The Last Medicine
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Do you love someone too much, DucKtoor?” asked this Iraqi student in hesitant words with an awkward face. He was just translating what his countryman had insisted him to ask me. A young lady in late twenties was paralysed below neck, and her husband had risked his life to smuggle her out of Iraq. He had dropped his kids at his sister’s home in Turkey and flown her to India for treatment. He knew no one here, and one Iraqi student was being a good Samaritan to the couple.
“Yes” I replied, with a thousand resounding echoes within my mind.
“My friend here says, if you love someone, then only you will understand that if his wife dies, he will not be able to live.” said the interpreter.
“Please tell him I understand.” I said, “We are trying our best, but he must know that she is critical right now”.
The unfortunate lady who was bedridden for weeks at home had developed a blood clot that had reached her lungs. Her oxygen levels were dropping. She was in the ICU, breathless, and her expression was beyond fear: her eyes cursed her own life.
“He says, please try for his wife just like you would try for your beloved. Do not worry about money, he will arrange anything required” said the translator, hesitant again knowing that this may be misused.
“Please tell him that money is not the problem at all, the treatment is already on, we must wait for improvement now”. I assured him. I am yet to see a doctor who abandons treatment of a serious patient for money.
The husband, like most Middle East patients, wore a new coat, a mark of respect for a new country, especially when visiting a doctor. Strong built, resolute faced, it was a torture to see him break down without any external signs. Day in and day out, he sat by his wife, holding her hand, speechless except when she asked him something.
Whenever they looked at each other, my heart knocked the divine door violently.
On the fifth day she came out of ICU. On tenth, she was walking with the help of a walker.
Once when I visited her, the hubby was out for some police work (visa), and she (patient) told the interpreter something for me. For the first time in life, I saw the interpreter crying. He told me “Sir, her husband’s parents were killed in the war just a week before this couple came to India. Even this family was trapped. They have three kids. Their elder daughter aged 12 saw her neighbor’s home bombed, and now wakes up often in the night, scared. She is attending the two younger ones: 10 and 7 year olds, at the home of their relative in Turkey. Her husband sold his shop in Iraq to bring her here. Please give them the best medicines, so she can meet her children soon again, and take care of her family”.
I am not made up of stone, my poise wavered, fighting tears.
“Please tell her that I will do everything for her as I would for my sister” I defied the western medical etiquette: never to patronize. But it is difficult to talk logical business-like technicalities to someone who meets you with an open heart. A doctor, however talented, unless also first a human being, appears like an emotionless wax statue to the patient.
She smiled, and showed me an old picture of hers with her three sweet kids.
Once you call someone a sister, it is not fair to charge money. I requested my boss, and he agreed for concessions too. But the patient’s husband declined to accept concession. He told the translator: “A deal is a deal, we must pay and he must accept”. He forced me to accept a token Dinar as their memory. Fond of the fantasy of ‘Arabian Nights’, the word ‘Dinar’ still carries an alluring aura in my mind.
On the day that they left, her husband gifted me a beautiful and costly wrist watch, a gorgeous flower bouquet, and requested a picture with his new “Bro-In-Law”. As we had a coffee in my office, I praised him via the interpreter, and complimented his heroic struggle for his wife. I had seen many caring husbands, this one was the most loving. He looked at her, smiled, and turned to me. The interpreter translated his words again for me:
“DucKtoor, he says he will do it a hundred times again to see her healthy and happy. They will pray for you and your beloved everyday”.
As they left, I remembered a moment in my childhood: lying down under the open night sky upon our terrace, head on my father’s arm, both of us staring at the dark blue enormous with diamonds sprinkled all across it.
“Always remember”, Baba said, “The only thing that defeats anything else in the world is immense love. Never fall short of it”.
I looked up at the sky again that night, and smiled at my father.
He was as much in the sparkling stars as in the dark blue vastness of the sky.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande