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Saving Life? Not Enough!

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© DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE

“I will kill you. I will see that you don’t practice in this city. You don’t know me” the elderly man shouted angrily outside the crowded OPD room of the senior neurosurgeon. He was surrounded by five others, two of them his sons, who instead of calming him down, were adding to the threats.

“Let him come out of the hospital. We will show him” shouted one of them.

The Neurosurgeon who stood in the OPD door did not react. He was known as a short tempered professor, a quality that often accompanies excellence in any field. © DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE

Two years ago, a young software engineer had come with his parents to the OPD of this senior Neurosurgeon. A son of a rich politician, he had an obvious sign of of a brain surgery: his skull shape was abnormal, with a part of his forehead sunken in. He had been operated for a brain tumor four years ago, it turned out to be very early stage of a cancer. He was told to keep visiting a neurosurgeon every year to check if the tumor grew back again. Now another similar tumor had grown in his brain. This time it was in an extremely dangerous area to operate, there was a high risk of death. After explaining every risk to the family, our Neurosurgeon operated him. Just after the surgery, the patient had developed brain swelling and bleeding unexpectedly, and had become comatose. Fighting these complications with all his might, the neurosurgeon finally ensured that the patient recovered completely. When discharged, the patient went walking by himself, and had no complaints. He followed up regularly for next few weeks for radiation and chemotherapy. Then he was advised to follow up every six months.

The next time he visited, after the consultation, the patient called in his wife.

“We married last month, Doctor” said the patient.

Surprised, our neurosurgeon congratulated them, wondering why the patient never told him about that arranged marriage.

In a year, the patient developed another recurrence of the tumor. Surgery was planned, and the wife’s family accompanied the patient. Rich, educated and powerful, the only thing they couldn’t own was manners. © DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE

“How come he developed a brain tumor, doctor?”asked the angry father in law of the patient.

“Well, tumors can develop in anyones brain, because of naure’s mistakes in the human body, but he has had this problem for many years now, don’t you know about it?” asked our neurosurgeon.

“No. No one told us when my sister was married to him”said the angry brother.

“Didn’t you notice the big scar on his forehead?”asked the neurosurgeon, unable to believe this. In a society that disallows marriages due to stupidest of reasons, it was difficult to believe that such an obvious sign was missed.

“We were told that he had had a small head injury. My sister had come last time. Why didn’t you tell her?”asked the other brother, keeping with the family tradition of angry misbehavior.

“She waited outside for the last consultation. Then again, you should have asked your doctor about this before finalising the marriage”.

The wife’s family walked out. The patient and his family was nowhere to be seen. That’s when the two brothers realised that there was a huge rush of patients in the OPD complex, and started shouting threats for the neurosurgeon.

“You have spoiled the life of my daughter”said the patient’s father in law to the doctor, “You should have told your patient not to marry”.

Although this was ridiculous, the neurosurgeon, who was otherwise known for his zero tolerance of stupidity and threats, took this in his stride. He called them all in and explained once more. He made them aware that the patient had never revealed any plans to marry. © DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE

The brothers refused to understand, they had to vent their anger, and here was a doctor available for it! It was like legally protected murder of decent civil etiquette, traumatising of a doctor’s dignity, backed by the society and media. Who will stand by the doctor? Who will even consider the fact that merely few months ago, this very doctor had fought to bring back their patient from the clutches of death?

The neurosurgeon got many phone calls over next few days, with threats to life and something even more precious than life for a doctor: threats to reputation. Like a thousand other storms in his life, he braved this one too. The patient was divorced by his wife. He was operated and radiation was started.

In the usual “I don’t care a hoot for idiots” style of surgeons, the Neurosurgeon chose to ignore them and do what was his duty. But when he told me this incidence, there indeed was a hint of a broken something in his eyes.

“We save so many lives, since so many years. Earlier there was a sense of fulfilment, even if the patient did not express gratitude. Now, that sense is lost. Saving life isn’t anything great for our society, it has become a mechanical job expectation from the doctor, just like the paid service of a machine. Educated and uneducated goons, even people who faint at the sight of blood come and threaten doctors as if it was routine for them to do what we do. I am quite worried about the future generations of doctors”.© DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE

Just as the neurosurgeon spoke with me, the patient mentioned above walked by, with his mother, returning from his radiotherapy session. When our neurosurgeon asked whether he is recovering well from the divorce, mother casually laughed and said “Oh! That girl was never good enough for my son. I am sure he will get to marry a better one soon. There are very few educated men with such a salary in our community” and they walked away.

Aghast, we went to the cafetaria and had a wrodless cofee, but that silence was full of regrets. As we got up, the neurosurgeon commented: “We can only save lives. Not these people or their society “.

© DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE

A real life incidence shared by Dr. Ashok Bhanage, Neurosurgeon. Patient details changed to mask identity.

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The “Cheap Competition” among Doctors: a Hidden Cancer.

The “Cheap Competition” among Doctors: a Hidden Cancer.
©Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Neurologist, Pune.

A majority of medical students in India are actually from poor or middle class background. Most students come in this profession for service to the suffering and also for social respect. Every doctor passing out in India does not pay crores of rupees for education. This is a system created and maintained by all governments for their strongmen as a source of huge earnings. Many of these “paying” students also work hard and earn their degree. However some few look at the amount spent as an investment and try to earn it back by unfair means. This is NOT the fault of the majority of good doctors (both non-paying and paying) who work hard to acquire their skills and help the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the society expects “cheapest” advice even for most complicated health issues, some newcomers, those who are under qualified, those who do not have a good number, and some who don’t have the confidence keep their “Consultation fees” quite low, and rely upon alternate income: through tests, procedures and surgeries, through percentage in hospital bills. Thus, though the ‘entry ticket’ is low, the ‘hidden charges’ compensate for the doctor’s (genuine) hard work and skill.
However, not all ‘low fees’ doctors are bad, but keep their rates low to be able to compete, no one wants to criticise those who have low fees for ulterior motives. This competition to keep the consultation fees low to attract patients has generated most evils in the medical practice. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change soon, as most people prefer this.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The low “Consultation fees“ model works best for even good, skilled and experienced surgeons and branches with procedures (plasty/ scopy etc.), where the patient usually does not question the charges for the procedures or surgery, just because every patient prefers best skilled doctor. There is also a recent trend to offer even “procedures and surgeries” at a competitive low cost by some hospitals, who employ the inexperienced or inadequately qualified/ trained doctors, beginners, lowest skilled nurses, technicians and other staff and instrumentation, catheters, joints, other prostheses. The whole show will be put up for “short term goals”, risking patient’s life and compromising many aspects of good care. In many “cheap packages”, the long term outcomes may be at risk.

Those who run hospitals have many profit sources: right from the tea sold inside the hospital campus to the room charges, pathology and radiology, nursing, drugs and everything used, they earn profits under multiple headings. This is also why they can afford to keep their consultation fees extremely low. However, most doctors employed at such hospitals are not paid anything besides their own low consultation fees, while they remain the face of the “total-bill” for all patients. This system encourages rich doctors who invest in alternative sources of income than the consultation fees alone. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Physicians / specialists must rely only upon their OPD consultation and IPD visits. If a proper examination is to be done in each case, and all questions of every patient are to be addressed, one cannot see more than 20-25 patients in a day. Thus if he / she keeps low fees, it becomes difficult to sustain in any Indian city. So they must see as many patients as they can, only addressing the immediate medical issue, and unable to answer many queries of the patient and relatives. If a good doctor decides to spend more time with each patient, and gives up relying upon the “hidden income”, he must charge a much higher consultation fees to just sustain in a good city.

The social anger against doctors mostly comes from increased expenditures on health and unrealistic expectations. Although there are greedy doctors, a majority are just doing their best to make a good name by offering the best service at a low price. Quality healthcare will always come with a higher price-tag, a good doctor will have a higher fees, and that if one wants the “backdoor / cut / referral practice “ to end, one must be prepared to pay higher fees.

In a country where loud and sweet talk, deception and lies are preferred by majority over genuine service, honesty and truth, it is difficult to change the basic attitudes: on both sides..

There indeed are some honourable doctors and hospitals who know the value of their own service, and offer the best to their patient. But even they are usually considered “Greedy” by the very patients whose miseries they end. There are senior / skilled doctors who charge from three to ten thousand or more per consultation, and most of our powerful and ministers go to these doctors too. Although this consultation fees appears high, the accuracy of the opinion and advice often save the patients lacs of rupees. If a surgeon advises a surgery, he/ she can earn many thousands, but if the same surgeon with his skills and experience treats the patient conservatively, avoids surgery and gets good results, the patient is unwilling to pay even half the price of that surgery for the same result. What would anyone do in such a case? The concept that “A Right Opinion by the Right Specialist” saves the patient huge amounts of money and discomfort is yet to dawn upon the Indian society.

The market of cheap has always survived, but in the long run, cheap options always come with a greater final price tag upon health: often your life.

It is my sincere appeal to all my fellow practitioners from the newer generations to please change this structure. See a moderate number of patients per day, charge according to your skill, experience and time, do not undercharge or bargain, then alone this system of backdoor incomes will gradually change. Of course you must consider concessions for the really poor, and accommodate those who cannot pay by keeping a separate time/ OPD for them.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Neurologist, Pune.

