35 years ago when I began my practice I used to have plenty of time at my disposal and some of this time I spent with a senior practitioner friend of mine. On one such occasion I went with him on his morning round of house calls.
The call was to see a boy who was having high fever and the mother wanted the doctor to see him at home. When we went we found the mother anxiously waiting for us. The boy did not look very ill but I could see that the mother was very worried and kept plying the doctor will lot of questions which then appeared pretty silly to me. My senior friend went through the rigmarole of an elaborate examination and with a serious expression advised the lady how to look after the boy which included a two hourly temperature record keeping and hourly changing of the wet cloth on the boy’s fore head!
When we were driving back, I could not help asking him the rationality of this advice.
He said, ‘you saw how anxious she was, this will keep her occupied for the next two days and she will not bother us and hopefully the boy will be OK by then.’
Anther time a lady came from a far off place and requested the doctor to give her a bottle of yellow medicine [peela davayi in Urdu]. This yellow medicine was the famous alkaline mixture given for several complaints and illnesses which if I were to list, the modern day doctors will have a hearty laugh. Her complaints were pains in her back, legs head and general weakness. Obviously there was no major disease and she came and took this peela davayi every month. I asked the doctor what good it does to her. He said, ‘I too don’t know, but I know this much, she will manage for the next one month and will not come before that’
I may not have learnt much of medicine from this doctor but I learnt a lot about patient management and that there is more to medicine than just treating an illness.