ride on my Yamaha RX100 to Dadar station, where a tea vendor on a bicycle used to serve a tea that could possibly wake up dead brains. It was raining lightly, and the whole atmosphere was filled up with a sort of Kenny G’s ‘Songbird’. She sat huddled behind me on the bike, as we sipped tea in the silence of that atmosphere. It was more beautiful than anything we could speak.
Just then, the cellphone rang. I was on call, there was some emergency. Thanks to the RX100, I reached hospital campus in nearly three minutes. I dropped my friend at the library, and went towards the casualty. There was a huge crowd. Many patients were being brought in, some severely injured, some unconscious, most bleeding, crying and shocked. The atmosphere was filled with anger and wails of relatives frantically seeking medical help for their patients. Manyresident doctors from different specialties were trying to deal with the situation.
A building under construction near the hospital had collapsed. Over 8 labourers sleeping there had died, many were badly injured. Sirens kept sounding as ambulances brought new cases. Just then, a different siren sounded, with a lot of police whistles. A local elected politician had come in his red-light car, surrounded by bodyguards. The seniormost doctor was summoned by the authorities acompanying the politico. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Make sure everybody gets the right treatment. Don’t let any complaint arise. Keep mum, we will provide all the help you need” the Politico told the casualty in charge.
“But Sir we do not have enough beds or staff to handle this. Many will need blood, antibiotics which we have long ago requested but we havent received yet” the casualty in-charge said.
“Just shut up and give a list of what is required right now, we will arrange. Make sure that media is not allowed inside the hospital” said the Politico.
Then he gestured his assistant, who opened a bag and pulled out bundles of 1000 rupees notes. The politico went from bed to bed of the injured and the dead, placed one note in the hand of the patient or the relative, and whispered “I am with you. Don’t worry. We have ordered the hospital to treat you completely free. If you need anything please tell me directly. Don’t speak with anyone else”. If anyone spoke angrily, a few more notes were thrusted in their hands.
One elderly labourer, whose son was unconscios and bleeding with a head injury, started shouting “They killed my son. We had told them that building was unsafe. They forced him to stay there. I will go to the police”etc. The politico’s assistants took him aside, and whispered something in his ear. He returned sobbing, but he did not shout anymore. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The next day, there were headlines. They covered the pictures of the rubble of the building, the dead bodies, the injured, the shocked relatives, and the patients in the hospital. They wrote praises about how the local politico rushed and helped the victims, again with pictures. There was no mention of the efforts made by the doctors who had saved many lives that night. But what was most shocking was that there never was any mention of whose building it was, who was responsible for the gross neglect in safety precautions, who owned the construction. Many had died, many were injured, but there was no blaming anyone. A case was apparently filed with the police, but no labourer came forward to complain. Money chokes many a throat, poverty sometimes desperately seeks that choke.
Thousands of people, especially the poor and helpless, die in India almost every day due to the gross inadequacies and negligence of many authorities: transport, travel, aviation, road safety, building construction, food quality, school health are areas where there are glaring blunders sometimes costing people their lives. Traffic accidents are conveniently blamed upon drivers. Unclean food, drugs being licensed are a horrible reality. Mosquitoes and malaria, dengue cause hundreds of deaths every month. Yet no press is seen “investigating” where to pin the blame. No court orders suo moto enquiries in traffic accidents of bridge / construction collapses that kill many. Railway accidents are considered an ill fate. Those victims who raise voice against this probably face the threat of never receiving the compensation or financial aid. ©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Except when someone dies in a hospital, however serious they may have been. Then the whole world knows who to blame, punish or exploit. If a doctor or hospital had committed a mistake, the headlines would be totally different. The names of doctors who spent a lifetime saving lives would be painted in black within a moment, they would be labelled villains and murderers!
I could only meet my friend three nights later. When I told her the details of how money rained, she uttered a word about that politico. A word that was shocking, but perfect. I told you, we got along very well together! Of the many beautiful nocturnal rides and adventures in my life, the memories of that one night when money rained in my hospital come back to haunt me everytime I read of a new tragedy that kills people due to someone’s fault. What happens later is still the same though. Nothing has changed.
