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Phone Calls: Dr Viswanathan Iyer, Brain and spine surgeon, Mumbai

Phone Calls: Dr Viswanathan Iyer, Brain and spine surgeon, Mumbai.

Last week, my school friend told me he had a LIC policy which had expired and he did not know how to redeem it. I offered to ask my cousin who works as Senior General Manager in LIC. My cousin brusquely suggested that we get in touch with the local LIC agent! © viswanathan iyer


Just yesterday, the washing machine in my sister’s home stopped working. I thought I can get quick help from my neighbour, who is an IIT alumni and I was a bit taken aback when he told me to call the mechanic. © viswanathan iyer


My assistant in the operation theatre told me about the challenges with obtaining kindergarten admission for his daughter. I discussed this issue with an acquaintance who is a college professor and asked him to help. He looked at me with disdain for disturbing him with such a trivial issue. © viswanathan iyer


These experiences got me to think about the phone calls and messages received by me as a neurosurgeon and the associated expectations of people. I am sure most of my doctor colleagues would agree with me that we get calls and messages at unearthly hours from friends, friends of friends and distant relatives of distant relatives. © viswanathan iyer


The telecom revolution and competition in India made cellular network services cheap. Social media reached everyone’s pocket! With the touch of a button, one could send images of blood reports, X-rays, CT scans to any doctor. Now, anyone with a doctor in his contact list could magnanimously offer medical aid. Click pictures of the reports with added shadows and send! Just ask someone to hold X-rays upside down against the tube light, click and send! And wait to see the double-tick in blue. Call the doctor immediately and ask for his opinion. 3 G and 4 G has opened the floodgates of 24/7 medical opinion and to top it all-it is often “gratis” © viswanathan iyer


A second opinion is added solace and a free second opinion is priceless. A neurosurgeon simply sees his screen and gives suggestion on broken bones and leaking noses. An orthopaedic surgeon scrolls through blood reports of a malaria patient and offers quick treatment protocols. In the midst of his gall-bladder surgery, the laparoscopic surgeon takes time to see images of a bleed in the brain and voila! Everything is hunky-dory. © viswanathan iyer


The benefits of this exemplary, free and instant advice from doctors was put to full test in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination program. As a neurosurgeon, I have shared my knowledge about rTPCR and Remdisvir with my distant relatives. Just yesterday, I overheard my radiology colleague do a comparative analysis of Covaxin and Covishield with some old “acquaintance” who solicited his input on choosing a vaccine. © viswanathan iyer


The circle of trust has expanded and I get messages from relatives who last saw me when I was hiding sheepishly behind my mother’s pallu! They want to know if their lovely neighbour who has knee joint problems should take the vaccine. © viswanathan iyer


I realised my exalted position as a doctor last week. A patient I had operated years ago for a spine tumor called me to ask if her son, who has recovered from COVID-19 can have some beer. Of course, she added that he is 21! © viswanathan iyer


The washing machine is still kaput and I wonder if I can ask help from another neighbour who has a washing powder factory! I will send him a few photos and try my luck. Bye….. © viswanathan iyer

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