Tag Archives: Patient

“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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“What If This Was Your Father, Doctor?”

“What If This Was Your Father, Doctor?”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
“Doctor, I want to know about this illness. I want to understand it” she said.
It had taken me an entire medical career and a lot of experience to understand this disease in steps, no neurologist in the world claims to have fully understood it. It was my duty to simplify things for her, but it was impossible to transfer years of knowledge and experience in few minutes. I decided to give it a try. If I learn to understand the patient and relative one step more, I will be a better doctor hopefully. This lady, with her Prada and Dior accessories, also appeared well educated.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
“Your father has frontotemporal dementia, a condition that causes progressive loss of memory and abnormal mentation, thoughts, or behavior. This is because certain parts of his brain degenerate faster.” I started.
“One minute doctor” she interrupted “How does that explain why he starts undressing, passing urine anywhere in front of others, even children or guests? He uses such foul language sometimes”.
 
I hate being interrupted. Especially when someone butts in a second question before I finish answering the first. But I must accommodate the patient’s and the relative’s anxiety.
“That is because we have an area in the brain that controls our behavior, stops us from doing social-inappropriate things. This is why we stop from doing certain things in certain situations, while we retain the ability to do them in privacy. That is called inhibition. When those areas in the brain degenerate, there is thus a ‘disinhibition’, whereby the patient does not know what is inappropriate. Somewhat similar to losing mental control after taking alcohol”.
“So the blood supply is cut off in the brain?” she fired.
“I never said that. I said this is due to degeneration. The cells in his brain die faster. Although at this age loss of blood supply is an additional reason for worsening”. When you know too much of something, it is difficult to not confuse.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
You know, I am no Mangeshkar or Tendulkar myself, but this is like asking Lataji “I want to understand music and sing that song just like you” or telling Sachin “I want to make a century like you right now. Teach me cricket in ten minutes”. What they have learnt in decades with extreme hard work cannot be taught / understood or explained in few minutes. I can explain it in a nutshell, but it is not possible to ensure that the relative or patient “completely understood” everything I knew. But then again, the better this lady understood the disease, the better she will care for her father. So I decided another approach.
 
“Ma’m, I request you to please read about this disease from these two websites. Then write down your questions and please book another appointment. We will save a lot of random discussion then.” I told her.
“Ok Doctor” she agreed reluctantly “But tell me what you would have done if this was your father. I thought that with so many advances and researchers, there must be some good cure by now for such diseases” she said. The hidden disdainful sarcasm didn’t escape me. I ignored it.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
“Now please tell me the list of all medicines that your father is currently taking, and their doses” I asked her.
She emptied a huge bag upon my table, with over 20 medicines from different pathies, some unlabeled, and including some bottled oils. She started asking her father one by one, he wouldn’t reply.
“I don’t know doctor” she said, frustrated. “He lives alone near my house, and takes these medicines by himself. We lost my mom few years ago. I guess some of these oils are for his massage”.
Some of those medicines were past an expiry date. The old man hadn’t a clue what he was taking.
 
“But you just told me he has severe memory problems and cannot understand much” I questioned.
“Yes, but we thought he knew what medicines he was taking” she said.
I did not want to embarrass her further.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Ma’m, wouldn’t it be better if you understood the daily necessities of your father before you questioned anyone else about his disease? You can ask the doctor any number of questions, it is my duty to answer them. But I would definitely not have left my father to look after himself in such a situation.”
“No, doc, we are looking for a care center for him already. I cannot look after him, I have my own family and the kids need all my attention”.
“Then please stop blaming the medical researchers for not finding a cure for everything. Please accept that everyone ages and needs care, the same care that you were provided as a child”.
I didn’t want her to be unhappy, it was also my prerogative to understand her situation. I reassured her:
“Please read about this well, and come back next week, I am sure that at least a few problems can be resolved. I want to help you and him”.
 
What would happen if there was a cure for everything? How many of them elderlies will be taken care of, provided for? How long will their children look after them? In most cases, even the healthiest of parents are considered a nuisance once they have grown up the grandchildren. After that, they become an irritating liability.
Then, the annoyance of having to look after them, the exasperation of even a small illness they may have, and the extreme anger to have to spend time and money for their healthcare / treatment is all unloaded upon the doctor. While we are learning to deal with this in our everyday practice, I have decided to spend an extra minute to educate the family about their own responsibilities in every such case. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
As she left the room she asked “Doc, he is elderly, you must give him some concession”.
I smiled. This wasn’t a medical question. It was my turn not to reply now.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
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Respect: The Depreciating Indian Salary

Respect: The Depreciating Indian Salary
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Over 1.5 Crore Every Year! That becomes more than ten lacs per month! Wow!!” my student showed me the news that some brilliant engineering students passing out from India were hired by some software biggies in Campus Interviews, “They will start their careers at that salary. That’s life!”

