It was a very busy casualty duty. There was a stream of patients, abscesses, infected wounds, cuts and grazes, the usual melange of casualty attendance.
“What is your name?” I asked the woman who had a slash across the forearm. She was attacked by her friend(!) by a knife. The wound was muscle deep but she needed admission and suturing under anesthesia. “Saroja” came the answer. I duly admitted her in the female surgical ward and turned to the next patient…
Half an hour later I was having a well deserved cup of tea when the Senior nurse of the female surgical sailed in panting with agitation. “Doctor, did you admit this patient?” she demanded. Yes, she needs suturing under anesthesia and therefore….”Have you taken a proper look at the patient?” she demanded angrily. ‘Saroja’ was on the patient trolley behind her. I took one look and started. ‘Saroja’ wore a sari alright, but she was square jawed and sported a five ‘o’ clock shadow. In short, ‘Saroja’ was a man in a woman’s clothes!
The senior nurse told me the story…’Saroja’ was duly shifted to the female surgical from the casualty. She was accompanied by the junior nurse in the ward to help her to change into the hospital gown. The nurse gave a cry of horror when the patient stripped…She was…a male! She was put post haste back on to the trolley and turfed right back to the casualty.
Suddenly it struck me….This patient was a transgender. They are common in South Asia. They are actually men who believe that they are women and dress like one. They live in communities shunned by everyone and live by dancing at weddings and child births. They also indulge in begging. They are considered to be harbingers of good luck when they do their grotesque dance at weddings and child births. Their curses are considered very inauspicious. Till recently, their gender was not even recognized by the government and hence could not vote, could not own the precious “ration cards” that allowed them access to affordable grains and other stuff. In short, they were “non-persons”. Everybody ignored their existence.
I had no choice but to admit Saroja to the male surgical. “Please don’t put me in the male ward with all those horrible men, Doctor” Saroja wailed and simpered alternately. I called up Sister Eapen and explained the situation to her. She was surprisingly willing to take in Saroja. “Poor thing. She cannot help being a transgender, Doctor. Don’t worry, I will keep her in the side room of the ward” I could not fathom Sister Eapen. She was a dragon in many ways but when it came to the people considered to be the “scum” of the society, like junkies, transgenders and ex cons, she was….different.
Saroja had an uneventful stay. We cleaned up the gash on the forearm and sutured it under a short anesthesia. She had lost quite a bit of blood and needed a transfusion. She did well and we discharged her after two days. I forgot all about Saroja.
Three month’s later, I was managing a young girl who had fallen from a running train. She needed an exploratory laparotomy for a suspected spleen injury. we needed two bottles of blood. The problem was that her blood group was AB Rh-ve , a very rare group. The blood bank did not have any. The blood bank officer contacted all the known donors with this group, without success. It was the Diwali time and many of the donors had gone visiting to their villages. The girl’s relatives too were tested…no joy there either. I was at my wit’s end.
“Doctor Baba, you look worried” a deep voice said behind me. It was Saroja. She had come looking for me, clutching a box of Diwali sweets for me. I am afraid I was quite short with her. She persisted. I brusquely told her that we were looking for AB -ve blood. Saroja’s face lit up…”Doctor, do you remember that I was given blood during my admission? I looked into my discharge papers. I am AB -ve.” I couldn’t believe my ears.
She donated blood. We operated on the little girl. She did splendidly. We told the parents about the Good Samaritan who saved their daughter’s life. “Can we meet this person Doctor Baba?” asked the mother tearfully. ” She is waiting outside. Wait. I will bring her” Saroja followed me hesitantly. The parents were taken aback when they saw who the Good Samaritan was.
Saroja stood in front of the parents with her head hanging down. The mother of the girl recovered from her shock and did something unbelievable but beautiful. She tightly hugged Saroja who sobbed in her arms………