The Two Doctors

I was on duty at the hospital; it was shortly after midnight. We had had the usual number of drug overdoses, knifings and violent brawls. I had started work at 6pm and was beginning to get tired. There were three nurses and two doctors on duty at the time. One of the nurses was from Jamaica and of the two doctors one was Indian and the other Nepalese. It was very unusual to have doctors from Nepal in our hospital. Normally after their training they returned to work with their own people, but Dr.Bijay had met and married a British nurse and though he missed his country a great deal, he loved his wife and child and wanted to stay.

The two doctors were cool towards each other. Unfortunately they had brought their national tensions with them. The Indian doctor thought that Bijay was too complacent, and Bijay said that Dr. Sanje worked more than was good for him and was too ambitious.

The event that occurred that night was to change the attitude of both men. We had spent a quiet half-hour during which time Bijay had read the daily newspaper and Sanje had written up his log when suddenly the double doors to the ward burst open and three people pushed their way in. One, a man had blood pouring down his face. The other two were women, one older, one younger. The man was holding his head in his hands and shaking it to and fro, as if he did not know where to go or what to do. They were followed by two paramedics who had evidently brought them in the ambulance.

Sanje jumped to his feet.

“What’s going on, what has happened here?” he asked the paramedics. Meanwhile Bijay tried to speak to the man holding his head.

“I think there’s been a fight – These women, one’s his wife and the other’s his mother. She’s been screaming at him too, he’s very drunk,” replied the ambulance man.

“Oh, nurse, get help and take these women outside. See if they’re hurt. We’ll deal with him. That’s a nasty cut I can see on his forehead, and look at that wrist!” exclaimed Dr. Bijay

I was the nurse. I didn’t see what happened to the man after that. The two Doctors disappeared behind the swing doors taking the dishevelled, bleeding man with them. Our Jamaican nurse followed. The two women asked me if the man would be all right. I tried to reassure them, my colleague and I lead them into another room and we each tried to comfort them

I spoke to the younger one. They were both sobbing and shaking.

It turned out that the older woman was the wife’s mother. She lived downstairs and had come to protect her daughter when she heard the husband return home, roaring drunk. She secretly wished him dead, as he was such a brute towards her daughter when he was drunk. On entering the kitchen she had found her daughter holding a knife, and saw blood spurting from the man’s wrist. She knew he would die very soon if he was left alone and she was very tempted to leave him, but she knew this would not be right. No matter how much she disapproved of his drunken ways, she knew she had to save him. She grabbed a tea towel and ripped it in two. The man had collapsed on the floor at this point she tied it tightly round his wrist to prevent any more blood loss. The daughter meanwhile, terrified as she was of her husband in his drunken state, had rushed to call the ambulance. She knew she needed help to mend her relationship with her husband. She had been defending herself, not trying to kill him.

We advised her about counselling services that were available and also suggested she join ALERNON, a group that supports the families of alcoholics. Then the next emergency case arrived and the women departed from our ward. The following day I asked Margit, the Jamaican nurse, how the doctors had coped with their patient.

She said it had been a useful experience for both of them. When I asked her what she meant she went on to say that by the time they had sorted out his wrist and stitched up his head he had sobered up a lot and became quite talkative. He asked the doctors where they were from. When he discovered that Bijay was from Nepal and Sanje from India he started to weep.

“You know my wife and I are always arguing about how the people from my country are better than hers, except she says her people are much better than mine, and here you are, two doctors, working so well together. Getting on with the job of looking after stupid people like me, who drink too much and cause trouble. I bet you don’t argue about who is best, do you? I expect you’re best mates. I expect you’ll go out for a drink together when all this is over, and you’ll know when to stop, unlike me. You’ll have a laugh and a joke, and then you’ll go home to your families. We can be so stupid, my wife and I!”

Margit didn’t hear the rest of what was said, but she did notice the exchange of a wry smile between the two doctors.

This case had a profound effect on the two doctors. Our drunkard had been an immigrant from Nepal, and his wife was of Indian extraction. He had returned to the hospital to say thank you to them for sewing him up so well, and I personally overheard him say how much he loved his wife and why there was no reason on earth why people from two different cultures should argue and fight. He had started to go to ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, and his wife was supporting him in giving up his habit of drinking. He had a new job and his wife was expecting a baby, and he wanted to be a good father to it.

The two doctors smiled at each other after hearing this tale.

“He’s quite right, of course,” said Sanje to Bijay, and they both shook hands.