DR A.G. Phadke


My next experience relates to the late Shri Vasantdada Patil who was at that time Governor of Rajasthan. Mr Patil had been a severe diabetic for a fairly long period. However, when he was in active politics, he had very little time to pay heed to his health. But with advancing age, his diabetes started worsening and became very bothersome to him so much so that at one point, when he was in Jaipur, he came down with a severe kidney failure secondary to diabetic nephropathy (adverse effect on kidney function due to severe diabetes). He was rushed to Bombay in a precarious condition by a special plane loaned to him by the Prime Minister, the late Mr Rajiv Gandhi. From the airport, he was rushed to the Bombay Hospital where he was made to undergo an emergency dialysis to flush out the accumulated poisonous waste products from his system. There were very tense moments when every member of the team of doctors attending on him felt Dada would not make it. But he must have surely been made of a very tough fibre for, despite the serious setback to his health, he made a remarkable and fairly early recovery.

After a few days, having recovered substantially, he started feeling uneasy and expressed his unhappiness at the long stay in the hospital. He was otherwise a very cooperative patient and never objected to any treatment that his doctors recommended. I was a little puzzled. My patient had just come out unscathed from a very serious ailment. Instead of resting a bit, why was he showing undue haste in obtaining a discharge, I wondered. On my subsequent visit I asked him his reason. He replied: "Dr Phadke, I was in a pretty bad shape when I was brought here from Jaipur. But now that I am better, it is best that I be out of the hospital. I promise you I shall not return to Jaipur but stay back in the city itself. But a longer stay in the hospital will be misconstrued in political circles”.

Just then came the news that the Prime Minister was coming to Bombay to pay a courtesy call on Mr Patil. This news created a lot of excitement amongst the friends and followers of Mr Patil. There was a flurry of activity and everybody was eager to be present when the Prime Minister came to visit their leader. Extensive safety and security precautions were taken and anticipating a fairly large entourage of political leaders accompanying the Prime Minister, the hospital had done its best to try and regulate visitors' traffic to Mr Patil's floor. Mr Patil himself eagerly awaited the Prime Minister's arrival but all the same, he looked very grim and pensive. When I entered his room to check him up, he asked all his family members except his daughter-in-law, to leave the room and when everyone had left, he asked his son's wife to close the door and after making fairly certain that we were just the three of us in the room he told me: "Dr Phadke, I am very happy that the Prime Minister is coming to see me. I am certainly in a position to receive him. But I'm not certain what some political figures who are not quite fond of me, might have told him about my health. He may have been given the wrong impression that. I am a very sick man and that so far as active politics is concerned, I am a spent force. So I am very keen that when the Prime minister comes and makes inquiries about my health, I do not want anybody to talk about it except you. Of course, I leave it to your judgment to tell the P.M. exactly what you feel about my health”.

I was overwhelmed. Mr Patil had put such implicit faith in me and moreover he wanted me to give only a correct appraisal of his health to the P.M. and nothing more. All politicians are not scheming and manipulative, certainly not our Dada.

The Prime Minister arrived as planned and when he visited Dada in his room, the place was full of political leaders not only from Maharashtra but from all over India. In fact, there was a huge crowd trying to gate crash into his room and the security was on tenterhooks trying to keep it out. The P.M. was satisfied with the explanation I gave him regarding Mr Patil's health and after a brief chat with Dada, the amiable P.M. left. After his departure, Dada again seemed relieved and a happy man.

What I want to emphasize here is that despite Mr Patil's undoubted political clout and celebrity status, not once did he meddle in the medical proceedings. He was only worried about the political repercussions that would inevitably follow due to his prolonged stay in the hospital.

He was human, too!

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar