It was a pleasant surprise when my phone notification pinged a comment on my blog, which has been defunct for the better part of a year now. The rather infamous work life IMbalance had thrown my blogging life out of gear and my kept my face book visits limited to clearing long pending notifications!
The comment and the fact that one of my very good friends started a blog, brought back a rush of feelings and memories – of the blog meet in Mumbai, my blogger friends whom I had hardly kept in touch with and of the sheer pleasure of having someone read what I have written and think it worthwhile to comment on!
With the itch to write came the ominous feeling of dread. It has been a really long and eventful year in my life which has drastically changed the way I think and work (or so I would like to believe). Kept wondering whether my writing would have a different voice, whether I could convey things which others liked too (after all, most of the pleasure of writing comes from being read) and whether I had burnt out. It took a whole fortnight full of contemplation before I actually decided that there was only one way to find out. That is, to jump in wholeheartedly and leave the rest to my readers.
I recently came upon a study done to assess which friendships would endure the test of time. Scientists analysed eight million phone calls between two million people and found that what retains the bond of close friendships is something as simple as staying in touch every two weeks. That. Is. All.
This makes me conclude that I want to make time to stay in touch with all of those who read my blog and have been supporting me on this journey of mine where I think, I feel and I say.
It’s been a long long time since I sat down to actually write something. The past few months have been a blur of activity and heartache, both of which do not bode well for my blogging neurons. If I had heard of the writer’s block earlier, now I knew how it felt. I would spend time sitting in front of my laptop,and no words would come out. No idea of what I wanted to say. And absolutely no thoughts generated, other than unwanted ones.
As they say, time heals. And soothes. And helps you cope. And finally the itch is back in my fingers. The urge to thump on the keys of my keyboard. The desire to browse other blogs and feel like writing again. The craving to check out if there is any bloggers meet, which I can attend. And so on.
So, I’m officially back.
Wishing all of you a very happy, though belated New Year. May all your dreams come true. this year.
This month I read some really awesome books. Books which I loved so much that I want everyone around to read and enjoy them. (And thank me profusely for recommending it to them:))).
I always wonder how it is, that in a bookstore which has thousands of books, we reach for ones which we really end up liking?
Unfortunately, my city does not have a bookstore, at least the kind that makes me drool and dream. Hence, whenever we go to Bangalore, I am armed with a list of books which I have picked up from goodreads, amazon, instagram and some blogs that I follow.
This time though, I decided to give this a miss. I entered with absolutely no idea of what I was about to lay my hands on and no expectations either. This led me to lesser known authors, authors from countries that I had never even heard of before and different genres than what I was used to reading.
And the pleasure of delving into these is unexplainable. Some of them were breezy feel good reads, some others more profound and deep.Reading them I feel, broadened my horizons, made me think, understand perspectives that I had not thought of before and made me more accepting and thankful of the life I have with the numerous uncounted blessings which I take for granted.
Now, I feel that the books somehow chose me and not the other way round. By divine providence! If I am sounding sort of mystical and philosophic, I think I need to blame it squarely on one of the books that I just finished reading called the “Forty rules of love” by a Turkish author called Elif Shafak. The books revolves around a forty year old housewife who has just embarked on her first assignment to write a report as a book editor.
Ella, the protagonist seems to have a secure, happy life on the surface. Somehow, a husband of twenty years, his secret affairs, and taking care of three children and their problems have made her disgruntled with life. As an escape, she takes to reading the manuscript which the agent has sent her.
The book contains two stories. One of Ella’s life, and the other, the story in the manuscript. This story occurs in the thirteenth century in Baghdad and Konya. The story is of the friendship between the great poet Rumi and a Sufi saint called The Shams of Tabriz.The book describes life in the thirteenth century and its social mileu beautifully.
It takes us through a journey of learning how we take certain diktats of our faith and religion a little too concretely for our own good. It shows how Rumi, who was first a preacher with no clue about poetry slowly evolves into one under the spell of his friend. It tells us about the forty rules of love that Shams applies to different times in his life. And how those same rules which were thought of, so many hundreds of years ago, apply to Ella’s life of now.
And this makes for a beautiful, mystical, unputdownable read.