I felt proud, as always, these news and similar have always made me feel that the Indian academic talent has always been looked up to and rewarded by the developed world. The tiny speck of jealousy that we earlier felt for our classmates who went for engineering and had their own homes and cars while we were still finishing internships has faded away long ago. The only regret that sometimes peeps out from the past is that of never having fully enjoyed our teens and youth. The fact that most doctors from India also earn huge salaries in the west as well as the middle east speaks a lot about the flaws in our “Indian” thinking.

“Doctors get respect and that is the best that you can get in life. People think of doctors as Gods. You should never think about money” told every sore-throated, pot bellied and self proclaimed socialist who did not become a doctor, and mostly had no doctor in family. This ranged from our own classmates to the highest administrators in the country.

Over the years, I now feel that even the engineering or other stream’s graduates are almost in the same boat. I cannot wish upon the newer generations what we went through.
What is really making us proud here? That India cannot afford to use its own best talent in any field? That the best in all fields are taken away, because what the best Indian companies can offer them is nowhere near what the world outside offers them? That the best salaries in all government jobs are reserved for bootlickers above the age of 55? That in no field can the government find the young talents superior to white haired yes men? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Or boast with a shameless pride that the most revered Satya Nadellas and Sundar Pichais made in India cannot find career scope in their own country?

Or, while proclaiming “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” (The World Is My Family) on one hand, are we going to perpetually cry the same song of socialism and patriotism, expecting all of them to only follow the examples of the rare (and respectable) ones who chose to shed material life for the country? India needs a million good volunteers in every field who will live and die poor while serving the society. But to force this upon all those who graduate from India is to invite them to leave the country. From politics and administration to Judiciary and lawyers, we need people who will work free or low cost, because the main disease: poverty and illiteracy, is a never ending curse in India. These are the people who choose the governments who throw “low cost everything” crumbs at the society, rather than uplifting the society to respectable self sustaining, paying capacity. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande The lifelong perks of representatives elected for even five years, from any political party are regularly updated, but the salaries and pensions of doctors and other employees who work lifelong are never upgraded without agitations and then only with allegations of greed!

No doctor wants to be a bad doctor, but no doctor wants to spend life in poverty and insecurity.

If at all a doctor decides to do charity and see all patients free/ concessional all his / her life, not only will they be lost to poverty and anonymity, but our government or media will never notice them. All they get is more paperwork to comply with every day, fear of suspension humiliation by the administrators and a salary that’s a shame given their talent and hard work.

There is this curious tendency in India: to force or to beg in the name of charity, social service or patriotism rather than rewarding the talent. There are very few examples of honesty, hard work and talent rewarded without political connections. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Are the medical students any less talented than their counterparts in engineering or other streams? Don’t they study equally hard and work 24/7 many more years before they qualify? Even after that, the highest salary that the government offers the starting doctor (even engineer) is laughable, and if they wish to work at a private/ corporate hospital, they cannot decide the rules of payment strategies. If they must start their own set up, they need huge investments, over fifty permissions, many recurring, every one requiring bribe in some form or other. And whichever one they choose from the three career options above, from day one the society and media will have already presumed them guilty of extracting money from patients, the government and even some judges urging them to understand the feelings of relatives beating up doctors. I wonder how many ministers , judges or media bosses would like to understand the feelings of those who beat them up for something their client/ petitioner didn’t like. The most pathetic part is that while all of the above officers are inaccessible to common man, they still have armed security, and the junior most doctor who faces armed relatives is denied security even by law! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Most top medical graduates and postgraduates, like almost all other streams from India are leaving voluntarily because of this situation. To deal with this, the best options that some governments came up with were long term bonds to force govt. service (without telling anyone where the govt. spends so much on medical education), and canceling permissions to leave India even after the bond is completed. Bravo! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Hon’ble PM has time and again declared many institutes like AIIMS to be opened across India. This is welcome, but we must also look at the state of conditions and staff in the existing health institutes run by the government. That needs billions for repairs, facilities and hiring better staff. Unless the salary structure for young and talented medical specialists increases , there are no chances of any AIIMS-like institutes running efficiently, they will soon become dirty buildings with low budget staff, where desperate patients are chronically dissatisfied and mobs find chances to vent anger.

Earlier I had immense respect and pride for every doctor who decided to return to India with a positive attitude and a wish to serve the society, their only expectation being living a modestly good life. Now I doubt if they are doing justice to themselves or their family, by choosing a life of financial and personal compromises, where they not only sacrifice, but are still looked upon as “looters”, face a violent society and a prejudiced government.

Ten years ago, I would have told this student of mine “let go of a good life, stay in India, we have a lot to do for our country”. Today, I don’t interfere with their decisions to make a career outside India. Because I love my India as much as any soldier would,and I also love the talented people in it.

Jai Hind!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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A Dangerous Disease Called ‘Relatives’

A Dangerous Disease Called ‘Relatives’
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What all can happen, doctor?” asked the young lady accompanying her father.

He had had a vertigo for two years, now had developed headaches and had seen best of the specialists. Some of them had advised him an MRI scan, but the daughter who was “in-charge” of her father had decided to wait. They had undergone many treatments simultaneously: allopathic, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Herbal, Diet, plus various random suggestions by relatives (almost all patient’s relatives are experts on all medical topics except actually paying bills and donating blood).

The father, a victim of experimentation by a health enthusiast daughter whose profession was law, was visibly anxious and almost shaking.

After examining him, I told them that there were some soft signs, but also that a physical examination may often be inconclusive, hence it was wise to investigate. What must be done must be done. A true Saint, scientist, soldier or doctor will always live by those words. I must stress the need for the right investigations. I told the daughter that he must undergo a scan. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

That’s when she asked “What are the possibilities?”
Imagine an anxious person sitting in front of you, dead scared of death or illness. He / she is praying God or providence that the doctor does not use and scary words like cancer, heart attack, paralysis, dementia, parkinson’s or early death. No one likes these words, the doctor likes them least. Almost every doctor thinks of the patient’s mental status before choosing the words in such cases. Some patients can even commit suicides if they are too stressed with the fear of long / grave disease.

However, the hyper daughter refused to be subtle.
I told her “You can ask me all the questions you want. But please remember that some answers may scare the patient, Also, I may not have all the answers at this point.’

“Can this be something dangerous? Like cancer? Can this be an emergency? Can it cause death? If so we will do the MRI today itself. Otherwise we will wait.” She said.

To protect the patient from death, suffering and disease is a doctor’s duty, but the law does not allow the doctor to protect the patient from such insensitive relatives. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Madam, there are limitations of physical examination,and we cannot see inside his body. Sometimes we find things wrong inside that can be cured with the correct early treatment. That is the reason we have tests and scans”. I told her patiently.

“But what are the chances of this being a cancer or something life threatening? If at all the scan shows something dangerous, can you guarantee it will be cured?” she asked.

I gave another shot of adrenaline to my patience. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“How does that help you?” I asked her, “Even if the chance of a dangerous possibility is low, say 5 %, will you take a chance on your father’s life just to avoid investigations? How can I guarantee the treatment or cure of something we both don’t know yet? By the way, what is your objection to get his scans done?”

“We will do the scan if you say this is urgent” she said.

My patience kissed me a goodbye.

“It is indeed necessary, I cannot say it is urgent. Now I must see another patient.” I replied. Then looking at her anxious father, I reassured him “It is a very low chance that there will be anything dangerous. Please relax. And we have cures for many diseases now, I am with you. Don’t worry”.
“Then can we wait for the MRI?” the daughter was incurable.
“No” I replied, calling in another patient.

I received many messages for next few days from her and her invisible brother asking if the scan was really necessary, where was it done cheapest, etc. I didn’t reply.

They returned after a week. The MRI showed a tumor causing pressure effects on the vital areas of lower brain. This indeed was an urgency, if not emergency. I told the daughter so.

“How come he developed a tumor? He never had it earlier. No one in our family had it ever” she asked angrily, “Is it the side effect of all the medicines he has taken in last two years?”.

I had almost forgotten in which society I was practicing. Education does not always convert into common sense. Money, skimpiness and hatred replace logic here. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“In most cases, a brain tumor is not the effect of commonly used medicines. I don’t know the contents of all the medicines you tried upon him. But the delay in doing tests is one definite major factor that your father has suffered so long”. I told her. What must be said must be said!

She changed the topic, a knack every doctor must learn from some lawyers!

The patient has now undergone a surgery by one of the best neurosurgeons, and fortunately the tumor has turned out non cancerous. His headaches and vertigo have gone. However his anxiety and fear will take a long time to go, he is on the medication for that.

The daughter has changed a lot too. The last time she visited for her own headaches, I told her to get a check scan done, and she showed me the reports the same evening. They were normal, she is happy now!

Many patients suffer for years, develop disability and some die due to such dangerous relatives who experiment upon them, delaying investigations and treatment. The most common purpose is saving money, but there are also whims and illogical, dangerous treatments without the knowledge of the contents and interactions between medicines of different medical and quackery streams. The doctors who try hard to save the damage in the last moments often become victims of criticism. This dangerous disease called “Relatives” who suggest everything but disappear when the patient truly needs them has become rampant in our society!

As for my patience, I had to take it for a long night drive and feed it a lot of icecream that day to agree to return to stay with me again.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

(Yes, some doctors take advantage and earn money through tests. This is definitely wrong, but the price of delayed and denied tests is far more. In fact, many relatives make that an excuse to avoid spending for the tests. It is conveniently forgotten that almost all essential tests are available at govt. / charity hospitals at a negligible cost).

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The Bleeding Curse of an Extraordinary Doctor

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The Bleeding Curse of an Extraordinary Doctor
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I cannot sleep well, I cannot forget what happened” said the doctor who had come to consult. I was shattered myself. My usual poise was blown to pieces listening to what this mountain of sacrifice was telling me.

As Dr. Anil Dadarao Waghmare told me about his past, I was in frightful tears.

