The Synonym of a Doctor
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Here, take this” Mr. Baliram thrusted three hundred rupee notes in my hand. In any other case, I would lose my usually short temper and react. In this case I couldn’t. I calmly kept the money back in his pocket, and said, “This is not necessary, Mama”.

Seventy plus, bent and wrinkled physically but not mentally, this farmer Baliram from remote inlands had brought his third and last son over to Civil Hospital Nanded.
His wife had died many years ago of Tuberculosis. His first son had died of a snake bite, and second by electrocution while trying to repair the pump that pulled water from the well in their farm.

This third son had developed a GBS or Guillain Barre Syndrome, which paralyses both the legs and hands, and also swallowing and respiration in most cases. The most dangerous thing about this illness is the sudden highs and lows in heart rate and blood pressure, which may cause death.

When the first son was bitten by snake, the truck driver who carried them to the nearest rural hospital charged them hefty, the medical attendant asked for bribe before starting treatment, and when he finally reached Civil Hospital Nanded, his son was barely alive, but the ambulance driver who carried him did not allow Baliram to get down before paying his money. The gasping son passed away in a few hours after admission. When the second son died on the farm, Baliram had a hard time bribing many to get the right papers to be able to perform the last rites.

It was thus natural for him to think that some money would ensure good treatment for his last son. Genuinely poor free patients worry much about this. I reassured him that it will not affect the treatment at all. I was an intern then.

He sat by his son 24/7, without any signs of fatigue. There are people who suck the blood of their own for their tiny suffering, and there also are those who do not have any of their own to cry upon the shoulder of.

My professor (a military-retired callous man, of the kind who thinks everyone is as stern, unemotional and strong as himself) bluntly told Baliram that his third son was also critical, and now required a ventilator. Baliram listened patiently, folded his hands, and calmly said: “Doctor Saheb, God will do what he wants. I will pray. You please try your best. This is my only son”.

Professor said “We are trying our best” and walked over. These military strongmen do not want others to see their tears.

Past midnight, after all paperwork was over and patients stabilised, I took permission from the resident doctor and went out to have my customary stimulation, only to find Baliram sitting alone, smoking in the parking area. I got tea for both of us and sat beside him. Silently, we sipped the tea, wrapped in smoke. To lighten him up, I asked him about his farming. He too asked me a few questions about my family.

“What do you seriously think, DoctorSaheb: will my son survive?” he asked. I did not want to lie. “Many patients survive, I am hopeful he will, provided his heart rate remains within limits” I assured him.

As I got up to get back in the ICU, he clutched my shirt sleeve. ” I am not good at talking doctor, but I am dying every moment inside. I feel like a fish out of water. Please do something. I have nothing left except this son. I cannot even cry, I am so scared. I do not know why I am facing this fate.. I have never hurt anyone in my life. I have always taught my sons to do good to others. If this one dies, I will just go back and jump in the river”.

My callous professor rudely fired us everyday for better care of each patient including this one. After a week, the patient started to regain his breathing ability. In two weeks, he was out in the ward. He was discharged with some limb weakness still remaining. My callous professor skimpily smiled as the patient left.

They came for a follow up in a month. He had almost completely recovered. Baliram was smiling. He touched the feet of my professor and gave him a small bag and a box of sweets.
Then he came over to me. “Give this to your father” he handed me a cloth bag.
“What is this?” I asked, reluctant and curious.
“Please don’t decline. I brought it for your father. Please give this to him”. He added.
Late that night, I gave the bag to my father, telling that a patient had sent a gift for him. He opened it. There was a cloth piece enough to make a kurta-pyjama, a Gandhi-topi and a white towel. There also was a “Prasadam” pack and a receipt of donation at a temple in my name.

My father asked me the details about this patient, and as I narrated this story, became tearful. “This is the best gift a father can want. This is what you must earn from every patient” he said in a heavy voice,
“This is why we made you a Doctor”.

…..
As much as we have evolved in law, literacy and scientific awareness, we have also become paranoid and emotionally deficient as doctors: a necessity in most cases, but a huge blow to the really poor, charity-dependent, taken-for-a-ride class.

While retaining professional smartness, let us also rekindle this thought: that there are some whose suffering only the doctors can end, some who will survive only because of our wish to help them out free. Many will talk about it, but except the doctor, there is no one who can truly help a poor patient. Many doctors do this today, but the flame can be passed on to the newer generations only by being an example.

One synonym of “Doctor” must be “Good Person”, for I am yet to see a bad human being in any Doctor. This is the core of the famed ‘Nobility’ of my profession.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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