I was taking a personal day about 10 days back when my phone flashed a call from some random landline. Before I proceed, I must stress that interns are petrified to take calls from unknown numbers lest they be called in for some work. I had managed to get that personal day after a lot of hassles & was truly worried that I’d been found out. But, the optimist that I am, “what’s the worst that could happen?” rang through my head. I picked up the call & it turned out to be from my Dean’s office (D'oh!). Here’s how the conversation went:
Dean’s Secretary (DS): Hello, Doctor, I’m calling from the dean’s office (Gulp). I just wanted to confirm your participation in the camp this weekend.
Me: What camp? I’m in my rural posting today. I haven’t been informed of any camp
DS: Well, I have your name right here with one of your co-interns. There’s a camp this weekend that you’ve been selected to go to. I don’t understand why you haven’t been informed yet, but I need a confirmation from your side
Me: You can’t be serious! This is the first I’m hearing of this. I’ll call back after I call my department.
Fast forward a few seconds:
PSM Dept: Yes, you’ve been selected for the camp. I’m surprised you haven’t been told yet (Duh-huh!!). Anyways, you’ve leaving this Saturday
So much for my optimism
“I hereby do solemnly swear to uphold the Intern’s code which clearly states that I MUST NOT pick up calls from unknown numbers. May Hippocrates bless my broken soul. Amen”
To cut a long story short, we left that weekend for a camp near Junnar, a part of Pune district. The camp was being organized by an NGO & as such had requested residents from almost every specialty (or so I thought. More on that later) from three different hospitals. My friend and I were the only two interns from medicine. The dental college has sent over their own interns but also a lecturer for additional expertise.
If there’s something I absolutely love about trips is the travelling. The winding ghats have a way of playing Russian Roulette with our inner ears but it usually spares me just enough to enjoy the journey. There’s this amazing thing that one sees when moonlight and high-beams light up the countryside. Ever noticed the thin line of demarcation where your headlights stop lighting up things besides the vehicle? The trees, shrubs just disappear into the darkness as you make your way through. It’s a brilliant way to relax, introspect, get your thoughts in order. I just wish my camera could've captured things the way I saw them.
We left the next morning for the site of our first camp. Was disappointed on our way; the landscape seems so uninspired during the day. The one positive was that we got along royally with residents from other colleges. We joked that while PSM from other colleges had sent senior residents, our dept apparently trusted us interns far more than we earlier assumed. We went so far as to spread word that we were in our post-grad. I don’t need to tell you no one bought that crap!
The setting of the camp was straight out of a movie from the ‘70s. Dilapidated school, classes without fans, decorated walls, outdoor restrooms, a lot of greenery, but strangely hardly anyone around. The doctor-patient ratio for the 1st hour seemed to stagnate around 25:1, a number that perhaps the camp wouldn’t be too proud of. Some wise character had apparently spread word that the camp was going to start at noon!! Large cards prominently displaying OPD names were being nailed to each classroom door when the camp incharge shouted, “Doctor, you’re in charge of Gynac today”. Now, I’m not one to shy away from situations like these; still wearing a confident look, spring in my step I made my way over to “MY” OPD. Right then I heard the same woman shout out that I’d be running the OPD with a dental intern. I heard a large thud that I swear I assumed was my jaw hitting the ground! “Wacky stories to tell back home”, I thought; things couldn’t get any funnier than this.
While I think I’ve polished my Marathi tremendously over the course of MBBS, my peers seems to think I’m delusional about it. Not unexpectedly, not a single patient I saw that day was able to converse in Hindi. I’d had a lot of practice the month earlier in my rural posting so I decided to power through this as well. Thankfully the dental co-intern empathized with me & helped me out a lot. But, at the end, even she couldn’t figure out what some of the patients had to share. Some of the phrases I’ve heard loosely translated from Marathi were:
Water doesn’t flow on my body;
My gas stones are causing problems;
My body is slipping out from my body.
I’d dare anyone to figure out their hidden meaning in the comments section. I D-A-R-E you !
Knowing I’d be lost among a sea of specialists in the other OPDs, I chose to volunteer to run OBGY the next day as well. Not a smart move on my part, since the front desk was forwarding all females with any complaint over to Gynac. Most cases seemed to be the ubiquitous low backpain, tingling numbness, giddiness, & lest I forget, the “generalized weakness” pandemic. Its times like these that really make me wonder where the thrill of practicing medicine has disappeared. But ever so often there came a woman in genuine need of someone’s help, where I could really “counsel” a patient. I could do little for most given the limited repertoire of drugs at my disposal but it was a learning experience just figuring what went wrong and why. Overall, I saw over 150 patients over two days, referred a few for further evaluation & made a “bus-load” of friends. Quite a productive weekend, but it hurt to know that I’d rejoin the regular rotation in PSM at 9am the next day especially since I reached back home at 3am! The life of an intern...