From medieval to modern age, the treatment of the sick has had three elements.
Cure, Care. Compassion. Cure by God/ healer/ physician. Care by the family/nurse. Compassion by the community.
Today is World Health Day. April 7. This year’s theme: Support Nurses & Midwives.
Wish them well. For Nurses walk miles and miles amongst the sick and the wounded in very difficult times and conditions to provide care. They are truly the Angels on Earth. In flesh and blood.
Here is my personal story of a Nurse who taught me the crux of care in my early days as a house-physician. In my pedestal of teachers, she sits very high.
1990. I was a House Physician in Shambhu Nath Pandit Hospital, Kolkata. A fresh graduate from Medical College. Suddenly thrown into managing patients in the Medicine ward of one of the busiest hospitals of the city. Wards overcrowded. With huge case-loads. I was in the learning phase. From text book to bedside medicine.We had a Nurse. Jagat -Di. We called her. She was aged. She was unlike other nurses. Stern. Strict. Sombre. Serious. In nutshell. She was no-nonsense. She scolded us when we forgot to sign a discharge certificate in time. She shouted at us when we forgot to write the dose of a medicine. And she shouted at patient parties. When they stayed back beyond visiting hours. She shouted at patients who did not eat their meals. She shouted at ward-boys who did not do their duty well. Everyone was scared of her. Because of her temper.
Sometimes, I asked her why she shouted so much at others. She replied because she can not tolerate negligence of duty and indiscipline. I grew used to her temper. Her shouts. And her scolding.
That was a busy day. My admission day, I think. I was on night duty. Late in the night I received a call. For a patient who was having severe asthmatic attacks. Male ward. I went. Saw the patient, Did the needful.
I then decided to visit the female ward just to check. The lights were dim. I watched from the door. Everybody sleeping. Quiet. As I was turning to return, I thought I saw a figure at the last corner. By a bed. I walked.
Beside a girl, on a tool sat Jagat Di. I came close. She had a plate in her other hand. Some chana/paneer. Home-made. She was feeding the girl. I stood there. I did not ask any question. After a few seconds Jagat Di looked at me. And said very softly almost in a whisper “Have you noticed that this girl has no visitor ever? Her family is in Bankura. They do not come to see her. I thought…….” She did not complete her sentence. I did not ask her any further. For even in the dim light I saw the moistness of her eyes. I stood there for few seconds more. Jagat Di sat there on the tool. Embarrassed that I had seen her in such soft care.
I knew the patient. A case of fever of unknown origin. Had been in the hospital for a couple of days with anaemia and fever getting treated for Typhoid.
Jagat Di and I never spoke of this incident again. And she resumed her scolding and shouting at me from the next morning. As if the night yesterday never happened.
In her scolding, shouting and seriousness she taught me bedside care in those two years like no one could have ever.
I support Jagat-Di. I support every Jagat -Di standing and sitting by those who need care and love in times of their ailment.

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