Soman Uncle: Guest Post by Dr. Sheetal

Editor’s note: Dr. Sheetal is an internal medicine physician who is in the initial stages of developing a Geriatrics and Palliative Care Program at Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore. She joined Pallium India for a week of shadowing. She will also be coming to the University of Iowa to shadow the Geriatrics program later this year.

It was almost an hour and a half into my first home visit that I first noticed Soman Uncle, our driver for the trip. He had quite cheerfully made a second trip walking in the blazing sunlight ,around the block of houses where we had parked, searching for the house of the patient. Finally he had found it. We trooped behind him as he led us into the house for what was a bereavement visit, a yet another unique initiative of Pallium India. We sat in the living room , 2 doctors , a nurse and Soman Uncle. We sat in respectful silence, watching the grieving wife. The polished floors and high academics of my Medical College hadn’t quite prepared me for a bereavement visit. As I sat there struggling to strike up a conversation with the lady of the house, I saw Soman uncle easing the patient into a chair , asking her details of the disaster , the funeral arrangements, deftly enquiring about her needs and resources.

Soma Uncle, coordinating the next home visit

Suddenly the melancholy of the room seemed to lift as he made enquiries. The patient very stoically narrated the trauma of the death of her husband and brother in law, in the recent cyclone. The message of Pallium India , to provide care beyond cure was reflected in his easy and confident manner , offering support where needed and making a difference by just being present. His presence and easy manner, worked well to wipe away my own ineptitude in  such matters . My grand confidence as a doctor ebbed away, while I watched in awe at humanity on display. Throughout the next 3 hours as we walked in and out of houses , the presence of Soman uncle, acted to provide the balm of humanity around my cold enquiry of medical facts. I found him making casual talk about the teakwood tree being cut in the next compound or about a recently constructed wall at the house. He had stiff competition from Nurse Seena, who actually went into the kitchen of a patient and asked about the lunch plans for the day, while I limited myself to neurological examination and auscultation and found myself too tongue tied to speak anything else!!

At the end of the day as our van came to a halt at the headquarters of palllium, it didn’t seem like a long day at work, rather like a day spent meeting friends and family of Soman Uncle and nurse Seena.

Chitharal Rock Jain Temple, at least as old as 1300s

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