Thursday, January 29, 2009

Implicit faith

At 7 pm one evening many years ago, I got a panic stricken call from a nearby chemist. He said some of my patients were creating a ruckus in front of his shop. I asked him why. He said, ‘sir, the medicine prescribed by you is not available and they do not believe me and are shouting that you have told them it is available’. I wanted to know the name of the patient who is causing this trouble. He came back after ascertaining the name and said the chief trouble maker’s name was Kishenchand.

This Kishenchand is part of a group of carpenters from Rajasthan who have made Bangalore their home. The building boom here has attracted all sorts of artisans and being very hard working they are assured of regular work. They are a hardy and simple lot with ready contented smiles and are usually docile but volatile when provoked [evidenced by the frequent brawls amongst them on weekends]. For them I am the last word in medicine. I am a mister cure all and there is no disease on earth which I cannot cure. This kind of blind faith is quite frightening to say the least. Often I have tried telling them facts to the contrary only to be told that I am being too modest!

Living in groups, often on the construction site, eating and drinking by the wayside they are very prone to illnesses and Kishenchand had come that morning with fever of three days duration and I remember prescribing some paracetamol [acetaminophen] tablets. As was his habit he had asked me before leaving with the prescription, ‘Saab [sir], I hope this is easily available’. I had guaranteed that it is easily available. Now here is a chemist who says this commonplace drug is not available. I asked the chemist how is that he doesnot stock paracetamol?
He said.' Sir, the medicine you have prescribed is PUO – three days. We don’t have this drug, I have even searched the drug directory and it is not mentioned even in that’.

I told him to dispense paracetamol and tell Kishenchand to see me later with the medication. After getting their medicine the group went without causing any physical harm to the chemist.

PUO is the short form for pyrexia of unknown origin or [I don’t know what is causing this fever]. Normally that is what I write in my notes. What must have happened is that instead of writing this in the case notes I had written it on the prescription to the chemist. The Hindi speaking simple Rajasthani who thinks his doctor is one who commits no error and the chemist who was puzzled at the strange name, were thus at loggerheads.

When I tried explaining to the simple carpenter what had transpired, he would still not blame me but kept telling that the chemist is insolent and instead of telling that the drug was not available, he should have checked with me first, instead of getting into a needless argument with him and his friends.

I kept quiet.

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