Tag Archives: Medschool

A Habit That Protected Me

A Habit That Protected Me

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I cannot bear this. Help me doctor”shouted the Old man fom the waiting room, just as I entered the OPD. There were appointments before him, I requested others to wait, and most of them agreed, although a little upset. I called in the old man. He was accompanied by two of his sons, both probably professional bodybuilders.

He was a known case of Trigeminal Neuralgia, a condition that causes severe, shock like or stabbing, excruciating pangs of pain on one side of the face. This usually brings the patients to tears, and most patients come frustrated, unable to talk or eat, with the telltale sign of their hand covering that side of the face, scared to open mouth even to reply. He had had this condition over ten years now, and was quite stable, usually visiting me once a year. He had last visited only a few weeks ago, smiling and pain free. There were no new findings. He kept on shouting, saying that the pain was unbearable. This was unusual. I asked him if he had done any of the prohibited things that usually increase the pain of Neuralgia: cold drinks, icecream, shaving harshly, exposure to breezes etc. He said he had had an icecream a few days ago, but the pain had only restarted yesterday.

The sons were staring menacingly at me. “How come this has suddenly worsened doc? Is this the effect of your medicines?” one asked. I wondered why they don’t teach simple logic and reasoning in primary schools. Everyone going to a gym must, in my opinion, first be mandatorily taught normal human conversation. Otherwise they speak with their biceps. Not knowing that language, I chose not to reply him. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He was already on high doses of the medicines that controlled his pain. He also had diabetes, so I could not use the best emergency medicine for such pain: steroids. Once earlier, he had developed severe infection while on steroid, so that was out of question.

I started him on a short course of a strong pain killer. Warning him that he should take it only for three days. “His pain must stop immediately” said the other son, threateningly. “I wish so too. It should subside soon, usually it takes two to five days” I concluded the consultation.

They returned five days later. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I am very good now, Doctor”said the old man, “The pain went away the very next day. Thank You”.

Just as I prepared to look at the musclebuckets proudly, the old man said “Doctor I need a certificate that you had advised me bedrest for five days”.

I was almost prepared to write, this appeared a justified request given what had transpired. Curious, I asked him: “But you have your own business. Why do you need this certificate?”

It was then that one of the biceps spoke: “He had a court appearacne in a criminal case on the next day of our visiting you. He could not go to the court. Now the court has asked for a certificate”.

Alarmed, I told them: “I had not advised him rest. I cannot issue a false certificate.” (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They looked at each other. Then the old man said “I request you doctor. My cousin has filed a false murder charge against me and my sons. Please help us. Your certificate will save us trouble”he folded his hands.

Now the secret of why that pain had worsened suddenly had unfolded. This condition is indeed known to suddenly worsen, but when such “situations”coincide with illnesses, a doctor is the easiest to squeeze the arm of.

“But we paid your fees. His pain was actually severe that day. How can you deny us a certificate now?”asked the elder biceps.

Many video clips of daylight, open murders that happen around us daily ran through my mind. Even under the heading of compassion, was it right to help this patient, who was one of the accused? As a doctor, I am not to judge anyone and must purely decide based upon the medical merits of this case.

I had not advised him rest. I declined their request for the certificate. Angrily, the trio left my room, and on the way out, in the waiting room, loudly enough for other patients to listen, the old man said something derogatory about all doctors being heartless looters. Every new patient who walked in that day had a question mark of suspicion on their face, it took me extra effort to wipe that away in each case. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Whether it is addiction to pain killers or sleep medicine, whether it is false certificates or deceiving the medical insurance companies for claims, many patients abuse their doctors’ compassion and services. Some doctors fall easy prey to such tactics, some do it for money. Majority refuse to contribute. It is this majority that such “demanding”patients always cry against.

The doctors who help such people with such causes not only endanger themselves, but may in fact add disgrace to their profession, because it is these same patients who tell others how any doctor can be fooled, or bought with some money or threat.

As fate would have it, one of the sons came to visit me the very next month, for his wife. As I examined her and then wrote a prescription for her, I enquired about his father.

“Oh he is alright now. We got a certificate from one of our relative who’s a doctor” said the son, smiling shyly: “That’s why I brought my wife to you.. I know you will do only the right thing”.

I could only thank my teachers who had tattooed that habit upon me, and taught me that only good begets good. It is a habit that has protected me always.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Higher Suffering

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Stuck in the heavy traffic due to rains, I tried to remain calm. The cellphone kept on ringing, patients who were waiting, those who wanted appointments, those who were to catch their ride out of station anxiously asked when will I reach. Some lost patience and raised voice. In addition, there were calls about the patients admitted in the hospital: critical decisions to be made, idiotic questions by insurance companies to be replied to. There were huge processions, the traffic was diverted, without any arrangements for ambulances. Impatient, aggressive and violent people is a reality on almost all Indian roads now. No one cares for law on the road. You are at the mercy of anyone who chooses to pick up a fight with you.

