HELLO DOCTOR – PART 1
WHITE COAT SYNDROME
“I suffer from white coat syndrome” my friend said.
“So why don’t you see a doctor” I asked.
He gave me a sullen look “You must be joking” he said.
“What do you mean I am joking? If you have a problem you see the doctor, don’t you?” I asked.
“That’s precisely the problem, the doctor, I mean. Every time I walk into his dispensary my blood pressure shoots up” he replied.
Well I did not understand why it should be so, till I found out for myself. That happened two years later.
I was waiting my turn with the file in my hands containing the necessary papers including the appointment letter: my appointment as a Probationary officer in the bank subject to a satisfactory report from the Bank’s Medical Officer. I watched as a kindred soul walked out of the dispensary with a look on his face which said that the death penalty had been pronounced. He was shaking his head when I approached him to ask how it had gone. Before he could answer I heard a gruff voice from inside calling out “Next candidate come in”.
I had always been used to the friendly neighborhood doctor, a rotund affable man with a laugh like the neigh of a horse, which he was generous enough to let out every time you went to him with a sore throat and couldn’t laugh back in reciprocation, or a high fever when you sat shivering in front of him. He would shove the thermometer into your mouth as soon as you opened it to say you were having fever and then continue to enquire about the well-being of the others at home. I would always go back home equipped with medicine for two days and instructions to see him after that. He would write his prescription on a sheet of paper in a language I could never decipher though I guess it was in English. The only person who could read it sat behind a window in the next room , and on receipt of the prescription would take out some tablets (in various colors) crush them in a small crucible and then carefully measure the doses as per the prescription and pack them; eight packets neatly packed in paper torn from the previous day’s newspaper. His advice to me before I left was “You can have curd rice.” Well it worked. I remember the dispensary would always be filled with patients and one had to wait for at least half an hour before your turn came.
Years, rather decades later when I went to live in the same neighborhood he was still there now old, but still rotund and affable. When I went to see him, he was sitting on his chair with his legs on the table and in front of him sat the ‘man behind the window’ also having grown old along with his mentor. There were no patients in the outside hall and as I entered his room that same laughter rang out, obviously both the friends were having a good laugh. It was that laughter that had cured many a patient; the medicines were only props.
Well coming back to our own Bank's Medical Officer, as soon as I entered the room I saw this monstrosity of a man gesturing me to take my seat and simultaneously reaching out for the file in my hand.
“Do you suffer from any medical condition?” he asked.
“No Sir” I replied.
“Well we shall see how healthy you really are” he said and grinned at me. That was unnerving – the grin.
“Go and lie on the bed over there” he said and gestured to his assistant to lead me. I had the vague feeling of a lamb being led to slaughter.
His huge figure loomed over me as he got ready to check my blood pressure. He placed the cuff of the sphygmomanometer on my upper arm and started to inflate and as I felt the pressure on my arm increase thoughts of getting strangulated did cross my mind. Removing the cuff from my arm and after packing up the BP instrument, he returned to his seat and waved me over.
“You have hypertension” he said.
“What?” I asked, his words not really sinking in.
“You have high blood pressure,” he growled.
“So what should I do?” I asked.
“Come back and see me after it becomes normal.”
Before I could open my mouth to speak again, he shouted “Next candidate.”
And I was out in flat ten minutes.
One thing I definitely noticed when I was in the room, he was wearing a long white coat. Ever since, the white coat continues to haunt me.
Well how did I really get through the medical examination (the Bank’s entrance exam in contrast was a cake walk)?
That’s another story – (To be continued)