After something this philosophical, I opened another called “The hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by a Swedish author called Jonas Jonasson. The book is weirdly funny, if I can call it that. The events which occur in the book, (starting literally with a centenarian climbing out of the window of his old home on the day of his birthday) seem bizarre, but plausible. This book too, has two parallel stories running side by side. One of Alan’s ( The hundred year olds’ ) past and one of his present. Alan is so unassuming a person, that he accepts anything and everything in life with a calmness that bordered on autistic! It so happens that Allan’s life follows a series of events through the first and second world war, where he is involved in the most important of events,( like opining on the final make of the atom bomb), which script history! But without waiting for the accolades or understanding the contribution he has made, he moves on to the next adventure.
I learnt quite a bit of history from this book about the two wars, much more than I had in my school. Though the story becomes sort of queer at the end, it still made some bit of sense. (Now, I am sounding weird!). I have never read something so eccentric and unconventional, and loved it! If nothing, this book can be recommended reading for history in schools!
The other beautiful book I read was “Our moon has blood clots” by Rahul Pandit, which explains the exodus of the Kashmiri pandits. The author, who has suffered the horrors of the exodus writes about problems which he faced growing up, in such an uncertain scenario. It is so beautiful and hard hitting at the same time. I think I will save it for another post.
For this weekend, I have now picked on “The bookseller of Kabul”.
For a book lover, there is no greater joy than receiving a book for a gift. Two weeks ago, when I was idly browsing the net, I read about an initiative by Blogadda, a prominent Indian blogging network to review a book. Mostly, I have no faith in contests which promise you the moon, and keep you waiting expectantly till you realise that you have been had,and then end up disappointed! I submitted my form, but a bit skeptically.Surprise surprise, five days down the line, I received a brown paper wrapped parcel, with the book “Six degrees, Game of Blogs”. Well, it sort of rekindled my faith in santa claus and the like! My mid week became more bearable with the thought of a reading weekend !
Well, even before discussing whether the book is interesting or not, I would like to say that the story of how the book came about is as novel as it is interesting.The book is not authored by a lone author. Instead, it is the result of an experiment by blogadda, to collaborate bloggers across India, and come up with stories! About three hundred bloggers participated in the contest, which was judged by authors of the caliber of Ashwin Sanghi, Ravi Subramaniam, Meghna Pant etc.. They picked three teams of ten bloggers each, and gave them a set of characters to build their stories upon. The book is a compilation of three such stories which revolve around the same five characters:
Shekhar Dutta, a stay at home dad who also happens to be a freelance writer staying in Mumbai. Tara Dutta,whois Shekhar’s wife and a media professional. Roohi Dutta is Shekhar and Tara’s 9 year old daughter.Jennifer Joseph is a Christian photographer who stays in Kochi and Cyrus Daruwala is a law student staying in Delhi.
but from different perspectives.
The Awakening. (By Team By Lines).
This is a sci fi take on these characters. I have never been a fan of science fiction, and this is probably the first one which I have read. The premise is about how the family is disrupted by the arrival of aliens, who predict the doom of earth and mankind. The story revolves around how certain changes take place in the family, which help in saving the earth. The story started off with an air of mystery which it could not quite keep up with. In the end, I felt, it sort of fizzled off tamely. But, as I am not a sci fi fiction expert, this may be a biased review! Basically, this story made me realize, that I could actually go through a book with sci fi theme and enjoy it too!
The Entangled Lives ( by team Potliwale Baba)
This story belonged to my favorite genre- a murder mystery. The characters are well etched, especially that of the police inspector. He feels so real. Someone you cannot like,but also cannot ignore because of the power he holds! The story is about a family whose maid gets murdered when there are five people in the house. The twists keep you guessing and the ending is different from what you would expect. I was more inclined towards the story because of the psychological angle, and how well the authors have managed to handle it. Usually, such themes are not well researched and make me cringe at the way they are explained. But this one was!
Missing –A journey within.( By team Tete-a –ten)
This story is mainly about human relationships and emotions. It gives a sensitive description of how emotions play out in stressful situations, the confusion and difficulties faced by homosexuals in our society and goes with the idea that, life will somehow work out in the end. It deals with a couple whose daughter goes missing. The crisis brings them together. The missing girl meets a boy, who is a homosexual, who has been abused by his seniors in college. How the girl reconciles with her parents, and the boy with his lover forms the crux of the story. Though the story is quite straight forward, it manages to capture your attention.
