Wednesday, August 22, 2007

While the Light Lasts

We have been at the RIO for 2 weeks. Things are a little easier, now that we're familiar with the terms, and actually know what some of them mean. I can confidently nod my head when someone talks about PCIOL, and tell others about the ACIOL I once saw, and I can then let my imagination take over, in the spirit of fishermen, and convince them that the patient also had iridodonesis and bullous keratopathy, and was on the brink of death, it was only my timely intervention and presence of mind that saved him. Absolute bull, but only people who know a little ophthal would know that.

The objective of studying medicine seems to be to learn as many cool sounding terms as you can, say, fibroplastic parietal endocarditis with peripheral blood eosinophilia, or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. I don't know what these are, but I sure know the names. Any time I need to sound important, I just talk (in a loud voice) about the case of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease case I saw that morning. Which is again a lot of crap, because CJD is seen only in cannibals. No, wait, that was Kuru. Or was it Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome? See what I mean?

One of my many qualities, apart from my humility and modesty, is that I will answer any question put to me, regardless of whether I know the answer or not. Let me illustrate, with a scene from my Radiotherapy posting. It was after this class that I became a die-hard fan of the Sir, and he is one of my role models.
Sir: Which thyroid cancer has the maximum propensity to metastasise? Follicular, medullary, anaplastic, or papillary?
Me: Medullary?
Sir: No, try again.
Me: Follicular.
Sir: Come on, you know the answer.
Me: Right. Definitely papillary.
Sir: There's just one more left.
Me: Anaplastic.
Sir: Very good!
Sir smiles. Kya smile hai!
Sir: You're never gonna forget this, are you?
Me: No, sir.
Sir: This is how you learn, from your mistakes.
What a guy! Anyone else would have bawled me out.

But there are times when all the fun and games are forgotten, and we become acutely aware of how much responsibility being a physician carries. When we see a young woman hit by a train whose left leg was brought separately, a dying old man forcing a smile and telling us to be sure and find out what his disease is when we become doctors, a little girl who stops crying when we reassure her it isn't going to hurt and we'll hold her hand if she's scared... And then we stop goofing around, start studying in earnest, resolve to become better students so that we can become good doctors, start taking our studies more seriously, make it our first priority. Unfortunately, this phase never lasts long, at least for me, but while it does, I have this uncontrollable urge to study hard and actually be someone worthwhile.

There was a little girl at the OPD today. She was 6 years old, and her uncle brought her in because she had an intermittent squint. She smiled shyly all the time while she was being examined, and peeped through her fingers. We smiled at her, as we do with all children. Madam enquired why her mother didn't bring her in. Her uncle replied that she'd died when the child was 43 days old, while her father was fighting in the Kargil war, as there had been no news of him for a while. They found out later that her dad was OK. He is still in the Army.

We don't know whether her dad loves her, gives her all the love and care she deserves, when he comes home on leave, if he does come to her. We don't know whether the uncle she's living with takes good care of her. We don't know how her mother died; did she commit suicide? Could she have, with a 43-days-old daughter who needed her? We don't know if she's happy, for all her little smiles. We don't even know what's wrong with her. But that we can find out. It's the only thing we can do for her. We can do the best we can to put her right.

I don't know enough to treat a patient with a common cold. It doesn't require treatment, but that's beside the point. The point is that I'll be a doctor in 2 years, whether I do or not. It may not matter now, but it will, then. If to no one else, at least to me. Because I'll want to do more for that little girl than smile at her.

I think it's time I finally hit the books, with all the seriousness it requires. This one's for you, little girl.

11 comments:

Teri said...

Nice Blog :)

Tys on Ice said...

:) ... and then there are people like you...

Sreejith said...

the way you manage to shuttle between humour and grave seriousness is beyond me! Made me smile and also reflect. wonderfully written.

Y said...

Always remember the thyroid cancer question...my husband has ATC and it is a terrible disease. Study hard...keep your sense of humor...and be someone great...maybe you could be the person who finds the effective treatment for ATC!!!

tia said...

A very cute post...Its amazing u do wat u do without fainting or freaking out..kudos :)

Celestine said...

what made you go into medicine?

personally i prefer chinese medicine. western medicine has too many complications and doesn really heal our bodies completely.

Adorable Pancreas said...

@teri:
Thank you, thank you. :)

@tys on ice:
The world needs people like me. :P

@sreejith:
Whoa, thanks. :)
The humour is a defence mechanism, a denial of our own mortality.

@y:
I sincerely hope he recovers soon. ATC is a terrible disease, I know. I'll do my best. I'll never forget it. Thank you, Y.

@tia:
Thank you. :)
I did faint in the autopsy room, you know. The rest of it is a breeze compared to the mortuary.

@celestine:
I've always wanted to be a doctor, from the time I was 4 years old.
Western medicine has its drawbacks, I know, but we don't have chinese medicine here. Most people resort to Ayurveda or Homoeopathy when allopathic doctors fail to cure them. I belive they have more effective cures for chronc ailments.

Bullshee said...

Yes, I agree with other commentors....This post took a very good turn with the interspersing of humour and drama...excellent!

Sue said...

Hi!
My son was in the hospital a long time... great doctors and medical students and interns always took the time to smile at him and make him feel better as a PERSON and not just a patient... I get the feeling you could be a great doctor, too. Keep it up!!!

Adorable Pancreas said...

@bullshee:
Awww... Thanks. *blushes*

@sue:
I can understand. My dad was n the hospital a long time too. Thank you. Nothing I like better than someone telling me I'll be a great doctor. :)

Parul said...

wow Doc!
u rock!!