Mangalore, June 27, 2014: I grew up in Mangalore and continue to reside in the same locality. The immediate neighbors have remained the same and we have very cordial working relationship. Each one knows the other. We interact frequently. We help each other. One day, as I was looking out of the window, I found the old man in the opposite house suddenly fall down to the ground in the compound and get "fits" (convulsions). He had turned blue both the things indicating insufficient blood supply because the heart was beating very slowly. Pulse rate was very slow - around 30 per minute. This is known as Stokes - Adams attack (due to- complete heart block a problem of conduction of the originated heart beat down as the pulse)- a medical emergency. The treatment would entail insertion of a pacemaker after complete check up and treating the cause like a heart attack if there is one. I was very well aware of the social limitations of this patient. Lifelong he was practicing astrology as a hobby without charging anything to the people. Naturally he would not be able to afford a modern life saving gadget costing around Rs. 1,50,000 then. He was honest and self respecting man staying with his daughter, son-in-law and grand children who would never ask others for help. There was no heart attack and it was worth helping him as the rhythm disorder (complete heart block was the only problem) and he really needed the pacemaker fast. He however categorically told me that the pacemaker insertion according to his astrological predictions was possible only after 3 weeks if at all it was done!
What was the alternative? I was in a dilemma. Can such an honest person be left alone because he cannot afford the luxury? My first instinct was to help him. I was figuring out how to.
Suddenly I remembered an episode. We had inserted a pacemaker in a patient with OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea who had blackouts due to periodic inability of the atria to beat (atrial standstill). When she died, I had requested her son to pull out the pacemaker carefully before the final rites. I phoned him hoping it had been done and was glad to know it had indeed been done. I requested him to get the pacemaker. There are issues with reusing the pacemaker- it should be functioning. There is a lead through which the wires thinner than the hair have to pass, This lead was bent and cut! However, I requested my friend, Dr. Mukund, a cardiologist, to try and use this pacemaker. The cardiologist understood the situation and cooperated.. On testing the continuity of conduction on the table we were pleasantly happy to observe that the pacemaker was nicely functional despite the lead being cut and bent! A miracle indeed! After all the pacemaker was in use only intermittently for less than 2 years in the earlier patient and the lithium battery should usually last for around 10 years. Anyway, the pacemaker was working well and there was no reason why it should not work for long! I checked the date - it was exactly 3 weeks after the first episode of fall! It took so much time to arrange the pacemaker and then the cardiologist had to go out of station for a few days. His prediction had come true!
It was a very satisfying experience for all of us! We could help a genuinely needy person for the fraction of the cost (entire cost came to about Rs. 15,000 instead of Rs. 1,50,000. What really made me happy was the observation that many people some unknown to him willingly helped him.
The episode re-affirmed my faith in my firm belief -"the society will always pay its rightful due to the deserving person" - only I wish to see this happen more often! He lived happily for 8 more years and continued his hobby of free astrology consultations all along!
Dr. Raghavendra Bhat: A gold medalist in studies, the author is a professor and medical practitioner, has 5 medical books and an anthology of poems to his credit. Also an eminent speaker,Dr. R V Bhat, practices at Chitra Clinic Hampankatta Mangalore. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mobile 09845083094