Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Our Mysterious Bodies
I was busy acting the all-knowing doctor this morning, when I got a beep on my mobile. It was from the blood bank. I have a rare blood group and hence I am part of something called emergency blood donor network. It means that when my blood group is not available anywhere in storage and they are not able to contact the usual blood donors, as a last resort, people like me in the emergency list, almost all of us doctors, are tapped. Which happens very, very infrequently, for although we are warned to always be prepared we are rarely called on to donate. Maybe once in a year. For you cannot call in a doctor who is in the middle of a 5 hour neurosurgery and request him to come down to the blood bank to donate a single unit of blood immediately. So most doctor’s prefer stay off this list and offhand, I think I am the single representative of my blood group in my hospital.
It was just then that I realized that I had committed a little blunder that morning. I had woken up late, had to choose between either shaving or breakfasting if I had to get to duty on time and thinking that I could always grab something later on I had rushed off on an empty stomach. And I was still in the same hypoglycemic state when the call came. To go or not to go was the dilemma I faced. When its an emergency and they needed blood immediately, it would be irresponsible of me to take the time to visit the canteen to have breakfast leisurely and then go on to donate blood. As an empty stomach and hypoglycemia is not absolutely contraindicated for giving blood, I made the decision to cut a little slack, lie that I had breakfasted and after donating blood, to head straight to the canteen. Now the trick was to lie convincingly when they went through the check list and not betray myself by any increased pulse rate or a spike in blood pressure when they asked me if I had eaten that morning. So once decided, I went and gave my blood and was out of there in ten minutes max. Yep, it’s only a ten minute procedure nowadays with the new machines they have. Not like what they show in films where your blood goes into a glass bottle drop by drop over a long time. Nowadays they have these machines which when tapped into a vein, suck your blood efficiently as fast as your heart can pump it out. The only downside is they have to be watched pretty carefully given the rate at which they draw out your blood.
So that done, I ended up relaxing in the blood bank doctors’ room, sipping the free fruity drink they give post donation and asking details about the patient for whom I had given blood. I had assumed it was for a premature infant as they usually go through several transfusions which seems pretty strange when you look at the pint size of a premature baby but necessary when you consider the number of complications any prematurely born kid goes through before they stabilize and start making their own blood. Anyway, in this case I was told that it was for a lady who had just had a spontaneous abortion (or to call it by its technical term Abruptio Placentae) when the uterus is unable to support the growing child inside it and expels the fetus causing an end to the pregnancy. This usually involves heavy bleeding for upto two weeks till all the tissues which were supporting the baby’s growth (inside the uterus) are finally got out of the body and a normal menstrual cycle is re-established. And hence the multiple blood transfusions required.
This made me pause and think about the human body and its many mysteries. Consider this mother, who had till 48 hours ago been happy in the knowledge of her pregnancy and suddenly she was in the intensive care section of a hospital having lost her baby and in danger of her life. And no one could pinpoint the exact reason of why it happened. There were so many reasons given in the medical texts any one of which or in combination could have caused this loss to her. And she couldn’t do a thing about controlling it or stopping it except to accept the inevitable. It’s the same with a lot of other things in our body. We do a lot of primping and pampering of our bodies, we eat right, we pop vitamins, we exercise and get hot bods, we even use fairness creams to get a fair complexion. But when it comes to the essentials, to the things which really matter we are absolutely helpless. We cannot make our kidneys filter urine, or our livers to clean our blood, we cannot ask our hearts to keep on pumping, despite however many kilos we pump in the gym. Our body and our organs are just not under our control, however much we pretend that they are. The only thing we can control is our mind which we can tell to disregard all those deep and morbid thoughts and get on with life.
We wonder at a lot of mysterious things in life, but one of the biggest wonders is our own body, which regardless of our willingness or unwillingness carries on its work silently and efficiently. Till something goes wrong one day and we wake up to the fact that our body is mostly autonomous of us and we are under its control and not vice-versa. And we better learn to stop, take a good look at it and take better care of whatever little is under our control. We make long term plans, we think where we would be ten years from now, twenty years from now and thirty years from now without any real guarantee we would really be there to do them. We worry about our work, our bosses, our appraisal reports, our neighbours and our society and in fear of them we make a lot of compromises in our lives, justifying everything based on expediency (and future repercussions) instead of deciding everything based on how we feel now, in this only moment given to us to live.
And finally we should learn to appreciate that whatever life we are leading at this moment, we should enjoy it to the utmost, for the body machine might decide to stop any minute and there is nothing you or anyone else can do about it for even the best medical specialists and topmost medical facilities are helpless when it comes to the body’s mysteries. We doctors are very good when it comes to diagnosis after disease has struck, but we cannot for the life of us, predict who would get what before it happens. And sometimes despite the best diagnostic equipment, we still can’t say precisely what went wrong in someone’s body, but use jargon to blame it alternatively on heredity, environment and lifestyle. Because there is no one single definitive answer to the question of why the body machine suddenly refuses to co-operate with us.
So live life in the present. Live life every precious second. Just Live like there is no tomorrow. And that is the take home message of this post.