My few days at AIIMS were enlightening on many fronts. It was a five-day trip to one of the most prestigious hospitals in India. During the days of recovery, I made some observations that tugged at my conscience for so many reasons.
For the first time in my life I realized what it takes to get lost in the sea of patients not knowing who is suffering the most. I am talking about the Emergency Ward of AIIMS. It is one of the few places in the world where an ailing person has to prove that he is ill enough to get immediate treatment. Your condition should be miserable enough to get access to medical care. Even if the junior doctors are convinced that your condition is ‘serious’, you have to jump the queue which is at least 30-patients long.
Even if you cross the first hurdle and get a doctor allotted, you realize that the patient-doctor ratio is skewed heavily against you. Hence, there’s a visible haste in inserting a catheter into your veins and an acquired apathy towards the groan of hundred others who are seeking a quick rescue from the cauldron of pain. Although the first dose of analgesic did help me calm down, the helplessness around me was disturbing me profoundly.
In case you don’t know, you will meet two kinds of people in a hospital. First set of people are just doing their job and the other group is in love with what they are doing. For obvious reasons, I insisted on being taken care of by the ones in the latter group.
During these days, my respect for doctors grew manifold, especially the resident doctors. They are young, suave and eager to help. When I asked one of the doctors how is it that I see him at eight in the morning and also at 11 pm, he enlightened me about the 48-hour duty. You still see them smile at the end of the day, talk to the patients’ family, dish out sarcasm to drive home a point, and prescribe patience to the anxious visitors.
I have also formed a very strong opinion about the patients at the Gastroenterology ward. They are incorrigible. Even though they were being injected a healthy dose of Pantocid 40 every day, you would hear them admire the quality of samosa in Rohtak, paratha of Murthal and Paneer Pakoda of Bahadurgarh.
I also met a woman whose husband has been diagnosed with cancer. You would respect her for her resilience. Throughout the day she would scamper from CT scan department to doctor’s duty room and watch over her husband in intervals. From changing his diapers to feeding him and encouraging him with a smile to giving him a mild massage every now and then, she does everything in her capacity to make him feel better. Every night, I could hear her weep while clasping the feet of her husband. One night she told me how handsome her husband used to be even two years ago.
The day I was discharged, she gave me a smile that seemed to say: I would not give up no matter what.