There were some issues at home too, the cook had called in sick, we had to do some emergency cooking. That had delayed my start.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

At last, an hour late, I reached the OPD, and entered running. Faces with controlled anger greeted with cultured politeness. Prepared for bitter comments, I called in the first patient.

This was a free patient, she did not need a follow up. But being free, she visits almost religiously every month, whenever she has a fight with her husband. Sometimes, when the only guaranteed compassion is from a doctor, it can be misused. However, as I was late, I decided to respect their patience, and told them to visit a counselor. Nevertheless, my irritation heightened, that this added to the wait of other patients.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I certainly am impatient with meaningless waste of time, and sometimes the traffic, the sudden changes in schedules due to someone’s irresponsible behavior, and misuse of compassionate services bring me to the edge of a reaction. This was one such moment. My face must have become grim.

The next patient walked in, an elderly gentleman with Parkinson’s disease. He was accompanied by his wife. They were supposed to come back three months later, but had followed up early. I examined him, found him quite stable neurologically, but the usual twinkle in his eyes was absent. Even his usually smiling wife appeared lost. It must be the traffic, my late arrival or something likewise, I thought, and curbed my curiosity to ask them. Today was heavy and behind schedule, I must wind up fast. Yet, as I explained them that everything was stable and alright, that they need not worry, I noticed the unspoken uneasiness in their body language. A little reluctantly but keeping up with the expectation of my own heart, I asked them: “You look quite disturbed and stressed. Is anything the matter? I am sorry I came late today”.

“No, no doctor, it’s not that. But yes, he is stressed and disturbed said the wife, and looked inquisitively towards her husband. ”Shall I tell him?” she asked.

Looking down, hiding his face, the husband nodded.

“Doctor, we lost our only son ten only days ago. Someone killed him on the road. Some drunk goons dashed his car from behind, and when he got down to check the damage, they attacked him and hit him on the head with some rods. He was lying on the road for a long time, and by the time police took him to the hospital, he was gone. We came to know after a few hours. He was our only child, an engineering scholar who had returned to India with great dreams .”

The lady was silently weeping as she kept her emotions in control. The patient was sobbing, I called the receptionist to get a glass of water.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We have done so much for our town and the society” said the patient, “but now I feel it was all useless. No one is safe even on the roads. We see so many rules and laws broken, so many violent and aggressive people that it has become difficult to question anyone even when they misbehave”.

I had no words to pacify them. What can pacify the parents of a dead child, that too a victim lawlessness?

The receptionist called “Sir, the next patient is shouting” she said.

“Five minutes” I requested her.

“You are busy, doc, we will leave. But I brought him here only because he feels better when he meets you. Once you reassure him, he will feel a little secure. Even I feel better when I see you. Otherwise we sit at home just staring at each other’s sunken souls. We have no relatives”.

That was a bitter eye opener to me. They had chosen me to be their lifeline in the worst times of their life, and here I was, thinking about my worries, my time, and the inevitable small happenings that block the path of every working person every day. I had momentarily ignored the fact that I must still enter the hospital with a smile, push behind myself all the negatives that pull me down. For every patient here to see me comes with a hundred fears and a thousand expectations, the least I can do for them is be compassionate and reassuring, whatever may have happened till that moment.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“You may see many patients in a day and listen to their troubles, doc, but you are the only doctor your patient meets in a long time. I don’t know about you, but we always feel good when we see you”. The wife added.

Yes, I had heard that earlier, in my teacher’s cabin. Once a patient develops trust in his / her doctor, they look upon the doctor as one of the most reliable resource for courage, compassion and troubleshooting, even beyond the expertise of that doctor. As doctors, we must never forget this, and stand up tall above all our personal problems to be the supermen and superwomen, the Messiahs, the Saviors that we are expected to be. Law and some idiots do push a stick in our wheels, but then the patient is far above both. A patient’s suffering is always far above that of any doctor.

I stood up, held the patient’s hand, and reassured them: that they do have a relative here in Pune. “According to the Pune tradition”, I said, “one should offer tea only when the guests are half out of the door, but I will make an exception today .”

Having them sit in the next empty room, I proceeded with the OPD. Ordering tea for everyone in the OPD waiting room, I stole a few more minutes to calm the ruffled souls of those two, and asked them to see me again, whenever they wished.

As I returned late after dark, even through the rainy night, a sweet moonlight made the raindrops glow. Just like every doctor brings back the smiles to the burning hearts of their patients!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

ICU Seventeen

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ICU Seventeen
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
11 PM. Just as I finished my OPD I received a call from the ICU resident doctor: “Sir, you have a call from ICU seventeen”. I was tired and exhausted, feeling feverish that day. I was not on call, so could request them to send this call to another neurologist who was on call.
But it was ICU seventeen. I hated going to that cabin, my legs dragged heavy, my mind exploded, but I had to. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
I went there, assessed the middle aged lady on the bed. She was already on a ventilator, had been unconscious since after a head injury. She had been knocked down by a speeding drunkard while crossing the road. This was day two. Examining her, I found feeble signs that indicated that her brain was not dead. . CT scan showed many injuries to the brain. I told her relatives –the husband and the son- about this, and also explained them the uncertainty and unpredictability of outcome.
“Shall we continue the treatment or let go? We are not rich, we can try only if there are good chances of her survival” said the husband and son. The husband was visibly fatigued with the situation, the son was talking to me without looking up from his iPad.
 
“Although the outcome is unpredictable, in my opinion, you must continue to try. This is not yet a hopeless case”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
As expected, they were unhappy.
They wanted quick answers that would either guarantee a good outcome or enable them to bank upon a doctor’s decision to withdraw life support which would make them guilt free. I did not want to hurry a decision for their convenience. My first duty was to protect the patient’s life, not to cater to anyone else’s expectations. A doctor who does not respect life in all its depth has no right to be a doctor. Especially in case of an unconscious patient, a doctor’s responsibility peaks, and sometimes he/she has to even struggle to convince the family to continue treatment. Notions like “dead patient kept on ventilator in ICU” created and catered by some stupids add to this situation. ICU expenses are indeed high. In such a scenario, any doctor who advises to continue treatment in a hope of saving life is indeed suspected to have “financial” motives.
But even that fear was below my duty to the patient. I told them that in my opinion they should not withdraw life support. I told them to continue to try.
 
“Doctor, what would you have done if your mother was in her place?” asked the son, looking up with a cunning expression from his iPad.
The explosions in my mind restarted. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In this same ICU seventeen, just a few weeks ago, I had witnessed my mother’s death. For three days and nights, my own colleagues had fought to tackle the umpteen complications that took away my dearest, and I stood at the door, telling them: do whatever you must, try your best, but save her. In her earlier life, mom had always wanted to live, live longer, and be with her family every moment at any cost. There was no reason for me to presume she did not want to survive. From Geeta to Bible, ever sacred book has advised “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Medicine or law aren’t yet wiser than that.
I am a middle class doctor myself, not rich. I could not afford prolonged treatment. But I was willing to even sell myself if it was required to make my mother survive, even for a day more. She would have done the same for me, even more. There is no age and illness when a mother would want her child to die, and as her dearest son, it was upon me to become her mother when she grew old.
 
One cruel night took her away. I will never overcome that feeling of standing in the door of ICU seventeen, with the resident doctor and nurse, both crying too, tried to wrestle out my mom from the claws of death. That cabin, that door, that corridor brings back those moments. I cannot show that upon my face, I am a doctor. I work at the same hospital, see these places almost every day, and carry on what I must. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
I paused to contain the agitations in my mind, then replied.
‘Yes, Sir” I told the son of the iPad: “I am suggesting you exactly what I would have done for my mother”. Still trustless, he continued fingering his iPad. His father sat clutching his head. They continued the treatment, but bitterly.
A week later, she opened eyes. In ten days, I received a call again “Sir, can we shift that lady out of ICU seventeen? She is fine now, conscious and oriented, accepting orally” the resident doctor asked.
 
“Yes please”, I replied, not without a tear. We couldn’t get my mother back, I will never recover from that memory, but we had defeated death in the same room! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Every doctor has had such experience: illness, death and extremely disturbing memories associated with it. They still have to keep their calm and continue to try for their patients what they could not achieve for their dearest ones. It is mostly taken for granted: that doctors have no feelings, that it is so routine for them to see pain and death that they are not affected by these anymore.
 
It takes a grand courage: that of a brave soldier, to be able to walk again in the corridors of death that have taken away one’s dearest people. The same diseases, illnesses, problems affect doctors and their families too, we fight them, we win or lose, but we come back to the battleground again, every day, to protect every single life we can.
Therein lies the pride of saying “ I am a doctor”.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Illiterate Man with Brain Tumors, Fits and Common Sense.

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The Illiterate Man with Brain Tumors, Fits and Common Sense.
 
“I have brain tumors. Is it possible to treat? Will I survive?” asked the worried man as his wife tried to hide her fear of the answer.
 
10 years ago, as I sat in a peripheral small hospital outside Pune, a simple couple had walked in, carrying their poverty in obvious signs upon them. Mr. Sakharam Pawar worked as a mason, mainly repairing foundation and floors. He had recently had a convulsion, and his Brain MRI had shown multiple tumors with swelling around them.
 
One of his relatives staying with him had had tuberculosis in the past. His clinical examination revealed signs of increased pressure within the skull. After a few simple tests, I told him that the tumors looked like tuberculosis growth (called tuberculoma or Tb Granuloma), and there was a good chance that they would respond to medicines, if he took the medicines regularly without missing for a single day. He agreed. An anti-convulsant was also started.
 
The course was prolonged, over a year, and the drugs were known to be notorious. Mr. Sakharam did not ask me a single question. When I updated him about the serious side effects like liver failure or vision or hearing loss that could result because of some his medicines, he replied “Doctorsaheb, I am sure you know what is best for me. If a side effect develops, it is my fate. I know you will help me there too. I leave all the choices to you”. I was amazed at this compliance and trust. He was barely literate (can only sign his name), but his choices spoke of an excellent common sense. In an age where even the well-educated resort to all kinds of Babas, Gurus, Herbals, Net claims, ,self-treatment and even black magic, this illiterate couple was making scientific choices!
 
