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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

Who Won Over The Pandemic In India?

Who Won Over The Pandemic In India?
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the covid situation improves, now begins the race for looting the credit and masking, twisting the reality. There’s a lot yet to happen, we hope there’s no second peak, the situation is best described as unpredictable at present.
It will be conveniently forgotten that hundreds of doctors, policemen, labourers, many covid warriors like nurses, hospital support staff, ambulance drivers, and government officials died to save millions of Indians. It will be downplayed that hospitals and staff therein were pushed to inhuman tasks for over eight months, some without payment. It will be never recorded that many PG students died due to unfair and unsafe postings during this pandemic, thousands worked without payment for months. It will also be conveniently forgotten that private hospitals- usually treated by society and politicians as “money minded looters” – were the only existing mechanism that could save our country from a much larger death toll.
The reality is that millions of patients went home because our private hospitals, doctors, nurses treated them day and night, without caring for their own family.

It will be comfortably masked that many government healthcare facilities were a failure, that enough manpower could not be found to man jumbo centers, that we lacked any other government machinery to provide healthcare in such a situation except arm-twisting and exploiting private practitioners and hospitals. Let us never commit the mistake of presuming that such a pandemic will be a one-time rare event as some evil countries now know what biowarfare can lead to. While electoral speeches will claim “Success” in defeating covid, the truth remains: that COVID has exposed us, our poor preparedness and arbitrary actions often without estimations of how they will affect millions of poverty-ridden illiterates. While sloganeering and declarations of “Thousands of crores” will be announced for people during elections, no one will question why we have not built any more hospitals, why we are not recruiting more qualified doctors in government set-ups, and why doctors find it impossible to work at govt-run hospitals. The sad stories of big netas getting admitted in biggest private hospitals and getting best of healthcare while the poor people on the street kept dying because they could not find ambulance, ICU, hospital or even family members to support will never be forgotten. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We will never know who and why was given “Fast-track” certification for the emergency production and sale of huge quantum of PPE kits, masks, gloves, sanitisers, medicines (which were later declared questionable), tests for covid etc. Enormous profits were extracted even from doctors treating covid patients (because we all have paid huge amounts in last ten months for the safety gears, sanitisers etc.). We will never know how many thousand crores were earned by those who sold “immunity boosters” without a FDA validated scientific proof, taking advantage of illiteracy, ignorance and superstition in our country. The profits earned by one and all by the sale of these pandemic-essentials will remain hidden, and the bashing of private hospitals for overcharging will continue.

Let’s get the facts right: the private healthcare has sacrificed bigtime in this pandemic to save the life of millions. The credit of saving our beloved nation from a far more devastating outcome goes to these private hospitals, doctors at both private and government hospitals, postgraduate students, many brave, daredevil police officers, administrators like collector / commissioners, other grassroot covid warriors. Most declared policies were either ineffective or redundant. The courts in some states and even the Supreme court had to intervene and correct some wrong decisions, which itself saved many and eased the life of many more, we will be grateful to the Judges who took the best possible view of a blurred scenario. I must humbly thank certain political leaders, chief ministers of few states and others in the government for their individual hard work and involvement in this fight.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Yet, as our great nation India recovers, there will be proud chest-thumping by some leaders about “I / We defeated Covid Virus”. No. We doctors are a scientific community unblinded by bias. We know that Covid has unmasked the glaring, shameful shortcomings in our system. Covid has shown us our misplaced priorities. Covid has exposed the hollow claims of us being a developed, civil society. The number of maskless literates even during the peak of this pandemic is a proof of how backward we are as a community. India has almost no respectable medical research, we have a shameful federal healthcare infrastructure, we are considering non-doctors as teachers in medical colleges already sinking in quality, we have to rely upon quacks for healthcare delivery to the poorest and the rural, and yet the headlines of us donating nearly two million N95masks, HCQS to other countries gives us a feeling of pride, and we sing songs of a glorified glory.

The entire credit of pulling the country through this pandemic goes to every grassroot warrior, junior doctor, other doctor, nurse, private hospital, administrator, police. officer, and donors of multiple crores who sacrificed their life, family, or lifetime earnings for India.
Let no one befool you to believe otherwise.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to the real COVID warriors.

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The Good News: ‘Life Is In Brains’

Last three years we were planning a beautiful, comprehensive and patient friendly, “All under one roof” Neuroscience set-up at Ruby Hall Clinic.

Specialty Clinics for Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Epilepsy, Vertigo, Stroke, Brain Tumors, and all neurological investigations will be available here, on this floor. Also Neuropsychology, Speech Therapy and Counsellor for family members dealing with difficult illnesses.

