A PHYSICIAN'S PRAYER
Glancing at the surroundings of my home, I dedicated myself to sweeping off dust from a heap of medical journals & magazines lying in the corner of my bedroom…….But as old habits die hard, I picked up randomly from the pile of scattered material & started reading…….It was an article by Dr. Jame Abraham, about a lady suffering from CML (Chronic myeloid Leukaemia ) under treatment….
After browsing through the article, which dealt with the communication between doctors & patients, my thoughts went afar…
Abandoning the duster beside me, a flurry of visions loomed before me……my fingers ached to pick up a pen & start writing. A numbers of thoughts crossed my mind….some events…Some questions started taking shape into my mind….
What was the Hippocratic Oath, medical ethics ? Are physicians only technicians of the human body which is akin to a broken machine ??? How much is to be confided to the patient or rather divulged to him ?? How much to emotions like sympathy & compassion play a role in medical practice ?? Is the study of Medicine only a mere cold science of objects, evidence, formulas, numbers or datas or is it touch of art of healing touch.
A month ago…..a frantic telephone call from a very close friend unnerved me…..As her panicked voice steadied, she related & conveyed me a disaster…..her lovely 14 year old niece was diagnosed to have ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia )….
The family was devastated….a young adolescent girl was in the merciless grasp of Blood Cancer….The elderly grandparents, her parents, uncles & aunts were all gripped by a shadow of the unknown & the fear of the known medical dilemnas, for the child belonged to a family of doctors with many doctor contacts.
Now was the time to act for oneself…..A battery of expensive tests confirmed the diagnosis….What used to be a collection of data, numbers & packages parceled in a human body for the other patients, became a stab of pain, agony & sleepless nights for the family. Today the roles were reversed..a physician was seeking solace in another physician, a colleague. A healing touch of the physician with soft spoken words of empathy was what required ….the rest was just a routine jargon of paper work and then endurance for the inevitable !!!!
An innocent unsuspecting child had to undergo the ruthless chemotherapeutic regime, which robbed her off her youth…..chunks of her gorgeous hair started falling out ; she dropped out of her board exams, her limbs were limp by the inhuman needle pricks, her veins were slowly getting destroyed ; as the vicious therapeutic side effects rocked her fragile body, she was slowly losing her energy & vigour.
Her only consolation was that she was guided by a strong minded physician family behind her who would have the courage to overcome the obstacles ; as they not only knew the prognosis the dreaded disease but also were well informed about all the pros & cons of the prolonged 3 year course of the vigorous treatment…they were comforted by the fact that ALL in young children had 85% 5 year survival rate. The family united in their efforts to face this ordeal !!!!!
The fall in platelet count & RBC count of her rare A negative blood group was immediately combated by transfusion of 6 units of platelets & packed cell donated by various well wishers,along with their blessings….we appealed to the various donors through the social networking site and sources & resources, through various contacts.
The girl was brave enough to undergo this rigorous treatment for almost 2 months when her white cell count dropped….her body immunity was failing & she became prone to various infections. She developed fever & had to be admitted thrice in a span of 3 weeks in the dead of night to fight this turn of events. She received high dose of antibiotics & drugs like gCSF (growth colony stimulating factor).
All the while, her physician family & their colleagues worked against time to keep in pace with her health, determined to save her frail body from the ruthless disease & the treacherous effects of the rigorous treatment.
Continually, they received feedbacks from eminent specialists & mental support from colleagues , friends & relatives. They poured into various medical journals & searched the internet for any new or experimental drugs or form of treatment which would bring a new ray of hope & sunshine into the life of their precious child. They were ready to forgo their most possessions for their child, ready to fly abroad at any expense. Expensive drugs were being made available at any point of time through the contacts & medical team.
But just look at the scenario from the other side of the table….what if the patient did not have any medical personnel in the family ?? What if the gravity of the situation had not been revealed to them or they had been ignorant of the situation if they had been common citizens ???? What if they belonged to the lower socioeconomic community where the availing the luxury of such treatment was like landing on the Moon ???
Would we be treating a downtrodden community of patients with equal amount of compassion & humanity ?? Would a team of eminent specialists wrestle with life, opportunity & judgement as best as they can….if the family could not pay a penny from the pocket ???? If the family had no contacts, would such special facility be made available to them ???
Should physicians mind be ruled only by a scientific approach of technicalities, datas, socioeconomic environment & drugs & experiments which involve crores & crores of the world’s economy, or should they be governed by a sense of justice, compassion, equality & duty towards all patients alike ??? Should a hospital be broken up into fragments by a VIP category of patients & middle class category & general class of patients????
The little girl in the picture, god bless her, has many more years to survive……her physician family, their colleagues , friends & relatives are there in every step of her trial, they are beside her to wipe away any tears, shed or unshed, console her for her words, spoken or unspoken……but who would be available to spend a few valuable moments to usher words of consolation to the less luckier ones, who cannot afford a square meal a day let alone spend a dime on the treatment….Do not these unfortunate ones deserve a better quality of life & treatment ???
At least they deserve our prayers, these “CHILDREN OF THE LESSER GOD,” for even their friends & relatives turn away their faces when it boils down to an economic crisis…..We so called physicians are also helpless….surely we cannot be expected to empty our own wallets for the forsaken !!!!! Only perhaps the Almighty will help them as they are left to their destiny…..The technological advancement & five star treatment is perhaps only for those whom society has chosen to be deserving….the cream category of who can shop in multiplexes, buy innumerable properties & shares & rule over the economic condition of the country !!! The long queues & dates are only for the middle class the downtrodden…..
Have we , in the process of churning ourselves into the most prestigious & noble professions of the world, somewhere failed to remember some valid points in the Hippocratic Oath ??
• I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, & that warmth, sympathy & understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or chemist’s drug.
• I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family & economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
All this reminds me of a verse from GITANJALI by R.N TAGORE, which I read in my childhood…..
“Give me strength to make my love fruitful in service….
Give me strength never to disown the poor or bend my knee towards the insolent might…
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles…
And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love…”
By Mou Dutta
(Dr. SUJATA CHATTERJEE)