Son of a humble education officer, he had joined MBBS on merit basis, and completed it in time. He wanted to honour the government bond for two reasons: he had an inner desire to serve rural areas in India where medical care was not available, but he also had no other source of income and had no money for investment. This is the common story of most doctors graduating in India.

He joined as a medical officer and was soon posted in a very remote tribal area, where he went beyond his duty to help the illiterate poor tribals. He worked ‪24/7‬, attended all their problems like deliveries, poisonings, snake bites etc., but also went to visit homes of those who could not reach him. He offered his designated vehicle as an ambulance whenever someone was to be taken to a higher rural hospital. His wife and children accompanying him sacrificed normal life. Two of their kids went to the local primary school, the quality of education was extremely poor but they had no option. The third child was only 9 months old. This youngest daughter was often looked after by a 12 year old girl who lived next door, and helped Dr. Anil’s wife with her chores.

One day, Dr. Anil’s wife received a phone call. The lady caller who spoke in local dialect told her that this youngest 9 month old daughter was in her possession, and threatened to kill her if a certain amount was not paid immediately. By the time they could arrange anything, the infant was found dead by suffocation. The 12 years old girl who looked after the child was found dead in a local well after three days, a huge stone tied to her body.
The murderers were soon arrested: the lady confessed to the crime, assisted by her parents, for want of money.

All the three: the murderer lady and her family were being treated by Dr. Anil for over a year, as free patients.

Dr. Anil was transferred elsewhere, and decided to still continue serving the rural population. He has now joined a postgraduate course, but he wants to keep working in rural areas.

“No one cares about a doctor’s life, family or especially security. The situation is worst in the rural areas, where illiteracy, superstition, witchcraft, murders and rapes are commonplace. Local politics is at its worst” says Dr. Anil, “I was ready to sacrifice every pleasure in life to serve rural population, I even compelled my family to sacrifice, but I did not deserve this punishment. This pain is beyond description, sometimes I feel whether my decision to go to such unsafe place with family was correct. This bleeding curse kills me every moment”.

Thank you, those who keep saying that our society considers doctors ‘like Gods’!

While air conditioned hypocrites advise doctors to go and serve in the rural areas, no one will look at the big picture: there are no facilities, but worse, there is no security. You are left at the mercy of local criminals, often politicians.

Film stars, directors, politicians and many judges will never notice this kind of a story, just as they won’t ever comment about the sickest lowly traditions in their own individual profession. Communities ripe with rapists and murderers, and onlookers who film rapes or murders rather than trying to stop them, expect the best brains to work for their healthcare at meagre salaries.

There is nothing wrong with a short term bond for service in rural areas, but while signing such a bond or joining such areas, the doctors should also ask the government a written guarantee of security. This should be the part of the bond. If security can be provided to every TDH in politics, filmdom or to even the lowest ranks in the judiciary, even some criminals, it can definitely be extended to the doctors serving in rural areas. A doctor who feels threatened cannot work and in fact should not continue to work unless adequate security is provided to him / her and family.

Dr. Anil Dadarao Waghmare, you deserve the highest medal any doctor can ever get: because you showed this selfish society how big a doctor’s heart can be, by continuing to serve in rural India. From now on when the loudmouth foghorns in politics and administration try to malign our profession, or try to cover the gaping deficits in basic facilities at rural level by pointing fingers at the doctors, we can tell them your story.

As for the loss of your 9 month old daughter murdered by your own patient, I stand up in tearful, shameful regret of the state of affairs of Indian Rural Doctors.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS
It is high time the doctors unite to take a strong stand against aggressive attitudes of society, against stupid policies and being taken for granted and spoken against by uneducated loudmouths.

This story should reach every blabbering idiot who has no doctor in the family and keeps on expecting all doctors to be servants of this society. To those among doctors who try to impress faceless media or administrators by continually talking negative about our own colleagues, this story should serve as an eye opener.

Thank you, Dr. Anil Waghmare for the courage and permission to share this story.

What Your Doctor Never Tells You

What Your Doctor Never Tells You

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This small girl who had had her third convulsion in last three days was now looking frail. Her mother, extremely anxious, asked me what can be done to “immediately stop” her convulsions. This hyper-mother had stopped all the epilepsy medicines of this kid few days ago. Patiently, I asked why.

“Because I read on an article describing ‘what your doctor hides from you’, in which the author had recommended a particular diet of natural ingredients “, she replied, adding “the article said that all allopathic doctors give you medicines that will keep you sick for longer, so that they can earn more. It also said operations like joint replacements or procedures like angioplasty should never be done.”

Needless to say, this lady was buying the “Purest Natural Guilt Free” products from that website, at a price that was way costlier than all of her allopathic medicine combined.

I told her that it was a mistake to stop the kid’s medicines, and issued her a new prescription. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What do you do, mam?” I asked her.

“We run a bakery, I sell exotic cakes, muffins etc.” she replied.

“Do you lie to your customers? Do you sell them products that will harm or kill them?” I asked.

