How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most ~ Stephen Covey
My life as a doctor has been interesting and varied. I am blessed with a career that I passionately love. I have come a long way from the little four-year-old that dreamt of being a doctor, actually I am extremely lucky that I am one of the few people in the world whose childhood dream had come true. When I go to work, I don’t think of the paycheck, at least not anymore. I love taking care of children, and when they get better and smile at me, it warms my heart. That in itself is thanks enough for me. There have been times when the prognosis of some patients that have caused sorrow and pain and it was heartbreaking to say the least. The death of a patient should never be taken for granted. We lose our humanity that way. Feeling the pain of the parents who lost a child, empathizing with them, and being supportive, makes one a better person… a better human.
If I was given the chance to live my life once again, would I have chosen a different profession? No! Not at all. Being a doctor has always been and will be till the end my ultimate passion. Maybe I might have changed my specialty, become the pediatric surgeon I initially wanted to be, but working with children has always been fulfilling for me.
I digressed from my path for a while by working as a Clinical Research Associate, and then later on as the Head of Public Affairs in the big bad world of pharmaceuticals. That was because they paid well, and I was economically strapped at the time. On the plus side, I did travel nearly all over the world while working with them. Getting trained in media and presentation skills was actually fun. However, there is one thing that I didn’t do…. I never let go of my red Littman stethoscope.
My private practice continued in the evenings, and many times I would be accompanied by my children who loved to play and move around the area. Especially, when there was a chance to get takeout pizza or kababs for dinner when we were about to go home.
One of the things I would like to mention, that brought me great pleasure and, in a sense, spiritual fulfillment. Whenever I went out of town into the country, our ancestral village, or the mountains up north, I would take boxes of basic as well as some vital medicines with me and set up impromptu clinics for the people living there. This happened mostly in areas where medical facilities were sometimes sparse or quite far away. My mother and my children helped me many times with the patients. Mama thought that tea with a shot of whiskey was therapeutic for a chronic cough. It was amusing to see how many patients came back and specifically asked for her medicine instead of mine. Interacting with the people while helping them was a balm to my sometimes-troubled soul. The cheerful banter would create an ambience that drew people into our circle, and at the end of the day, the patient count was usually quite high.
You know, maybe I should work on the idea of having a mobile clinic one day?
One of the most devastating times where we volunteered our medical services was the 2005 earthquake in the north of Pakistan. A relief team from San Diego included my daughter, two sisters in law and myself to help the people, especially the injured victims of that devastating natural disaster. We liaised with the army to set up proper medical camps in one of the most affected areas. If one didn’t look towards the ruined buildings and the smoldering fires, the area was beautiful. We were high in the mountains and the natural scenery could have rivaled Austria or Switzerland. It was so sad to see the devastation. I didn’t know how much it had affected me till I was hit with a wave of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when I had to make a presentation on a very serious forum, to track the relief donations. While speaking and presenting my data, to my horror, I had tears streaming down my face. Since I was one of only two female senior executives in the company, believe me, it was embarrassing to say the least. I kept hearing derogatory words like “weak” and “hormonal” throughout the evening. Mean men!
We were impressed with the way the relief agencies had pitched tents with their equipment and makeshift clinics on top of a beautiful grassy hill. There was a sort of structured chaos where multiple humanitarian agencies worked together. I was able to commandeer the massive pediatrics tent, and as I remember I had examined and treated over 3500 children with mild, moderate to severe ailments and injuries in the time that I was there. Maintaining discipline and cleanliness was difficult but paying a sweeper to come twice a day to clean the tent and educating the parents to throw their rubbish in the bins provided did make a difference. The then President visited my set up and was impressed with my “ward”. I was asked by the Presidential Team what I needed at the time. Since we had a lot of medical supplies due to the generosity of donor agencies, the only thing I could think of was blankets and a heater for the tent. Even though it was October, the nights were very chilly in the mountains. We received a lot of blankets, so much so that we were able to let the grateful patients take away the ones they were using once they were discharged.
