“ Tell me , what is your problem?’
It has been nearly two decades in medical practice for me and it has been a tremendous privilege meeting and treating hundreds of patients over the years. It has been a great learning experience and I daresay it has brought rewards which money can’t buy and it has enriched me in so many ways that words can’t express. I have learnt so much from my patients and many of them have left a deep impact on me in their own special way .Many of them have been distinctive in their manner or attire or attitude or their way to deal with stress- each of them have taught me something in their own way!
One of my earliest patients, now a grandmother, settled in Lucknow, has tracked me through my postings and sends “prasadam” from Tirupati,each year, after her annual visit there. I don’t even have her postal address to thank her but she is unfailing in her largesse. For a while, when I was posted as a young doctor in the North east and would treat the local civilian population as part of military liaison, the simple folks would leave small wicker baskets containing eggs with my nursing assistant , in return for my services. At the end of the day , I had enough eggs to feed the garrison and enough goodwill to last a lifetime .Being a vegetarian, the eggs were distributed to the families in the base- it got me additional goodwill from the ladies in the station , but that is a separate issue!
I had a patient, a retired widower; he would come every Saturday dressed in a trendy three piece suit with a jaunty flower stuck in his lapel. He would talk about vague and obscure complaints and then ramble about his son and grandchildren settled in the US. For the life of me , I could find nothing seriously wrong with him and one Saturday after several months of this social exchange , I told him , I thought he was quite well and he need not come back to me. I saw his face fall and he started talking about some fresh complaint. Exasperated, I asked him, “Tell me what is your problem?” He looked at me sheepishly and confessed he had no real problem and he just enjoyed dressing up and coming over to chat as I , apparently was a good listener. He told me he had no one to talk to and these visits were the highlight of his lonely week. He came week after week and frankly, I started looking forward to his visits and we discussed a million things under the sun.
I must tell you about this elderly gentleman who had a debilitating chronic illness. He was in severe pain and had frequent flares of his condition which would leave him weak and emaciated and physically broken. He was on medication for virtually every organ system of his body. He was in and out of hospital for one complication or the other. He was in constant suffering for nearly two years, but not once did I see him lose his cheery optimism. He would always have a smile on his face and he bore all the ravages of his illness with such dignity and forbearance that one could gnly admire his spirit. Ha passed away quietly and with the least fuss-may his soul rest in peace!
Then there was this lady who needed to come to me for several follow up visits. After a couple of months she asked me if I were a Brahmin. I nodded and asked her how that was relevant to her illness. She told me I would be an excellent match for her neighbour’s daughter . I spluttered and told her I was much married and I had two boys. Not deterred, she asked me how old my son was and she could fix a match for him with her niece! Then there was this young girl , who had a rather well thumbed OPD notebook and I saw handwritten follow up notes from virtually every specialist in the hospital – I asked her what brought her to the hospital so often and required her to visit so many specialists apparently for myriad complaints-she told me with a straight face that she was trying to find out if there was one doctor in the hospital with a legible handwriting! And there was this lady who after getting her prescription from me for her ailment ,told me as she was getting up,” Doctor, why are you so tense all the time? You must smile more often. And you seem to have a stiff back. I must teach you some Yogasanas. It will make you feel younger and you will feel better about yourself!” Talk about ,Physician heal thy self!!
I must tell you about this elderly gentleman who had a debilitating chronic illness. He was in severe pain and had frequent flares of his condition which would leave him weak and emaciated and physically broken. He was on medication for virtually every organ system of his body. He was in and out of hospital for one complication or the other. He was in constant suffering for nearly two years, but not once did I see him lose his cheery optimism. He would always have a smile on his face and he bore all the ravages of his illness with such dignity and forbearance that one could only admire his spirit. He passed away quietly and with the least fuss-may his soul rest in peace!
Then there is this net-savvy breed of patients who sometimes know more about the illness and the latest on a condition than you do. While the internet is a wonderful tool , it also provides a whole lot of information which can be misleading to the uninitiated. I had a patient telling me that a particular drug has been found very useful in experiments on Japanese rats and Australian cats and why we could not use the same with similar success on his mother-in-law!
Well, one learns as one goes on and each day one has learnt from the patients and their relatives and attendants and it is truly been a privilege dealing with so many of them from every corner of the country. The look , the smile , the gratitude, the word of thanks ; the satisfaction of seeing a sick man walk out of the hospital is truly more gratifying than anything money can buy!!