Diya walked slowly to the wards. Despite the exhaustion, she found the energy to see patients. She interacted with them and their families. It somehow made her feel better. There was one thing she knew. She wasn’t going to let him down. He had bothered to invest so much of his precious time and energy on her. She wasn’t going to make his efforts futile.
In the evening, she stayed back for the surgery. When she entered the OT, he was already there, talking to his colleagues, getting ready for the surgery. She felt strange standing amidst people she did not really know. She did not expect him to take notice of her. He surprised her by walking up to her and asking, ‘So how are you feeling now?’ She smiled through her mask and replied, ‘Better!’
He explained to her the background of the case, the diagnosis and the surgical procedure. She trembled as all eyes focussed on her. Just before he started, he closed his eyes in a silent prayer. She was touched by the gesture. She had only seen artists pray like that, just before their performance. Despite all the experience and expertise, there are so many variables to every event. Every artist prays for those variables to be favourable to his performance; his art is his God.
He started and the surgery went on for quite some time. At the moments that needed intense focussing and carried with them uncertainty, he was quiet. At other times, he spoke to everybody, and even joked. As the surface of the brain came into focus, she trembled with excitement. He was talking about the area he had exposed. She couldn’t refrain from asking,’Can I touch it?’ He smiled and said,’Go ahead!’ She felt this structure which always made her speechless, and her passion seemed to spill out. ‘Are you going to be a neurosurgeon?’, he asked. ‘No…a neurologist, perhaps. I am pathetic with surgical skills’, she replied. The surgery progressed, and she watched, enthralled to the core.
As he wound up with the procedure and started suturing the scalp, he asked her, ‘Do you want to suture? Done with your surgery and casualty postings?’
‘Yes, but I am not confident. I told you I am bad with surgical skills’, she answered.
‘Suturing is no big deal. You are gonna do this’, he stated.
As all eyes looked at her, she thought she would faint. She looked at him and realized he would not take no for an answer. Her hands trembled, but he did not criticize. He encouraged her and by the end of it, she felt she could do it again…and do it better! ‘Now, was that so difficult? You did it yourself !’, he remarked. She smiled gratefully.
Next morning, after rounds, he put forth his perspectives on neurology versus neurosurgery…and why he felt neurosurgery was more gratifying than neurology. As he concluded, he looked at her and added, ‘As for surgical skills, they come with time. Don’t go by your current clumsiness; you have only started. Give yourself time before you draw a conclusion.’ He got up and asked, ‘So, neurology or neurosurgery?’
‘Neurosurgery !’, she laughed. ‘This is how I want to see you always’, he said, and left.
She walked back to the wards. She couldn’t believe this. She was just not the person she was yesterday. She had barely thought of Abhinav in the last 24 hours. And even when the thought made a brief entry, she felt sad, but not lost and turbulent. Dr V had taught her the most important lesson in life- to look for self-worth within, and not outside.
The patient who had been operated yesterday was doing well. Coincidentally, it was his birthday today. At 70, he had survived a head injury and a surgery. He thanked his stars and thanked all of them. His family distributed sweets and Diya was happy to be a part of their happiness and celebration.
From that day on, she talked to her patients and their families about their lives. Until then, she had lived the life of a medical student, taking an interest only in their illness. But that day on, she developed a desire to know her patients- know them as individuals. She felt responsible for her patients. This built a cord of connection between them and her. Somehow, as they let her into their stories, her own stories receded into the background and faded away. For their stories had far more tragedies than hers…far deeper. It was here that she first practised the very attribute that the brain practised- to be oblivious to one’s own pain, and yet, feel a heightened sensitivity to the pain of others. Consciously, she was unaware of the silent transformations in her mind. But these reflected in her behaviour.