Tag Archives: Indian doctor

Doctors and Religion?

Doctors and Religion?

Abdul Majid, (middle) my classmate, stayed across my room in the boys hostel, all 5 years of MBBS. I have never seen him sleeping or eating. Whenever we saw his room door open, he was either studying or offering prayers. I have often borrowed his luna moped to go for a tea in late nights. He comes from a very humble family, and had always been among the toppers in every batch: MBBS, MD, and then DM. We have attended many cases together before he finally settled in Aurangabad and made a big name for himself. I have not seen a more hardworking doctor than Dr. Majid.
Ateeq-Ur-Rehman (Right) is another such brilliant doctor, coming from my small town called Nanded, who has scaled highest levels of education in India with sheer merit, and has now settled as a successful Neuro-Intervention specialist in Hyderabad.
While I treat hundreds of Muslim patients who come with complete faith and trust without thinking about my religion, Dr. Majid and Dr. Ateeq have also served thousands of patients from all religions including Hindus, who have complete faith and trust in their ability and acumen.
Whichever religion, state or country a doctor may come from, there never is any thought about religion or caste when we treat patients. Humanity, compassion and Scientific logic is the ground upon which medical science is based. There’s no place for any discrimination, racism or even enmity. Thousands of doctors from all religions: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians, Buddhist, and many others treat millions of
Indian patients every day. We doctors take pride in rising above all differences, thinking of all humans as one and equal, and in the trust that our patients show in us, irrespective of our names and external appearance. Inside, every doctor, whichever religion or country they may belong to, represents only one principle: the desire to do the best for those suffering.

I am proud to belong to this medical culture and tradition of unity.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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An Interview With a Neurology Legend

An Interview With a Neurology Legend

Dr. Satish Khadilkar

MD, DM, DNBE, FIAN, FICP, FAMS, FRCP (London)

Dean and Professor and Head, Department of Neurology,

Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences, Mumbai.

He is a living legend, one of the best neurologists anywhere, a stunning example of what an ideal doctor should be like.

He needs no introduction to those in the medical world: he has carved his golden name in global neurosciences with his passion for Neurology and especially NeuroMuscular diseases, pioneering this specialty in India. I am grateful to Dr. Satish Khadilkar for agreeing to guide us all.

Q: How does it feel at the top?

A: Grateful to life!

In the health pyramid, ‘top’ really means ‘more useful’! And there are at least three parts to being useful: providing service, teaching and conducting research. Indeed, I am grateful to life for having provided me with the opportunities to be useful to colleagues and disease sufferers in all the three spheres.

Q: What are the most essential qualities that a doctor must possess?

A: As mentioned above; service, teaching and research are the three main pillars of medical careers. Each of these requires different virtues. Service requires patience, availability, affordability and the capacity to empathize with the sufferers. Teaching requires clarity of ideas and the ability to be inspirational to the new entrants and younger colleagues. And research requires an analytical mind to understand questions, be unbiased to design experiments in search of the answer.

Depending upon which field you choose, relevant qualities will need to be enhanced. In my mind now, as I have gone on, service has emerged as the noblest frontier for the medicine man. So the essential qualities are compassion, knowledge and the desire to help.

Q: What do you suggest we do to improve the clinical sense among newer generations of doctors?

A: Simple answer: bedside clinics by masters of clinical medicine and shadowing them to see how they utilize the limited resources.

Q: How do you deal with the ever widening knowledgebase while effectively practising as one of the busiest practitioners in the country?

A: Knowledge is of two types, one to know it yourself and the other, to know where to find it! In the present times; we have moved on to the second mode. The great thing about this era is that knowledge is freely available. We only need to develop the ability to design the search to get rapid answers to our questions. There are courses available to this effect.

While this is true for problem-based daily issues, in one’s own area of interest, one has to acquire all the manuscripts and threadbare them, assimilate them and understand them, for deeper knowledge.

Q: How do you handle the incessant negativity which doctors face while dealing with so many incurable conditions and gradually deteriorating patients?

A: Negativity in the doctor’s mind stems from the perceived personal inability to help or to provide solutions. Doctors need to appreciate that their role is limited to being knowledgeable helpers. If we keep in mind the inadequacies of medicine as a science and our restricted role, negativity is less likely to take roots.

