Posted in Anecdotes

Remember

I feel like a stranger in the white coat. A little fresh, a little raw, a less confident version of myself. A little unprepared for the routine of the Emergency Department. A month of posting in ED is mandatory for residents from other departments to ease the workload of the regulars and I walk in to do my share.

I start documenting the cases alloted to me. 

26 year old unmarried male, driver by occupation, with a history of accidental fall from a height of 15 feet presents with complaints of severe back pain. Power 0/5 in both limbs. Sensation absent below the umbilicus. No external injuries. Adv: Xray DL and LS spine. Provisional: Traumatic paraplegia.

My age! Damn it, he’s my age.. And he may never walk again, let alone drive..

3 year old girl brought by parents with history of drowsiness and headache since morning. Known case of pinealoblastoma with hydrocephalus; VP shunt in place. Adv: Non contrast CT Brain. Provisional: ?Shunt Block. 

Neurosurgery is full. They will never be able to take up the case for surgery at such short notice. Yes, I understand you don’t have the money to go anywhere else.. Yes, Bangalore is far and you don’t speak the language, but the institute there is the best option for her.. Please don’t cry, we are as helpless as you are.. There is only so much we can do right now..

64 year old lady with end stage renal disease brought with high blood sugar. Pulse not palpable. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation initiated. Injection atropine and adrenaline stat.

She’s back from the dead! Can’t say I expected that.. 

35 year old male, known case of Rheumatic Heart Disease/Double valve replacement done admitted with sudden onset breathlessness. History of chronic alcoholism present. On examination, patient comatose, pulse not palpable, pupils dilated, not reacting to light. Stuck valve suspected. ECG gives flat line. Death declared to parents.

Hesitation cuts all over his left forearm.. linear scars that once bled frustration and pain. Maybe he was already tired of this tormented life? Bouts of chest pain, dyspnoea, medications and surgeries. Maybe he willed his heart to stop just like he willed the blade to cut into his wrist??

Hope and helplessness intertwine as the minutes inch forward. And at the end of 7 hours, as I walk away a mess of nerves and relief, I remember how lucky I am to not be in pain, to not be connected to half a dozen machines, to not be just alive, but healthy too. Not just surviving.

It’s funny how often we forget that.

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Posted in Anecdotes

Alcoves Of Life

When I took up Community Medicine, I was not quite sure what I was getting into, whether I am truly cut out for the work it entitled. It heartens me that things certainly do look that way. I love the things I am getting to learn.

Less than two weeks into joining the course I have been lucky enough to receive an opportunity to work with the World Health Organisation; as an External Monitor on behalf of WHO for the Measles -Rubella vaccination campaign happening in the state throughout the month of February. I travelled solo to remote parts of the largely rural district of Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, monitoring certain assigned sites each day and the experience has been amazing. 

Barren landscapes dotted with cattle and ancient bullock carts stacked with hay met my widened eyes –  I had never seen the likes of these except perhaps in Tamil movies of old. Schools were part of the more populated areas, a couple of concrete buildings where children in red uniforms peeked out of the windows of their classrooms or from under shady trees where some had their lessons. My visits drew excitement; some boys saluted me as they would a teacher, and certain girls threw shy glances at my attire and accessories; one shook my hand and hid behind her friends giggling while all the others waved me goodbye.

As the driver took me from one remote village to the other, I watched in awe the alcoves of life emerging from the corners of my country – naked children playing in puddles and old folks squatting in front of caricatured huts made of dark mud walls and low lying roofs of hay, where nights brought darkness and light came up with the sun, where one walked miles altogether to reach the main road and the few necessities were met by a single grocery store.. 

I could not help feeling a little ashamed of how I complained about slow wifi networks, the occasional loss of power and late Amazon deliveries. The presence of supermarkets and designer stores at a walkable distance suddenly seemed an overindulgence. But funnily enough, in spite of lack of all these facilities, I caught myself feeling jealous of them. They were content in their way of life, and that’s what matters in the end.

Posted in Musings

Tell No One

Travel and tell no one. Live a true love story and tell no one. Live happily and tell no one. People ruin beautiful things. – Khalil Gibran 

No words have rung as true as those. If I may add a bit of my own to it, join the course of your choice and tell no one.

I opted for post graduation in Community Medicine in the institute of my choice, one of the finest in the country, and all I’m getting in return for the happy news are blank stares and wrinkled noses. 

Being part of a virtual joint family necessitates instant sharing of any new information relating to any event, and in case the matter even borders on the unconventional, eyebrows are raised. Two relatives in particular, doctors themselves, readily frowned upon my choice to let go of the clinical hullabaloo. 

As for me, I’d rather have peace of mind than a flourishing practice, and more importantly (and secretly) I want a life where I have ample time to read and write. If there’s one thing that rotatory residency taught me, it’s that I turn into the most horrible version of myself when harrowed and the clinical side has the possibility of doing that to you. Social and Preventive Medicine is a more versatile line, where I can opt to work among the public if I so desired or turn into teaching if that turns out to be my calling. I hate dead ends just as I hate being caged and boxed. Community Medicine gives me a wide enough platform to counter claustrophobia, so that’s that.

For once in my life, I’m letting go of whatever anyone wants me to do and siding with my gut. That you should listen to your heart is an oft used phrase, and there is a reason for it; it’s true. I am sure that if I had listened to all the voices that had gone against my own, I would not be feeling what I feel right now – happiness and relief. Like I have taken a step in the right direction. And if I haven’t, I will still know it’s my choice.

So all of you out there who are struggling to hold your own, take a deep breath and push on. The society is going to cut you left and right trying to fit you into its moulds. Maybe your options are not well thought out or maybe they are all you have been obsessing about. What matters is that when the moment comes, you click the right button, do the right thing  and make the right choice – your own. 

And tell no one.

Posted in Musings

Anaphylaxis

Today I woke up with the memory of a vivid dream.

I was in a hospital, working. A patient had an allergic reaction to a medication. She was collapsing when I was called. I shouted orders. Loaded a syringe. Adrenaline. 0.5 cc. Subcutaneous stat. Checked the vitals. Loaded a repeat dose, and waited. The patient recovered. She smiled at me.

I’m so used to puzzling and embarrassing scenarios in the dream world that this came as a surprise. Anaphylaxis is a particularly dreaded phenomenon in reality as well. Maybe my sub conscious mind believes in me now.

I like that.