©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I entered the ICU in a torn and angry frame of mind. An old patient had had fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure all night, and was on the thin line between life and death. Irregular heart beats had clotted his blood and he had developed a paralysis.
I had had a terrible argument with family that morning, and had left home without a breakfast, thinking that I will catch up in the canteen if hungry. The traffic on the way was as usual bad, it further worsened my mood. Messages kept pouring in: pending bills and health enquiries that were an attempt to avoid a proper consultation. One can ignore, but sometimes ignoring is stressful too!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
As I entered the hospital, I was told about some machine not working. The technician had commented that it was beyond repair now. New one would cost over 30 lacs minimum, and this machine was required on a daily basis. My head started pounding. Another loan now, another recovery period!
As I passed the billing counter, an imposing rogue with a group stopped me. “Sir, the bill is too high, do something”. It was an open threat worded technically as a request. The relatives who folded hands to save the patient till yesterday were standing behind that rogue, looking unconcerned, not even happy that the patient was alive and being discharged after a life threatening illness. I sent them to the charity cell.
I entered the ICU, staring into my cellphone where angry messages of argument kept pouring in, a dear friend was upset that I was not available to see his relatives in another hospital immediately. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The old patient was sleeping. A glance at the monitor revealed that the patient’s BP was now stable. His heart rate was regular too. What a relief!
The patient’s wife got up, she was in her 80s. Fair, all white hair, and the confidence of culture upon her face, she smiled through her wrinkles and troubles. The Kumkum on her forehead was bright and fresh. She wore a torn saree, and had no ornaments except a thin thread with black beads that made her Mangalsutra. She was bending forward due to age.
She then said “He spoke to me this morning. He is feeling better than yesterday. I know he is old, but please give him the best treatment. We have been together since childhood.” Her eyes became wet.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Then she made an attempt to touch my feet, something that woke me up with a shock. A tingling feeling ran through my body. I held her hand and reassured her that it was ok, and returned the gesture by touching her feet too. I told her I will try my best, and that her husband appeared out of danger at that moment.
She gently prodded the patient: “Look, our doctor is here. He says you are getting better. Do you recognize our doctor? Say Namaskar to him”.
Confused for a moment, the old man stared first at his wife, then at me.
He then tried to lift both hands, but only one went up, which he raised to his forehead and whispered “Namaskar”.
The old couple, the age of my parents, was saying Namaskar to me and touching my feet, although I was many decades younger to them, because I was a Doctor. They never knew me until two days ago, but had trusted everything I said. They did not question my ability or intention. I like to be professional, but that should never compromise my manners.
I switched off my cellphone.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I suddenly felt ashamed of the mood that I was in. They did not deserve it. Their complete faith was to me the best return and reward of my efforts of so many years to become a good doctor. No amount of money ‘thrown at me’ by those who think of ‘buying my services’ would actually be my interest or aim. This was.
I smiled at the old lady, and told her that should she have any concerns, she can ask the staff to call me anytime, I would be glad to come over. Then, to repay her for bringing my smile back, I wrote on the billing sheet: “No charges for me in this case”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
When I walked out of the ICU, I was feeling proud and smiling. The faith of this patient and his wife had cured me of my bad mood too. I was prepared again to forget my personal woes, to take over the faithless hundreds, still do them good, in an attempt to reach out to the really deserving faithful, who knew their doctor would only do them good. That is the essence of my profession, my education, and my intention.
A patient who trusts a doctor earns for himself the best in that doctor. Always. Although we do not expect it to be understood by everyone.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Arrest! Sir… Code Blue!” the nurse shouted. The casualty was full, all eight beds had serious patients, and their relatives waited near them. Every second matters.
“Everyone out” my co-intern shouted. Some moved out, some stayed. Two other interns were already attending similar patients, two of us ran to the arrested patient. The nurse had already started the chest massage. I gave patient the position for inserting the breathing tube, as my co-intern Dr. Ajoy took over the cardiac massage. The senior medical officer, Dr. Hazare, experienced with a lot of medical wisdom, stood near the bed. He calmly gave orders for the last-attempt medicines in such emergencies.