All in all, I liked the book because:
I found the concept new and experimentative, making me realise that no task is difficult when you put your mind to it. That ten people, who are in different parts of India could weave together a story by interacting only by internet and phones was impressive.
The book is an easy read. The stories keep you gripped and do not drag along without a strong thread.
Most importantly, I was introduced to thirty new blogs which I can follow and read up!
The only thing that left me confused was what the “Six degrees” stood for. Do read the book and solve this mystery for me!
We doctors, are suspended in a strange state of limbo. Gone are the days when consultants treated patients like minions who had to accept their judgment without questions. Also are bygone the days, when concoctions from bottles of various sizes were mixed together and passed on as panaceas for all ailments. The compounder who would dutifully carry the doctor’s bag and keep the clinic running like clockwork is also, now an extinct species.
We are now in an era where hospitals are treated like business with business models, plans, huge glassed buildings and air conditioned offices. The targets they have to meet to get such a huge gargantuan venture going, loom large in front of the doctors.
The reason we are in a limbo is probably this- that at heart we are still pompous old world people who believe in our skills and dealing with a patient who does not believe in it brings us crashing down to reality!
A lot of patients now behave as though they have come to a hospital for a business transaction. They give us money and we give them health. When the deal works well, everything is hunky dory, but when things go awry, the doctor bears the brunt of it. And how. He is beaten up, the hospital is ransacked and the staff are manhandled, before the good old police finally reach the scene.
In such a scenario, it is not strange that doctors develop a defensive attitude of not accepting our mistakes. And mistakes do happen. After all we are humans. Only, we deal with other humans!
Though treatment procedures have been standardized for years, first in the lab, then on hapless animals and then tried on humans to prevent any mishaps, we know that patients react differently to different drugs. At least 1 in 10 patients and their illness does not behave as obediently as we expect. According to a study in Australia, about 18000 deaths occur in a year due to medical errors! A lot of times the body plays tricks on us. Placing red herrings, leading us on a merry path to a destination, which is exactly at the opposite end of where we want to be. We have to start afresh then. Slightly more cautious and worried. And rarely, it does happen that we mess up bad. And it does end in the patient’s demise. A valuable but a very sad lesson.
Unfortunately, in our profession, accepting our mistake is taken as a sure fire sign of guilt. We only have the freedom to accept our mistakes when we are doing our residency, when the worst we have to face for this is the wrath of our teacher.
Therefore, when I read “Do No Harm”, by Henry Marsh, a neuro surgeon from Britain, I enjoyed it immensely.
First, because it acknowledges that we as doctors are human and need to get it into our head that failures do happen. He has portrayed himself as genuinely as possible. That, at times, he is guilty of losing his temper, sometimes his decisions have been made by how tired he was or how the weather was behaving! This admission according to me, was extraordinarily brave. l have made some purely selfish decisions, but till date ,have great difficulty in acknowledging it! It is always easier to defend myself. And hence, the greatness of this man, who has actually put it on paper.
Secondly, the book also gives us examples of the times when things do not go as expected. The moral being- catharte, accept, console, move on- but do not forget for next time!
Thirdly, that vice versa can also happen. Those whom we expect the worst to happen, go on to outlive their children and we end up being at the end of condescending glares and living room gossip. So to learn to communicate the truth, but not to give out ultimatums. Instead, to be gentle and as hopeful as possible.
Lastly, but most importantly, the book gives us insights about knowing when to stop our work and accept that nature has to take its course. As doctors we sometimes get carried away by the drama of keeping the patient alive by all means. But the consequences of such survival may be more of a burden than help. Like when the operation is a success, but the patient ends up in coma for years. The relatives are at a loss financially, emotionally and unable to take a decision about the future!
Do no harm is a book which deals with such difficult questions and circumstances which every doctor faces but is unable to voice out. It is honest, upsetting sometimes, but definitely re assuring for two reasons.
One because, it gives a sense of solace that the dilemmas shared by doctors all over, are not unique.
Two, because come what may, being honest with the patient and family, brings alive a bond akin to what was present eons ago- a sense of understanding, and a trust level which allows for acceptance even if we inadvertently harm their dear ones.
How I wish this book was a part of my medical school reading!
