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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.

Snake! Snake!!

Snake! Snake!!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

She felt a sudden sharp pain on her hand, as she was cutting grass in their farm. She saw bleeding from her hand, she threw away the grass and looked carefully. The head of an angry snake with open mouth, fangs popping out terrified her at once. It was a Russel’s viper, a deadly venomous snake that causes shock, bleeding, and clots the blood inside the arteries.

She grabbed her cellphone and called her husband.

There is a superstition in rural India: that husband or wife, if bitten by a snake, should not see each other’s face for eight days, or one of them will die. Her relatives told her not to see her husband, even her husband was told so.

They unheeded the superstition. He tied a rope around her bitten hand, started his bike, she sat behind him, and they rode away to the nearest rural hospital about seven kilometres away. They had only a few minutes. In a short while she started feeling giddy and had a vomiting. They reached hospital just when she was about to collapse. Her whole left hand was swollen upto the shoulder and was turning blue-black. The face had started to swell too.

The doctor there rushed her to the intensive care unit, did not wait to waste time in paperwork or financial questions, and started emergency treatment. Knowing that people don’t carry money during such emergencies, he arranged for all the medicines himself. In a few hours, her blood pressure started to return to normal. The swelling onher hand increased, causing severe pain. For the next five days, the doctor struggled to counter every problem that popped up: it is extremely difficult to treat a patient who has bleeding and clotting together.

Science won, sitting on the shoulder of the logical and determined doctor. In seven days, Mandakini was discharged, with only a minor swelling on her hand still persistent.

In any big hospital in a metropolis, this would have cost her more than a few lakh rupees. However, a doctor practicing in a rural area, just like doctors working in many government hospitals, took it upon himself to save her life without caring about money at all. With minimal expenses, he saved her life. As Mandakini is under my treatment for Parkinsons Disease, she followed up today and told me this story in te tones of a typical farmer: as if it was just another trivial deviation from normalcy “That was a snake bite last month. I am okay now”.

While the big name doctors in big cities are well publicised and noticed by the media, thousands of the rural Indian doctors, who slog day and night saving thousands of lives every day usually remain neglected and away from limelight. There must be so many hundred snake bites happening every day, so many accidents, and so many doctors practicing in rural India must be saving them. But what’s so sensational about saving lives? Instead, if the poisonous news of doctors being beaten up by violent crowds and hospitals vandalised are shown, it gets huge TRPs! There’s no treatment for the poison spread by some politicians and media against the medical professionals..

A heartfelt, respectful salute to the thousands of medical heroes practising in rural India and government hospitals, who form the base of Indian medical profession.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS:

Awaiting the permission of the doctor mentioned above, from a rural hospital, to publish his name😊

Marathi version:

साप साप!

डॉ. राजस देशपांडे

शेतात गवत कापत असताना मंदाकिनीच्या हाताला एकदम काहीतरी टोचल्यासारखं वाटलं, म्हणून तिनं हातातील गवत फेकून समोरील झुडुपाकडे नीट पाहिलं. जबडा वासून त्यातील विषारी सुळे दाखविणारे ते रागीट फुरसे तिच्यासमोरच डोके बिळाबाहेर काढून बसले होते. रक्ताच्या गुठळ्या आणि रक्तस्त्राव करवून काही मिनिटातच मृत्यूच्या जबड्यात ढकलणाऱ्या त्या विषारी सापाला पाहून तिचे धाबे दणाणले. तिने तिच्या नवऱ्याला फोन लावला.

ग्रामीण भागात एक अंधश्रद्धा आहे. साप चावल्यास नवरा अथवा बायकोने आठ दिवस एकमेकांचे तोंड पाहू नये, नसता एकाला मृत्यू येतो. त्यांच्या नातेवाईकांनी त्यांना एकमेकांसमोर जाऊ नका असे सांगितले. पण मंदाकिनी आणि तिच्या नवऱ्याने तिकडे दुर्लक्ष करीत आधी हाताला कापड करकचून बांधले आणि दुचाकीवर स्वार होऊन ते दोघे आठ किलोमीटर वर असलेल्या ग्रामीण दवाखान्यात निघाले. काही अंतर गेल्यावर मंदाकिनीचा हात खांद्यापर्यंत सुजला, काळानिळा पडायला लागला. तिला चकरा येत होत्या. एक वांतीही झाली. कसेबसे ते दवाखान्यात पोचले, तेव्हा तिचे ब्लड प्रेशर कमी झालेले होते.

त्या ग्रामीण दवाखान्यातील डॉक्टरने तिला ताबडतोब तपासले. कुठल्याही कागदपत्री व्यवहारात वेळ ना घालविता त्यांनी तिला आय सी यू मध्ये घेतले आणि औषधोपचार सुरु केला. पैसे, बिल, आर्थिक परिस्थिती याचा विचार अथवा चर्चा करायला वेळच कुठे होता? अशी वेळ आल्यावर पैसे घ्यायला वेळ असतो कुणाकडे? डॉक्टरांनी त्यांच्याकडीलच सर्व आवश्य औषधे वापरली. काही तासांनी तिचे ब्लड प्रेशर नॉर्मल ला यायला लागले. पण तिचा हातावरची सूज मात्र वाढली, आणि तिला प्रचंड वेदना व्हायला लागल्या. पुढचे पाच दिवस तिची प्रकृती वरखाली होत राहिली आणि डॉक्टर येणाऱ्या प्रत्येक आपत्तीशी झुंजत राहिले. आठ दिवसांनी तिला डिस्चार्ज मिळाला. फक्त थोडी हातावरची सूज बाकी राहिली होती. काही हजार रुपये बिल झाले होते, ते त्यांनी आनंदाने भरले.

कुठल्याही मोठ्या शहरात, मोठ्या दवाखान्यात तिला याच ट्रीटमेंट साठी अनेक लाख रुपये मोजावे लागले असते. पण भारतातील एका लहानशा खेड्यातील एका डॉक्टरने स्वतःच सगळी औषधे वापरून तिचा जीव वाचविला. भारतातील ग्रामीण भागातील हजारो सरकारी आणि खाजगी डॉक्टर पैशाचा विचार ना करता अत्यंत कमी खर्चात हजारो रुग्णांचे जीव रोज वाचावीत असतात, पण त्याची दखल घायला वेळ आहे कुणाला?

पार्किन्सन’स च्या आजारासाठी मंदाकिनी देवकर माझ्याकडे ट्रेंटमेन्टला अनेक वर्षांपासून येतात. या वेळेला त्यांना उशीर झाल्याने मी त्यांना सहज विचारले, तेव्हा रोजचाच विषय असल्यासारखे त्या सहजपणे म्हणाल्या “काही नाही डॉक्टर साहेब, मागच्या महिन्यात साप चावला होता म्हणून उशीर झाला”! अजूनही सुजलेला हात त्यांनी मला दाखविला.

मोठ्या शहरातील मोठमोठे डॉक्टर अनेक वेळेला टीव्ही वर दिसतात, त्यांच्या बातम्या छापून येतात, त्यांना खूप प्रसिद्धीही मिळते. काही डॉक्टर तर प्रत्यक्षापेक्षा फक्त टीव्ही आणि पेपरातच खूप चांगले काम करीत असतात! पण दुर्गम, ग्रामीण, कठीण प्रांतात राहूनही माणुसकी जपून, अखंड मेहनत करून, पैशाचा विचार न करता अनेकानेक रुग्णांचे रोज जीव वाचविणाऱ्या डॉक्टरांचे नाव क्वचितच छापून येते. या देवमाणसांची दखल वैद्यकीय व्यवसायाविरुद्ध सतत गरळ ओकणारे आपले राजकारणी आणि मीडिया कधी घेणार? माणुसकीने सेवा करून लाखोंचा जीव वाचविणे यात सेंसेशनल ते काय? त्यापेक्षा एखाद्या डॉक्टरला वेडसर जमावाने केलेली मारहाण आणि तोडफोड दाखविली की जास्त लोक पाहतात! डॉक्टरांविरुद्ध विष पसरविणाऱ्या या सापाचा मात्र काहीच इलाज नाही!

वैद्यकीय व्यवसायाचा पाया भारतामध्ये ग्रामीण भागातच आहे. माणुसकीचे सर्वोच्च आदर्श डोळ्यासमोर ठेवून रात्रंदिवस खेडोपाडी झटणाऱ्या सर्व डॉक्टरांना आमचा सन्मानाचा सलाम!

डॉ. राजस देशपांडे

न्यूरॉलॉजिस्ट पुणे

काही कारणामुळे वरील डॉक्टरचे नाव येथे देऊ शकलो नाही. त्यांची परवानगी मिळताच ते लिहीनच. .

The Medical License to Kill

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The five year old girl stopped breathing. Her father shouted in a state beyond panic. With a fear of a death worse than his own, he choked upon his own shouting. It was about 4 AM. The dozing relatives of other patients in the casualty woke up startled.

