On this Doctor’s Day, I thought of writing about a doctor who influenced me deeply. A lot of faces came to my mind. But then I thought I should write about Kottayam’s most famous and loved Dr Mathew Parackal. Some are incidents I have heard, and some are things I have experienced firsthand.
Education and career
Parackal sir is one of the few Malayalees who managed to obtain a degree in modern medicine from the Madras Medical College in 1950. Back then MBBS had not even started in Kerala. After graduating from Bombay Grant Medical College with a degree in General Medicine in 1959, he returned to Kerala in 1963 to lead the first MBBS batch in Kottayam. Even today, he remembers that the first MBBS batch in Kottayam started its studies at the location where Kottayam District Hospital is situated today. He also initiated the first batch of MBBS students in Kozhikode besides Kottayam during his transfer to Kozhikode. Later, Parackal sir returned to Kottayam and played a vital role in the development of the present General Medicine Department of Kottayam Medical College.
Kesavan Sir, who was his student and later colleague, remembers that in those days when scanning or other investigations were not available like today, Parackal sir's accurate diagnosis purely on the basis of a patient’s description and clinical examination was nothing less than an art. Most of his students are acclaimed doctors nationally and internationally. Since all are aware of his clinical skills and diagnosis abilities, I am not getting into that. He retired in 1988. But he worked for a few years at Carithas and Kottayam HS Medical Centre.
An unforgettable experience
This was the time when he had retired from service and was working at private hospitals. In 1997, he suffered a massive heart attack and was rushed to the emergency department. The duty doctor was flustered to see Kottayam’s most popular doctor in that condition. After the initial tests and instructing the nurse to take his ECG, the duty doctor went to consult the then Kottayam cardiologists, George Jacob Sir, Mathew Pulikal Sir, and Manjooran Sir. The nurse panicked when she realised that there was no doctor in attendance to see the ECG report. A consulting surgeon was attending to another patient in the emergency ward. The nurse showed the ECG to the surgeon.
He checked the ECG and darted a “why me” look at the nurse. “Sir, this is Parackal sir’s report. Please check and tell me if there is any complication,” the nurse told him.
The surgeon who was a former student of Parackal sir rushed to him and asked him— “Sir do you see any complication in this report?”
Writhing in pain, Parackal sir scanned the ECG and said, “This is ST Elevation MI.”
The surgeon didn’t allow him to complete and quickly instructed the nurse— “Sister, sir has a heart attack. Quickly shift him to the ICU.”
Thankfully the cardiologists came on time and gave the required treatment. After that, he underwent bypass surgery in Madras. 25 years later when the doctors who were part of the surgical team attended the Malayala Manorama ‘Hridayapoorvam’ project, Parackal sir made it a point to visit them and exchange pleasantries.
An unforgettable day in his life
As mentioned earlier, he was transferred from Kottayam to Kozhikode and was working as an RMO at Kozhikode Medical College. There was a UK returned Neurologist working there. One day a patient suffering from extreme body pain was admitted to the emergency ward. The above-mentioned Neurologist was on duty. After examining the patient, he said though the patient should be admitted, his diagnosis wasn’t complete. He said the patient should be admitted to the ward. When the doctor and his colleagues were deep in thought, clueless regarding the diagnosis, an attender named Karuppan was preparing to shift the patient to the ward. “Sir, shouldn’t he be shifted to the tetanus ward,” he asked the duty doctor.
That’s when reality hit the UK-educated doctor-“Yes, it is tetanus.”
Most of the doctors of today's generation in India would have never seen tetanus. The same was the case with that doctor who had completed his higher education in the UK. Parackal sir who was the RMO, was also in charge of the paramedical staff. This experience that the neurologist shared with him is still vivid in his memory.
This platform might not be enough to narrate the things I have heard about him. It was my privilege to work with him for a few years as a colleague. To this day he will come to any event 5 minutes before time, driving his own car. How many of us will be able to do that? On this Doctor's Day, I asked him a question, "Sir, what significant difference did you feel in the field of emergency care in Kerala over the years? Especially when it comes to the treatment of patients?”
“Bibin, over time I have experienced a detachment in the doctor-patient bond. There might be several reasons for that. But one should remember that a doctor-patient bond is crucial for the effective outcome of a treatment.
Here’s wishing the heart and soul of Kottayam, Dr. Mathew Parackal sir, who is celebrating his 90th birthday on 27th September, all the best on this Doctors Day. Undoubtedly there isn’t a fitting role model for young doctors than this great doctor. Happy doctor's day to all doctors!
(The writer is the District President of IMA Kottayam)