My dynamic CEO Mr. Bomi Bhote has long dreamt of a world-class Neuroscience department at Ruby Hall.
“Give our society something to remember you for” he said often. I have tried my best to design this fully new Superspecality Neuroscience Department. After many meetings and many precious inputs from Dr. Purvez Grant, Dr. Manisha Karmarkar (COO), and Dr. Rebecca John, and the blessings of senior Doctors like Dr. Ravi Gulati, MD Dr. Sanjay Pathare we added one stop troubleshooting and convenience so that patients do not have to roam around.

Mr. Iqbal Chaney, Dr. Abhijit Rokade, Mr. Shailesh Kelkar, Mr. Avro Chatterjee, Mrs. Nilofer Shaikh, Mr. Tushar Patil, Ms. Ansha and so many others contributed to the efficient beauty of this set-up.

One item on the top of my bucket list thus ticked off: giving Pune, Maharashtra and India a Neuroscience Department to bank upon. This is just the beginning.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Suicide In Our Brain


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My mom once badly thrashed me up for jumping into a river for swimming (and for many other things I cannot mention here). The sadness of not getting my dream PG seat of surgery nearly killed me. A very brilliant, extremely mischievous and beautiful girlfriend of mine had to marry someone else. Years later, I went through a divorce. During each of these phases, thoughts of suicide crossed my mind like every normal person, several times. During all exams, thoughts of suicide, poetry and a rebellious dropout haunt many. After every suicide, disturbing thoughts of ‘exactly what, how and when’ haunt any sensitive mind.

During my student days, I spent an hour daily in a small space behind our boys hostel to use the double bar, the only facility for exercise. One senior, Sunil, was also a regular visitor, and we became friends. He was repeating a term. He was always smiling, calm and an introvert. Many students made sarcastic fun about his being aloof. Somehow he was nice to me, we usually spoke about stamina building.
One morning I woke up to the shocking news of his suicide. He had hung himself in his hostel room. I had met him only two days prior, and he was as smiling and quiet as ever, had exercised well, spoken in a normal tone, and while leaving had said his customary words of parting “chal bhetu parat” (okay, we’ll meet again)”.

Many theories came forward, and a professor who was always rude to many including Sunil was gossiped a lot about. It was also revealed that Sunil was under treatment for depression since a few years. Some said he was frustrated with his failure and poverty. For a good few months, I did not dare go to that double bar again. I wondered about his parents. How could he have done this? I asked one Dr. Madhu, a psychiatrist who often visited our college from UK. He replied “Well, there is no point in presumptions and allegations. How can one not think about near and dear ones, especially while doing something so drastic with themselves? Suicide is way beyond the grasp of a normal mindset. We must never forget that although immediate causes may act like triggers, usually suicidal thoughts build up over a long period”.
I started reading more about it.

Since then I know of many medicos (and others) who committed suicide for various reasons: failures, stress and negativity, depression, disturbed relationships, blackmail, boredom, harassment etc. I’ve also managed many suicide-attempt cases like burns, hanging, poisoning, drowning or self inflicted wounds. I have followed up with some of these patients for medical issues. It is indeed difficult to deal with some of those cases. To add to the problem, some (not all) anti depressants and other medicines may worsen suicidal tendencies or cause them in a patient who did not have them earlier.

The mental suffering of a genius is beyond the realms of a normal and mediocre mindset. The more extraordinary your mind is, the more it suffers, and only a better brain is able to understand that suffering. One who can feel for others suffers most. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Two other common triggers for suicide- failure and loss- are more manageable. We are so engrossed in marrying our dreams with the rude reality around us, that we create a perpetual high-friction, tense atmosphere in our own mind. Instead, we must learn to unchain our dreams and expectations from the current reality. One can always attempt to change the situation around, but that needs a healthy mind. Unfortunately we do not have gyms made for the mind.

Human brain compels to repeat. We can develop an addiction for anything: negative or positive. The thoughts of futility, ‘having no other options’ can also make home in one’s mind. To be able to catch and prevent this can help some, but not all. Suicidal thought or intention is NOT a mental weakness. No one is any braver for not killing oneself. Suicidal thinking is a state of mind not in control of the owner of that mind, and can be reversed if the right steps (seeing a psychologist) are taken in time. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

The importance we all give to complete acceptance and best success is cruel. Parents today want to grow up only gold-medal champions, who can then never be graceful in their failures, or satisfied with being the second best. Lesser success is no success today. No one achieves all that they want. To be able to accept failure must be taught from school. A different, failure-accepting attitude by parents and society during development of a child’s mindset is desperately required. Tying failure to the feeling of being inadequate and worthless is a common crime we all commit.

That brings us to the last thought of this article: we must learn to never let the behaviour of others affect our joys. The wise will get this immediately: one deliberate hurt is too many, never allow another. Exit the situation, it is not called running away, it is protecting yourself. A Mahatma Gandhi cannot feel comfortable amongst a gang of mafias. That said, if all suicides are investigated well, many others in future can be prevented: white collared and financial criminals, trust-breakers who instigate others for suicide are quite common in our society.

Sometimes it is an internal phenomenon to have suicidal thoughts, some other times a sudden emotional shock or breakdown can provoke such an action. We must take every mention of a suicide seriously, even if the person is smiling or casual while saying it. A change in behavior pattern of a beloved introvert can also be an alarm, one must spend more time with them without being intrusive. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Glamorisation of suicide is an open abuse perpetrated upon our social conscience, worst in India, and should be declared criminal, as this may fatally affect some potential young minds. The mindless repetition of suicidal news has a devastating effect on many stressed minds, and who is not stressed today?

Medicine is a difficult career: long, hard and emotionally fatiguing, with late rewards (rarely financial), and legendarily thankless. Many doctor work on the verge of thoughts about quitting. The concept for vacation, rest or good sleep is not allowed to most doctors. This drives some across the edge. The only way to stop this is that each and every doctor looks after their own stress levels, that they take adequate rest and sleep, find leisure and entertainment, every few days. Socio-federal expectations never end, while our life withers away.

A change in career is a good idea, if you feel frustrated for long. One can always excel in a PG branch once not wanted, one can reappear and pass exams, one will meet better people. Most importantly for medicos, education is not a forever state, and after passing, medicine enables us to practice anywhere we like. Let us not make drastic decisions affected by transient scenarios like bad seniors, frustrating workloads or those recurring breakup’s! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

If given a chance again, I will choose nothing but to be the Neurologist that I am today. The memories of that thrashing by mom strengthen my resolve to stand up to the unpleasant and stern parenting duties so crucial for the safety of my own children. That divorce liberated me (and her) from many more years of painful discomfort. Life, even without anything that I possess now, is still beautiful. Still, every single thing that I possess today is a dream for many, and adds to the inherent beauty of my life. That deeply roots my faith in the wisdom “Whatever happens is for good“. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

There are many glaring examples of those who turned tables to win over fate, overcame failures, deception, breakups, crises- financial and emotional, defamation, bullying and humiliation. Almost all of them have dealt with suicidal thoughts, some sought right help, and now are living proofs that this is possible only if one lives on.

I feel like whispering to every silently suffering soul out there: Dream, fight, chill, win or lose, but never give anyone the right to take away your charm. That little muscle-machine ticking in your chest right now, the insane neurochemical chatter of your neurons which makes you say ‘I think’, are miracles specifically made for you. That little hand you hold, someone’s moist eyes upon seeing you, and the enormous capacity of your coconut to imagine a beautiful future – are all precious blessings. Let’s not belittle them by asking for something more just to smile once again.
Smile NOW for what you are, smile NOW for what you have!

About that b. em.& b.. girlfriend… well I fondly miss her still, but every time I think of her, I cannot help smiling!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Two Shades of Nepotism, and Doctors.


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Surgery final exams.Butterflies.
My best friend and me were sweating since last few nights.

My turn, a case of breast cancer. I did well, but obviously it is not possible to answer everything, and there comes the “Sorry Sir, I don’t know” moment, I said it. The kind external examiner smiled at the end, a positive sign. I started on the next short case nearby. My best friend was presenting to the same examiners when I was recording my next case. Poor guy, he had a difficult case and was confusing. He was better than me in surgery, and here he was, not doing well. Just then, his uncle, a senior surgery professor, entered our ward, and our examiners stood up to wish him. They were his students. Our professor wished my friend best luck, and said to the examiners he hoped his nephew did well.

I got enough marks to cross the first class, my friend was far ahead. While I secretly resented that my friend had an advantage, I knew he was a good student, and it did not hurt much. Maybe, if it was an enemy my reactions would have been different. Many examiners in India actually discriminate between an outsider (belonging to non-medical parents) and insider (belonging to doctors, especially from the same institute), or on the basis of caste, language, and even gender.

Gender discrimination and its various shades are nothing new in India and still a taboo to write about, but there are beneficiaries and victims of this anomaly. There was a girl in my college, not very academic, who did ‘impress’ the examiners with her beauty and smile. We saw some male professors being partial to her because she was exceptionally beautiful and had a model-like personality. She always passed with very good grades, got the best ranks, and eventually married a similar rich and handsome guy. Nothing in this story offends me, these are the ways of today’s world, but since centuries probably. I know that most beautiful women also face a reverse discrimination, i.e. even after being the best they are accused of using their looks to get what they want. They are usually above the tendency to reply to such allegations.

A very wise quote mentioned in almost all spiritual texts says “Imagine yourself in their place before you speak about someone”. What would I have done, if my uncle was a Surgery professor, and could ‘push me up’ a little bit? Or, a more difficult question, would I have taken advantage if I was a woman with really good looks? Well, the answers are not very pleasant, and certainly not universal. I wished I had a Godfather in medicine, to guide and protect me. However I do not hate those who have one. Not having a godfather helped me grow better and stronger, and I always found ways to create enough opportunities for myself, to face this reality head-on rather than engage in a blame game about it.

Nepotism and discrimination are not new, in fact it is an ancient tradition in many cultures, like some other questionable traditions. From Kings and Priests to classical singers, people have preferred their own over deserving others. For example, if a wrestler has struggled and won medals, name and fame, he would want his progeny to excel in his own craft, and will do everything possible to help his own son/ daughter. Only those who can say ‘ I will never help my son / daughter / friend to excel in their career, I will never invest for them, never use my goodwill to get them the best life should be able to criticise nepotism in true sense. Nepotism is the naked truth about almost every profession, from politics to mafia. Even genetically (this might need a broader-grasp mind) there are certain things which people inherit an ability to do better. Right from famed watchmakers to singers, dancers, and some artists in fact retain their craft strictly within families, and proudly keep it a secret. So long as they do not prevent someone else from making their craft, or do not stand in the way of others, one cannot blame nepotism. Why should we presume that the son of a great singer cannot be a greater singer if given a chance?

Unless everyone in our society is mature enough to swear not to help their own family and friends and follow that, unless we eliminate nepotism by laws that apply to everyone, we cannot selectively blame one profession or other about it. While we evolve away from it, we must also accept that near and dear ones will always be the favoured ones as a human tendency, with rare exceptions. If a woman is rich enough, she can buy a Mercedes for her daughter, and her neighbour has no case crying nepotism because their kid was denied a Merc. However, if the neighbouring child’s toy is snatched, then alone there can (and should) be an argument. A true anti-nepotism sentiment should be to help every hungry and homeless kid we see on the roads, as they need food and home more than our overfed kids do. Is that happening?

Most of the politicians, businessmen, and even doctors who have reached heights in their careers have tried to rope in their own near and dear ones in their field of expertise. That has never prevented outsiders in any field from reaching where they are destined to reach with their hard work. In fact, outsiders are often seen reaching higher and farther than those who get help and support early on. I have very strong feelings about those with money buying out medical undergraduate and postgraduate seats while those without money and just merit having to let their valid claim vanish. What money does when it changes hands is far worse than what nepotism does in any field. There are other vices far worse than nepotism in every profession. Taking advantage of gender, power and connections to disrepute, defame or emotionally torture others are far worse. There’s nothing wrong in helping one’s own, but it should not be at the cost of destroying others. If a doctor has established a great hospital with his life’s blood and sweat, he will obviously want his own child to own it rather than conducting an international survey for researching the most eligible person to run it. I am not at all in favour of Nepotism, but I strongly feel about the misuse of this term by those who openly practice cronyism, favoritism and shoelickism.

To choose a vice that suits one’s immediate cause and ignore one’s own ‘bypasses’ to success, being thankless to those few who made one successful is a creepy tendency. Many who accuse others of having ‘Godfathers’ gladly indulge in other types of ‘push-pull’ tactics for utterly selfish gains. In medicine too, while we gradually become more objective, we should try and also eliminate our own faults before raising fingers at others. Every doctor should be graceful enough to be above short term attention seeking. If we don’t understand good and bad mentalities, who will? The best we can do is to concentrate on the good we can do, while fighting with a smile those who suppress others. We can never forget that there indeed were people who helped us.