The intern doctor Anu tried to insert a breathing tube in the child’s throat, but the right sized tube wasn’t available. Dr. Anu shouted at the nurse to wake up the medical officer on duty. She couldn’t: he was deep asleep, being drunk. The child started getting blue. The heartbeats became feeble. Another nurse ran upstairs, and literally dragged the junior doctor in the ICU to the casualty. He struggled and managed to insert the tube somehow, and with the breathing bag, artificial breathing was started. The child stayed unconscious, but the heart beats were heard well now. There were no beds in the ICU, so they managed her there itself, in the casualty.

Two hours later the medical officer woke up. Unclean and unkempt, stinking of alcohol and sweat and yet careless about it, he was usually seen roaming in the hospital with swollen red eyes, talking usually about the only three things so called “Men” talk about. In hating him, many diversely thinking junior doctors united. There were complaints about him: nurses, junior doctors and patients had all written to many authorities about his drunken demeanor, ill behavior, swearing and abusive language, and even a violent attitude: he was known to slap attendants, drivers, assistants, and throwing instruments in the operation theater. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dr. Anu not only hated him, but was scared of him too. She hesitantly reported what had happened in the night. “We tried to wake you up Sir, but couldn’t” she said cautiously, just like all brave girls who cannot hide what they dislike. He laughed in the style of a famous ‘Manly’ hero of the times. “Such small things keep on happening in big hospitals. Don’t worry. If I wake up for every emergency at a government hospital, I will myself die. I am doing the duty for five medical officers alone. You must accept death as a part of your daily life. Don’t get emotionally involved in patients. Some will die, we can do nothing about it”. Then, without even visiting the child once, he left, as his duty hours were over. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The disgust and anger that flooded Dr. Anu came out in the form of tears. She went to the nurses room and sobbed. She had not dreamt of becoming a doctor like this: helpless and suppressed. The nursing Superintendent, a motherly lady, patted her. “It is good that he didn’t wake up at night. He doesn’t know even the simple procedures. He would have probably harmed the child more in that drunken state. The only thing you can do now is to quickly learn all the life saving procedures that you can, and then don’t be dependent upon anyone else to save lives”.

“I want to complain against him. How can a doctor sleep when a child is dying during his duty?” Dr. Anu asked.

The Nursing Super smiled in shame.

“My dear, who will you complain to? This drunkard is the son of a ruling minister. They own a private medical college themselves, many come to him to get medical seats there, so they have friends and defenders in almost all high offices. Whoever questions anything about him, faces not only the ire of his father’s political goons, but suffers at many other levels to. Do you think people don’t know his addictions and ill behavior? But when the government protects him, what can anyone else do?”.

Then, as Dr. Anu stared in vacuum, the Super told her one of the most beautiful pearls in medicine: “There are some bad doctors dear, but that’s where you come in. Your responsibility increases. Learn to be strong, learn to compensate for what others cannot do. Such sick doctors who pass out without learning, who come drunk to the hospital and mistreat patients are a curse to our profession. We can’t change them. The lesser number of patients they see, the better it is for everyone. You compensate for them by becoming better”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The day forever changed Dr. Anu. Providence, as always, had rewarded her for her efforts in saving the child’s life only a few hours ago.

The sad fact still remains: that some students are not trained well. Some do not have the capacity or wish to become good doctors while some are ‘pushed’ by money and power. These are the people who have learned the most deadly Indian trick: to find a political godfather who protects them from anything you do, Feed his wallet and ego, lick him all over, and then retain the ‘license to medically kill’. Please check out how many ministers and political bigwigs own medical colleges, and how many use these as ‘power channels’ to make undeserving doctors, and one can easily know where the problem lies. This by no means suggests that only the doctors from private colleges are bad, there indeed are ill behaved and drunkards among doctors passing out from govt. colleges too. The point is that they are protected by some. To first satisfy all vote banks, then collect the multicrore moolah for admissions and then create yet another channel of corruption: Eligibility test! This is a nightmare for the truly willing and deserving merit holders. About this aspect of the matter, no politician ever speaks. Who protects the Medical admission scamsters? Why do not our courts act suo moto, knowing that so many lives will be at risk with doctors produced via scams? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. The saddest part is that many corporate hospitals look for such doctors who are also financially recklessly aggressive, and then make them compete with the good and ethical doctors.

Today on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, many “trumpet tongues” will be heard speaking through their hats about the Mahatma. Introspection and truth are the beginnings of even knowing the Mahatma. The criminal corruption networks which produce bad, ineligible doctors by the force of money and power must go! These are the very doctors who bring a bad name and a shame to our profession. Many a good things in the profession, saving a million lives every day and sacrifices made therein bt thousands of good docs all become a waste because of such few bad doctors. Let us all stand united in improving ourselves, giving up what’s not the part of a good doctor.

