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Doctor Diaries: 'Blood relatives...Who?' by Dr. Pankaj Desai

M3 India Newsdesk Dec 21, 2018

In this week's entry if Doctor Diaries, Dr. Pankaj Desai, a renowned OBGYN, writes about an incident of how one of his patients was deserted during a medical emergency, and in the end, his team of doctors helped save her by doing something that even her relatives refused to do.

“Sir there is a patient with a ruptured uterus. She is looking very pale. We are arranging for blood. The anaesthetists have been called” – it was a typical call from one of the junior doctors on duty from the labour room in the middle of the night. Such calls instantly awaken and put the consultant-on-duty in alert mode. 

As I accelerated my car on the nearly deserted roads in the middle of the night, I did a mental rehearsal of all the complications and challenges I was likely to face and what should be done. No wonder, a ruptured uterus is called 'Electric emergency in obstetrics'. It is a potentially catastrophic event during childbirth by which the integrity of the uterus is breached. It is life-threatening for mother and baby.

As I was racing up the stairs to the labour room operation theatre, I passed a junior doctor. He was obviously breathless rushing back from the blood bank carrying two units of blood in his hands. It must be for that patient in shock.

I asked him “Why did you go personally?” The reply was as expected. “Sir, all relatives have disappeared as soon as we told them to replace blood. The staff in the operation theatre were very busy helping the doctors as this patient is quite critical. So I went personally. She may die, sir!” We had a system in the hospital for patients requiring blood transfusion wherein relatives were encouraged to replace blood.

Once in surgery, I quickly did what was to be done and the patient stabilised. As I looked up from the surgical field, I saw two units of blood running fast into her veins. I could also see two more units of blood ready to be transfused once these got over. I inquired “Who amongst you gave blood for this since the relatives have disappeared?” As expected two were donated by the junior doctors who were actually assisting in the surgery and two others were from undergraduate MBBS students who were watching the surgery. Such a routine scenario! We all had a knowing smile on our faces.

With the surgery successfully over, I came out of the operation theatre and while I was scrubbing, I requested the nursing staff to call the relatives of the patient. I wanted to brief them about the condition of the patient. The nurse meekly said, “Sir she has no relatives.” 

I could guess that she must have seen that no was one coming forward as a relative of the patient when blood replacement was asked for surgery. I smiled cryptically.

I went to the area where the relatives of patients wait and just announced: “Who are the relatives of Mrs. X (name hidden)? She is out of danger now!” And like a miracle 15 to 20 apparently healthy and young people sprung up: “Sir we all are”! I briefed them. Then I said “She will require two more units of blood. She has lost blood considerably."

Immediately, most people in the group stepped back. From the corner of my eyes, I could see some of them actually leaving. Only two remained who immediately blurted in a chorus, “Sir we are not her blood-relatives. We are just neighbours”. “Who is her blood relative then?” An absolutely frail looking old woman came forward. They said, “She sir, only she.”. “No other blood relatives?” I asked, smiling. Their eyes went blank and they aimlessly started looking at the junior doctors who were standing with me!

As I got into my car to head home I couldn't help wondering: who her relatives were– her husband, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, or parents? Or were they the doctors who rushed to save her life with their own blood, who donated for her, came and assisted in the surgery, and will now take care of her all through her stay, until she goes home?  This question just looped in my mind that night and the only thing I thought of was- "blood relatives...who?”

Doctor Diaries is M3 India's new blog section where we encourage our doctor members to share stories and anecdotes from their professional lives that may have made a deep personal impact. If you have a story to tell, write down your story and the lessons it left you with and share with us on email at editor@m3india.in. We will give it the audience that it deserves. Read more about Doctor Diaries here.

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