Panacea The Name

Five years ago when my friend, his sister, who’s a software developer, and I sat to develop a custom made software for my clinic. The necessity of giving a name, to the then obscure clinic, arose, that led to the selection of the name it now carries i.e. Panacea.

The idea was to have a name that would be both, meaningful, and universally understood. But what followed was not exactly the expected. Once we decided to promote the name, and publish articles under it, the phone calls in response would often begin with, “Is it Pa-nik-ia?” Some others would mumble, “is it Pan, Pan, Pana?” and we would complete, “Panacea sir/madam.” The height was when one gentleman asked, “ Is it Pancreas Clinic”? Our name was not as commonly understood as we had thought. But that did not make it any less meaningful. As some, who were honest or inquisitive enough would ask, “Dr. What’s the meaning of Panacea?” and we would tell them that according to the Oxford Dictionary, it meant, “remedy for all diseases and troubles.” And then they would exclaim how apt and beautiful the name was.

Names in India are like inherited aspirations and expectations parents give to their children. We never paid heed to the great saying, “what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet!” - William Shakespeare.

I see young parents vying with each other to find unique and high sounding names for their children. Names with lofty meanings, though the same care is seldom taken to instill in them the very values, ideals their names proclaim. Thus, we can find an Indian child named ‘Satya’, meaning Truth, being taught, “Beta aajkal sach ka zamaana nahin hai. Thodi hoshiyaari seekh lo.” (Son this is not the age of truth learn some smartness.) Many of the modern English speaking generation don’t even know what their pure Hindi names mean. If only we Indians could learn to be true to our names what a nation we would make!

Perhaps we all try, but fall short, "perfection", as Mahatma Gandhi said, "is an unattainable state for humans". Yet that doesn’t make it any less worth striving for, and he himself was, perhaps, one of the greatest perfectionists ever. Thus names remain like lofty targets to be attained in a lifetime and how close one hits ultimately tells a life well lived from a wasted one.

Last month when I received a call from GB Pant hospital Delhi that a woman was on ventilator for the last three days her heart had stopped functioning liver had failed and kidneys too, brain was dead yet the doctor in charge wanted us to come and try reviving the body/lady. “Why don’t you declare her dead when all her organs have stopped functioning?” I asked. “You are right sir!” replied the doctor. “But the family believes you can revive her, and I too believe in miracles.” These were the strangest words I could expect to hear from a doctor on duty. I clearly told him that I personally did not expect much to happen and that our interest in coming so far would only be academic. Yet the doctor had no objection and still insisted that we came. You would rarely find all the doctors missing from our clinic. But that day I packed all my doctors in my good old car and leaving behind my trusted and able assistant Devendr alone. We started for the hospital. Trepidation kept me from pressing the accelerator and made me drive unusually slow. We had not entered Delhi yet when the Doctor again called, “Doctor there is encouraging news for you.” “What’s it?” I asked. “The neuro-surgeon has just seen the patient and said two of the five vital signs to declare a brain dead are missing. So she cannot be declared dead.” Replied the doctor. The news could hardly be called encouraging yet it enthused me enough to press the pedal harder.

We stood on our feet the whole of the afternoon administering doses and by the evening some signs of activity could be seen on the monitor showing patient’s breathing effort. And the light indicating that the patient had started making efforts to breathe started blinking, at first occasionally, then more frequently, and after an hour regularly and steadily. Hope writ large on the faces around. Even I started feeling miracle was about to happen after all. But it was destined otherwise. Around five ‘o’ clock the shift changed, and the caring, smiling, and attentive nurse, who had been there the whole day, was replaced by the new nurse supposed to attend to the patient the whole night. But the first thing she needed was the only stool available there to sit and doze off. Around six some other of her colleagues came for the routine cleaning up of the patient. And we had to leave the room for a while. After about twenty minutes I reentered the room and reached closer to the patient’s bed the first thing I noticed to my horror was that the tube from the ventilator pumping oxygen and making the patient breathe was disconnected and the whole staff of four five nurses and attendants was oblivious to the fact. I could still see the patient making faint efforts to breathe on her own some signs of agony on her face appeared for a while and then it became blank and by the time I pointed it out to the nurse and she hurriedly fixed it up the damage was done, the breathing had again stopped, this time never to be revived again. The doctors there decided to keep her on ventilator for another twenty-four hours but I knew it was futile. She was declared dead the next day. Coming back from the hospital that night I was still not sure whether the miracle had really happened or not. But one thing I had learnt that if somehow we could get all those hi tech life supporting machines, ventilators and dialyzers etc. found in an ICU our medicines would get extra time to act and many more lives could be saved.

We are taught, “Homoeopathy never fails homoeopaths often do”, and we are not infallible as the spate of deaths, during the last six months, of about half a dozen patients under our care, despite best of our efforts, proved. Three of these were cancer patients in their last stages and fighting side effects of chemotherapy as well. Two liver failure cases, complicated by diabetes, and a case of plastic anaemia, referred to us by a doctor at AIIMS, after he was given up to die in a day or two. All we could do for them was to ease their distress to some extent and prolong life by some months. The standard excuse for failure would be that the cases were in the last stages of their terminal diseases, in a way it is true as homoeopathy relies on the vital force of the person and once vitality is extinguished rejuvenation becomes almost impossible.

But finding excuses is not the convention at Panacea. How I wish we really had a real panacea to help these wretched souls but the harsh fact remains we have none. We have nothing better than simple homoeopathic medicines. Perhaps nothing better exists.

If you ask me what is so special about our clinic and why all these difficult cases were referred to us, I have no answer perhaps because we say we will try where others say impossible. We are a team of young homoeopaths who wish to make the society realize the full potential of the existing homoeopathic medicines. Which by any standard is immense, though vastly unutilized and grossly unrecognized. A team of young enthusiasts willing to fight diseases with a killer’s instincts and tending the patients with a saviour’s, determined to show to the world that homoeopathy is not just about treating falling hair, and simple allergies but about curing cases that could be called simply hair raising. Finding new medicines is not our job at the moment. Making best use of the existing ones is. Once, however, we have the paraphernalia required, a sophisticated lab, huge funds, legal support etc, we’ll try and discover real panaceas, till then Panacea remains our dream, our aim, and our name.

Written by- Dr. Shikhar Kaushal (Founder Director Phc, in 2003).