This is a guest post by Altaf Hussain
Oct 2nd 2012 the day which, will haunt me throughout my life. I was having dinner when my friend Naseer rang up. He started with a normal chat inquiring about my well being and other things, I interrupted and asked him about the background noise that I heard. He in a very casual manner said that he was in SMHS hospital, Srinagar. Though not worried I laughed, because last time we had taken Naseer to Lal-Ded maternity hospital, Srinagar, for first aid when he complained of abdominal pain at midnight. Then We were staying at Srinagar preparing for civil services exam. This time it was also the case of abdominal pain but the patient was Naseer’s brother. He told me that his brother, Abid, is continuously vomiting with fast breathing and heart rate and that Doctors have put him on Glucose drip. Though not a medical expert t tried to assure him everything will be fine, also he seemed to be confident of the same. It was 11pm by then. we ended our chat and I retired to bed.
On 3rd October early in the morning Naseer called me again and asked me if I had any acquaintance in the hospital. One of my childhood friends is a Doctor in the same hospital. I tried to reach him but his mobile was switched off. I could make from his choked voice that something was wrong and tried to assure him that he is in valley’s premier hospital and
there is nothing to worry about, but he didn’t seemed to be assured and in a broken voice said that his brother’s condition is very critical and he has just collapsed.
For few moments, I was in a real shock. I began asking myself how is it possible that a patient was simple abdominal pain has slipped into a critical condition. I tried to convince myself that everything will be fine and my friend is unnecessarily worrying and Doctors were also assuring the same. After few hours there was no appreciable improvement in the patient’s condition and was to be put on ventilator. At this moment we all resigned to His mercy and prayed to God to make things easier for the young fellow. His father was also there, but couldn’t bear all this. Effortlessly tears rolled down from his eyes. And why not, after all Abid was his youngest and dearest son. They were just like friends with each other. After a cardiac surgery for ASD closure six years back, Abid was living a normal life and busy in his studies. By around 10am when the Senior Doctors arrived they were visibly furious over the junior Doctors who were till now treating the patient. Their discussion raised many questions in our mind but being novice in medical terminologies, we couldn’t say anything. At the same time we felt convinced that our patient will get proper attention.
As the reports of blood tests arrived, it turned out that the patient a BCA third year student was suffering from septicaemia (a condition of bacterial infection) as they told us. Also the Doctors concluded that Abid’s condition is getting very critical as vital organs are showing a dismal functionality. In the mean time Abid was shifted to the intensive care unit. Doctors were closely monitoring the situation and updating us accordingly. It seemed that Doctors were working very hard to save the patient, as was evident from their frequent visits. They also told us that if there is an increase in the patient’s blood pressure they might be able to do haemodialysis which will eventually reduce the bacterial load of the patient’s blood and help him to cope with the infection. In this hope that Abid’s blood pressure returns to normal we all prayed.
By evening Doctors told us there is multiple organ failure in the patient’s body and the impending doom was visible in our eyes. By the same time, a senior cardiologist visited our patient and felt angry. He was blunt in saying that Doctors have mismanaged the case. why was the patient diagnosed of septicaemia after 12hrs of hospitalisation? He fumed
with himself. Why was the patient not put on antibiotics even if he had clinical symptoms of septicaemia with fast breathing and heart rate? And continuous vomiting. We had no answers to his apprehensions since none of us had studied medical sciences At around 12:30am Abid’s blood pressure suddenly shot up only to fall down quickly to zero. He passed away peacefully. No one of us except his uncle knew it and he didn’t told this to anybody fearing that it may create chaos. In the early morning when Abid’s uncle told this to one of the junior Doctors he sweated profusely. Abid’s dead body was moved quietly to his native place and there was mourning and grief all around. People of this remote hamlet in Tral were shell shocked that a young man barely 20 years old is now no more among them. Every one raised the principle of faith and quoting Quran which says Every soul shall have a taste of death and so on. But for Naseer and his family they were in a different world questioning Abid’s early departure. His mother wailed and intermittently sang folk songs usually reserved for grooms and tears streamed from her eyes. It was all unbearable.
When I think back, my mind gets entangled into myriad questions. I have firm belief that Abid’s end was destined this way. But does that mean we do nothing when somebody is ill. No, we ordinary humans have no divine knowledge, so are we asked to live this mortal life using our mental abilities and rest leave everything to His judgement. Honestly, I have no Idea there was medical negligence but several things reinforce my apprehensions. Firstly, one thing is unambiguous. No senior doctor attended Abid when he was hospitalised, but why? Where are those consultants who should reside within the hospital premises, should an emergency happen. Neither the junior doctors called their senior nor was there present any. Junior doctors in this hospital have more craze than accomplished ones Only God knows why. Secondly, on the night of hospitalisation of our patient, the lab assistant initially refused to process the blood samples by saying that they can run the machine only when sufficient samples are collected. How ridiculous. It simply means the lab assistant has a scant regard of a precious life. Thirdly, senior doctors told us that junior doctors mishandled the case. What an explanation. It simply means our patient was left to the mercy of “medical illiterates”. Ultimately, in passing the buck a valuable life was lost.
Doctors in this very hospital often complain of misbehaviour by the attendants, which is true in many cases. It is also true that a patient is accompanied by posse’ of attendants which becomes an impediment while doctors are discharging their professional duties. In our case, we maintained our decency .Only two attendants were with the patient and we
cooperated with the Doctors in the best possible manner. Even when senior doctors point to medical negligence we have no. intention to seek answers from the medicos. But then the doctor community should introspect a little. Why do senior doctors rush to their private clinics before duty hours. If you are visiting this hospital in night senior doctors are almost invisible.
There is no doubt that SMHS has some of the intelligent specialists yet negligences do happen because of their absence. In the past doctors were held in high esteem in the society but the same society is scared of them.
There are hundreds of patients, which I believe suffer due to one or another medical negligence. Across the state run hospitals, the condition is pathetic. Why do doctors disappear before their duty hours and why doesn’t the government ban private practise of doctors especially during their duty hours. Doctors are prescribing huge amounts medicine just because they have to collect a cheque from a pharma company.
(Author is a civil service aspirant and can be reached at:@altaf_jh