Tag Archives: family

The Killer ‘C’.. Are You A Victim?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“I have no life. I depend upon comedy shows to laugh, I don’t remember when I was truly happy anymore. There’s no connection with anyone. Inspite of working a lot and achieving too much, life seems complicated and meaningless at the same time. I have even started forgetting things now”: the 32 year old man was quite distressed when he spoke:

“Can you take a break?” I asked.

He laughed sarcastically.

“Doc, there’s so much competition in my field, that I cannot afford to take a break. They depend upon me for things to be done well. If something goes wrong, it reflects upon my career. If I am not available, I will be replaced”. He replied.

“What are your work hours?” I asked.

“I start from home at about 9 in the morning” he said. I waited for the remaining part of the reply but he didn’t speak. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“When do you return?” I knew the answer in his silence. I had heard it one too many times.

“There’s no fixed time” his wife replied, “Mostly after 9 at night, sometimes past midnight. But even after coming home his calls and online work continues.”

“That’s because I have to deal with the Western clients, their timezones differ” he snapped.

“May I speak with the doctor?” the wife asked him, a little insistent.

He nodded, looking down.

“Doc, we had a love marriage. He was not like this at all. He was full of life and vigor. He made everyone smile and had hundreds of friends. Now he has no friends, but even with me and our daughter, he gets hardly five minutes every day. On weekends he is so exhausted mentally to interact that the schedule is almost set: visiting mall, watching a movie, eating out and coming home tired again, immediately to sleep. He gets irritated without any reason. He was so attached to our daughter, she was his life, but now even she avoids playing with him. Even enjoyment has become mechanical” both of them became tearful.

Then, lowering her voice, she continued “Dr. Rajas, this is embarrassing, but who else can I tell this to? You are like family to us, so I will say it. We had a great sex life earlier. Now he seems to have lost all interest in me. We have lost our physical bonding just because of lack of time. And now we are losing the mental connection too, as he has started becoming quite forgetful” she completed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They were the second couple today with similar problems.

Excessive work hours, traveling long distances, continuous multitasking without resting the brain and body and eating junk have become the lifestyle for not only most software engineers, but almost every doctor, sales and marketing person, and most other careers in India.

The concept of “minimal salary” and “maximum work hours”, so vehemently fought for by the human rights organizations around the world, seem quite unrelatable and impractical in India: not only competition, voluntary overwork, unrealistic financial expectations and unemployment, but a social tendency to “shove this phenomenon under the carpet” has led to a country of human robots who cannot connect with other humans.

India is an exploitation hub since decades. Cheap manpower is our famous boast. And the worst part is that they are thrown away instantly the moment their productivity is less than excess, or when someone cheaper can replace them. Years of loyalty, honesty, hard word had zero meaning in corporate world. You are just another table with an assigned process. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Be it secretaries, clerks, employees, students, teachers, or labourers, the message by the employer is loud and clear: work as told or go. We have many others to replace you. Eight hours of work with two hours of travel every day is itself very taxing, add two more hours of work and on is misusing body and brain both. Health is not on the cards here.

5-6 hours of sleep has become a norm with most of the above categories. For a normal brain, 7-8 hours of sleep is essential. Whatever one may hear about geniuses sleeping less, chronic lack of sleep does cause damage in the brain, that manifests as irritability, personality changes, forgetfulness and less mental efficiency.

Years ago, gymming at the Athletic Club in London ON Canada, I met an old man in the locker room. After the initial ‘Hi’, he asked me what I did. I replied that I was a postgraduate doctor, now a specialty fellow at the University. He said “Oh I did my career in health too”.

“Were you a doctor too?” I asked.

“No. I did many jobs, whatever gave me happiness and satisfaction, but I made my career in my own health. For decades now, I have eaten only healthy food, cooked for myself, taken good sleep, read a lot, traveled the world, played with kids and of course gymmed: not to show off my muscles, but to keep fit. I am ninety two now, healthy, and most importantly, happy”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I told him I envied that lifestyle.