Nepotism will create only a transient glitter. The beautiful spirit of eternity is never affected by it.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir, we are screwed. The Chief Minister and other ministers have closed all doors, they won’t respond. Our careers are in grave danger. Can you please help us?” I frantically spoke.
From the other end of the phone, the Don, Dr. Nitu Mandke answered: “See me at my home at 12 midnight”.
The Maharashtra state resident doctor’s agitation for dignity, national pay parity and better living conditions was on, and I was given the responsibility of coordinating and being the face. We had successfully established a multilevel network.
When students go on a strike anywhere in any field, it is almost always out of desperation, either for dignity or for rebellion against some sort of suppression by the system. Students never rebel for money or power. This raw student power is almost as mighty as the army, and although it falls prey to political misuse sometimes, it has tremendous capacity towards achieving intellectual evolution of the society. The government always treats any unrest as an offence to its ego, and uses everything at its disposal: CID, Police, Administration, Force, Threats, Caste Politics, Cheating and Legal torture to mow down student agitations. Students have no money, no experience and rare political or social backing, and must unite and stand up for themselves. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

On the fourth day of the strike, a big politico from the ruling alliance came over to our office at Mumbai KEM. There was no telling between him and a mafia goon. The members of student’s central committee: Dr. Sanjay Singh, Dr. Dinesh Kabra, Dr. Narender Sheshadri, Dr. Pramod Giri, Dr. Nilesh Nikam, Dr. Kuldeep, Dr. Vishal Sawant, Dr. Noor, Dr. Shahid, and few others were with me. The politico did not have any scruples using an arrogant, raw and filthy language to threaten that if we do not stop and withdraw the strike, our careers and even life will be in danger. As he was from the ruling party and threatened us in presence of the police, there was nothing we could say.
There are angels everywhere. A senior police officer who was supposed to “keep a constant watch” upon us ‘student leaders’ was quite fatherly. He told us “Do what you must, but don’t declare. Dumb people cannot interpret silence. Stay away from any violence”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Unknown calls kept threats alive. That is when a resident doctor suggested we meet the Don: Dr. Nitu Mandke, the famous heart surgeon who was known to be a fearless, straightforward celebrity doctor.

We went to his home, and waited, hosted by his extremely courteous family. He returned home past midnight. We briefed him the details. He asked a few questions to assess our determination and strength. He asked us to stay united and avoid any misbehaviour during the agitation. To our surprise, he picked up the cellphone and called the Chief Minister’s PA. The CM was fortunately available, and talked to Dr. Mandke. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

After the call, Dr. Mandke told us: “CM has advised us to meet the Deputy CM tomorrow. Two of you come to Lilavati Hospital tomorrow at 2 PM. I will take you to the DyCM.”.
At Lilavati hospital, Dr. Mandke’s chamber was intimidatingly clean and posh, yet simple. He checked our applications for the CM and corrected them with his beautiful pen. His briefcase had every essential of writing stationary, the mark of a perfect man.

As we waited, I asked him cautiously: “Sir, shall we start?” He replied that he was waiting for someone to carry the bag on his table. I offered that I will carry it. He laughed his thunderous laugh, and looked at us as if we were small puppies. “ Deshpandyaa, that bag has two and a half crore rupees cash for construction of my hospital. A professional bodyguard will carry it. People kill for that. Do you want to carry it?”. I shut up.

In his big car, for the 45 minutes that his bodyguard drove us to the DyCM, I asked Dr. Nitu Mandke questions about what was going through his mind when he was actually operating the Shiv Sena Supremo Mr. Balasaheb Thackeray. Such an enormous pressure it must have been!
“Oh yes, it was stressful. But he is a gentleman, and he had assured my safety. His word is enough”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

That’s when we told him how some politicos had threatened us recently. He laughed and replied something that has been tattooed upon my cortex permanently:
“Rajas, a doctor is a doctor and king of lives forever. Politicos come and go. Idiots misbehave with others when the have any post or power, in any field. You should not budge. It is pathetic to see doctors licking shoes of those in power, under various pretexts. It is up to you to maintain your dignity and pride. That is the true luxury, everyone cannot afford it. So long as you do the right thing, fear nothing. The few crores in that bag is nothing compared to how I feel about myself”.

We entered the VIP zone and bungalow. His car was not stopped anywhere. The DyCM offered us tea, and gave us a patient listening.
“These junior doctors and students are my boys, our own boys, they will look after the health of our people tomorrow. You must help them” Dr. Mandke insisted. The DyCM assured he will. The spell was broken, talks resumed.
Many twists and turns later, one of the most memorable strikes was called off.

A year later, I saw a white Lexus car in our KEM campus at Mumbai. Fond of cars and having never touched a Lexus, I went to see it from a close distance. Just as I tried to touch it, the driver’s window rolled down, and I heard “Deshpandyaa, open the door and come in. Do you like my new car?”
And I sat besides the King of proud men, one of the most proficient Cardiac Surgeons, Dr. Nitu Mandke, in his Lexus. The feeling is unforgettable, not only for the Lexus, but for his simplicity, love and affection for a ‘nobody’, a junior doctor like myself!