He did not even seek a second opinion! A doctor’s responsibility multiplies when his / her patient completely trusts them, no doctor abandons the best interest of such a patient.
 
A year later, his Brain MRI showed that all the tumors had vanished, only a small scar remained. His medicines were stopped, except for the anticonvulsant which he will have to take lifelong. He takes this single tablet regularly, and we try and make it available for him at lowest cost by requesting the pharmacy. He hasn’t had any convulsion since many years now. He visits me once a year, and brings me words that make my day. This poor, illiterate man has defeated a high-fatality disease by making the right moves in time!
 
Today I asked Mr. Sakharam if I could tell his story to the world. He agreed. Then he mused and replied “I want to tell everyone that when I was first diagnosed with this dangerous illness I thought it was the end of the world. Then I discussed with my wife and we decided to fight this with proper treatment rather than superstitious decision making. The most difficult part was that I had to keep working in spite of severe headaches and the nausea caused by medicines, as we have no other source of income. But I am happy that I have defeated such a dangerous form of tuberculosis. I would like to appeal to people to go to the doctor in time, take scientific medicines and do not fall in the hands of quacks”.
 
Indeed, we see many cases of tuberculosis, tumors and so many other diseases of the brain that reach us too late to be saved or treated. Many (even highly educated) patients resort to unscientific options and waste precious time. Many a paranoid literates would have questioned every single thing right from the necessity of an MRI to the medicines used, and threatened their doctors with legal action for adverse effects of medicines. What this uneducated, illiterate couple demonstrated really questions whether education brings common sense to all.
 
Our medical director Dr. Sanjay Pathare assured Mr. Sakharam of all the help for the future.
 
The happy couple left with blessings upon their lips. A doctor’s day was thus blessed!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
PS:
Due permissions obtained from the patient for publishing this educational post. There are thousands of great doctors all over India, even in the biggest private hospitals,, who diagnose and treat poor patients without charging fees. The purpose of the post is to spread awareness that all brain tumors do not need surgery, that most tuberculosis cases can be cured completely, and also that with proper compliance, convulsions can also be controlled completely.

Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A hungry poor man named Atmaram went to a big hotel, had a nice big meal, and told he had no money to pay. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. He was released after a warning and a slap.

Next day he filled up petrol in his bike, and said he couldn’t pay. He was again beaten up, handed over to the police. Then he went to the medical shop, bought medicines and mineral water, ate the medicine, drank water from the bottle, and again said he couldn’t pay. He was now jailed for a week.

Next week his house was damaged by heavy rains, so he went and requested to be allowed to sleep in the house of the chief minister. He was arrested again, thrashed up.

As angry Atmaram shouted at the police, he was beaten up by them, another crime was added to his offences. In the court, Atmaram insulted the lawyers and judges and accused them of accepting bribes and charging too much. The judge punished him extra for his behaviour. Atmaram was angry and threw his shoe at the judge. His punishment was extended.

“You must respect the authority “ the court said.

“But I am poor, I need free food and petrol and medicines. I need sympathy too” Atmaram argued.

“You should have begged and applied for favours and eaten in places that provide charity meals. Petrol, however essential, has the same price for everyone. You can sleep on the footpath, and above all, you are not allowed rudeness and violence because you are poor and needy” The court said.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When released from the jail, Atmaram drank a lot of desi alcohol, had an accident and fractured many bones. He went to the best private hospital, got operated and refused to pay his bills that crossed one lac rupees. When the hospital insisted, the operating doctors were beaten up by Atmaran’s relatives, the hospital was vandalised, the police arrested the doctor who saved Atmaram’s life, the government closed down the hospital, while the media and the society kept villainising the entire medical profession.

The headlines next day reported the sympathy expressed uniformly by wag addicted tongues: some said the entire profession was tainted, some blamed the greed of the doctors, even some doctors desperate for attention shed crocodile tears about the ethics in this profession. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In the courtroom, during the trial, Atmaram sat facing the doctor, still heavily bandaged.

The hon’ble judge, kind but surrounded by security, told the doctor accused of negligence and malpractice in the court: “You as a doctor carry more responsibility for ethical behaviour upon your shoulders. You should never turn away the poor”.

The doctor, defending himself, asked “but Milord, doesn’t our constitution insist on equality? Why do you yourself or ministers get security but not the doctor? Why isn’t everyone supposed to stick to ethics in every profession including politics, police and judiciary? Why are others exempt? How do you explain beating up of doctors while also saying that the society treated them like gods?”.

There were no answers. The kind court asked if the doctor had to say anything else in his own defence.

