Straight from the Heart

When BRIDGE feels strongly about issues close to its heart, they find expression in words and are shared in this column. This is also a way for the BRIDGE founder and his associates to praise, provoke, and promote social themes that can benefit society at large. Here are some thoughts straight from the heart.

I Wish All Doctors were Like Him:
A Tribute to Doctors

Let me ask you a question: “What treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?” 

Does this question baffle you? Well, before I answer that question, let me tell you where I found this question and its amazing answer. 

This is from a wonderful book called ‘Cutting for Stone’ that I read a few months ago. It’s a best seller with over 1 million copies sold worldwide written by Abraham Verghese, a practising surgeon in the US. 

In the book the author describes a scene where the protagonist Dr Thomas Stone, a well-known surgeon, addresses a gathering of medical students in America. He was bringing to their attention something that went wrong with a surgery. To drive home his point, he read aloud a letter from the mother of the deceased patient addressed to Dr Stone.

“Dr Stone, my son’s terrible death is not something I will ever get over, but perhaps in time it will be less painful. But I cannot get over one image, a last image that could have been different. Before I was asked to leave the room in a very rough manner, I must tell you that I saw my son was terrified and there was no one who addressed his fear. The only person who tried was a nurse. She held my son’s hand and said, ‘Don’t worry, it will be all right’. Everyone else ignored him. The doctors cared only about his body. Not about the little boy who was in fear. I saw no sign of the slightest bit of kindness. Dr Stone, as head of surgery, perhaps as a parent yourself, do you not feel some obligation to have your staff comfort the patient? Would the patient not be better off with less anxiety, less fright? My last memory of my son will be of my little boy, watching in terror as his mother is escorted out of the room. It is the graven image I will carry to my own deathbed. The fact that people were attentive to his body does not compensate for their ignoring his being.”

After reading the letter, Dr Stone, folded it and put it away in his pocket and stood there. There was total silence. And then in a quiet, but firm voice, he asked: “What treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?”

There were about 200 people in the room. But no one knew the answer, except one. And the answer was: WORDS OF COMFORT.

Friends, there is a reason why I am saying this today. When I read this passage, my mind went back exactly two years when I was admitted in St John’s Medical College in Bangalore for Myocardial Infarction, in layman’s words, heart attack. It was a triple vessel disease and I needed bypass surgery. Although I was in the reputed St John’s Hospital, due to the seriousness of the problem, I needed to be taken to the specialist heart hospital Narayana Hrudayalaya. 

The day I was to be shifted was eventful. As I was wheeled out of my room at St John’s, I saw a crowd outside, all of them my friends and well-wishers, talking in hush-hush tones, some looking very sombre and some folding their hands. A few of them walked up to me and held my hands and gave me assurances of prayers. I was escorted to a waiting ambulance sent specially from Narayana Hospital with a doctor in tow with all possible equipment lest something happens to me on the way. It was the first time I was in an ambulance. The doctor kept checking my pulse on the way and monitored my heart beats. Although I had felt normal after a few days of treatment after the attack, these scenes gave me a fright. I started to really worry if I would survive the surgery.

Soon, we were at the casualty dept of Narayana Hospital. Seeing many patients like me in that hall with people wailing all around me, I lost my sense of balance. I thought I was done with this world. In about a few minutes, I was assigned to a doctor. Before I was taken to this doctor, my family members and some of my friends had already had a conversation with him and were waiting for me to be brought in. By now, I had mentally prepared for the worst.

As I was wheeled into his room, I was in for a pleasant surprise. I saw the beaming faces of my dear ones, and I saw a man of pleasant face wearing blue scrubs and welcoming me saying: Welcome Mr Shibu, I am Dr Ramesh Sheshadri, your doctor.” What followed were several minutes of conversations during which he explained what he was going to do to me, how safe the procedure was and that he was an experienced surgeon performing up to 4 bypass surgeries a day and that I was safe in his hands. And he said he wanted to see me leave the hospital in a week with renewed strength.

I tell you friends, I never felt safer. Not only I, my entire entourage of people just loved this doctor. I tell you, I could not wait for the procedure to happen. I was already feeling cured. 

So now you understand why I put that question in the beginning. “What treatment in an emergency is administered by ear?” WORDS OF COMFORT. Yes, that’s what Dr Ramesh administered to me that day.

I had similar experience when next day I was taken to the founder of Narayana Hospitals Dr Devi Shetty, another great human being who makes you feel that bypass surgery is just another injection that you take. 

On this Doctors’ Day, I fold my hands to thank all my dear doctors and hundreds of others who make this profession noble by administering the emergency treatment by ear: WORDS OF COMFORT. 

Thank you dear doctors. Happy Doctors’ Day!!!

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