Hyderabad: It is not always Sanjay Dutt bringing out laughter in a fictional hospital setting in Bollywood classics like Munna Bhai MBBS as ordinary mortals like us often get into real-life comical situations but unintentionally.
The attempt to go that extra mile to make our patients feel at ease or a few words of concern spoken about their welfare, sometimes can backfire due to miscommunication.
Such amusing anecdotal incidents abound in my long medical career but there are a few hilarious ones that have remained permanently etched in my memories.
Let me kill you!
Case study #1: This was an unintended casual conversation turned banter by a Tamilian doctor with his patient that went completely awry – a typical Teri Toh Wat Lag Gayi, Mamu (you are finished) syndrome a la Munnabhai MBBS!
Not very well-versed in Hindi, the Tamilian doctor sought to strike a cordial conversation in Hindi with his cardiac patient from North India before taking up his surgery.
The patient did not understand any language other than Hindi but the hitch was that the Tamilian doctor had a problem communicating in Hindi.
"में आपका खून करूँगा! खून करने के बाद decide करूँगा बाईपास सर्जरी करना की नहीं,” the doctor said to the shocked patient.
Loosely translated, it meant: I will kill you. After killing you, I will decide whether bypass surgery is needed in your case or not.
The patient was extremely upset and wondered in utter shock what the hell the doctor was hinting at.
"खून करेगा क्या है? सर, आप मेरा खून क्यों करेंगे (What's this, sir? Why would you kill me?),” the visibly shocked patient retorted.
Sensing that something had gone terribly wrong after looking at the expressions on his patient’s face, the Tamilian doctor tried to clear the confusion in English.
"No, I want to do a blood test for you,” he clarified. The words ‘blood test’ calmed the patient's nerves after he heard them.
In our profession, it is important that a doctor communicates with his patient in the language he or she understands. Otherwise, it may boomerang on the doctor.
Case study #2: This patient was witty and was not giving up smoking. One day, he turned up at my OPD and I asked the usual question, "Did you give up smoking?”
This angered the patient and he shot back.
"How can I quit smoking all of a sudden, doctor?”
This time I was at a loss for words as he went on explaining the rationale for not giving up on smoking yet so easily.
"When you go for a bath, do you start the shower as soon as you enter the bathroom?”
He went on explaining further.
"You remove your shirt, your trousers and your undergarments before taking the shower. Don’t you, doctor?”
The same way, smoking has to be stopped gradually. One cannot do it outrightly, he explained.
"But eventually, do you take a bath or not,” I asked, stressing the need to start the quitting process sooner or later.
But much to my bewilderment, the patient’s dry humour got me on the wrong foot.
"I take bath every day, don’t you, doctor?” he asked, having completely misunderstood my life of argument.
I knew our conversation was going nowhere, and I pleadingly asked him one last time.
"Baba, will you give up smoking or not?”
Case study #3: A newly diagnosed diabetic patient was sitting across and I was suggesting him the dos and don’ts of maintaining a healthy diet to manage his condition.
"Don’t eat lot of rice. Eat Roti at least once in a day, other than rice,” I suggested.
The patient put up an innocent face and asked, "Kitna roti?”
"Take one or two?”
His next question completely stumped me.
"Khane ke baad or khane ke pehle (After food or before food)?
Case study #4: This incident came as a bolt out of the blue to me as I was completely unprepared for such an incident.
This happened in my OPD when a 17-year-old girl walked into my clinic with her sister Lakshmi and father.
She was seated silently and strangely did not open up about her ailment at all. "Lakshmi, tell the doctor about her problem,” the girl’s father ordered her sister to speak on her behalf.
While looking puzzled I glanced towards the duty nurse. Then I sought to break the ice and asked her, "What is your problem?” Still silence.
Suddenly, I heard a strange voice reverberated in the OPD.
"Who do you think you are going to treat? You can never treat me,” said a deep-throated voice, much to my shock. the 17-year-old girl spoke in a deep voice, much to my shock.
"I am not Lakshmi, I am Vimala.”
It was not clear whether it was Vimala's voice but her face had become totally demonic while initially being pretty.
This was the last straw that shook my composure completely. I was at my wits end as it was the first time I was witness to such an interactive session and decided to storm out of the cardiology OPD.
It later turned out that the young girl was a schizophrenic patient and was in a sort of psychological trance when she stepped into my OPD.
She was actually supposed to see a psychiatrist but by mistake, came inside a cardiology clinic.
Never in my life did I expect a schizophrenic sitting in a cardiologist’s clinic!
But in hindsight, I realize the importance of a good laugh in our daily lives as it heals both our heart and hurt feelings.