Tag Archives: specialist

The Bullet Indian Doctors Bite

The Bullet Indian Doctors Bite
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Her health is fluctuating. We need to admit her in ICU. Why didn’t you bring her earlier?” I asked the daughter of a 75 year old lady who had developed weakness in both hands and legs about two weeks ago.

“Doc, we thought she had weakness due to age, gave her some herbal boosters and vitamins, as we were scared of modern medicine. We hear a lot of bad things nowadays” there was no trace of any regrets in her voice that she was telling me this.

Wish I could tell her all that we hear about the reality of people criticising modern medicine nowadays. But who has that kind of time?

“Can we please treat her at home? She is scared. Also, we have limited finances, my husband is not in town. My daughter has her exams on”. she requested. We often accommodate many requests, but really, our society never stops asking for more than possible. I explained her in detail that not everything can be managed at home, admitted the old lady in ward and gave all instructions to the staff. She had had very low potassium levels, we corrected them. On the second day, she started feeling slightly better.

Third morning, as I continued my OPD, I got a call from the ward. The nurse had a panicky tone “Doc, this patient has become drowsy suddenly since a few minutes. Her daughter is not here, I noticed when I went to check her. Pulse rate is high, no fever, and oxygen levels nomal. But she is breathing faster”.

“Sis, please check her blood sugar and send her blood sodium- potassium levels, and haemogram, I will be there in a few minutes” I said. I called the lab and requested them to process her samples urgently.

The sugar level was low, we gave her sugar and she became alert. In a few minutes we got the electrolyte levels, her sodium was also low, we started the correction.

“I have informed her daughter, she is on the way” the agile nurse said. As much as doctors, the credit of saving lives goes to the millions of active and alert nurses and junior doctors. I went back to the opd, apologised to the waiting patients and started again.

In some time, I received a call again. The nurse was still panicky. “Doc, the patient’s daughter has just returned. She is creating a ruckus here, shouting and abusing. Please come asap”.

I went there again. Indeed the daughter was furious.
“I will post this on facebook, I will write about the hospital, I will sue them. How can they do any tests without my permission?” she went on.

I said hullo to her, stepping between her and the patient nurse. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Why did you do her blood tests without asking me? We had done blood sugars last month, they were normal. Also we had done the sodium and potassium two days ago. You should have asked me before sending blood tests” she went on.

Two angry humans is too much of a mess. I summoned my inner peace. I had done what was good for the patient, I wasn’t scared of anyone. Especially ruckus makers. Her anger was her problem.

“Madam, may I explain?” I asked in a calm voice. Not that I am not short tempered, but I am a doctor.

I told her how some tests need to be repeated, and how there’s no time always to ask permissions by calling relatives. Patient’s life is always more important than the permission of relatives, especially if they are not on site. Sometimes, we need to do tests just based upon suspicion of certain complications. Every passing second increases the valley between life and death, the doctor and nurse must have the fastest brains and actions upon earth. To explain everything to every relative till they grasp and understand is another stupid, idiotic expectation in emergency. It’s like asking a soldier on the border to explain every citizen in the country why he fired each bullet. A medical soldier has to do the best, be medico-legally safe, document everything, explain to the relatives and obtain permissions, and still face anger, humiliation and social media threats, rating scams and attacks on reputation by anyone anytime. All this while having the best intention- saving the patient! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“You take fever by a thermometer many times a day – once is not enough as the condition is still persistent. Likewise some tests, even if costlier, need to be repeated. Unless you have written that we do not want any tests, we have to do what we think is good for the patient, that’s our sacred duty” I told her.

She calmed down.

“See, doc, I am sorry, I exploded, I am going through much stress at home due to issues with my daughter and my husband is not supportive. Now that you have explained I am okay with the tests”. she said.

“What about the shouting, the abuse, the insults to allopathic doctors treating you right now, the humiliation of the nursing staff and waste of my time, that caused discomfort and delays to other patients?” I wanted to ask, like most doctors, but we have no time. She wasn’t going to change anyway. Like most of our society.

When I discharged the patient, now walking on her own, the family was still upset, because the hospital did not comply with their expectation of a “discount”. A genuine “Thank You” is extremely rare in Indian hospitals, even when the critical walk home.

Three months fast forward. I received a call from the daughter again “Doc, my mom has become drowsy again, shall we come to the hospital?” she asked.

“Sorry, I am not available, please see another doctor at any hospital of your choice” I replied.

Many good doctors have exhausted their patience and will to be kind and compassionate due to such incidences happening every day. Now most are concentrating on patients who have better common sense and manners, politeness and willingness to understand the use and limitations of modern medicine. Money is the last thing a doctor can think of, but sadly it is the first and only thing that most relatives think about. While treating the patient, the first thing- patient’s life – has not remained the priority for most hospitals, it is now the safety about medico-legal aspects and reputation. A wise doctor has to learn how to balance in between.

Doctors in India must bite many such bullets every day!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Story of a Deadly Brain Aneurysm..“Doc, was the treatment delayed?”

The Story of a Deadly Brain Aneurysm..
“Doc, was the treatment delayed?”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, was the treatment delayed?”
The angry husband, Mr. Mane asked in a calm voice but the accompanying relatives had a menacing look upon their faces.

The patient, his wife Mrs. Sujata 35 years old, was brought unconscious two days ago, in a comatose state, at about midnight. I was out of city, so my colleague Neurologist rushed to the hospital and started treatment. We were constantly in touch, within an hour Sujata’s scans were completed, and she was shifted to a critical care unit. She had large bleeding in the brain, and was already beyond a possibility of surgical treatment.

About five years ago, she was diagnosed with an aneurysm in the brain. It is a defect in a blood vessel which balloons out as its walls become thinner and may rupture suddenly, causing either instant death or bleeding in the brain, many a times huge. This diagnosis needs immediate treatment, the right words that describe its risk are: “This is like sitting on a time bomb, not knowing when it is set to explode “.

Many patients do not have much symptoms besides headaches or minor neurological issues usually found on examination by a neurological expert. There are many NeuroIntervention specialists in India since last two decades, who can reach the balloon via a catheter/ tube and close the balloon/ aneurysm so the risk is eliminated and patient cured. Sometimes neurosurgeons are required to operate if the aneurysm has a wide base, and close the connection between the balloon and the artery from which it arises, by an open surgery. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Five years ago, we had informed all this to Mr. Mane and Mrs. Sujata. Like many educated patients nowadays, they obtained multiple opinions. Almost all doctors had told them what we had told. However one retired allopathic doctor, now quite old, and one non-allopathic practitioner told them “It is not necessary to do the surgery. Doctors these days advise unnecessary costly treatments”. They started some vitamins and health boosters. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The couple decided to wait. The came for follow up once after two years, we told them it was better to operate, but they said “We met our neighbour doctor, he is very senior, and he said that there’s no danger in waiting. I think he knows, see, nothing has happened in two years.. we are happy as it is!”

After that they did not follow up. They had even stopped allopathic medicines. They had come now, when she was beyond any possibility of rescue.

When after a day we told the family that she was brain dead, they asked the question above: “Was her treatment delayed?”.

After explaining to them that everything was done faster than even the best centers in America would have done, they calmed down.

Out of curiosity I asked Mr. Mane: “What did your neighbouring Doc say, the one who had advised to not operate her?”

“Oh, he was very kind. He said nature is cruel and anything can happen anytime to anyone. He arranged for an ambulance too for us.”.

Mrs. Mane didn’t make it, we all felt very sad that a young life that could have survived was lost to a wrong advice. Many doctors who do not specialise in certain complicated and advanced branches of medicine often try to please the patient by giving them an advice that attempts to impress the patient by saying what they want to hear.

It is true that sometimes surgeries are wrongly advised and performed, hence the social confusion about trust. There’s only one way out- explaining the patients and giving them credible websites to refer to, referring them to another specialist who is qualified in that branch. Some trust-less patients will still pay with their health and life. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

If such cases go to the courts of law, challenging the speed and/ or efficiency of treatment, the honourable courts should consider delays and decisions at every step beginning from the day of onset of symptoms, the delays in visiting doctor, specialist, performing advised tests, obtaining another opinion if advised and getting the prescribed treatment in time. Just holding the doctors and hospitals responsible for not being able to rescue the patient at the last stage is not justified.

Leave aside a few wrong ones, but most surgeons only advise a surgery after deeply thinking about all possibilities, risks and outcomes. Sometimes even when the outcome is uncertain, they must operate. At such times their reputation and career is at a stake, because every mistake is nowadays amplified into a media blast. Still they think about what’s the best for the patients, and try to do their best. Surgeries and procedures, even the costliest, are the cheapest in India since last thirty years- surgeon’s fees are still lowest in all branches, and if we consider the medicolegal and media risk and a violent mobs backed by some politicos, actually the doctor is at a high risk during every major surgery. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A doctor is not a merchant or politician to sweet talk to the patient and give them a pleasant but wrong advice and jeopardise their future just to “retain the customer“. This is a noble profession where sometimes strongly worded and unpleasant solutions are essential to save the patient. To expect all the patients and relatives to understand complicated medical concepts and treatments (which takes even brilliant doctors years to grasp) is comical.