“It’s a choice, doc, and a sacrifice too. If you want health, you must give up anything that is against it. I had great job offers, but they did not go with my choice of a healthy life. Now I think I was right. I don’t have too much money, but I am happy and healthy. I had many friends with millions in their bank accounts, but they are either dead or can barely walk”.

I told that couple this short story. They appeared to understand.

“I will start working upon this, doc” said the husband.

One aspect of human evolution should be good mental and physical health. However we are going backwards. People have developed funny concepts: that muscles and physical stamina alone is health, that less weight is the best health etc. We meet many who diet excessively but piss of everyone they meet as they are continuously irritable due to hunger. Mental and physical health shows upon a person’s face: peace and happiness are its prime components. These are impossible without bonding with your family, ensuring adequate sleep and rest, and opting for stress-free career choices.

As for now, the ‘Killer C’ called career is turning out to be the biggest life- killer at least in India.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Full Stop and The Comma

The Full Stop and The Comma
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A panic struck voice shouted on the other end of the phone: “Doc, This is Neerja. My husband suddenly cannot remember anything. Not my name, not even the kids. I am rushing him to the hospital. Can you please see him now?”.

Mrs. Neerja Dev was my old patient, under treatment for migraine. Actually it was late and I was done for the day, but when faith and trust calls, a doctor cannot say no. I drove back to the hospital.

Her husband Mr. Alok, a young and handsome software engineer in his early thirties, was placed in a big multinational. He was his company’s blue-eyed beloved, groomed for a long-term high flying career. His salary much exceeded that of the President of India. I had met him earlier, when he accompanied his wife. Quite brilliant, he had an arrogant attitude to go with his achievements. Neerja had often complained in privacy that she had a lot of stress as her husband worked excessively, had too much responsibility upon his shoulders, and growing up two daughters was left to her. “He loves me and the kids, but he has no time to spend with us” she had often complained.
“There’s cut-throat competition in the software industry, I need to work hard to be where I am” Alok had replied curtly whenever the topic came up. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I reached the hospital and examined him. Indeed, Alok was blank. He could just answer his name, and yes/ no to some questions, but he could not even complete a sentence. As he struggled to find words. Neerja was devastated, and could not stop crying. Their sweet daughters, aged fourteen and seven, boldly waited outside the casualty.

“Did he have fever? Did he take any new medicines? Did he fall down? Was he fasting?” I went on with a long list of questions. Nothing should be left to chance, every bit of information must be collected for an accurate diagnosis. There were no clues from the history. His pulse, heart, and blood pressure were normal. He was able to move well, and had normal sensation all over the body.

We rushed him into the MRI. Alok had many large white spots all over his brain in the MRI, a condition that is called “demyelination”. This usually happens in young patients after viral infections. Some other abnormalities in the immune system can also cause this. I explained the situation and its uncertain outcome to Neerja.

“There is no threat to his life right now, but we cannot comment anything about the recovery”. I concluded.

“What now? Will he recover at least enough to remember me and our kids? What will we do?” She broke down again.

“High dose Steroids may help some patients, but this treatment may increase his blood pressure, sugar levels, and also his chances of developing an infection. Are you ok with this risk?”

“I will leave it all to you. I cannot understand anything now.” She replied.

We started the injections of high dose steroids. His heart rate, blood pressure and sugars were continuously monitored, fluctuations treated promptly. The ward doctors, nurses stayed upon their toes, informing me every hour about him.

Friends from his company and even his boss visited. The boss just asked how long it will take for him to recover. “You know, we have deadlines and our clients need to be informed” he said.

After three days, Alok started to gradually recognise family and friends. In about ten days, he spoke well, and even started understanding what had happened. He was shocked.

