Once, a tall, lanky man visited my clinic with his large, round wife.
“Mishraji” I read out his name from his OPD paper. “How are you feeling today?”
Mishraji cast a nervous look at his wife and said, “not so good, doctor. Not so good at all.”
“What’s the problem?” I asked, but my doctor’s antenna was already going off. I gave him a quick appraisal. He was a middle aged man with more bones than flesh inside his skin and a frightful, agitated look about him.
“Look at him, doctor sahab, began the wife, “He doesn’t eat properly. He has lost so much weight. He hardly sleeps at night. Keeps tossing and turning all night and keeps me awake too.”
“Since how long?” I asked, looking directly at the patient. But before he opened his mouth, she beat him to it. “It’s been three months. He cant concentrate on anything. Sweats like a pig, he does. I don’t know what comes over him.”
I felt Mishraji’s palm. It sure was clammy. He was tachycardic too.
“Why aren’t you eating, Mishraji?” I asked.
“No.. er..I eat a lot, actually.”
No he doesnt. Why are you lying to the doctor?
Madam, would you let him talk?
At this, she kept quiet but continued to look dissatisfied. But alas, my standing up for Mishrajis right to speech turned out to be worthless as he simply sat there with his eyes lowered, fidgeting with his shirt.
“Hmm.” I thought to myself. Increased appetite, weight loss, diaphoresis, insomnia...was it me or did he have bulging eyes too? This seemed pretty straightforward to me. The man was probably hyperthyroid.
“Do your hands shake?” I asked, stretching out his hands in front of him to look for fine tremors.
Mishraji nodded guiltily. No demonstrable tremors and no obvious neck swelling, I noted.
“Do you occasionally feel your heart beating hard and fast inside your chest?” I asked.
“Yes. Occasionally.” Mishraji said, his hand reflexively touching his chest. He looked flabbergasted at me as if wondering how I knew that about him. I knew asking leading questions was wrong but I loved having that effect on people.
So it seemed Mishraji had paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, a common complication of hyperthyroidism.
“And do you feel hot even in cold weather?” I continued my triumphant spree.
“Sometimes, yes.” said Mishraji, loosening his collar. Even the wife was visibly impressed with me. I smiled my knowing doctor’s smile.
I concluded the rest of his examination, finished my notes and advised the requisite tests for hyperthyroidism. “Come back with the report. We’ll take it from there.” I said and they got up to leave.
But as soon as the wife exited the door, Mishraji came back and said in hushed tones. “Thank you doctor sahab, for not telling the missus.”
I looked at him confused.
“I don’t know how you do it. I’ve been hiding it from my wife for three months and you caught me within minutes!”
“Hiding what, Mishraji?” I asked, now positively alarmed.
“Why, that I’m in love, of course! She moved into the neighbour’s house three months ago. It was love at first sight. Ever since then, I can’t eat, sleep or do anything right. If only I had the courage to tell her...but something comes over me whenever I see her. I start sweating profusely, my hands start trembling, my heart feels like it’ll jump out. What do I do, doctor sahab? Do you have a pill thatll make me tell her everything?”
I stared at him dumbfounded. Love, not hyperthyroidism. Love! I simply took the OPD paper from Mishrajis hand, laughing inwardly at myself, pushed it into the dustbin and showed him the door saying, “Mishraji, I believe your wife is waiting for you.