The doctor said

“Yes Milord, but the real answers will hurt:

Jealousy against medical professionals across society and many other professions is a reality. Why else will anyone who couldn’t qualify to become a doctor try and teach the qualified doctors what they should do?”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“A culture of exploitation of non-votebank groups

and a complete failure of government healthcare with no one accepting responsibility is well known to everyone, but even judges have no courage to suo motu question this and correct it, even when they see the poor dying”. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“In a country with never ending poverty, how much free can a healthcare facility provide? For how long? This is already forcing closure of hospitals and exodus of good doctors out of the country.”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Milord, can you assure that every doctor will get his/ her fees as per his service to every patient, and if the patient can’t pay, that much charge will be exempted from the income tax of that doctor? How else do you except a doctor to meet his needs and dreams? Just because there are millions of poor patients, is the doctor’s life and hard work taken for granted? If there has to be financial sacrifice, why not have everyone contribute to it by creating a national health tax fund for treatment of poor patients? Why healthcare is subsidised only at the cost of a doctor?”

Just at this point, Atmaram, who sat in front of the judge, collapsed unconscious, almost blue black.

The shocked judge requested the doctor to examine him.

“He is no more” said the doctor.

“What could have happened ?” asked the kind but sweating judge.

The doctor told the court about three possible reasons. Two of them were scientific and medical: a sudden cardiac event or a large blood clot in the lungs common after fractures and trauma.

The third non-medical, unscientific cause made the Judge seriously ponder.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Will this court be now closed down, Milord? Will your efficiency be questioned, will you allow the relatives to attack you and understand their sad situation at the cost of your murder?”

“I understand what you mean” said the kind judge.

Needless to say, the doctor was released without a blame.

Can anyone please solve the mystery of the third non medical, unscientific possible cause of Atmaram’s death?

(C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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A Medico’s Last Certificate

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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A continuous beeping filled up the air in the ICU. Over twenty hearts kept making rhythmic sounds, the nurses kept on silencing the false alarms that rung every now and then, and informing us about the ones that needed attention.

We had kept the cake in the doctor’s room, we were waiting for the right moment. It was well past midnight, we had all wished Dr. Steve a happy birthday, but the ICU was full and busy, we waited for an opportunity to cut the cake.

A very old Parsi man, just recovering from a massive heart attack, was not maintaining his blood pressure. As his alarm sounded again, we rushed to attend him: Dr. Steve, myself and our nurse Ms. Divya. As we adjusted his intravenous drips, he asked us our names. He was funny, and always made us smile in spite of the deadly shadows that surrounded us. When we told our names, he smiled. “See, there’s a Hindu, a Christian and a Parsi happy in this small 10 by 10 room, but they cannot all stay peacefully outside in this big country!” .. Dr. Steve, always interested in one-upmanship, smiled and said, “If you want, we also have a Muslim and a Sikh doctor outside. Shall I call them in?”

With the typical instant Parsi wits, the old man replied “Arrey no no bawa, all our ********** (I did not completely understand that word) political leaders will die if people from all religions come together”.

It was difficult to say whether we were treating his heart attack or he was treating out tired minds. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The CMO called, there was a new patient coming up, a young lady in respiratory failure due to pneumonia. As the nurses prepared the new bed, Dr. Steve took down notes from the CMO. Ms. Divya was one of our most efficient and agile staff nurse. Very beautiful and brilliant, she took responsibility upon herself with a passion that would put to shame even some doctors. We all knew that there was something going on between her and Dr. Steve, but both of them kept mum. I knew for sure though, because Dr. Steve had once confided to me about this crush he had upon her. However, overwork always suffocates personal life in a hospital.

The stretcher rolled in, noisy with calls of panic. The patient was gasping. Urgently shifting her on the ICU bed, Dr. Steve intubated her. She coughed a lot, and both Dr. Steve and Ms. Divya were showered with blood stained secretions. Dr. Steve had his mask on, but Ms. Divya had not had the time to put hers on. He angrily shouted at her, while adjusting the patient’s tube, to wear her mask. I finished securing the IV line, and started pushing in the emergency medicines. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient was a young lady, who had suddenly developed fever, cough and cold. On the second day she had become restless, was admitted in some nearby hospital, but as she continued to worsen in spite of treatment, she was referred to us. It was a viral pneumonia, an extremely invasive and dangerous viral infection had started filling up her lungs with fluid and blood. Just as her oxygen levels improved, she developed an irregular heart rhythm: viral infections often cause severe damage to the heart, a condition called myocarditis. In two hours after admission, the lady died. Horrible moments followed, telling her broken husband and stunned kids that she was gone forever. Completing the formalities and paperwork, we returned to the grind: we were medicos: there’s no choice for us to sit down, panic, repent, mourn or run away.

No one was now in a mood to cut the cake. No one even spoke about it. Next night, Ms. Divya bought another cake, and we all silently wished Dr. Steve a belated Happy Birthday.

Jutst ten days later Ms. Divya developed fever, cough and cold. The same deadly virus, most likely. We all panicked. Dr. Steve took leave and attended her, as her family was far away in Kerala. She had come to Mumbai to earn enough for her family. In spite of all efforts, Ms. Divya passed away in just three days. The faces of her elderly parents and younger brother became one of the worst memory-scars in our lives. Shortly after, Dr. Steve developed the symptoms too, but survived.

