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Monday, 8 April 2013


“I have brought Pinni to Medical College today,” announced Rajan on phone. “She has been unwell for quite some time and the doctors at the Medical College have advised her to undergo an angiography at the earliest.”
“But why Medical College? Will she get there the care that she deserves?” my husband Shiv could not hide his anguish.
“…Because it is totally non-commercial. The decision of the doctors there is not governed by monetary considerations,” there was finality in Rajan’s tone.
“Rajan, but the inconvenience that she will have to undergo there? I am sure money is not of consideration in your decision.”
“No, it’s not. It’s my lack of faith in other commercial hospitals.”
Shiv and Rajan have studied together in school and can discuss anything under the sun without any reservations.
“Ok. If you have already decided, tell me if I can do anything. Shall I bring your lunch to the hospital?” asked Shiv. We know that there are restrictions on Rajan’s diet as he himself has undergone cardiac bypass surgery a few years ago.
“Ok. That's welcome, but I’ll give you a call when her process is over. You should start from home only after that.”

I packed the lunch and started waiting for his call.

At 12.30pm, a nurse from the Cath Lab of the Hospital called, “Your patient who has undergone angio this morning has come out. Please get some soup and porridge for her lunch.”

It was a surprise thrown at me but I instantly took off with pans and ladles and dished out some tomato soup and porridge with mixed veggies, both fat-free and mildly salted for the heart & diabetic patient that Poonam is.

At 1.20pm, I received a call from Rajan, “Where are you guys?”
“Just outside the hospital.  Will reach there in ten minutes.”
“Wait for me. I’m coming downstairs,” he said.
It took us much more than ten minutes to enter the main gate of this prestigious medical college in the country as it was choc-o-bloc with autos and pedestrians. Even an ambulance was struggling to find its way in. Rajan was at the gate. We picked up the lunch hamper and  followed him.

Such holy confusion in the place! It was so awfully crowded. There were so many people mostly from lower strata of society, moving around and so many others lying on the roadside where there was some shade. Most of them were quite old and sick. There were small children crying and aged people moaning. Some were even lying on stretchers. The temperature outside was already 39C.  As we quickly moved towards the Cardiology Wing, I wondered how much time would we have taken to reach there on our own. Thank God! Rajan had come down to escort us.

“You can’t go into the Cath lab area with shoes on,” Rajan enlightened us. We left the shoes at the entrance unguarded and went in.
“Don’t be surprised to see her on the stretcher. They are short of beds.” Was Rajan being defensive of his decision?

As we approached the corridor outside the Cath Lab, I was shocked to find Poonam on a stretcher and panicking, “Ohh…It’s still bleeding. Give some more cotton.”  A young lady in a colourful silk saree was standing by her side tightly pressing the wound with both her hands.  A nurse came and handed over some more cotton to the woman and walked away non-chalantly without uttering a single word.

I was too zapped to figure out what was happening. I asked Poonam and was aghast to hear that the wound in her thigh, where they had inserted the catheter, had started bleeding profusely, perhaps because of a bout of cough she had.

It took me some time to realise that the woman in the colourful saree was not a hospital staff but a patient herself.
“Where is the nurse?” I asked.
“They all have gone for lunch. Aunty ji, it is lunch-time for them now.”
“And you?”
“I had come here to pick up my report and saw her in pain and bleeding. Therefore, I thought, I’ll hold the cotton for her. You know some other patient had done the same thing for me three days ago when I also started bleeding like this only after my angiography. After all, she is like my mother only,” she smiled lovingly.

For next one hour, she continued standing by Poonam’s side maintaining the pressure on the wound while I fed soup and porridge to Poonam. I wanted to take over from her many a time, but she insisted on continuing.

The nurse walked in merrily after an hour and announced, “No bed is available yet. So you continue here only.” Saying this, she left without even enquiring about the wound and the bleeding although she saw this untrained outsider maintaining the pressure on the wound.

Apathy and empathy, carelessness and concern, insensitivity and love for humanity, neglect of duty and selflessness, all negatives and positives of human character got mixed up at that moment.

While I felt humbled by the selfless service lovingly extended to Poonam by this complete stranger, I was full of rage for the Nurse on Duty in the Hospital. 
But I am still wondering who was the real avatar of Florence Nightingale!

(Based on my real life experience today.)

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