We sincerely hope that our society recognises the huge stress every doctor goes through, every day, trying to do their best for patients.
We also wish that the law, politicians and media note that it is often the delays before admission that kill the patients than those after.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Who Are You?

Dementia: The Brain Killer.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Just a month ago dad / mom was alright, but now replies in a word or two, appears disinterested in anything. He / she was very lively and active earlier, we are surprised that now they just sit without doing anything, usually staring out of the window, and have to be reminded for everything – food, bath and even who we are’. These words alert every doctor about dementia- a disease that is extremely scary, because the brain is slowly dying. The person suffering with this illness, if not attended in time, can deteriorate permanently and fast, forgetting even oneself, without knowing that this is happening.

What if your own brain forgets you? What if you start to complete fail to recognise your own family, children, friends, not only their names but even their faces, how much they mean to you? Worse, what if in fact you start thinking that they are after your life? Impossible, you think? Welcome to dementia, a devastating disease of the brain that shatters many of our conceptions about ourselves and the world around.

Human brain does a lot more than thinking, speaking, memorising and walking. Born nearly empty, with only basic animal instincts, it then starts filling the memory cells with whatever information is fed to it- name, caste, religion, country, culture, food habits, and also the preaching of dying for one’s own religion or country. While acquiring different skills, it starts comparing self with others, instils the cultural concepts of loving or hating others, discriminating, superiority, and even the wish for equality found in some evolved cultures. Whatever we learn and the emotional make up of our minds, is a stored data in our brain.

Add the bittersweet experiences, the eternal exposure to a mostly self-centred world and our insights, all these make up the personality of each individual, even the ego of being that person, and the addiction of thinking ‘me first’ – all of it is in fact ‘stored data’ in the cells of the brain. There’s also information necessary for communication and social interaction: from days of the week to awareness of day and night, where we are, people and environments around us and so much more.

What happens when these brain cells start dying, degenerating? All this starts fading, and the brain starts having large gaps in these storages about everything, including self. This disease starts slowly, and unless someone is having daily meaningful conversation with the patient on a daily basis, it is missed for many initial months, because the regular, hi-hullo type of conversation is preserved till late. Even the most brilliant minds start making notes and reminders, often forgetting where they kept those. They appear withdrawn, lost in thought, and often have difficulty remembering names, relationships and directions- like not knowing where the washroom is. Some of the most disciplined and cultured may also start using vulgar abuses, have spells of rage, and may accuse their beloved spouse / children of having affairs, intentions of harm and stealing. Some take off clothes in public, misbehave, leave home and get lost outside. All this because the stored memories of “What not to do” is also being lost with brain cells dying. There are many types of dementias other than Alzheimers. Some are treatable if diagnosed early.

The loved ones of such patients are usually shocked and devastated, not only with the diagnosis, but with the revelation that in many cases this is permanent. They usually think that it must be age, stress or some anger that led to this, but their frustration is usually vented at the doctor when they realise that things are progressive. Visiting quacks in various pathies who exploit hope and frustration, the patient is subjected to much experimentation, abuse and even cruelty like tying them down, beating them up, etc., thanks to our superstitious society. The real tragedy is the waste of precious time- because starting the right treatment may some parts of memory longer, and reverse some types of dementias.

The right counsellors, psychiatrists or physicians recognise the disease easily and refer the patient to a qualified neurologist in time. Certain dementias due to deficiencies of thyroid hormone, Vitamin B12 etc. and depression are reversible to a fair extent, while others may require lifelong treatment with a neurologist. If started early with the right medicines, many cases improve and sustain for months to years.

Many cases of dementia are unmasked when patients undergo surgeries, hospitalisation. Patients with dementia get scared and confused in new surroundings, change of familiar places or absence of near and dear ones. They may have many psychiatric manifestations, and even become aggressive. The most emotionally draining thing is their paranoia and accusing spouse of infidelity.

It is essential to counsel and train the family and caretakers about how to handle such patients. One needs to detach emotional interpretations of patient’s behaviour and treat them like a child. One must never force such patients- to eat, sleep, exercise or do something against their wish (unless of course if they intend to harm self or others). One must also refrain from continuously correcting them, teaching them logic and reasoning, or asking them things they cannot remember.