I took him out sometimes, to bring him back from the pit of depression and shock that he had sunken in. One evening, when we sat silently on Marine Drive, he said, “I will never have a Happy Birthday again. You know, Divya’s family has no support at all. I have decided to help them out for some time, till we find an alternative”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Staring at the ocean, I kept wondering: In this country, where crores of rupees are thrown almost every other day for even miniscule achievements in cricket and cinema, where millions are spent from public funds upon the useless travel, security, meetings and social dinners etc. luxuries of the super-rich MLAs and MPs, where billions are spent by every political party in elections, there are no funds for the nurses, doctors and other staff who risk or lose their lives serving their patients. If a bridge collapses and many die, if there’s a major accident due to lapses in administration, there is immediate compensation, in an attempt to seal complaining lips. But if a medico is injured or killed, the best thing our society has to say is: “This is because all doctors work for money, it must be the fault of communication on the doctors part!”

We walked that whole night, along the ocean, silently crying. Sometimes the only solace for a medico is the thought that someday someone will desperately need a good doctor or a good nurse, and not find them around. Many medicos who do extraordinary good to their patients do not get any certificates for what they do. Most don’t care. Because we carry our death certificates in our pockets every day. One last certificate that we work very hard for.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to the nurses and doctors, medical staff who suffered / died because they served patients, saving lives.

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“Why Don’t You Marry Her, Doc?”

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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 Colour Of Blessings

The Colour Of Blessings

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Carefully calculating the dose and mixing it with the intravenous fluid with precision, I told the kind old lady: “I am starting the medicine drip now. If you feel anything unpleasant, please tell me.”

Through her pain, she smiled in reply. Her son, my lecturer Dr. SK, stood beside us and reassured her too. He had to leave for the OPD, there already was a rush today. “Please take care of her and call me if you feel anything is wrong” he said and left.

Dr. SK’s mom was advised chemotherapy of a cancer. It was quite difficult to calculate its doses and prepare the right concentration for the intravenous drip. Just a month ago, my guide Dr. Pradeep (PY) Muley had taught me how to accurately prepare and administer it, so when Dr. SK’s mom was admitted, he requested me to do it for her too.

The drip started. After a few hours, I noticed that her urine bag needed emptying. The ‘mausi’ supposed to do it was already out for some work. Any resident doctor in India naturally replaces whoever is absent. So I wore gloves, requested a bucket from the nurse, and emptied the urobag into it. Just as I carried the bucket with urine towards the ward bathrooms, Dr. SK returned, and offered to carry it himself, but I told him it was okay and went on to keep the bucket near the bathroom where the ‘mausi’ would later clean it. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Once the drip was over, Dr. SK invited me for a tea at a small stall outside the campus. He appeared disturbed. He said awkwardly: “Listen, please don’t misunderstand, but when I saw you carrying my mother’s urine in the bucket, I was amazed. You are a Brahmin, right? When you were away, my mom even scolded me why I allowed you to do it, she felt it was embarrassing, as we hail from the Bahujan community. I am myself a leader of our association, as you already know”.

I knew it, to be honest. His was a feared name in most circles.He was a kindly but aggressive leader of their community, but always ready to help anyone from any caste or religion, to stand by anyone oppressed, especially from the poor and discriminated backgrounds.

“I didn’t think of it Sir! She is a patient, besides that she’s your mother, and I am your student, it is my duty to do whatever is necessary. Otherwise too, my parents have always insisted that I never entertain any such differences”. I replied. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

“That’s okay, but I admit my prejudice about you has changed,” he said. “If you ever face any trouble, consider me your elder brother and let me know if I can do anything for you”. What an honest, courageous admission! Unless every Indian who thinks he / she is superior or different than any other Indian actually faces the hateful racist in the West who ill-treats them both as “browns or blacks”, they will never understand the pain of discrimination!

As fate would have it, in a few months, I had an argument with a professor about some posting. The professor then called me and said “So long as I am an examiner, don’t expect to pass your MD exams.”

I was quite worried. My parents were waiting for me to finish PG and finally start life near them, I already had a few months old son, and our financial status wasn’t robust. I could not afford to waste six months. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I went to Dr. SK. He asked all details. Then he came with me to the threatening professor. He first asked me to apologise to the professor for having argued, which I did. Then he told the professor: “Rajas is my younger brother. Please don’t threaten him ever. Pass him if he deserves, fail him if he performs poor. But don’t fail him if he performs well. I will ask other examiners”.

The professor then told me that he had threatened me “in a fit of rage”, and it was all over.

With the grace of God, good teachers and hard work, I did pass my MD in first attempt. When I went to touch his feet, Dr. SK took me to his mom, who showered her loving blessings upon me once again, and gifted me a Hundred rupee note from her secret pouch. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Like most other students, I’ve had friends from all social folds at all times in school and colleges. I had excellent relations with the leaders of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Association, and twice in my life they have jumped in to help me in my fight against injustice when everyone else had refused. I love the most fierce weapon of all that Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself carried: the fountain pen!

