A flower born to blush unseen

Dr. Vasanthi Vidyasagaran*

Department of Anaesthesiology, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

*Correspondence: Vasanthi.vidyasagaran@gmail.com

Dr. Vasanthy Vidyasagaran Muralidharan

It was 2:00 AM on a Sunday morning when my cell phone, which I had placed on a chair next to my bed, started vibrating. I had hoped that a vibrating mode would not disturb the rest of the sleeping family, but that actually set forth a chain reaction! Mine trying to pick up the phone, and in the process dropping the water bottle with a thud, woke up my six-year-old and three-year-old, but not their 40-year-old dad. With a failed mission of not to disturb, and with fully awake, perplexed children, I picked up the phone only to hear a desperate voice at the other end, requesting me to come and attend an emergency caesarian.

Now, when it comes to Anesthesia for trauma patients and caesarian sections, I never refuse, whatever be my own difficulty. And somehow, children of doctors, especially of lady anesthetists are also very understanding. So, I quickly told my children of my predicament, and that of the patient and they readily agreed to let me go; all this with a dad who was now clearly pretending to be asleep – ‘one can wake up a person who is actually sleeping but never a person who is pretending to sleep! Having no time for any kind of altercation, I quickly got ready to go. Anyway, dad had the responsible job of childminding solo until my return. My pet dog who understood that I had to leave for an emergency, wagged his tail and gave out a little bark as if to offer to accompany me on my emergency vocation.

So, there I was at 2:10 AM, walking to the car with my doggy. There was a slight drizzle with lightning and thunder which I was quite sure would turn into a heavy downpour soon. On the way, a police officer decided to stop me and enquire about my midnight drive. As I was responding to the stubborn cop, there was a second call, more desperate than the first. I had the speaker on, and the officer was now more than convinced about the nature of emergency. He let me go after wasting my precious 5 to 10 minutes. He apologized profusely for having stopped me, saying, there were no stickers in the car showing my identity, and the presence of a dog made him assume that I was not on a very important assignment. I rushed on and reached the hospital in the next five minutes.

I was quite shocked to see a patient in her late forties weighing about 150 Kgs and in severe distress – mental, physical and medical. She was hyperventilating and bringing the hospital down with her screams. Something had to be done.

Only under such circumstances, the Obstetrician or any other physician would remember the ‘Anesthetist’, who can be a ‘life saver’. I had to quickly think and decide the type of Anaesthesia that can be safely given, knowing it would be quite challenging whatever technique I chose. True to our profession, I gave her regional anaesthesia and a beautiful healthy baby was born at 2:40 AM in less than 30 minutes from the time I left home, in spite of the delays on the way. Fortunately, there was no other complication that could be a matter of life and death in the setting of obstetric emergencies. Both the mother and baby were safe to the relief of all.

It was then the father of the child walked into the post-op ward. We were expecting a happy dad offering sweets, smiles and hugs, but to our total dismay we were startled to see him pick a pillow and try to smother the new born. It took at least a minute for the onlookers to recover from the initial shock of witnessing this horrendous act. I, with the reflexes of an anesthetist, was the quickest to respond. I jumped forward and pushed the husband with all my might. By then everyone was alert; we held the husband and took him out of the room. As we were contemplating to handover the person to the police, his mother promised to take care of him and assured him that no such incidents shall occur in future. It was totally a family affair and no one could actually decide at that unearthly hour. Thankfully, the patient was unaware of all the unpleasant developments. I came to know later that he was not the biological father and though he had consented for IVF through donor sperm he could not swallow his pride and this was the bizarre fall-out. That he was incubating this eruption for a full nine months after spending a lot of money and effort, was beyond the level of comprehension and acceptance.

This really shook me up, as I anaesthetize many patients for infertility and IVF. Several visits to the infertility center, and many a test are done before subjecting a couple to IVF. One of the most important aspect of counselling is taking, and recording, consent, which, at times, does not receive adequate attention, which could have been the cause of this unexpected behavior.

When I reconciled with all these developments it was 5:00 AM, and it suddenly dawned on me that my doggy was waiting near the car, and by then it had started pouring. I ran back quickly, dried him up, put him back in the car and drove home, totally preoccupied with this weird incident. I failed to thank my dear friend sitting next to me who was trying to console me with his adorable looks and licks.

Back home at 5:30 AM I realized that it was a Sunday morning which actually made me distressed as I had so much more household work to complete than on a weekday. Instead of waking up the family, especially my pretending husband, or me going back to bed, I ventured to start my mundane Sunday routine of washing and cleaning the left overs of the weekdays. Around 1:00 PM, when it was lunch time, I decided to call the hospital to enquire about the mother and baby. I was told that they were keeping very well with no more trouble from the father, who for the most part was kept out of the scene. With a sigh of relief, I finally relaxed a bit and I was looking forward to more organized week ahead.

After about a fortnight, when I went back to the hospital to attend to another patient, I noticed the lady for whom caesarian was performed on the previous Sunday, waiting in the outpatient lobby, looking very sad and with boggy eyes. When I approached her to enquire about her progress and that of the baby, she broke down into an inconsolable cry. The outpatient area was crowded and hence I discretely left the scene, thinking intensely about her. Not able to get over the plight of this patient I made more enquiries and I soon learnt that the ‘father’ had actually succeeded in putting an end to the little girl’s life.

The story that emerged was this. For a week after discharge, the father was apparently “normal”. He begged to see his wife and child and spent some time with them every day. On the eighth day he sneaked into the room with a very vicious intention and smothered the baby, uttering appalling words that he would have tolerated it if it was a son and that he would not bring up a daughter who was not even his. He was eventually handed over to the police. The poor lady was sent out of the house by her in-laws. She found herself totally lost in this wide, wild world, having to fend for herself without her husband or baby.

Fortunately, her own parents who were senior citizens themselves were very supportive. I took down her contact details to offer some help. She slowly limped out of this situation, developed a strong emotional courage, and with the help of like-minded people, started an organization called

‘Family Support’ to spread awareness among people, and to love and brace each other at times of distress. Six months down the line, she had over a hundred like- minded volunteers (though that was not the primary aim).

How much ever we try, it is impossible to prevent such terrible behavior in our society – “after all we are humans” – supposedly the most evolved, but actually the worst in the animal kingdom! What started as an emergency caesarian on a Sunday morning turned out to be a life-lesson and to me it was a revelation in more than one way. It made me realize the trauma that some people are made to undergo in this world is beyond comprehension. We have to count our blessings every day. I am happy to say that I contributed a small share in the form of moral support and monetary aid for this noble cause of ‘Family Support’.