Tender Hearts ...
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Dear Young Friends,
Here is a touching short story contributed by one of our readers, Aswin,….


This happened a long time back. I used to be only a doctor then.

As soon as I entered the Mother Theresa Memorial Hospital, the smell of disinfectants greeted me. The familiar scenes - nurses and the ward boys hurrying about their daily duties, sick people sitting patiently, waiting to meet the doctors - filled my mind. Cries of some patient crying out in pain in some ward welcomed me to the day's work.
Within six months of joining the Hospital, I had got used to all these smells, sights and sounds. They seemed normal to me. They no longer disturbed me as they had during my learning days.

Yet in the six months there was one thing I had not got used to. It was the framed photo of Mother Theresa that hung from the wall opposite the entrance of the Hospital. It was the familiar photograph of the Mother that smiled at all who came to the hospital. Yet there was something more to that wrinkled, smiling face. Perhaps it was something in those eyes that had caught my fancy. Certainly there was something in them. Were they tears? No ….not possibly. Or maybe they were, because the eyes looked so sad, ..so…I can't express that feeling in words. Just that they made me feel uneasy. But I could not avoid them. Every time I entered the hospital, inspite of myself, my eyes would fall on the framed photograph and my eyes would meet those eyes. And then the same feeling of …of… yes, maybe guilt would overcome me. Perhaps I was imagining. But those eyes continued to haunt me for all those six months.

That morning it was no different. I came to the hospital and as soon as I entered, I saw the photograph. I shook off that uneasy feeling and walked to my office. I put on my white coat, placed my stethoscope around my neck and went towards the wards.
I went about my daily business - seeing the patients, checking their progress, telling the nurses the prescriptions, encouraging the patients, talking to the patient's family members - and returned to my office. Then there was a bit of paperwork to finish. After that I had to handle the outpatient department for the rest of my workday.
At the end of the day, I was a bit tired. As I was preparing to go home, a ward boy came to my door with an envelope. Inside was my cheque for the services that I rendered to the hospital. With the envelope in my hand, I walked out of the hospital. And as I walked out, I could somehow feel those eyes gazing at my back.

As I was driving home, I was contemplating on my life. Since childhood I wanted to serve the society. So I worked very hard and overcame many obstacles to become a doctor. I had accomplished my dream, for I felt that there was no better way of serving the society than curing the sick. I was doing well as a doctor. I was serving a lot of people. At the same time I was able to keep my family happy. What more could anyone ask for?
Yet something was missing in my life. I could not tell what it was. But somewhere deep in my heart, I knew that I was not really happy.

As my car turned into the National Highway, I could hear someone shouting. A little further I saw a group of people standing while a woman was running up and down the road, shouting something at each vehicle as it passed her. As I slowed down, she ran up to my open window. She was a poor woman, possibly a beggar. She wore a dirty and torn sari. Her dry hair fell over her eyes, which were filled with tears that flowed down her soiled face.
As she came towards my window I could hear her crying out something I could not understand. She was pointing towards the group of people standing nearby. In the fading light I could make out the body of a young boy lying sprawled beside the road, near the onlookers. As I went near, I saw that the boy was bathed in blood. I guessed that some speeding vehicle would have hit the boy and the culprit would have driven away in haste leaving behind the poor victim to die. Those standing around were poor people who could not have helped. And those who could have were too busy. And here was a poor mother begging of me to save her child.
I looked at the boy who was in great pain. Possibly he had some broken bones and some internal bleeding. I could see that his situation was critical. And if he did not receive medical attention immediately he would die here on the road, with his mother looking on helplessly. I could feel the poor lady's agony as she wailed, beating her chest and head with her hands.
I knew that no hospital would readily accept this case, as the boy was in a very critical condition. And it would involve the police too. I also knew that if the boy were not admitted, he would surely die. I still don't know what made me do that, but in a few minutes I was driving back to my hospital with the boy and his mother in the back seat.
When I reached the hospital, the nurse and the doctor on duty were shocked to see the condition of the boy. As they stood there speechless, I told the doctor, "Admit him."
"Sir,…." ,he mumbled. He looked at the boy and then at me and said, "Sir, I do not think it is advisable."
I looked straight into his eye with my anger rising inside me. "Give me one good reason why."
He avoided my eyes and said, "Sir, … this boy…. This boy will die … and …."

"It is a doctor's duty to see that he does not", I told even more angrily than before.

This time it was the nurse who spoke. "But sir, … who will pay for the treatment?"

I sharply turned towards her and said, "I will. Admit him. Now"

They did not have anything more to say. They mutely followed my orders.

I personally attended to the boy. After we had done the first aid, and given him blood, I had the other tests carried out. All that took a lot of time. It was well past midnight when I administered some medicines and had the boy put to sleep. The whole thing had taken several hours but I was not feeling tired. I fact I was happy to see the boy resting peacefully.
I was about to leave the ward when the boy's mother came to me. She was saying something. There were still tears in her eyes. I told her, through gestures that her son was now fine and out of danger. I told her not to make noise as the boy was sleeping. She stopped weeping and wiped her tears. I gestured as I told her that she could take him home in a few days. But she was not looking at me. She was looking at her son and wiping her face with her soiled sari. As I walked away, she just looked at me and smiled. There was something in her smile. I could not understand it. It was beautiful beyond description… I managed to smile back. As I was going, I just looked back, once more, to see the sleeping boy and his mother, who was now at the door of the ward, looking longingly at her son.
When I got to the entrance of the hospital, I wished the nurse a good night. She wanted to say something. I waited.
"Sir…" She was groping for words. "Sir, Doctor … asked me to tell you about the bill…"
I silently walked out to the car, picked out the envelope that I had received in the morning, and went back and gave it to the lady. She stared at the envelope.
"Take the whole amount of the treatment from here."
She looked at me with remorse in her eyes. "Sir!", she said. I smiled in reply and turned and walked away.
As I was about to leave, something made me turn back. And my eyes fell on the photograph of Mother Theresa.
And there she was. And on her face was an unmistakable smile. Well, the tears too were there. But that smile… It was beautiful beyond description.

That night changed my life. I could not be just a doctor from then on.

Today I am trying to be like the Mother.


Volume 01: PDS / 08 Date : DEC 15 2003