>> Saturday, February 12, 2011
I was taken ill last week. It started as a simple cough and cold, and soon, I lost my voice. When I tried to speak, only a hiss would come out. The difficult part was that I was not looking badly ill. I used to fresh up every day and would go to hospital. For few days, I managed by giving written down instructions to the staff and avoided the outpatient clinics .In between, paroxysms of cough would come and who ever happens to see me would ask
“Doctor ! You are sick !!”
When I failed to attend the clinic for few days some patients started complaining .Worse, when they happen to meet me at the wards, they would think I was faking illness and avoiding the clinics. The best thing would have been to call in sick and take leave, but then, that would bring further resentment among colleagues, who have to put up with the extra work. Personal days and sick days are frowned upon in the physician world, yet daily I am writing work and school notes for patients. I sit in the clinic giving sick leave for those who come to me with pharyngitis , and asking them to give ‘voice rest’, all the while, talking to them in my husky voice. Physicians are expected to be superhuman. In the last fifteen years, I have never called in sick, not that I had not been sick. There were many times I continued working at the hospital with the troubling pains of kidney stones, which is a constant companion these days.
It was interesting to see how people look at us when we fall sick.
It may be hard to believe, but we get health problems too, like anyone else out there.
I see this odd view surprisingly often. People somehow expect us to be beyond the health concerns of ordinary people. We may be doctors, but we’re also humans. Prone to the same illnesses, bad luck, and erroneous judgments the rest of mortals are. Being a doctor doesn’t protect you from the things that affect others. The chances are that we might catch infections more often than others, because of the frequent exposure to illnesses.
I also learned something. For a person who is sick, his own sickness is the worst. If the nose is blocked, the nose becomes the most important organ. If a leg is injured, that is the worst situation possible. We forget those with heart attacks or cancers.
On the flip side, sometimes we’re surprised when something serious happens to us. At times, there seems to be an unspoken belief that by devoting ourselves to caring for others, it should magically protect us from those same diseases we fight. I wish if it were so.
If anything, the high stress nature of our work makes us more likely to have bad things happen. We often ignore our own issues because of the time needed to care for others. Most of us live sleep deprived, stressed up lives, and survive on food that we’d never advise others to take. When I come back from the hospital, it has become almost a routine for me to pick up a sandwich from Burger King or Mc Donald. That is exactly what I ask them not to do.