Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Junior Consultants - IIHR

Camp season still continues at work. Unlike the IPL, it lasts all year long.

Towards the end of last month, I had the pleasure of attending an exclusive cardiology camp arranged at IIHR Bangalore, The Indian Institute of Horticultural research- a premier undertaking of the Indian council of Agricultural research.

It’s very hard to try and describe the IIHR campus non-poetically, but to restrict myself, suffice to say that any person with the slightest fondness towards nature will fall head over heels in love with this place on first visit. Spread across a sprawling campus more than 250 hectares, this organization has achieved some really groundbreaking milestones over the last 5 decades.  More details can be viewed here

Irrespective of the nature of the camp, whether at a far flung, remote village near the border of the state or at a charming farm just 5 miles from my place of work, there are always unique experiences to cherish, and although I was expecting a straightforward doctor to patient interaction at the IIHR, me and my colleagues had a memorable time.

To start with, we were late.

I wasn’t asked to be at this camp, someone else was. But since no one else was willing, I had to go.
Upon enquiring a little I found out that it was my good old friend Dr. Monica who was supposed to be going, she refused. All I had to do to convince her to tag along was to assure her that if everything went well we would be treated to the sweetest organically farmed mangoes known to man and she immediately agreed to join us.

We reached the IIHR in less than five minutes, but like I mentioned we were late, a good one hour late.
‘Blame it on Sathish’ (the camp organizer) we unanimously decided and took a bold step inside the dispensary.

The Medical officer  stood at the entrance to her office, upon seeing us we expected her smile to grow a couple of inches wider, I mean who wouldn’t be impressed at the sight of two good looking doctors in their prime, wearing casual clothes, with star struck eyes and weird but cute mannerisms of their own? 

We were wrong, Dr. Mandakranta Bhattacharya’s beautiful grin faded within milliseconds turning into an expression which was an amalgam of concern, surprise and annoyance that could have only meant one thing – Oh…..Kids!!!

Monica and I shrugged our shoulders. Our expression too suggested only one thing-‘ Blame it on Sathish’.
Blame it on......

She led us into her office as she tried to get an explanation out of him for coming late and for not arranging for a consultant instead of us.

We waited for the patients to arrive as I brushed through a copy of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ that I found on Dr. Manda’s table.

My first patient was a good looking man in his early 40’s who walked in with a cowboy hat on his head.
I love cowboy hats, if it were possible for me to wear one all day long, I would have.
As I started asking him his complaints I heard a cat purr, before I could confirm a feline presence in the room a tiny white kitten whizzed past my feet, two more followed.

I have never really been fond of the domestic cat as a pet, In fact I’m actually very uncomfortable in the presence of the four legged creature.

I know I know, my pet name by default is the same as one of the most beloved cartoon cats in the world but still, I’m more of a dog person.

I wanted to leave the room, or at least exchange places with Dr. Monica, but that meant losing my comfortable rotating chair, my access to Dr. Manda’s magazines and having to use the most sturdy and unyielding BP apparatus I have ever seen before.
Some BP Apparatus !!!
The purring had stopped for a while; with a little reluctance I resumed treating the patients.
It came as a surprise to me that a large majority of patients at the institute had no complaints, they were here only for a basic cardiac evaluation, the employees had their medical history cut down to the finest details, they were completely  aware of their investigation reports, most of them were complaint to their respective medication and in addition to having good food and lifestyle habits except for 2 employees no one here smoked or consumed alcohol.

This was a very unique experience for me, in most camps the atmosphere is very negative, the fact that a vast majority of our people live in poor conditions and suffer from illnesses that cannot be cured by a small medical camp causes me a lot of grief, at the IIHR however a striking feature was the amount of positive energy that radiated from every nook and corner, even the employees were in good spirits.
One of Monica’s patients seen in the picture below made us laugh till our stomachs hurt, he is one of those people who has diabetes only because of his intrinsic sweetness, not because of some complex autoimmune-idopathic reason.
Monica cant keep her eyes open due to all the laughing

A little later I had the pleasure of meeting another patient with an unbelievable request, He was  healthy as an ox just entering his fifties but he wanted to live only till the age of 65.
His explanation was simple, over the years he had seen scores of elderly people abandoned by their own, not being able to take care of themselves, the last thing he wanted to do was be a burden to the society.
Despite all my attempts at trying to explain how important it was for the world to have selfless people like him sticking around, he was adamant that he shouldn’t be alive a day longer than 65. This request of his I could not say yes to.

Meanwhile Dr. Monica treated a patient who was proud of the fact that his blood sugars were so high that the machine could not display the value; I guess his philosophy in life is the more the merrier. We tried in vain to explain to him the need for proper medication and exercise to which he just gave us a curt smile as seen below.
I Have Diabetes, and i'm loving it !!!
Then came the part we were waiting for-Lunch.
The IIHR canteen is known for the food  they serve which is prepared from purely organic vegetables and is one hundred per cent vegetarian.
We weren’t disappointed, the only grief I had was that we were allowed only one helping of the curries, again-‘Blame it on Sathish’.
Food, Wonderous food, Glorious food !!!
Upon reaching the dispensary for the second half of the camp session I saw a mother cat feeding all her kittens, the little ones who had just given me a scare earlier. It was one of the cutest sights of the day, temporarily overcoming my apprehension I took this picture.

The Dog Lover
A couple of hours later it was time to leave and I couldn’t help but notice how deeply Dr. Manda had touched the lives of the employees at the IIHR, most of them in fact referred to her as ‘Our doctor’, she knew all employees by name and was very well acquainted with their complaints and illnesses. I arranged her desk back to the way it was, placing the books in the same direction as I saw them that morning and clearing all the mess that had accumulated over the course of the day.

It was now officially time for the mangoes.
To our dismay, they weren’t ripe enough fors us to take along. (I’m still a little suspicious about that being a fact)
Dr. Manda promised to send the mangoes to the hospital as soon as they became available.

Her initial disappointment of seeing a couple of junior doctors instead of a consultant was gone, we both had done a great job, especially towards the end when we diagnosed a person with hypertension who was struggling with personal anger management issues.

But then something happened.

“So you have both have completed your MD and are working in cardiology”? She asked us.

“No”, we replied in unison.

“We both are MBBS graduates working in cardiology as residents”. Dr Monica said.

Dr. Manda couldn’t help herself, she nearly lost it.

“Don’t send children to the next camp” she urged Sathish, who shyed away to the corner of our SUV.
My hopes of ever seeing those mangoes were dwindling away.

Then when she saw Dr.Monica and me quarrel for the window seat in the car, my hopes were dashed-completely.
With Dr. Mandakranta Bhattacharya
It’s been more than two weeks since the camp was conducted, I have spent a good deal of time trying to figure out an explanation for all the positivity in the environment at IIHR, how these people could not be high on something and yet look so happy and at ease.

And then, just like that- I got it.

I remember the days when mother would force me to help her with the terrace garden in our house. Like all other teenagers I showed a lot of disinterest in this hobby of hers; she would force me to plant seeds, rearrange the pots, water the plants and so on, amidst all my groaning and complaining mother would eventually take over the responsibilities herself and get the job done.

At the end of each of her daily gardening sessions, even today, I see mom staring back at her garden with an expression of child like wonder on her face.

There’s something about being close to nature that rejuvenates the soul.
I guess that was the reason behind the happiness of these people, happiness born out of the love of nurturing and caring for something. Joy, in its purest form, derived from a relentless pursuit for a greater cause.

To Dr. Manda and everyone at IIHR Bangalore, thanks for a great experience and all the fond memories.

Until Next Time