Tag Archives: Orphan

A Policeman’s Tears

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She was found unconscious and naked lying on the road. The baby was near her, moving when we found her, now she also looks unconscious” said the police constable. “Actually I had my civil dress in my jeep, I covered both with my clothes and got them here. Most likely an orphan roadside beggar”.

It was early morning, I had gone to the casualty for a call as a medicine resident, and was chatting with the CMO when this police constable had rushed in the mother and the baby, probably less than a year old. He and his colleague completed the formalities and left. The CMO was alone, so I stayed on to assist.

The lady had high grade fever and some bruises all over her body, only one on the thigh deep enough that it bled. She also had a contusion upon the head. Needless to say, unclean and unkempt, visibly quite weak and poorly fed body. There was a traditional tattoo on her forearm that said “Seeta” in distorted devnagari script. The baby was dehydrated and had fever too, with only minor contusions.

“Sending her to female ward, and the baby to paediatric” said the CMO. We completed the police information and Medicolegal form, the nurses had started the IV line for the lady. I accompanied the baby to the pediatric ward, handed her over to the resident doctor friend on duty and went to the female ward to attend the other admissions. Basic medicines for fever and head injury were started for Seeta. There was no CT scan facility in the hospital. Blood tests were sent.

In absence of relatives, it’s the interns, resident doctors and nurses who attend to the necessities of such patients. Administration mocks everyone sympathetic and compassionate to such patients, be it a government, private or corporate set up. My professor advised some more blood tests. Some tests were not available in the govt. hospital, we had to send them outside. As we had just received the stipend, money was not a big problem.

Next evening I went to the pediatric ward to find out what was happening with the baby.
“She has had convulsions”, the resident colleague told me. We have loaded her with anticonvulsants, but she still has fever. Dr. Jain madam (new lecturer in paediatrics) has advised lumbar puncture, but there’s the consent problem”.
I went to talk to the lecturer, she was all insulting. “Don’t teach me what to do. We will send a request to the dean, and if he allows, then the resident will do the lumbar puncture” she said, “By the way, what’s your interest in this baby? Why don’t you mind your own business? I have heard about you.. you are in the student’s union na? Don’t throw your weight around me.” She said.

The dean consented to our request, and a lumbar puncture was done. The baby had probable tuberculous meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain and its coverings). Antituberculous medicines were started.

The comments of the pediatric lecturer made me extremely angry. Most of her resident doctors hated her attitude too. Those remarks soon spread and various sick, exaggerated and vulgar jokes about me caring for that orphan baby made rounds among my colleagues. But one good thing about wanting to do good is the shameless pride and courage that comes ingrained with it.

My colleague Dr. Madhu stood by me. She often reminded me: “There are five percent good people in the world, and 95 percent bad, Einstein has said, but it is the five percent good who take the world forward, they represent human race”. That has always pumped me up against all the mockery that I ever faced for being “too sensitive and compassionate to be sane”.

The best support for the poor and helpless always comes from the poor and helpless. The pompous, actionless “blah blah” of advising others to be more kind and compassionate is usually the trademark of those who themselves rarely help anyone. The mamas and mausis (wardboys and helpers) of the ward came together to attend Seeta during their duty.

The pediatric resident told us on the third day that the baby’s health had gone bad, and she was unlikely to survive. Dr. Madhu stopped smiling. “At least can we shift the baby near her mom?” we discussed. It was of course not possible.

Dr. Oak (real name), one of our ophthalmology genius professors, learnt about this. He came over and told us in his royal tones, to tap him anytime for any help. He also left some money with us.

On the fourth day, the lady started having convulsions too. We ran around, trying to arrange whatever the professor suggested. She was gradually sinking. Tuberculosis neglected and untreated is one of the most cruel diseases. It takes over ten days for the action of Tb medicines to kick in.

On the fifth day, the baby passed away in the morning, and the lady shortly after. That coincidence was less tragic than their trolleys being rolled into the mortuary together.

“What happens now?” we asked the mortuary in charge.
“They will be cremated as orphan, unclaimed bodies after the post mortem” he told.

In a world of billions, ruled by religious, powerful and rich, a young mother and a baby girl would be cremated as orphans! We told the mortuary assistant to please keep us posted, and came out. Of course we could not sleep.

Next day we took special permission and went to attend their cremation.
On the way, we bought some flowers, a tiny dress for the girl and a saree for her mom, probably the first new clothes ever for either of them. Dr. Madhu had already brought a few bangles, a necklace and two bindis with her.

Dr. Madhu was sobbing as we returned. The rowdy looking policeman with us also wiped his eyes. He dropped us back to the medical college in his jeep.

He said in a heavy voice as we parted:
“Doctor, we see all the worst things in the society. We meet criminals day and night. But when such young girls and babies die, I feel like shooting everyone who didn’t come out to help them. People just talk, nobody helps. God bless you. You have what it takes to be a doctor. Don’t ever change.”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

P.S.
Years later, I read about a divine human being from Chennai, one Mr. S Sreedhar, who collects unclaimed dead bodies from various hospitals, and performs decent and respectful last rites for them. Planning to meet and touch his feet one day.
Please share unedited.

Come on India, take a selfie with this daughter of yours!

Come on India, take a selfie with this daughter of yours!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Will I ever win? I feel suicidal.” said the 25 year old orphan with Multiple Sclerosis. In a world drooling over the stories of “10 Richest” or “20 Most Beautiful” women, there’s hardly any scope for noticing an orphan girl who fights alone against an incurable disease.

VS, a dignified young Indian lady, divides her life fighting three wars: living as a single female at a bed-share facility for women, working her job as a receptionist at a nearby clinic that earns her a minor income, and the incurable neurological disease Multiple sclerosis that causes disability at an early age.

“My mother left me at an orphanage when I was 2 years old. She saw me last when I was 3. After that I don’t know anything about her or my father. The orphanage taught me how to survive with wild human beings around. They also helped for my education. I was diagnosed with MS when I was 20. They shifted me to Pune for better climate. Now I am pursuing BA”. VS told me.

“The owner of the orphanage in Pune didn’t know Multiple Sclerosis, and always said I was ‘faking’ my limp and fatigue. She made me do a lot of physical work. I couldn’t. So I left that orphanage”.

She then stayed at various places: a blind school where a volunteer was required, homes of other MS patients who came to know her through MS society, sometimes on the streets and now got a bed share at a dingy, cramped female hostel.

“Whenever I get sick and cannot walk due to MS attack, a local hospital helps me with steroid doses, the MS society gives some medicines free. Sometimes other MS patients pay for my treatment”.

Now she has developed mood swings and depression, common in MS patients especially her age. Naturally, her behavior is intolerable or unacceptable to those who invite her to stay with themselves. Where we cannot tolerate the raised voice and mental fluctuations of our own parents and children, who is trained to shoulder those of an orphan? Who will pause their own life to feel the dying mental pulse of someone who knows that there will be no one to look after her if at all she is crippled, and that there is no cure for her illness yet?

No language in this world can describe Loneliness.

“Some societies help, but they have their rules. The MS society helped me many times. But then, how long can I do this?”

She is now tired. She knows her limp will not improve. She knows free treatments are not the only answer. “I feel suicidal often now, I know things will never be my way. Life will always be at the mercy of someone’s help”.

I told her it is common to feel so in MS, and good treatments and counseling can help most patients.

Her reply left me shut: “Sir, I don’t need that. I plan to fight this with my own mind, for I want to survive without any mental dependence.  Someone should have counseled my mother about how I will feel all my life when I come to know that she dumped me”.

“I wanted to marry and have children. Who will marry me? I know I am beautiful and some men are after me, but none for marrying..”. These are probably the most difficult words for a proud woman to say to anyone, and her eyes clouded red.

As VS broke down in a tearless silence, I fought with a hundred false reassuring words I could say.  I didn’t want to insult her suffering by saying them. A doctor must learn to cry within, still with a smile upon his face.

I remembered the story about Lord Jesus Christ, describing his “Via Dolorosa” (journey of pain), when he had to carry his own cross while being tortured all the way to the site of his own crucifixion.

There are so many patients who know they are going downhill, that they will never return to good life again. No songs of motivation, no thunderous clapping of groups, no shouting of any slogans, no celebrations of their plight will ever cure them. This world is addicted to “superficial temporary relief” in an attempt of “self glorification” at the cost of someone else’s suffering. Real answers are far away.

We are all engaged in shamelessly loving ourselves. So much so, that a country that plans multi-crore space missions in search of new life cannot take care of the “Live” suffering of a young woman existing NOW, here, amongst us! A country proud of 100 crore stars and billion dollar IPLs cannot support its own daughter in suffering.

Come on India, take a selfie with this daughter of yours!

There is no hope for dignity without money.

The new definition of “Orphan” is “poor”.

And these words just screams in a black hole !

God solve this please.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Real story. VS is in Pune, and kindly permitted me to write her story.

RD