Monotony brings in boredom. I believe that this happens to the best of us, in whichever profession we happen to be involved in, and so medicine is no exception. Though we start of as idealistic, bright eyed, young doctors, over the years, we get jaded due to tiredness and the sheer numbers that we treat. There is hardly any time to think. Rather, we work more by force of habit, than the passion that we started of with.
Prof. B.M. Hegde, the former Vice Chancellor of MAHE University was often known to quote, that as doctors, we need to cure rarely, care often and comfort always. But in the mad juggle of life, responsibilities and work, we sometimes lose out on the sensitivity which we need to show the patient, rather than just treating him.
As a mental health professional, the number of times that I have had to diagnose a life threatening illness is less as compared to many other branches of medicine. Rather, most of the illnesses in my bag, fall in the category of life altering. Nothing remains the same after the diagnosis is made. Both for the patient and the family. A lot of times, this causes morbidity in ways which are unseen, but cause a lot of suffering. Decisions that fall outside realm of medicine, like long term medications to be given to patients who are not so willing to swallow them, the crashing of dreams which the parents would have built for their children, the change in roles and responsibilities when the bread winner of the family falls sick, the insecurity of a relapse, the frustrations of the family which work adversely on patient outcome and the societal shaming – all of which are invisible to us, but very much a part and parcel of the illness. And as it is invisible, it often becomes easy to brush off conveniently under the carpet.
It was on one of such days when I diagnosed schizophrenia in a seventeen year old boy. The mother broke down and started crying copiously. After customarily consoling her, I happened to remark that there were others who had worse forms of the disease, and so should consider herself lucky. To which she replied that maybe it was so, but she was crying not only for her son, but also for breakdown of her life which was painstakingly constructed for the past so many years. She told me that she had to cry so that she could grieve the loss, the burden and her son, and only then she could accept it. She asked for permission to cry, because she could not do it in front of her son or family. Once done, she walked away quietly, only to return for the next visit with a set of questions regarding how her son and family could cope better.
This small incident made me rethink my qualities as an effective counselor. As a doctor, I had thought it important to treat the disease, but forgot about the patient and his family. I could have consoled myself saying that the lack of time was the cause of this heartlessness, but it somehow seemed unforgivable. There are many instances that I have seen, where there are doctors with no super specialty degrees or swanky clinics, but where the Que for visiting the doctor is serpentine. What they call “Kai guna” in kannada, must be the magic of sharp observation, unhurried questioning and a profound sense of empathy used together as treatment. This combination must be more potent than all the medications and hi fi equipment put together.
From then on, I resolved to spend a little more time with my patients than just enough to spot the diagnosis. And the results have been nothing short of remarkable. Now I have extended families in my patients. The caretakers know that they have a shoulder to cry on and are hence more comfortable. Each milestone they have achieved becomes partly mine. And when the seventeen year old passed his class twelve with a first class, I got home a huge box of yummy mysurpak. There seems to be no monotony anymore.
What do you do when at the ripe old age of thirty seven, you suddenly develop feelings of confusion about the decisions that you have made in your life?? When you develop cravings, of wanting to do so many things, which in your twenties, you believed that there was enough time to do, but now, realize that you don’t. Have. That . Much. Time. After. All. When you realize that you had not bargained that the amount of time you spent in setting up a cozy home, bringing up kids and settling into your career would slowly, imperceptibly, chip away from the huge block of time, that you took for granted. Where you had planned for a grander scheme of things.
When I read things on facebook which say “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, probably you should set up a life that you do not need escaping from!” and put this under the heading of “Inspirational quotes”, I want to literally throw something at them!
Nowadays,I seem to be always wanting to escape and do something else. I crave for Saturdays so I can fantasize about Sundays. I crave vacations. I crave for quiet time with my book exactly at the same time when my daughter turns on her needy voice. I crave for work when there is less, and crave for time to laze when there is too much work. Basically, I seem to be in ‘always wanting to escape from here mode’!My normality comes from thinking that this feeling of wanting to do something else and something more, all the time, is what everyone feels and hence, also comes under the heading of what normal should be.
If that sounds strange and funny, coming from a psychiatrist,so be it. I idle browsed the ever helpful google and found a name for it. Mid life crisis. Assuming that I will die at 74, its just about the right time to develop one. Thank you google, for making me a part of a big cult of people who are, to put it simply, confused. And trying to find some way out of it!
And so, I decided that when in confusion, the best way out was full scale inertia. From hopping from one task to another maniacally, I went to vegetate mode. Not completely. But just doing the basic amount of work that I need to do, and then exist. Hence, the lack of blog posts. Because I am willing myself to slowly clear the confusion that exists in my mind. So much confusions that I was even finding myself making to do lists in my dreams!
Till inspiration finds me, or me it, my grand plan to stay sane,is to wake up, work and just be. And if some important work comes in between, just do it. Or a summer coming up, just plan a vacation and be done with it. Or if there is a request for a talk, just take it. Or a blog post brimming up into my conscious, just write it. A recipe waiting to be tried, just cook it. A lovely unputdownable book, just read it. Some fun time with the kids, just have it. A new hobby, just try it. An interesting case, just discuss it….Aaagrhhh..I’m back to square one!!
Exactly about a year ago, I read an e mail in my inbox which announced the reunion of batch 96 of KMC, Mangalore.
Reunions have a tendency to make me feel old and gossipy. Somewhat like sixtieth birthday celebrations or golden jubilee wedding anniversary celebrations! Where a whole bunch of people meet up to discuss their lives and those juicy tidbits about others’, regaling antics of their precocious children and humble bragging about their career milestones.
I was happy enough seeing face book posts of my batch mates and knowing what they are doing in their lives. Did I actually need to meet them ?? I was mostly too shy in college to develop deep friendships with a lot of my class mates. So, would I be really missed? This made me skeptical about attending the reunion. Maybe I would not gel with most of my old college mates, I felt. We have moved on.
Fifteen years. A lot of water under the bridge. Old memories, some good ones and some others not so much. Friendships –some tended to, some long forgotten. Lives which have moved on, treated and helped many a patients, formed new relationships, forged new bonds and trudged ahead.Hmm..
But somehow, Satwik’s emails did the trick. Over the year, slowly, silently, memories which were buried under a mountain of work and family responsibilities started creeping up on me, startling and giving me fuzzy feelings of warmth in an otherwise dreary day.
I still remember the day when I was a bespectacled gawky teenager coming out of the CET cell, a little frazzled, a little victorious and a little bit nervous. Finally, one and a half years of hard back breaking work had borne fruit and I was in! Kasturba Medical College was my destiny for the future.
It was my first time away from home, leaving behind my huge joint family, and this in itself, was unnerving. The rumors of ragging in college were scary. There was this huge cauldron of emotions boiling within me, a delicious mix of apprehension, fear, elation, the excitement of getting into medical school, and sadness about leaving behind my friends and family.
Expectedly, the memories of five years that I spent in college are irreplaceable. The formalin reeking dissection halls, the old lecture halls, muggy mornings spent in the huge, sweltering, crowded wards of Wenlock and Lady Goshen hospitals whose old ceiling fans with painfully slow moving blades seemed to mock our sweating discomfort, maggi in the canteen, getting screwed during the clinical postings and giving a treat at the end of it, the waterless bathrooms in Nandagiri hostel, late night study sessions liberally dosed with popcorn and maggi for sustenance, the phone booth, which was our life line to the family back home (this was a time before cell phones invaded us),the interclass competitions, the library at reader’s delight, and the horrible mess food (remember the yum yum cutlet, which was anything but!!) are literally etched into my subconscious.
KMC accepted me, idiosyncrasies and all. And added a few more to my person. Like talking about KMC and how great it was, all the time, to my better half, till he knew all my anecdotes by heart! The sense of belonging with my college is something which I cannot not get rid of. This was after all, my world away from home for five long years. Maybe I am partial to my college or probably this is the way people feel about their alma mater, but I, unflinchingly believe that KMC, Mangalore was the best and the most learning experience of my life. Anyway, I’m digressing.
Back to the reunion. So, after discussions back and forth with my bestie, and some gentle prodding by my husband, I finally took the plunge. I was in. And did not know what to expect. Ours was a small class of 56, and almost all of them have reached places in life. Would they have changed, I wondered? After all, responsibilities, position, stature and money is known to cause a personality change in many!
And therefore in River Roost Resort, (the venue for our reunion), I landed with trepidation and doubt, both of which got kicked in the butt within the first fifteen minutes of my landing there. The next two days were spent laughing so much that my cheeks hurt, and forgetting to call back obsessively to check on my kids, which I am guilty of doing when I am not at home!
Getting to know my batch mates all over again was much more fun than what it was so many years ago. I felt we were more mature and knew ourselves better than we did before. There was a quiet confidence that each one of us had grown into. There were some of us who threw up unexpected surprises by reaching heights which no one had expected, some others who were consistently superb, and others who were multifaceted enough to juggle hobbies along with their profession. Even the ones with their own brand of quirks had found their comfy spot under the sun. The icing on the cake was that no one-not even one -had let go of their innate superb sense of humor and goofballness which made those two days the best ever.
The experience of getting two days sans responsibilities with my best and closest friends, laughing at inane jokes which no one else actually understood, and talking about everything under the sun and beyond it, waking up to wanting to continue talking and not bother about anything else, reminded me of my days in hostel.
I was back again into a group where I seemed to belong, where my weirdness was an accepted part, and I could let my hair down(whatever is left of it!) and be! Just transport myself to those days where hope and hard work were the things we lived by, garnished generously with parties, fun trips and mills and boon!
My opinions about reunions have changed now. If anything, they made me feel much younger and happier. I returned home with a smile plastered on my face, and stayed insanely happy for the next few days. Maybe, this happens at all reunions, and therefore they go on!
A grateful thanks to the organizers who slogged to make it happen. And a big thanks to all the rest for making those two days memorable. KMC 96, you are the best and please do stay that way!
Long live reunions !
PS: Leena, Im feeling blessed to post this on face book!!!:)) (sorry,an inside joke!).
I am not a new year wish, resolution making, partying kind of a person. Usually. Till recently, I would not even understand what the fuss was all about. The need to suddenly celebrate just because we switched to a new desk calender seemed a tad excessive. My resolutions come in bursts throughout the year and so, there was no urgent need to make one on January, the first!I have zero tolerance for alcohol, so I cannot drink champagne and bring in the new year in style. My brain switches off at ten thirty sharp, so I cannot watch late night tv shows welcoming in the new year! In short, apart from wishing everyone the next morning, I had pretty much no excitement in the concept.
2015 has been a mixed bag for me. It has been a time of major upheavals both personal and otherwise, subtly changing the way I think. I like to call myself the idealistic pessimist. I always believe that Utopian ideals work well, but am pessimistic when they do not work out in a realistic material world. Like say, world peace!!:). Therefore, this year and its shenanigans made me more pessimistic than usual. What with intolerance debates, the lynching controversy, multiple bans, the Syrian refugee crisis, Delhi pollution levels,the Nirbhaya convict who got away, the drought…. You get the drift. (I do not want you to sink into depression on new year day).
I was at that point in life where anything good would feel as if it had been rigged to feel so, and anything bad, was meant to happen anyway. And that’s when I saw this video, which someone sent me on whatsapp.
The video is not colorful nor has nothing of surprise value.
It just shows a electron microscopic picture of how one human white blood cell is hell bent upon killing a bacterium which has entered the system.
Watching this video sort of changed something within me. Imagine that everyday, so many such cells within our body and nature keep on doing their work, without actually thinking of the big picture. Just efficient, sincere work with single minded dedication.
With zero appreciation from our end, no bonuses or pay hikes or fancy holidays (or new year parties, for that matter). To top it all, we try our best to harm our system by eating trash, falling sick and generally not taking care of ourselves that well. But , the system still works, with no complaints whatsoever.
My perspective of life shifted ever so little. Whenever someone would tell me that I have been lucky in my life, I usually would have had a long list of complaints to convince them otherwise. I was set upon proving to myself and the world that I was not all lucky.
This year, I think I am. To be alive enough to enjoy this day, to enjoy my health and my family, for my senses which add spice to my world (and spectacles to my eyes(:) for those tiny tiny cells within my body who work with such miraculous perfection, so that I can dream of a future.
Being alive is an opportunity to cause change and be the change.Lets tap into our dreams or make new ones and work hard on them, like those tiny cells do.
And before I start sounding like a life style guru spouting isms, I wish you all a very happy new year.