No amount of fights will ever resolve any problems between any two communities, the only way forward is to respectfully walk together and find solutions. Fortunately, no doctor, even in India, thinks about any patient in the terms of their religion or caste. (© Dr Rajas Deshpande). Just like the Judge in the court premises, humanity is the single supreme authority in any medical premises. Blood or heart, brain or breathing are not exclusive to any religion or community. Just like the bigger brain, a bigger heart is also the sign of evolution.

I so much wish that the black clouds of disharmony between different communities are forever gone. The only hope is that our students can open any doors and break any walls, so long as they do not grow up into egoistic stiffs. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I am proud to belong to the medical cult of those who never entertain any discrimination. A patient’s blessing has no coloured flags attached! Even outside my profession, I deeply believe that the very God I pray exists in every single human being I meet. If at all anyone asks me, I am happy to say that:

My religion, my caste and my duty as a doctor are all one: Humanity first!

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune

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The Extinction of Precious: A Medical Horror Story Happening Right Now!

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The Extinction of Precious:
A Medical Horror Story Happening Right Now!
©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir, we have come from Konkan”, said the father, “to seek your advice and blessings . My son has passed the medical postgraduate exams with national rank 30. He wants to decide which branch he should choose”.

I congratulated the genius. Passing medical entrances with high merit requires great talent. It does not earn the glamour, claps and appreciation of stage and limelight, for we live in a society that only worships looks, muscles, bhashanbazi, financial success and sports (sorry, one sport. Even if someone wins a world gold in any other sport than cricket, they go home in an auto rickshaw when they return to India!).

Speaking with the boy, I realised that he was very sensitive, compassionate and had an excellent logic and reasoning. Besides having a calm bearing, he was also a hard worker. A perfect blend for becoming a great physician or a surgeon, in a world that is fast losing able clinicians. I suggested him to prefer Internal medicine.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They looked awkwardly towards each other. The boy garnered some courage to speak.

“Sir, I saw our family doctor being beaten up by a local politician, his clinic was ruined. He was humiliated in the worst language in front of his wife and children, and instead of protecting him, other patients in his hospital kept on recording videos of the incident, which later became viral. He left, we don’t know where he went. I cannot ever think of directly dealing with patients now. I want to choose a non- clinical or para-clinical branch.”

I appealed to the father: “Your son has a great potential and matching talent to become a good clinician, we desperately need many more. It is not necessary that he practices in your own town or even in India. The whole world needs good doctors. Please think about this”.

The father, a simple teacher from a primary school, thought for a prolonged moment. His eyes reddened up.
“I don’t know, Sir. When he said he wanted to become a doctor, his mother and I always thought that he will become a saviour, running around saving people’s lives. We were never interested in only money. But the day that we saw our own doctor being beaten up by a crowd and the local politician, we realised how helpless a doctor’s life is. We knew our doctor for over 25 years, he was like a God for many in our town. All he did in 25 years became a zero in a few minutes, thanks to a hooligan politico and his crowd. We don’t want our son to ever face that. If we had a daughter in his place, we wouldn’t even have made her a doctor, women as doctors suffer a lot more trouble and get no returns, sometimes even from their family. And this is our only son, we want him to stay in India near us.”

Somehow I didn’t want to give up convincing him, he was an ideal candidate for becoming an excellent clinician.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande “Think of the future. Hopefully there will be better laws, he can also consider working in bigger, safer hospitals if he is scared”.

“What would you advise your own son if you were in my place, Sir?” asked the father.

He had bombed my mind.
I was trained by parents and teachers to always do good, be compassionate and kind. My kids had a potential to become great doctors coming from this background. I worry a lot about the extremely critical condition of deteriorating healthcare standards and reducing number of good clinicians that is destined to cause a havoc in a few years. Still, honestly, I did not wish upon my children the insecurities and threats I face. I don’t want them to live under the perpetual fear of being vandalised, defamed, tortured by over-expectation and punished by committees made up of politicians and medically inexperienced judicial experts. I won’t want their lives, work hours and remunerations to be dictated by a corrupt bunch living for votes of free mongers.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It would be hypocrisy to advise someone else what I wouldn’t choose for myself. That’s how a doctor makes the best possible decision. With a heavy heart, I advised him what I always advised my children:

“I agree. Please choose what suits your heart most, what gives you fearless happiness in your work and also leaves you with some time for yourself and your family, ensures a good income and is not dependent upon jealous people’s expectations of what you should do and for what price. You have so many options for social service other than becoming a clinician. I am sure you will stay a good human being all your life.” I suggested him two para-clinical branches that offer good scope.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The world indeed will have to suffer the gradual extinction of good clinicians. We need many more excellent doctors in para clinical and non clinical areas too, but the face of the profession is the clinician, and we certainly, desperately need many thousand more. It is a fact that in spite of increasing number of doctors, patients still die travelling in an ambulance to reach good healthcare far away from most homes in India. Many federal orphans who cannot even afford government healthcare die at home.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The father asked his son to touch my feet. As he did so, the melancholy of my own advice bit my heart. I couldn’t let down the flag of my noble profession.