PS:
Many city-based imbeciles without any doctor in their family will immediately say that all doctors should go to villages. Those who suggest that, please make your own children (if you have) doctors (if they have the caliber) and send them to villages. Why doesn’t the government make it compulsory for every mla and mp who draws lifelong financial benefits from the country’s exchequer, to send their kids to medical schools and serve in rural India compulsorily? Why is it not compulsory for the elected members to take all treatment in their own electorate? Every law is bent every which way possible to accommodate the healthcare requirements of all the rich and powerful, whether it is kidney transplant or joint replacement, but when extending healthcare to the poor and unaffording, the same people from various ruling parties conveniently point fingers at the medical professionals!

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Dictatorial Actions?

Dictatorial Actions?
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

If one minister commits a mistake, does the entire government go?

Even the wrong ministers rarely go.
If one doctor / department has committed a mistake, how fair is it to cancel the license of an entire super-specialty hospital, where over a hundred specialists work, many hundred patients are already admitted and many thousand patients follow up for their regular treatment? What about those who had planned major surgeries and treatments there?

There indeed was a grave mistake. The relatives have suffered an immeasurable loss, and this must be investigated and the guilty must be brought to justice. Every doctor feels sympathy for every life lost. This is a science and practice of life where human mistakes are not impossible, they should be scrupulously avoided. If however they do occur, one must not overreact, especially for populist advantages. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Whether it was one person or an entire team that was wrong, they must be tried. But how fair is the action of closing down the entire hospital? Is this not affecting the basic human rights of the other patients, doctors and staff working there?

Is this a good tradition to follow in a country with an already collapsed government healthcare system? Someone has lapsed. Who made the hospital protocols? Who implemented them? Were they followed? Who issued the hospital license without confirming standards? If license was issued that means some standards were defined. If not, why was the license issued in the first place? If these standards were defined, it is easy to find out who was at fault, and take action accordingly. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is well known that corporate / majorhospitals have to pay hefty bribes almost everywhere to get every permission. They are business houses promoted by an administration that cannot deal with the country’s healthcare overload. That is also a reason why some hospitals / teams may not follow standard protocols, and confidently overbill the patients. Why doesn’t the government define the limits of profits on commodities rather than capping doctor’s fees? The answers are simpler to the wise. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

What about the many other good doctors who worked at this hospital, who had joined there as a career, who had bought homes nearby to reach the hospital faster? What about the students who had joined there as post graduates in various specialties? What about the staff?

Was it impossible to hand over the charge to some doctor’s body / organisation or under a competent authority for better running rather than closing down the hospital? The correct action then should have been suspension of the involved department / team till the facts were found out, and after medical and legal opinions, trial as per law. This is what every minister, every administrator, every TDH of any significance demands and gets as a basic right even after grave crimes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There was of course a basic investigation. Why not exactly find out and take strict action against the medical / non medical administrators or owners involved? Add to this the apathy shown by medical bodies and other hospitals in this case.

Welcome to this glimpse of future that will be commonplace for all hospitals if no one acts now. Populist headlines will never solve the grave healthcare that deficits India faces.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My sympathies, as those of every good doctor in India, lie with the relatives who have suffered. They must get justice.But that should not be at the cost of destroying the careers of many other medical and non medical people who were not guilty

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Richest Doctors

The Richest Doctors

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“He needs an urgent bypass surgery. Very risky, high chances of death on table.” the cardiologist told us.

My friend’s father, a businessman, was admitted just after midnight for chest pain and breathlessness. The cardiologist rushed to the hospital within an hour and arranged for an agiography. As my friend’s father did not have any cash upon him, and neither my friend nor myself had sufficient amount in the bank, we requested the cardiologist to please proceed without deposits (most hospitals charge the complete bill to the doctor if the patient does not pay). I told the cardiologist that I was working as a resident doctor. He told me not to worry, signed on the paper that he will be responsible for the bills, and the patient was wheeled into the cathlab. When he came out, the doc told us that patient will need an urgent bypass surgery. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My friend and his mother were devastated. They were passing throough a bad financial phase, and had no funds ready. The patient himself had taken big loans from few business partners / friends, and started a new venture recently.

“You find out the best heart surgeon, we will try and arrange something” my friend told me while his mother kept on repeating prayers, crying in a corner of the waiting hall.

I spoke to my teachers and found out two names who had excellent results in cardiac surgery. Of course they were fully busy, appointments were difficult to obtain, and the surgical costs were an embarrassing thing to bargain: knowing that the best will come at a cost.

“Don’t bargain, I want my father to be operated by the best, I don’t want the doctor to feel that we will skimp. I will arrange somehow”my friend told me.

The best advantage of becoming a doctor came my way to help me: many medical doors open easily for the co-professionals as with any other profession. The same evening I was sitting in front of one of the best Cardiac surgeons in Mumbai with my friend. The VVIPs in the crowded waiting room angrily looked on at two youngsters allowed in ahead of them. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“He needs surgery urgently for sure. I will plan it tomorrow, although I will have to readjust my schedule, but you will have to shift him to this hospital where I am operating the other case too. We will arrange for the cardiac ambulance, don’t worry.”said the surgeon. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir, how much will be the charge?” I asked, hesitant and already scared of the answer.

