The many dimensions of human interactions
Author: Dr. Hima Pendharkar
Additional Professor, Department of Neuroimaging and Interventional Radiology at NIMHANS, Bengaluru
(Reprinted with permission from The Hindu, India)
Every human interaction is a story in itself. The more one interacts with people from different walks of life, the more stories there are.
For doctors, the interactions are a little more complex. There are the good, the bad and the ugly. While the bad and the ugly teach us lessons for life, the good ones make a deeper, lasting impact.
My career as a doctor so far has been in tertiary referral centres dealing with neurovascular interventions. Therapeutic procedures are often a tightrope walk. Most of the patients who come in are unaware of the problem; the exceptions are a rarity.
The art of communication plays a vital role here. Time thus spent talking to the family is what builds a bond. The counselling session typically deals with the problem, the therapeutic procedure and options, the possible complications and expected outcomes. The counselor is often at a loss for words when after this session the family asks ‘There’s no problem na, doctor? ‘My father will be normal after this treatment?’ Ignorance is bliss … is it?
A few years ago there was this young boy with a vascular condition that left him with no vision. The moment I finished counselling, the patient’s brother asked me: if someone donates eyes, can he see? I was speechless…… for I knew that the patient’s eyesight was beyond repair, but this young man had thought of a way out!
There’s a young man who met with an accident while riding sans a helmet. He completely recovered, and realised his folly. At discharge he readily agreed to participate in a video we were making to promote helmet-use.
Conventional wisdom in the profession says a doctor should not get too emotionally involved with patients. True to an extent. But when we interact with patients and their families a little beyond the call of ‘duty’, it makes a difference in many ways.
Here was a couple who had recently had a child after many years of marriage. The husband had undergone treatment at our hospital. Would you not share the joy of the mother and child as they return home with the father?
The infant you treated has started going to school. His parents WhatsApp you a picture of his first day in a school uniform. Would you not save his picture?
A young IT professional had a procedural complication and severe deficits that needed prolonged rehabilitation. Won’t tears well up in your eyes to see her coming with her fiancée to invite you for their wedding?
Failures bring sorrows. An unexpected fatal complication on the eve of Deepavali wipes out the spirit. The festival of lights is just as dark for you. You are left speechless when the parents of a little one who could not make it, ask whether their only child’s organs can be donated. It wrenches your heart.
There are emotions behind those apparently cold looks of a doctor. Some express it, some hide it. Every interaction leaves its mark, only the good ones last!
Read the original article in The Hindu here