Q: What is your take on making holidays, vacation compulsory for doctors to overcome stress?

A: Personally, I do not see the need to take holidays, as my daily work itself is a never ending holiday! I do not remember taking a holiday in last three decades. The better you gel with your work, less it stresses you and less is the need to break.

Having said that, as our work relates to human life, we have to make sure that we take adequate rest and are “on the top of our game” for the hours that we work, as our shortcomings can have consequences.

Q: What advice will you give about handling family responsibilities and duties to the new generation doctors?

A: Human relationships take very long to build and only one indiscretion is enough to undo these. So, in relationships and family, equal attention needs to be given, as you would in your profession. In today’s competitive India, we tend to take the family granted and actually end up doing the least for those who matter most!

It is best to think of this early on while planning the professional career.

Q: What best can be done to stop the exodus of doctors from India?

A: Talented Indian doctors need to be appreciated by the society and the health system in India. System needs to be more humane and responsive to the doctors’ needs. Doctors also need to understand the process of medicine, its goals, trials and tribulations. Till this happens, we shall see movement to greener pastures, where this process has evolved better.

Q: Your guiding thoughts for future Indian Doctors?

A: Let us all remember that we are in medicine to help suffering people. That is the core of medicine. We are healers and scientists. If we don’t veer from this ideal and have patience, all material wants and requirements will automatically fall in place. So to understand medicine, one must never forget that this is the noblest of all professions. I have chosen its nobility as a guiding principle for myself. I found my solace in drowning myself deep in the vast oceans of knowledge about neuromuscular disorders and using it in the service of suffering multitudes.

©️Dr. Satish Khadilkar & Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Dictators in Hospital © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Let my father die. It’s ok. I will not take him anywhere. I don’t want anyone else to treat him” said the 60 year old son loudly. His old father who could listen and understand the conversation, but could not speak or move due to a paralysis, just closed eyes. Tears emerged from the corners of those closed eyes.

Like most doctors nowadays I have learned to master personal opinions and emotional responses, especially with ill-behaved patients, but this was beyond me. Not because he had shouted at me, but because he had just stabbed his father’s heart. Loudly, so that the patient could hear, I said “I think your father should feel better soon, let us see what we can do”. Then I gestured the angry son to see me out of the room. Two other men accompanying him came out and towered upon me.

About five days prior, this son had come to me with his father’s reports. The patient was admitted at a rural hospital. He had severely compromised heart function and his heart rhythm was abnormal. This caused formation of many blood clots in the heart, which went to the brain blocking blood vessels. One such large blockage had caused paralysis and inability to speak. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I had asked the son not to shift the patient, as the treatment started by the rural physician was accurate, we had to just wait and watch. Still, they had brought the patient in an ambulance, travelling for over 4 hours. Naturally, the patient had worsened , becoming drowsy. His heart rhythm was dangerously worse. He was unable to swallow, there was a big risk of his saliva/ mouth secretions going to his windpipe blocking his breathing.

Whenever a patient has problems out of a specialist’s expertise area, it is mandatory that an opinion of the concerned specialty expert be obtained. I asked the best heart specialist I knew to see the patient, and also a small ENT test to see if we could initiate training for swallowing. Our physiotherapists were already working upon his hands and legs gently.

However, the son (a retired govt. officer from a very respectable post) and two others attending the patient created a big scene when my junior doctor visited the patient. They started shouting and cursing that by calling other specialists we were just “increasing the bills”, and that they did not want anyone else except me to see the patient, not even the junior doctors. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My assistant physician called me in panic and updated about this, asking me to immediately act to deescalate the situation. Although there were many patients waiting to be attended in OPD, I had gone to this patient’s room. I explained to them that the patient needs to be seen by a heart specialist too, as his heart condition was very delicate. I also offered them to choose any specialist or hospital they wanted, if they were unhappy here, but they could not waste time as the patient was critical. That’s when the son shouted that he would rather let his father die than be seen by any other specialist.

