'The child is deformed'.
That’s the first thought that crossed my mind when I first saw him. The mouth hanging open, rotund belly, protuberant saucer like eyes, muddy complexion, disproportionately thin limbs and a very questionable hygiene. He wore a blue sweater stained with the contents of his breakfast. I surveyed him as I walked towards him to monitor his vitals before the morning clinical rounds. His case file said he was ten years old; it was hard to judge from his appearance.
My approach scared him. He perceived the stethoscope hanging around my neck with apprehension often seen in young children but not usually a ten year old. He put his thin arms around the old man’s neck who was sitting on his bed. His grandfather, I presumed. I gently pried him away from around his grandfather’s neck and put the cuff around his thin arm to monitor his blood pressure. I tried not to look at his face with the saliva drooping from the corners of his mouth and remnants of his breakfast still stuck on his face. Something wet hit my hand. I inwardly cringed as I rubbed away a drop of saliva that fell onto my hand from his mouth. I hurriedly examined him and went out of the room.
'I love children', I reminded myself. 'All children deserve unbiased loving'. But even during evening duties, relatively less hectic and allowing me the leisure to chat and play with the children admitted in the ward, I never could bring myself to approach his bed, caress his cheek and ask him how his day went. I avoided looking at his bed, at him, at his grandparents who looked defeated by everything in the world. I didn’t despise him, but I couldn’t feel the love and care that gets naturally evoked towards all children.
The day after Christmas I had night duty at the ward. At one-thirty AM I lied down to rest on the creaky bed in the room assigned for interns. Hardly ten minutes later I heard loud cries of a woman coming from a distance. I presumed it was from the adjacent female medicine ward. But just to be certain, I opened the door of my room.