Jai Hind!

Mahatma Gandhi ki Jay!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please share unedited

The Deadly ‘Vegetable’

The Deadly ‘Vegetable’

“How is my mother, Doctor?” The smiling politician, a tower of patience, surrounded by his impatient bouncer cronies, and a drooling doctor, asked me at the door of the critical care unit.

I examined the patient, a case of a large bleeding that had caused severe damage in the brain. Inputs were whispered in my ears by the cautious doctors of the unit. The poor lady had been treated by many excellent doctors in Mumbai and Delhi, as the family of that politico had that free facility. However, she had stopped the blood pressure medicines as some “Herbal Baba” had criticized them on National TV. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She is conscious, but cannot understand or respond at all. Her heart is beating well, blood pressure is holding up, and her breathing is fine too. She can move her hands and legs, but it all appears meaningless movement. This may last for weeks or months, and in some cases, even permanently”.

The ‘doctor’ with that group authoritatively asked “That means she is a vegetable now?”.

“The correct word is ‘Vegetative’, the medical condition is called ‘Persistent Vegetative State’, and I cannot say as of now if this will be persistant. There are some chances of recovery” I replied with a carefully acquired masked face.

“Is there anything we can do anywhere in the world to make her brain normal again? I can take her to the best centers in the world” said the Politico. The drooling doc came forward again. His desperation to be significant was almost killing him. “Are there any medicines that can make her recover faster? We can afford anything” he asked.

I knew the exact words to reply him with.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“No Sir. Just as you cannot shorten the period of pregnancy, you cannot convert it to three months in the best of the hospitals , however rich you may be, the recovery of brain happens at its own speed. The medicines that can help her are already on”. This usually stops further discussion in that line, it did.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I went to the cafeteria to cool down. I couldn’t understand whether it was the tail-wagging doctor or the politico with ‘everything exists to serve me’ attitude that irritated me more. A cyclone of the big picture started rising in my mind.

The state of our “Government run” healthcare, is more or less the same: Vegetative. Big plans, big declarations, more investment, more land and buildings, more equipment, all surfaces, especially during elections. But the brain: good doctors in the system: is dead. No good healthcare system can be created or run by those appointed without merit, without quality. Thousands of huge set-ups declared and erected by the various governments are lying vacant, or serving far below their purpose because there are no good doctors/ technicians in most. The last battalion holding the flag of good healthcare: good medical teachers in medical college are on the verge of extinction. Best of the government-run hospitals and services are often reserved for those in power and their families. The shameless orders for “reserving ICU beds and ventilators, operation theaters etc.” for a patient known to a politician are a daily affair, they least care if someone else without an influence dies.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Appointments of drooling, medal-hungry shoelickers on various key medical posts has crippled the system. The real poor and deserving are thrown from one window to another to submit documents and applications to claim the benefits that they deserve.

The whole blame of a this deadly “Vegetable” healthcare is cunningly shifted upon those who refuse to work as ‘personal servants’ to the government, those who go into private practice, and private hospitals. Now almost all doctors complete their bonds, yet there is a gaping hole in the system that cannot retain specialists for long. Only the compromised, beginners, and failures stay for long in adverse, sycophancy based, low-cost environments. The very politicians who say “Don’t worry about money” when asking treatments for their own family, accuse the doctors of being “greedy”, when they leave govt. services.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The simple solution, the recovery of the brain, i.e induction and retaining of good, meritorious, non-shoe-licking and highly qualified specialists in the government-run healthcare departments and set-ups will probably change this scenario. But this looks impossible, now that even many doctor’s organisations have started losing their autonomy, self respect, to fall in line with the glorified slogans and to lick the bottoms of those who run such failed healthcare systems. The addictions to blow up any tiny good news, modify data to appease masses, hide the blaring failures, deficits and corruption in the healthcare have become a norm, and even our society seems to be ecstatically happy to just hear loud speeches of big plans rather than facing ground realities.

Indian Healthcare run by various governments, except for very few honourable exceptions, has become a brainless “Persistent Vegetative Healthcare System”. A ‘deadly vegetable’, for the understanding of the drooling docs. Unless someone sane and responsible in healthcare department acts quickly, we will lose this healthcare battle.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: During the writing of this article I received over 20 phone calls from patients, and 12 of them dropped, cut, hanged. This is our technical progress. Before we send men in space, can we deal with this?

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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

Aai.jpeg

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