The God complex

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
Not many people get the chance to save someone’s life, let alone save a lot of lives on a regular basis the way we doctors do. And when you bring someone back from the dead, it’s an unimaginable feeling of pride, elation and yes, over time, you develop a God-complex. This post is about that feeling. It’s about being part of a miracle... and as always, it’s a bit about God’s guest appearance.
I knew it was gonna be a long day the first time I came across Vikas. He was being shifted out of the operation theatre into the ICU directly. The previous night he’d been a victim of a road traffic accident. A hit and run. Just another 20 year old crossing the road on his way back to his hostel. Our college hostel.

The kid ( for at 20 years, that was all he really was ) was a mess. His head was clean shaven and disfigured, a part of his skull having being placed in his thigh to prevent further pressure to his damaged brain. His spleen , torn during the accident had been removed. So had a part of his damaged liver. He’d lost more than half his body’s blood in those 6 hours. The neurosurgeon who operated on him gave him no chance of survival. He was comatose and in shock, requiring a ventilator, a dozen blood transfusions and endless drugs to keep him alive.
Over the next 9 days, we got to know his father well as he stayed by his son’s side. His mother was in another hospital in their hometown, admitted with shock after hearing the news. His father got to meet his friends and professors. He also got to meet his son’s girlfriend for the first time. He didn’t mind. She was as much a part of Vikas’s life as he was. As docs, we had all the hospital specialists look in on him. Everyone had an opinion on what should be the next step. Everyone’s opinion was noted. Everyone’s opinion was followed whether it was scientific healing of infections, numerical settings of ventilators or just heartfelt placement of music over his ears in case he could hear, but not respond. When the specialists weren’t looking in on him, the residents were monitoring him in shifts 24 hours a day even as nurses bathed, fed, cleaned and shaved him.

On Day 7, the miracle began. The kid no one gave any hope to was weaned off all cardiosupportive drugs. His heart was supporting his body now all by itself.

On Day 11, this kid with his skull in his thigh, opened his eyes. It was as if he had been asleep all along. He had minimal power over his left limbs, a sequelae of the accident. He could mouth words, but not speak them because of the tracheostomy which had been done in view of the prolonged respiratory support.

On Day 12, he developed a lung infection. We whipped it’s ass in 4 days. Aggressive management was the keyphrase in all our minds. Because this kid with the misshapen head was working overtime to stay alive. We knew he had it in him to do it. He’d been through the darkness. He just needed us to get him past the last hailstorms and into the light. Vikas was the conversation starter in many a doc’s greeting in those days.

By Day 14, he had enough power to lift his right hand and scratch his head. An everyday occurrence for you and me. A moment we doctors laughed about with pride that evening over coffee.

By Day 17, Vikas was bored of his walkman. You would be too, if you had to listen to it during all your waking hours. He was too weak still to stay awake for long periods, but we needed to keep him stimulated during those few waking hours, be it 3am or 5pm. A doctor’s laptop was procured. We filled him up on what’s been going on in the world. His girlfriend gave us advice on his favourite actresses and we got her movies. His girlfriend held his hand throughout his waking hours in a way that only love can allow and society can frown upon. His dad was there through it all, willing his son to ‘become the miracle’.

By Day 19, we removed his ventilator support. Vikas’s lungs, heart and brain were now strong enough to take him through. His body would pull through with adequate nourishment. The neurosurgeon who operated on him told him he had done the impossible. We celebrated like kings after a victorious siege that night.

On Day 22, we took Vikas out of the ICU for an hour. We pushed his bed around the hospital, 3 docs in attendance beside him in case of any event. We filled him in on the raunchy jokes we had and rejoiced in his half smile.

On Day 25, at 5 am, Vikas gestured for a pen and paper. The surgery resident present in the ICU got him one. Vikas wrote for the first time since the accident. He wrote 6 words that would break our hearts.


The resident held onto the paper to show it to us later that morning.
Vikas went into cardiac arrest at 6am that morning.
He was placed back on the ventilators, the cardiac drugs et al. His head, which should have been sunken where the skull wasn’t there, was tense as bone with the bulging brain. His eyes were still, unresponsive to light and touch.
Vikas was declared brain dead 13 hours later.

