Sunday, October 31, 2010

The write stuff


Dr. George Jacob, a surgeon, suffered a stroke, at age 40, which rendered his left arm immobile. Today, he works as the doctor-in-charge of the surgical Intensive Care Unit at Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi, but has found creative fulfillment through writing

By Shevlin Sebastian

On January 14, 2005, Dr. George Jacob had just finished a surgery at PVS Memorial Hospital in Kochi. He walked into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and fell down suddenly. A doctor was called immediately. He realised that George had suffered a stroke.

He was swiftly taken to Lisie Hospital. A CT scan showed that an area on the right side of the brain had been devoid of blood supply, because of a thrombosis. As his condition deteriorated rapidly, the doctors decided to do a craniotomy (this is a surgical operation in which a part of the skull is removed, to relieve the pressure on the brain).

Thereafter, George was put on a ventilator for a few days. From Lisie, he went to the CMC hospital in Vellore to do physiotherapy for a fortnight. This was followed by an ayurveda treatment course in Coimbatore for a month. Then he returned to Kochi.

“I was devastated,” he says. “Because of my immovable left arm, I knew my career in surgery had come to an abrupt end. I was only 40 years old. But I realised that the only way forward was to look for silver linings.”

George was lucky. Since he suffered the stroke in the ICU of a hospital he received expert medical care at once. “If it had been at home or in a car, I would have probably died,” he says.

There were other blessings also. Because the stroke damaged the right brain, George was able to retain his speech, memory, and body movements, which is controlled by the left brain. “I did not get angry with God or fate,” he says. “I have seen many young people who have died from cancers and other such diseases. But God has allowed me to live.”

George received another dose of good fortune. He was hired by Lakeshore Hospital as an intensivist (a physician who specialises in the care and treatment of patients in intensive care). “Any other hospital would have asked me to go away,” he says. Before his stroke, apart from PVS Memorial Hospital, George had also been working in Lakeshore.

Philip Augustine, the managing director of Lakeshore Hospital felt that a “surgeon who is unable to operate needed resettlement in a honourable way. So we made him in-charge of the surgical ICU. This job is best suited for George, as he knows the intricacies of post-operative problems and care.”

Says George: “Apart from Dr. Augustine, my colleagues, and my boss, Dr. H. Ramesh, have given me unstinted support.”

The only hint that there is something wrong with George is when he walks. He has a pronounced limp and needs the help of somebody to maintain his balance. Patients are shocked when he tells them he has had a stroke. “Most of them are suffering from terminal diseases, so I am an inspiration for them,” he says.

Of course, not all are positive-minded. One morose patient, suffering from cancer of the stomach told George, “In one year’s time, you are going to be paralysed on the right side also.” That hurt the doctor a lot. “But it is the rare patient who says something like this,” he says.

At his Venalla home, his wife, Mallie, an anaesthetist at Lakeshore Hospital, offers emotional sustenance and encouragement. “I have accepted the fact that he will not recover completely,” she says. “Since George needs physical help, I worry about him all the time.” The couple has two girls, Anju and Aleena.

George returns home every day from the Lakeshore hospital by 5.30 p.m. One day, while reading the Expresso supplement of the New Indian Express, he noticed that the paper had asked for opinions from readers regarding private buses. “I wrote a letter and it was published,” he says. “It was a major boost for me. I began writing letters to the editor regularly.” Several were published.

Now writing has become a passion for him. Every morning, when he gets up, he hurries to the gate to collect the newspaper. With trepidation and excitement, he opens the newspaper to see whether his letter has been published. “If my letter is there I feel exhilarated,” he says. Subsequently, George reads the newspaper from end to end and sends a letter to the newspaper every day before leaving for the hospital.

“Since I am unable to enjoy a creative expression through surgery, I have turned to writing,” he says. “It gives me a lot of happiness.”

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)