“Boss we have just shifted a young man to the ICU.” I groggily held the phone to my ears as my first year excitedly repeated the case history.
“23 year old, married man,a guard, no addictions, lives alone in a room, was found by his landlord as he stumbled out of his room at night with slurred speech followed by rapid onset loss of consciousness as the landlord rushed with him to the hospital. He was not breathing in the ward but his heart was functioning normally.”
Mildly puzzled, I reached the ICU to evaluate the case. A quick examination later revealed the exact same history and finding. The young man was on the ventilator with obvious signs of brain damage due to lack of oxygen supply to his brain and I was at a complete loss as to what could have been the reason. His family was yet to arrive and the poor landlord was running from pillar to post.
We proceeded to treat him for multiple differential diagnosis although at the back of our minds, we knew very well that damage was already done and this was a lost cause. Next day his family arrived, aghast at the news. He had a young wife who was living in the village with their boy who was a mere 3 year old beautiful child who had no idea why papa was connected to weird contraptions in the big white ICU room. Despite their lack of understanding of modern science, the family took the grave news very maturely while praying for his miraculous recovery every day.
Our search for the cause of his illness continued. All his tests came back normal. Everything in his body was working fine except he needed assistance for breathing and his brain was damaged. On day 3, during rounds, while conversing with the family, his brother said that they thought there might have been some “pudiyas” or drug packets in his house. Sensing some light at the end of the tunnel, I immediately ordered them to go and inspect the house in great detail . ( No, doctors don’t go to patients house for such work, unlike House MD. we have better things to do)
Next day, they came back with some disturbing news and a disturbing gift for me. A snake, which they found below his bed, which wouldn’t leave the room despite all efforts. They decided to box it up and get it to the hospital for Madam. Suddenly things started falling in place. Ofcourse, that is it! A paralysing snake bite would explain everything! The slurring of speech followed by paralysis of his muscles of respiration. The diagnostician in me felt happy that atleast we had some semblance of a diagnosis though the humanitarian in me felt angry. Which God plays such a cruel trick on a young man. A forensic medicine consult confirmed the snake to be a Krait, a highly poisonous neuroparalytic snake thereby roughly confirming our diagnosis.
We proceeded to treat him accordingly though we knew it didn’t change his prognosis much. My daily rounds continued in the ICU. Facing the young man was a old man who was admitted for a stroke and was conscious and improving. We were hoping we would have him out of the ICU in a week while my snake bite boy showed absolutely no signs of improvement. The family simultaneously started their own brand of traditional treatment with ash and what not. ( I really don’t know in detail).
On day 30 since his admission, I walked in the ICU as usual and saw my patients brother leaning towards him and whispering. Thinking nothing of it, I proceeded to pick up my files when I saw a sight which made me stand dumbstruck. The brother wasn’t just whispering to an unconscious, brain dead man, he was whispering to an awake man who was nodding his head in understanding. My jaw dropped open. The attendants laughed when they saw me. The came and said ” Madam, kal raat se baat kar raha hai. Humne kissiko nai bola. Socha aapko bataye seedha. ( Maam he has been talking since last night. We didn’t tell anyone because we wanted to let you know directly)
A quick examination and my apparently written off brain dead patient was completely awake and responsive; albeit completely paralysed and still in need of a ventilator. On the contrary, my old man, who was improving chose to start deteriorating that very day.
My unit head declared that there is a god when he saw the young patient. A miracle! Everyone cried. In the following days, there was rapid recovery of the boy while my old man died peacefully in his sleep a few days later.
2 weeks later, my snake bite patient walked out of the ward on crutches holding his discharge card. As I watched him walk out, all I could think of was, yes, there are miracles. How he recovered is beyond me. Was it medical science? Was it the traditional medicine? Was it a young wife’s earnest prayers or a sons plea to have his father back? Did the old man choose to maintain the balance in the universe by letting go? Or is there a God somewhere?
All I know is that sometimes, the universe actually conspires to give you miracles and I have been fortunate enough to be witness to one.