Through his father’s anguished looks, the endless tears of a bereaved girlfriend and scores of friends, we stood still. We didn’t flinch. 20 doctors. And not one tear. We couldn’t afford it. They needed us to support them now, to give them the words of encouragement which would not heal the pain, but would atleast keep them going for now. Even later, when we saw Vikas’s last message to us, we didn’t lose it. We held firm. But we talked. We talked a lot that midnight over coffee. About miracles and how elusive they are; how everything you work for can come shattering down in a minute... and about a stranger we all turn to for help. A stranger who often never turns up, knowing fully well we take even his absence as a sign of a ‘greater good.’

People say God works in mysterious ways. Is that really true, I wonder ? Or is God just as selfish as you and me ? We all know he’s got all the power in the universe and then some. Isn’t it possible that this omnipotence has gone to his head – and he’s turned mean and sadistic towards us lesser beings? Isn’t it possible, that having written the script for endless number of people since the beginning, God’s gotten bored and is now having fun at our expense, watching us plea-bargain for a better life everyday in front of his idols and symbols?

If it had not happened to us, I would have dismissed this story as a scene from a typical drama-queen movie. A note from a survivor thanking us docs for saving him , followed by his death, in a guy who showed all the signs of a miraculous recovery. But it did happen to us. And there is no getting past that.
Vikas is gone.. the ICU has his last words in a separate folder. When I think of it, I wonder how if things had ended differently, we’d have all fought for rights to that sheet ; for photocopies to remember the kid by. Now, it’s a paper that cuts worse than a sword.. it’s a paper noone wants because of the memories; the number of times we saved him, stayed awake for him, joked with him in a month, taking him out of hell’s door ... only for someone to take him back from us, when the war was over.

Fellow doctors ask “Wasn’t God in the healing process of the miracle ?” I ask back “Wasn’t God behind the steering wheel that hit him and sped off leaving him to die ? Wasn’t God behind the cardiac arrest that took him away again after we had got his body functioning again bit by excruciating bit ?” An only child taken away from his parents not once, but twice in the span of a month.This wasn’t Gods handiwork... this was the work of a sadist. A sadist who broke our spirits in the cruelest way possible. Who didn’t even give us a chance to savour these words of gratitude of a person for whom a score and more doctors worked round the clock, 24/ 7 for nearly a month.

People say we docs carry a God complex. Just because we heal or alleviate pain and suffering, we tend to think of ourselves as equal to God. We grow haughty, proud and arrogant. We think the world revolves around us. That patients live and breathe on our every word and must follow everything we advice them if they want to get better. That we revel in their suffering as it allows us to show our dominance in this field.

I know that applies to a lot of doctors. We’re an arrogant lot, we are. But you know what? It applies to a lot of Gods too. Infact, all the Gods I know. All are as guilty of the above ‘God complex’ as we humans in white coats. And it’s not allright to say ‘Hey, I’m a God. I’m allowed a God complex.’ Not when you’re God – impartial, compassionate, caring, loving, perfect? Where has all this gone, Big Guy? Weren’t you supposed to be THE role model for us all? How can you be so cruel? So unjust? So... HUMAN?

I’m afraid. Because, while the big shiny car running the world still belongs to God, there’s someone else in the driver’s seat these days. Someone new. I’ve seen his handiwork up close. And I don’t like what I’ve seen. He isn’t separating saint from sinner and he sure as hell isn’t playing fair.
There’s someone up there who’s been left in charge of our fates.
And Heaven help us, he’s got a God complex.

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Let me know what you think.

  1. There's so much anger and pain in the post..I can sense the feeling of helplessness,the despair after the rejoice,the faltering faith in the
    greater being.

    That's the ugly facet of life maybe.
    Just keep up the good work doc..only this time it's more for your difficult job than your posts.

  2. What do I say Roshan, your words said it all.
    God must have turned a sadist after all...

    I really hate to think like that, but this story gives me nothing else to feel..

    Heart felt tears of appreciation to the brave young boy who fought and did his best to win the battle...I am sure he'll come back to live happily next time.