The chest massage to save lives is rather forceful, its force has to reach the heart. The chest wall has to be pumped down 2-2.5 inches with every compression, and this has to be real fast: over 100 times a minute. It looks very traumatic, but it is useless if not done exactly like this. It is quite a disturbing scene for the relatives. The patient’s son kept on shouting “Don’t hurt him” loudly. The medical officer repeatedly asked him and the five relatives around the patient to leave. They refused.
The Medical Officer Dr. Hazare then asked us to stop the CPR. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We were baffled. How could one stop the life saving CPR?
The patient who had arrested was from a nearby slum, father of a local goon out on bail, like most goons in India. He (the patient) was in his late fifties, a chronic alcoholic and smoker, with severe liver damage. He’d had excess alcohol on the prior night. That morning, he had had a convulsion, and was brought to the casualty after many hours of delay . An arrogant, drunk, politically supported crowd posing as relatives accompanied him, a common nuisance in almost every Indian hospital.
We continued the CPR. Dr. Hazare went out.
After a direct injection of adrenaline into the heart through the chest, the patient’s heart restarted, and he started to gasp, making some movements. We quickly shifted him to the ICU. The proud feeling of saving a life gripped us. There was no time for celebration, but Dr. Ajoy kept whistling on the way for our midnight tea.
Later that night, Dr. Hazare called us. He was angry, yet calm and smiling, an ability that only the most evolved souls can have.
“Listen, we are in India. Most of the people around us are not only uneducated and ignorant, they are also quite violent and paranoid. Emotional dramas are considered a normalcy. There’s a tendency to shift the blame of delayed treatment and bad outcomes on to the doctors. You were risking your life. If the patient’s heart had not restarted, the relatives could have blamed you, even hurt you”.
“But Sir, they saw that we were desperately trying to save the patient’s life” I argued.
“YOU think so. They don’t know anything about the CPR. They refused to go out. You saw how arrogant they are. These things work only when the outcome is good. If the outcome is bad, the doctor is automatically held guilty. I told you, we are in India. People like to think that doctors are wrong, whatever you do. ” Dr. Hazare said. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We didn’t think he was right. Still, we respected him for his wisdom, so we just apologised and went on to deal with the casualty again. It was a busy night, still a very negative feeling about what Dr. Hazare had said kept shadowing my thoughts. How could such a senior doctor ask someone to stop CPR?
Dr. Ajoy went to his room at 5 AM and returned by 7 AM to relieve me. I went home at 7 AM, had a quick bath and breakfast, to return at 9 AM.
The casualty was all devastated, ruins were seen all around. Many doctors were rushing in and out. All beds were empty except one.
Dr. Ajoy was on that casualty bed, unconscious, intubated and with blood soaked bandages on his head. He had many cuts on his entire body. Our colleagues were trying to push intravenous fluids fast into his veins. Dr. Anirudh, another intern with us, told me even as he could not stop crying: “That patient we had resuscitated yesterday evening… he had another cardiac arrest in the ICU this morning… his relatives came down and attacked Ajoy. They said that the patient died because of the forceful CPR. They stabbed Ajay and hit his head with iron rods. Dr. Hazare came and tried to rescue Ajoy, they even attacked him. We were waiting for you. Do you have his parent’s contact?”.
In a state of shock, I could not speak. I reached out for my bag, got my diary and called Dr. Ajoy’s father in Calcutta.
“Why?” Dr. Ajoy’s shocked father asked when I told him Ajoy was attacked, injured and serious. How could the father of a thin built, cute, brilliant scholar ever understand that people could brutally attack his child for trying to save their loved one?
I had no answers. Dr. Hazare’s sentences kept ringing in my brain, I could not utter them. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Eventually, Dr. Ajoy recovered. He is now in the UK. His father came over last week, for a check-up. While leaving, he kept his gracious hand upon my head and said with immense love: “Save many lives beta, but take care of yourself first. I still cannot sleep well due to what happened”.
