By Thiyam Ningol, Dr. Nalini, Africa
Dr. Smith was a very popular and successful clinician. He had a private clinic. All his clients felt comfortable and satisfied to be treated at Dr. Smith’s clinic.
He had created his own world- a world of reality and challenge. Other fields of life were secondary to him. His friends’ circle was becoming narrower and narrower by days. But he was satisfied with his life. When the friends and their family needed his expertise, he was always available. Slowly people had accepted his drifting away from social life. All knew the importance of his job. They respected it and they rather felt uncomfortable to disturb him.
All his children, three of them were grown up. From their very childhood, their education was taken care off. He hired tutors to give them extra lessons at home. When the first and second born children were 12 years and ten years of age, he sent them to the boarding schools for proper education. During the holidays, when the children come home, they were entertained by the younger sibling, mother and grand parents. They had a good life.
When the children grew up, they started feeling the incompleteness. They never had a holiday together. They never had the chance to have the father son, father daughter talk. But they knew that their father knew in detail the marks of their progress reports of each one of them. They were reminded to work harder on the subjects where they got less marks than expected. Why they got less marks was not important, they were not asked.
His parents were very happy with the success of their son, the well known Dr. Smith. When people talk about their son’s dedication, about his skill, they felt proud. They supported him morally and physically whenever needed. They never disturbed him with minor illness.
But they were ageing. Sometimes they had few health problems. Like all the rest of the people who needed Dr. Smith to treat them, his parents also wished to be treated by Dr. Smith, their son. They tried to tell him about their problems. But in the mornings he was always in a hurry. At night when he came back home, he was already exhausted. They felt sorry to disturb him. They ended up telling about their problems to the wife who had more time to spend with them. They learnt to be satisfied with the relief they get from the medicines supplied through his wife. Dr. Smith saw his parents all the time up and about; always showing concern about his success. He had never seen them fallen sick. It never crossed his mind that they could be having problems.
Smith’s mother had been having constant headache for quite some time. She had told her daughter in law about it. And she was sure her daughter in law had conveyed the message to her son. Daily she waited for her son to ask her to come for a check up. Weeks passed. Could be psychological but she thought the headache had gone worse. She had told her husband about it. He too told her to be tolerant.
One day she decided to visit Dr. Smith at his clinic. Like any other patient, she also stood in the queue, got her registration, and was waiting in the queue to see the doctor. A nervous looking hospital attendant greeted her politely and disappeared. After some, few minutes the same attendant came and told her to go inside the doctor’s room. Other patients complained that her turn had not come yet, everyone was waiting to see the doctor for treatment. She had to wait.
Inside, after the nervous attendant gave him the news of his mother sitting in the queue of patients, Dr. Smith at first got angry, later when the attendant told her that she had paid the consultation fee, he also started getting nervous. Very unusual of him. He could not concentrate on the patients. It took longer than usual to deal with one patient. He had to repeat same question several times.
He felt humiliated why his mother was doing it to him! At last her turn came. She came in with a calm look, not very sick looking. He requested the nurse to wait outside.
-Mum, You could tell me at home that you are not feeling well. Why you are doing this to me?
Smith didn’t have the answer to his mother’s “When”.
It was true that he had never given them the opportunity to express their problems. He wrongly, very wrongly assumed everything was fine with them.
While taking medical story, for a moment Dr. Smith thought that his mother was exaggerating the duration of her problems. She never looked that ill as she was explaining now. But as she was already there he decided to do the routine checks. When he was checking her blood pressure, the mother noticed that he rechecked the pressure second time and that time his hands were shaking. He called back the nurse and asked her to recheck the blood pressure.
- Doctor, the pressure is very high. I think you should check it yourself.
He could not believe it. “How could he allow his mother, the mother of the well praised doctor, his mother, who stayed with him all his life had such a high blood pressure”- his nervousness was increasing. He asked the nurse to do an ECG on his mother. He ordered the ECG but he was afraid of reading the ECG, he was not ready to know the reality. He would not be able to handle it.
He dialed his colleague, the cardiologist. He briefed him about his mother. Took an urgent appointment to see her. When the nurse came with his mother back after the ECG, he handed a note to the nurse and told her to arrange for an escort to take her to the cardiologist. He gave her money for the taxi fare also.
Smith’s mother had come to see the famous doctor with genuine health problems. She had to go away without treatment, without medicine. She cursed herself for coming to the wrong doctor. She told the escort that she knew the cardiologist very well, like her own son so she could go alone. She released her. She decided not to go to see the cardiologist. If my own son did not care about me, how can another person take care of me!
She would ask her daughter in law to provide some panadol and listen to her husband’s assuring words. All these days it had been helping her, why shouldn’t it help her today! She could not forgive herself for coming to the clinic. Her son pushing her away to another doctor made her sicker then she was before. She thought she should have listened to her husband. When she disclosed to him in the morning about her plan of coming to the clinic and get treated, he had called her crazy and refused to accompany her to the clinic.
While walking to the taxi stand she felt little tired. She thought it was because she didn’t take proper breakfast as she was in a hurry. Some hot soup might do her good.
She walked in the nearby small restaurant and ordered mutton soup. Requested to add a bit of more pepper. When the soup was brought, she sprinkled some more salt from the container and started enjoying the soup. Halfway, she felt her right hand going weaker. She could not raise the spoon up to her mouth. She did not like to leave the delicious soup. She transferred the spoon to her left hand and continued enjoying the soup. The soup she pushed in her mouth was falling back. She made an effort to retain it in her mouth, it continued drooling. Now her whole body was getting weak. Suddenly everything around her went dark.
Dr. Smith was arranging with the receptionist to stop taking more patients and transferring those who had already paid to see him. He apologized to the patients. After completing the rearrangement, he came back to his room and dialed his colleague again. She had not reached there. He started panicking.
Meanwhile the nurse, who was supposed to escort his mother, came in and handed over the taxi fare money. Dr. Smith was furious. He fired the nurse. His nurse tried to intervene in resolving the crisis. She too was fired.
In the panicky situation, without properly handing over the patients, he rushed to his car and drove off. He did not see his mother anywhere. He phoned home, she had not reached there also. Where has she gone???
In the restaurant, the other customers saw the elderly lady who was enjoying her soup, suddenly dropping and fallen down from the bench to the floor. People rushed to her. Found her unconscious. No bleeding anywhere. People were shouting, talking, screaming asking about the identity, some suggesting to rush the victim to the hospital. Someone suggested the restaurant owner to send her to the nearest hospital; it would help the patient and the restaurant owner as well, the earlier the better.
The restaurant owner remembered, the lady took out money from her purse, a Tsh10000 note to pay for the soup and she had some hospital papers. They looked around for her purse. Gone. No paper, no money. At last somebody mentioned she looked like one of the patients who was in the hospital at Dr. Smith’s clinic. He was there also for treatment.
The restaurant owner decided to take her to Dr. Smith’s clinic.
The nurses recognized her immediately. Took her to the emergency room. The junior doctor was attending her while the nurse was trying to contact Dr. Smith. In the hurry, he forgot to take his mobile phone also. He left it charging in his office.
The nurse dialed the cardiologist’s office. She was told that Dr. Smith was around somewhere looking for his mother. The nurse described the situation to the cardiologist and requested him to come and see her immediately. Without delay the doctor came to Dr. Smith’s clinic. He left words with the receptionist to look for Smith.
She was still unconscious. The cardiologist attended to the patient with his expertise. With the little available facilities, he managed to come to the proper diagnosis. After about one hour, the patient gained little conscious slowly. Her face was distorted, it was pulled to one side. She tried to speak something, no words came out. One side of her body was weak and loose. The cardiologist consoled her that she was in her son’s hospital and soon he would be coming.
The nervous Dr. Smith came back to the cardiologist’s office to request the nurse to phone his home again. There he was told about his mother being taken to his clinic. He stood still, confused. The nurse told him that the cardiologist had already gone there and taking care of his mother. The nurse had never seen Dr. Smith so nervous before. She was worried about him now. She asked him to sit for a moment while she was trying to contact the cardiologist. She offered him a glass of water, which he gulped immediately.
The cardiologist informed the nurse to keep him there till he came to collect him. He was not willing to have two patients.
When the cardiologist took Dr. Smith to see his mother, she was again unconscious. He blamed himself for everything. What he would tell his father! For the moment he forgot what steps to take for the patient.
The cardiologist arranged for an emergency MRI and instructed the matron to bring the patient direct to his cardiac clinic after the scan for further management.
Slowly Dr. Smith brought himself under control and proceeded accordingly with the guidance of his colleague.
He asked himself –Who is our family doctor?
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