Healing beyond medicine!
Two patients, two diagnoses; one a middle aged man diagnosed with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and another, an adolescent girl diagnosed with MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant tuberculosis); both residing in Dharavi - considered to be one of Asia’s largest slum communities. I met both of them on the same day at Sion Hospital, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon at the respective OPD (out patient department).
They both surprised me, the man had accepted his HIV diagnosis and had understood how anti-retroviral therapy could mean that he could lead a healthy life, he said to me “Its like Diabetes, I will fight this”! The girl, burst out in tears, when I told her she had tuberculosis saying “This is a death sentence”!
Their families however were both reluctant and apprehensive, the man’s wife refused to even touch him or speak to him and the young girl’s mother looked disheartened and defeated!
When I met the man in the morning OPD, I shook his hands and examined him (without gloves), his wife looking curiously asked me if I wasnt afraid to get HIV, to which I explained to her how HIV is not transmitted by touch, how antiretroviral therapy will be useful for her husband and how he can go on to lead a healthy lifestyle with proper monitoring.
To the young girl and her mother, I explained to them how MDR-TB could be completely cured, if she adhered to the treatment protocol and focused on her nutrition and general well being. I made them talk to several other patients (who had come for follow-up) who had been treated successfully and by the end of that conversation I could see both of them smiling.
The middle aged man with HIV continued his regular followup, accompanied by his wife every time and the young girl was TB free by the end of my posting in the TB OPD.
As a doctor, I have learned from my patients and learned with patience! I have been told I am God or that I have a healing touch (as are most doctors), but all I am is a simple #humanbeing with an insatiable calling to help and to heal! For the ability to heal is a gift from God; a gift that does not merely focus on medicine but also on the way we talk to our patients, the way we treat them as fellow human beings and the way we wish and care for them as we would care for our family or friends.
This is what separates medicine from healing!
And for someone who understands healing, also understands how prevention in many cases is better than cure!
Photo: From a field assessment visit to a temporary hutment of migrant sugarcane workers @ Bardoli, Surat, Gujarat in 2018.