When they came out of the room, their body language and general disposition suggested aggression. I tried to politely reason with the son that any specialist cannot sit with the patient 24/7, that junior doctors and other specialists as required will have to be called in for the best care, but they declined. The efforts of our medical superintendent and best patient coordinator went in vain. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We will not allow anyone except Dr. Deshpande in the room. Our patient must get better” the son said loudly.

“I will see him till he is under my care, but I cannot guarantee any outcomes” I told them. “Let’s see” he said. He did sign the document informing about criticality of the patient.

No doctor should treat patient under pressure, duress or threat in the interest of the patient. I went to our medical director and requested that the patient be transferred under some other specialist. The hospital offered them freedom to choose, but the relatives declined. “We have come here for Dr. Deshpande, he will have to treat the patient alone” the son said. The hospital decided to take a call next day after a meeting.

That evening as I finished the OPD, I wondered how the patient was. However much angry I may have been with the relatives, the patient was more important than my anger, pride or anything else. I went to their room and checked the patient. He opened eyes and smiled. I asked him his name, and he replied in a husky tone. He was speaking now!!

The next day again, the relatives refused to transfer the patient under someone else, and I kept the treatment on. The trustless atmosphere was quite volatile, and if something had gone wrong, things would have taken an ugly turn. In the next three days, the patient spoke well, and even accepted some sips of water. His hand and leg started moving too.

“Can we take him home now?” the relative asked on the fourth day.

Happy for many reasons, but mainly the fact that the patient had improved, I discharged the patient. I had learnt my lessons. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Adamant, unreasonable and illogical demands by patient’s relatives jeopardising the patient’s life is a huge medical problem in India. Illiteracy, political interference, goonda culture and media support make such horror stories a routine reality. The law still expects the best patience and non-reacting approach of medical personnel, with the onus of saving lives still upon them under this pressure. Innumerable instances of harassment and humiliation of nursing staff, especially women go unreported. Relatives, especially politically connected, behave like dictators in any hospital, threatening one and all. Unless this culture ends and doctors are at a freedom to do their best for every patient, medical care in India will always remain inaccurate, incomplete and purely financially guided rather than scientific or even legal. Doctors can actually file a complaint or take legal action in such cases, but they are too many, and no doctor has time for such legal courses. In the best interest of our patients’ lives we go on forgiving and tolerating such abuse. Because neither law nor administration wants to correct the causative factors effectively.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist Mumbai/ Pune

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Take me for granted

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

“Is your food more important than the patient?” asked a angry voice on the other end of the phone.

It was a Saturday night, about 11 PM, and I had already had a tough day. I had not had time for even lunch, my head was hurting already. I had known the patient for over five years, her husband wanted to “discuss something” urgently. I had requested him to call next day, honestly mentioning to him that I was on my way for dinner. That’s when he asked if food was more important than patient.

“No. Food is not important than the patient”, I said, “Please tell me.”

“Listen doc, today after dinner me and my wife had our usual walk in the society, when we met a neighbour who told us about a new herbal treatment for neurological patients. He said it worked like magic in paralysis cases and the cure was guaranteed. He had some extra bottles, but it is very costly. So we decided to call you and ask”.

“What is so urgent about it?”I asked.

“Not urgent, but we were both very excited and anxious, so we decided to call you and ask” He replied. I told him that that they were free to try anything they wanted, yet cautioned him to check the contents and then alone take any medicine.

I wasn’t angry.

The next morning, I had to visit a government office. There was a huge queue. By noon, as the queue extended, the officer got up and with a calm face went for his lunch, displaying a a sign “Lunch Hour”. I wasn’t angry.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I remembered the time when I had to visit a minister, a bigshot political leader for some issues about resident doctors. We had to repeatedly call for appointment, it was cancelled many times, then we were made to wait for hours, securitymen surrounded the elected representative, considered a public servant. Then at six he suddenly got up and left, quoting an urgent meeting. I wasn’t angry.

Because as a doctor I am perpetually alive to the fact that people take me for granted. That they will misuse compassion, avail of my private time for trivial reasons without feeling any guilt or compensating for it. That they will expect me to be sympathetic even with arrogant, abusive and blatant liars who treaten me with assault.

