PANGS

Day One of my Paediatrics posting. The lady sits beside me in a share-rickshaw. Her son sits in her lap. She looks fiftyish. He isn’t more than five.

His eyes are strange. His head sways with every bump. His arms flail. His legs are limp.

His mother hugs him closer. When his tiny fist accidentally punches me, she smiles in apology.

Is it Down’s? Delayed development? Polio? Or is the child just sleepy?

Should I meet them in a clinic instead of a rickshaw, will I have an answer?

*

The Gynaecology OPD is packed. A Psychiatry resident brings a young girl to be examined by my Head of Unit.

She was married off as a child. Her husband is an alcoholic. Her mother-in-law forced her into prostitution. She conceived once – and delivered. She is pregnant again, and wants to abort.

My unit doesn’t perform abortions.

She is nineteen. Her furtive eyes settle on my textbook, which she examines with interest.

‘Aap yahaan seekhte ho kya?’  

She looks at me eagerly. I don’t know where to look.

*

It started with leukaemia. When bladder cancer followed, he went to Urology. But Anaesthesia pronounced him unfit for surgery. And Medicine diagnosed tuberculosis. Then he fractured his leg.

He aged twenty years in two. Whenever we met, he’d complain about how doctors make him run around without explaining what is wrong with him. I never knew what to say.

Recently, I spot him again in the corridors. I duck into the nearest doorway and hope he hasn’t seen me.

*

The houseman scrubs her back with antiseptic. A ward-boy holds her still. When the lumbar puncture needle pierces her spine, she begins to scream.

She is one-and-a-half years old.

The first attempt draws blood. So does the second. And third. With the fourth, fluid emerges. The houseman sighs with relief.

Why couldn’t he get it right the first time? Why didn’t a registrar perform the procedure?

How could he avoid it if the baby wriggled? How will he learn?

*

A train arrives at and departs from the opposite platform. Five minutes later, I notice them.

A little old man and a little old woman have alighted. She totters ahead with a cane. He follows, with his hand on her shoulder. Neither of them can see.

Where from? Where to? At their age, why commute? At that hour, how will they get home?

By the time they cover the length of the platform, the next train arrives.

*

The conductor starts issuing tickets on my last bus home.

At the first stop, a youth gets in. The conductor rushes down the aisle and sits next to him. He puts his arm around him and speaks affectionately, and loudly. The boy squirms, but smiles shyly and nods from time to time.

The conductor wears a hearing aid. The boy never utters a word.

I haven’t gotten my ticket. But at my stop, I rise and silently slip off the bus.

No one notices. The conversation goes on.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “PANGS

  1. Hi Mrigank

    You’ve painted brilliant portraits, but why are they so melancholic? Your blog posts always infuse hope, but this one makes the reader feel totally helpless. I was looking for a twist in each story!

    Krishna

    • Because I was feeling melancholic and all these incidents were melancholic! There was nothing hopeful about any of them. They just were. And I wrote about them as is.

  2. “The Gynaecology OPD is packed. A Psychiatry resident brings a young girl to be examined by my Head of Unit.
    She was married off as a child. Her husband is an alcoholic. Her mother-in-law forced her into prostitution. She conceived once – and delivered. She is pregnant again, and wants to abort.
    My unit doesn’t perform abortions.
    She is nineteen. Her furtive eyes settle on my textbook, which she examines with interest.
    ‘Aap yahaan seekhte ho kya?’
    She looks at me eagerly. I don’t know where to look.”

    I am an OB Gyn and this made me cry. Yes, most of the time, I also don’t know where to look.

    I feel like I have been to hell whenever I remember by residency training.

    And even now, practicing my profession, I am still sometimes at a loss for words when the girls/women look at me expectantly for advice like:

    “Dr. why can’t I and my husband have kids?” Because dear, your husband is emotionally abusive and you haven’t had sex in a month but you feel you need to have a kid with him to prove you’re a woman worth keeping.

    Or:

    “Dr. will my mom die of (fill in the blank: cervical/endometrial/ovarian) cancer?” Yes. (That’s the shortest answer which has to be delivered in so many words.)

    Or:

    “Dr. would my boyfriend find out I’m not a virgin by looking at my nipples?” No kidding, someone asked me this. I said, “I have no idea”. It’s probably a wrong answer but my excuse is I haven’t slept for 24 hours and I had to do episiorrhaphy on 10 patients and one had a uterine atony and this woman is asking about virginity????

    Hang in there Mrigank, you’re gonna be a great doctor someday.

  3. Having just slated you on a later post for being egotistical, I thought I’d add balance by saying I far preferred these vinaigrettes.

  4. You look them right in the eye and smile and say the pain will reduce,there is something terribly wrong with them,but then u’ll try fix it as best u can,even when you know it wont and cant be fixed…sometimes white lies will do more good than harsh truths

  5. Looking forward to reading more……your writing reminds me of a person I knew…. sensitive, vulnerable…. sometimes in denial too!!!

  6. Dear Mrigank,
    I am a fellow passenger in the sea of medical life. I can’t begin to express how much your posts touched me. You are a brilliant writer, sensitive doctor and seem like a wonderful human being. You have captured the utter helplessness of being a “doctor-to be” in words so simplistic yet so profound. The details in your stories might be different but the emotions are the same everywhere. What do we tell a patients in these situations. How can we better ourselves to help patients like this? All I can say is keep trying and do the best you can. Like someone above said its better if we can just look confident and give them hope, who knows that might be just the thing which will help them go through their troubles…

  7. So after a funn day out with my friends, I come home and type ‘tongue touches epiglottis – Kozhikode’ into the Google Search bar (Sorry! Could only recall so much!) for that post about South Indians that one of my friends was raving about.. And I find this blog. I must thank Aadi. I’ve found treasure. 🙂

    Love your blog. Love your articles. More comments will follow.. Keep up the good work, Mrigank. And that’s a very nice name. 🙂

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