My first seven years of school were spent in a system where something called the Senior Cambridge Board was in operation, and for some reason, somewhere in Class 6, I heard about the Pharynx, Larynx, Oesophagus, and Epiglottis. ( Throat, Voice Box, Food Pipe, and Flap-that-keeps-food-from-getting-into-the-windpipe, respectively , to those bothered by fancy nomenclature).
And I was hooked.
Since then several doctors, and unsuspecting friends have been at the receiving end of surprising diagnoses.
I remember the time I was around 11 and had this swelling in the throat as children usually do, my voice had alarmingly changed, and my mother was on the phone to our family doctor who lived in the next building, when I wildly gesticulated and told her to tell him the pharynx was inflamed . He was vastly amused and immediately asked her to start me on gargles and steaming and he would stop by later to check.
He was the beginning of a large set of doctors , to whom, I asked (and continue to ask) all kinds of questions about anatomy , and who patiently answered , every single time, without letting on what they really thought of me.
I changed schools in class 8, and joined another school that functioned under the Maharashtra School Board. This meant that I traveled by a specific bus across the city everyday at a fixed time to make it to school, and it was just providence that the school was next to the B.J.Medical College in Pune. The same bus used to be taken by lots of lady students of the college, with very thick black bound volumes called Gray's Anatomy. This book had countless pictures , particularly of the skeleton, and I used to pour over these books during the ride, giving me a nodding acquaintance with tibias, fibulas, femurs,thorax, scapula and so on.
But a separation was on the cards. Report cards , that is. Somewhere in the second year of college, we had to choose between biology and maths. I was very good at both, and ended up choosing math. Since then , I have moved further and further away from formal biological learning, but once I was free of academics , I got back to my old interest.
I read books, and then the Internet happened. To me , it was a Khul Ja Sim Sim moment.
Long, long, before Google happened, we used to use something called Lynx at work , and it would display search results; when you clicked on a specific one, it would actually show you the bytes loading one by one in the left lower corner, till the actual site appeared; it was almost like counting each and every chana dal grain while eating a PuranPoli.
I searched for a family member's knee symptoms, and came up with Chondromalacia. The only other person who had said that word , was his doctor ! And so folks were amazed. I also found treatments , but was a bit more quiet about that.
Then Google came on the scene. Articles and books became available. You could see graphics and diagrams of all kinds of stuff. You could join all kinds of interest groups, and wonder about coming across someone from Kansas having the same problem as you did, and what worked for them .
There were of course some embarrassing episodes, where a friend was describing her lower leg pain consequent to a back trauma, and I searched and found out about "claudication". I also learned about the possibility of someone listening to your femoral artery (in the legs) sounds with a stethoscope, and looking for flowing river sounds to ascertain about blockages. This friend and I immediately rushed to our gynaec friend at our hospital , who by then was used to these learning situations. She humoured us by doing the blood flow sounds, and allowing us to hear (not that we could tell anything) , and then told us that claudication was a serious thing, and one didn't go traipsing around like this if so afflicted. So my friend didn't have claudication, she was relieved, I learned something, and the doctor probably had a big laugh.
Another time, I had some knee problem, very painful after a fall. Naturally, an appointment with the hospital orthopaedic person was advised , X-rays were done, but I googled till then to find out just what was going on, and discovered the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. The orthopaedic doctor had me lie down, and move my leg in various ways to ascertain pains vis a vis movements. No one could figure out why a lady in pain would be smiling so much after the doc mentioned the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. I was just thrilled to bits. To this day, I think the quick healing had a lot to do with this attitude of respect and recognition accorded to the ACL.
Late in the sixth decade of my life, facing some extreme gynaec issues, it was like doing a course on Uterus 101. I had a lot of questions about some anatomical constructions in the region, and the purpose behind making things so difficult. I was now on backslapping terms with endometrial lining sizes, OS, laparoscopic methods, unnecessary hysterectomies, anemia, hypothyroid, and other friends. There was an element of "mind over uterus" with all the treatments, and I even dreamed a certain size of endometrial lining once, only to have the radiologist on duty give me a high five when she found out the identical lining size the next day during a sonography session. Science be damned, but I think I brought a few moments of entertainment in the lives of the busy doctors. That the entire issue got solved later as an amazing example of a different "mind over uterus" is something that even my doctor will agree upon, and is actually material for a separate post or conference paper.
Which leads me to the belief that there are cells that "think" all over our body. That there is a brain branch in our gut is well known. But I am talking about the sort of "cell thinking" that is aware of what I am thinking otherwise. Every living tissue of consequence probably "thinks". And is aware of the mind, per se. There is the heart, that endlessly beats to the tune of Nishkaam Karma; there is the Liver, that is so busy releasing and storing stuff into and from our blood for difficult times ahead, that it ignores itself, and shows weakness only after it is 80% gone , to the dogs, as they say.
And so you are smitten by the anatomy, the brain, you delight in correct diagnoses, and you develop an immensely huge respect for medications and pharmacy formulations. You have great admiration for those who take the trouble to explain pros and cons of certain medications, in the face of popular treatment protocols. And you have immense respect for a cardiac interventionist , who kept a straight face when you noticed copious urine in the ICU bag, and asked if the kidney was throwing out all the "blood thinner" medication stuff . And you applaud those who actually draw diagrams and explain to you what is happening, when you ask stupid questions. And a recent episode where I jumped to multiple sclerosis after the doctor mentioned Myelin, will be kept in reserve for another post.
Sometimes though, you make anatomical poems, and some doctors are shocked. Never Mind.
Possibly, some of my interest in run-of-the-mill interpretations of serious things, has been passed on to the next generation.
The daughter, several years ago, single digits in age, explaining her pain to the dentist, said she had a heartbeat in her gums. (I think he missed a beat)
The son, again in single digits of age, listened to his grandma explain why she wore footwear in the house, as she had diabetes and needed to protect her feet from wounds, as they might heal slow. He routinely heard talk about high and low "sugar" then as his grandparents were diabetics. The one fine day, he tells his diagnosis.
The medicines for the foot wound , would be reaching there late , mixed with the blood, as unlike other non diabetic folk, grandma had slow moving thick sugar syrup style blood flowing all across. His grandma, who was treated by the country's leading diabetes authority had never heard such a fun diagnosis.
One of my doctor friends once mentioned that I could still go in for formal medicine training; medical college , that is. She thinks I am really cut out for it, since I already exhibit certain second year MBBS signs, of suspecting that I have the disease symptoms, that I am actually reading about.
The only problem is, I am not sure , that even though I hold a Masters degree in Physics , that I will be able to make it through today's complicated XII Boards......
( In the meanwhile, I can almost hear collective sighs of relief, that I am not likely to be a doctor; Ph.D or otherwise....)