“Pretty nasty fall,” the elderly doctor said after studying the X-rays. “On your right side, one lower rib and the little finger of the hand are broken. Some minor lacerations. But not to worry.”
Lying on his examination table a bit dazed, I tried to recollect what had happened. After breakfast I had left home to buy a newspaper. I had just been transferred to Mallai and was still in the process of getting things organized. The place was strange to me except that I had transited through the airport a couple of times.
I was walking briskly along the tree-lined avenue. The broad and even footpath was about one foot higher than the road. The locality was surprisingly clean and neat. A refreshing breeze blew in from the sea. The disciplined traffic moved smoothly. Nice place, I thought and carried on, reading the shop signs on both sides of the street.
Then it happened, all of a sudden. I tripped and fell forward. In a fraction of a second before hitting the pavement I realized that my hands would not be able to break the fall. I spun in the air the moment my palms touched the ground, like a slip fielder taking a diving catch. My right side banged against the edge of the walkway as I rolled on to the road.
In no time a crowd gathered around me talking excitedly in the local language, which I did not understand. Telling them that I was okay didn’t have any effect. I was carried to a doctor who was almost directly across the road.
While examining, the doctor had asked whether my head had hit the surface. It hadn’t. He wanted me to point out the places where it pained. After that the X-rays had been taken.
“The fractures,” the doctor said, helping me to a chair opposite his, “will take six weeks to heal."
“Six weeks!” I exclaimed.
“Don’t be alarmed. That’s normal. And you won’t be incapacitated."
He explained the line of treatment. No medicines except painkillers if absolutely necessary. The rib was to be left to heal on its own. I was to avoid sleeping on that side and lifting weights. The doctor placed a piece of dressing between the broken finger and the next one and bound them together with micro porous tape. The hand was to be kept in sling whenever possible.
“If you like,” the doctor said, “I can refer you to an orthopedist. But really, there is no need.”
“Fine,” I agreed.
“Do you drink?”
I was taken aback by the sudden question. “Not for breakfast,” I replied.
The doctor laughed. “When you get home,” he said, take a bucket bath with some antiseptic in the water. After that have couple of stiff drinks with lunch and go to sleep.”
“Thanks for the prescription. I like it.”
“That’s for the trauma,” the doctor went on seriously. “Now, there are some symptoms you must watch out for. In case of any vomiting, nausea, or dizzy spells, contact me by phone immediately. Here’s my card.”
I had finished reading ‘Dr. Scaria Zachariah, Medicine Specialist’ when the doctor asked, “What caused the fall?”
I looked up and replied, “You did.”
“Me? How’s that?”
“While walking, I saw your signboard. It was the first time I came across the usage ‘Medicine Specialist’ and thought it rather amusing. Actually I was laughing inside me when my foot caught the manhole cover.”
Dr. Zachariah nodded. “The moral of the story is,” he said smiling, “don’t laugh at medicine men.”
I smiled back.
“Actually,” the doctor went on, “I’m a GP. In this area, the term ‘Medicine Specialist’ is used to identify physicians.” After a pause he continued, “Eye specialist, bone specialist, skin specialist and so on. Why not medicine specialist?”
“Yes, why not?” I agreed, wondering what they called the general surgeon.