I hope this letter finds you in good health. Apologies for using such an outdated greeting, but being a doctor, I will always be obsessed as well as fascinated by it. It is my first time at writing something so please spare the irregularities and mistakes you come across while reading this. This letter is for everyone who has ever visited a doctor or is a doctor. I hope I am able to convey my message clearly and this doesn’t seem like a pathetic attempt to seek attention.
Last week, my son received a gold medal at his school for his exceptional performance in his exams. I was proud just like any father would be, but I wasn’t present in the crowd to applaud the loudest when he received it. A few weeks ago, my wife celebrated our anniversary at a restaurant which I booked, sitting alone and leaving the place only when the needles of the clock struck 12. Two months ago, I missed my mother’s 63rd birthday party, which was a surprise arranged by the whole family. I can go on and on and on. Why wasn’t I present for all these occasions? Where was I?
I’m sure almost all of you know the answer to the two questions mentioned above. To those who don’t, the answer is, I am a doctor. My profession and duty supersedes all these trivial things. Be it 3pm or 3am, the call for help will always be answered. I am proud of what I do and I feel no less than a superhero when I don that white jacket and hang the stethoscope around my neck.
Of course, there are times when I just want to take a break, relax, spend time with my family but I know that I cannot afford that. Saving a life is more important than cutting a cake. Curing an illness is more important than taking a walk in the park with my kid. Treating an infection is more important than sharing a joke or two with my parents. And don’t you mistake this for a favour, it is my duty and I have pledged to it.
People nowadays think of my profession as just another job. Sadly, they have no clue about what it really is. It is a service that only a few dare to provide because it is a sleep on a bed of razors and not roses. A service where patients come before anything else. A service where you fight god if there need be, to save a soul from leaving its body. A service which asks for a lot of sacrifices and gives only a satisfied conscience.
We consider ourselves to be given this opportunity and we try our best to give it all. But, just like others, we too fail sometimes. No matter how many comparisons have been done between us and superheroes and gods and whatnot, in the end, we are humans and we too hurt. Many times, we get tired of putting on the coat and saving the world. Scared, of being alienated from our families and haunted by thoughts of not being able to be a good son/daughter, a good father/mother and a good brother/sister.
We lose hope, and our faith is on the edge and just when we need a hand to pull us back it comes and pushes us instead. False accusations, rude comments and thankless attitudes of either patients or their families smother the life that is left in us. Our thoughts become haunted and depression takes its toll. We battle to save our lives every day, not to live a different life but to get just one more day to help you.
We don’t ask you to praise us or make memorials of our names, all we ask is for you to understand, that we do everything we can to make your loved ones well. But, there are only so many things we can do. So, if and when we fail, don’t hate us because what you don’t know is that when we do, we hate ourselves more than you do. Scrutinizing us just makes it more difficult for us to do what we took responsibility for. Step into our shoes and then see what it feels like to be looked at as a culprit for something you tried to fix.
If you can’t appreciate us for our efforts and sacrifices then at least don’t put us down for our flaws. That’s all we ask. This wasn’t meant to be a parade of our emotions but someone had to tell the world what we feel and go through.
The power your words hold are far beyond your imagination, so instead of using them to bring us down, use them to lift us up. Instead of blaming, try thanking. Instead of criticizing, try appreciating. Instead of complaining, try understanding.
Yesterday, while I was on my way home, a street kid came up to me and shook my hand. He said that he just wanted to say ‘Thank You’. When I asked why he was thanking me, he replied by saying that his mom was very ill and they didn’t have any money. A guy just like me, wearing a white coat, treated her illness making her better now. He couldn’t see who the doctor was so whenever he was on the streets collecting garbage and saw a person in a white coat, he went to them and thanked them for saving his mother and on behalf of all those who had experienced the same miracle.
Those words made me teary-eyed and left me speechless. I just smiled at this kid and gave him a hug.
He pulled me back from that edge. He helped me hope again and do justice to my profession. He helped me regain the strength to get back into this world and save it from the diseases and illnesses that try to harm it.
I hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s sentiments with this letter. I just wanted, to be honest about how it felt being on the other side. This kid taught me something that I can never forget and I’m honoured to share it with you.
‘You don’t have to be a doctor to save lives, sometimes even a thank you is enough.’