With a stressful day ahead of us, we drag ourselves out of the comfort of our beds, all ready to tackle the hurdles of the day; life of a medical student. Yes, this is how most of us feel, everyday. We get through our days like a programmed device.
Are we compassionate? Are we sensitive to our surroundings?
I did not think that I would be until a recent encounter with a patient. Imagine leading a life diligently without getting corrupted with smoking and alcohol. A healthy lifestyle. The reason most of us do not get sucked into these habits, is we are aware of their consequences. Our textbook knowledge stresses on the fact that most chronic diseases have precursors and they play a role when the exposure is for a long duration.
A patient of 58 years of age presented with breathlessness and productive cough for duration of almost a month, intermittently, leading the doctors to believe that he was a chronic smoker. He was admitted in the medicine ward at our Hospital. Following a detailed history obtained from him, it was ironic to know the patient was never exposed to first hand cigarette smoke and he had no other habits that would lead to chronic obstructive airway disease. After a detailed examination, the signs lead to the diagnosis of chronic obstructive airway disease. When his chest X-ray was studied, the doctors came to a final diagnosis of bronchiectasis and a query of primary lung carcinoma. After which the diagnosis was confirmed. He did have primary lung carcinoma with underlying brochiectasis.
The patient was shocked to be told this about his condition. On further probing, he expressed his disappointment in life and his fate. At that age, we would expect one to be contented to have lived so long and at this stage, accept what life has installed for us as end is nearing, a normal view of most people.
I had a hearty conversation with him, and he revealed that he was still anxious to see and do many things in his last few years. He thought with his health in check, he would visit tour India one last time. Now with his current condition, he won’t be able to enjoy it as much or probably reconsider the trip.
He kept stressing on the fact that he was told abruptly and he still has not come to terms with his condition. He mentioned to have led a healthy life at a younger age up to now. He was physically fit and was abstinent from any hazardous indulgences. Even his peer pressure did not alter his decisions then. However, now he feels that he should have.
At the end of our conversation, I realized that no matter what we do or do not do, sometimes fate plays funny tricks on us. In his case, prevention did not spare him from his current disease. Many individuals react differently to bad news especially when it involves their health. However, if this situation was well-managed by the doctors in charge, the patient would have not felt so disheartened.
As future doctors, it is not only essential for us to be equipped with knowledge from books, but we should have the compassion and common sense in ways to manage many situations. These do not come naturally, I agree, but an ideal doctor should be this way. Many of us lack the ability to express sensitivity towards patients. As long as we have done our duty, we are satisfied.
NO, this is not the way to go. With the advent of time and development, we tend to lose ourselves with ourselves, by being self-indulgent, thus ignoring our crucial surroundings. It is a norm now. However, as medical caregivers, we ought to treat each patient as how we would like to be treated if we were in that position; with compassion and respect.
In my patient that I mentioned above, he was informed about his condition abruptly. He was not eased into it. He was not ready to handle that kind of news. We need to place ourselves in their position to actually know how they might be feeling.
I realized one thing that day, when I have obtained my medical degree in the near future; I would definitely treat each of my patients as they were my family. I would not allow the cruel world to corrupt my behavior and judgment. I am preparing myself for the future. An incident that lasted for barely 45 minutes, made me realize the importance of being an ideal doctor.
I completed my MBBS in the year 2003. During the period, I used to regularly maintain a daily diary, the contents of which I cherish to this day. This is a short entry note from my diary during my rural posting in Karwar.