Needless to say, then onwards, I have guarded my dignity and pride as a doctor more than any other possession I have. That took away many opportunities and huge finances, still I am doing quite well by God’s grace, and Dr. Mandke’s blessings.
How I feel about myself is more precious than anything I can earn. The luxury of pride is mine.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all students, resident doctors, proud people in every field, student unions and their apolitical fearless leaders.
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“It seems this hospital is distributing death to the patients”

“Aisa Lag Raha Hai Ki Ye Hospital Marijon Ko Maut Baant Raha Hai”

A leading and brilliant Indian TV anchor has framed this sentence. There are over a million deaths all over the world, covid hospitals are burdened up with dead bodies in almost all countries, and the whole medical fraternity is on the frontline, all Indian hospitals have cooperated with whatever demands were made by the government. Still, the news anchor obviously implies that the hospital is ‘handing out’ death in such cases.

It is NOT the doctor’s duty to shift patients and dead bodies, still they are doing this wherever there’s no staff. But if you expect that the docs leave critical patients to die and please the TV cameras, it will never happen, our ethics are supreme.

He didn’t say that:

:Virus is distributing death
:Those responsible for inadequate healthcare are distributing death
Or
:Irresponsible people who don’t follow rules are distributing death

He just blamed the hospital like a Judge.
Media Judge.

We have few questions:
Why didn’t the journalist/ reporter who was shooting this case and crying that the patient didn’t have enough clothes give this patient his own clothes?
Why didn’t he shift the patient to other hospital which had beds?
Did the reporter take written consent from the patient to shoot him naked?
Did the reporter call helpline to attend this patient? What was the government’s response?

And lastly, is this happening only in certain states?

Please stop making TRP business out of dying patients. Why aren’t administrators stopping the interference with healthcare in hospital?

हॉस्पिटल मरीजो को मौत नहीं बांट रहा, कोरोना मौत बांट रहा है, और आप जैसे रिपोर्टर उस मौत का तमाशा बनाकर पैसे कमा रहे हो. सवाल उनसे किजिये जो इन हालात के लिये जिम्मेदार हैं. डॉक्टर और हॉस्पिटल्स अपना अपना काम कर रहे हैं. आदरणीय प्रधानमंत्री की सूचना का आप भी पालन किजीये, और कोरोना योद्धाओं के खिलाफ़ जहर फैलाना बंद किजीये.

(No hospital is distributing deaths, but corona virus is, and people like you are making money by exploiting their deaths for earning money by dramatising everything. If you dare, ask questions to the right people. Doctors and hospitals are working to full capacity to serve patients and the nation. You must first learn to respect the words of Hon’ble PM, and not spread lies against medical frontline warriors.)

Stop your poisonous blah.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Last Bullet For Indian Private Healthcare


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Many doctors, nurses and other staff, police officers are dying due to corona exposure. Recently the quarantine period of doctors was cancelled. To add to this, very ridiculously, doctors’ salaries were reduced, and covid funds were deducted from even frontline warriors’ salary. This is like taking money from a soldier’s paycheck to fund the army!!

When I recently heard some people shouting about excess bills in hospitals, doctors not working etc., I felt like shouting back too, but one cannot argue with a sold TV screen.

For decades India has had
Excess urban crowding,
Very poor hygiene.
Very high poverty and illiteracy.
Lack of town-planning for slums.
Severe lack of state/ national healthcare infrastructure.
Tiniest budget for healthcare.
Perpetually under-functioning government hospitals. Every season hundreds die due to epidemics.

Where were you till before the pandemic? Who is responsible for all of the above? Do you want to discuss these factors which are responsible for the pandemic chaos today? Or now you just blame it all upon Doctors and Private hospitals?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Only private doctors with small nursing homes and dispensaries, clinics were shouldering all healthcare needs that government hospitals could not provide. They had low profits and catered to middle and lower class. These were destroyed in last few years because of too many stringent regulations and costly licensing. Many closed down. Legal troubles by relatives, politicos supporting them and vandalising hospitals forced many private doctors to stop admitting patients. Protection to doctors was denied by almost all governments till before this pandemic.

Indian poverty is never ending, and charity cannot run anything perpetually unless there’s a strong fund generating mechanism supporting it. If someone expects that doctors charging 2 rupees fees are the ideal healthcare for all our medical needs, they should happily go to such a doctor. We highly respect them too, but it is their choice and there are obvious limitations to that. To develop advanced healthcare in India, higher profits were necessary for higher investment. Corporates, some businessmen and the likes of Mr. Ambani pitched in. Advanced healthcare with heart and liver transplants, complicated brain surgeries, cancer treatments came to India because of these investors. They accepted all the conditions of governments to accommodate over twenty percent poor, nonpaying patients via various schemes. The payments for running these schemes were delayed by various govts for years, and the hospitals were arm-twisted in still continuing to treat everyone. The only source of profits was private and some insurance patients who were paying a higher fees for facilities: from air-conditioning, food to choice of specialists. Higher quality of staff, especially nursing and technicians who can operate high end machinery and robotics requires very high salaries. Maintenance costs are heavy. A specialist cannot do much without such a very good team. Each of these requires good if not great salaries, as they are continuously invited by developed countries who pay far higher.