“Listen, dear. I am speaking this against my own convictions. I am struggling. Think about becoming a good clinician and practising in a safe country, take your parents with you. I will be happy whatever you finally decide, but not everyone has the ability and talent to become a good doctor, it is rarest of the rare traits.”© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They left. So did a part of my hope for the future of good healthcare.

When the next couple walked in with an infant baby in their hands, I looked at the smiling baby, and forced a smile. She didn’t know it yet, but I had just bought a precious gift for her.

©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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“Is The Diagnosis Wrong, Doctor?”

“Is The Diagnosis Wrong, Doctor?”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, there is no improvement at all” said the angry husband, throwing the case-file upon my table.

Well this is not an extraordinary sentence for any doctor, one must be prepared to openly deal with this. I had been quite polite and well mannered with them, there was no reason he had to cross that line. I could understand though. When they pay my fees, they expect some result or satisfaction.

While teaching my students, I have always insisted that if the patient / relative says that there is no improvement or change with the prescribed medicine, one must first consider the possibility of a wrong diagnosis, a missed condition or a misinterpreted finding. Doctors are humans, and do commit mistakes, or misinterpret findings. This is normal, and happens with every doctor. Medicine is far more complicated than most people think they know. A good doctor knows this and learns, while all the time keeping patients safe, but a doctor with ego kills his own practice, and may cause harm to the patient.

I asked them to sit down and reassessed the case in detail. A 28 years old female. Headache, giddiness, imbalance, palpitations, breathlessness. Lack of sleep and bouts of crying. Past and family medical history not contributory. Physical examination completely normal. MRI of brain normal, Vitamin B12 and D levels low. I had started vitamin supplements, anti-anxiety medicines and an SOS for headache.

She told me all her earlier complaints had improved, but now she had a severe backache. I told the patient that I was trying my best to understand her condition, and to resolve her problem, but her findings and complaints didn’t match. She looked at her husband, and asked him “May I speak frankly to the doctor?”.

Openly agitated, the husband sarcastically offered to wait outside if she needed privacy. However he stood glued to the chair as if he knew her answer. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient thought for a moment, told him it’s ok he can wait inside, then started to talk. She revealed that she was the only child of her affluent parents, had passed engineering, but now had to quit job and stay at home to raise children. They lived in an extended family, with grand in-laws, in laws and an elder brother, his wife and two children. This patient was the ‘last in the line’ to take orders, all others being senior to her. Her husband and in-laws were perfectionists, and she was tired of their continuous expectations. She had dreamed of making a career too, wanted some free time outside home for herself, but year after year, she didn’t get even a minute for herself. She was tired of it all and there seemed no respite. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I am not averse to hard work, but the continuously condescending and fault-finding attitude makes me feel that I am useless”, she said, and added cautiously: “We were in the same institute and my ranks were always better than him. Look at where I am now” she started crying.

I offered them water and coffee, and waited for her to settle down. The husband became restless and defensive, but his tone was far lower. “I understand her problem, doctor, but what can I do? I cannot leave my family. My work pressures are quite high too, the IT industry is going through a bad phase”.

“I can assure you that she has no neurological problem now’ I replied, “she should improve with lifestyle changes, counseling for the family, and adequate free time for herself. I will refer you to a good counselor” I told them.

The husband laughed. “I can understand, but my parents will not. We will see what best we can do for her”. A bitter tone in his voice didn’t escape me.

‘Sir, she told us what bothered her, and must not be held guilty for trying to speak her mind. It will only help identify and treat the problem better. Please see a counselor together and avoid discussing this at home right now” I requested the husband. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There are many reasons why a patient does not improve. Untreatable medical conditions, depression, seeing the wrong specialist are the most common reasons, but there also are patients who want medical leave,those who want to avoid work, who want attention, so will keep on complaining of false symptoms. They do not improve with drug treatment.
On the other hand there are many who keep on taking the wrong medicines for years, those who self-medicate, do atrocious / injudicious dieting and exercises, yoga that doesn’t suit them, and do not follow the doctor’s instructions about abstinence, who keep on indulging salt, sweet, oil, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs freely available in India. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A doctor remains a lifelong medical student. A doctor who thinks he / she is always correct is most dangerous. It is not uncommon to meet doctors who are angry / upset with the patient / colleagues when their diagnosis, treatment is questioned. The first thought of a doctor when the patient does not respond positively should be to consider a misdiagnosis, reevaluate the case in more detail, reassure the patient, and obtain a second opinion if necessary. All this done, one must look into other possibilities, with an approach to resolve the issue rather than trying to shove down the patient’s throat their own faults.
We all go through bad patches in life, doctors and patients. If the child is wrong, the parents correct them still with love. A doctor’s attitude should be similar, with due care to also protect themselves. If not the doctor, who will understand the patient whose family refuses to understand them? In so many ways, especially in the Indian society, the doctor must don the role of an elder brother/ sister. Although patronising is legally discouraged in medical practice, and should be refrained from in cases where trust is questionable, one can make exceptions for some cases that need reassurance where the family fails to do so.

The nobility of our profession also lies in reassuring the patients that they are well cared for by their doctor, through the thick and thin of their life.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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