I saw her for the first time when I was doing my first year of post-graduation. I was doing my residency. It was my first day of rotation. I was on duty in the paediatrics department.
She was lying down on her bed in the chemotherapy day care centre. She was crying. I knew the drugs would flow through her veins for over 4 hours. I get emotional when I see people cry so I decided to find out if she was in any pain or was feeling any kind of discomfort.
I told her that I was the good doctor uncle and I would not give her any more pricks. I raised my hands-up too to show her that I did not have any syringe in my hands. I told her that I only wanted to talk to her. She let me sit beside her. She then said, “I want to eat pani puri, ice cream and chocolate right now.”
I smiled at her and told her that I would have to check with her primary care physician first. The oncologist in the paediatrics department then attended to her when we were on our rounds. We explained to her that she had to be very strict with her diet when the chemotherapy was going on.
We then told her that she could eat all that she wanted to after a few months.
Time passed. My rotation ended and I was back to my emergency department. I saw her undergo bone marrow biopsy 2-3 times in the operation theatre of our department.
I would talk to her about everything else except her treatment whenever I was free.
We would discuss her school, teachers, friends, hobbies etc. I knew she was opening up to me. She showed me her sparkling hair clips and the games that she had on her iPad. She would take my pen and stethoscope and play with it. She would occasionally borrow A4 sized papers from the printer to draw or write something.
Soon a friendship blossomed between us.
When she came to our operation theatre for her procedure the next time, I promised to give her a chocolate of her choice if she did not cry. Surprisingly she didn’t cry and asked for her 5 star as soon as she came out. I had no option now. I had to change from my scrubs and go and buy her a chocolate from the panwala outside.
The smile on her face doubled with joy when I surprised her with another chocolate that I had hidden in my other hand. She impulsively kissed me on my cheeks.
Several months passed. I saw her again 2 days back. She had some throat pain and fever. The parents had panicked and immediately brought her to the emergency department.
I could not recognize her at all. She was unlike her usual self. She was so quiet now. She looked serious and had beautiful hair.
I proceeded to the doctor’s room. "Hello, doctor uncle!" I heard her familiar voice. She was peeping through the half-closed door and had followed me all the way to the room.
I smiled at her and we chatted with each other for the next 30 minutes.
I pulled her leg and told her that we would keep her with us because we were getting bored in our night shift. I even tried bribing her with the chocolates and Oreo biscuits that my colleague had brought for dinner.
I presumed that her chemo sessions were over by now. They had been going on for 2 years now. So I asked her mother about it. Her mother just said, "Still going on." The in-house paediatrician who was on duty had seen her by now. But she did not want to leave me. She followed me around as I attended to my other patients. I didn’t want her to get infected so I told her to go home after a while. I promised to spend more time with her the next time she came to the hospital.
She said “I will come to meet you on 14th of July. It is my birthday. Will you gift me a Cinderella dress? I will make 2 cards for you.” She left after saying this to me. I am still clueless about what she meant by a “Cinderella” dress. But I am waiting to see her again and I hope I find her gift soon.
I know this is not an exceptional story. But I wanted to tell you all about how a 4-5-year-old kid touched me so deeply.
She was going through a tough ordeal on a daily basis. But she was also blessed with an undying spirit of fighting the odds.
She was pricked multiple times because the doctors wanted her blood samples to be tested. But she faced all this courageously and cheerfully. Despite all that was happening to her body she was always eager to share all the latest happenings in her life with me.
Most important of all – she has taught me to stay happy always and value the gift of life.
I was surprised about the strong bond that we now shared. I realized that doctors too can forge such bonds with their patients over time. Sometimes we get so attached to them that we too start praying for their well being and quick recovery.
I don’t even know her full name. I just know that her first name is ‘Charitra’. I know that this means ‘character’ in English. I don’t know if she or her parents will ever read this post. All I know is that I will always pray that medical science progresses at a fast pace. There are millions of children like her who are suffering from leukaemia. There are so many adults who are suffering from various cancers.
They all go through a painful ordeal for a prolonged period. I just hope we can find a cure for all this soon. I get affected when I see patients suffering from cancer or chronic kidney diseases. Both these diseases drain the patient and the family members emotionally, physically and financially. The treatment for such diseases is very costly. And they have to get admitted to the hospital frequently and their future is never certain.
Yes, there are patients who suffer from other debilitating diseases like arthritis, liver cirrhosis, COPD etc. I plan to do my bit after setting up my independent practice soon. I want to spread awareness about being healthy. I want to encourage others to help, support and donate to such causes. I want to encourage people who suffer from such diseases and take some initiatives to improve our society and help people in need.
Many people accuse doctors of being money minded and selfish. They believe that we think of patients as easy targets and so fleece them when they come to us. They also think that we are hand in glove with pharmaceutical companies. Despite all these accusations, I still think medicine will always be considered the noblest of all professions.
Yes, there are and there will be bad fishes always. But we cannot brand the entire fraternity as being corrupt. People should realize that "We do and will always care for you".