But then every patient wants the highest facilities, best staff and specialist team, with no payment or basic payment. There’s no concept of billing beyond actual price of medicines and room charges. Service and maintenance is considered a ‘free right’. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Even in this modern era of equality, a higher class Indian officer like a minister gets a higher room, better food and other facilities, even higher medical bill sanctions, whereas the labourer from his department gets minimum basic facilities and bill eligibility only for general ward. Law allows higher healthcare’s standards and payments for higher officials. Why do they even have classes in railways and airplanes? If a “Gareeb bechara” migrant wants to fly home, should we offer him road transport or compassionate air travel? Why don’t we do for all the poor something that you all expect doctors and hospitals to do?

We don’t mind if basic and emergency healthcare is uniformly cheap or free for everyone. But when you force a high-end medical commodity (skill-time-investment-staff) to be sold at a loss or extremely marginal profit, you kill the system.

Doctors do not differentiate when making a diagnosis or treating anyone from any financial/ power background. But the private hospitals must be allowed to cater to different classes, earning their profits. That is their only stimulus to grow forward, engage best personnel and bring advanced healthcare to India. Different governments have failed at maintaining high standards of healthcare in their respective set-ups (with some proud exceptions- but because that’s where our powerful go). Some hospitals indeed take more bills for better class of services, including staff, but none of them forces a patient to come to them. Even these hospitals never deny free emergency treatment to anyone.

“But isn’t healthcare a charity? Haven’t you taken oaths to serve?” our loudmouth hypocrites ask.

Yes we have taken an oath to serve everyone rich and poor equally, but no, we have not taken any oath to neglect our own health and well being. Yes we have taken an oath to serve, but we have not taken any oath to live in perpetual poverty and financial stress. Yes we are under an oath to do our best for every patient, but we will not be bending backwards to fulfil their unreasonable demands. Yes we want to save every life, even if it is dangerous , but we will not unnecessarily endanger our own life because someone forces us. We haven’t taken an oath to abandon our families. The Hippocratic oath does not ask any doctor to stay hungry, work without sleep, and do the unscientific because various governments cannot pay for adequate number of doctors. Still we are doing all this already. Let us be clear: we proudly and intellectually serve our country, but we refuse to be considered slaves of either the system or the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Capping bills in private hospitals will be the last bullet for all advances in healthcare development in India. Be prepared to go back to the chaos of ancient times in that case. Quality will suffer most: right from specialists to nurses to medicines. You can of course force one generation of doctors to work like this, under low cost and excess work. People aren’t fools to send their children to such hells of social slavery. Yes you read that right. There’s a difference between service and slavery. Do not attempt to turn medical service providers into slaves. It will backfire very sourly.

Instead of this, the government can invest in existing private healthcare players to create low cost infrastructure alongside their private hospitals, or privatising its own healthcare institutions with increased capacity. Our governments do have friends in very high places who can invest.

We love India. We are not against any particular government, and this post is not against any leader or party. But we do feel very strongly that healthcare decisions must be made involving everyone concerned, that this people-pleasing for short term will turn out to be a huge disaster in long run, and it will be irreversible. If any government thinks that cancelling hospital permits and doctors’ licences in a country with severe shortage of medical services is the right way forward, God help it.

If private and corporate hospitals start shutting down now, it will be permanent. India will then have to mostly rely upon prayers alone for healthcare. And of course those who think they know medical science more than doctors. India has no dearth of such “fatally self-medicating” ignoramuses.

Jai Hind

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Disoriented


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, he appears confused. He has delusions. He was very methodical and logical earlier. He had excellent deduction and was considered a genius among his colleagues. Yet now he himself does not understand that he is making gross mistakes in making simple decisions. He appears completely disoriented…” the lady gave me an update in a deeply concerned voice. The devastating fear of mental, intellectual decline of a beloved is not grasped by all. For want of simplicity, we term it dementia. However, the meaning of this term is far broader and deeper than what most people can grasp, and the mental agony that the spouse goes through is beyond many a people’s emotional basket too. Infections and low sodium levels can often worsen the mental-cognitive personality of the elderly. I advised her a few tests to be done urgently and returned to my quarantine chores.

