Friday, April 3, 2015

Bedside Rounds

I think about you often, sometimes early mornings before I am fully awake. Although, I met you just once, you have been one of the strongest influence on my medical practice. It has been over two decades since I met you that one time in a surgical ward in Kolkata but I have thought of you as much and as often, as I have done of close friends and relatives. This is my attempt at exorcism, though I think you have been a guiding light for me. I have been having dreams of you recently; so I think writing of you may help me get a better night's sleep.

You were young and admitted with breast mass for surgical resection. Thin, body draped in a sari, you looked scared as more than twenty of us- newly minted third year medical students, descended on your bedside, along with our fearless, ill-tempered surgical attending. He had a posh British accent, though it was too loud to be pucca sahib, in my opinion.

The surgeon, talked clearly and loudly about the fungating mass in the right breast and exposed her breasts for us to see. You shrank before our eyes and tears rolled down. I felt ashamed for all of us- for my desire to be a doctor, for my fellow students who rushed to examine you-your breast mass and axillary lymph nodes and for the loud surgeon droning on about breast cancer. I wish I had stood up for you, helped wipe your tears, did something, anything to stop the parade of your cancer, stopped the students and our preceptor from this bedside examination.

I did none of these things. I was a witness to your examination and your tears. I did nothing. I did not examine you. I did not stop anyone else from examining you. I did not wipe your tears. I wish I had done something to help. I will not be a silent witness to your sorrow anymore.