Medical Gods I met upon Earth: Part V

Patients who taught me life.

The breathless grandpa.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This octogenarian Mr. Abaji was admitted for the umpteenth time in the general ward for sudden breathlessness due to a respiratory condition called COPD. In general ward at govt. hospitals, there’s barely three feet distance between beds, without any privacy (No embroidered / even plain curtains between beds!). On the first day, the patient on Mr. Abaji’s right side passed away. In a few hours, the young one on his left also became critical, had to be intubated and kept on artificial breathing through a rubber bag called “Ambu” bag. Resident Doctors and relatives took turns 24/7 to keep on pressing the bag 12-18 times a minute, till the ICU ventilators were available (There were only two for 20 wards).
Mr. Abaji usually always smiled, but death 4 feet away on one side and another in waiting on the other side had dampened his smile. Still breathless at 2 AM in the night, he called me, toothless-smiled, and said “Aamchi baari anik ekda chukli dacter.. (Look, they missed my turn again..)!”..
He told me next: “Save him first, doctor, I have seen life, he is young, I will pray God to take me away instead of him.”.. Then he did fold his hands and actually prayed. He had no relatives.
What with his prayers and my professor’s treatment, both of them went home well.
(PS: name changed)

The illiterate goldheart
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This huge man of @ 55 years, an illiterate farmer probably from Rajasthan, who always wore a bright yellow turban, was suspected to have a liver cancer. My boss told me to proceed with a liver biopsy. Although I had assisted my senior resident do it, I had not done it myself, and senior was on leave. As I prepared, explained the patient and took consent, I was very anxious, as this procedure could have a potential risk to life due to internal bleeding, as the needle is bigger, and we had to do it without any radiological guidance then.. The doctor has to insert the needle on the right side in the lower rib cage, and then cut / suck out a tiny portion of the liver. All this while the patient has to hold breath. Of course we use local anesthetic, but sometimes there may still be pain.
(Govt Hospital, general ward.. even a curtain is a luxury for patients)
As I prepared the patient and started, my voice trembled while giving him instructions..
He said in his native-mixed-Hindi “Doctor, don’t worry, I know you are learning. This will help you treat hundreds of patients in future. Don’t worry if something happens to me, we will never blame you. I know you are doing this for my good. If I had a son, I know he would have taken the same care as you will.”

All went well, thanks to him.

The schizophrenic hero.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Posted as a resident doctor in a Psychiatry ward for over 10 months as punishment for offending my HOD (Yes, my dear happy enemies, I did feel at home there, do try you too, that ward is far more civilized than the outside society as Kahlil Gibran asserted years ago).
This two wheeler mechanic with diagnosed schizophrenia was being interviewed in May by a smartypants med student, asking him some weird questions (students do this in learning phase) while recording history.

After a while, the student asked him: “Do you feel there is something wrong in the way you think?” The mechanic paused and said “Doctor, I can say the same about your thinking if you ever repair a 2 wheeler. I know there is something wrong in my brain, but that does not make you superior, does it?”

While most other patients, doctors and staff suffered the cruel May heat in the face of non-functional ceiling fans, the same ‘schizophrenic’ patient went to the Dean’s bungalow in the campus at 3 AM and demanded to see the dean, arguing with the watchman. As our courteous dean came out, the patient asked him “How can you sleep when so many patients in the hospital suffer this heat, because fans don’t work?”
Next day all the fans were repaired, starting in that ward first.

A schizophrenic patient had done in one night what was not done by filthy normals in years.

To be continued…..
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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