Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Belief and faith

I have known Saroj since her school days. The young man she fell in love with and married to is also a patient of mine. This does not mean she always came to me. It needed two separate disease incidents to make her believe that the system of medicine that I practiced compared with her and more importantly her mother’s diehard belief in the curative powers of homeopathy.

It was some six years ago that she came with a swelling on the right side of her neck. Gradually increasing in size she ignored it for a few weeks wishing it to go away. The swelling did no such a thing. Instead it grew some more and she was brought by her husband Sanjay to see me. It was obvious that it is a lymph node mass and by the way it felt most likely cause was tuberculosis, Tuberculosis popularly known as TB spares no one in our country and I sometimes feel it is an Indian’s birth right to suffer this disease. A fine needle aspiration showed the typical histology of lymph node tuberculosis. When she came this time for review it was with her mother who was grief stricken that her precious daughter has TB and her attitude said that the doctor [me] is taking it lightly. This to certain extent was true because I was happy that the swelling turned out to be tuberculosis and not lymph node cancer. We doctors practicing in India eat and drink TB and at any given time a doctor has couple of TB patients taking medication and TB, especially gland TB is eminently treatable. I told the mother that it is easy to treat this provided she [the daughter] took the prescribed treatment for the duration of six months. The mother ignored this excellent prognosis. She said,’ none in our family has had this terrible disease, how did my girl get it?’ ‘What crime she has committed to be punished like this?’ I couldn’t relate to this grandiose idea of suffering and said that it is our birthright to get it as it so widely prevalent and family and ancestry has nothing to do with this. This, instead of satisfying her seems to upset her more. She said I don’t understand her problem. I agreed. I asked her daughter who is the patient whether she is willing to take treatment and almost certainly get cured.

She [the daughter] asked me one simple question. Will you promise me that he drugs will have no side effects? I said,’ I cannot promise’. She then said, ‘my homeopath has promised me that she will cure this disease without causing any side effects’. Now I knew that the mother and daughter combination has made up their mind to take Homeopathic treatment and were enacting a drama to get rid of my nuisance. I felt bad not because a homeopath has scored over me which has happened often enough, but because the suffering this young woman is going to go through if she were to take homeopathic medications. I told her the swellings will increase in size and will become soft in the centre and in a matter of few months will burst and ooze pus which will form tracks and will ultimately heal leaving ugly scars. They said nothing and took my leave.

Few months passed. I met Sanjay one evening and asked him how Saroja was doing? He said, ‘doctor, the swelling has burst and the pus is oozing out and the homeopath says that is what exactly the medication does and all the pus will drain out and she will heal’. My wife is virtually home bound with a bandage tied around her neck. I don’t know when the misery will end’. The misery ended some months later and as expected the natural healing took place with a hideous scar. Fortunately the scar was in the dimple next to the inner end of the collar bone and Saroj was able to hide it well with a strategically placed necklace. The matters thus stood for a few years and the homeopath continued to manage them. Saroj’s husband however kept in touch with me and came to me whenever he had a problem.

Their daughter Kusum is a pretty fifteen year old who occasionally came to see me with her father. The homeopath was managing her too, till she came down with a mysterious illness. She began having fever which would come and go and the girl would complain of fatigue and was listless. This went on for a few days and the family homeopath’s ministrations were tried but the problem continued. Now the family thought it best to get an opinion from yours truly. Fortunately that inveterate believer in the merits of Homeopathy as a cure all form of medical discipline, the mother of Saroj, did not accompany Kusum when she came to visit me. The girl was really off colour, had fever and had palpable glands in her neck and armpits. She also had enlarged tonsils which were unusually red. Her spleen was palpable. These signs and symptoms in this age group could be harbingers of serious disease. I kept the possibility of serious illness to myself and asked them to get some tests done. The results came back as positive to Glandular fever or what we call in medical term Infectious mononucleosis, a disease of viral etiology which after a variable course of time limits itself. The girl and parents were accordingly advised as to the need for no active interference and were asked to see me a week later. When she came for review a week later she was back to normal. I later came to know that the grand mother took her to the homeopath after the diagnosis was made and administered the recommended medications and the spontaneous cure was attributed to Homeopathic medication

I often face these situations. I have one simple philosophy, if a treatment does no harm I will not interfere. If I know that it is going to cause problems I try to interfere but often fail as it happened in the mother’s case of gland TB. But then, I did not really fail as the post script to this posting will show next week.

1 comment:

G.D. said...

I wish you had given some empirical placebo to Kusum than sending away saying no treatment is required. Though you were dead right, it does nothing to the psyche of the attendants who come with the patient.Had you given some placebo,& called after a week, the cure would be attributed to your treatment & the hazard of going in for an alternative system of therapy which did nothing & got recognition.