Heroic Doctor’s Heart-Wrenching Letter

December 4, 2014

For this young physician in India, reading an article on physician suicide was “the best thing” in his day. There is one thing, he says, that keeps him moving forward.

Most heart-wrenching e-mail I have ever received. From a true hero, Dr Varun.

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Dear Pamela,

Hi, der. I don’t know how thankful I am to you for writing that article on physician’s suicide. I really wanted to hug you after reading it. I had really rough day after seeing 130 outpatients and around 60 admission emergency in a 12 hour duty. I work as a final year MD internal medicine resident in one of the busiest hospital in India. I saw a part of myself in every page of your article  Just couldn’t stop reading the article. It is 3:00 am in the morning here and after a physically and mentally demanding day of work and studies reading your article was the best thing today.

It takes me 5 hours by flight to reach my home from my hospital. I have my wife and 6 month old son (whom I been with for 15 days since his birth) at home. I work day in and out just to be with them once in 3 months. I don’t see my colleagues smile, I hear my patients misery every day. I smile and crack jokes even when I am sad so that I can bring some joy into my patients sorrowful life.

Today I saw this patient who died, married with a son, the only earning member of his family...his widow just wouldn’t accept that he was dead. She kept talking to him. I just didn’t know what to feel...I was numb for a minute thinking what if that was me... And the kid is my son...

I see deaths everyday in ward...I don’t know if you would believe me, but 4 deaths per day in a single ward of 40 beds overcrowded to 125 patients admitted at a time. Two patients on a bed, two lying together on the floor. Poverty, misery and pain all around. I have declared 12 patients dead in a day during one of my duties. I just don’t feel death anymore, just don’t feel human. My uncle died recently, I felt nothing deep inside, just some memories and that is it.

I write this mail hoping that the way I survive my day would help you in helping others.

I always wish my colleagues and say hi when I see them in the morning. Say hi to everyone from my ward, sweeper to the guard in the ward. I never eat alone and always make sure I share my food. I always smile whenever I talk to my patients. I hold their hands when I talk. Listen to music whenever possible. And everyday whenever possible I talk to my wife, father, mother, and brother (all of them are doctors).

But still this profession demands too much from us. I have thought about giving up and suicide a thousand times...the misery was too much for me to see 12 people die in a day. The only thing that keeps me moving forward is my family and friends.

I appreciate what you are doing. It took me 4 hours to write this mail. It is 7 am in the morning. But your article was worth it. Thank you. Thanks a lot...

Dr Varun

Pamela Wible, MD, is a family doctor who is dedicated to physician suicide prevention. Please be kind to your doctor. The life you save may save you. Photo credit: Dr Varun (and his newborn son)

See Dr Wible’s TED talk on physician suicide.