Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Occupational hazards

I think I'm going to quit medicine - it's becoming bad for my health.

Apart from the minor heart attacks and nervous breakdowns caused by patients, the getting-yelled-at by the relatives because we hadn't given the patient soup or papaw or something (dude - this is a government hospital. All we can afford to give is rice and curry for all 3 meals.. be thankful!) and the occasional romantic overtures from the more inebriated, hospital life can become a threat to safety, peace of mind and even life.

A friend of mine had her chain snatched a few months ago. She was leaning over to examine a patient who ripped off her chain (causing deep cuts around her neck) and run out of the ward. He was subsequently caught and found to have swallowed it. X-rays showed the chain and pendent - close to 2 sovereigns of gold - lying there as large as life in his bowels. So he was given laxatives... and everyone patiently waited for the chain to pass. Eeeeuw. The chain didn't come out, the patient was taken in to remand, and that will be the last my friend hears about her necklace. Honestly, if it had been me, all ethics would have been put aside and the patient would have been sliced open on the operating table the very next day!

As a precaution, I don't wear any jewelery to work. Not my wedding rings. Not even a necklace or a pair of earrings, unless a particularly festive mood calls for a pair of imitation danglers. Rings interfere with the scrubbing at theatre, and it's difficult to pull on a pair of gloves in an emergency. Earrings get caught in theatre masks and caps. Chains get snatched. I sometimes walk home alone, down a couple of poorly lit streets. Who knows what type of desperate weirdo will accost me?

The there was the murder.

Lady doctor shot dead in Hambanthota
. She was a group mate of some of my colleagues and the atmosphere in the ward yesterday was one of deep shock and distress. She had been a lovely girl, they said. Quiet and unassuming and totally unlikely to get embroiled in arguments.

Apparently there had been a disagreement with an army soldier and this guy had stalked her for months, tracked her down to her quarters and shot her in front of her father.


We treat many personnel from the armed forces on a daily basis, some for routine surgery and some from the front lines who come for specialized trauma care. There are plenty of stories, some heartbreaking, some shining examples of courage that I don't blog about, simply because I don't want my posts to raise any unnecessary red flags.

My point is that even though we're very kind and give them priority at every point, sometimes we have to be firm. Many's the time I had to tell patients (or the bystanders) off for not following medical instructions. Sometimes information needs to be repeatedly yelled out before it can penetrate the thick Sri Lankan skulls. Goodness knows how many of them walk out of the ward bearing a grudge and even now may be plotting to kill some medical officer or the other.

It's not just the forces personnel. This is a nation of twisted, violent and ignorant people and at hospital we deal with the scum - drug addicts and dealers, mafia hitmen, government hitmen, kassippu brewers, pimps.


I think I want a nice, safe job... with set working hours, in a comfortable air conditioned environment among people who are not sick.


DeeCee said...

I feel so angry at that ass who killed that lady doctor, I saw it on the news. I wonder what kind of hell is reserved for people like this. They have no respect for your profession of life for that matter.
It's true your job is incomparably stressful and depressing than the likes of us. But hang in there. There are only a few people who can do what you can do na? And it's a great merit.
Keep blogging.

Agni said...

uhm, not wearing the ring may get men hitting on you :P

I didn't know about the Dr in Hambantota - only saw a bit in the paper, but sorry, never read it....

Given that you are in the government sector, I assume that you never took up PP for reasons best known to you :) Money would have been much better, and the type of patients (i.e. higher class pimps!) :) you are in this profession for the long run doc...

Sachith said...

Hey, as far as I know, you don't have to be stuck in the government sector forever, right??... You can try to get your self an opportunity in the private sector after you are done with your internship..

The Hambantota case is pretty awful... Hope they do a proper investigation..

Jack Point said...

This is the result of corruption - a combination and influence that ensures that the system no longer works.

There is no law now, only power and one has to witness what has happened to people at the receiving end understand the awfulness of the situation.

A bribe or a call from some ally is all it takes to derail any investigation into this.

Just look at the minister doctor, the power behind the throne of the administration.