He replied without a blink. Our hearts skipped a beat together, and my friend looked at the ground with wet eyes.

“Sir”, I said pleadingly “Can we get some discount?”

My friend squeezed my hand, and said firmly, but with tears: “No Sir, please proceed, please do the best for my father. We just want him to recover. We will arrange for whatever charges you say”.

“Don’t worry. Please sign the papers so my juniors will arrange to shift your father here early tomorrow morning. I will do my best”said the heart surgeon.

That night, my friend called up many relatives and his father’s friends to get some help. As expected he got none. But after an hour, he started receiving many calls from those who had lent money to his father. They wanted it back immediately. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

By early morning, most of those ‘friends’ from whom the patient had borrowed money gathered in the hospital. They had a meeting with my friend’s mother, who pleaded them and assured that all the money will be returned once the patient recovers.

“What’s the guarantee? We heard that he may die during the operation. We cannot afford that” said the calm leader of the group.

“Please don’t talk such words, I beg of you” cried the lady, visibly torn by what she was facing, “I will sell our house and return your money, we just need some help till his surgery. Please wait for a week”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As my angry friend got up to reply, his mother asked him to just shut up. She pleaded the group with folded hands “I promise you, we will sell our house and return your money”.

The group whispered for some time.

“We will wait only if your husband signs that on a bond paper before going in for the surgery. Otherwise we will block his ambulance”. The leader said.

While shifting the patient, a ‘break’ in the ambulance journey was arranged during which the patient on the stretcher was taken into a ‘friend’s’ home on the way to the hospital, made to sign various papers while still wearing his oxygen mask, and only then did the lenders allow him to be shifted to the next hospital. Business is business, and our society condones everything in the name of money, except when paying for health. Along with my friend, I earned quite a big scar that day.

He was taken in the Operation Theater. Inside, the cardiac surgeon’s junior told the boss about the horrific “break” they had to take. The cardiac surgeon didn’t react.

The surgery was successful, the patient was discharged in seven days. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The cardiac surgeon didn’t charge the patient. He did not mention it to us too, we came to know during discharge. We went again to thank him. He was smiling now.

“It’s Ok. Carry it forward” he told me, then turned to my friend “You too”.

We touched his feet and left.

As we finished our coffee that night at the famous cafe on Marine Drive, my friend told me “Earlier I thought there is no money in medical profession, you people work too hard for what you get. Doctors are kind of “Use and Throw“ community. Now I feel, you people are still the richest whether you earn or not! That cardiac surgeon, by just not charging my father even after saving his life, owns everything I will ever earn in my life! Thank you!”

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Based upon a true story.

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Annapoorna

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Annapoorna

“Everyone who enters our house must be offered water, a cup of tea, and snacks. If it is lunch or dinner time, offer meals. Never differentiate, be it poor or rich, friend or enemy, someone you like or dislike, offer them the best fresh food you have. You will always be happy when you feed someone. Also, never even tell a beggar that you don’t have food, it is already humiliating for them to have to beg for food”, she taught us. She scrupulously followed it herself.

My mother, Dr. Usha Kalidas Deshpande, insisted that no one should ever be hungry.

In spite of herself being a fulltime professor who was much involved in teaching, whenever I returned from school, she was usually available to make hot fresh poli / chapattis and my favourite curries. Dinner, as a rule, was almost always made by her. She remembered the food choices of my father’s friends, their students, my friends etc., and often cooked something quickly for them to eat whenever they visited.

“A man who does not sometimes cook for his family cannot fully understand his woman”, she often said. My father fully supported her views and sincerely attempted to cook till we all told him that he can instead take us to a hotel. He was happy, and so were we! (Although he made delicious omelettes!)

Mom taught me to cook too, right from making chapattis (of course the first few I made were disco chapattis). This immensely helped me in later life as a single parent, as I could often cook things that my kids liked (at least the poor boys said so then). Needless to say, we follow the food / host rules set by mom at our home even today. I loved the “Poli / Chapatti / Paratha” made by her so much, that when she passed away, gave up eating these.

Today is her birth anniversary.
Every year that she was alive, I had asked her “What would you like for a birthday gift?”. From the time that my salary was 1250 INR per month as an intern till two years ago when I could get her anything she could wish, her answer never changed: “I have everything, what else can I want?” with a smile! She was never fond of any jewellery, luxury or show off, so we always wondered what to gift her. Now after she has left us, we have finally found the right gift for her.

We (my sister and myself) have decided to start a new tradition in our mother’s memory: annadaan / food donation, whereby at least one hundred people will be served complete meals on this date at a center near Pune.. My children have gladly agreed to continue this tradition after me. Anyone from any religion / caste / age will be served, the only preference will be for the really poor and sick.

