Cradle of Leadership-4 :Building Skills Bettering Lives

I am Patient Forty-four-year-old Sunita Godse stands guard outside the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Ruby Hall Clinic. An experience, which despite her daunting challenges, she wouldn’t want to swap for any other

For someone who earns Rs 10,000 a month, I sure get to see, hear and learn things that people who earn much more aren’t privileged to experience. I say this, despite being exposed to so much tragedy and sorrow during my duty hours outside the ICU. I am not a gyaani—to not be affected by all of this. But at the end of the day, the sheer trust reposed in me by fellow human beings makes it all worthwhile.

The main thing about my work is this: no matter what problems I may be facing at home, I tend to forget about them. This is not a conscious decision; it just happens. The flow of the day is such. There are irate relatives to be persuaded not to crowd around the patient; simpletons from villages who trust us to help fill forms; rules to be enforced and lots more.

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is the highest possible care available in a hospital, and till today it amazes me how people—even the educated ones---argue over the rules. There is no mela going on inside; besides, no one is supposed to stand closer than three feet around the hospital bed, to avoid infection. It is indeed a challenge to request relations to depute no more than one or two people to enter the ICU. Their emotions are understandable, but most of the times, the patient is unconscious. So why make a crowd?

The argument they offer is strange, considering we are dealing with big, big saheb log who really ought to know better: We are paying so much, they say. So why can’t we come and go as we please?

To which I want to say: Because you want your loved one to get better, don’t you? What is the point of spending lakhs of rupees on a surgery, and then spoiling everything for a silly infection—that can prove fatal for the patient?

My responsibility and that of my co-workers is to make sure that these people who are already suffering so much, don’t suffer more due to carelessness. Hence the do’s and don’ts.

To our pleasant surprise, several people apologise for their treatment of us when their patient gets better. They realise then that we are only doing our job. And then there those who write a nasty comment while leaving. I can only let it go. It goes with the line.

The ICU is an exposure to life unlike any other. You see distraught parents and families struggling to put the bill together by selling land, gold and other assets. Young lives cruelly cut short due to an accident or critical illness. New mothers weeping for babies born without vital organs….you are so humbled by all of this that all your problems seem nothing in comparison. And then there are those wonderful, wonderful moments when patients—whom the doctors had given up on—suddenly seem to come back to life. This just goes to prove there is indeed a supreme power who decides who will recover, and who will not. Even so, the extent of human courage is something you can’t measure easily. Like this 20-year-old boy who was with us for four months. He had a cancerous growth in his brain, and it was not something the doctors could risk operating on. Eventually he did die. But not before teaching us a lot.

“Yes, there are those nasty moments when people threaten you when they don’t get their way. I just tell myself this, they really are not as great as they claim to be, for if they were, they wouldn’t have behaved thus”

All through his hospitalisation, he was cheerful and happy. He insisted on laughter and gossip, and wouldn’t allow any sadness near him. He was an intelligent boy. He knew what was in store for him, and wanted to enjoy whatever few moments were left to him. When he died, his parents thanked us for making him comfortable in his last moments, and assisting them in so many ways. It’s hard holding back the tears at moments such as this. The best part about my work? Being able to help people. From little, little pointers on how to make life simpler while waiting on a patient to big things such as being entrusted with huge sums of money while they run errands.

Many a times, patients come back: to invite us to their wedding, or with a packet of sweets to celebrate an achievement. Unknowingly, we become a part of their lives—and it feels good. My life is not easy, but it is rewarding. I wake up at 4 a.m. to cook and clean, and report on duty by 6 a.m, in a crisply ironed saree, belt and cap. I come to work on my two wheeler from Dhanori to Sassoon Road. I finally get off at 4 p.m. —and it’s time to drop my six-year old daughter Anjali off to tuitions. She studies in an English medium school—and never mind the expense. My husband (who is also a security guard at a corporate set up) and I want her to become an army officer. She is fit, agile and bright. I am sure she will make a good officer. If only these opportunities were available to me as a child, I would have been able to make more of my life. Still, no regrets because this line gives you respect and discipline. Yes, there are those nasty moments when people threaten you when they don’t get their way. I just tell myself this: They really are not as great as they claim to be, for if they were, they wouldn’t have behaved thus.

I shrug it off and move on. For at the next moment there is another person who needs assistance. If I had a wish-list for the government it would be: medical insurance for every single person in this country. And free health care for senior citizens, who are a neglected and deprived lot. Also, bigger subsidies on expensive medicines. When this happens, it would be a huge step forward for us as a nation.

By Kalyani Sardesai