Dear future me


For the sake of all the letters I began with this very line throughout my high school years– I hope this letter finds you in the pink of health(Truly though)
Well I don’t know how far into the future I’m going to send this, but nonetheless ;

Dear future me,

Hey there,you must be living the good life right now,at least I hope you are! Congratulations on making it this far in life.Are you a doctor yet? You better be! or else come back to this letter when you are. 

Well,you’ve done it and I hope that you enjoy your work every single day,as much as you enjoyed getting there.I hope that you haven’t forgotten the kind of doctor you wanted to become because its oh so easy to be callous and indifferent when you get caught up in the rat race 

But this letter is exactly for that,for those days when you need to slapped across the face and be told that you’re no different than anyone who comes to consult you and days when you become too vain and confidant in your job. 

Remember why you are here in the first place and the reason why you started. That you are blessed to be sitting on the side of the table that you are and not on the opposite. 

Remember what your mother told you;that the smile on your face when the patient enters the room should make half their worries dissolve in the air. 

And when all else fails to ground you, remember how it is to be a patient,how it feels to sit in a chair writhing in pain waiting for your turn to see the doctor,the feeling of having unknown people prod at your parts and the anxiety of the unknown reports that are due in a few minutes.

Every once in a while, don’t forget to save time for yourself. Mostly, remember to read! No,not the Harrison’s book of medicine you probably still haven’t finished reading.I mean novels.So that when you’re tired of your own, you can live in other people’s minds. 

Dear future self,I can already picture you,graceful,calm and collected.I expect that you will handle the stress and mental exhaustion of everyday with poise. Above everything else,I pray that you’re happy and that you’re at peace,as you’ve always been,with yourself and the people you have surrounded yourself with.  


Dear future me,I can’t wait to be you.

My way or the highway?

Three years in med school and here’s something I have come to realize. Medicine is a vast field. The human body, its different facets, the minute on goings that keep a human up and about is colossal. Different practitioners of medicine have tried different approaches to try and understand the same.

I do not know how, but the thought of an alternative approach to medicine other than allopathic, in my head brings with it complete disregard.  I am but a third year med student, yet arrogant enough to believe my practice of medicine is the best.

Over a cup of tea, on a Tuesday morning, I sat down with my version of Morrie, my maternal uncle and he gave me some insight on this. This post is not to prove the effectiveness of a certain branch but rather on how to treat a patient.

This is what he told me.

“What makes doctors assume such lofty opinion about their approach towards health science so much so that they think theirs is the only “scientific” approach and rest of the methods and perspectives are all hoaxes and superstitious. Is it that the theories, the propositions and views held by other approaches are not provable as per the axioms of allopathy ? But that cannot be because converse is as true. Allopathic principles cannot be explained or understood or proved in any language other than its own. This in fact holds true for all science.”

The principles of chemistry cannot be proved in a physics laboratory. Does that mean chemistry is invalid?

So what is to be done? A good scientist, when asked about the origin of life and the existence of God says “I do not know.” That is a decent answer. Tomorrow when a patient walks into my OPD and asks me if I think ayurveda will work for him, my answer should be that I do not know which is in fact true. I cannot tell him what I do not have any knowledge about. Instead of dismissing it because of preconceived notions I may have, I will indeed be doing him a favor by accepting that the question is beyond my field of expertise.

I am required to be knowledgeable about my field and that is a work in progress. While I do that I am learning to keep an open mind. The human body is a magical thing and  it can work wonders. All I need to do is have a little faith. I was watching a video the other day and the guy in it said something that stuck with me “An open mind is far more intelligent and wiser than an ignorant one.”

In all honesty sometimes I doubt whether the legitimacy of homeopathy is actually proven and from a scientific viewpoint, it doesn’t work because the medicine is diluted to such an extent that it is impossible to isolate even a molecule of the active ingredient. However it is said that said that homeopathy works though the placebo effect. So from a believers view point, it works!

But does the evidence of it having a scientific basis really matter? The essence of true medicine lies in alleviating the patient’s pain and curing them and if this can be achieved, then as future doctors ourselves we approve.

