A few days back, a friend sent me a patient’s medical reports for a second opinion. The patient, a 75 year old man, was admitted at a hospital in Haryana and had severe pancreatitis with multiple organs failure. His kidneys were shutting down. The liver was also affected. The patient needed intensive care, so I advised the friend to shift him to a tertiary hospital in Delhi. But the patient was on ventilator and shifting him could also be risky. This patient fought for his life in the ICU for almost ten days before he succumbed to the illness.
While infection at this age could be fatal for anyone, I feel this patient could have been saved had he sought timely treatment for gallstones.
He was diagnosed with gallstones about four months back. His doctor had advised him to go for a surgery. But the fear of going under the knife stopped him from seeking an appropriate treatment. Since the stones were not causing a lot of discomfort, he felt that the ideal choice was to let them be.
This is a common perception. Most people feel that gallstones are harmless unless they are causing pain. What they don’t know is that gallstones can cause severe infection in the gallbladder, which can spread to the other organs through bile it secrets. In case a stone slips out of the gallbladder, it can get stuck into the bile pipe, causing severe pain. In this situation the patient has to undergo a surgery immediately. In fact, in some cases the gallstones can cause cancer of the gallbladder.
Gallbladder removal surgery, cholecystectomy, an elective procedure can help avoid all these complications. Nowadays, in most patients it is done laparoscopically. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a minimal invasive procedure which, compared to the open surgery, is less painful; the patient recovers faster and requires a shorter hospital stay. In most cases, the patient is in the hospital for one night under medical observation and can return to normal within a week.
When I looked at this patient’s report, I felt both angry and sad. Angry for the lack of awareness about these simple secondary care surgeries among the people because of which they keep postponing the treatment. And sad because I know if this patient had sought medical help in time, he could have been alive.
This incident has made me more determined to work harder and achieve my goal of making secondary care surgeries accessible to everyone, everywhere.