Category Archives: Blog Updates

My Second Family

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a patient. I’m not a nurse, even. I’m one of those numerous people who flock hospitals alongside the sick one, playing the role of all three simultaneously to the patient as and when he demands and requires. I am the attendant and the family of the patient.

Back in 2006, it was at a dinner with some family friends, when my father suddenly didn’t feel right and wouldn’t even touch his favourite dishes. He went to lie down on the bed and a call went to our family doctor. Some tests were scheduled for the next morning. Tests, that revealed he had chronic renal failure with 95% of both kidneys failing to function. I was there in the room with my parents when I sensed the change in the doctor’s expression, the moment he took the reports from my mother. With all that followed, the treatment is just one mechanical part of it. There is a protocol to it. But there is no manual for the collateral damage. We were a young family then, my sister starting her first job and me, still in middle school. The way lives transform when something like this happens, is a sudden and a slow process at the same time. Because all at once, you have so much on your plate that require immediate attention and without realizing you start prioritizing everything in your life keeping this one event in consideration. All other issues seem very trivial. It’s very hard growing up trying to maintain your age and at the same time, trying to think and act with maturity in all situations.
When you enter the hospital building, under those yellow lights, everyone seems to be part of one big family. There is a rich lady, a poor father, a distraught son, a happy mother. There is no discrimination on any basis. You are as sad about a fellow patient whom you’ve seen alongside your bed having his dialysis scheduled at the same time for the past 3 years, as are you happy about the new mother whom you saw getting wheeled in a few hours before into the operating unit.

When my father was again admitted to the ICU after a couple of years, I had my university exams. And my only job was to sit and study outside the unit, on a couch while my mother handled everything else. The doctor used to sneak me in outside of visiting hours so that I could get a glimpse of my father among the tubes and machines before I went to take my exam. When I came back, she was the person who would rush me in just as the doctor would come so that I could talk to him and feel like I was also taking care of my father in some way.

We have had such a long association with our nurses and doctors, and other patients and their families, that we have celebrated festivals together, someone’s marriage anniversary, we have helped decorate the dialysis unit with Christmas bulbs and Diwali candles.

All of it? The good, the bad? The acceptance comes after a long, long struggle with the questions ‘Why us?’ I wish I could have met all these people under better circumstances, but it is what it is, my second family.

VattyVatsalya Gunjan is a 24-year-old young woman trying to find her footing both professionally and personally. She lives in New Delhi trying to find new book haunts while listening to everything from Pink Floyd to new Bollywood. Her part time profession is being a claims adjuster for a govt organization and full-time profession is being a dutiful daughter. Better at one of the two.

Women Who Inspire: Anandibai Joshi

The path for women physicians hasn’t been easy. For the longest time we were considered inferior to our male counterparts. But we have come a long way. According to a recent study it was found that patients cared for by women doctors  have a lower mortality rate. They tend to live longer and fare better.

Today on Women’s Day I’d like to narrate the story of a brave woman who led the way– Dr. Anandibai Joshi.

Dr. Anandibai Joshi (1865-1887)

Indian women pioneered many things not just in India but also in the west becoming a source of inspiration for women and women’s movement across the world. Early in my residency and sometimes even now, I’m made to perceive that I’m not good enough to be a doctor just because I’m a woman. Once an elderly lady told me to my face that she’d prefer a male doctor to do her gynecological exam. I was stunned to comprehend the degree of prejudice women have to face particularly those in the fields of science. So when I read about Anandibai Joshi and women like her, I’m dumbfounded by their bravery and the degree of resistance they had to overcome.

Anandibai Joshi was among the first Indian women qualified to practice western medicine.

Dr. Joshi belonged to an orthodox Brahmin family of rich landlords in Kalyan. At the tender age of nine she was pressured to marry a widower, a man twenty years her senior Gopalrao Joshi. The beginning of a typical Indian story? No. Anandibai was just thirteen when she had her first child.Unfortunately the child died when he was just ten days old. She was heartbroken and angered to realize that her son would have survived if he had received proper medical care. This sparked in her the desire to study medicine and her liberal husband stood fully behind her.

Why would an Indian woman go so far away for medical school?

Because it was the best way to serve her country was the gist of Anandibai’s answer. The reason Anandibai had to look to the west is because in India, Hindu women, particularly those belonging to higher castes were not welcome in the profession.They were pushed to become midwives instead. If they insisted they could enroll in Chennai, to be taught by reluctant male instructors, and receive an incomplete training. It was easier if they converted to Christianity as they could wear a dress and that wouldn’t cause a scandal. Since Anandibai and her husband had no desire to convert, she decided to turn to the America. She applied with the assistance of Presbyterian missionaries. She enrolled and subsequently received her degree in 1886, from the Women’s Medical College in Pennsylvania. Her achievement was lauded, to the extent the dean of her school wrote about it to Queen Victoria, Empress of India. Anandibai was invited to become the physician-in-charge of the women’s department at the Albert Edward Hospital in the princely state of Kolhapur, where she also had the opportunity to instruct women medical students. Unfortunately, before she could embark triumphantly in her career, it was destroyed by the diagnosis of tuberculosis and she breathed her last in the arms of her mother, a month before her 22nd birthday.

Dr. Anandibai Joshi lived a very short life but she achieved a lot. She broke barriers not just for women but also for the Hindu community. Even now we can look to her life and gain strength and inspiration. 

Happy Women’s Day!

 

simi blog imageDr. Simi K. Rao, creator and founder of The MedBag is a board certified internist and hospitalist currently practising in the Denver area. She has special interest in preventive medicine. She is also a published author of four novels. Her newest book of poems and short stories ‘Under the Shade of The Banyan Tree’ will be published in December ’18. You can learn more about her work at https://simikrao.com//