3: Chances Are…
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
Khanak sat up with a start. It took her several seconds to get her bearings. She had been having a rather pleasant dream. She was strolling along a river cuddled up to a very handsome man with a strangely familiar face. It seemed as if they were in a foreign land, someplace very romantic and he was whispering sweet nothings in her ear. He had been about to kiss her when the beeper had gone off. She glared at it as it lay on her bedside table.
Khanak was in the call room of the hospital. She had just joined the staff as an attending three months ago. Being a conscientious young physician, she had made it a point to spend her nights on duty on site. After graduating with top honors she had chosen to study further and had completed her Doctor of Medicine degree in General Medicine six months ago. Her mother had urged her to settle down and get married but Khanak had refused saying that her life had just started and she needed to establish herself in her career. “Besides mommy dearest,” she had told her. “What does your daughter lack? I am smart, young and not bad to look at I hope, except for my dark circles. But those can be easily hidden with makeup. And with my credentials, I can have anybody I want. So don’t you worry. Eligible boys will line up on their own!”
Her mother had laughed and indulgently shaken her head. She was very proud of her eldest child. But a mother’s heart could never stop worrying.
Khanak sighed and dialed the number on the pager; “This is Dr. Agarwal.”
“Dr. Agarwal, it’s Mr. Gupta in Room 3. He says he can’t sleep and would like a sleep aid!
But then he has the lights and the TV on.”
“Tell him to turn them both off. I’d rather try that before giving him something that might make him stop breathing, him being so incredibly obese. Try to make him understand. I know you can.”
“Yes Doc, I agree completely. I will talk to him.”
Khanak smiled. The nurses liked her and that was a good thing. Or else they would nag her all night with little things. Some PR always helps. She lay down again and tried to recall her dream when the pager went off again; “It appears I have to cancel my date with my Prince Charming!”
“Dr. Agarwal, can you please come up to the 4th floor? Mrs. Kocchar in Room 16 is having trouble breathing. She can barely speak; I’m really worried about her.”
“Is she having any chest pain? Did you do an ECG?”
“No Doctor, she is not having any chest pain. But I will get an EKG right away.”
“Okay, please also get a Chest X ray. I’ll be there in a few.” Khanak grabbed her coat and rushed to the 4th Floor that was devoted to the cardiac patients. She took a quick look at Mrs. Kochar’s chart and reviewed her EKG. Fortunately, it did not show any changes. But her blood pressure was up and her oxygen levels were low. She went into the room and saw a very anxious lady in her mid-sixties who was sitting up in bed and breathing hard. She was clutching at her oxygen mask and a man who appeared to be her husband was standing beside her looking equally anxious and worried. Khanak introduced herself and asked if she could examine Mrs. Kochar.
Mr. Kochar looked relieved while his wife could only nod. Khanak efficiently examined Mrs. Kochar while quietly asking her a few questions following which she reviewed her Xray. Then she said; “It’s nothing to worry about. There is buildup of some extra fluid in the lungs and that can be easily fixed with medication. Since Mrs. Kochar has just suffered a heart attack these things are a common occurrence. She has to be careful and watch her salt and fluid intake from now on.”
“So she doesn’t have pneumonia?” asked Mr. Kochar.
“No she doesn’t. She should start feeling better soon. I’m here all night and will come by to check on her before I leave.”
Khanak walked out of the room relieved that it had been a relatively easy problem. She glanced at her pager as it had gone off again.
“Mr. Bansal is dying. His family wants to speak with you. Can you come by?”
Khanak knew 80-year-old Mr. Bansal very well. He had been trying to die for the past few days after suffering a massive stroke that had affected most of his brain. His family had been in shock and had refused to come to terms with his bad prognosis. But after much discussion they had finally accepted that living like a vegetable on machines would have been unacceptable to him. It was best to let him die with dignity.