Without a mask

Her request sounded very genuine and the tone was sincere even though It left me perplexed and surprised .This was the third visit of the 65 year old lady with troublesome positional vertigo. Fortunately , I could cure her with two repositioning maneuvers .I  suggested her to stop all medicines and declared she no longer needs any visit to my clinic .She stood up with folded hands in the traditional Indian Namasthe posture and said “ Doctor , this is probably my last visit and I still don’t know how you look like. Could you please take off your mask so that I would be able to recognize you if by any chance we meet again ?’

Blame it on that miniscule virus circulating every where on this blue planet, no patients see their doctors face. With a sharp rise in Covid 19 patients I have been covering up myself like a space traveler with PPE kit , mask , glasses, shield and gloves making sure that the virus as well as my patients will not see any part of my physical self. It has severely impaired my communication with the patient. Science says that the content of speech forms only a very small proportion 0f the message conveyed .A significant share is through the facial expressions , body language and your voice modulation .The multilayer filtering by mask , face shield and protective plexi-glass shield on my table{which reminds me of a bullet proof cover in the podium when PM speaks in open air] makes my voice feeble and monotonous. He/She is unable to read my facial expressions and the subtle postural changes I make to emphasize the point goes unnoticed. Gone are those days when I used to give the old Parkinsons patient a reassuring pat on the shoulder while seeing him off. The four year old girl mistook her ‘doctor uncle’ for an alien from the cartoon and was reluctant to sit down. Only the picture of the red little elephant I usually draw at the bottom of her prescription could convince her my identity.

I took off  my face shield and then my mask and glasses and put them on the tray and  felt like Stanley Ipkiss coming out of his mask. The comforting cold breeze probably made my smile more wider and genuine. ’Thank you , son!. May God bless you and your family”. For a moment I put away the ardent atheist in me and accepted her sincere blessings with a gentle bow. I  was busy grabbing a fresh pair of gloves and mask while she reached the door. What she said next with a mischievous smile on her lips made my day.” Mon njan vicharichathinnekkal sundaran anu tto “[Son , you are much more handsome than I guessed]. The very next thing I did was to put up this small poster on my table


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Dr V.T Haridas

Senior Consultant Neurophysician at Elite Mission Hospital

Dr V.T.Haridas is a Senior Consultant Neurophysician at Elite Mission Hospital, Thrissur, Kerala. He received his medical degree from the Thrissur Medical College and had his two years Post Graduate Training in General Medicine at the Kottayam Medical College. He completed his DM Neurology training at NIMHANS, Bangalore, Dr.Haridas has also received DNB degrees in General medicine as well as DNB neurology. He was a rank holder during his Graduation and his area of interest is Neuro-rehabilitation.

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