The amateur doctor- Science, superstition and saving life

Diwali 2022
October 27, 2022
Monday Blues
Monday Blues
October 31, 2022

Prof. (Dr) Viyatprajna Acharya
Biochemistry, KIMS, KIIT (DU), Bhubaneswar

That was the year of my internship in 2000, in our times it was known as “Housemanship”, the one- year compulsory rotatory clinical training in different major subjects amassing practical knowledge. During the grilling four and half years of MBBS, which turned out to be actually 5 years and little more due to delayed exams, mass bunks, strikes, annual day celebrations, was the time period to gather gargantuan treasure of knowledge based on which we were supposed to propel ourselves as doctors in future. But this one year was quite crucial as it gave us insight to the real world under the safe cocoon of our teachers and seniors.

We were also nicknamed as HS (House surgeons); decoded as “Hospital Sandhas” literally meaning “the powerful bulls of the hospital” and it was true to some extent too. We were fresh out of graduation, had our own association, worked hard and were the main workforce in the wards apart from post-graduate trainees, didn’t have the fear of failing and thus the energized bulls. That gave us courage to do some extra effort for few patients even.

During my Medicine department duty, I was posted in 1st unit, by far the best and busiest unit. At times the number of admissions were so high that we had to keep a few patients on the floor and had to name them as Floor-1, floor -2 etc.

Once it happened so, that on the day of OPD, two beds from the end a patient breathed his last. Aum Shanti…we had learnt not to grieve on deaths anymore. We were mere observers of life and death. The bed was vacated. The busy OPD started and on that day, I was on emergency duty. That meant I won’t be there at the out-patient section, but rather stay in the in-patient ward and see how the patients get admitted and occupy their assigned beds and the desirable treatment is started immediately. Amidst ordering for tests, sample drawing, Ryle’s tube insertion, catheter insertion how the day passes by we don’t get an inkling even.

A new patient with brain stroke was admitted to the bed mentioned above and he too expired with an hour. Since still the OPD was going on, quickly the body was handed over to the respective relative and a 3rd patient was admitted.

This time a boy of around 15-16 years with sickle cell crisis. Anaemia and jaundice were quite obvious but he kept smiling. The tests were ordered, typical features, fetal hemoglobin high. But such crises are nothing new in Western Odisha and we had treated so many such cases. Moreover, the child was in cheery mood. Maybe with proper medications and a pint of blood he’ll be fine soon and shall be back at his home again.

But inwardly, I was a bit apprehensive. Though not at all superstitious by nature, surreptitiously a thought set in my mind, will the bed be lucky for this boy. “Hah! I am over-thinking” shooed away the negative thoughts and returned home in the evening.

Those days we didn’t have mobile phones to clear our queries as soon as they arose in minds like today. I just waited for the next morning visualizing about each patient mentally. Started little early as the day after admissions remain quite hectic and we have to work really hard to keep up with the pace and relieve the night duty doctors.

When I came to that boy, found my negative thoughts taking shape. for the first time I was starting to think whether the bed is haunted and whoever gets admitted to that bed dies within few hours but watched him helplessly. Every treatment was going on but he was in a semi-comatose condition.

The next day when I went to the ward, the boy’s condition had further worsened! Know not why I felt that that boy deserves to live and I just can’t let it happen thrice in close succession. It was not new to us to lose patients but this particular bed bugged me. By mid-day I requested the attending sister to change the boy to the adjacent bed. The sister initially declined and said HOD will be too angry when he will see such a change. But somewhere she echoed my thoughts too and eventually, she changed the bed.

Miraculously, the boy started showing improvement just after a few hours. I was feeling apprehensive and elated simultaneously as science and superstition fought within me. That night I slept peacefully.

I was all ready for the new day and was bit excited to know about the condition of my little patient. Rushed to the hospital by my Scooty and found the boy wide awake and chirping with a wide grin and the mother seemed so relieved.
But my exaltation came to a halt when HOD scolded very harshly the sister about changing the bed. Very strangely, the concerned sister swallowed all the bitter scolding on my behalf without uttering a single word. We secretly exchanged glances. I felt guilty and cast an apologetic glance but she just smiled back at me.

Later after the rounds I apologized to her but she just smiled and said nothing.

Beyond science there are many things that we can’t explain in the language of material science but maybe by spiritual science. As I reflect back, few questions pop up in my mind- Was the bed really haunted? Did I myself sent wrong vibes initially for which condition worsened and for the same reasons due to my strong sub-conscious positive signals helped in recovering? Why the nurse didn’t throw the blame on me, did she also consider herself a partnerto this so-called crime??

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