That night, I stared at the sky, and kept thinking: Actually, this is why no doctor ever sleeps well in India. Saving lives comes with the inherent risk of losing one’s own, and this happens only in our beloved motherland.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Why did this happen to her, doc? She is so young and had no problems till now..”asked the angry husband, who had accompanied his learned wife down with severe vertigo and headache. His tone was quite accusative, and voice raised.
My elderly professor Dr. Desai did not look up, he continued to write the prescription quietly. He had just explained in detail to the patient and her husband that this was a simple positional vertigo, which happens episodically in some patients. Although it is scary because the patient feels the world spinning suddenly, it is also called ‘benign’because it does not cause any harm beyond this spinning sensation. Some other dangerous illnesses that could cause such spinning sensation (tumors, blood clots) were already ruled out by Dr. Desai, after a thorough examination and relevant tests. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Ï just explained that to you” said Dr. Desai to the patient’s husband, “keep some patience, take rest, and take this medicine”.
“But why did this happen to her?” repeated the husband, this time louder.
“I don’t know, many factors like allergy, infection, some internal defects can cause such problems. In case of your wife this seems to be due to the viral infection she had few days ago.” replied Dr. Desai.
A long list of patients waited outside, and he had already explained courteously whatever was necessary, spending extra time instructing the patient about care to be taken to avoid such episodes, and exercises for the same.
“So this treatment will cure her permanently?” the husband asked. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Dr. Desai, known for his patience, smiled and replied “Look dear, this illness is like cough and cold. You treat it when it happens, but that does not permanently cure it for life, one may have it again and again. You just treat it when it happens. Now you must excuse me, other patients are waiting”.
The patient went outside and wrote an extremely negative internet review about Dr. Desai.
The fact that he was seeing the seniormost doctor in the specialty who had over 30 years of experience, the fact that the doctor had spent extra time to explain and instruct, the fact that the diagnosis was accurate and that the treatment was exact did not make a difference. One little unpleasant thing – that his repeated questions were not entertained – had resulted in a negative online rating / feedback for what was an almost a flawless consultation.
Some patients ask the same long list of questions every time they visit, which frustrates the doctor. Decline to answer a repeat question, and you get a negative, angry review.
It takes long years to understand some medical concepts. Ususally experienced and clever doctors devise their own simplified versions to make laymen undertand these concepts. However, to understand some concepts or diseases, it requires a lot of different basic bits of information, which it is impossible to make the patient understand. Most patients are quite happy with the simplified versions of disease, diagnosis that their doctors tell them, but some want to dissect every word and understand everything. If the doctor cannot make them understand, they simp jump over to another doctor. While smart communication is an essential for a good doctor today, this has now resulted in another dangerously funny phenomenon: doctors who don’t know much medicine, but can make such patients happy with wise wordplay. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
A few days later, an old farmer from a village walked in. He had the same medical condition. After checking him, Dr. Desai started to explain him the diagnosis. He laughed, folded his hands, and said “Doctor saheb, if I had a capacity to learn medicine, I would be sitting in your chair! I have complete trust in what you do. Just tell me how to take the mediine, what I should not eat, and I will be on my way. I only understand farming well”.
Dr. Desai looked at us students, smiled, and said “When educated, we forget that the real talent lies in knowing what we cannot understand. Some people never get the fact that ‘not everyone can understand everything’. They keep circling in the same ignorant, egoistic efforts leading to frustration. That is a different vertigo, with no treatment. This farmer’s trust saves him such trouble”.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
At the casualty door she started shouting at me even before I went in. “We don’t want any tests. We don’t want to admit him in any critical care unit. Keep him in the general ward you have, we are now financially exhausted. Give basic medicines only “. Mrs. Julie, the patient’s daughter, went on:”We have already signed palliative care form”.
“Let me see the patient first “ I said and went in.
The resident doctor had earlier told me that the patient, an old man, was conscious, speaking quite well, aware of his illness. He was intermittently getting unconscious for a few minutes. He had high grade fever. He had lung cancer, and a brain scan a few days prior had revealed that that he had a secondary in the brain too. He had just completed his chemotherapy. The resident doctor had already started medicine for fits just now.
