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The forbidden gift

A few years ago, there was an elderly couple who used to visit me in the outpatients’ department. They would come in together for check ups and reviews. Once they came and requested a complete medical examination, prior to their trip abroad to visit their son. Both were rendered fit for the journey after a series of tests prescribed for their visa.

Nothing was seen or heard for over a year when they reappeared in my clinic room. After the medical consultation, the wife gave vivid narrations of Australia where their son and family lived. As they were leaving, she took out an attractive, gift-wrapped packet out of her tote bag and offered it to me. The restriction of the Medical Council listed in the Code of Medical Ethics whizzed through my mind. Accepting gifts was a taboo and so my hand shrank back though I was enamoured by the elegantly wrapped box. I refused to take it, but they insisted, kept it on the windowsill, and left in a jiffy, without giving me time to react.

Sometime later that day, there was a sudden brouhaha in the waiting area where patients sat for their token number to appear on the board. There was a man on the floor and the wife was screaming and all were aghast not knowing what to do.

A quick enquiry revealed that he had diabetes and was on insulin therapy. Loss of consciousness in a patient with diabetes may be due to an excessively high or a steeply low sugar level. Medical wisdom advises treating with sugar supplements if in doubt, erring on the side of low levels. If low, it would revive the patient to normalcy while the increase in sugar will not be high enough to cause further harm if it is already high.

In a split second the beautiful covering was torn open, and a chocolate was taken out and thrust into the patient’s mouth, applying it to the cheeks. The patient was then wheeled out of the area in a gurney, towards the emergency room. Before reaching there, the patient got up and gave all a confused look and enquired why he was on the trolley! This was clear cut case of hypoglycemia or low sugar which had resulted in the patient becoming unconscious.

I called the couple and thanked them profusely for the “sweet” gift which was the “saviour” of the day. I was reminded of Carl Jung’s Synchronicity, which is a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved. So was the chocolate box a chance gift or a meaningful coincidence?

(Published 17 December 2023, 20:23 IST)

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