Growing up in a family which valued education more than anything else, it was a natural choice for me to pursue an active challenging profession. But, I didn’t want to follow a career path that had already been chosen for me, as it is usually the case in countries like India. I wanted to discover it myself and this true incident is an account of how I chose to be a doctor. I was fifteen when the incident happened and I remember everything about that day. I was flying to New Delhi from my hometown Hyderabad, a city in the southern part of India to visit my grandparents for the summer.
As I settled down and looked at the other passengers trickle down the aisle, I hoped for a beautiful teen girl to occupy the vacant seat beside my window seat. But, an old lady who looked to be in her fifties huffed and puffed her way along the aisle and stopped at my row, checked the seat number and dropped herself into the seat. I gave an invisible sigh and looked out of the window after reciprocating her welcoming smile with a nod. After the initial take off and reaching the cruising altitude, the lady looked at me and started a conversation with a bright smile, “kaha ja rahe ho beta? which means, “where are you going son? ” in Hindi. I put my comics aside and curtly replied that I was going to New Delhi to meet my grandparents. She seemed so happy with the prospect that I was travelling alone that she continued the conversation. Initially, I wanted to show her my disappointment that she replaced the position of my imaginary future girlfriend, but then her warm smile caught onto me. Pretty soon, I learned a great deal about her life, her family, her neighbors and her five year old dog.
But, the moment I learnt that her son served the Indian Army and had perished in the line of fire during a conflict with Pakistan, I gained a new respect for her. An hour into the flight, the plane caught some turbulence. The turbulence grew stronger for a brief moment of time and it shook the plane a little more than usual. After it subsided, I looked at my new friend to find out if she was alright and what I saw terrified me. She looked paler than usual and appeared as though she was wincing with pain. She was sweating profusely with her fists clenched tight over her left chest.
I immediately asked her if she was alright but she didn’t answer; instead she fell limp in her seated position, unconscious. Terrified, I took off my seat belt and shouted at the top of my voice for the flight attendant pointing to the listless lady beside me. Everyone in the plane suddenly turned their attention towards me and then at the lady. The commotion grew as the flight attendants desperately called for help and immediately alerted the ground services, but we were still a good thirty minutes away from the ground.
It was then, a forties looking gentleman hurriedly came to my row from the first class cabin and said, “I am a doctor and I can help. ” These few words still echo in my ears to this day and I can repeatedly say they altered the course of my whole life. The doctor ordered the defibrillator in the plane and with the help of the flight attendant started the gruesome task of resuscitating the poor lady. It took a nerve wrecking ten minutes before he could find a weak pulse, after which he gave her a shot of adrenaline to keep her hanging alive until we reached the ground.
After what seemed an eternity, the plane hit the ground and the emergency services rushed into the plane to wheel the lady out for medical attention. As she left the plane alive, everyone applauded the hero of the day, the doctor. This incident etched permanently into my brain and it amazed me to realize the power which this man held, the power to save a person’s life. Ever since this incident, I never wanted to be anything but a doctor. Even today, fifteen years later, I attribute my success towards achieving the goal to be a physician to this important incident of my life.