Story of a scalpel...

Two weeks back I got the best news of my life- my result of MS general surgery. It was surely a day that I had dreamed of for more than a decade. The whole evening and the next few days went by in a blur with many friends and family flooding in with congratulatory messages. I had read a sentence somewhere-

“Keep working hard until you can say – Scalpel please!” It was that day of my life when I had earned the right to say so.

But to be able to fulfil this dream, to be able to stand on my own feet as a surgeon, I had started my journey back in 2007. This is my story, a story of a surgeon, a story of a scalpel…

To be frank, born to two surgeons, I had seen only that side of life. The discussion about surgeries, the busy schedule, the responsibilities of the hospital, the patient’s bowel movements/vomiting etc. were a part of our dinner table conversation and I had accepted that at a very young age. Change of plans due to an emergency operation, walking out of the movie theatre mid-way for a patient, not being able to attend family functions were also routine disappointments for me and my brother growing up. At the same time, promptness, empathy, boldness, compassion for the sick, passion for your own work field, got imbibed by us naturally. When the decision of selecting a branch came up, I knew it had to be medical.

The two years of preparation for entrance exams began. My grandparents, my friend and I lived in Vile parle at the time. The competition was fierce and cut throat. There were times I felt I wasn’t good enough, or not well prepared to be able to crack the exam. My grandpa used to find ways to cheer me up every time – be it a game of cards, or some funny story or just a plain surprise of my favourite ‘vada pav’. Grandmother had her own ways to cheer us up. Preparing delicious meal, secretly sending us for movies without our parent’s knowledge just to relax us a bit, filling our minds with positive thoughts… she gave her best. A week before the exam, I was on the verge of giving up, and was filled with despair. I felt I had lost the battle before even giving it a fight. My mom however assured me that I could do anything if I was determined and that I should give my best irrespective of the results. That was a very important lesson for the 17 year old me and from that day on I never gave up.

2009 June- I had got admission for MBBS. But the game had just begun and there was a long way to go. First year was a blur for me. With making new friends, learning life lessons and adjusting to the world, to the independence, the huge books of MBBS, the complicated subjects, the year went by very quickly. With cadavers as teachers and knowledge like never ending sea, it possessed a different type of challenge. Second year MBBS began and the clinics in the wards, attending operations became a routine for us. I shifted to my grandparent’s home (paternal) and had the best time of my life. Surrounded with best of friends and grandparents I started exploring new aspects of life- painting, Writing, photography and studying at the same time. Studying was no more aimed for passing an exam but it was to be capable enough to diagnose and treat a person in future. With changed perspectives to studying, I became more engrossed in books; but there was always one book which I loved the most. That was of – Surgery!

By 2014 I had received my MBBS results and started working as an intern in Navale medical college where I met the love of my life, Saurabh. He was doing his post graduation in Opthalmology at the time. We got engaged in 2015 and married by 2016. My preparation for the next entrance exam began after the wedding. This was going to be a much bigger challenge considering the less number of seats in the country. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to take up a branch that I longed for. But I was willing to settle for any branch that I could get. All that mattered was to secure a PG seat. With the guidance and motivation of my husband I completed the syllabus which includes 19 subjects (thousands of pages) in the span of 9 months. After the admission process began, I was able to secure a PG seat in my dream branch. It was however in Pondicherry. This meant living thousands of kilometres away from my husband, family and friends. But, I decided to take the plunge. By that time all I could see was my dream branch and I was willing to do anything for it.

I can never forget the day I started working as a post graduate in the department of Surgery in manakula vinayagar medical college Pondicherry. The whole day I sat in the OPD surrounded by many interns and patients, everyone conversing in Tamil! I couldn’t understand a word being said! By the end of the day I had got a trailer of how difficult my PG life was going to be. On some level I think I was not mentally prepared for it. The different food habits, the climate, the challenge of learning a new language, the culture, the loneliness, the homesickness, the long distance marriage, the stress- I was not prepared for it at all. Each passing day it started getting a little bit better. I rented an apartment, learnt to cook, did diploma in medico legal systems, joined an online tamil tuition, made new friends and it started becoming less stressful each day. The first time I got to operate hernia surgery independently was the day I slept like a baby.

On 3rd September our PG results were out. I was officially Dr Shruti, MBBS, MS general surgery. I called up my husband and in laws immediately telling the good news. The next person I called was my grandmother (who had stayed with me during my first entrance preparation, the time from where I had begun my journey). The journey from 2007 until now flashed in front of my eyes. My eyes welled up as I missed my grandpa. I realized how fortunate I had been to be surrounded by so many supportive people and well-wishers. This was a day of success for all of them who had played a part in my life story. This was a day of gratitude for all who supported me, lifted me up, taught me, motivated me, challenged me, prayed for me, and inspired me. My Parents, husband, in laws, grandparents, my brother, friends, teachers and family all had contributed to my journey.

I started this journey 13 years ago with an aim in mind and passion in my heart for surgery. But as I grew up I realized what it actually meant to be a surgeon. The night duties, the disgusting smell of urine, faeces, pus, the responsibility of a person’s life and the satisfaction of having being able to treat someone and help them get rid of their illness. Passion for the subject was why I started this journey but what keeps me going is this- the smile on the face of my patient after treatment. No amount of money can give as much pleasure as that one smile.

To be honest, this is not just my story but that of innumerable doctors who strive for years to be capable enough for managing a disease, treating a human and to bring that smile back. It is a collective sacrifice of the doctor as well as his family members that lets him reach this place. The society needs to realize our side of the story….