As I examined him, the jovial Mr. Shaw smiled back and told me that he was feeling a little giddy and tired, otherwise he had no complaints. He could even stand and walk without support. His blood pressure was normal, but the heart rate was quite high due to the fever.
“I think you have probably developed seizures due to the secondary in brain. There seems to be some infection too, we will run some tests and start antibiotics” I told him.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
“When will I feel better, doctor?” He asked, “I want to be home and spend every possible day of my remaining time with my grandchildren. I want to also finish a book I am writing. I am told I have only a few months left. How much time do I have? Six months? Four atleast?” he asked, still smiling. Only doctors know what a smiling face with a crying heart actually looks like. “Every passing moment is extremely precious for me, doc! Please cure me fast” he said.
I assured him that if the tests showed nothing serious, he could go home once fever subsided, but the fits needed long term treatment. While we were having this talk he suddenly stiffened and his body developed jerky movements, then he became unconscious.
Ordering the emergency injections for fits, I told the casualty doctor to shift him to the critical care unit.
Coming out, I explained this to the angry daughter.
“Doc, we don’t want to treat him in any ICU. We also do not want any tests now. Please give him tablets instead of injections, we want to take him home as soon as his fever goes down” she replied.
This has become very common now, relatives of elderly people admitting them in hospitals, but refusing to do any tests, use injectable / costly medicines or shifting to critical care units. A doctor cannot refuse patients in such a condition, and it is an extremely painful, stressful situation to not be able to correctly investigate, treat a patient because relatives are unwilling. Ninety Nine percent of the times, money is the only reason. There are many charity, low cost and even good government hospitals, but the relatives also want the “show”of having admitted the patient at some posh hospital. Beyond a certain level, Private
hospitals cannot go on funding tests and treatments of hundreds of such patients even on a compassionate basis, because the poverty in India is never ending.
Compassion is the most abused entity in India.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
I told her that even if they had signed for palliative care, his current condition was treatable, his fever and fits caused him distress and could be treated, but she staunchly refused to let us send any tests. We started with oral medicines after a lot of deliberation, keeping fingers crossed that he responds. He did.
On the third day, Mr. Shaw walked out of the hospital with his patent smile.
Just next week, his daughter returned to the OPD: “Doc, dad passed away two days ago. After going home he had fever again, but we decided to manage him at home. Somehow he could not get through this time. I have come to get your signature on these bills from his last medicines, we want to get reimbursed”.
“Was he seen by a doctor at home?” I asked her.
“No doc, we gave him the same medicines that he was earlier given for fever. We also searched online and ordered them. But in a way we also feel he is now relieved of all his troubles” she said, hushing up the topic.
I signed the papers, a duty and an obligation.
In every hospital, every day, we see parents rushing, crying, selling everything they have, urging doctors to save their children on one side, and grown up children urging doctors to hasten up the deaths of their parents on the other . Many sweet, politically correct and legally blurred terms are now available for masking these murders.
A patient with a terminal illness may himself sign for “non-aggressive / palliative” care (meaning pain relief, superficial / minor treatment without aggressive effort to save or maintain life), or if the patient is not in a good mental condition to sign such a consent, the relatives may sign so. However, in India where children mostly are responsible for the medical bills of the elderly, they flatly refuse to treat even treatable, reversible conditions citing “öld age” as a reason. Even in case of patients with terminal illness, to presume that someone is immediately unfit to live, or fit to die is like saying it is okay to terminate their life at someone else’s wish. This is cruel, unethical, immoral, and should stand supported in no courts of law.
However, these murders are a daily routine in India, and law has tied the hands of treating doctors and hospitals as one cannot investigate or treat a patient when the relatives haven’t given a consent. An evolution in the fraternity as well as in this society is necessary if a change is expected.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
Otherwise, when we all will eventually be old, however much we want to live on for a few more days, one day someone will decide that we don’t deserve to continue to live, without ever wanting to know what we wished.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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