How I ended up being a Pediatrician
Ears or Kids?
The astonishing thing about the fact that I am a pediatrician, or a children's doctor, is not that I did not want to be one and am therefore not so happy, but that I did want to be one, and find myself, on some occasions, unhappy to be one.
However, before I bore you with all the sordid details about how I came to be a kids' doctor, let me just say that kids are marvellous. They are charming (they will keep smiling as they wet your dress while you are examining their nose), spontaneous (they will giggle and admire the torch that is in their hands, then, suddenly, throw it on the floor and thereby break it), kind (they will, once they begin to know you, pull your hair ever so kindly as you try to enjoy their companionship), smart (they know how to play Mummy against Papa, don't they?) and inventive (an excuse for every wrongdoing, from smudging your table-top with stamp-ink to breaking an old China vase without your permission).
My ENT (that's ear-nose-throat) training was done in my fourth year of studying to be a doctor, and I seriously felt at that time that there never was a better subject than that one. There was a lurking love for children at the back of my mind, but I thought that ENT would be more interesting and more remunerative as well.
When my teacher (his name was Dr. Kirtane) saw me browsing post-graduate books in under-grad years, he smiled enigmatically. Something he knew that I did not acknowledge: I was too clumsy to be a surgeon.
He had seen me spill tea/coffee on more than one occasion in the college canteen (mess). He had also seen me checking patients in the out-patient department (O.P.D.) on several occasions.
When I told him about my plans to pursue that speciality (it is called oto-rhino-laryngology officially) during post graduation, he nodded sympathetically. He did not openly discourage me, but he did point out my clumsiness in no uncertain terms. My dreams were dashed when I tried to assist in a small ear surgery during my internship. It is called "ELR" or "ear lobe repair". In this surgery, ear lobes torn through the bottom edge by the wearing of heavy ear jewellery, are repaired, i.e. their torn edges are stitched back again. During this operation, I nearly ended up stitching the ear lobe to the side of the neck! As the patient was an elderly woman, I got a good mouthful of her "opinion" about my skills. The ENT resident whom I was assisting glared at me and, out of the patient's earshot, gave me a piece of his mind as well. Further, he exhorted me to never, ever, assist him.
Dejected, I returned home and began to learn how to be dexterous with my hands with a needle and string. I sat late nights, stitching newspaper pages to each other and old rags, handkerchieves, dusters, etc., provided they were amenable to being stitched.
Two months later, I got my second chance: this time, it was assisting at a nose cartilage-cum-skin tear of a professional boxer. His professional name was Angry Asgar. He was over 200 lbs., 6'3" tall and had biceps the size of my torso - or so it looked like. Mr. ENT resident had no choice but to ask me to assist, as I was on duty at that time.
"Just keep away from trouble," he said between gritted teeth just before we went in.
I nodded vigorously to show him that I knew what must be avoided; however, during the actual operation, I dropped a couple of instruments, and, at one point, lost control of my task and had the patient bleeding for almost 40 seconds on the table. This time, there were no niceties. The resident almost shouted at me and asked me to leave.
Over the day, news sort of leaked out about the bumpkin who had caused the patient to get messed up. The relatives were literally waiting for me to come back the next day. Being unaware, I went to my duty as usual, only to confront brawn and muscle the likes of which I had only seen earlier on ESPN Star Sports Television. It turned out that the patient's father, elder brother, and mother were all gifted with large and taut muscles. Mr. Dad thrust his index finger at me and mouthed a gruff "Here you are, you twerp!". Whereupon, the other relatives sort of surrounded me and landed a few punches on my face before the security guards came and rescued me. To date, I cannot forget that day's terror in my mind.
Introspection had never been my forte, but I had to do it. Things kind of added up till my plate was full of this one bona fide Truth: I couldn't be a surgeon, and definitely not an otorhino ... whatever. Thereafter, I buried my dreams to be an ENT specialist and turned my attention to children.
Now, here I am, a confirmed, old Pediatrician, with over 21 years of professional practice under my belt. And, as I pointed out earlier, still unhappy to some extent about my choice. The reasons are not too far to seek. Firstly, I had to renounce ENT. Secondly, I find that the profession of Pediatrics is full of snot-nosed, dirty, sick, wheezy and pale children - and my task is rather cut out. I cannot really "enjoy" being with these sick children. Of course, my moment of recompense does come when they get well and beam their 1000-watt smiles at me, but the monetary benefits aren't something to crow about. Finally, one cannot refuse night-time emergencies.
Talk of a dream job: I haven't got one. Yet.