There are certain life experiences which come to us, courtesy our professions. Some of them make good dinner table conversations, some put a smile on our face years after they occur and some make us feel a deep pain inside. As doctors, we see many incidents which have the power to move us beyond what we thought was possible. And such incidents make us richer, wiser and sometimes more cautious. I have always wanted to share a few of my experiences as a doctor first, a psychiatrist next, about how we see the good, the bad, the ugly and the hilarious as a part of our everyday life in the hospital. Hence ,the doctor diaries.
Off late, medical professionals have been viewed more with suspicion and wariness than respect and love. We often hear stories about how doctor so and so ripped off a poor patient, or performed an unnecessary surgery or followed some unethical practice.
As much as I know of most people in our profession, they seem hard working to such an extent that they have no time to even defend themselves in times of crisis. In a day and age, where most media bytes go to a person who voices the highest decibel levels, we seem to have missed the bus by a mile. A lot of us are excellent clinicians, but poor communicators. Mostly, not our fault. We were never taught that our practice, would one day, turn out to be a war zone with land mines, which we had to gingerly tread through. Do not get me wrong. It is not everyday that we go to work like scared rabbits. We enjoy what we do, and how we do it. But on occasion, fear does seep into our bones. This was one such time.
It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon broken by an earth shattering cry, that would have woken the dead. All of us in the surrounding vicinity came out on the roads to see what had happened. What we saw was not a pretty sight. There were two people who had accidentally got electrocuted, lying on the road literally fuming at the mouth. There was this huge crowd gathered around. The stench of burnt flesh was overpowering. I live just across from the hospital that I work in. By the time I made my way through the crowd, I saw that two of our hospital staff had already lifted the victims bodily,and put them into an auto rickshaw.They drove on to a tertiary care center five minutes away for ICU care. The whole episode must have taken around five to seven minutes at most. I was impressed by the immediate action taken by our orderlies and was on my way to praise them, when I was in for a rude shock.
One of the people from the crowd asked us why we had not taken care of the patient. They started accusing us of poor first aid. We appeared confused at first. They must have taken it as a sign of weakness or guilt.
The cause for our confusion, was the fact that, apart from having a time machine to do the needful, we had been as fast as we humanly could. Two of our staff had rushed to find autos on a deserted road to ferry the patients, while two others had helped them into the vehicle and gone to the hospital with them. According to us, we had done all we could and more.Apparently not.
According to the leader of the mob, we needed to check the pulse of the patient before we put him into the auto. The other claimed that we should have done first aid inside our hospital premises before shifting him to an ICU.
We tried reasoning out that time was of utmost importance. That there was no need to check the pulse when the patient looked alive and was breathing. And we shifted him to a tertiary care center only because we did not, as a facility catering to mental illness, have an ICU facility and ventilator support.
Seemingly, all our explanations fell on deaf ears. The crowd kept chanting that we should have checked the pulse. On one level, I knew that they were just out to create a scene. Maybe the shock of seeing a person burn was too much to take. Maybe, they had no idea what to do in case of such a situation.
But on another level, we were scared. Upset that our good intentions were being slandered unnecessarily. Scared that they may abuse us physically.Are really really worried as to why understanding such a simple explanation seemed impossible to them.
Anyway, after a while, for lack of any other logical form of argument apart from the “pulse”, the crowd dispersed. But the hurt remained. That we, (especially our hospital staff who courageously helped the victims without a thought that they may have got electrocuted themselves too) were considered villains even after selflessly doing our best.
It did not matter that half the crowd was totally drunk, and had not moved a muscle to help all through the episode.What did matter, was that a scene was created. And that we looked like the bad people.
In the pat two years, in the small city that I live in, I have seen at least four hospitals getting ransacked and damaged for some alleged negligence on the part of a doctor, which has later on been disproved. I have participated in rallies held to protect the rights of doctors. The district administration has given us a list of laws and provisions to help us protect ourselves. We now have cctv’s in our hospitals.Despite all of these, the sense of disillusionment remains.
Sort of like, when you have actually done your homework, but forgotten the book at home. The teacher does not believe you, but you want to be believed oh so badly. Standing in front of the class looking like the culprit pains you bad. The pain, that neither your teacher or your friends had the good sense to believe you.Submitting the homework book next day does not really ease your pain. The damage has been done!
And so also in this case.Life moved on. Work resumed the next day. But every time I pass by the place on the road, I feel a physical pain deep inside me. One for the victim, who was a young man with small children. Two, for my idealism, which died a more cruel death that day.