Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be a doctor.
Yes, I say this despite being a patient and not a doctor. The reason is quite simple: imagine a patient, a young one at that, seated across the table from you hoping to hear something good about a grueling eye test you had conducted. The young man/woman is dressed smartly and you do feel a soft perfume of some kind emanating from them towards you. They exude a lot of confidence, a lot of verve and energy which sometimes as a doctor you may not muster in a day as you spend time between different patients.
Now…there’s something you need to tell him or the family member accompanying him/her. And, as it always happens in your line of work, it would be bad news, a real nasty one at that.
The first question is that how does a doctor face it? Can he/she be telling them…? “Look mister…misses…you have something called Retinitis Pigmentosa and you would go blind. It’s quite possible you would continue to have some vision, but it won’t be adequate to perform much of the things that you do on a daily basis. For instance, you can’t pick up your favourite book and flip through its pages as you’ve always done for several years…” You may have to miss the experience of watching your favourite television programme or have to ask your mother or wife or husband to describe the visuals…Imagine what a doctor goes through when mentally preparing herself to say something like this? They can’t paint a positive picture of blindness…\it’s quite possible that the patient would ask “oh yow old say this isn’t it? It’s not you who’s going to go blind?” And they can’t sound pessimistic and push the patient further into the doldrums.
The fact is, many R.P. patients continue to believe cure or some kind is possible despite the doctor telling them otherwise. In India, we all genuflect before the physicians and think they could reach into some inner power to cure our diseases. We don’t understand that they are part of our journey in the disease and refuse to believe them when they deliver a news which is discomforting. The most unfortunate thing of all is the comment that the doctor is not good enough if he/she doesn’t give you a medical solution. “Oh…medicne has advanced so much and there has to be some cure. If this doctor doesn’t prescribe some cure, then he/she has to be bad. Let’s check with another ‘expert’ who comes with high recommendation from a family member or a friend.” This seems to be the attitude. I’m sure a patient reading this would have already started to hate me. But don’t forget that I’m a patient too and I’m talking to you as a journalist, something I have become after having lost my sight 20 years ago. There are lawyers among us, teachers, social workers, software engineers who all have come to the stage having understood that cure cannot take priority over livelihood initiatives or empowerment.
No…I am not saying you should not hope for a cure, but it is important that you check constantly if your hope has some realism about it. You should also learn to trust the doctors since they and they alone can tell you if a cure actually exists or if you are chasing after a mirage.
Let us understand that gradual vision loss needs a lot more mental preparation and alteration to our functioning as human beings. If we don’t accept, we are only making things harder for ourselves. If you want to search for a cure, a medical solution, please do it in scientific forums and believe in scientific methods. Remember also that your doctor alone can tell you what exactly is your condition and if you continue to remain fit undergo treatment for a cure if and when it becomes available. Importantly, blindness is not death or hopeless. If you learn to live around it, surely you would turn out to be a roll model for others. No human being is living without a challenge and yours happens to be blindness. That’s all.