Dr. Siva Ram (name modified) died a very unexpected death at a very young (37 years) age. He died peacefully. Or that’s what his cardiologist told me. He left us to ponder the turbulent lessons about the way of our life, about the present medical practice and about our understanding of life as a whole.
Siva Ram was (I hate the past tense here) my junior in MBBS. He was always smiling and a lively character. This is the modified Facebook-post by one of our common friends:
"Dear friends, we lost our friend Dr. Siva Ram yesterday with massive heart attack on 23-11-11 at 4:50 pm in vizag. One day before event, we with some other friends have taken him to great consultants, who investigated him for gatric pain, but forgot one single simple test, the ECG. As all the tests were normal, by evening he returned to his place Bobbili 120 km from vizag. Even that night also, he got severe pain for which he took Rabiprazole. He started having breathlessness in the morning so he started back to vizag and by 12 pm he arrived at Seven Hills hospital and was diagnosed as having a heart attack. He was immediately shifted to ICCU and throughout he was sitting and smiling. But in the ICCU, our spirits started dropping along with his blood pressure but he still was smiling and said "It’s okay! Go ahead with whatever treatment you want”. Meanwhile, he had a cardiac arrest from which he could not be revived despite great effort.”
I am not going to analyze why Siva Ram died. I am not even going to talk about the obviously missed diagnosis leading to his unfortunate death. Siva Ram was not a smoker, not overweight, nor had any other coronary risk factors. He led a healthy life style but still succumbed to destiny or some unknown risk factor. The diagnosis of his heart attack was delayed because it was not expected at all. All I am going to talk about is how a doctor’s health or lack of it affects the society and whether doctors are doing enough to sustain their health.
A doctor’s ill health has a demonstrable demoralizing effect on the society and conversely a doctor can set an example by being fit and healthy. Despite knowing that it is clichéd, several patients do ask the doctor what they should do if the doctors themselves are getting sick. Though doctors are nothing but human and will fall sick like the rest of the population, they have an obligation to show the society how to live healthy, not only by preaching, but by practicing what they always preach. But as of now, how many doctors are healthy? And how many are doing something to stay healthy?
In fact, recent studies done in the US Switzerland and Canada, have tried to address the exact questions. They have taken the weight and exercise habits of doctors as the yardsticks to judge whether the doctors are healthy and whether they are doing enough to maintain health. In one analysis of the Physicians Health Study, 38% of more than 85000 physicians were over-weight and had a Body Mass Index of more than 25. A staggering 38% of the physicians are over-weight. Surprising? Then take this: Just 57% of Swiss physicians said they exercised more than three times a month.
Had enough? There is more. Many doctors who are overweight don’t even realize that they are overweight. In a survey of pediatricians, more than half of the overweight doctors classified themselves as normal weight. That means that many doctors are not healthy but they don’t even realize the fact.
These may be the figures of the west, but I am sure Indian statistics would be even worse. I think it is time for us physicians to wake up, don our exercise costumes and head for a walk, before we tell the patients to do the same.