 

YEH HAI MUMBAI MERI JAAN

mumbai-train-borivili-station-express759

Let me start this by telling you something about me. Bombay has been an integral part of me. You see, I lived here for the first thirteen years of my life. I love the city, the people here, the street food and the language!  Unfortunately though, i never had the opportunity to experience the “city life” as they call it. I was far too young when we lived here.

Cut. 5 years later, here I am back in Mumbai, to meet all these beautiful friends I’ve made along the way. So today was day 1 and i’ve already had a plethora of experiences! I’m going back home with a suitcase filled with memories i know this.  I wanted to look around the city today and my friend graciously offered to come along. There was a catch. We had to use the train.

Now, I am this person that hates crowds and generally avoids any situation that involves a lot of people. So there I was, standing on the platform bustling with people, my ticket safely in my jeans pocket, clutching my backpack, as terrified as a mouse. My friend noticed my nervousness and told me this “there are just two rules, 1. Once you get on the train, don’t look back. Trust me I’ll be right behind you. And no.2 dont stand near the door, push and go as far in as you can. Now just breathe.”

And push I did and we did get on the train. 20 minutes onto the ride, we both got seats and got relatively comfortable. Now mind you by comfortable I mean there were still one too many persons sitting on that train seat and there were still people standing in front of me jostling each other just to get enough room to stand, their butts too close to my face for comfort. But I couldn’t care less. Because while I sat there clutching ,my bag for dear life, my friend had taken out her phone and she was comfortably texting. There were a group of women making travel plans for this weekend. Another couple of them shouting over two rows, exchanging office gossip. The lady next to me was chanting prayers from her prayer book. The woman in front of me was doing her make up. I kid you not, in that moving train with so many people around her, she got her lipstick and kohl spot on.

I am just sitting there looking around awestruck by how Mumbai is the best example of “life must go on”.  Everyone around me was going about their life like it was the most normal thing in the world. Mumbai, they call her the city that never sleeps.  And so many more over used bollywood clichés. But you know what? This is something bollywood did get right. It is the city that never sleeps. I was just so amazed by the normalcy of it all. It is hard, it is tedious but these mumbaikars don’t seem complain about it at all. And thats just so inspiring.

My mind wanders to my life back in medschool. Isn’t it just like this? There’s so much to study, theory and clinics apart, so much to remember. Every week is exam week. There are seminars to give, presentations to make. So many doctors to impress, without causing the patient any distress. Clearly I can’t rhyme. Anyway, I could just complain about it all day long or get inspired by these ladies around me and study hard. Taking the easier way out seems so appealing sometimes. So on the days I wake up feeling “I can’t do this. Its so hard “, maybe i should think of this lady chopping vegetables in a crowded train for dinner later that night. Some days are exhausting but what can I do about it but take it in a stride? This is what they call the mumbaikar spirit.
As I’m sitting there looking at people, soaking it all in, contemplating life a shrill voice woke me from my reverie “Aisa sir nahi hilane ka. Mereko baal chubta hai”. (You cant move your head around so much, your hair is pricking me.)
Well, that was day 1.

 

I AM

Alzheimer’s is like a flesh eating monster,it eats away at your
brain slowly, one neuron at a time, dissolving your thoughts,personality and identity before you know it’s even there.At first it’s hard to tell whether forgetting where you left the keys is just “old age” or something more ominous.But later,you search for parts of yourself that the monster has spared.
 
“She stood by the window her eyes fixed on the little kids playing outside.She sat like that most of the day,it gave her a hint of what normalcy looks like amidst her confusing life.Occasionally people would come to meet her.It made her happy but embarrassed at the same time because they kept asking her questions she couldn’t answer.”What is you name?” “Do you know where you are?”and the worst one”Do you remember me?”
 
