The Sacred Duty of A Man
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
One night after the ward rounds, just as I left the hospital, I received an urgent call. The patient, a lady in her late 50s, had become comatose. She was admitted three days ago under a colleague for bleeding in the left side of her brain, that had caused right sided paralysis. She was drowsy since admission, but that day she had some vomitings and then became deeply unconscious.
She was already in the ICU. The most common reasons for drowsiness in admitted population above 50 years of age is either medicines or low sodium levels. Her sodium was very low, we started the treatment.
Her elderly husband walked up to me as I came out of the ICU. Extremely worried, but still maintaining his calm, he asked me “Will my wife be okay?”
I explained him the situation, and reassured him that though there was no threat to her life then, the recovery from paralysis was unpredictable.
“That is okay doctor, but she must survive. We don’t have any children, she has looked after me all her life. I will do anything for her” he said with a heavy voice.
They came from a village 5 hours away from Pune. Mr. Arvind Gandhi was a retired pharmacist, surviving on his savings, with his wife Mrs. Aparna, till this calamity hit them.
That was four years ago.
Since then, he became her complete attendant and caretaker. He took care of her in that bedridden state for over a year, cleaning her and feeding her many times every day. He took her regularly every day for physiotherapy, and brought her for consultation to Pune as frequently as required. He learnt taking care of home, cooking, housekeeping etc., and never shied from the medical expenses although his sources were limited. Thanks to his extreme dedication to her care and extraordinary will power, Mrs Aparna Gandhi has now recovered enough to independently carry out her daily routine, and also helps her husband in cooking and other tasks.
“When I saw my wife in that condition, I was heartbroken. Then I thought, it is my duty as a man to fight for and take care of the woman I married. I changed overnight and decided to win this situation rather than giving up or asking for help”. Mr. Arvind said today when they followed up.
“Looking at his dedication and love for me, and his effort to make me recover, I developed a willpower too, and decided to recover and take care of him again” his wife replied with a smile.
As doctors we commonly see that many men treat their wife and her health problems as ‘not so important” issues. Many in fact drop their wife to her parents’, to be treated and sent back after the ‘repair’. Many take it for granted that the lady’s parents should pay for all her medical expenses even after years of marriage. In fact, many even compel their sick wives to continue with cooking, housekeeping etc. shamelessly claiming that there is no option. There are no laws about any of these.
We also come across such rare ones like Mr. Arvind Gandhi, who fight with the fate with all they have with the simple yet golden mentality of caring for the woman who cares for them. All men are thankfully not the same, and there indeed are simple and humble men like Mr. Arvind Gandhi who set examples of what a man should be. In the growing market of meaty and arty men flaunting everything except culture and kindness, these examples are easily drowned. Hence this article.
While many pundits fight for the correct definitions of life and love, let us congratulate Mr. Arvind and Mrs. Aparna Gandhi for their extraordinary struggle, willpower and the victory.
©. Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Gandhi for permission to share this story.
Please share unedited.
© 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