“No, never! How will my business run then? We have to obtain licenses for food quality.” she retorted.

“It is the same about us doctors, mam. All the medicines, stents and joints that your article has slammed, are approved by government, and additionally, they are scientific products, not just claims. The government also earns tax on each medicine, stent or joint sold in India”.

I was offended somewhere, and so continued:

“We come from similar families as yours, mam. Even our parents teach us culture, compassion and good habits just as yours do. We doctors learn in the same schools as you, and common school teachers have taught us the importance of good. We too have parents, spouses and family, kids whom we teach good values by practice. Why will such doctors hide the truth from you and suggest you something that will harm you, who have come to us in good faith? Do you presume that all of the thousands of brilliant patriotic doctors will hide a cure from patients, and continue to let people suffer? Just because some bakery is selling rotten cakes, how would you like someone badmouthing your bakery, your integrity? ”

“Not you doctor, but not all doctors are like you” she said.

“Thank you for your faith mam, but I know that most doctors are like myself, who have struggled hard to achieve their degrees, to be able to save lives and bring an end to the suffering of millions. It is not an easy task, there are many easier ways to earn money with lesser hard work and sacrifice. You will rarely find the children of stars, sportsmen, industrialists and other ultra rich becoming doctors, no one wants so much hard work for such less money.” © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We cannot advertise, while most of the alternative medicine companies, gurus and babas keep on blatantly claiming cures for incurable diseases, spreading rumors about allopathy and some other recognised pathies, cleverly selling their own products to desperate patients who hope for relief, and spend far more in the wrong direction. Look at who all is earning crores while claiming that allopathic doctors are cheating people”.

She said she agreed, and won’t interfere with the right treatment of her child now onwards.

This is a complication of a deliberate and sick propaganda which has been orchestrated to tarnish the image of especially allopathic doctors, to be able to sell innocent patients one’s own unscientific products. It is sad that the very people who complain about the consultation charges of qualified doctors go and buy extremely costly “magic remedies” like some unproven, unscientific laser instruments, vibrators, garments, herbals, extracts etc. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The fact that vegetables and fruits are costlier than many medicines, that weekly vegetable expenses or family dinners in India are far more pricey than a specialist’s consultation which can be obtained urgently, speak a lot about where we stand. In the developed western world, there are year-long waiting lists to see most specialists. The fact that Indian doctors are the best and hardest working is appreciated all over the world, but so many Indian gurus, babas and fraudulent quacks run campaigns against our own doctors, in our own country! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Want to really know what the doctor doesn’t tell you?.

A doctor never tells you to go to herbal babas when you come to the emergency and need immediate attention. A doctor never asks you to take your lot to the websites that slam medical profession, when you need help. A doctor never abandons even a faithless and arrogant ignoramus, does not ask them to go search internet for blogs and natural remedies when someone is dying of a heart attack or a stroke or accident. While many recent fulminant ads claim that all doctors are greedy and deceptive, there are thousands of doctors in the hospitals all over world, who are not eating, sleeping or being with their family right now: not because they want more money, but because many will die if we don’t work hard. It is so sad that this had to be explained in India!

What a doctor really doesn’t tell you is: how difficult it is to treat and to save lives of the very people who have no faith in the one trying to do them good!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Recently the number of posts circulating to slam all medical professionals, especially allopaths, have increased, especially in an attempt to market certain products. This extremely harmful trend is ignored by all concerned authorities. This article is an attempt to defend the glorious scientific profession I belong to.

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Homoglobin

Homoglobin

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“How much is your experience, doc? Have you ever seen any cases like this?” she asked. She was accompanying her father who had Parkinson’s Disease, quite common all over the world.

Many hilarious and abrasive retorts came to my mind:

‘Do you ask such questions about the pilot or driver when you board a plane or bus? , Do you ask such questions when someone absolutely inexperienced is made a minister of important portfolios like health, defence, environment etc.?’ If you can have faith in them, why cannot you trust your qualified doctor?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

However, being on the doctor’s side of the table, I could not allow myself losing patience so easily. I chose the most professional answer, forcing a smile: “I am practicing since 25 years, over 15 as a Neurologist, and I have seen over two lac thirty thousand patients till now. Almost every Neurologist sees an average of 30-40 patients per day”.

When the rural / illiterate populace asks these questions innocently, I am never offended, but if it is the literate suspicious kind who treat manners and etiquette as an ‘optional’ part of communicating with the doctor, I feel just like when someone spills my ice-cream. It is difficult to connect with a paranoid literate, however hard one tries.

Apparently satisfied with my experience, she shot her next google bullet: “Can this happen because of his low Homoglobin? I read it on a blog.”

“The correct term is Hemoglobin”, I told her, “and its low level does not cause Parkinson’s”.

It was over 45 minutes since they entered, I had replied to every point on the question paper that they had prepared from a Googlesearch syllabus. The next patient must be already angry now, I thought.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“How can you be so sure that this is Parkinson’s Disease? What’s the proof?” Fired she.