It is said that one should never speak about anything that one does for anyone else. I am guilty of that crime here, but the only reason to write all this is: most of the mothers feed their children along with their friends too with this same love. If this motherly bliss is passed on, also including those who really need to eat well, those who do not get to taste a complete meal every day, it will be a real tribute to one’s mother and a tiny return of what we received from her. One can of course always choose the form in which to remember one’s mother, I have chosen this, and felt like sharing it for my close ones as well as for those who knew my “Annapoorna” mother, Dr. Usha Kalidas Deshpande.

Dr. Rajas Deshpande
16th May 2017

Worse than Death

Worse than Death
(C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, I have started to die. Can you help me somehow?” he asked, calmly.
In his late twenties, a handsome young man, well dressed, but with a certain painful gloom upon his face that was a mismatch to an overall nice and clean appearance. What could this be? I started thinking, hoping he was wrong.

Then his shoulder twitched, and arm had a slight jerk. A pang of suspicion bit my heart immediately. He confirmed it in few seconds. Those who take life for granted are often so full of anxiety, and here he was, who had initiated a countdown to his own death, talking to me in a low but clear voice.
“Doctor, I have been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease over 7 years ago” he said, “Till now I had only these jerky movements. Now I have started having some mood problems and also memory issues. My parents died in an accident when I was three. My uncle’s family cared for me till I could go to a boarding school. I stay alone in a rental apartment, I work in an IT company”.

Examination and review of reports established that his diagnosis was correct. There is no treatment.
This illness of brain degeneration starts with abnormal movements, then causes loss of memory and other cognitive functions, mood swings, depression, finally causing complete immobility and usually death ensues due to blockage of windpipe because of food while swallowing. A patient usually survives less than 13-18 years after the diagnosis. Some commit suicide.

What do I tell someone aged 28 who knows he will definitely die soon?
Yes there are research options and support groups. Yes I can send him to a professional counsellor. Yes I can use some mood stabilising medicines and antidepressants.
But can I emotionally detach from this event as a doctor? (C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Diagnose and treat with empathy, educate and move on. Don’t take home the burden of your patient’s illness. Don’t get emotionally involved in your patient’s lives and problems. Never. But is that possible?

Shall I ask him if he has any bucket list of things he wants to once experience, before he forgets who he is? Is there something there that I can help him with? Has he planned anything about his life when he is mentally or physically disabled?

I told him that some medicines can help him, and wrote a prescription. Also referred him to an expert counsellor.

What would I do in such a situation? What is it that I would like to hear from the doctor, knowing the obvious too? What is so important in life when one knows that there are only a few years remaining?

Those who have the luxury of ignorance can laugh and superficially answer. Those who answer immediately have seldom used thinking. Those who are assured of their health have changing answers.
But those who know it?

I decided to ask him. (C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Next time he visited, he told me that he has resigned from his job, as he had problems dealing with the responsibility. He could not ride his two wheeler too, he had sold it off.

“I am going to my ancestral village, doctor. A dharamshala (religious sanctuary) has agreed to allow me stay and food, and help me as much as they can. I am also willing to donate my body for research, so at least others don’t suffer this. But I have to finalise yet”.

In India, just as there is no scope for genuine research, there also is complete lack of any infrastructure for the care of such patients.

I decided to ask him what troubled me.
“Is there something you wanted to do?” I could not bring myself to say “before you go”.

He tried to smile. His eyes welled up as he thought about the question.
“Yes, Doctor. I wanted to feel someone loving me madly at least once. In fact I had a girl in my office whom I liked. I think she liked me too. But then my diagnosis was confirmed and I didn’t want her to suffer, so I never told her. I met her before resigning, and told her the truth”.

“Everyone will only degenerate,” he continued, “I am ready to see myself degenerate early. But the one purpose, the one good memory of life that one can wrap himself with when facing the decline, is love. Everything else only reminds of loss”.Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Then, wiping his tears and sobbing, for once, openly, without the restriction of pride, he held my hand, and said, “Thank you doctor for all your help. I came to know just now, that not having loved is what I regret most. It feels worse than death. Even if I had felt true love once, I won’t have regretted this early death”.

He had only echoed what every particle, every corner and every breath of life always reminds us of, while we keep on searching for everything else.
Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Allopathy? Oh, No!

Allopathy? Oh, No!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, I don’t believe in Allopathy. There are so many traditional remedies that work wonders. We heard of this treatment where you eat certain flowers, and they cure everything, even cancer and AIDS.”
“Doctor, we hear that there are cures to many diseases, but the pharmaceuticals and doctors want people to be ill for longer, so the right treatments are hidden, and only useless costly medicines are prescribed.”
“I don’t want any medicines that cause side effects. I am allergic to almost every allopathic medicine”.

