Profit and Loss
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
45 year old man. Many weeks of tiredness, then three days of fever, quack treatment. Developed convulsions, admitted in coma. Blood sugars over 500. The long term past sugar index is very high, suggesting he has had untreated diabetes for months. After stabilizing patient in few minutes, I brief the relatives about critical condition.
His brother asks: Why is his sugar so high? He never had sugar. Is it because of any of the medicines you are giving?
I explain them that he has had high sugars for long, the tests say so. Also that we are giving him medicines to control sugar.
The wife says: “We don’t know all that. I think some medicines have made him unconscious”.
When he was discharged recovered, they fought about the bills saying that wrong medicines had caused delay in recovery. They gave negative feedback because the bills were not reduced to their quotes. “We were duped, we lost so much money” the son kept alleging aloud. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Old man, 82. Lung cancer, under radiation. Two episodes of paralysis, diabetes, blood pressure, now has drowsiness since Tuesday. His son and daughter in law come to opd on Saturday evening. The old man needed immediate admission and MRI. I tell them so.
“What is your diagnosis?”, “Exactly why is he drowsy?” “Why admission??” “Exactly what treatment?” “What will be effect of the treatment?” and many such screwing questions (sometimes I wanna ask back: when will you exactly pee next?) later, they went home. In the interest of the life of the old man, I chose not to lose patience.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
They come back two days later, he had become unconscious.
“Why, doctor, why? He was walking till Sunday” cried the daughter, angrily asking us. “Why can’t you make him conscious? It’s been two days”.
Not only the arrogant tone, but the open distrust was offensive. “What is the exact reason of his unconsciousness?” “When exactly will he become conscious?” “Exactly blah blah?” asked the son, as if he was a Judge, and the doctors were criminals.
I wanted to tell them exactly what they were and where they belonged, but refrained. Patient first.
The treatment was on. Three days later, the old man opened eyes. “He has always had a strong will power. We knew he would recover” told his daughter to us.
Upon discharge, they wrote very bad reviews because the bills were not reduced to their expectation.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Both came for follow up later.
In both the cases, a few years ago, I would have made an effort to spend more time, compromise self respect and continue treating them. Not now. Especially when peacock-fame decision makers decide about the fates of specialist doctors. Now, I tell them to please follow up with whichever doctor they can trust.
What about the probable income from such patients? Let me quote a dialogue that only Mr. Amitabh Bachchan could have delivered, from a film ‘Trishul’ that influenced me much since my college days:
“Zindagi mein kuchh baatein faayde aur nuksaan se upar hoti hain, lekin ye baat kuchh log nahi samajhte” (Some things in life are above profit or loss, but some people don’t understand that)”.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Code Blue” someone shouted.
There were sounds of rushing, muffled sobs and wails, metal trolleys banging walls and glass syringes being broken open.
He rushed fastest, asked the relatives to wait outside.
“What’s wrong with him?” insisted the patient’s brother on knowing.
“His heart has stopped. Please wait out we don’t have time”.
The nurses had positioned the patient and started the CPR.
The ugliest sound in the world: the desperate rocking of the bed during a cardiac massage, was heard outside the cabin. The high pitch beeps of the defibrillator followed by the thuds of a body due to the electric shock initiated prayers even in the hearts of strangers. The relatives of other patients in the ICU waited outside their cabins, watching the faces of those who were crying. Those who could not bear the sight went inside their cabins. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He went on doing the CPR, knowing that the patient was young, and may still respond. The risk of this highly fatal disease to himself and the nursing staff was taken for granted: there is no time to “dress up” for CPR. He was simultaneously ordering the injections to be given. A male nurse took turns and helped him with the cardiac massage.
It is exhausting. Giddy after some time, he looked at the watch. It was about half an hour since the event. Almost nil chances now. He asked the nurse to continue, and came out to inform the relatives.
“He has had a cardiac arrest. We are trying, but it looks difficult” he informed the patient’s brother.
“Why? How come?” the brother shouted as the rest of the family gathered. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“We have been informing you many times. He has been critical. His lungs were not functioning well, his brain has many TB tumors, and his kidneys have been shut due to infection for a long time. It is called multiorgan failure”.
“We don’t know all that, doctor. Save him” said the brother.
Young patient. Fever since over three months. Avoided seeing allopaths for over a month. Diagnosed as multidrug resistant tuberculosis, one of the worst and most difficult diseases to treat. By the time they reached the proper specialist through all the “money saving” channels, it was too late. Almost all Government Hospitals have experts and facilities to treat MDR TB, but somehow people think it is below their dignity to avail of services at Govt hospitals.
The ICU doctor came out after a while. “We are sorry, he could not be revived” he sadly told the relatives.
Then there was a shriek, as the patient’s brother held the doctor by his collar, and slapped him. Exactly the style of Akshay Kumar from some movie. A lady doctor tried to stop the brother, but was held by the women in the family and bestowed with blows and abuses. The security, who had allowed the relatives on humanitarian grounds, regretted it, and desperately tried to control the relatives. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In an hour, they all left.
He washed himself. There was no time to cry, complain, register a case or go to TV channels or press. There were 22 other critical patients in the ICU, and he was in charge. He had to forgive, forget, digest it all. And then there was a perpetual expectation of the society to “understand” the misbehavior of the bereaved.
In a few minutes, another gasping patient came in on the same bed. A young girl with continuous convulsions. He rushed and intubated her, stabilised her. He talked to and pacified her panicked parents. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He had forgotten the slaps, the abuses and the blows he received a few moments ago. Like filmstars who slap qualified doctors on the screen and earn crores for that “entertainment”, he did not deserve a palatial bungalow and luxury cars, but as a life saver who saved hundreds every year, he was doomed to an asylum walled by expectations, criticism, abuse and overwork. Saving lives was “just a duty” not deserving respect or rewards.
The stress that comes from handling daily CPRs, saving lives and declaring deaths for years together cannot be acted by any of the Tom Dick Harrys on screen. Most of them are not even intellectually equipped to perceive the education, hard work and traumatizing effects of daily deaths and allegations that a critical care doctor faces.
While exceptionally literate and mature film personalities like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Ms. Lata Mangeshkar have always praised the doctors and spoken highly respectfully about them, most other “Muttonshop” artists have only exemplified their own jealousy about the highly educated doctors, trying to show them down one way or another.
I know of some friends who spend a sad, spoilt day even when they see a funeral passing by. The doctor has to face it every day, still carry on dealing with money savers, skimpy, arrogant, abusive and violent relatives reaching the hospital at the last moment. He has to garner a calm and control possible only with great effort. This tells upon the doctor’s mental and physical health. Being blamed and held responsible for someone’s death (this has become rampant now: to presume that all deaths are someone’s fault) in spite of trying hard to save them is something no film star, judge or minister will ever understand. Very few doctors are able to enjoy a genuinely stress free happiness in their personal life.
Of all the doctors suffering today because of the illiteracy, poverty and defective policy-making in India, the critical care and casualty doctors are the worst sufferers. My heartfelt tear and salute to their unending suffering for humanity. Also a strong appeal to the press, law authorities and the government to ensure that these highly stressed doctors are not assaulted, unnecessarily criticized or abused.
Just imagine a world without casualties or Intensive care services. That is a choice which doctors still retain.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande