A life haunting experience

C L Gupta
Reminiscence of an unusual incidence however hard you may try, always leaves an indelible imprint on your mind.
Moreso, if the same occurs at a stage, when it is too early before the exposure to the vagaries and challenges have made entry in your professional life.
Such like incidences crossed the way of my life ,after passing my M.B.B.S.Examination in 1966 and while I was undergoing internship in S.M.G.S.Hospital Jammu,as long back as 56 years.
Period spent during internship was given due importance in those days.
While working as an intern in SMGS Hospital Jammu after a good clinical exposure at Srinagar SMHS Hospital in the subject of surgery I was exposed to a very shocking and frustrating incident in my first dealing with a patient .
That experience has been haunting me throughout my life and even after having completed my innings in my surgical career of 56 years stands indelibly imprinted in my memory I thought it worthwhile to share it with my co professionals in particular and the society in general.
Masterji as popularly he was known was working as drawing teacher in government school.
I started seeing him frequently as he was living in a rented accommodation in our mohalla just opposite to our house. He must have been in mid forties.
He carried a handsome personality, being tall, fair colored, thin and frail but healthy.
He was known to be well behaved, gentle and sober in nature and without any signs of greed for the tuitions during his off duty times. He looked to be leading a fairly satisfied and peaceful life.
Masterjee, after possessing all the above qualities with definitely good economic position fulfilled all the qualifications of a most eligible bachelor even at that stage but still did not get married due to the reasons best known to him and his psyche.
Most of his close relatives used to live near the same and approachable locality as I came to know later when some more of infomation unfolded in due course of his life.
As the time was passing at its own speed when masterjee felt sick lying in the bed for two or three day. Lady owner of the house who was a widow and religious by nature must have looked after him for his immediate needs.
Masterjee had severe pain in abdomen, persistent repeated vomiting and bloating (distension ) of abdomen thereby indicating that his condition was deteriorating. he must have tried some medicine from a unqualified local practitioner in the locality but without any benefit.
At this stage ,few of his close relations came to my late respected father to seek his help in asking me to examine masterjee and guide them accordingly.
I must like to emphasize the fact that hardly one or two qualified surgeons were available in the city of Jammu and their availabiliy was very selective.
As I carried out the orders of my father obediently I examined the patient,with a sense of responsibility and diagnosed him to be suffering from intestinal obstruction. His general condition was not satisfactory. He was drowsy, dehydrated and had not taken anything by mouth for last three days. As the treatment needed could not be carried at home, I emphatically suggested the patient to be shifted to the SMGS hospital where I was under going my remaining intership period after having completed surgical training at my parent institution and associated SMHS. Hospital Srinagar. At this stage the attendants of the patient who had come to see him appreciated my father taking interest in him.
Though minimal but still useful exposure in surgery gave me some confidence in examing this patient under discussion therby emphasing that my delicate and freshly entered professional mind also gave me some sense of pride.
Accordingly with meagre means of transportation the patient was shifted to the hospital.
The nurse on duty who was to look after and carry out the treatment during the night time happened to belong to our own
She immediately sent a call to the doctor looking after the emergency. The doctor who came happened to be my senior by two years in the medical college srinagar. Though he had better working experience in surgery but yet not qualified as M.S. in the subject, there by needing the final decision for surgical intervention to be taken by the chief surgeon who more than usually used to be hardly available at odd hours. Unfortunately the patient,life was ever put to risks. However my senior endorsed my clinical diagnosis and after having ordered the treatment till morning, left the hospital.
Now that before my father and myself decided to leave for home I again requested the trustworthy staff nurse to look after the patient with assurance and the satisfying response from her.
Now the real ordeal,started revealing which made indelible imprints in my then tender mind.
In order to help the staff nurse and the patient I requested by turns all the relatives of the patient present around him that one or two attendants should stay at night so that better care can be taken thereof.
To my utter surprise none of them agreed upon my suggestion. Each one of them flatly refused to stay giving one excuse or the other. Not to talk of elders even youngers did not acceede to my request. How one could behave like this was beyond my comprehension and it gave me a jolt to my mind. Any way my father pacified me in my disturbed feeling. Amongst them was one middle aged person who was most vocal as if he was most sympathetic and concerned, but putting forward the explanation that he cannot stay due to his suffering from the backache.
After parting our company,they all left for their homes.
But, my delicate and sensitive mind was still pondering over the behaviour of attendants during the night in my bed distubing my sleep at the sametime. As a result of this I got up earlier than usual in the morning and out of concern for the patient, I rushed to hospital to know his condition .
As I entered the ward I was shocked to see the dead body on the bed wrapped in a white sheet and it was none other than the patient we was brought as living human being during last night.
And no attendant was available near the dead body. I inquired from the nurse regarding the timing of the death and few more of my inquisites.
While we were discussing the next procedures to be completed a very shocking,depressing ,an untowards feeling pre vailed over my mind after the staff nurse related her first lifetime experience as witnessed by her during the night.
She was heavily emotionally charged and on the verge of bursting with tears in her eyes .
My curiosity to know also multiplied many times and as I succeeded in consoling her she so bluntily asked me that why I was taking so much interest in this patient while his so called near relations were never bothered about him.but the answer I offered looked satisfying her. She, then started narrarting her experience.
She told me ,doctor if you remember about the man who obviously looked very most concerned about the patient last night and at he same time refused to stay as an attendant on the pretext of having severe backache came back the middle of the night in the ward and stood on the side of patients bed. He never asked anything about the condition of the paient from me. What I saw was that he handled the left arm of the patient and removed a watch and put in his own pocket. By turns he removed the gold chain from the neck, a gold ring from left hand, searched all his pockets and put all his belongings in his own pockets.as the patient was semi conscious and very sick. So he was unable to resist his moves. Before I could suspect and asked him any questions he hurriedly left the ward and vanished from the hospital. How wickedly, he planned his move was a matter of shock as he had parted from us near to our home only about one hour before. He certainly did not come with any of his other relations at this odd hour of night and never revealed his motive to the available staff on night duty.
In addition to the above disturbing episode ,what happened to the body of the noble soul of masterjee is also worth mentioning as was told to me by my father then. He told me that almost a dozen of his relatives reached the hospital and started shouting and quarreling with each other claiming his body to be taken to their respective place for final rites. Motives could not remain hidden, as masterjee was financialy well off so the gainer of his assets would be one who performs the last rites. This action on the part of the so called relatives was purely out of greed for claiming the assets what happened further than this I had no interest. But certainly addition to unusual happenings as narrated above.
After listening to all the story, my tender psyche as a fresh entrant in the professional life as an intern got a severe jolt and as a consequence of this got indelibly imprinted in my mind and I decided to try to part with it and share with the society and my co-professional after 56 years that how wicked the people in this world could be and continue to be.
As aptly expressed in peotic version .
Hazaaron-garzmand mitey hain, aadmi kam ke chand miltey hain, museebat ki gadhi aye to appno ke bi darwaze bandh miltey hain.
(The author is a Surgeon)