*All names and locations are changed to protect identity and privacy of people.
I stumbled upon this photo of a woman and her daughter , while browsing through some of my old photo memories. You, my reader may wonder why I am making a post about such simple folk. This photo I feel is very beautiful and endearing. It gives me meaning and purpose for work I do. This post/ story is an attempt to share that sense of
purpose, with you, my dear reader.
The kalrayan hills is a hill range in the eastern ghats of Tamilnadu. It has hundreds of small villages , a beautiful hill range with
picturesque landscape abundance of nature and mostly innocent tribals. While working in sittilingi, G , my mentor would ask how to identify a tribal , he would answer by saying , over time – you would always know – mostly through their innocent demeanour. *Sheela and Ramu are such couple who came to Aruna hill clinic – a one day a week op clinic of
Tribal (secondary care) hospital, Sittilingi in the kalrayan. Why I am mentioning Aruna is that that is close to their village in the hill,
compared to sittilingi which would take a few hours to half a day to reach from their village depending on their mode of transport, whereas
reaching salem – the closest town to offer tertiary care – would take almost a day’s journey for them, which most of them – as sane a decision it would seem for them – would defer unless it becomes
critical that they had no option than to go.
When they visited us, Sheela was pregnant , not sure of her dates, she looked she could be in her second trimester. we probed a little into her history, all we could get was she had had few previous deliveries all of which were probably still births at ?PHCs, we weren’t sure, she didn’t have her records that time. She hadn’t got herself booked with the government system in place, as of that day, so we thought we would ask them to come to sittilingi , so as to investigate and help. They visited us and we spent more time with them , gathered that she had lost four to five previous babies all in her eighth month of pregnancy to stillbirths. we took care of them, had proper follow ups with them, admitted them in her third trimester, and one day when she had developed fetal distress , we delivered the baby. Though they were innocent, they were co-operative and compliant with care. It was a team effort- our hospital team and the couple, I being a mere observer through all of this. For Sheela and Ramu , this kid is special – probaby woud mean all the world to them, their first and only child.
(kids- not necessarily should mean everything for all couples). I clicked this picture , more than a year during one of her follow up
visits in Aruna. Thinking of sittilingi, many such stories come to my mind.
The people who could access health care and get through the system through contacts / networks/ power/education/money are privileged. I myself being a first gen-doctor ( i would prefer healthworker – as Tha
puts it) find the system overwhelming when I had to admit my grandfather for angioplasty in a specialty hospital in madurai, i
found it cold, with as minimal doctor patient attender interaction as possible – serving with a mind of a machine churning to cater whom –
the patient or the healthworkers or the corporate who own the place ? Such interactions with the practical world teach me that we need power for us to be taken care of/ to even be noticed in this ocean. Also
thanks to good friends and mentors, Life means more than just a hustle to grasp that power, for me. What about others in the ocean who don’t have access to power ? Should they just drown in the mighty ocean ? or is it a responsibility to those in power – to do as much as they could to offer a helping hand ? I will try to put it this way – what makes me better than Ramu or Sheela- yes I worked hard to come to the place I am now, years of slogging , sleepless nights, sacrifices on personal happiness to enjoy this power – is it the only reason for where I am now ? definitely not, it is privilege of being born in a place where the basic needs are taken care of that I was free to pursue education. Same applies to most of my friends and colleagues. we are the lucky
ones, some more luckier than others and that’s okay. I am not advocating on losing worldly pleasures and take on the life of service
– that is not possible for most of us , given our own stories and responsibilities. we can be empathetic, empathy is a powerful tool to
connect and bring people together. we can only empathise with people whose stories we know. Stories bind us. Simple acts of asking about
people’s everyday lives, getting a glimpse of who they are , what they do , what their homes look like, whether they had food etc – endears
us to them, for a simple fact that some one is willing to lend a ear to their life, their stories of emotions and facts.
There are success stories everywhere in medicine, what would make this
story any special, you, my reader may ask. we will come to that. Now imagine the same couple coming to a tertiary care hospital. They would have travelled for more than half a day, changed buses , stayed in the varanda or slept in the sidewalks – losing all dignity and comfort of their familiar homes and lives , waited in long queues , overwhelmed by the jostling life of a town or a city , being pushed around from
one place to another for investigations and opinions, not to mention the impatient scoldings from the worker annas, ayyas, nurses and doctors, who will barely have time for their innocence. How many of
such common folk anywhere and everywhere , would want to do that to themselves , to subject themselves to such foreigness that they would
prefer to suffer in silence. If looked closely, the world is full of stories like Sheela’s, may be different from hers all the more similar, Who would tell their stories ?
Some of my health worker friends might disagree to this, that they don’t have time for all this. I agree with You , dear friend. When you are forced to toil for 36 hours continuous with as little as less than a hour of sleep on most days during your postgraduation days, with little help from seniors and other healthworkers, with your only priority being getting to sleep / eat, even I wouldn’t care for
anybody else, if I am in your position. I sympathise for You. I have huge respect for you. The system has built in itself a toxic structure that dries out the very empathy which made you choose what you are
doing. It’s okay if You find empathising difficult. For now, it is the responsibility of those in power to change the system, god knows who they are. I am asking you to be aware of your colleagues who may go
through difficulties, your juniors who would have to be in the same situation as you do, your patients who may need a little more of your
caring self, and when you find yourself in positions of power to help or change things, please do. we are all in this together. 🙂