“There are many diseases where there are no proofs of diagnosis, some can be proven, most are based upon the doctor’s clinical judgement. Sometimes quite costly tests are required to prove what is an obvious diagnosis. You are welcome to obtain a second opinion” I replied.

“Can his Parkinson’s be the side effect of the knee surgery done eight years ago?” She.

“No” me.

I now issued a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my gasping patience.

Most doctors know the simplified versions of how to explain the patient in layman language about the common diseases/ disorders. Every type of case requires a lot of reading and actual handling / treating to gain insights about that condition, something that is impossible to explain exactly to the patient / relative, especially because they do not know the basic concepts, organs, their functions etc. What even the brilliant medical students take repeated readings and many case studies to understand well, cannot be simplified enough to explain to all and sundry.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Add to this: every patient even with the same diagnosis is different, needs an individualised approach, and no google guidelines or statistics can replace the doctor’s wisdom in making a treatment decision especially in complicated cases. To make the most accurate decision and to explain it is a doctor’s duty, but the understanding quotient of the patient or relative cannot be the doctor’s responsibility. Medicine is so complicated, that even the most experienced doctor in the world cannot say he knows everything about any single medical condition.

The more you attempt to educate some literates, the deeper in a quicksand you enter. Because they are not satisfied with the fact that the doctor is making the best effort to educate, but look upon this as an opportunity to question the knowledge and wisdom of the very expert whose opinion they are there to seek!

They try and catch words and cross question as if it is a legal argument.

“You said swelling: show me where is the swelling?” most common question.

“Well, it is called Inflammation in medical language, there is no accurate translation for that word even in Hindi, hence we commonly use the word swelling. It may not be a visible swelling”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is not always the fault of doctor’s ability to communicate, it is often the over-expectation that one can understand everything. It is laughable that even those some whose life is a mess, who are failures in their own chosen paths try and argue about medical diagnosis and decisions with highly qualified doctors.

However profound a doctor I may think I am, there are so many things I do not understand: politics, finances, many people’s behaviour, mathematics, government, etc., and I am ok without ith not understanding most. However I do not have the audacity to ask an expert in these fields / professor / CA whether he / she has enough experience.

But with a doctor, these liberties are becoming rampant now.

“I think he has convulsions because of his spondylosis” one halfpant+crocs combo tried to punch a new hole in my knowledge recently.

“Let me decide that” was all I replied, rather than explaining how he was beyond wrong.

The shorter you keep it, the sweeter it remains. I would rather save and use my time for those worried, panicked patients who have enough faith in my abilities, who understand mutual respect, and who will have at least this insight: that the doctor knows best how to treat patients.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Of course I am aware that there are some doctors too, who initiate rude conversations, do not respect simple etiquettes, and are quite difficult to connect to. Most patients even when offended by rude doctors, kindly choose not to react although they carry home a bitter feeling. Every medical student, every doctor must be taught in the earliest parts of internship about the code of etiquette and mutual respect while dealing with any patient, and only then expect the patient to follow it too.

Coming back to this lady, I wrapped up the session by telling them to follow up after a month.

“Can he continue to take his three large pegs of rum every night? He cannot sleep otherwise” she asked.

“In my 25 years of practice, I haven’t met anyone whose health improved with alcohol. Do please google that.” I gave her the dose she had begged for.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Doctor’s Fees: A Taboo Topic

Doctor’s Fees: A Taboo Topic
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
A famous industrialist from Pune recently visited my OPD. My Boss called me on phone and told me to waive off the fees, as he was a close friend of my Boss. The industrialist was not only well behaved, but well-read too. He had a complicated problem, had seen Neurologists etc. in India and UK. He asked many questions, and I was happy to have been able to reply to most. The consultation lasted over 45 minutes. He went out, and was told by the receptionist that his fees was waived off. He knocked my door, came back in, and placed three thousand rupees on my table. My usual fees is half that.
“Doc, I don’t believe in taking advantage. You gave me all the time I needed, and I have paid far more to the foreign doctors for a fraction of that time” he said.
 
Just a few days prior, a European patient from Mumbai had visited with her Indian in-laws, and after a detailed consultation, when they went out and paid the usual fees of 1500 INR, she messaged me: that this was far lower for the service they received. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Two days ago, on Saturday night at 9 PM, one lady rushed in without appointment, an engineer now working in Pune. Quite lavish in her get up and paraphernalia, she told me she had recently delivered a baby in the USA and then returned to India. After we finished the consultation that lasted over 30 minutes, and included many questions and explanations about her “minor” neurological problem, about justification of diagnosis, every medicine, about lactation, and about her prior medical consultations, I was happy that I had answered all her questions, and was able to treat her without any tests. Then she said: “And yes, doc, your fees is too high. Most doctors in my area charge less than that. I want concession”.
 
Earlier it was quite embarrassing for me to discuss money with patients. I felt it was below my dignity to have to talk about money, and humiliating to have to explain my fees. When I decided what I charged, it was after a prolonged thought process, and awareness of Indian healthcare scenario and socioeconomic conditions. While being available for genuinely poor patients, I did not want to resort to any backdoor incomes, and also wanted to give every patient the best of my skill acquired over 15 years of education, and enough time. There are clean doctors, far more senior than me, in my branch, who know this well and charge a lot more as consultation fees than I do (some over 5000 INR for a single consult), for they know their own worth. But there also are few who for their own reasons continue to charge far lesser, some with a noble intention (usually at the fag end of their career), some with alternative plans. It is a personal preference of the doctor, especially specialist. A correct diagnosis and honest /right advise is becoming rare and rare, what with the quality of medical education and an admixture of streams, which aim at the fast, cheap, objective and basic rather than specialized, subjective and accurate. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
In absence of any comparable example, (medical service is not comparable to any other, but to quote an example that most should understand), I have to mention this: when one buys land, home, good food or technology, one pays differently at different places, for different brands. No one argues about the rates of foreign cellphones or jewelry, even about cinema tickets, but the most important service of all: health, is considered a bargainable, perpetually low cost charity. Basic and emergency healthcare doesn’t mean attached super-technology, five star rooms and washrooms and air conditioning, best qualified staff and ancillary services. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Used to this question very frequently, I told this lady that my fees was the same as that of most super-specialists in larger cities, that it was based upon qualification, experience, skill and time spent. She wouldn’t listen, and refused to pay. I told her she could avail of the free OPD meant for poor patients if she had a BPL card or if she was a farmer. “I can afford, I am not poor. But I want concession, because some doctors in my area charge only XXX”she said. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
A senior doctor had advised me during the beginning of my practice: “Concentrate on the affordability of the middle class. Manage your time with the patient according to their affordability, people are rarely willing to pay the doctor. If your consultation fees is high, you will turn off many patients, because even the rich opt for the cheapest possible healthcare, including the doctor”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Of course I did not want to discriminate. But over a period of time I realized that most of the forced free categories keep on repeatedly visiting various specialists / hospitals (a free category patient visits over three consultants for every medical issue) because it is free/ low cost, this is a frustrating scenario. Even the affording class visits many specialists for the same problem because the doctor’s fees is too ‘affordable’.
 
A doctor must always be kind and compassionate, but in India, he / she also needs to be practical to avoid being exploited. Compare to the availability of a free food service at your home for the poor. Check out for yourself how many misuse it, and how often. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Various pathies and specialties have a different fees structure, and people must be educated that all doctors cannot charge the same. A surgeon or physician with more skill, experience, expertise and good outcomes is definitely entitled to charge more than his peers. After all, what is a few thousand rupees when one’s health is concerned? When filing suits against doctors who commit mistakes, people claim in crores, a fact that must be accounted for when the doctor charges his / her fees.
 
“Your fees has increased” said a patient, who has paid the same fees for last 8 years. When I asked him to name any commodity whose price hasn’t increased in last eight years, he said “But you are a doctor”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Among all the inflations happening everywhere, it is only the doctor’s fees that mostly remains unchanged for years. There are excellent charity institutes with great healthcare services , also many government hospitals, but most people want a “Premium / Priority” healthcare service at their lowest rates, refusing to stand in a queue at such hospitals. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
The cut throat competition among hospitals to match society’s low cost healthcare expectations has resulted in a nightmare: most of the permanent staff being hired is low-salary, low qualification overworked, and exploited, many of the consumables used are of a questionable quality. This reflects worst in most critical care units and some surgical units. Very few will understand the true depth of this horrible tragedy.
 
While all cut-practice and other malpractices must end, while every doctor must compassionately aim at resolving the health problem that the patient trusts him / her with, and satisfy the patient as much as possible, it is also necessary that people understand that good healthcare will come at a higher cost. No doctor should refuse emergency /basic treatment to a patient who really cannot afford. Other than this, “Cheaper Doctors are the kindest and the best” is a devastating superstition we must eradicate.
 
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
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An Ideal Patient

 

An Ideal Patient
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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“My health is my domain, you are a member on my health team. You have a part to play, and I have a responsibility to imbibe your advice with complete trust, along with that of the other specialists I see. There are so many things in my life that are beyond your control: what I eat, what I do, how much I work or sleep or exercise, how I react, my mentation, and even my spirituality. All these affect my health, and I must assume the responsibility for that. My illness if not your fault.
Rajas, we meet like the tips of two pyramids, with few specific issues to resolve. We cannot know the entire pyramid, and it is unnecessary too. I have strong faith about why we should have met even as a doctor and a patient, I believe destiny has a purpose. The meeting between a doctor and a patient, not only you and me, can be so much beyond only a professional medical consultation: just so long as we have enough trust and shoulder our respective responsibilities well”.

These are the precious words of Ms. Prema Camp.

Once she came to my OPD, and asked me why I looked stressed. I told her my mom was critically ill, admitted at the same hospital. Mom was conscious then, but was quite shocked due to her recent worsening, As a son, I had limitations in counseling mom. Ms. Camp took my permission, went to the room where mom was admitted, and chatted with her a few hours, relaxing her with gentle anecdotes.

My patient and now a friend from last 5 years, Ms. Prema Camp shuttles between USA and India frequently. She maintains a meticulous record of all her health related documents, follows all advice to the last dot, enquires about every doubt that crops up, reads extensively still only asks relevant questions, and manages her side of the responsibility perfectly: researching and finding out the right type of food for herself, following strict and disciplined schedules of diet and exercise, and avoiding all unnecessary medicines. She has a phenomenal memory, but she has never used it to relate any bad experiences from her past, in spite of having many. If at all there’s something negative about her past, she mentions only the good that invariably came out of it. Age does not affect her at all, and she independently manages everything without any assistance (although she has highly placed daughters in the USA who care for her). Her blogs have an enviable readership too!

Every time she comes over, I learn something precious, especially about the effect of mind upon health and life. She brings me books and films related to health, hoping that it will help other patients too.
I do not know if it is entirely due to her growing up with the freedom of thought in USA, the spiritual pursuits which brought her to India, or both, but I find something quite rare in her: the ability to pursue a thought or an idea fearlessly to its conclusion, and to then honestly accept that conclusion. Irrespective of whether the world has yet grown up to it or not. Irrespective also of personal likes and dislikes.

Although I always stick to the professional etiquettes with a poker face, there are patients who crossover to this side of me and become friends. Then the barter system of payment via goodwill and information exchange works best, money becomes so redundant! Needless to say, she has never once misused the facility to call or message in spite of having my personal cell.

When I apologized for being late today, she smiled and said “Oh I enjoyed every bit of waiting here, I could get some time to read”.
I wish I keep learning these things from her!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Beyond Fear: The Lady Who Defeated Brain Cancer

 

Beyond Fear: The Lady Who Defeated Brain Cancer

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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

About a year ago, a young man came with the MRI reports of his 64 year old mother, 
Mrs. Vijayalakshmi, who was then in Bijapur. She had developed paralysis on the right side of her body, could not speak, and was losing her consciousness fast.

The MRI looked bad, a big tumour was compressing much of the left side of her brain. It looked cancerous, and needed immediate surgery as a life saving option. Otherwise the tumor could damage the heart / blood pressure and respiratory control centres in the lower part of her brain, that risked life. The situation could turn into an emergency anytime now.

The family was devastated. They brought her to Pune. She was sinking fast. Required investigations were done, and we explained the facts to the family. The surgery could risk life or also cause permanent disability, including permanent loss of speech.

Her husband, Mr. Venkat Babladi was always by her side, with his hands folded, and had only one thing always to say every time any doctor visited her: “Please save her doctor, do everything possible”.

She was operated. Her husband, son Mr. Anand Babladi, and his wife all stayed in the hospital, taking turns to attend her. The tumor was sent for analysis.

On the third day, the report brought the bad news: it was a type of cancer called primary central nervous system lymphoma. These tumors have a high death risk, with or without treatment, especially after the age of 60.

“Tell us doctor, where can we do the best treatment for her? We want to do everything” her husband and family kept on telling us. She was still in critical care, but had started now to speak a few words.

Our oncologist Dr. Minish Jain and his assistant Dr. Yuvraj Rangam took over, and started high dose chemotherapy. She developed many complications, some related to the medicines, but her family always stood firm. Every day, her husband sat by her, holding her hand, and telling her that she was going to recover, that he will ensure all was well. Her son and daughter in law arranged for all expenses and logistics, not by staying away and sending money, but by attending her every day after their respective jobs. After few days she was discharged with advice to continue chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi had a fall while walking at home, and fractured her hip, she had to be operated. Her chemotherapy had to be stopped. It was resumed after she recovered from the fracture. Then in few weeks, radiation therapy was started. As a rare complication, she developed life threatening brain swelling, and had to be shifted to critical care unit. She lost her speech again. Her husband, who was now on the verge of an emotional collapse, met us outside her room and with tearful eyes, asked only one question daily: “She will be ok na, doctor?”

Medical treatment is mostly standard all over the world, but the affection and care of one’s family is not. Hundreds of doctors treat thousands of such patients, many patients get cured of cancers and other dreadful diseases, a simple statistic that is never made public by those who perpetually talk against medical professionals. Equally unrecognised is the fact that a caring family makes a huge difference in the patient’s recovery, this has become very rare now.

After a year, we repeated her scans recently, and told her the ultimate medical good news: she had defeated brain cancer! Her scans did not show any tumor activity at all. She comes smiling to the OPD now, her husband holds her hand on one side, and son on another.

The most beautiful gift she gave me this time is that she learned two new Hindi words specially for me, because everytime I saw her I asked her how she was, and could not understand her answer.
This time, her husband poked her, then she smiled and said “Achcha hai”.

Those two words were the winning roar of a simple, middleclass woman against a dreadful killer disease!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Thank you, Babladi family for the kind permission to share facts.

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