“What about my job? Can I work from the hospital? They are dependent upon me. My boss has immense faith in me. Many high end projects need my supervision” he asked impatiently. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As controlled mental activity is good for recovery of brain functions, I allowed him to work from his hospital bed for an hour or two.

The next day he was all depressed: “Doc, I cannot remember many things necessary for my work. I cannot afford this. Please don’t tell anyone from my company. How long is this going to take? Will I ever completely recover?”

I wished I could reply, but I had no answer. Every doctor is frustrated when explaining uncertainty about outcomes.

“This is going to be a long process. I cannot say how much recovery is possible or how long it will take” I explained to him. His wife and friends requested my permission and sent his reports to various specialists in the developed world, and were reassured that the ongoing treatment was correct. Finally, they accepted the situation.

Alok followed up every month. After first three months his company fired him. His boss who he treated like God, refused to even meet him, and did not reply to his emails. For him Alok was dead. Word spreads. Although recovering fast, Alok did not get any new job. Neerja took up a job, and they divided the housekeeping chores and babysitting among themselves.

The family is now far less stressed, the kids are far more happier now because their father spends more time with them. At a lower income, they have reached a higher happiness bracket. The kids took every effort to jog their father through the past memories,and that has helped him recover faster. There is no higher medical stimulus for recovery than love. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Yesterday, all of a sudden, Alok came over with a box of sweets, and a greeting.

“I have decided to start my own business. I feel confident now. I may have lost some bits of my brain, but my heart is still strong enough to dream big. I have decided to turn this full-stop into a comma. But this time I have decided that I will first reserve time for my family and then work hard. It is because of them that I am back. I just came to thank you for standing by. My daughter has made this greeting for you “.

The sweets were of course delicious, but the greeting hand-made by his daughter moved me.

It said: “Thank you, doctor, for giving back our papa his dearest family”.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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A milestone: An extremely proud moment for me.

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A milestone: An extremely proud moment for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why Don’t You Marry Her, Doc?”

photo 19-09-16, 22 52 52
Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir, she cannot walk, she is paralysed below chest since last few days. Her husband doesn’t care, he has abandoned her. She has no money or insurance for tests or treatment. I want to help her, I don’t know what to do” I told my junior consultant, who was having his coffee break with senior consultant and the departmental secretaries. He looked at me in a nasty way, and said “Why don’t you marry her?” and they all laughed aloud. However, although my professor smiled with them, he asked me to get the patient’s papers.

She was a case of Multiple Sclerosis, in her early thirties, and had lost ability to walk. Her sensation below the waist, control over urine was also lost. This ghastly illness of the brain and spine often cripples the young. In many cases, when such disability develops, divorces follow. The world as we doctors see it is far more cruel, deceptive and dangerous than most illnesses humanity knows. She was left with a small daughter and no income. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I felt insulted, but I was in a foreign country. The junior consultant was known for his sarcastic humour and enjoyed impressing women around him, often at the cost of others, like so many dwarfs who take advantage of their chair to achieve what they otherwise cannot. I chose to ignore him, and got the papers to our boss, who called a colleague to enrol the patient in one of the upcoming research trials. That would ensure her free tests and medicines for a few years. I told her the good news. She started sobbing, then handed me a note written by her:
“I am killing myself as I have nothing left except my daughter, I cannot look after her with my disability. I have no complaints against anyone. Please look after my daughter”.
In some time, after she stabilised, she said “Doc, I had come prepared to kill myself today. My daughter is sitting in the cafeteria. If you had not told me what you did just now, believe me, I was planning to drive my wheelchair off the roof today”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We called her 10 year old daughter from the cafeteria. Little did the cute child know how lucky she was to see her mother again that day.

