In the last 2 days, Kalighat has taken in two new patients in need of immediate medical care as one was involved in an accident that took most of his right hand off and the other patient had serious head trauma that occurred from falling off a roof. Since I hadn’t been “up close and personal” with a patient who suffered from what I’d consider to be a “horror film” kind of injury for awhile, I was curious if my response would be the same as the last time, that response being almost passing out, or if I’d developed a little bit more of a toughness since my last case. If my reaction while holding down the legs of the head trauma patient while the Sisters stitched his face back together was similar to how I responded to the patient with the hand injury, I would have been able to say I gained more of a toughness in dealing with these situations, but since it left me almost about to throw up, it reminded me that I still had a ways to go before this stuff was “business as usual.”
Maybe it’s for my own peace of mind, but I’ve also tried to use my experience with the head trauma patient as a reminder to myself that I still have a heart for the Kolkata people since the experience I had today where a homeless person yelled at me for not buying him and his daughter any food, made me think twice about this.
Every person in their own community is confronted with what I’d consider to be the “beggar's dilemma”...to help or not to help, and here in Kolkata, this dilemma seems to be on a much greater scale and it carries about 1,000 more tons of weight on your conscience. Does this child clinging to my shirt for a block have no mom or dad like she claims or is she just like the boy I encountered last week who initially approached me with a limp and tears in his eye only to leave shortly thereafter with a skip and a smile once he realized I wouldn’t give him anything. Did the guy asking me for money really need it for a train ticket to get back home like he said he did, or was he, like some of the beggars here, just looking for money to get the next fix. Should I stop and bandage the wound on this guy’s leg or will he, like others do, just take the dressing off once I leave, since the wound was self-inflicted and intended to tug at the pedestrian’s heart a little bit more as they walk by him. If I buy the lady holding her baby some food, will she in fact eat it, or like others, just sell the food back to the store once I walk around the corner. Should I help all, one, some, or none? Whose need is legit and whose need isn’t? Sadly, I’ve been quick to use the Sister’s advice of not helping the beggars as my conscience’s scapegoat, but when considering that I’m writing about this topic in my blog and questioning what side of the line I should be on with respect to the “beggar’s dilemma,” that should be enough to tell you how poor of a scapegoat the Sister’s advice has been for me.
On a more uplifting note, the Zag Ladies have advanced to the Elite 8 this year in basketball and are the highest seed in tournament history to advance this far. Not only would a Final Four birth for the Lady Zags be a great achievement for the ladies themselves and the university, but I think an achievement like that can only benefit the mens team as well, since it will motivate them to step their game up and get their own Final Four banner raised next to the ladies.
Go Lady Zags!