Every morning, while my husband does an in depth study of the Economic Times newspaper, I am rushing to the hospital; and have just enough time to merely skim through the news. It takes very little to guess, that being the quintessential Indian I am; I conveniently choose to ignore the grim and boring news items of the main paper to relish the Bollywood gossip in Bombay Times, and of course, the daily horoscope!!!
India breathes Bollywood. This is probably the only country where we build temples for our film stars and stand for days on end, in the hot sun, just to get a glimpse of our beloved Amitabh Bachchan. We love to know each and every thing about our stars, and follow every aspect of their lives in great detail! In no other part of the world do film-stars enjoy so much adulation.
So, what happens when a Bollywood superstar’s mother gets admitted to the hospital for a surgery?
One word describes the whole experience – MAYHEM!!!
When Dr. Lakdawala informed us that we will be operating on this star mom for a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, we had no idea of the kind of challenges it would bring on. All the details had to be kept confidential; so the media didn’t get a whiff of it.
We began walking the tightrope right from the time she came in for admission at Saifee Hospital. The moment she entered, the whole hospital started buzzing with excitement; obviously expecting the film star to visit his mother sooner or later. Her time of admission coincided with the relentless ringing of Amit’s and my phone for the next two days; everyone wanting their share of inside information!
Usually, Amit and I have to run after our resident doctors (RMOs) to get work done. That day there was a queue of RMOs who wanted to be assigned to her. Till date, I have never wielded so much power on the RMOs! Finally, a junior surgery resident was chosen to manage the floor and look after her.
Next morning I walk in for my preoperative rounds and W…O…A…H…this usually slow moving guy is not only sporting an ear to ear grin; but also one of the most famous hairstyles of this film star, from one of his super-hit movies. I was amazed that this young resident could find the time and a saloon at 11:00 p.m., the night before, to go and get that famous haircut! I am sure if he demonstrated so much enterprise in his work every day, he could easily get an award for being the ‘best resident!’
Her surgery was uneventful and probably the most peaceful two hours we saw in the two days that she was admitted! Being a dutiful son, the film star wanted to be at his mother’s bedside at least on the day of surgery. What followed…was utter anarchy. Being a part of the coveted team, we were privy to the suite room where she was admitted. Right from the ward boys to the resident doctors, to consultants and the senior administrators; everyone in the hospital started hounding us with requests to meet and click a photograph with him!
As surgeons, we are trained to handle pressure…but this…was an entirely different ball game! Performing a difficult surgery is probably far easier than the daunting task of having to deny requests for autographs and photographs; which almost bordered on blackmail! The biggest risk was denying an anesthetist; knowing that life in the operation room will be difficult henceforth! LOL!
The celebrity surgery sprung up quite a few surprises too! One was the request from a 7 year old kid in the ICU, admitted for bulbar palsy, secondary to Guillain-Barre syndrome. This kid was paralyzed from neck downwards, and the moment he heard that the superstar is in the hospital; the kid yearned to meet him. The instant I came to know of it, I conveyed it to Dr. Lakdawala; and he turned the child’s wish into reality. At the end of the day, I was really glad that amidst all that hungama, at least we brought a smile on the face of a very sick child.
Though we tried to deny most of the requests to meet the superstar, a very large number of people still managed to find their way through. It was heartening to see him rise above his own stress about his mother; and oblige these people with grace and a lot of patience.
On the second day things got really out of control. Our phones never stopped ringing and the requests became unmanageable. Boss obviously had no way out, but Amit and I decided to quietly slip out of the hospital. We finally breathed a sigh of relief after returning to the calm atmosphere of CODS!
The road to stardom is a difficult one. And what we witnessed in those two days goes beyond movie stardom and celebrity status. It is unfortunate that in our culture, stardom is a commodity. And we take it so seriously, that we forget film stars have a life beyond films, just as we do! I wish people would be a little more accommodating for film stars, at least when they are going through taxing times; by just being human!
Written by Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker, Consultant Surgeon – CODS
Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgeon
Centre for Obesity & Digestive Surgery, Mumbai, India
Saifee Hospital, Mumbai, India
First International Center for Excellence for Bariatric Surgery in India