Aristotle said, “Bashfulness is an ornament to youth”, but he would have thought twice had he encounterED Muthu.
Muthu Raman came a year ago to Global Hospital , Chennai and said he wanted to work with me . He qualified in surgery about 8 years ago and spent some time in Kerala ; I remember asking him why with me….. his reply was kinda vague except that he wanted to stay for a year and have exposure to basic and advanced laparoscopy. Anyway we needed a junior surgeon in the unit and he was qualified for the job.
Always short sleeved, with his shirt tucked in, he was a tall lanky lad, quiet and smiling.His notes in the mornings were always neatly written even when I reached early for rounds.
A few days after he joined, I asked him to write up a chapter on prevention of obesity for the public; he wanted to take a day or so. 2 days passed by and he gave me a paper. I was astounded by the clarity of his thoughts and the richness of his English. This was obviously of excellent schooling; that is how I learnt he studied in Monford. I had come to respect him and his English.
Surgeons especially the ones in training usually want to be in theater to scrub with us; and do as much “ cutting “ as possible. He was different. When there was work to do in the wards, Muthu was with the patients, comforting the ones with pain, or talking with the families of patients. I do not ever recall his wanting to push his way during surgery; but if he differed in opinion as to the treatment, he always gently made his opinion clear. When he was scrubbed in theater, I was sure that all patients in wards and out patients had been well cared for.
He differed from many of the young surgeons in never trying to impress me with his knowledge or his skill. His love for patients and his care for the family members were legendary. There were times he spent hours with the families when he could easily have gone home. Home… that reminds me, he resided in the hospital campus and made himself available 24 hours a day,365 days. He was always the first one to arrive in casuality ward when called for major trauma. When there was work to be done, he did other departmental work whenever the patient needed it.
His relationship with the xray specialists and anesthetic colleagues was exceptional. They in turn always obliged him at odd hours; he spent a lot of time in the departments collecting results to ensure patients spent minimal time in the hospital. He was popular among other surgical colleagues for lending a hand whenever needed. The nursing staff and paramedical staff too got along well with him- he was always smiling and was so soft spoken. I do not recall his ever being loud or pompous… surgeons generally are!
As time went on, we needed more surgical help in the department. When the less experienced surgeons requested more pay, he declined further hikes in pay, saying he was getting enough and wished for no more pay!
Like Bournville chocolate, he had “earned” respect from patients and their relatives … they used to stand up for him whenever they saw him passing by in the corridors.
He qualified in FIAGES examination thus specializing in laparoscopy; and helped with numerous live workshops in Global Hospital, Chennai and in other states.
2 months ago he quietly mentioned that he wanted to be relieved from duty on 11 december; he explained that that was the day he joined one year ago. All the kings horses and all the kings men appealed to him to stay back. It was not for taking on a much fancier job or a hiked up pay, he was leaving; it was just that he wanted to work with tribals in the remote rural hospitals. He had desired for experience in advanced laparoscopy and now was able to take it to the tribal communities................... What an idea ji !
He even vacated his room on the exact day without being asked to do so and shifted to a lodge to make room for his successor. At his farewell, there was not a single doctor or nurse or administrator who did not feel the loss.
We presently live in an environment where basic values such as kindness and compassion are not often given the importance they are due. Self glorification and arrogance are often seen in abundance and considered the order of the day to be popular. The present era has witnessed law suits for trivial reasons on doctors not to mention the mindless murder of an obstetrician yesterday. Here was a young man who put others before himself, who loved his doctoring, who treated others as he would have liked to be treated.
He will always be an unforgettable character for the right reasons. He made the place richer by his presence and association.