Monday, January 12, 2009

Post 5. Dr. Saji Joseph

The medical investigations comprising a comprehensive blood work had showed nothing to indicate malignancy. So the orthopedic doctor whom we consulted in Chennai suggested a needle biopsy of the lesion in the iliac bone. He himself performed the procedure. During the three agonizing days of wait before the results, Sunny had fallen quiet. Those days in Chennai where the first lap of investigation took place, were like a nightmare in which the two of us moved like zombies, as though taken by some unseen, unknown force from the guest house to hospitals, from one department to another, from hospitals to diagnostic centers and the back again to the guest house. Our peaceful, normal life which we had just left behind seemed like an unreal dream.

“I hope God will give us the strength to carry the cross he gives us”, said Sunny in a deadly quiet tone. The words reverberate in my ears even now as I write, and the expression on his face as he uttered those words is one I would never like to see again.

The needle biopsy result came. No malignancy, no bone TB. Possible Paget’s disease. We celebrated. Any disease was welcome – any disease other than cancer. We went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni in Chennai and offered thanks giving Mass. Back in the guest house after the mass, we were in a lighthearted mood, called up friends and relatives who were anxiously waiting for the biopsy result, spoke to them with great levity, trivializing the collective anxiety that had held us in its grip. We spoke to our children who were in the US about the agonizing story of the previous two weeks, which ultimately had a happy ending.

The next day, we had an appointment with the ortho doc in order to decide on the treatment for Paget's disease. The doctor’s behaviour unsettled us. He asked us to go for a second opinion. What caused him to change his mind overnight was a mystery, but he had taken the slides from us to be reviewed. He assured us that there was nothing different in the review from the first pathology report. Nevertheless, he wanted us to go for a second opinion.

Back to square one, again. Back in the guest house, we sat before the TV with unseeing eyes, wondering “what next?’. With a bleeding heart, I asked my God what either of us had done to deserve this terrible torment. Just then, like a bolt from the blue, Dr. Saji Joseph’s name thrust itself into my troubled mind and I gave him a ring immediately. He was my cousin’s husband, an orthopedic doctor in St. John’s hospital in Bangalore, known for his diagnostic skill and humane approach to the patients. He listened to me and said
“Molly chechi, take the earliest flight and come here. I’d like to see you”
Hoping against hope, I asked,”Is Paget’s disease that serious”.
He spoke quietly, gently. “I don’t think this is Paget’s disease. That’s why I’d like to see you.”

Like they say, it takes all sorts to make the world. And it takes all sorts of doctors to make this body of medical practitioners. I have learnt from my experience with them that most of them are competent in their trade. In fact, competence is not a rare commodity. But the quality that Dr. Saji has, what Dr. Ganadhaan has, is indeed a rare thing to find among them. That sensitivity to the traumatic condition of the patients and their dear ones, that compassion and the delicacy with which they handle the patients – these indeed are the rarest of commodities. After speaking to Saji, I suddenly felt that, despite my anxiety and fear, everything will be taken care of.

It was Dr. Saji who took a firm decision regarding the course of investigation, a timely decision for which I will be eternally grateful to him. Blood work was repeated and the biopsy result reviewed once we reached St.John’s Medical College hospital. Nothing alarming was found. Everything appeared normal. Sunny and I were happy. So was Dr. Saji when we went to him with the repeated test results and the reviewed biopsy report.

“I would like an open biopsy to be done”, Saji said.
“But why?” I blurted out. “Everything is normal. Isn’t open biopsy a major surgery?”
“Yes. But let us open and confirm that nothing is wrong, that the problem is a benign one, or something you had from birth. But I insist on an open biopsy”.

The implication of his words was not lost on us, but strangely enough, we were not shattered. The thought that Saji was the surgeon who is to do the open biopsy made all the difference. He explained the procedure to us, answered our numerous questions with infinite patience.

True, the Almighty chose to give us a heavy cross, but as Sunny prayed, gave us strength too, in the form of these two doctors and all our near and dear ones, and in the form of a deep faith in the power of the Divine physician to heal.


  1. Many people believe that lab tests and its reports are the ultimate thing in medicine.But if you read the fine print at the bottom you will see the warning'if clinically not correlating please repeat'. The hunch or the feeling that the expert clinician get seeing the patient and looking at the initial test results [which come from years of experience]is the most important thing.Good that your doc was firm enough to insist on a more invasive procedure.

  2. God Bless you---Dr Saji is my uncle, and I know that God sent him to you.

  3. Hi,

    My mother sufferes from severe sciatica and finds it difficult to walk. I want to get intouch with Dr.Saji Joseph. Can someone give me contact number of Dr?

    Thanks and FGOD Bless!
    Sapna S
    98454 77131

  4. Sapna,
    If you have not already found out.
    You could book an appointment with Dr. Saji at St. John's hospital by calling at 080-22065508

    Hoping our mum feels better soon..!

    Best Regards,