A heart-touching, horse-attack story !
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A heart-touching, horse-attack story !

June 16, 2024

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

Yes, you read me right. I am talking of a Horse-Attack and not a Heart-Attack, which as we all know, is a commonly occurring medical event, that we all keep hearing about, from time to time. And, while heart attacks are very common, as we all know, we hardly hear of horse attacks, as they are extremely uncommon.

The SOM of last Friday (June 14, 2024) had carried a very heart-touching story entitled “Destiny…Thy name is Surgery?” penned by Dr. H.V. Shivaram, the Head of the Department of Surgery at the Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru.

The writer has narrated how, while he was an intern at the Mysore Medical College in the year 1982, he was attacked by a stray and perhaps mentally deranged horse, while on duty in the Paediatrics Department of Cheluvamba Hospital, which left him at the grave potential risk of losing his entire right arm.

As I recall, this very unusual incident had left the entire city shell-shocked and the medical fraternity in particular, very outraged and angry that there was no arrangement in place to protect the doctors and staff of the hospitals attached to the Mysore Medical College, on its sprawling complex, in the heart of the city.

I even remember the banner headline under which SOM had carried this story on its front page. I was then a post-graduate student, pursuing my MD degree in Medicine, being attached to the Medical ‘A’ Unit, headed by Dr. N.A. Jadhav, the then Professor and Head of the Department of Medicine.

The writer has described the harrowing ordeal he went through and how severe his injuries were and how the prolonged grasp of his arm in the horse’s jaws had almost completely cut off its blood supply, leaving it almost in need of an amputation to avoid becoming gangrenous.

He goes on to say how Dr. C.B. Murthy, a Professor of Surgery, who was on call on that day, responded to the emergency instantly and painstakingly operated on him and succeeded in restoring the blood supply to his arm, thus succeeding in saving it from being amputated.

He has also described how the humble cook of the hospital canteen resorted to a very unusual strategy to make the horse relinquish its hold on the victim, whom it was dragging around the campus in a mad frenzy. 

Incidents like this are among the ones where some very grievous injuries can leave their victims deformed and disabled so badly that they can very often turn the courses of their lives themselves, from paths of happiness to paths of sorrow.

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But as Dr. Shivaram has said, it is destiny that decides which way things go for all of us. I agree with him fully and what I am writing now, as part of what has become a weekly column writing ritual for me, is also a story about destiny.

I say this because if the cook of the hospital canteen had not thought of a very unusual and ingenious way of making the horse let go and if a surgeon with excellent capabilities, in the form of Dr. C.B. Murthy had not been available, to come to his rescue in the operation theatre, Dr. Shivaram, who is a renowned and successful surgeon today, would most certainly have been a one-armed doctor, pursuing a less demanding branch of medicine, burdened life-long with a sense of loss and regret that he could not become what he wanted to become as a doctor.

But thankfully, destiny which can sometimes be very cruel, was kind to him that fateful day, leaving him in possession of all his faculties and in a frame of mind which has enabled him to recall a painful experience with a sense of happiness and gratitude today!

But this happy story too, unfortunately, has a very sad end, unknown even to many of the patients who were fortunate enough to have been treated and operated upon by the legendary Dr. C.B. Murthy, during the days when he was a most dedicated and capable surgeon and most importantly, a very noble-hearted and benevolent soul.

He can undoubtedly be counted among the finest doctors our city has been fortunate enough to see over the glorious past, when doctors were looked upon as visible gods, walking on this earth. I count myself as one of the few very lucky persons who, although a Physician, had a very close working relationship with him, while I was attached to the B.M. Hospital, which he established in the early eighties after resigning from government service.

Actually, my friendship with him was a fallout of the close friendship Dr. Murthy and his close associate, Dr. M.V. Govindappa, a renowned Physician of our city, had with my father, from the days before I entered Medical College.

Later, during my post-graduation, Dr. Govindappa became my teacher and very interestingly, his son Dr. M.G. Satish became my student, while he was in Medical College!

Not a single day used to pass without Dr. Murthy and me meeting in his chamber, over a cup of very strong and painfully bitter coffee, brewed specially for me, by the hospital canteen, on his orders. It was not that I used to like my coffee like that, a fact that he knew very well, while also knowing that I liked my coffee very light, milky and sweet.

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But it was only because, being a very withdrawn man with very few friends, he’d open up with, I was the only friend at whose discomfort he could have a hearty laugh, in the privacy of his room! It was his wry sense of humour at work. Not to be outdone, very soon, upon the advice of Dr. Seshagiri Rao, the Chief Anaesthesiologist of the hospital, I devised a very ingenious way of letting Dr. Murthy have his share of fun, while having my cup of happiness, entirely at his cost!

I befriended Ramu, the hospital canteen manager and one day I explained to him my sad predicament and asked him for a solution, which he provided most readily, being a most kind-hearted soul.

After that day, completely unknown to Dr. Murthy, my supposedly strong and bitter coffee used to come to me with an over-generous dash of milk and sugar, which instantly transformed my pain to pleasure. And, all the time, to keep my pretence of agony going, I used to drink it with a most painful looking grimace on my face, at every sip, while the beaming man seated in front, watched my agony with visible glee!

 Although this mutually satisfying game of deceit continued for many years, I had decided, deep down in my heart, that one fine day I would tell him how I had beaten him at his own game. But that day never came and will perhaps never come now, because a year and a half ago, destiny which I said could sometimes be very cruel, suddenly knocked the man down with a massive stroke, leaving him paralysed and confined to a bed, where he is still convalescing, in faraway Mumbai.

Cruel destiny has denied me the chance I had waited for, to make a friendly confession. And, destiny which had been kind to Dr. Shivaram was not so, to his saviour, who is still making a very prolonged and rather unsatisfactory recovery.

If only Dr. Murthy could have read what Dr. Shivaram has written about him with such profound gratitude, two days ago, he would most certainly have felt happy that he did all the good that he did in his working life and his work had not gone unremembered.

But cruel destiny again, has robbed him of it. I told you that this whole story is all about destiny, both cruel and kind. What you make of it now, is entirely up to you!

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