© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Insecticide Poisoning. Needs intubation. Quick” I shouted and started suction from the frothing mouth of this 27 year old Ayurvedic Practitioner. The casualty servant rushed the primitive version of crash cart that had bare minimum upon it and relied upon the cosmic arrangement of two emergencies at a time, with enough time between the second and third to wash and sterilize the instruments.
Positioning his neck in extension, I realized that there was no light in the laryngoscope, a curved-blade like instrument with a handle, used to open the patient’s mouth and reach into the throat. A small bulb mounted on the curve helps see deep inside the throat . The nurse knew that the bulb didn’t work, so she held a torchlight and I could aspirate the blood stained froth. The glass bottle of the manual suction-pump, which our wardboy had to pump to generate negative pressure, started filling fast.
“Doctor, his pulse is 4o” said the young lady standing by his side. Calm face, tremulous heavy voice. Red eyes watering without knowing it.
I saw the patient’s vocal cords and inserted the tube. The wardboy had kept the ambu bag (artificial respiration rubber bag) ready. We started the routine medicines to increase heart rate and reverse the respiratory paralysis. There were no ventilators or ICU. No ABG analysers or pulse-oximeters.
“I am his wife” said the graceful, beautiful lady in her twenties. “We both practice in this village near Nanded. We had a love marriage just two years ago. Eight months ago he was diagnosed with bone cancer with multiple secondaries. One month ago he became paralysed because of a spinal secondary. He also lost urine control. He doesn’t want to live anymore. Today he crawled into our farm behind the house and took this poison”. She said.
He stabilised by morning. She didn’t leave his side at all. They all took turns: sisters, wardboys, his parents and herself, with the ambu bag. Next day he started breathing on his own. He pulled out the tracheal tube himself, and fortunately maintained his respiration.
Having just passed MBBS and new in my internship, I was too junior to counsel him. So I decided to just tell him how much his wife had exerted to save his life. That would probably help his depression, I thought. I told him so. That evening when she went home to change, he called me.
“Please help me. Please understand, my friend.. you are too young to understand, but please try” he said to me, “Please don’t tell her or anyone what I tell you. My wife is pregnant, two months. I want her to abort. You see, I won’t probably even live to see the baby. Who doesn’t want to see their baby? But if she becomes a mother, she will never get to marry a good match again. She is so beautiful and intelligent. I love her. I want her to start a new life after me. If she delivers this child, she will always keep thinking about me. You see, she loves me so much that she wants to have the child just as my memory after me, without marrying again. Will you let that happen to someone you love? If I die now, she will still have some time to abort. Let me go, please”.
God helped me in that dilemma. He improved well from the effects of the poison, and was discharged soon. I Could barely look into his eyes, I was bewildered with this situation.
Within a week, a colleague who knew him told me that the young doctor had died, bleeding himself to death, cutting his own wrist. “He is relieved at last” my friend commented.
After a few days, I asked my colleague who knew the family, if I could meet that doctor’s wife, I wanted to tell her how much he cared for her. He passed on the message. She came over after a month. We had coffee in the casualty, as I was on call. I told her what had happened, just because I didn’t want her to blame him for killing himself. Also, she had the right to that information, now that he was no more.
“I know, doctor. Thank you. He had written me a note before dying. He also mentioned that he had talked to you, I am ok now”.
I was extremely curious about her decision regarding her pregnancy, but could not bring myself to ask her about it. “Somehow I feel responsible for you, like a brother, because your husband confided in me. Please let me know if you ever need anything. I will do my best”. I told her.
“Thank you! “ she said, “I will start my practice in a different place, doc, where I can forget him. He also wanted me to abort, he wrote so in the note. So I did”. She looked away to hide tears. There are some silent shrieks which cut our heart open, but there is neither a sound, nor can one see the bleeding. I realized I was tearful too, and didn’t know what to say.
Suddenly, there was a rush and panic, and in came the wardboys with a convulsing patient. She waited patiently till I stabilised him, and calmed down the relatives.
“I will tell you when I restart practice. You must visit there. Bye for now” she said with a weak smile as she got up to leave.
“Please don’t blame him, he did it for you” I said, walking her to the door.
She paused, and asked me to come over to an empty corner in the lobby. Once there, she pulled a neatly folded paper: a photocopy of his last note, and held her finger over his last paragraph:
“ I am not sorry for what I am doing, because I am doing this for you. I love you, but I won’t watch you from the skies. I will be dead and gone. Learn to laugh and enjoy: for yourself. Please find love once more. Don’t feel guilty about it. My last wish is that you forget me. Good bye”.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande