Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Inconvenient Truth

Its Time To Take A Reality Check.

So last Friday my last case for the day was a bit of a challenge for me- not professionally but ethically. The patient was a 17 year old make who was dragged in by his mother- as he said he had been home sleeping on the couch when she had woken him up and brought him straight to the hospital for a consult. The boys sister is a current patient of mine and so is the mother- in fact we had just finished the treatment for the daughter and sent her home that evening when the mother had turned up after an hour with the son and wanted him to get treated too. I examined the boy and found him to be perfectly normal and healthy and I thought they would be happy to hear this. Boy was I wrong.

The patient’s mother argued with me for the next forty minutes or so on all the points she found defective in her son while the kid sat there squirming in embarrassment. But the boy was clear on one thing- he did not want any treatment if I found him healthy- which I did. And I explained firmly to the mother that I don’t treat healthy patients but only sick patients whatever the pressure put on me and that’s that. After they left my cabin my colleague who had been eavesdropping the whole thing, wandered up to me shaking with suppressed laughter and asked wouldn’t it have been easier to make a show of agreeing and doing some minor procedure or other just to get the mother off the back rather than losing such valuable paying customers?

 I shrugged and smiled and walked away- I just couldn’t explain to him in a few minutes how ever since I got into medicine it’s always been more than a way of making money for me. When I was young and in college I had always thought that I would be somewhere running a free clinic treating patients for free- never turning away anyone who came to me for help.  In fact I had often fantasized about heading off to Sierra Leone or the Congo or the deepest darkest parts of the African rain forest where they had never seen a doctor and take to them the benefits of a doctor in the house.  And after so many years when I look back at the path I have traversed and seen where I am now I am ashamed of myself. Where has that idealistic young doctor gone?

 Like everyone else I have compromised for the sake of a good life, for ease of living, for savings for a future family which till now is a non-starter and might never even take place. And this incident reminded me once again of the man I might have been if only I didn’t fall prey to the temptations of leading an everyday  life- of falling in love with a girl, marrying her, starting a family and having kids etc. I have let myself be seduced by the routine family life dream and forgot all the high ideals I once possessed and was so passionate about that I even got my parents reluctant permission to head off to the remote places once I graduated from college. And you know what?  In the end the joke’s been on me- for the girls who I have abandoned the poor and needy for- every single one of them I have proposed to- have turned me down and some have even laughed at my audacity for aspiring so high.

I think in retrospect that I have deserved this- for abandoning my higher purpose for baser emotions.  God intended me for one thing- he made me a damn good surgeon just for one thing- to help those in pain, those who need me and I have completely turned away from that purpose to rush off after my own baser instincts. So maybe its time now for me to re-evaluate where I am and what I intend to do. As I type this I have simultaneously sent off my resume to medicines sans frontiers – that society of doctors who go into war zones to help the wounded – with a caveat that they send me where the fighting’s hardest and the need for doctors most desperate. If they pick me up then I am off to Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria and maybe I will have a purpose in life again and be respected by other people rather than be laughed at by silly girls for setting my sights so high.

P.S For those who think this is a knee jerk reaction to my latest rejection – it is not.  I have thought it through all evening and come to this decision. Leaving aside my heartbreak, one thing it has brought to my notice is that I am not really fit for a normal marital life if so many diverse girls keep finding something wrong with me and keep rejecting me. Can they all be wrong? Heck No, they can’t be. So, its not them- its me and it definitely does mean its time I went off into the jungle of equatorial Africa where I can be a giant among pygmies rather than be a guy who gets laughed at when proposing.

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