One standard answer:
“Then why are you here today?” © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We live in a world brimming with superstitions and claims of all kinds. From parents killing a girl child to dowry deaths, from voodoo to sophisticated five-star magic healers, we have it all in our society.

Add education and a degree (not mandatory), add internet, and one becomes the King or Queen of personalized wisdom. Now one can question anything except one’s beliefs and random internet claims. Even years of training and scientifically proven facts, good or bad.

From scorpion bites to poisons of different kinds, from heavy metals in overdose to drinking one’s own pee, there are claims of cure that have been refuted by authentic scientific research, but then the easiest thing to question and suspect today are scientific knowledge and a doctor’s integrity and training, no matter how little one has studied medicine. Just as most hospitals struggle to fight infections, people happily drink urine: mostly studded with some of the deadliest microorganisms known. The fact that many children have died of Urine therapy does not seem to affect the popularity of this myth. By this logic, a person with kidney failure who is not urinating should become immortal! But only the proponents of this therapy will be able to tell why kidney failure patients die within hours of not passing urine. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I had a classmate who would blindfold his eyes and cross a live railway track, to prove his courage. Whenever someone questioned his safety, his pet answer was “I have done this many times, nothing has happened”.

It stands to reason (again a doubtful criteria in some communities: why base arguments upon reason when there’s superstition?), that if you believe that all Allopathy is a hoax, you have a complete freedom to stay away from it all your life; that at least will save the Allopaths some burden and free them from the daily sins they are so presumed to commit by treating with a hoax science! May be one can wear brass badges that say “I don’t want Allopathic treatment, don’t take me to an Allopathic hospital even if I am serious”.

While some Allopathic doctors do use medicines injudiciously sometimes, it is seldom with an intention to cause harm, no doctor thrives on a bad reputation. Everyone wants their patient to get better.

Those who do believe that doctors are only after money, that Allopathy is just another deception, that most treatment choices that doctors make are selfish, they are welcome to never enter another hospital again in life. There are umpteen non Allopathic therapies from magic to music that are claimed to cure every ailment that Allopathy cannot.

Is there nothing better to do in your life than to visit places that you don’t believe in? Do you get a high questioning a doctor’s scientific knowledge while being unable to question your own unscientific hearsay myths? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

God forbid, but next time someone is sick and dehydrated, down with a pneumonia that stops breathing, has a heart attack, or bleeding from a head injury, please call that friend who suggested that scorpion stings heal everything. May be he can help.

What will happen if children are not vaccinated? What will happen if all Allopathic hospitals are shut down?

Stand outside the discharged patient’s section in any Allopathy hospital, you will hear daily stories of returning from death’s clasps. From polytrauma to cured cancers, from patients recovering from a paralysis to stopped hearts beating again, Allopathy brings life to most. Have some respect for what science has achieved!

Allopaths should stop wasting time arguing with those who continuously belittle Allopathy and sing praises for the unscientific. Use that time for saving lives of those who need you better. The easy answer is: “Yes, you may drink your pee or pet a poisonous scorpion if you enjoy its bites for your health”. Reserve the social education for those who understand logic.

We don’t believe that science needs permissions to be accepted. What is proven goes through rigorous scrutiny and is then marketed. But then again, this is expected to be understood by only those with a certain mental education, reasoning ability and logic, those who are not carried away by every myth they hear.

As for the rest, may your faith and belief alone heal you.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: There are some traditional remedies that help some medical conditions. That does not refute the benefits that Allopathy has brought to mankind.

The King Of Merit

The King Of Merit
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

yashwant-gade-pic1

“My work and my merit is my answer to all my fears” Yashwant Gade replied.

During first year in MBBS I once had a fight with a classmate. We belonged to two different communities, and the student body politics in medical colleges was not very evolved then. Someone tried to blow up the matter into a caste issue.

That is when I first met Yashwant Gade. He was in final MBBS, and I had seen him often engrossed in his books in the library. Curly hair, thin built, and the proud, fearless attitude of a lion. He was involved in most student activities. He listened to me patiently and immediately called my rival from the hostel, resolved our ego problems and averted what could have become an unwanted, ugly memory.

“Both of you are only medical students in this campus. A medical student cannot afford to lose even a single minute. I don’t want to hear about any fights hereafter from either of you” he warned us.
His warm nature and smiling face encouraged us to become his friends. He had the knack of saying things in a straightforward yet wise way. “Aren’t you scared of speaking your mind?” I asked him once.

“My work and my merit is my answer to all my fears” he replied.

Then we gradually realised that we were in the company of an exceptional hero.

He could not afford travelling to the school by bus, so he had walked to and from his school over five kilometres away. He stood first in the Maharashtra state in the 10th standard board exams.

