The Joy Of Paeds
My first patient this morning was a child. And so it is most of the days. Every single morning at 7:30 AM, except for a rare rainy day, my first few patients are children. This is because, or so I figure, that adults can bear pain better and decide to drop in later after getting their usual quota of sleep rather than hurry to the hospital at the ungodly hour of 7Am. But when a child is in pain, anytime of the night the parents make sure that the child gets to the hospital as early as possible. And get treated for the pain. There is a rare pleasure in treating children because children don’t dissemble. When they are in pain they don’t hold it back and when they are cured they don’t hold it back either. They show the joy of it. I recently saw a TV serial called “Greys Anatomy where a character, who acts as a pediatrics surgeon, refers to the joy of paeds and I get it. Treating children may be a pain in the wrong place, when they are struggling bawling brats screaming at the top of their voices for mummy and daddy. Getting them to calm down enough to treat them is quite a tough proposition. But once you relieve their pain, there is nothing like a child’s smile to light up your day. I guess I am really lucky that way to be working in a children’s hospital despite not being one myself.
Over the years, many of my friends and well wishers have asked/scolded/advised me (repeatedly) about what I was doing so far away from my core specialty? Was I crazy in wasting my potential career growth in a side-tracked pathway where I don’t fit in? I have tried to explain the joy I feel in treating children but they don’t get it. At least, not many do. In fact even I didn’t realize consciously why I hung around here till recently. When I was choosing my specialty in plastics, the only consideration upper most in my mind was that this way I would get to meet lots of young beautiful (or wannabe beautiful) girls, models, actresses, beauty queens and I could date them all to my heart’s content. That’s one of the primary reasons I joined up- to be surrounded by beauty, to always be in the midst of a bevy of beautiful women. And it did come true. But once inside I found out that routine stales and there is such a thing called saturation point even for beauty.
And now, more and more, I have learnt to appreciate the simple pleasures of healing children because children are some of the most uncomplainingly stoic patients ever. When they trust you, they trust you to the fullest extent. And that makes the normal day to day life far more relaxing than in dealing with multiple adult patients who may or not benefit by anything you do for them but are looking for the impossible ideals as seen in magazine covers, mostly photo-shopped ones. Compared to that, the simple pleasure of doing a surgery for a child with a cleft lip (a harelip/split lip) with the knowledge that you are turning a disfigured child into a normal child by the power of your hands is a real reward in itself. Even if the surgery itself is so far difficult compared to other surgeries for adults- imagine a less than three month old infant who is the size of your palm with a split lip the size of a thread and you are seizing the two ends of the thread and instead of tying them together, you are stitching the two ends together end-to end, while all the while the blood is pouring out of the ends obscuring you from seeing what you are doing and that would give you a pretty fair idea of what it is to do a cleft lip surgical correction. But the very complexity of the surgery is the reward you get when you see the child able to feed/talk/look normally later on in life. When you take nature and improve on it. And this beats hanging out with any number of beauty queens and aspiring models. So I would advise anyone who feels burdened by the cares of life to spend sometime around children. It’s both enervating and exhilarating. And I have found that being around children is mentally relaxing to such an extent that you really start feeling child-like yourself. The worries and cares of adulthood are shed off in the company of children and you find that life is simple and fun. As adults we realize that pain is universal- everyone has some pain or other and no one can say they are perfectly happy with no worries. And we all have developed coping mechanisms to deal with it. Some cry, some blog and some behave childishly or at least try to be childlike and spend time with kids.
Which is why, when I happened to meet someone recently who said she didn’t like children, didn’t want children, forever and ever, I was to say the least, astonished and surprised beyond measure. This specimen who I had gone to meet as part of an arranged marriage personal interview offered the surprising opinion that having children reduces the personal life of a woman to taking care of them and as she wants to enjoy life to the fullest, backpacking and roaming around the world, children would be a hindrance to her lifestyle. I mean, I could understand if she had specified a given time period of say a few years- after all its a woman’s prerogative to decide when to have children. But to absolutely refuse to have children is a decision which is to my way of thinking kind of stupid. Despite all the extra work that having children means, still life would not be so much fun in their absence. And that’s the reason why you see so many long queues standing outside infertility specialists, with childless couples prepared to spend lakhs and lakhs of rupees, to at least get someone’s child if not their own to brighten their lives. Also most young couples nowadays are under the mistaken belief that fertility is under their control and they can conceive when they wish. They are extremely mistaken for scientific evidence shows that fertility peaks in the mid 20’s and goes down with every succeeding year. The longer they delay childbirth due to any reason- job, family or merely to test out compatibility the harder it gets to conceive naturally. I know this well, because my clinic in the hospital is on the first floor and daily I pass by the infertility department (ground floor) on my way up- and the corridor is filled by young couples in their late 20’s and early 30’s who decided to postpone kids for a convenient time and are now regretting that decision and missing the joy of having children in their lives.
And here was a specimen, who absolutely refused to ever have children because they might “cramp her free-living lifestyle” (a direct quote). I am a pretty adjustable type when it comes to negotiating, but I have certain non-negotiable’s, certain do not cross lines and this was one. To contemplate a permanent life without kids, however much we enjoy traipsing around the world as a couple, having fun in the beaches and party spots of the happening places of the globe, is not a very appealing aspect to look forward to. Such a life would get very boring and very stale very soon, especially as I love the companionship of kids and of being around them and have always thought I would have plenty of them around the house. Some of these arguments I tried to put forward to the specimen before I realized that it was a waste of time and that I didn’t really need to convince this person when I had the option to refuse. Which I did. Better to be clear about the core non-negotiable’s at an early stage than to find yourself in a divorce court later is my opinion. And so I am still looking for someone who loves kids as much as I do and won’t hesitate to have them.
So anyway to come back to my post’s premise, the reason why I am still working in the children’s hospital and not concentrating on doing my core specialty work is because I enjoy being with and around children. So I am content with where I am right now and will maybe move on only when I want to go do something different. And till then I want to enjoy the “Joy of Paeds’ as the scriptwriter of Greys Anatomy has put it so memorably.