Her words kept on echoing for some time in my mind. This pandemic has challenged what the humanity perceived as truth till date. Disoriented, demented, illogical, delusional: isn’t that what the whole humanity has become today? Hasn’t this virus uncovered our intellectual, emotional limitations and selfish vulnerabilities? Have we not become exactly what the best human souls taught us never to become: money minded selfish humanoids hiding behind facades of clever and intelligent, politically correct wordplays, fatally attracted to glamour and clamour, emotionally cut off from the world, concentrating upon our families, cults, religions and regions? And of course, intermittently well-crafting the social service façade by donations, our signature face on every penny.

Financial success and numbers have become the new, hidden definition of life. Some wisely hide the word ‘Financial’ in the prior sentence. We won’t be able to name any financially unsuccessful / poor geniuses from the fields of medicine, science, art and even sports. I do not hate capitalism, in fact I believe that wealth creators are the ones who fuel the world. But among these are the compassionate and human who would rather be a million short of their billion rather than destroying a competitor and his/ her business. Squeezing-twisting every arm in the giant machinery that governs laws to finish everyone else and engulf everything with a gluttony that is hailed as business acumen is a real tragedy unfolding right now. We very gladly become the proud cogwheels of such ‘man-eating’ giant machineries that bleed competitors to a certain death.

While never being able to make peace with our neighbours we speak of world peace. We cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge the good in our competitors and enemies, we cannot deal with those with a different religion or country, come what may! While excepting ourselves from laws and rules we blame and blast those others who break laws. While secretly cultivating the filthy “money is all that matters” gene in our next generation, we encourage blindness towards the moral, ethical bypasses required to earn humungous money. The amount of real happiness, truth and honesty that needs to be sacrificed to be extremely rich is the worst inheritance our next generations will have to suffer from. Clever Wordplays is the sociopolitical success mantra of today!

I had never thought that I will witness anything more emotionally traumatic after seeing the hundreds of dead bodies and bleeding, broken-bone victims during the Killari earthquake. Today’s migrant crisis appears to cause deeper wounds than that upon our soul. This is a very tragic question, but what causes more hurt: witnessing dead bodies or extreme suffering of the living? Millions of migrants facing the worst wrath of fate, walking under a scorching sun towards a faraway home with their children, some dying, some delivering on the roads, strong men and women labourers breaking down and wailing – will be a shameful and guilty memory which I will carry for the rest of my life. We have excess caps and shoes; they are walking in rude heat bare headed and barefoot for hundreds of miles. We are discovering new cooking skills, they are discovering new depths of hunger. We are complaining about broken air conditioners, they are gasping for a glimpse of their beloveds in their zuggi-zopdi. We are too comfortable and grateful knowing that we are not them.

That India is overpopulated appears to be our strength on social media. We can show how many million fans, hits and likes there are, but we cannot speak a word about a tragedy which happens right in our backyard. We are scared of the worst: socio-political ostracisation, defamation, destruction of a hard-earned reputation and closure of financial support for survival. An intellectual is more scared of losing freedom of creativity, giving his best to the world and so mostly decides to be a silent spectator around strongmen with their invisible socio-political weaponry. Society as a whole has never protected or rewarded its intellectuals, especially in backward countries.

This pandemic will go. Few will have changed their perceptions of the world. Few understand that anything requiring a crowd must please a crowd’s intelligence quotient. Because crowds gather for hate easier than for love. Look at what content gets the best response: hate mongering, roasts, nudity, vulgar language and sloganeering. None of these is a proud achievement of humanity, yet these are the top hits. Pleasing a crowd can entertain, can earn one money, fame and votes too, but cannot ever bring this world health, happiness or peace. Entertainment, although critically essential for a stress-free mind, although soul-awakening, will never be among the first essentials of reducing hunger, pain, disease and suffering. There indeed was a time when entertainment was creative, with art, literature, acting, music and sports, fulfilling for the soul, but now only the superficial, jaded antics and the gaudy glitter with numbers remains the identity of most entertainment forms.

We indeed are disoriented. Yes, I too am guilty of some such disorientation. I have consciously decided to change. I do not have all answers right now, but I better appreciate the bigger picture now. My perceptions of what matters most have further changed. My faith in human nature has been deeply wounded, but my hope has always won, and I will help it heal even now. The current crises just told me what human race truly needs. My wish to make everyone understand has decided to take a back seat. My wish to do what I can is in the driving seat now. My contribution will be probably too small, but I have started.

I want to be well oriented for the rest of my life.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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