Those were the days when I was in charge of a hospital albeit a small one but a hospital nevertheless.

I used to get up early in the morning to start our cases as our out-patient department’s work used to begin at 9 AM sharp. On a peak day, I would operate many cases and see many ENT patients. Having so many ENT patients is by itself a gratifying experience which is what it was doing since I was just managing the hospital without having any share of the
profits.

So, this incident is something which will happen to me again and has happened to me before but probably I am a slow learner.

“Your son needs tonsil surgery” I told the father of a kid who was having severe tonsillitis and growth impact. The frequent infection and severe nose block had made the poor kid’s life miserable. In a properly diagnosed case, Tonsils and Adenoids cause loads of problem and the only definitive treatment is surgery. Else, you would have a myriad of treatments which would, of course, work only temporarily! Why they waited for so long was beyond my perception but when I saw the kid’s father, I understood the truth of the matter. His old clothes, unkempt and oily hair, and nicotine stained teeth gave more information than I could ask for.

In any case, I had understood that money might be the problem despite the fact that it was a charitable hospital and we were probably the cheapest in the area. But of course it was a private hospital and treatment was definitely not free. Therein lay the problem, or so I thought.

I told the father that we can reduce the amount by ten percent but, apparently, even that price was a bit too much for the father to chew. After much haggling and a call to my head to the main hospital I was able to offer the treatment at a reduced cost of almost half the initial cost!

The surgery was smooth and the kid recovered well and when I went for the rounds I could sense the relief on the father’s face and a halo emanating from my head for having done the gracious deed of the day! Since the discharge took some time the parents were taking the kid home just as I was leaving for the day.

I usually avoid speaking to patients beyond hospital hours or outside because I have witnessed that it leads to an unnecessary flow of random questions and, of course, awkward silences and smiles. Also, most of the days, since I come by a bike in order to save time rather than the car there’s the additional matter of prestige in front of the patients which only another doctor in a corporate hospital would understand.

But this instance was different; this kid was special and he was the one responsible for the Halo on my head. I made some non-important comment while patting the kid’s head (I recently got to know that kids hate this gesture). As a final farewell to the father I gave him some money (I think it was around 100 bucks) and told him to take his kid home in an auto and not by bus.

He sheepishly looked at me and asked if, “Car is fine?” Perturbed, I thought that this father would have wanted to keep the extra money and hence mentioned taxi. That would explain the bargaining! In any case, every penny saved might be important to them. Or, so I guessed!

I was lost in this thought and muttered in agreement which is when I saw the father call out to another equally shabby looking guy standing for the family. This whole time, I had thought that he was their relative. This guy was apparently just one amongst their many drivers and helpers on the hospital premises. The hospital security guard who was speaking to the drivers told this to me as I witnessed the whole scene of the family leaving along with the Halo on my Head. Everyone saluted the kid’s father and took their luggage and kept it in a shiny Innova parked just beside my rusty old bike.

The kid and the family got into the Innova car which was in the middle and the rest of the gang climbed into another one of their cars which I am sure was Swift. The whole gang then gave me big smiles in a display of brown paan-stained teeth while the kid said bye.

All the while I was standing there thinking how looks are surely deceptive.

About the Author:
Dr. Sriram Nathan, an ENT and Head and Neck Surgeon working at the Narayana Health Hospital in whitefield, Bengaluru.

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