My strongest memory of that time was sleeping in our much smaller tents while the earth rumbled and trembled with the continuous aftershocks. It was like sleeping above a subway. Though it was quite disconcerting, we were glad that the tent was pitched in a field with no structures to fall on us.
Once back in town, I felt that I had to continue my charity work. I knew that there were slum areas in the city where women and children never left their surroundings because they had migrated from villages and were still not savvy to the ways of the city. Keeping that in mind, I visited a mosque situated in a nearby slum area with my maid. She wanted to introduce me to the Mullah there. According to her, he was swamped every day by women who would come to him for prayers and holy talismans for their own and their children’s’ health. There were many conditions that stumped him, and she had incidentally heard him say one day that he wished there was a doctor that would come to help him with his “patients”.
On meeting the Mullah, I realized that he was a kindly old man. He wasn’t one of those fire and brimstone clerics. As a matter of fact, I was surprised that he was well educated and had served as a young man in the army. What endeared me to him was, that when I walked into the mosque, he was teaching a child with Down Syndrome to play Ludo, a board game. The patience that he showed that little girl was quite sweet.
I realized that I could do a lot of good here and started to set up a makeshift clinic within the mosque that I would run once a week. Of course, if anyone needed me before that, they had my phone numbers or I referred them to my colleagues at the Government Hospital nearby. It was unusual and rather funny to see people praying on one side, and on the other side, in my corner, there were women waiting in line to be treated while gossiping and catching up with their families’news. The children with them were quite well behaved and played with board games and toys while they waited their turn. Many of them became my friends, and I still am in touch with them even though I am not in the country anymore.
One strange day, while I was writing a prescription for one of the women, I looked up and saw a tall man with a white beard and sparkling white clothes standing in front of me, smiling gently. He told me that God was very happy with me and what I was doing to help the community. I don’t remember if I said anything or was tongue tied. I just shyly looked down for a second, and when I looked up again, he was gone. I asked the woman who was waiting for her medicines who that man was. Can you imagine? She said that she hadn’t seen or heard anyone! Quite strange, isn’t it?
Due to extenuating circumstances, and the sad breakdown of my marriage, with a heavy heart I decided to leave the country. My work as a pediatrician in my new home has been appreciated and I have become fairly well known. Continuing my work in Reiki, Intuitive Medical Scanning and alternate healing has added to my allopathic skills. I did dabble in Shamanism, but I concluded that it was not for me.
Another one of my passions, teaching and training has also flourished here. I am able to instruct nurses and doctors on various pertinent topics so that they get the requisite annual Continued Medical Education points mandated by the Department of Health. Being trained as a trainer for Basic Life Sciences, I train the staff at the hospital where I work which is definitely a plus point in my favor. (Free CME points without much effort).
Spinning a tale was a learning experience. I can thank my daughter Sharmeen for that. When she was small, we just had to point out someone on the road and wonder why they were happy or sad, and she would spontaneously spin a story around them, telling us in minute detail why they actually existed. I tried to do the same with the cases to make them more interesting and maybe human? I do wish my daughter writes a book one day. Her story telling and imagination is phenomenal. For now, she is a Psychologist and a Theta Healer. But I will keep reminding her that she could and should do it.
My son is also a Theta Healer, courtesy the training he and his wife received from my daughter. He is a spiritual person and has skills in Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) just like his sister and me. My children have been my anchor in hard times, and they have on many occasions calmed me down just by talking to me and applying their healing skills. All three of them are amazing. (I include my daughter in law here as well because she is. Amazing)
My journey as a physician is not over. There are still new cases to examine, new places to see and new adventures to experience. I look forward to seeing what life brings my way. Till my energy wanes, I will do what all typical doctors do. Only give up once my signature red stethoscope wears out.
Old doctors never die, they just lose their patience. (Patients)