Because big ministers and political leaders who have a checkered past and disrepute of lying can openly make allegations that tarnishes the image of all doctors in the eyes of our “Election Elite Public”. Blanket allegations by many that accuse all doctors of indulging in malpractices and foreign tours or worse, ‘asking for women from pharma’ have become common.

Don’t these people know that thousands of most successful doctors in India are in fact women, and it is such a huge insult to those as well as the glorious careers of many thousand other medical professionals who live a life of an ideal doctor, who have trained millions of medical students successfully in that tradition?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

More than half of those in the parliament must have been successfully delivered by a qualified doctor, and most of them must have had their children brought up/ treated by expert doctors. Most politicos must be under the treatment of some or other specialist, so that they can work well, still they have this habit of “Attention seeking” by trying to disgrace the whole profession of best qualified people of their own country.

What ingratitude!

The other day I also saw a video of some sermon in some village, making fun of doctors and specialists. The religious speaker, who could have easily qualified as a stand up comedian, and had no clue what a doctor does and why, was making cheap fun of doctors. What was more alarming was the way public was laughing and clapping, thousands of them! I wondered how many of them, their family members were treated by some doctor, and how many of them remembered it. I can understand and enjoy jokes and fun. But this was maliciously criticising an entire profession of highly educated people serving India 24/7, inspite of the hate and paranoia that surrounds them, that too by a person without any medical background or qualification! Many comedians have actually gone beyond “graceful” and “quality” comedy to cheapest low levels to criticise doctors. Hope they meet good doctors who avoid head traumas at least when their children are born!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

You cannot and should not make fun of militarymen. That never means there cannot be anyone wrong in themilitary / army. But there’s a system to deal with that, it is not open for politicos, temporary ministers, and self proclaimed godmen / women / artists to criticise the military. The guilty must be punished, whether in any profession or service, and it should be done legally, and others should stop speaking about it. This should apply to the medical profession too. There indeed must be some doctors who are wrong, they must be dealt with, but we do not go out and blame everyone from other profession!

The most common allegation is about doctor’s handwriting. Well, if you have the guts and patience to listen to over 50 crying/ complaining people every day, while writing for them a “Scientific” list of medicines, which can save life or kill, without committing a single mistake, for decade after decade, then you are welcome for a handwriting challenge with doctors. Google the word “Scientific” and see how much of your speech is scientific before you speak abut doctors! For government hospitals, the daily patient number crosses 150 per doctor. Every prescription is a huge liability. If the chemist can read it and others cannot, who is illiterate?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I have seen the most artistic and best handwriting by doctors at all levels: students to specialists. Indeed, some doctors may have a bad handwriting, but in a country that has many illiterate leaders, some who never completed school or college, a society with one of the highest illiteracy rate in the world, it is such a paradox that they all have such a unity when laughing at doctors who write 40-200 pages every day, each page bringing back someone or other from suffering to relief, from death to life!

No amount of a leaders’ loud and chest thumping speech will ever save a patient from a heart attack or paralysis. No amount of comedy will take off the ventilator of a comatose patient in critical care unit. No poetry in beautiful handwriting will safely deliver a child. No political leader can stay awake in a casualty to treat a dying poor found injured on the road. All Doctors do this.

Still, I am not angry, because I have come to accept the fact that Indian society hates their most meritorious, studious children: the doctors.

Take me for granted, I am all yours.

For now.

An Indian Doctor, happy with his purpose of saving lives, reducing suffering of Patients from across the world, too busy to stand up and waste my anger on cheap attention seekers.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

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Young At 98. Secret?

Young At 98. Secret?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A few months ago I had received an emergency call for a stroke case. The resident doctor informed me that the patient was a lady of 98 years. Her basic tests were normal.

Worried, because stroke is a dangerous diagnosis at any age but more so at that age, I ran to her room as soon as I reached the hospital. A group of her worry-faced relatives waited outside her room.

I entered the room and introduced myself to the patient. She got up.

“Namaskar! How are you doctor? My name is Champadevi Gupta” she said with a big smile and such gusto that I wondered if she was the right patient.

“I am ok, thanks. What happened today?” I asked her.

“Nothing much. I had some giddiness but my children worry so much about my health that they rushed me here”.

Although her examination revealed only mild signs, her MRI had shown a small block in a blood vessel supplying a crucial area of the brain. I explained it to her. She laughed aloud again “I feel okay now. When you feel ok, let me go home”.

She was discharged next morning.

She came in thrice after that, every time walking in with a big smile, lighting up everything around her, keeping her hand upon my head and sumptuously blessing me, inviting for a meal at her home.

Today she came with her youngest son. She is as fit and fine as any young teenager, only happier and more content.

“She has always been like this: happy and content with whatever life brings, in good and bad times” her son Satish told me, “we are 5 brothers, we all look after her, but she still lives alone near my home. She is like a treasure and source of life for all of us”.

Indeed. A laughing, smiling, truly happy, positive and content person is probably the most precious form of human being, and so rare now, that sometimes I want to tell those running behind one thing after another, killing themselves every day: “Look at this lady’s face! This is the secret of a good life, the best health and happiness”.

It is so sad that we are evolving into a “Want more” type of materialistic, selfish, disconnected world with misplaced icons! I was amazed at the willing, involved enthusiasm with which this lucky lady’s children cared so well for her! Incidentally, I had had a tough argument with my teenager kid that morning and had left home in a slightly bad mood. After meeting Champadeviji, whose eldest son of over 80 years still visits her regularly, I was relieved. Parenting is a long term, never ending activity, and may be my own stresses of being a doctor were also distressing my kids sometimes.

As I told her that she was fine and need not visit me for another year, she held my hands, hugged and blessed me, and with mock-anger said “Now if you don’t come to my home I will come to yours without telling you “.

I am now in a true dilemma.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Diagnose This Indian Disease

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, we had gone to the UK” the patient’s husband was telling me, “What an advanced world that is! Extremely clean and very systematic! People are so well mannered, everyone is respectfully treated. So many facilities… and there’s no pollution at all! I think that world is at least thirty years ahead of us.”

His wife was an extremely complicated case of a subtype of Parkinson’s disease, under my treatment for over three years now.

“I agree”I replied, and I meant it, although it somehow felt sad about it.

“By the way, doc,” he continued hesitantly, “while we were there our son had taken an appointment with the best Neurologist there. Actually we had to pay 250 Pounds, but we thought we could use the opportunity to get a second opinion. We met the doctor there and showed your papers. He checked the patient and advised us to repeat all the tests. He confirmed the same diagnosis and asked us to continue the same medicines given by you, and said there’s nothing more to be done. I am sorry, we completely trust you, but our son insisted on a second opinion. Now we will continue to follow up with you”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I smiled and replied “I am absolutely not offended. A second opinion is a patient’s right and we all exist for the patient. I am happy that the neurologist there has agreed with the current diagnosis and treatment. The only problem is that you had to pay twenty three thousand rupees just for that one consultation ”.

“That was only for the consultation, doc! We paid separately for all the tests” his voice picked up.

Almost every patient who seeks medical care and treatment in the advanced world has experienced that things are easier, faster and cheaper in India when medical treatment is concerned. While Indian doctors may be equal to those in the western world, the technology definitely lags behind because of the red-tapism and taxation, the expectation of charity (and thereby socio-political misuse) from every investment. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

While the Western world is decades ahead of India, most medical specialists in India is at par with the western world, and are available at a far lower cost to almost everyone. Faster appointments, much faster turnout of investigations and reporting (probably the best in the world), diagnosis and treatment is something every Indian and especially administrations should be proud of. It takes months to get appointments with the specialist, for MRIs, and for treatments too in most cases outside India, so many from the advanced world actually travel to India for medical treatment. The costs are extremely high in most world, so are insurance premiums, and doctor’s salaries.

All the credit of this medical advance in India goes to the private medical practitioners and institutes, corporate hospitals. Yet most Indians speak in derogatory terms about them. Deliberate attempts of fault finding, accusations of greed and malpractice by politicians, society and media, allegations about medical colleagues by the dissatisfied, unsuccessful practitioners and seekers of quick fame, and an environment of perpetual mistrust and legal action has really made practising difficult for many Indian doctors. Still, we have the best turnaround time and accuracy at lowest costs. Some day someone sane in the administration will hopefully realise this.

When I handed over the prescription to the patient, the husband winked at me “Doctor, I am a pensioner old man. My son made me spend for all the medical in UK, as he had no insurance cover. Can you give us some senior citizen concession?”

Like every Indian doctor who accomodates every Indian patient, I did!

What do you call the condition where you do your best for someone, but the expectations of more never cease at the other end?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

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Survival Of The Quickest

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This young and brilliant man, Adil Masalawala, suddenly appeared to have changed. His behaviour became different and unusual. He started mumbling and replying irrelevantly. He also had fever intermittently. His caring and worried wife Mrs. Venus consulted a physician who sent them to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist checked Adil and advised him admission. He started with some medicines, but suddenly Adil’s behaviour became hyper, his body started becoming stiff. Then he became drowsy, and his body started shaking violently. An MRI of the brain was reported normal. That’s when the psychiatrist advised a reference for neurologist.

When I first saw the patient, he had many features that could also be caused by side effects of some medicines. Sometimes it is impossible to conclude whether it is the disease or the medicine which is causing certain symptoms. I suggested that we stop all antipsychotic medicines. That could also be a dangerous decision. The family was counselled, and they agreed. Adil’s drowsiness improved, but he became very agitated, and his stiffness and shaking worsened.

There are many neurological diseases of the brain which start as abnormal behaviour. Strokes, some infections, tumors and swellings are examples of treatable, but there are many untreatable and dangerous conditions too. The only way was to urgently investigate the patient further. Although the family was baffled and panicked, Mrs. Venus expressed complete trust in our decisions, and allowed us to shift the patient to the ICU. I could not answer many of their questions, I did not clearly understand what exactly was happening, but this uncertainty and challenge is what medicine is all about.

There is fluid in and around the brain, which nourishes the brain and also acts as shock absorber between the skull bone and the brain. Many diseases like cancers and infections can be diagnosed by studying this fluid, which can be taken out by inserting a needle in the lower (lumbar) spine. We checked this fluid, and we got the first clue: that we were possibly dealing with a viral infection of the brain. Many more costly blood tests were required to find out which virus was causing this. The family clearly stated “Do whatever is needed in your opinion”. We sent the tests and found the answer: Adil had one of the most rare and dangerous viral infection of the brain, called Japanese Encephalitis.

About 30-40 percent of patients with this diagnosis do not survive. There is no definite treatment for this virus, but many of the manifestations can be treated and excessive care is required to avoid life threatening complications of the swelling that it can cause in the brain.

On the fourth day, Adil had convulsions. His condition worsened. We kept on treating each complication as fast as possible and tried to balance the effects and side effects of the many strong medicines that were being used to control convulsions, shaking, and the brain swelling. Besides knowledge, wisdom and experience, our major strength was the trust of patient’s family who never questioned any decisions.

Many patients who develop abnormal behaviour are mistreated as having a psychiatric problem. Most qualified psychiatrists are aware of the red flags and refer patients for a Neurologist’s opinion. However, a majority of patients with psychiatric problems in India are first taken to quacks, magic healers, mantrik-tantriks, who delay the whole process of correct evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. This leads to many deaths, and this is worst in case of cancers treatable in earlier stages.

False advertisements, some even approved by highly placed offices, celebrities and authorities attract people from all classes and cause severe delay in initiation of the correct scientific treatment. While our governments rightly pressurise allopaths to write generic medicines, they mostly turn a blind eye towards rampant misleading false advertisements claiming cures of incurable diseases and centers that flourish reaping from the hope of millions of illiterates.

We almost thought we had lost this case to a permanent disability. Adil’s body had become completely stiff, his memory had become unreliable to a great extent, and he had an incapacitating tremor. After a few days we could gradually stabilise his general condition and shift him out of the ICU. In a few weeks he was discharged, improving slowly. His family, especially his wife fought for his normalcy like a true warrior, and once he resumed his senses, Adil too made every possible effort to recover fast. One day after a few months, he was back to normal again, we declared him cured and fit, physically and mentally. He resumed his job.

