My email and WhatsApp inbox had a tough day on July 1. It was more like a Mumbai Suburban train on Saturday evening –all colors, shapes, language, faces and slogans
And everyone proclaimed the greatness of my profession, untiring services rendered, and the sacrifices made by my companions. This year Doctor’s day saw an unprecedented rise in the number of well-wishers for the doctors. Thanks to the sub-microscopic virus, the world has suddenly realized the relentless work of the healthcare workers ranging from hospital attenders, ambulance drivers, nurses, and doctors. But, believe me, we have been doing it for the last few centuries. We used to face the same threats and challenges . If not Corona we had other villains like Nipah or Ebola, natural disasters, wars, famines . It may sound rather strange when I say that Covid has made no novel changes in a doctor’s life . We expose ourselves to the same level of risk, we are deprived of sleep and food as before.The only change being that the public has been made a bit more aware of a health care professionals plight. For the first time in my life a patient asked me last week whether I had my lunch. I replied negatively with a shake of my giddy head .And that giddiness was not due to my low sugar levels in the late afternoon but due to the sudden shock made by that question.
I am not sure how long the public will remember Doctor’s day. Maybe a week or a fortnight . And it will be back to square one- attacks on doctors, stories about doctors ”killing patients’ , hospitals looting patients . But dear friends, I can vouch that an average Indian doctor sleeps less than a Soldier, forgo his meals more frequently than any politician, says fewer lies than a lawyer, and breaks laws less than any Godmen!
And at he bottom of the inbox , there was an irrelevant bit of information – more than 600 doctors losing their lives to Covid in the last 2 months . Instead of sitting in the comfort of their cozy little room and watching Netflix movies,those sincere individuals were foolish enough to kill themselves by attending to needy patients.What again hurts me is the fact that many patients hide their symptoms of cough , body ache and fever when they visit me in the Outpatient clinic , knowing very well that they may be harboring Covid infection. Attending outpatient clinics is in fact more dangerous than working in a COVID care unit : because you do not know about the infection status of the not-so-honest person sitting across the table . With a loose mask hanging well below his lower lip the smile of the patient turns out to be the mischievous giggle of Thanatos for many unfortunate doctors.
And the last one in the inbox was about a young intern in his early twenties succumbing to post Covid myocarditis.When his old school mates pursuing other careers in other fields , were enjoying an un expected holiday with their parents , this young man sacrificed his life for the sake of unknown patients . Will those patients remember this human being at least once in their dream ?Will they have the goodwill of meeting his devastated parents and siblings and say soothing words or place a white rose on his grave ?. If any one did so , it may be much more rewarding and reassuring for all the doctors around you than those colorful Doctors day messages.