(This is the eighteenth part of a short story which is entirely a work of fiction.)
“Dr. Murthy, we need to change things around here a little. It was probably good that I had to spend some time here. I got to see things from a patient’s perspective.” Dr. Som said excitedly.
“Yes of course.”
Vasudha asked the doctors whether the reports were ready. Dr. Sampath nodded. “Sheshu, let me just take a look at the reports and come back.” Vasudha had this uneasy feeling suddenly by looking at the doctors’ faces.
“Sampath, what’s wrong? Tell me. I am a doctor in case you’ve forgotten.” Dr. Som began to get a little anxious.
The two doctors were in a quandary. How could they tell him? On the other hand, how much longer could they hide from him? He was a nephrologist, after all!
Dr. Murthy came and stood next to Dr. Som’s bed. He said, “Dr. Som, you need to be strong now. Being a doctor, I am not going to hide anything from you. But you need to understand that if you are not strong, it will be difficult for everyone, most of all, for you.”
“What is it? Just tell me!”
“Your creatinine is 8.4.”
Dr. Som felt his heart becoming heavy. Vasudha felt her eyes moisten.
“We’ve repeated the entire set of tests. Your kidney function is compromised Doctor.”
“How can that be? I have had no symptoms. Nothing at all. There must be some mistake. Somewhere. How can it be?”
Vasudha held his hand. “Be strong Sheshu.” She could not stop the tears rolling down her cheek.
“Show me all the reports.”
Dr. Sampath handed over the entire set to Dr. Som. Dr. Som went over each one of them. Once, twice, thrice.
Dr. Som just could not believe what he was seeing. It seemed like he was going over the reports of one of his patients. But every now and then his eyes moved to the name of the patient on the report and the name “Dr. Sheshadri Som” stared back at him. He kept thinking back to see if there was any symptom of kidney disease he could recollect. He couldn’t remember any symptom. The reports could not be wrong either. They had repeated the samples. What should he do now? Should he treat himself? Rely on his team? Move to Hyderabad? No, that would be ridiculous. That would send a very bad signal. Also, he trusted his team. They had good experience. They were efficient. He needed to have confidence in his team. He needed to have complete faith in them. He had to surrender to them.
Dr. Som gathered himself. “So, what’s the plan Sampath?”
Dr. Sampath was a little startled. Would he be treating his own boss?
“What are you planning to do now? I am your patient. Please forget that I am a doctor. Please forget that I own this hospital. Please treat me like a new patient. Let me know what you are planning to do now?”
“Y…yes sir. Please excuse me sir. I will be back in a few minutes.”
Dr. Sampath hurried out of the ICU and went to the nephrology department. He called the doctors for a meeting. It wasn’t a very big department. Dr. Som and Dr. Sampath were the only nephrologists by qualification. There were two other MBBS doctors, Dr. Rahul Kumar and Dr. Suhail Ahmad who were being trained for the last couple of years. Both were quite sincere and hardworking. Dr. Sampath gave them an update on Dr. Som’s diagnosis and told them that they all together needed to offer the best possible care to him.
They brainstormed on the plan. They decided to plan a kidney biopsy in the next 2-3 days. They also decided to put in a temporary catheter the next morning for dialysis which Dr. Som would need immediately.
Dr. Sampath headed back to the ICU. He informed Dr. Som about the plan. He added at the end, “Any thoughts, sir?”
“No Sampath. Sounds good. You go home and get some rest. It’s already midnight.”
Dr. Sampath called out to the nurse on duty and asked her to call Dr. Rahul to the ICU.
“Vasudha, you go home as well. Get some rest. You can come back tomorrow morning.”
“No Sheshu. I would like to stay. I will not be comfortable at home.”
They argued for some time on the subject. In the end Vasudha had her way. She would sleep in the doctor’s cabin within the ICU.
In the meantime, Dr. Rahul came to the ICU. Dr.Sampath instructed him to be stationed in the ICU the whole night and watch over Dr. Som.
Dr. Som then tried to sleep. It was a very tiring day, a life-changing day. Dr. Som began to understand what his patients felt when they were initially diagnosed with kidney disease. He felt uncertain about his future. He had no clue how this would turn out? What would the biopsy say? Would he need dialysis or a kidney transplant? Where would the kidney come from?