Doctors. The most important people in your life once you have a baby.
I often joke around that only the weak-hearted visits God and doctors at the drop of a hat! But when it comes to the little one in the family, I am ready to station myself in front of the doctor’s apartment the moment he sneezes. Jokes apart, right after the birth of a baby, paediatricians come in as life-savers and peace-brokers.
We didn’t take much time to decide, that we will take our little prince to Kokilaben Dirubhai Ambani Hospital, Andheri for all his vaccinations and any ailments that he might complain of. Recently their paediatrics division has been ranked at 12th in India and 1st in Mumbai in a survey conducted by The Week, November 2015. Our decision though, was based on the peer reviews we received. Eventually, we were standing outside the cabin of Dr. Santanu Sen in their child care unit.
Right from day one we knew that we have reached the right place and our child was in right hands, and I credit Dr. Sen for helping us develop the confidence. He shared his number so that we could contact him in emergency. He made no attempts to “get done” in haste, spent time with the child checking everything possible, and more importantly, he spent time with us addressing all issues. Being new parents then, that too from a nuclear set-up, we were a bundle of nerves with dozens of questions for the doctor. Most of the times I wrote them down before entering the hospital. Dr. Sen would take the paper from me, read the questions and answer them all very patiently. Not once he expressed his irritation over our queries even if they were stupid at times. Our questions faded away in due course of time, because the doctor returned a kind face to our anxiety and we trusted him by choice; not because of lack of options.
We have heard excellent reviews for Dr. Tanu Singhal in the same hospital, though we never took our baby to her.
But soon after we realised, that our dependence on Dr. Sen is being too unfair on the doctor, given that he is way too senior in hierarchy and is also a leading oncologist. Demanding his time for small ailments wasn’t logical enough. Also Kokilaben hospital being quite far from our home, we were wasting half a day whenever the baby coughed. It felt reasonable to find a doctor nearby, who could address smaller issues. That’s how we reached out to Dr. Beena Thomas and we have been happy with her treatments. However, it is still a habit, or maybe it’s a blind faith, that we keep Dr. Sen informed about the ailments of our child and the medicines we are giving him; seldom he suggests a change in the prescription.
However most of the trials regarding the health of babies don’t end with doctors. There’s a scary word called hospital. Most of our kids are prone to infections and lands up there some time or the other. My three and a half years old too has been to the hospital twice, and those experiences were not too pleasant.
In Mumbai, once my child returned home from school with very high temperature. It had reached 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Not sure how come the school never realised that his skin was warm! We kept giving him medicines and sponging him but the temperature won’t come down.  At 11.30 pm he almost started sinking when my husband made a panic call to Dr. Sen and luckily he picked up at that hour. He advised us to take him to the shower and put him under cold water. Frightened beyond limits, I saw him collapse and regain his senses as streams of water came down on him. By the time we wiped him and rushed to Kokilaben, his fever had considerably come down and he seemed much better. Next day, we received the advice of a lifetime from the doctor – whenever the temperature of the child crosses 100 degree Fahrenheit, just open the tap over him and give him that cold water treatment.
For three days my child was in the hospital. What disappointed me immensely was the callousness of the nurses there. Even after informing that the saline bottle needs to be replaced, they would come in after three or four reminders. Most of the instructions passed by the doctors were treated casually; we had to remind them. The calling bells went unanswered; when we went to call personally we found them standing and chatting away. The worst was when the Doctor had instructed for a medicine to be stopped and the attending nurse got into an argument with us insisting that she was supposed to give the medicine and if any harm happened to the baby because of our interference then she would not be responsible! We asked her to call or speak to the Doctor and she refused saying that the doctor was busy elsewhere. It was only when the doctor came for his rounds that he confirmed that he did pass such instruction and asked the nurses to be careful in future.
Finalise for your baby the paediatrician who is approachable, is ready to spend time and sort out all your baby-care or health anxieties instead of shutting you off.
Even more horrible experience was what I faced at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals near Salt Lake, Kolkata. But this has a prelude.
When my child was two years old, we took him to Kolkata and suddenly that evening he had very high temperature, vomited frequently and passed stools many times. We took him to the paediatrician there; his medicines didn’t seem to help. We tried to call him after 8 in the evening; he didn’t pick up the call. Not left with any other option, around 11 in the night we took him to ILS Hospitals which is close to my place there. The junior doctor asserted that we just need to sponge him and nothing else is required. He refused to admit him. By then the child was repeatedly passing watery motions. Panicked, we called some friends there and sourced the number of Dr. Pallav Chatterjee. We were told that he is the only paediatrician in that area who picked calls in the night. Dr. Chatterjee asked us to admit him to Apollo Hospitals immediately. We did. He was not there at that hour, but he spoke to the attending doctors and passed necessary instructions. We were assured that the baby is in safe hands.
The baby was detected to be suffering from Rotavirus infection, which is a severe form of diarrhoea.  In those four days that my child spent in Apollo, I was surprised with the kind of unprofessionalism the staff exhibited. For every simple thing they took inordinate time to service. Some of the nurses were South Indians, not trained to speak or understand either of Bengali, Hindi or English; communicating with them was a nightmare. The food served often did not follow the instructions of the doctor or the nutritionist; and it irked me more because the child was suffering from a stomach infection! Apollo is expensive and is quite a brand in the healthcare space; this kind of unapologetically messed up attitude felt aghast.
For emergencies, no preparation is ever enough and life will always catch us off-guard. Yet, it makes sense to keep all possible precautionary walls up, because our children are too precious to be left unguarded. Hence, given below are summarized points of things that I learnt the hard way. Hope they help those who are on the same threshold where I stood a while ago.
Before deciding on your paediatrician, consult your peers, especially the new parents
Finalise for your baby, the paediatrician who is approachable, is ready to spend time and sort out all your baby-care or health anxieties instead of shutting you off
Always ensure that you have an alternative paediatrician in mind, whom you can approach if required
Choose your hospitals carefully; be extremely attentive towards the instructions passed by the doctors
If you are travelling with a baby, ensure that you have the knowledge of the hospitals or doctors at your destination, so that you are not lost in the new city.