Today after about ten years, Mr. Adil Masalawala and his wife Mrs. Venus came over for some trivial issue, and we recalled the horror that we went through and his victory over it. In this case, I thought it was the “Survival Of The Fastest” as the family did not waste any time in quacks, arguments, objections or mistrust, and let us doctors do the best for the patient in the fastest possible way. We are grateful to the family for this trust, and Adil’s survival and recovery itself is our reward. God bless the couple with a long and healthy life!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Real Story, Real Names, With Patient’s Express Permission. Grateful to Mr. Adil and Mrs. Venus for the permission to share the story of their victorious battle.

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Doctors & Manners

“During my postgraduate training in Britain, I once wrote a psychiatry reference for a man whose symptoms appeared disproportionately out of range for most neurological conditions” one of my Neurology professors was telling me.

“After the psychiatrist saw the patient she agreed that the patient had some issues with depression due to chronic stress, and started treatment. However when I went on the next day for rounds, the patient smiled at me and spoke with some distaste: ‘Doc, thank you for referring me to the psychiatrist, I feel better after talking with her, but don’t you think you should have first discussed with me before referring me to her?’ I realised my mistake and apologised to the patient. That day onwards I never took for granted any patient.”

This Profeesor had taught me one of the best secrets of good patient care. I am forever indebted to him for this invaluable technique he taught me. Yes, genuine respect and politeness for the patient is a technique most essential for every doctor to imbibe. It is NOT artificial sweet-talk or show-compassion that matters, it is an inner wish to solve their problems when possible, to counsel the best even if there’s no treatment or cure, and to treat them equal that makes the core of a true doctor.

It is indeed true that many doctors behave in a manner-less, high-handed way with patients, speaking only medicolegal language and maintaining a distance from the patient. The other side is an artificial sweet talker whom most patients can now identify.

One definite reason for aloofness of doctors is that many patients are indeed suspicious of the doctor’s intentions, ability and integrity. Many patients actually behave quite rudely with the doctors, asking questions beyond the sphere of relevance, directly questioning the experience and accuracy of doctor’s diagnosis and treatment, expecting to understand everything about the complicated medical condition in five minutes what can only be understood over years of actually dealing with patients.

Still, it is the good doctor’s responsibility to simplify and write down his opinion about the possible diagnoses and encourage patients to read from some standard sites. That prevents many misunderstandings.

Many medical institutions have included training curriculums for doctors to learn how to behave with the patient, but these are grossly insufficient. The internal effort to treat the patient like an equal must only be self-taught by every doctor who wants to become successful in long term. To even treat an angry, paranoid patient with dignity and respect is an art. That said, there indeed are aggressive and violent patients and relatives in India, whom no doctor can tolerate. The doctor should also learn how to avoid them without being impolite.

I am grateful that I had professors like Dr. Sorab Bhabha and Dr. George Rice who took me to another level in both Neurology and best patient care including bedside manners. I may not be able to solve every medical problem, but behaviour with patients will never be a problem for me, thanks to what they taught me.

Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist Pune / Mumbai / Goa

Robodoc

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“The doctor wasn’t even replying. He didn’t answer my questions” the patient, an angry lady, told me about one of my colleagues. The patient’s husband sat besides her, expressionless.

I reviewed her case in detail. She had had varying complaints for over four years, mostly severe pain at various points on her body. When a patient has symptoms (complaints) grossly disproportionate to the signs (doctor’s findings), there always is a suspicion of ‘exaggeration’ or ‘lying’. This can happen involuntarily due to stress, depression or anxiety, or voluntarily usually for seeking attention. She had seen many specialists, and had received strong doses of almost all types of pain killers and other pain control medicines, still her response after every course was ‘zero relief’. That was definitely suspicious. I looked at her husband. He appeared tired and aloof, reluctant to participate in any discussion. I had to make him talk.

“Is she stressed? Have you noticed any change in her personality?” I asked them the question that usually opens the dreaded can of worms.

“I am fed up, doctor” said the husband, “She needs continuous attention. Since our marriage four years ago there’s never been a month when we did not visit a hospital. All doctors tell her to go to a psychiatrist, but she refuses. The moment I return from office she starts complaining about her health. I don’t know what to do now, I feel I am better out of my own home” he avoided looking at her.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

His wife started crying, and in a shrill voice, shouted at me “Why are you speaking with him, doc? I am your patient, speak to me. No one believes me. I am suffering so much!”

