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Monday, January 06, 2014


Many  people accuse doctors of wallowing in luxury not being as noble as they profess to be .
having been fed over the ages on the nobility of this profession they tend to forget that it is also practiced by the same humans belonging to  other professions and not Martians .
 no special moral superiority is granted to medical doctors on graduation ,like any other person they have a life to lead have their pains and pleasures and families to look after and dreams to fulfil so the expectation that every doctor should sacrife his all for the sake of society would not go much beyond idealistic stories or in movies .
Having said this it is also known that there are many among doctors  who conduct their profession with utmost decorum and within their ethical boundaries if not one cannot see the merits accrued to the state of health over the years .
Becoming a doctor by itself is also not a small joke ,to get through the rat race of getting a coveted seat ( Iam mentioning by merit of course  ) it requires years of drudgery and hard work of cramming up millions of facts attending classes ,dissecting the dead and spending hours in crummy pathology laboratories with bottled specimens or in anaesthetised operation theatres cutting and stitching human tissues .
food and sleep generally is priority number two those times and mostly so for many throughout their profession .
commitments to time can hardly be given by any doctor as the unexpected could turn up at any time and cancellations could well be the order of the day leading to stress and frustrations .the obvious question is after all after choosing the profession why complain ,true nobody does that but at the same time no physician needs to be defensive to any critic of his time he has earned it well !

Over the years I had more unslept  nights than slept ones !

During internship if at all we slept it was the sleep of the dead as working continuously sometimes for four days we could get a few winks and a quick grabs of food ,so busy were government hospitals those days and so crowded ,

I still remember the crowded wards of Kilpauk medical college hospital where I studied, it  had patients on the floor and under the beds and in the corridors like many government hospitals even today do ,
house surgeons or interns as were called had to administer all injections for the patients which would amount to more than hundred ,we used glass syringes boiling in a steriliser as this was before the disposable era ,armed with a long list we used to fill the hot syringes with the medicines from their vials ,break th glass ampoules with a click of our fingers not even using a cutter many times injuring ourselves and then walk to the patients in ill lit corridors and give them the injections sitting on the floor ,we would be interrupted with all sorts of emergencies and admissions from the casualties and if there was a sudden surgery due to an RTA or an emergency situation we would run helter skelter before the chief or his assistants  arrived  ,many times I had eagerly scrubbed and entered the theatre for getting a chance to be part of a surgery was a coveted thing for interns as there was tough competition in a teaching medical college from senior house surgeons ,post graduates junior assistants etc and invariably they would ward us off to the far lying blood bank to cross match and collect blood for the patient ,those days there were no blood components and one had to draw blood from patient take it an a vial  go to the remote blood bank area open the locks and enter the frigid rooms switching on the lights opening the huge refrigerators take the blood bottle and cross match the sample and hug it and run back to the theatre sometimes in pouring rain and after reaching the OT with so much effort would  be yelled at by the big men there for being late .

we were attenders nurses room boys and junior doctors all together but this is how we learned .
the duty room itself was like a tiny ward with the same beds in the ward  rusted and with dirty bedsheets but we slept their like kings when we were permitted ,
we awaited with dread every time the attender knocked the door and called out for a doctor from a speciality praying that it was not us and many a time no prayers were answered in internship .
it was like the knock of the gestapo in Hitlers Germany
 Our teachers were strict but  had a fondness for us unrivalled in any profession
they had this feeling of us being part of the family as children who needed to learn the hard way and they were protective and taught us their greatness slowly .
internship is more like an Army base camp for a doctor .

During my post graduation days too night calls were there but relatively lighter as it was only speciality concerned and we had some junior helps
later during early days of private family practice in kochi I never stopped people from ringing the bell or seeing them during nights ,most of the nights would be interrupted by patients many times over some were really genuine needs many were absurd as they could have come during daytime but would give silly excuses like we were busy etc,
many would come in rickety auto rickshaws or cars to take me into distant house ,
I had walked through slush and mud and heavy rain for long distances to see patients over the years ,
some would just take us to homes to confirm death which would have been evident hours before so that they could get a convenient death certificate needed for property dealings later and invariably no fee were collected from death houses and hence they would get it all free ,

over time I would get wise and stop the 24 hours open clinic as there were lot of hospitals around to serve at all hours ,I would restrict myself to strict timings and appointments .

 I would lock the gates still at times some would jump over the wall and shout out till I opened the doors some would give their piece of mind at the doctor who was selfish and not bothered about the poor sick society ,
this kind of ranklings were  a kerala speciality coming out of their brainwashed militant socialistic attitudes  but many  also understood the hardship of doctors and the work involved and were ever grateful ,many of them still remember us .
After drifting into oncology I continued night duties in lakeshore hospital where it was as busy as it could come but I used to enjoy those days as I had a passion for my speciality and I felt I could really do my mite for reducing the sufferings of cancer patients ,many nights were spent over long talks with colleagues in the casualty or in the wards in between patients and strong tea from neighbouring hotels .
In UAE too I continued with night calls which were quite tough as it was a very busy tertiary referral centre and our on calls were highly stressed up at times with no time to breathe but there was lot of fun too ,late in the nights specially during winter we night owls used to meet up in the ground floors for a cuppa tea and at times a relieving smoke and spin our yarns till our mobiles shrilled ,
I remember I even put the hospital contact name in my mobile as shalliyam which in Malayalam w meant Trouble ! so every time I had a call from hospital it used to say shalliyam shalliyam
on call Rotas also used to create lot of irritations  with colleagues specially during long holidays like Ramadhan days ,
it was generally accepted that if one does on call during the small id one could be free during the big one or vice versa as each had approximately more than a week
once unfairly I was continued to be put on call during both and this was I felt was for favouring someone
 I protested and naturally the mediator suggested we toss a coin ,up went the coin and landed to my luck on my choice but both mediator and the other would not agree and said the coin should not roll over but should be caught in hand ,for which I just kept quite as I knew how the wind swayed this time the coin this time fell against my choice  and I did the calls ,
the funny end of the incident was the public hugging that the benefited friend gave to an offended me after a month of silence from my side !
today it all looks so childish and I remembered this over a conversation with another dear friend
Iam narrating all this as an experience most doctors go through at some time  of their life
yes it is their job and they chose it but it is also a job that requires a lot of sacrifices

At 55 today I am free of night mares ( calls )

but for the real one s! of course


Dr Thomas Antony said...

Well written as can be expected from life was/ is not different!..(I think all doctors will feel the ssme way) ..Beautiful indeed...!

Michelle said...

I really enjoyed your article. Its very entertaining and interesting. I know the tough life of a doctor as my husband is himself a very busy one. At the end of the day, saving a life gives him so intense a pleasure that all personal pain seem miniscule to him.

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