When that middle-aged woman brought her teenaged son for treatment, little did I realise that I was in for another lesson that there is more to practice of medicine than mere diagnosis and treatment. The boy had fever for some days and the mother was naturally very anxious. I suspect not just because of her son’s illness but also because I was not her usual doctor. After examining the boy and finding nothing wrong with him, I thought it must be one of those viral infections, tried convincing the mother that all would be well in another two or three days and sent them home.
The lady returned three days later with a very ill-looking son. To prove the point, the boy retched violently and vomited all over. The mother was so anxious and jittery that she would not allow a proper examination with her constant chatter. She kept telling me that I should give him something stronger than the last time, preferably a powerful injection. At this point, I did not want to have anything to do with this duo and thought this combination of a highly-agitated mother and a very sick son the cause of whose sickness I had not a clue, advised that the boy be taken to a hospital. We doctors who run solo practices in the community often resort to this when stumped. Off they went to the hospital.
That is not the end of the story. Three days later, both returned, only now the roles were reversed. This time, the mother was sick and the son was the escort. The symptoms were exactly the same as that of the son’s and my suspicions of a viral infection were thus confirmed. The mother’s attitude in the new role of the patient was worse than when she came as an attendant. Though she was miserable because of her illness, she remained aggressive and I suspect there was also the feeling that I was incompetent.
This was confirmed when she made a strange demand in chaste Tamil, ‘Doctor, you please take some blood out of my body and my fever will soon go, this is what they did to my son at the hospital; the next minute his fever vanished’ This left me speechless. A blood draw for tests coincided with spontaneous remission of her son’s fever and this lady was demanding of me to do the same!
Her experience against my useless knowledge! Needless to say, she stopped coming to me thereafter. Why should she? When according to her I did not know the simplest of procedure to cure a fever? My explanation to the contrary must have fallen on understandably deaf ears.
Little I know why
He is ill and unwell
He thinks I know
The art of medicine
The blissful ignorance
After a particularly difficult day
In the robes of ochre and orange
With a smile spread huge and wide
Exuding sympathy and goodness
Sat the Dalai, saintly and simple
After an encounter with Dalai Lama