Today, her death certificate was all but signed. She was, a deterministic and superstitious idiot would claim, doomed to death. After all, when she went to her physician in a town in rural Bengal, she was fine, except for a little cough. Her doctor somehow suspected something more sinister. She was found to have a large ovarian tumor. Advised surgery, she underwent removal by a local gynecologist.
In two months she was back in hospital, with another ovarian tumor. This time, things came unstuck. A major open operation to remove her tumor and her uterus got botched. Her intestines got injured. Post surgery, she leaked smelly juice from her injured bowels, and her entire belly burst over, as the sutures gave way in the mess.
After two weeks of treatment, her doctors shipped her over to the city.
She was found to have a huge collection of pus inside her belly, with an additional threat to her life: her kidneys were failing. Her serum creatinine was nine, when the normal would be around one!
I took over the case. I wanted to operate urgently to save her life. I was only too willing to blow a Sunday for her, not that it was a big price to pay to save her life. Just before the surgery, the whole thing fizzled out. The patient’s husband confessed his inability to pay for the treatment. I told him again (the third time) to shift her to a Government hospital.
For so many of us docs, it is common experience to find the relatives giving up treatment half way, with the treating doc stuck halfway with a patient who then slides downhill because of lack of treatment. Ugly, ugly! Even if a doctor waives his fees, the costs of the investigations and medicines, operation room materials, and hospital bills are unpredictable.
The patient’s husband said he would need at least two days to make the arrangements for the funds or even to buy influence to get a Government hospital bed. I told him she would die if she missed her surgery. He told me, “Sir, then let her. There is no way I can do anything before another two days.” I have been forbidden to treat her in the way I want, but she won’t be shifted before another two days. She is likely to die now.
If she does, and the husband refuses to pay for whatever costs have already been incurred in the hospital, guess who is going to have to foot the bill? Yup, me! As the treating doctor who told the Hospital that we need to admit the patient, and that the husband has assured payment, I am responsible. Not the first, nor the last time. Losing money is never a good feeling, but losing a salvageable patient is horrible, even after so many years of seeing good people die from bad disease and human callousness.
So, with no patient to save on a Sunday, I went off with family to watch Heyy Babyy, which was in the news the day the Google news feed went totally crazy. The plan was to, post movie, sample the new World Food Festival offered by Pizza Hut, as Krish Ashok has so funnily described.
The first half was going merrily and mindlessly, with laughs galore at the good old slapshit. I mean slapstick, don’t I? At the intermission came a phone call. Long story snipped, I had to rush to a hospital to rescue a case. A surgeon in deep trouble, with a patient bleeding to death during a planned gall bladder operation. I came in with no blood pressure on the patient, and somehow stopped further hemorrhage. After pumping in blood, she is alive and will, hopefully, live.
Pizza Hut will have to wait another Sunday. If I have the dough to pay for a meal, that is!