“I believe humane issues are more important than medical issues while managing a patient. So, this book chronicles stories of patients I have treated in my medical career of almost half a century,” said Dr Surinder K Jindal, former head of department of Pulmonary Medicine, PGI, and Emeritus Professor, Pulmonary Medicine, about his book ‘Medical Encounters, True Stories of Patients – Memoirs of a Physician’ (published by Partridge) during its release on Saturday afternoon at the Press Club.
An internationally recognised physician, it was about three years before his retirement in 2014 that Jindal decided to write about his experiences in the form of a book and gave it a final shape after his superannuation from PGI.
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Going beyond medical management, Jindal says for him, the persona of the patient was as important as the disease with which he or she came. Each of the 34 stories, out of thousands that he has in his memory, are a result of his firm belief that it takes more than just medicine to cure. Patients, he says, have their worries and concerns related to their families, future, career prospects, matrimonial relationships, expensive length of treatment, etc.
“Most of these issues cannot be solved by the doctor. But listening to some of these concerns helps the patient to handle his/her disease more effectively. Doctors are more like teachers, who can guide patients and help them adopt a particular path to handle a disease,” Jindal said.
The book describes his interactions with patients from various walks of life and their illnesses, but is not a study of their personalities. Jindal, in the simply written and touching stories, devoid of medical jargon, also comments on the tremendous advances in medical technology over the years, patients who are now more aware, empowered and demanding, pressures that doctors face and how superstition and gullibility persists even in this era of ‘knowledge-explosion’.
For Jindal, each encounter with a patient has been a lesson in human behaviour as much as an experience in disease management. Each character in the book has a real person in the background, presenting the lives of governors, Prime Ministers, highly placed officials, teenagers, drug addicted foreigners, wealthy men and labourers, bringing to readers one fact that is common between ordinary people and the privileged classes — they all suffered from the pain of an illness.
The stories also reflect how each patient, along with his family, presents a complex interplay of emotions, ambitions, expectations and frustrations while fighting an illness and are a reflection of life and its many manifestations. The most important challenge, Jindal said, was related to the diversity of patients’ attitudes, behaviours and expectations.
“For instance, how to be objective and empathetic in handling their problems and how to relate my own approach with the best outcomes. I had to be short and yet convey the feelings about a particular issue. Of course, each patient taught me of my limitations in alleviating diseases and sufferings, more precisely the agony and pain of disease and death, which I portray in the stories,” he said. Jindal, in the book, also brings to light the working of medical establishments, advancements in technology and the changing attitudes of doctors and patients. “I feel a bit sad that medical services these days have been reduced to consumerism and the doctor is a mere service-provider. That attitude on the part of society is somewhat an anathema to an effective medical management,” said Jindal, whose message to young doctors is to empathise with their patients, recognise their own limitations and do their best.