Who Are You? Is an extremely difficult question to answer. Whatever you are, it exists only in your brain. Take good care of it. Stay away from negative emotions of hatred and discrimination. Don’t compare yourself with others. Practice equality in its true sense, it brings calm. Eat healthy, stay happy and active. Include almonds, walnuts, fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Control blood pressure, sugars and cholesterol levels.

Avoid red meat, butter, fatty and fast food. Avoid unknown medicines.

Many consider deceit and lying as “essential diplomacies” for success, and happily sacrifice precious personal relations in a quest to succeed for money and fame. Guess who helps us when we forget who we are. Preserve your relationships, speak your mind to your close friends, near and dear ones. Share your feelings, express your desires. Shed egos and reach out to people you like, make up with them. Do this today, because tomorrow it may be too late.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neuroloigist

Pune, Mumbai.

9922753753

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Thirty Years of Suffering and One Tablet of Gratitude

Thirty Years of Suffering and One Tablet of Gratitude
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

At the age of 18, he started noticing difficulty in falling asleep because of a weird pin-prick like sensation in his calves. He ignored it initially, but later in a few months it grew so severe that he could not sleep. Then started a nightmarish phenomenon of sudden squeezing sensation on the legs, sometimes with other abnormal and disturbing symptoms like gnawing pain, pulling and jerky movement of both legs. A little massage initially helped, but within minutes, symptoms returned, and now came up to his thighs. Many a nights, he could not sleep at all.

Lack of sleep worsened his daily performance, and he started getting irritable, confused and often very depressed because of the ongoing symptoms. There were phases of relief without any apparent reason, but the problem almost always returned with more severity. He went from one doctor to another, was told he had nerve problems, muscle fatigue, deficiency, and even psychological issues. Various tests done did not show any abnormality. In the last few years, his symptoms spread over to his hands and became so severe that he could not sleep at all. He tried many medicines from many pathies but had no relief. Then he started having suicidal thoughts.

That’s when Dr. Lakshman Sathe of Dodaich arranged for a video consultation with me for Mr. Rajendra Badgujar, now 50 years old, resident of Sindkheda. As any learned neurologist will have guessed from the description above, I concluded that Mr. Rajendra was a severe case of a rare disease called “Restless Legs Syndrome”. Although rare and more common in women, this extremely troublesome condition is now increasingly recognized in Indian population. This usually is caused by a genetic predisposition, but may also be associated with certain other medical conditions including iron deficiency. The most common complaints are ‘restlessness’ of legs, due to weird squeezing, pricking sensation or jerky movements. Very good treatments usually in form of tablets are available, but most of these tablets have serious side effects if incorrectly used. Also, only if the diagnosis is accurate and not associated with any other related conditions, patients respond well.

Mr. Badgujar, who had suffered for nearly 30 years, had complete relief within a week of starting the new medicine, and is now not only having sustained relief with only one tablet, but has also slept blissfully over last two months. Still, that is not the reason for my article. This poor man travelled to Pune for 9 hours, daring the CoViD pandemic, with his family, only to personally say thank you to me. This single tablet of gratitude calmed my restless mind instantaneously!

Most neurologists can readily diagnose and treat this condition in the first or second visit itself, sometimes a few tests may be required. If the patient reaches the right specialist for various medical conditions, not only is he /she relieved at the earliest, everyone saves a lot of money and we can thus contribute to improve the reputation of our noble profession.

©Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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PS: Every qualified neurologist can diagnose and treat this condition effectively.

Say, doc!

Say, doc!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, may I eat fruits?”
“Yes”
“Papaya?”
“Yes”
“Apple?”
“You can eat all fruits.”
“Banana also?”
“Yes”
“But I get vomiting after eating banana..”
“Then don’t eat banana”
“But you just said I can eat all fruits “
“I’m sorry, please eat only what you tolerate well. Anything else?”

Next patient.

“Till the time we finalise and treat the cause of your unconsciousness episodes, please don’t drive any vehicle “ I told the twenty year old girl whose family stood surrounding her dipped in worry.

Since after a head injury during riding, the patient had had fits. She continued to ride her moped to her college inspite of strict warnings by doctors not to drive. This time she was admitted because she had fallen from her bike as she had a fit while riding.

“How will she go to the college then?” asked her angry mother.

“You will have to make alternative arrangements” I replied.

“Can she drive a four wheeler?” asked her father.

“No”. I now understood that they didn’t want to understand the risk.

“Three wheeler?” asked a relative who had the most common Indian OCD: talking without thinking, expressing opinion because it’s a constitutionally granted freedom.

