Leader of the Team - 3

Leader of the Team - 3

DR V.N. Shrikhande

 We had a man Keroba who, in 1950, was on his way to meet his fiancee, when he was injured in a car accident, suffered a fracture of his spine and became paraplegic. He lost control of both his lower limbs and also over passing urine and motions. Nobody else in the car was injured. He was brought to the hospital. Very little could be done in those days for paraplegics. He had a bed at the end of a long corridor near where the lavatories were situated. When he learnt that he would be incapacitated for life, he wrote to his fiancee stating that she should marry someone else. He comforted his emotionally-shattered fiancee saying that he would marry her in their next life. I never saw Keroba unhappy. He was always smiling and would sing songs and bhajans and tell amusing anecdotes. He had never been to college but had the wisdom to understand life and had the courage to face the tragedy fate had decreed. I used to chat with him regularly. On 27 January, he told me that he was very happy to see Bombay lit up on Republic Day. Had he been taken round to see the illuminations? No. He had seen the lights from the window by sitting up in his bed. He had done so without any assistance. Was this bravado or was he making the best of his helpless situation? I would never know, but it was with the greatest difficulty that I could prevent tears rolling down my cheeks.


He had but one request to make: he wanted me to present him with a book before I left his ward. I felt pleased that he wanted to keep in touch with me wherever I was because of the close relationship that had developed between us. But I had counted without the intervention of fate. Keroba developed pneumonia and his condition deteriorated very fast. We realized that he was nearing his end. That evening, when I went for a ward round, I noticed that he had drawn a sheet over his face and that his breathing was laborious. Toward midnight I received a call informing me that Keroba had died. I went to the ward and wept unashamedly!

Doctors are never supposed to show such emotions. Moreover in our profession, death is of common occurrence. Later his relations who had gathered told me that everytime they called on Keroba, they would wonder what to tell him but Keroba himself was cheerful and kept them amused with his humorous comments and anecdotes. He never complained till the very end. In the ordinary course of events, nurses, doctors, ward boys and especially the meheters whose duty it is to look after soiled linen, would turn indifferent if not callous toward the patient. But in the case of Keroba, even they wept. As one meheter said, they had never seen a patient like Kcroba in their life. He was not a man, but a saint! Keroba's zest for life was remarkable; it is thirty five years since he passed away but his smiling face remains still fresh in my memory. His was an example of how to face tragedy and how to die with a smile on the face and courage in the heart.

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar