Be practical, just what the Dr ordered
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.
PRESENCE OF MIND AND OPTIMUM USE OF RESOURCES AT HAND ARE ESSENTIALS OF FIRST AID
“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)”.