“What three wheeler do you want her to drive to college ?” I asked the OCD bro.

“No. I just asked out of curiosity “ he replied more guiltlessly than your favourite politician.

How many irrelevant questions should a doctor reply to patiently?
Running between emergencies, making crucial life and death decisions for others over 30-40 times a day, with zero allowance for mistakes and facing angry, troubled souls who we genuinely want to help, how much extra time and patience for irrelevant questions is a doctor expected to waste? If relevant and crisp, every doctor enjoys the conversation, effective communication. When that enters the realm of “charche pe charcha”, it frustrates the doctor. Imagine that happening about twenty times a day. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Can a doctor refuse to answer irrelevant questions? Yes, but that risks a bad online review, rating in spite of correct diagnosis and good outcomes!

The consultation charges that a regular doctor charges are meant for a thorough history taking, examination and deduction of possible diagnosis, advice about tests required, and the best possible options of treatment/ management. It also includes a to-the-point explanation and information to the patient and attendant. It doesn’t include the unending “questioning” and expectations that the patient/ relative should grasp everything immediately- medicine is indeed very complicated. We usually give patients the websites to read from, but it cannot be the doctor’s responsibility to make the patient understand everything- it’s like asking the Judges to explain their decisions and law to both parties involved in each case- every day.

Every medical student should learn how to patiently, courteously tell the patient and relatives to limit the conversation to relevant questions only. It is an art. One can also schedule a separate paid consultation in case the family had extended questions and needs the doctor’s extra time.

Just when I was finishing a late day, a patient who had just left returned, panting because he was running.

“Doc, I forgot to ask you- is it okay to smoke a few cigarettes? – I am quite stressed you know”.

I smiled and replied “No you can’t. Reduce stress rather than killing yourself slowly with both smoking and stress”.

That was a relevant question though, as it reminded me of reducing stress in my own life. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Beyond Those Valleys and Mountains..The Story of a Doctor That Media Won’t Tell.

Beyond Those Valleys and Mountains..
The Story of a Doctor That Media Won’t Tell.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Just after admission to a medical college, Rohan noticed that he had a twisting movement of his right hand. He was diagnosed with a common condition called “Writer’s Cramp”, which is sometimes disabling and resistant to treatment. He started changing posture and position of his hand to be able to write well and somehow continued his studies. His complaints kept fluctuating. His father, a primary teacher, passed away when he was in the second year of Medical School. His mother somehow managed with the tiny pension they received and Rohan completed his MBBS.

During internship his left hand started to become weak, he had numbness in some parts of the hand, and could not move two fingers. It was quite painful too. He came to us for his nerve damage. His worried mother had a hundred questions, fears and tears in her eyes. Studies showed that one of his nerves was severely damaged. There are very few reasons why this can happen in young patients. Diabetes, faulty Immunity, Genetic Diseases are common, but upon investigating, Dr. Rohan was found to have the most dreaded cause for his nerve damage: Leprosy.
Dr. Arjun Mapare started treating him for Leprosy.

I reassured them and we started on an unpredictable journey. I explained him the schedule of medicines and advised to continue his leprosy treatment.

Doctors get infected with dangerous diseases every day. However nerve damage especially in the hands endangers entire career of a doctor, and if treatment is not started in time, many develop lifelong disability. Nerve diseases are extremely troublesome, recoveries are rare, delayed and difficult in many.

Dr. Gajanan Bhalerao, my super energetic colleague known for his physiotherapy expertise took the challenge and worked up a strict plan which Dr. Rohan followed. He kept on working after permission from his leprosy expert.

Where there’s no light, faith guides us. Patience is a rare quality. For a few months we did not see much change, but we didn’t want to give up. Beyond those valleys and mountains that scare us, is the Sunrise.

Today, Dr. Rohan visited after many months, completely recovered from leprosy, and told us that his hands have full functionality, his nerve functions were normal and he was able to move his fingers well. His writer’s cramp in the other hand bothers him sometimes still, but what’s a doctor who can handle problems? There are hundreds of such passionate young medical students fighting through adversity right now in India, because they have a common aim- neither money, nor fame, it’s the wish to treat the sick and suffering, to save lives.

The credit of his recovery?
To Dr. Hansen who discovered leprosy bacteria, those who discovered its treatment, those like Baba Amte who spent life fighting the stigma of this disease and the thousands of specialists in urban and rural India who treat this every day …. and some thought Covid was all that’s important!

Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Baba Amte, worthy of Bharatratna and Nobel Prize both!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Photo:
With Dr. Rohan (Name Changed) and
Dr. Gajanan Bhalerao

Who Is Guilty Here?A Typical Indian Case


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir my brother is critical. The doctors are not telling us anything about recovery. They don’t even reply to our questions about when the patient will recover. They are so inhuman! They should let the patient die if he is not going to come out of this illness, but they give us false hope that he may recover” said the friend, whose language precluded decency.

Having them seated, I requested details from patient’s friend accompanying the brother.

The patient, now in late thirties, had married against his family’s wish. He was boycot by his family, and started living with his wife. After a few days the couple started having quarrels due to his drinking habit. He frequently beat her up, and she often made a public scene of their private issues. He left her one day and returned to his family. His parents and brothers continued to taunt him. One day he was beaten up by his brothers, and in a fit of anger he drank rat poison.
He started vomiting after a few hours, became unconscious, and was taken to a quack who forced some magic potion in the patient’s mouth. Just after that, the patient had convulsions. “Take him to a doctor” said the quack. That’s when they went to a nearby rural hospital, which had no doctor. When they reached the city, patient was almost comatose. They took him to a low-cost multispecialty hospital. Upon admission his blood pressure was not recordable, breathing was almost nil, and heart was already beating too slow. The doctors there had acted fast and stabilised him, but by then his brain had suffered severe damage due to low blood pressure and very low oxygen.
In a week, he was stable, breathing on his own, opening eyes but unable to recognise anyone. Recovery in such cases is always very slow, unpredictable, and mostly incomplete. He needed supervision and nursing care, that was being done. Doctors were tired of the incessant repetitions of same questions: from relatives, politicians, and many other doctors. There’s a limit to how much compassion can one offer to its abuser. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I did what was the obvious thing to do: reassured the relatives that the treating doctors were doing a good job, that things were unpredictable in such cases, and that they should have trust in the ability of those qualified doctors to handle a case whom they had rescued from an almost certain death.

What ate my heart away was the blatant, glaring line of facts here: the family was not kind to him, the wife wasn’t kind to him, his relatives took him to a quack and wasted most precious time that could have saved a lot of brain damage, the quack used something that dangerously worsened the patient’s health, the rural government healthcare was inadequate, but none among the family or politicos ever said a word or questioned that. As if they were all exempt from humanity, and nothing about his health was any of their responsibility. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The doctors at that low-cost hospital, with minimum amenities, had still managed to save the patient, they did an excellent job, but were still labelled inhuman – just because everyone expected a full recovery of the patient, as if it was worthless to save a life unless it was complete, quick and cheap!
Indian doctors are already considered among the best all across the globe, we keep abreast of all advances in our respective fields by studying every day, we are easily available to everyone who needs our skill and opinion, we work far more than our colleagues in developed world, yet we are the most stressed, criticised, villainised and also poorest paid class of doctors, living under threats from one and all. Indian healthcare infrastructure is atleast fifteen years behind the developed world, it is us doctors who carry that burden of patient’s (googled) expectations upon our shoulders. It is frustrating to deal with the trustless, paranoid interactions with the relatives of those very patients whom we are trying to save.
What kills us most is the indecent, aggressive, violent way in which most doctors are abused in our country. Even the patients who do not recover completely speak in a vengeful, angry and complaining way to their doctors rather than any trace of gratefulness for whatever recovery was achieved.

The only way to possibly change this scenario is to change the society. Yes, to prefer a developed society where common sense and decency are not optional.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Hurt Passion Of A Doctor

The Hurt Passion Of A Doctor
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The recent picture of our favourite cricketer Mr. M. S .Dhoni exhausted and fatigued on the field caused a lot of concern, and we wish him best health with many more years on the field. The passion with which he plays is inspiring, we all love and respect him just like we have loved and respected Mr. Sunil Gavaskar, Mr. Sachin Tendulkar, Mr. Anil Kumble, Mr. Virat Kohli and many other greats that the Indian cricket has produced.

By the age of 40 or so, most of the heavyweight sportspeople usually retire from a competitive life and take over other, less tiring jobs. They have spent their entire youth in working extremely hard, with untiring efforts to perfect their craft. The fields of both sports and films are unforgiving, and exceptional talent is required to make it to the top. On the plus side however is the recognition, fame, and money that follows success.

Where does a doctor stand then?

While we cannot compare any two professions given the different client-base and frustrations of each, we can definitely draw some parallels. Competing intellectually starts from school for every doctor, innumerable hours in studying, applying the best mental effort to performance, and overcoming all temptations of a light-heartedly enjoying outside world are just basic compulsions if one has to excel at least in India. The extreme competition for medical admission is worst in our country.

However, that’s just the beginning, and the real struggle starts after one joins medicine: exhausting timetables, extra work and duties, unending patient loads of an hygiene- illiterate society abandoned on health front by its own government are the basic premises. Add expectations of immediate cures and filmy, miraculous recoveries with best recommended World-class internet treatments but with “Indian Compulsions” of charity treatment by doctors from their own pockets, and a never-ending game of moral-ethical looting, compassionless exploitation begins. In the midst of all that mud, a doctor must still keep studying to be abreast of all the modernities of his science, keep a calm mind and be polite and good to even the worst behaved.

Then come home and see pictures of compassion for celebrities. No we do not envy the celebrities. We love them as much as anyone else. We just hate the hypocrisy that our people have created: that if you choose a career in medicine, you are far less likely to be loved, whatever you do, however hard you work, and even if you lose your life. The whole government machinery which rushes to wish celebs and click selfies with them on every tiny occasion cannot have the list of doctors who died treating covid patients! Has anyone seen any selfie of any minister with the doctors who saved their lives from covid?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
There are thousands of young and old doctors in India, this very moment, working in covid wards, more exhausted and tired than any cricketer in the world. They cannot retire: 99 percent are so financially dependant on their daily income or monthly salaries, that they have silently accepted the tyrannous, cruel policies of various governments to inhumanly exploit them. They are on the verge of death due to exhaustion, and some are already having thoughts of ending it all. Over 500 have died. But the very same society has no compassion for these exhausted doctors, it has abandoned the very heroes who have stood between them and death. Their salaries are pending, they have to buy their own masks and kits, and thousands are estranged form their families for quarantines.

A society that browbeats doctors and hospitals to convert compassion into acceptance of non-payment of bills (as if doctors do not have basic compassions and humanity that everyone else has!) has money to queue up in restaurants, bars, liquor shops, malls, and bet millions on cricket matches is still completely ignorant about the exhausted doctor. We can build everything else as development agenda, but India can not invest in doctors. It can have the most modern aeroplanes and bullet trains, but it cannot pay its doctors.

The young doctor is now rethinking. Many have chosen to change their preferences and not become a doctor. Most doctors do not want to push their brilliant children into this chasm called ‘medical practice in India’: a dark, exploiting, thankless, violent and vulnerable machinery to suck out the blood of the most brilliant minds of our generation. The most important part of becoming a doctor is to reduce suffering and save lives. No one, however rich, becomes a doctor with a mindset to earn out of the dying and suffering.

That very passion to save lives is being insulted, mocked, and widely abused by our great nation today. I will continue to write to my students, to the next generation doctors to please preserve this passion: that is the most beautiful part of your soul, and please do not let it be scarred by an unevolved, regressive and exploiting society that we live in. Take care of yourself. We have a mission to save lives, without thinking whether they deserve to be saved or not. We will shortly also devise strategies to end this exploitation.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Future Girl and Her Message


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

At about 7 PM, I was about to finish the OPD at Ruby. One last patient was waiting, I could see her in the waiting hall outside.

My N95 was on since 10 AM, and I hadn’t had an opportunity to drink even water since I entered hospital at noon. Fatigued, thirsty and heavy-headed, like most doctors today.

‘This isn’t fair’, I was thinking, ‘I don’t deserve this torture after so many years of hard work. This pandemic seems unending, this stress is piling up on my mind and body now,. The world seems to have come to an inhuman standstill’.

The last patient walked jauntily in, a young girl of 27, her eyes smiled excited. She’s been my old case of epilepsy since last three years. She works in a virology research set up, and had told me six months ago that she’s working on Corona. Her parents are working as labourers in a local government factory.

“How are you?” I asked, mustering a smile she couldn’t see.

“All fine Sir, no fits at all. I just came to share a good news. An American University has liked my virology work and offered me a job for three years. I am leaving in three days. I will begin a new life, I have decided to spend it for virology research. I just came to say bye to you. I will of course keep in touch, but I will miss you there” and she touched my feet.

“God bless you. Stay safe at all costs. I am sure you will reach great heights and win a Nobel. Don’t forget your parents. Let me know if you need anything anytime “. I said what I could.

I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy for her career leap, and sad that such a brilliant scientist was leaving India.

I was startled that she had shaken away my fatigue and the pandemic rust that was accumulating on my mind. A sign of youth, she had taken the burning world around her as an opportunity rather than being cowed down by it. She was going to wear a mask almost all her career life, and the thought didn’t seem to affect her. She had accepted the reality faster than anyone I knew. A mind made for the future, she was travelling to the US (she has reached now) at a time that the world was locked down.

