The first year of a medical student’s life is the most difficult part. After that things get easy…and fun!!!
We started going to hospital in the second year. And we learnt how to take history, and examine patients. Ah, when I was a little girl, I used to believe that the stethoscope a doctor carries is a magical thing. As soon as it is put to the chest, the doctor can hear what is wrong inside me. Or maybe even the deep secrets I have kept inside. But then I learnt that it isn’t really that way.
To reach a diagnosis, one has to ask a million questions, take a complete history, and then a detailed examination of the patient, to reach the possible diagnosis.
We had to present cases for the clinical classes. The nerdy ones would volunteer to do it every day, and the back benchers would loiter about in the wards, or make a trip to the canteen.
Each morning we would go to the ward to catch one “bakra” for that day. I mean the patient who would have to bear with us for half a day. There would be some patients with interesting “findings”, and then they would be much sought out by everyone. A medical student belongs to the least respected tribe in a hospital. As soon as he enters the ward, wearing his spotless white coat, steth, and examination kit, the patients let out a big groan. Oh no, now there will be an hour of grilling followed by an hour of examination. It is not a pleasant thing to have to go through this. Indeed, I am so grateful to these people, who bore with us so gracefully. Most of them would let us examine them, but some would get so fed up, that they would refuse to be touched by us. Not their fault, really. They were sick people, and we were actually trying to learn from their sickness.
On admission days we would have to be in medical casualty, which seemed especially frightening to me. Some very sick people, with chest pain, breathlessness, poisonings, snake bites, stroke, and many others who are not so sick, would always be there. Sometimes casualty would be so overcrowded, and the few doctors there would be surrounded by sick and anxious patients and their bystanders all wanting attention.
Surgery casualty was even more frightening. Badly hurt people from accidents, assaults, burns, and we would have to start them on fluids, suture their wounds, dress them up. On my very first night in the surgery casualty, I messed it up. I was trying to be helpful by cutting plaster with a surgical blade and I managed to cut my finger. The cut was deep and blood started gushing out. The medical officer on duty sutured my finger for me.
After helping around in the wards or in casualty on admission days, we would all go out to the nearby juice shop to have a milkshake at late nights. And in those nights friendships blossomed, relationships started….
(…to be continued)

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Divya Pai

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