    I might have said this before, but Hat's off to you guys for your sincere efforts and hard work. My admiration for you and your profession grows every time I read your posts like these.

  3. God is SERIOUSLY helpin the wrong ppl!!my cousin bro has been sufferin from kidney failure since he was a kid - had a transplant in 2003-removed it in 2007, now has liver problems!!too damn dificult to get donors bcause of the restrictions!!

  4. Icy chips, It's a bad state anywhere you go as far as donors are concerned. There must be a difference of 500:1 between required and available donors.. And That's just my guess.

    Illeen and Aishu, to be frank, this post was just meant as a chronicle of events that took place durin the last month in my Icu posting period. It was somethin different for us since we all took it as a challenge. Sadly, we didn't count on the big G's ace.

  5. a really well written post doc.. really..

  6. i am no one to question abt Mr.G as i am a agnostic myself...

    u had me in tears Rosh... u guys harden over time, being so near death all the time rite???

    been there.. luckily i was pushed back to life... but still i dread those moments.. lots of wat ifs...


  7. rat, i dont know if we ever harden completely... looking back, all my doc posts are sad.. perhaps one of the reasons i make it so few and far between

  8. sorry to hear this buddy. i may not know how this feels and sure wouldnt want to, but keep good.

    "greater good". u dont have to take my word for it, but one thing i do know is ,there is no such thing. think about it.

  9. You have really left me in a dilemma doc..As usual your words have left no emotion left unstirred in me. I am angry, sad, bewildered and left questioning the higher powers.

    Life can be such a bitch sometimes. Leave you when you need her the most.

  10. You have really left me in a dilemma doc..As usual your words have left no emotion left unstirred in me. I am angry, sad, bewildered and left questioning the higher powers.

    Life can be such a bitch sometimes. Leave you when you need her the most.

  11. max, true.. it does bear thinking..we just accept the concept of a greater good, dont we ?

    k10..truer words have never been spoken mate

  12. :(

    It is a cruel world!

  13. That was a heart-breaking post! Having pulled him out of the claws of death only to lose him again..
    :-( :-(

    You must be miracle-makers, all you docs.. maybe God is getting jealous of you all and wants to show who the boss is. He certainly has a God-complex.

  14. don know how i missed this post.

    who says life is fair??...just that there is a payback time for everybody...and that too is decided by that same god...he is keeping an account.His judgement may be delayed...but his maths is pretty strong.

    and the rest is unexpainable.

  15. gazal.. somehow I've not got the same faith in his math, I guess.

  16. :(

    that was so tragic...

  17. i read this post three weeks back.. and it remained with me from the first time i read it.. vikas .. u . the other doctors..evryone remained with me as i lay down to sleep each day.. i thought of vikas.. his dad and mom.. wat went thru their head when vikas wrote the thank u note to u all... how their hearts lifted in the smallest way to acknowledge that vikas was makin it thru this ordeal and then when they thought god was makin the rianbow shine on them "HE" snapped the string cut and loosely it lay mangled in the floor of the mind of all those who entered the storm with vikas... i know how his family felt, i lost my brother two years ago .. only i cld not see him before he left me.. hi string was cut when God got jealous and possesive.. i realised now "HE" loved him more than i ever cld..

  18. suma, thats how things are, I guess..

    Anu, I'm sorry for your loss.. I never quite get used to death no matter how many times i have to come across it.. thats a major fallacy for me.. and Im talkin death of people Im not related to..God knows if im ready to deal with personal lives

  19. There’s someone up there who’s been left in charge of our fates.
    Yes it's so true and many times I also feel this person is not fair in HIS dealings. But what can we do?

  20. I dont really know what we can do.. I just am a bit skeptical about whether all those prayers really can change our destiny...

  21. Day was so heart breaking.....can't imagine what the parents must've gone through!!!aftr all the efforts everyone put in, his life just slipped away....cruel mockery!!! :-(

    1. I know Mel... it was horrible at that time. Even though years have passed, I'm sure everyone there that day still remembers where they were when they heard the news.. I know I still do.

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