I assured her that I was going to help her sort out the issue. Once she calmed down, I was able to explain to her the way stress affects human mind and body, and that it was possible to get well soon. I told her that being stressed was not a “psychiatric illness” but an overworked, burdened state of mind that needs attention, and that it can often be cured by speaking with the right person. She asked me many questions. As a special case, I made an effort to reply to each one of them, even the irrelevant ones, sometimes repeatedly. She agreed to visit an excellent counsellor colleague of mine. She drastically improved in a month after the counsellor worked upon her. However, she came back with new complaints within two months. She visited me twice more, and each time cried a lot, then when I pacified her, asked the same long list of questions mixed with new ones.

My sympathy and compassion started waning. I have promised myself never to be rude to any patient ever, and I religiously follow that. Yet my patience was wavering now.

The more compassionate, patient, sympathetic a doctor becomes towards the patient and their family, the more it is taken for granted and misused. The doctor is then expected to be an unending source of “psychological support”, mentoring and motivating, and a punching bag or a cry-to teddy bear. While in a healthy doctor-patient relationship this compassionate attitude is natural and welcome, many doctors do not know when it starts growing upon them and stressing them out. It is not easy to listen to a continuous flow of medical symptomatology especially wrapped in negative emotions. While positive outcomes do bring back life into a doctor’s motivation to do better and more, this expectation to be a listener of all sorrows until the storyteller is satisfied is unnatural and impractical. It tells upon the doctor’s health. This is now happening in almost all specialties, and wise doctors are learning to separate patients into “whimpering, chronically-dissatisfied-with-everything storytellers” versus patients with genuine medical, surgical and psychiatric issues. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

To concentrate upon what can be corrected, to treat what is possible should be the right priority, and here’s where a doctor’s compassion, sympathy and patience are best employed. To expect a doctor to resolve issues like ‘Swabhav’ (inherent nature) of a human being is wrong. A doctor also cannot solve the root causes of stress like poverty, unemployment, interpersonal incompatibility, overambitious, over-expectant personality or attention seeking. Many patients and families expect the doctor to resolve ‘every minor issue’ related to ageing, refusing to accept that resuming complete normalcy of health is impossible after a certain age, especially with some medical conditions. Doctors can guide patients, but cannot accompany the patient and family to fine tune every minor issue.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Few paranoid, suspicious, accusative, aggressive patients and the types mentioned above have now made it necessary for the doctor to be extremely aware and alert, cautious, and to some extent emotionally aloof from the patient at least in the initial phase. Every word has to be spoken with caution. This “Robotic Doctor” or “Robodoc” is actually becoming a sad reality in the Western world where every medical consultation is considered a potential chance of litigation. A careful doctor avoids getting trapped into emotional exploitation. While this may upset some patients, much of the educated class is still happy with a proper professional consultation, diagnosis and treatment rather than only a compassionate sweet talk. Given the Indian scenario where patients are driven emotionally rather than scientifically especially in the illiterate and financially challenged echelons, a doctor needs to be better equipped for avoiding misuse of his / her compassion and sympathy, as it also converts readily into a permanent source of rewardless stress. This is unhealthy for doctors.

This is one reason ‘Robodocs’ are on a rise. A sad truth about an essential evolution in the medical profession across the world. The only thing that can change this is individualising patient care.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Gift From Heaven

He woke up today morning, caught a bus to his earlier workplace and collected some boxes. Then he got a bus again and travelled for two hours to reach me.

“I made these chocolates myself for you, doctor” he told me with immense pride.

He was paralysed on one side, since 17 years, at the young age of 23, due to stroke. He lost his job. About a year ago he came to my free opd for reduction in stiffness and weakness that had made his life difficult. After some weeks he responded well and has now resumed his work as a chef from home. I am as proud as him, and consider this Diwali gift a gift from heaven!

Thank you, Sachin Balasaheb Damle, and Hats Off to your patience, courage and grit!

Happy Diwali🙏🏻

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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