Tuesday, February 28, 2012


In the hospital I am currently working in, I do only night shifts. From 6pm to 10am, I'm all alone and on my own. While mostly I get hardly ten patients a day...some nights its like a flood. Like 'the centre for the worst cases' just closed and all their patients transferred.
Last night was like the former. Peaceful. Nice opd cases. No patients after 1. Like the calm before the storm.
At 7 am, I was woken up. 'Madam orru jaundice patient'...
17 yr old girl... hepatitis B... in severe encephalopathy bordering on coma... however hemodynamically stable... For personal and personnel safety, we usually don't take seropositive cases. So I set out to convince the parents for referral to higher centre. Because of my age and gender,they didn't take me seriously. They decided to wait for their pastor.
In the next half hour I saw a hypoglycemic encephalopathy and scorpion bite in quick succession.
I got back to check on her. Cold extremities... no pulse.... unresponsive... bp dropping... Immediately I began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. I ventilated her and called my boss. That's when they became serious. By this time the pupils were fixed and dilated. We were one step away from declaring death.
What happened next I will never forget...
All the relatives and the pastor gathered round. These poor illiterate labourers held hands and just cried to their god. With tears they prayed over a dead body. And they believed... believed that she would get up and walk... And yet they said 'your will be done'...
It was heart wrenching. Moving. There was no anger or denial. Just total surrender.
I wish I could say there was a happy ending. They went home with a corpse.
But in victory.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

To take a life

I am now in south india. The educated, intellectual, refined South.
However the most striking fact is the large numbers of suicides in the region particularly Tamil Nadu. It is a real surprise that while claiming to have a higher literacy rate, it also boasts of the highest number of suicidal deaths in the country. In a hospital where we see a maximum of 30 patients a day, there is always one or two suicidal attempts.
It is always impulsive and always deadly. In that moment of emotional irrationality, they reach for the closest thing and it is mostly always the most dangerous. Lead poisoning from the yellow rangoli powder, oleander from the garden, organophosphates from the fields.... By the time they realize their folly, it is usually too late. They come to us. Stomach wash, forced diuresis, antidotes... Still the poison runs its course... 
Is it that easy.... to take a life...?