Saturday, January 29, 2011

The doctor's fees !!!

Working as a doctor in the community, u get used to recieving all sorts of  'fees' for ur services, be it a bunch of  fresh drumsticks or a big carton of  mangoes or the 4 members of the fowl family that run around in the backyard of my home, taunting my dog with their constant clucking and waking me up at 4am by being my live alarm. i soon learnt that it is a lot easier to accept these strange and unique gifts that are bestowed to you than to refuse and have to explain your reasons to all 100 villagers time and again, like why i refused to accept the cow that Mani so sweetly gave me in gratitude for having delivered his first baby boy after four girls, like it was the hands conducting the delivary  that determined the child's sex...

But of all the different 'fees' that iv been offered the one that struck the deepest cord in my heart was a couple of years ago...i was 24, for the first time i was in charge of the antenatal ward in my community hospital when a lady nearly at term walked into hospital.. barely 21 yrs old, this was her 3rd pregnancy and she seemed more anxious and worried than even a primi, she was constantly surrounded by relatives yaking nonstop while she barely muttered a word. Between my  patient load n her relatives,though i really wanted to speak to her and comfort her, i never managed to get beyond saying her baby was fine after a routinue  check up everyday at morning rounds.

It was december 20th.. a dark, cold friday morning, low lying fog surrounded us as she went into labour.. The mother had some bleeding and the baby's heart rate was dropping, we were all worried about the situation but after some struggle and an assisted delivary, a beautiful baby was born, loudly protesting at the uncermoniuos way that we had welcomed her into the world..

After ensuring that the mother n child were doing fine, I handed the baby over to the nurse instructing her to initiate feeding and left..

That evening when i met the new mother i was surprised to see her quite low..I asked her what they had named the little darling, for which one of the relatives rather disinterestedly informed me, that they hadn't decided yet  and asked if i could suggest one.. I named the little one 'lakshmi' explainig to the family that since she was born on a friday she would bring properity to the house..

The next day, i found the mother weeping her head off, my first instinct was to check to make sure the baby was ok and i was happy to find her peacefully asleep.. For the first time since her arrival, there was no relatives surrounding her and i slowly asked her what the problem was.. In response all i got was another fresh burst of tears.. Nothing i seemed to say or do seemed to help, finally after about an hour i left making a mental note to myself to call one of my psych friends and gather info on post partum depression and if it could present like this.

The situation din't improve over the next few days, till i finally told the nurse to inform me the minute any of her relatives turn up as i had to speak to them urgently..
Around noon i walked into the ward where the young lady sat with a women who from the family resemblance i infered to be her mother. I asked to have a word privately with the older women, and that is how i came to realize the issue.. it was a GIRL.."It's her third girl child" said the grandmother, "her in-laws are not happy about it, they are still deciding weather to take her home or not "..
"Doctor can you please take this child, vl just pretend it was never born, anyways if it grows up with u, it l have a good life.. let it be ur fees"

I had heard of people having such notions but had never really seen it, my idea of discrimination was at the level of how can you let him travel alone but not me simply cause im a girl, that in itself was way too much discrimination for me to accept.. I was shocked, dumbstuck.. 

I heard myself saying "Im a girl, im a doctor, i earn as much as any guy, i support my parents, wat makes you think its bad to be a girl" I knew they weren't saying anything against me, but instinctively i felt it sting like a personal insult.. So many years after independance, education, fight for equality... my glass house was shattered, i realized how much improvement  my country needed, how much the mindset of people had to change..

I did all i could for that little girl, i called in the husband and in-laws and spoke to them,counseled them for days.. I don't know what happened to that family after they left the hospital... I would like to believe that i changed the mindset of  atleast one of the million families, atleast for the sake of little Lakshmi...

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