That evening, my boss, the senior consultant, took me out for a dinner. Once the red wine loosened strained faces, he started to speak: “Rajaas, I know you are kind and you want to help others. I know you feel for your patients. But I must caution you, don’t get carried away. Your job is clear: to listen, to advise the best line of investigations and treatment, to explain, and to compassionately guide. Don’t carry too much weight upon your shoulders”.
“Why, Sir?”I asked politely, “I feel inner peace when I walk an extra mile to help my patient. How can that cause me any harm? Didn’t this lady survive just because you helped her today?”
“Because it is a never ending burden. To be able to effectively help everyone coming to you, you must have too much money and too much time. Doctors seldom have either. I lost a lot of time and money, to realise that this cycle never ends, that newer and more people need your help every day, all your life. I almost went bankrupt, collapsed and quit under stress. Then I realised that I must limit this so I could serve them best the next day”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It felt like dry reasoning at that moment. However, boss continued to help patients beyond duty whenever I asked him. Over years, I realised how correct Boss was!

My dear british colleague Dr. Mindy was trying to help a patient through her divorce, I accompanied her. As the patient opened up, she revealed to Mindy that although she enjoyed marijuana, her husband was involved in the sale of other illicit drugs, and that was one reason that she wanted to divorce him. Dr. Mindy involved a counsellor to help her out. However, after they decided to patch up their marriage, the patient told her husband that she had confided in Dr. Mindy. The husband came over and politely threatened her to keep all the information only to herself, otherwise be prepared for dare consequences.
We all spent many a restless nights after that.

Emotionally disturbed, helpless patients, those who are treated unfair by family often depend upon a kind doctor. They get quite restless at times, worry a lot and then expect an immediate hearing and resolution from their doctor. From suicide threats to blackmails, there are messages that pour in once that channel is opened. This sometimes wreaks havoc in the doctor‘s life, because being disturbed affects clinical practice and decision making. The small time left for self and family is thus shot dead. A patient who becomes emotionally dependent upon the doctor can turn into a nightmare for the doctor. Over years, I learnt to balance this, going out of the way only for the few truly deserving patients.

Thousands of patients have survived just because their doctor emotionally supported them in time, otherwise they would have died of lack of will to carry on. No one ever credits the doctors who become emotional back-ups for their patients: a service that costs them time and stress, without any income. That is unfortunately considered a “duty” of the doctor, to be kind and available at bad times, but to be forgotten in good times. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Many actually think that good words, compliments and “a satisfaction of serving” should be sufficient compensation for the doctor. Nothing fully compensates, although kind words do sometimes make one feel good.

However, what caused worse hurt to me was some of my own colleagues who made fun of me and many other doctors who went out of their way to help patients. “Impractical, unnecessary, worthless, drama”, and so many other adjectives are used by colleagues and even seniors/ some teachers for doctors, students, residents who walk an extra mile to help their patients. I was extremely fortunate that I met some good teachers who supported my efforts without mocking me, and I continue to meet students who carry on this noble trait forwards.

When I was leaving, the junior consultant came over for the farewell too, and told me in too many words how I must learn to be “Practical”. I gave him a reply that one teacher with advanced genius had taught me years ago, for people who do less themselves and advise others a lot. This reply saves a lot of time and energy, my teacher had told me, and its beauty is that people don’t even understand that you are saying ‘those two useful words’ when you reply like this:

I just smiled at him.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Angry Husband Pandemic

The Angry Husband Pandemic

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She can’t tell properly. I will tell” said the husband when I asked the patient what were her complaints. Right from the name, it was him who had answered all the questions for her.

“Does she have a speech problem?” I asked him.

“No” he replied, then the wife started telling her complaints.

The list was typical of stress related complaints: chronic aches and pains, sleep problems, lack of interest, tiredness, giddiness: a picture also frighteningly common among the youth today.

“What do you think is the main reason for your stress?” I asked, after I found that her examination was normal. The husband offered to wait outside, and she said yes.