The world hasn’t come to a standstill, I realised. It is picking up. It will thrive again and boom in few months. Till then I must keep all negativity away. Till then I must do whatever it takes to survive and live the best life possible even in a pandemic. She had unknowingly come to deliver that special message before she left.

She left teary eyed and yet with a smile. My tiredness was gone. My spirits felt rejuvenated, I was grateful that she visited. Like every doctor who gets up and puts on his mask every morning for seeing their patients catch on with their life again.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Standing Ovation, Doctors with Hemlock

Standing Ovation, Doctors with Hemlock
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is not new that the world has chosen to torture and kill the right and good. From Socrates to Mahatma Gandhi, the speakers of truth and advocates of good have been punished by a majority addicted to the illusions of both. Socrates, who was declared guilty and awarded death by drinking poison hemlock, had a chance to escape. He chose not to. ‘A true philosopher is not afraid of death’ he said. He chose to drink the poison.

At this very moment, thousands of young doctors all over India have chosen not to run away from the deadly virus: because they believe in the ultimate sacrifice: for saving the life of millions. They are the true heroes of India. If a soldier dies, the whole nation rises to salute the sacrifice. Nearly 400 doctors die, and our administrators said they did not have information about it in the parliament. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Digital India, where there wasn’t a day without messages about Aadhar cards, PAN linking, etc., and so many other messages reached everyone, yet unable to know tell how many doctors died. We can tell exactly how many patients were positive, how many tests were done, how many discharged or recovered, but we cannot tell how many doctors died while treating them. Shame!

Thousands of junior / PG doctors, interns and medical officers are being forced to work not only against their wish, but against all fair constitutional rights. They are being threatened and punished even after overworking. Their salaries have been cut, some have not been paid for months now. Everyday, patients too are frantically searching for good covid care beds.

Hospitals are overflowing, no beds available in some places, many centers are closing down because of lack of resources, but what we really need now is an IPL. We don’t have money to pay the doctors, create more healthcare resources for thousands of dying patients, but we can definitely watch cricket and forget all that. There’s nothing wrong with sports or entertainment, but is this the right time? Will the IPL profits be used for creating more hospitals? All through the economic crisis, I was amazed by the perpetual news of few Indians getting higher on the list of the richest in the world. I do believe that they are good at whatever they do. However, what was most ironical was that yesterday I read the news of people urging one of India’s richest businessman to buy the Man-U team. Mind you, people did not want a hospital for the dying poor, people did not ask the billionaire to pay the unpaid covid warriors, they asked him for buying a football team!

Add to this the new law about Violence against healthcare workers “During pandemic”. How can this be best described? “No murders, crimes, corruption during summer months”? Or “No stupid talking between 10 AM and 10.30 AM”?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The point is, dear Covid warrior doctors, please understand that the society does not want you, it only wants your free service without offering either respect or remuneration. The government has not even responded to our petition about human rights for doctors who have been slogging, carrying the pandemic burden on their shoulders as everyone else hogs the credit of recovering patients. Postgrad medical students have been denied education in their own branch for over six months now. They have been denied leave, permission to meet sick parents, or even a quarantine after exposure that is followed world over. They also face extremely hostile relatives and goons every day in hospitals. Many doctors who died just as they started their careers, are not even acknowledged! Just as every responsible institution in the country has taken precautions to safeguard itself from the virus, working online, just as the parliament is mulling over whether to cut short the monsoon session as some members were positive, no one wants to think about those actually dying every day facing covid patients: our doctors.

I have never felt so frustrated about the future of doctors in India. I have carried a proud torch of being an Indian medico and am blessed to have a great connection with most present generations of brilliant doctors, but I haven’t slept peacefully last few months knowing that my juniors, students are left to die in the pandemic. Every effort being made is quashed or falls on deaf ears.

I can only say to every doctor in the covid ward right now: humanity will always be grateful to you for drinking this poison hemlock just like Socrates did: bravely and in service of truth and good. If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, he won’t have published his own achievements, instead, he would have made the country realize how indebted it is to your sacrifice. I believe in the power of one. Mobs never achieve anything. Each one of you out there is a hero saving lives, even when your own countrymen seem to have forgotten and abandoned you.

My Standing Ovation to every doctor working right now anywhere in the world, especially in India.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Picture Courtesy: By Walter Crane The story of Greece : told to boys and girls (191-?) by Macgregor, Mary, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32804549