It hurts doesn’t it? To think that one day your mum or your dad could forget you.That when you place their breakfast in front of them one  morning,they look at your face apologetically and try to place who you are.That you are unknown to them,after all these years you don’t exist in their memory.
When I proposed these feeling of mine  to my friend in class one day she told me something that i would never forget.She turned around,a distressed look on her face,looked me in the eye,and said firmly”But it’s not ABOUT YOU”.
That hit hard.
Alzheimer’s is a scary disease for those watching a loved one succumb to it, but imagine the souls of the suffering patient, how frightening it must feel.How scary it must be to not know what is happening to them and at times  lose the very essence of who they are.Their brains are destroyed by a an unstoppable disease; connections are lost. And in the process of losing their minds, they lose themselves.Identity is everything and once that is stripped off of you are no different from a helpless,crying baby.And that is how a patient feels.They feel afraid and lost but cannot express their feeling because they don’t have a voice.
Alzheimer’s can affect anyone,the creative holistic thinkers,the intellectuals,the religious.The once independent individuals fall prey to this debilitating disease.That’s where we come in,we hold their hand and guide them,show them love,show them we care.Because no matter who the person was before the disease hit them,they are vulnerable now and they need support.
We have become so advanced in all the fields of medicine.Be it in the treatment of a stroke or a heart attack or be it how researchers leave no stone unturned in studies for a cure for Alzheimer’s.But I think what we need to understand is that there is a slight difference in treating any other medical condition and a neurodegenerative condition like Alzheimer’s. The difference lies in the fact that Alzheimer’s is an incurable condition,so we must look at other ways to combat it like keeping our minds alert and caring for people who already suffer from it. Perhaps one day a cure will be found, but until then, it is up to us to be as humane as possible to those who are trapped by this disease.
 

“And suddenly in the spur of the moment ,it all came back to her.Bridget, a retired math teacher , husband no more , two kids she wishes she would see more often….. She sits in a wheelchair in a small dimly lit,dingy room. She looks at her old wrinkly hands and wonders when she had gotten so old.Her eyes are fixed on  door waiting for the knob to turn , she waits for your kids to turn up,maybe before she forgets everything again.She feel desolate and yearns for love and all she can manage to croak with her weak set of lungs is 


“Please don’t forget me,
just because of how my mind works,
I still feel you with my heart,
my heart will remember “

Superhero in white 


Do you know how feel when you encounter a celebrity. Even the ones you don’t really love that much. You gawk at them in awe from afar,your eyes getting bigger and bigger wondering whether to approach them or admire them from afar.You think about what their lives are actually like ,beyond what you can see.As if they are from another planet and live a life unknown to you.

That’s how I feel about doctors.They are like superstars to me.The ones I admire the most are the ones who have mastered professionalism yet maintained their unique personalities.As I walk in the hospital wards everyday and I see them approach, walking briskly, their stethoscope around their neck and white coat flying in the air (kinda) my heart is already racing a little.I don’t know whether to follow them or to just scram.You know how celebs walk with their bodyguards following them ? Yeah doctors walk in entourages too.The different strata of medico in white coats walk together with the head of the pack a step in from if everyone else.

When they examine a patient,I look at the seriousness at which they do it,And at the same time the ease and style with which they perform the task. I imagine their minds doing the complex arithmetic of diagnosis as the patient complains of something as trivial as headache.I never cease to be amazed at the amount of knowledge that they hold in their brains.All the knowledge that’s needed to save a life,the knowledge that explains that the weird shape of your nail is because you possibly have lung problem. All the books we read tirelessly in the 5 years of study is in that little cavity.

And so I study everyday,I study so that one day,sometime in the future, I can overcome feelings of self-doubt, sacrifice my own comfort and convenience and walk in the hospital corridors, the stethoscope around my neck, at the head of that entourage.

Dear 18 year old me

First of all we are really sorry for this late post. We were caught up with second year exams and the stress of it all. But we have now settled into the routine of third year and we promise to be more regular here on. 

This is something I had written just after my exams, so here goes.

I had just finished with a week long of extremely draining exams.And unlike all my other friends, I bailed on every single plan I was included in. You see, I was doing one my most favourite things in the world – i was cleaning. To those of you who don’t know me, yeah i’d probably be the love child of monica from friends and Claire from modern family. Tough life, huh?

Anyway. While i was at it, lost in my thoughts, I realized it has been more than two years since i joined college. And so much has changed since then. Time has flown by like a comet, leaving in its aftermath a myriad changes. Now when i look back to that naive girl who left her parents over protective household for the first time to enter into the real world, i am proud of her journey. The person i am today is mostly as a consequence of the choices i have made and the circumstances i was in. Considering how i had absolutely no idea of what to expect i’d say, atta girl !

If however, i were to rewind these two years and start college all over again knowing what i do know today, there are some things i’d love to tell the 18 year old me. 

  1. Its okay to fail a few tests. It doesnt mean anything. Let those marks not make you question your decision to be here. 

  2. Make friends. In this crazy world full of people, you need those few that will come to be your safe haven. There’s only one foolproof way to do that- trial and error. Its okay to trust the wrong people, they’ll teach you useful lessons. But when you find your clan, be it one person or five, hold onto them.

  3. Its okay to spend time alone. Being seen alone doesn’t make you a loser. Take a walk on campus, eat atleast a meal alone, sit by yourself in the library. You’ll slowly grasp that sometimes its better that way.

  4. Boys. They’ll give you attention until you are their new shiny toy and stop when they find another one. It’s okay to get the attention. Its okay to not get the attention too. Let not their opinion of you, be what you think of yourself.

  5. You are going to meet so many different people that come with their own stories. Be accepting of everyone. Its very easy to judge someone. Put yourself in her shoes. 

  6. Its okay to break a few hearts, that does not make you a bitch. Its okay to get your heart broken, you’ll learn how to get over it and become a stronger person. You’ll see how its not the end of the world.

  7. Talk to your parents. They miss you. I know that you are soaking up all the new experiences, but they want in on it too! Let them adapt to your absence. Be patient.

  8. Spend some time on yourself. Put on a pair of running shoes and go for a jog. Start eating healthy. And keep an open mind to everything you see and hear around. 

  9. And finally, get out of your comfort zone once in a while. Run a marathon, donate blood, wake up early just to catch the sunrise, talk to strangers, be a part of a club in college, take charge of an event for a fest. Do something you’d have never done before. Do it and amaze even yourself. 



Dear 18 year old me, just breathe. You’ll do fine. 


You’re only human. 


It is three hours before you finally get to see the doctor. You hand him a slip and he mumbles a few things you cannot make sense of.The pain is too much now,you can hardly stand.They wheel you around to the bed and you lay there,still as a log..the piercing pain keeping you awake. 

Within hours of your arrival,the agony has intensified.The room is dingy and the air is filled with sorrow.Everyone just lays in their bed waiting.Each ones companion sits at the side of their bed.Their distress no less that the one next to them.They wait helplessly as they watch their loved ones anguish.No doctor comes.No information.Just pain.

You wait for the ward nurses to come to you but they don’t.They dart around from side to side looking right through you,do they care? you wonder,you are too weak to call out to them. 

Hours pass and the curtains are drawn.The loneliness creeps in as you fix your eyes on the drops of liquid falling into the small tube. Drip. Drip. Drip. 

Then,a surprise when you least expected it.A young man in a white coat.He looks apprehensive as he approached you.”What is your name Sir?”.After 7 hours of admission you are finally addressed by your name.

“Jim,how are you doing?”

You already feel better. 


Friends and relatives who have been inpatients recently all have similar complaints – never seeing a nurse except when drugs were being handed out, no one offering reassurance or information, days going by without any contact with senior medical staff, virtually having to beg for help moving up the bed or getting to the toilet, repeated requests for analgesia. Two elderly relatives developed pressure sores after straightforward surgery, and one lost six per cent of her bodyweight after a joint replacement because of prolonged nausea that was inadequately managed. It’s these experiences, and not the skilful surgery, that patients remember and tell their friends about. And it’s these that make patients, especially elderly patients, dread being in the hospital. 

                                  -Teale(2007)

It’s all too easy to dehumanize patients,you put them in a hospital gown, lie in a bed and then make them wait for you to examine them.
We just have to make them feel welcome,put a smile on their face and remember that as they come in through the door,they’ve found out that something’s wrong,and as far as they are concerned,there’s only one person in the hospital-them.