Once he was out, the lady regained her composure, took in a deep breath, and folded her hands. “Doc, please don’t tell all this to him. I am terrified. My husband is a very angry person, and reacts very aggressively to small mistakes or whatever is against his wish. He was not this angry earlier, but he is under a lot of work pressure himself, so whenever he comes home, I think I have to accept this anger because he has no other place to vent his feelings. Even when he calls, he snaps at the smallest of things, scolds and insults me. On weekends he wants to be left alone and if at all I try to interact he has outbursts of anger. Earlier I thought that this was the beginning phase of his career, so I tolerated. But now my whole life revolves around this fear of his reactions. He treats other women very formally and mannerfully, but treats me like dirt”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

She wasn’t alone. The phenomenon of wife being intimidated by anger of her husband is one of the most common relationship statuses in India. Even when 70 or 80 year old couples visit, the wife usually requests the doctor to advise her life partner of over 50 years to control his anger. Superiority and validity of anger of a man over a woman is so commonly accepted in India, that if some husband treats his wife equal, questions are raised as to his being “man-enough”. Paradox: I know of a wife who told her husband in their terminal fight before divorce: “May be you didn’t know how to handle a woman. Maybe you should have slapped and kicked me and treated me like my father treated my mom. They never had fights, because he knew how to shut her up”.

The implications of applying the Global western culture to an orthodox society are many, and mostly disastrous where human relationships are concerned. While some women proudly boast about the anger and domination of their husbands, and how ‘secure’ they feel about this ‘manliness’ that controls them, only a few realise how far away from true gender equality we all are. Growing up with “Princesses and Damsels in Distress” being rescued by “Knights In Shining Armours”, we have probably conditioned our minds too much to notice whether the Knight treated the Princess well in the “Happily Ever After”.

Let us not even talk about the “he-works-and-earns-so-naturally-tired-and-angry” type, or the “Highly-praises-his-wife-in-public-but-treats-her-like-dirt-at-home” type. The blind acceptance of what earlier generations considered normalcy and words in lieu of actions are both crimes we are all equally guilty of. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Implications of this angry husband? A woman who spends her life never growing up being herself, stays a slave to his whimsical outbursts of love playing a hide-and seek with humiliation and anger. Some do this while working and raising children, while some others do it sacrificing the high education and training they have taken, in the name of making a family.

Making a family also means happiness and freedom of thought, speech and action for a woman, responsibility sharing and respect towards the feelings of each other, but this is yet to dawn in many societies, where the bread winner automatically becomes the master and the remaining family members his slave. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

To be just, one must also mention that there indeed are women counterparts of this phenomenon, where the anger outbursts of a woman hold the entire family for an emotional ransom, where the husband and kids never can feel ‘at home’ in the one where she dwells. But fortunately this is rare.

There also are rare pleasures of meeting some brilliant couples who have mannerful and respectful attitude towards each other (not a show). They hold hands, stay together, and laugh genuinely, whether in public or at home. Those are the definitions of love. An occasional tiff may be unavoidable, but there’s rarely anything that cannot be resolved when the two in a relationship know the correct balance between words and silence. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Sometimes some diplomatic men boast with too many chests about their success and achievements, while mentioning in their speeches how their wife was their strength and how she is an ‘equal partner’ in their success, how they could succeed because ‘she looked after the family and kids’, just looking at the wife’s face tells volumes about the reality. My stupid mind is sometimes tempted to ask “Did she choose that or was her duty taken for granted?”.

As I counselled the couple, I realised that so many times we cannot fight deep rooted socio-cultural notions of gender inequality. In the age of rabid egos where there are more break ups than patch ups, where we know more words than feelings, where winning verbal argument is considered a superior ability to healing actions, it is becoming perpetually difficult to imagine that marital relationships will evolve any further unless immediate steps are taken to educate children right from school about the correct interpretation of gender equality and the incorrectness of what is being accepted as normalcy: “Anger Outbursts” under the pretext of being stressed or busy.

For anger or the presumption that it is justified against one’s life partner as a ‘soul venting’ mechanism are both unhealthy for everyone involved: a disease that has now become a pandemic.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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