The first time I saw her was on the first day of my pediatric rotation during the PGY1 of my residency. She was lying down on her bed in the chemotherapy day care center, crying, as the drugs flowed slowly through her veins over 4 hours.
With my weakness of getting emotional on seeing people cry, I decided to find out if she was in any pain or discomfort. After telling her that I was the good doctor uncle who would not give her any more pricks (did a hands-up too to show I didn’t have any syringe in my hands) and only wanted to talk to her, she let me sit beside her.
“I want to eat ‘Pani Puri’, ice cream and chocolate right now”, she said.
I smiled and told her I’ll be back after confirming with her primary care physician.
I along with the pediatric oncologist then attended to her on our rounds and explained to her that she has to be very strict with her diet while the chemotherapy was on (to avoid URTI / AGE) and would be allowed to eat everything she wanted in a few months time.
Time passed, allied rotation ended and I was back to my Emergency Department. Saw her undergo bone marrow biopsy 2-3 times in the minor OT of our department, and if I was free, would always talk with her about everything except her treatment- her school, teachers, friends, hobbies, etc.
She began to open up to me. Showed me her sparkling hair clips, the games on her I-pad, would take my pen and stethoscope to play with, occasionally borrowing A4 size papers from the printer to draw and write on. And soon a friendship blossomed.
Next time she came to our OT for her procedure, I had promised to give her a chocolate of her choice if she did not cry this time. Unexpectedly, she didn’t and asked for her 5 star as soon as she came out. I had no option but to change from my scrubs, and go to buy her chocolate from the Panwala outside. The smile on her face as I gave it to her doubled as I surprised her with another one hidden in my other hand, which earned me a kiss me on the cheeks.
After a gap of few months, saw her again 2 days back. She has some throat pain and fever and the panicky parents immediately brought her to the ED. Could not recognize her at all as unlike her usual self, she was so quiet, looking serious, and had beautiful long hair by now and I proceeded to our doctor’s room.
“Hello doctor uncle”, I heard in a familiar voice as she peeped through the half closed door following me all the way. It put a smile on my face. For the next 30 minutes, I chatted with her, pulled her leg that we would keep her with us as we would get bored in our night shift, even tried bribing her with chocolates and Oreo biscuits my colleague had brought for dinner.
“Is the chemo over?,” I asked her mother thinking it must be by now, it has been a long 2 years…
”Still Going on,” is all she said.
The on call in house pediatrician had seen her by now, but she did not want to leave and followed me as I attended to my other patients. It was only when I was going to attend to a patient with a new onset pleural effusion did I tell her to go home (didn’t want her to get infected from a suspected Pulmonary Koch’s Patient) and promised to give her more time the next time she comes.
“I will now come to meet you on 14th July. It’s my birthday. Will you gift me a Cinderella dress? I will make 2 cards for you.” she said before leaving, and I’m still clueless what exactly a Cinderella dress is.
I am now waiting to see her again, and hopefully will find her gift soon.
Nothing exceptional! Right? What makes me write this is how a 4-5 year old girl has touched me deeply with her ever undying spirit in spite of the tough ordeal she has to go through on a daily basis, her courage to not cry when getting pricked multiple times for her blood samples, her cheerfulness and eagerness to share with me all the new happenings in her life, and most importantly, she has taught me to stay happy and value this beautiful gift of life.
It really surprises me how strong a bond can build up between doctors and our patients over time. We too get attached at times, praying for their well being and quick recovery.
I don’t even know her full name. Her 1st name is Charitra- means character in English. Don’t know if this post will ever be read by her, or her parents, but all I know is that I will always pray that medical science progresses so fast that she and millions of other children suffering from leukemia and adults with cancers do not go through such painful ordeal for such prolonged period and we can soon find a cure.
I have always felt a lot for patients suffering from cancer, and those with chronic kidney diseases. Both these diseases are an emotional, physical and financial burden on the patient & the family members with the high cost of treatment (Chemotherapy, dialysis, immunosuppressive drugs, etc) apart from recurrent admissions to a hospital, and an uncertain future.
Yes, there are other debilitating diseases like arthritis, patients with low ejection fraction who go into recurrent failure, liver cirrhosis, COPD and many others, but I plan do my bit after coming into independent practice soon by spreading awareness about health, and encourage others to help, support, donate for and encourage such people and initiatives for the betterment of society and people in need.
No matter how much people accuse doctors of being money minded, selfish, involved in cut practice, easy targets beat them up, hand in glove with pharmaceutical companies, and many other accusations, medicine will always remain the most Noble of all professions. Yes, there are and there will be bad fishes, but the fraternity cannot be charged to be corrupt as a whole. People should realize that ‘We do and will always care for you’.