Today is Patient Solidarity Day

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee
President, Heart Care Foundation of India

We have all been patients at some point of time in our lives, or cared for one.

Let’s recommit ourselves to provide safe, high quality, equitable and affordable healthcare to all. Let’s make “High quality and Minimal Stay” for our patients our motto.

Every person, every patient is equal and all have the right to access the healthcare they need, when they need it. We need to unite to ensure that all people, across the world, have fair and impartial access to quality healthcare.

Patient Solidarity Day is a day to come together, unite and speak with one voice. It recognizes that regardless of disease, religion or nationality, we all share common problems. Let’s all share what our patients have taught us in our practice. Here are mine:

“During our career, we have learnt a lot of spiritual prescriptions from our patients. Not only did they help us heal our patients, they also changed our perception about health and sickness.

I recall Swami Bodhanand, a disciple of Swami Chinmayananda, was once hospitalized under our care. When I asked him to give me a spiritual message, he just said two words “Detached Attachment”. He said, “As a doctor you should behave like a lotus leaf. The lotus leaf is wet as long as a there is a drop of water on it, but once the drop is out, the leaf is as dry as if the water was never there.” The message was that “we should be attached to our patients as long as they are with us. The day they die, we should be completely detached from them or else we will not be able to treat other patients.”

I met another spiritual guru through our Chief Anesthetist. The fee he paid to me was a spiritual message “Suno, Samjho, Jano, Karo” i.e. Hear, Understand, Wisdom and Do.” He said that hearing is different from listening, listening is different from wisdom and wisdom is different from doing. Unless you hear, understand what you have heard and implement, learning has no value.

One of my Buddhist patients gave me a spiritual learning, which has helped me a lot in my routine clinical practice. He taught me the basic Buddhist message that there is suffering all over; there is a reason for every suffering and it is possible to maintain sufferings. This message fits into the main message of Hinduism and also the main teaching from Garud Purana.

In Hinduism, we know that the very fact that we are born in this life means that in our last life, we could not get liberation because Hinduism believes that after liberation you are not reborn. Not getting liberated in the last birth means that there are some sufferings still left in our life. The basic purpose of this birth, therefore, is to face sufferings. When the basic purpose of our birth is to face sufferings, then why suffer from these sufferings. Every time we suffer, we should thank God that he has reduced one more. The period in between two sufferings is called a Happy period (Sukh). In fact, this period is nothing but a period of rest given to us by God to prepare our body for the next suffering. This as a concept of counseling helps my patients to manage most of their mental disturbances.

Sometimes not telling a patient that he is suffering from terminal cancer works. The father of one of my patient was found to have extensive cancer of the prostate. He was 83 years old. Medically, we all gave him three months to live. My patient did not have the courage to tell his father or the family members that he (the father) had extensive cancer. He took me into confidence and played a game with the family. We gathered all the family members and told them that this cancer had been cured with the surgery. A party was organized in the evening to celebrate the cure. The magic happened; he lived almost a symptom-free life for the next 9 years. I have tried this on many of my patients thereafter and it works. The probable explanation was loss of fear of death, confidence in his doctor and faith in his own self.

The way to live to 100 years is to go on working in life. My great grandfather-in-law was 75 years old when I got married. That year, he gathered all family members across the world and said that his purpose of life was over; he would like a collective family photograph and like to quit the world. Nothing happened for a year. On 20th July next year, he again acted in a similar manner. The whole family from across the world gathered but he remained alive for another year. This went on for three years. Suddenly, we decided to play a spiritual trick on him and told everyone to convince him that he is going to live for 100 years as he still had to carry out lot of work for the family. Every year, we gave him law students from within the family to be taught (he was a lawyer himself), or entrusted him with the responsibility of finding a boy for some eligible girl in the family. We made him teach and search for a prospective bride or groom for eligible family members for years together and he actually died at the age of 100 years.

This is the beauty of a positive attitude in life