He did not have money to pay the fees for junior college. The management of Shahu college invited him to join them, waiving off his fees. He did them proud when he topped the 12th standard exams in the state.

He topped all three MBBS exams in the Marathwada University. Then he won the open merit post graduate (MS) seat in Orthopaedics. The postgraduates were underpaid and over-utilised then too, but Dr. Yashwant’s younger brother had become an architect by then. He supported by paying for Dr. Yashwant’s fees.

Dr. Yashwant then naturally topped the MS Orthopaedics exam! More importantly, he appeared for the MPSC with non-medical subjects and topped the state in that exam too, in the same year as he topped the MS!

Although a topper throughout his career, the saddest aspect of merit: that it is useless unless one has money enough to sell it, hit him hard. He had no money to start a surgical set up so essential for his practice. Financial insecurity he could not afford then. He decided to do what was needed: enough stability to support the family.

He joined as a deputy collector.
He was posted in dangerous areas away from civil world, and often walked long distances just to eat his meals. He had decided to give it his best, dreaming of setting examples in administration.
It was not to be. The political interference in his work that tied his hands was too much for his self-respect to tolerate. He resigned and returned after two years, and decided to kickstart a new career.

He started working with a friend Dr. Bipin Miniyar.
In a few years, Dr. Yashwant Gade created his own identity in the Orthopedic world, simultaneously working at a government hospital as a teacher, earning his rank as Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Ortho-Oncology in the Government Cancer Hospital at Aurangabad.

In a society running after glamorous stars and scions of rich business houses, where clothes and cars and watches and houses now make a man, the greatness of a lion who fought all odds and tore through all exams to emerge first in every single one of them will appeal only to those who understand the meaning of the word “Merit”. The ability to defeat fate year after year till it has hailed you with the crown of a winner is not given to everyone.

Had he chosen to work in the developed world, I am sure he’d have a private jet by now!

Some egos stink of merit, some of their position, and most with money stink the worst. But even after winning all these three “Oscars” of life, Dr. Yashwant is as simple and down to earth as he was when I met him as a medical student.

Like respect and love, Merit cannot be bought. I am proud to know this ‘King’ of hard work and merit. He is still deep rooted in his background: maintaining a farm and encouraging the rich cultural traditions of an Indian Farmer.

Dr. Yashwant Gade, you are an outstanding role model for any medical student anywhere in the world. You are also the type of icon India desperately needs!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
© राजस देशपांडे

ईमानदारी से अपना काम करते हो,
नेकी से घर चलाकर, परमात्मा को पूजकर
अपने बच्चों को बापू की कहानी सुनाते हो,
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

मेहनत कर, पढ़ लिख कर देश की सेवा में
पीढ़ी दर पीढ़ी तुम्हारी भले ही वैज्ञानिक बनी हो..
देश विदेश में भले ही तुम्हरी बुद्धि, और कला
देश की गरिमा-सी सराही जाती हो
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

सीमा पर लड़ता हर स्वाभिमानी जवान भले ही
लड़ रहा हो देश की खातिर, मेरी तुम्हारी खातिर,
तुम्हारे मन में भी उसके प्रति हो भाई-भगवान सी भावना
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

लाखों मरीजों को भले ही तुम ज़िन्दगी देते हो
करोड़ों विद्यार्थियों को पाठशाला में अपनेही बच्चों जैसे
बढ़ाते पढ़ाते हो, नेकी की राह और देशप्रेम सिखलाते हो
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

इंसान को रंगों में बांटकर, तलवार छुरी चलाकर
इतिहास का बदला जबतक वर्तमान से लेते नहीं हो,
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
उबले खून की जवान नस्लों को गजरे बाँध
सोने में लथपथ लार टपकाना सिखाते नहीं हो..
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
भेड़ बकरियों की तरह ऊँगली उठने पर सलाम नहीं करते हो..
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

शिवाजी, सरदार और नानक के देश का शेर होकर भी
तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
राजस देशपांडे
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The God Pendulum

The God Pendulum
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dr. Aman handed over his car to the valet, and went to the rooftop restaurant, his favourite rendezvous. The captain soon brought over his favourite coffee pot and some starters.

‘The look of love’ by Kenny G started playing. It is impossible not to feel inner peace and romance while listening to that piece. Dr. Aman started to think. Yes. He had much in life to sort out.

Sunday late afternoon. The only afternoon to relax if lucky. A moment of peace so precious, that even family duties take a back seat, the mind is so tired of the heavy duty medical practice. Heavy duty because mistakes are not allowed, and seldom forgiven. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is difficult to relax at home too. The society security staff, maids, some ‘sudden’ old friends from god-knows-what-stage-of past will want home consultation, and it is rude for a doctor to say no to any health queries by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Cellphones have become the worst health hazards, more so for the doctors.

He had two patients under his care in the hospital, so he decided not to switch off the cellphone, he was responsible should they have any problem in the hospital.

The phone of course rang.

“Sir, casualty. One GP has referred for you an old lady with convulsions. She is quite bad” the medical CR appeared disturbed.

“On my way” said Dr. Aman, paid his bills, and reached the hospital. On the way he kept on giving intructions to the junior doctor.

The 65 year old lady had had fever for a week, not taken to the doctor, treated by her non-medico daughter and son with home remedies. On the seventh day, yesterday, she had had many vomitings and became unconscious. The local GP gave her some basic treatment, and sent her to the city as she had no facility to treat such a critical case. Since that morning she had also had convulsions.

She was already intubated in the critical care unit when Dr. Aman reached. CT scan of her brain was normal. Her sodium levels turned out to be dangerously low. The management requires skilful vigilance, and it was already started. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Her daughter and son were waiting outside the ICU. Dr. Aman updated them about her condition.

The angry son asked “Why is her sodium low? Is it because of the medicines given by the doctor yesterday? I it the side effect of those medicines?”

Dr. Aman had now acquired the skills to tame his anger. He told that it was because of the vomitings, and that they should have taken her to the doctor earlier when she had fever.

The daughter started with an emotional appeal, speaking loudly “Do whatever you want, doctor, please save my mother. You are like God to us. Nothing should happen to her. We are ready to do anything. Please save her”.

“We are trying our best. Let’s hope she recovers” Dr. Aman said the legally correct thing.

“So when will she become normal?” asked the patient’s son.

“It is not predictable, we need to reassess her after convulsions stop and sodium levels are corrected” Dr. Aman replied. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“So why don’t you correct her sodium levels right now?” asked the son, as looking at the surrounding relatives as if he was suggesting the obvious that the doctor had missed.

“If sodium is corrected faster than a certain rate, she will develop paralysis, it can also be permanent” Dr. Aman replied, and added “Look, boss, if you do not have trust in our treatment and skills, you can please shift her to any other hospital you wish.”

“No. no doctor. We trust you. You are like God for us. We brought her here because this hospital is big and famous, and has all facilities” said the daughter. The son just kept on looking angrily at the doctors.

On the third day, the lady became conscious. On the fourth day, she was off the ventilator.

“When will she be shifted out?” the daughter asked.

“After a day of observation in the ICU” said the junior doctor.

“Why is it necessary to be in ICU now?” asked the son.

“Because she still has fluctuating oxygen levels, and needs continuous observation” replied Dr. Aman. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Why cannot you observe her in the ward room? The ICU is so costly” the angry son kept muttering.

On the fifth day they requested discharge, as the patient was walking. Her weakness was still fluctuating, and her BP was low. She was discharged on request.

Within an hour, a crowd surrounded Dr. Aman.

“What is this? Is this any bill? Are you doctor or a thief?” the daughter started shouting, to a full audience of the waiting patients.

“Listen. You knew these charges when she was admitted. I do not own this hospital. The rates are standard, and so are the criteria for free or concessional patients. Please speak to the billing department.” Dr. Aman kept his tone low still. He did not want to point at the two costly cellphones that the son flaunted.

They did not qualify for free treatment as per the govt. norms.

“Doctor your fees is also there in the bill. Atleast cut that off. We cannot afford.” The son insisted. The waiting crowd surrounding them stared at the face of Dr. Aman. “Will the doctor be human and help this poor?” was the mob expression.

To save time, Dr. Aman asked the billing clerk to scratch off all his consultation fees. Saved time is more precious than earned money for the doctor.

While leaving, the daughter looked angrily at Dr. Aman and said “We never thought that doctors will be so rude and commercial. Curse upon such doctors who extract money from the poor”.

A doctor must digest all kinds. All patients who had witnessed the scene were doubtful and upset. They knew nothing about the patient and what had actually happened. They had just witnessed the last scene.

Just five days later, the whole family returned in panic. The lady had developed many convulsions as she had stopped the medicines after going home. Now she was unconscious because of the low oxygen that had damaged her brain. This could take a long time. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The daughter started “You are God, Doctor, please save her” etc. etc.

Dr. Aman gave instructions about the basic management to the emergency team, then turned to the daughter and said “I am sorry. I am busy with other patients, please take her to another doctor or hospital. I cannot attend her”.

“Can you refuse a patient?” asked the son, as if he had taken a special training from Mr. Ram Jethmalani.

“Yes, I can” said Dr. Aman “No one can expect a doctor to take correct decisions under duress, threats or abuse, and if I think there’s risk to my life or reputation because of ill behaved, hostile relatives, I can even refuse emergencies”.

There was no guilt in his mind when he started the car. He had become a doctor to serve the sick and suffering. Those who did not value him, his work and his profession did not deserve his service. His dignity was as important as his humanity, he would not sacrifice it for those who didn’t deserve it.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande