Be prac­ti­cal, just what the Dr or­dered

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Region - Dr Ra­jiv Sharma ra­[email protected] n The writer is an Am­rit­sar-based free­lance con­trib­u­tor

Prac­tice makes a man per­fect. Af­ter 25 years of clin­i­cal prac­tice, I’ve be­come quite apt in han­dling pa­tients with a re­al­is­tic com­bi­na­tion of skill, science and prac­ti­cal­ity. A quick so­cioe­co­nomic and psy­cho­log­i­cal anal­y­sis of the pa­tient helps me han­dle the sit­u­a­tion with ease.

But that was not al­ways the case. A quar­ter of a cen­tury ago when I was freshly out of med­i­cal col­lege and a green­horn, I of­ten found my­self at sea while treat­ing a pa­tient. Ev­ery time a pa­tient con­sulted me for an ail­ment, I would hur­riedly start flip­ping through the umpteen text­books I’d read in col­lege in the back of my mind. I used to

get so en­grossed in mak­ing men­tal notes of what I had been taught that some­times I would lose track of what the pa­tient was com­plain­ing about. Many a times, I had to re­quest the pa­tient to re­count the or­deal all over again.

Once, while trav­el­ling by train from Am­rit­sar to Delhi, a mid­dle-aged woman shouted out in the com­part­ment: “Is there any doc­tor around here?” I raised my hand only to be told that a man was suf­fer­ing from a se­vere toothache. The woman asked if I could be of any help. I ex­pressed my help­less­ness, say­ing: “He needs an anal­gesic in­jec­tion but I’m not car­ry­ing my first aid kit right now.” “Oh! That’s OK,” she said and im­me­di­ately asked a mi­grant labourer sit­ting near her to give her his bidi. She un­rolled the leaf, col­lected the tobacco and pul­verised it into a fine pow­der be­fore ask­ing the man with the toothache to in­sert it in the af­fected cav­ity. I don’t know how it works ex­actly but he com­pleted the rest of his jour­ney in peace.

Pres­ence of mind, com­mon sense and op­ti­mum use of re­sources at hand are the es­sen­tials of pro­vid­ing first aid to a pa­tient in dis­tress.

On an­other oc­ca­sion, while re­turn­ing from hos­pi­tal on a hot day, I saw a school girl un­con­scious by the road­side. I was quick to rush to her res­cue and started check­ing her blood pres­sure and pulse. In the mean­time, my mind was run­ning through the al­go­rithm of treat­ing an un­con­scious pa­tient, which we had been taught in med­i­cal col­lege.

Sud­denly, a burly Sikh gentle­man emerged from nowhere. He lifted the girl and took her un­der the shade of a tree be­fore run­ning off to fetch a bucket full of wa­ter from a nearby cy­cle re­pair shop. He emp­tied the bucket on her. She opened her eyes in no time and stood up sort­ing her clothes and be­long­ings.


“Dak­ter saab, kudi noo loo lag gayi si. Tuhadi ma­chine

vich kujh nahi aana (Doc­tor, the girl suf­fered a sun stroke. Your in­stru­ments can’t de­tect that),” he said as he walked away. I wore the look of a sol­dier sent back from the line of ac­tion. I hur­riedly kicked my scooter to life and made a swift re­treat.

Some­times, em­pir­i­cal knowl­edge scores over the hard­earned text­book knowl­edge in day to day life. In Pun­jabi, there is a say­ing to val­i­date this: “Pad­hey naalo gudhe change

(Well-trod is bet­ter than well read)”.

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