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Third place — High school essay contest: Shiv Shah

Paging Dr. God for treatment

By Shiv Shah

Shiv Shah

Diagnosis: Patient presents with active hemorrhage and hemoptysis.

Treatment: Patient has refused treatment on account of “God will save us.”

Diagnosis: Patient has a circular, third-degree burn with recurring sepsis.

Treatment: Patient has refused treatment on account of “God will save us.”

Diagnosis: Patient has necrotic appendages with infection running rampant.

Treatment: Patient has refused treatment on account of “God will save us.”

Having studied and prepared for this opportunity, I knew I would not let people down. In a small village outside Ahmedabad, India, I found myself fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at a free clinic as a medical assistant. With a limited number of physicians, I was entrusted to handle tasks to help poor, underserved patients receive medical assistance. I was excited to take on the challenges of the world.

On the first day, I was greeted with pin-drop silence in the waiting room. No one entered the clinic. I figured that the office clerk who sneezed every minute would be the only person I would treat. Then I walked outside and saw an older man with effaced ribs and blood drops adhering to his chin. I ran inside to the supply closet to retrieve an oxygen tank and mask. It was clear that he had tuberculosis and would not be able to survive long in his condition.

“Please sir, please put this on. It will help you breathe, I can . . . I will get you the doctor!” I exclaimed. He looked in my eyes and said, “God will save me. I don’t need a doctor. He will save me.” As I pleaded and begged for him to put on the mask, he simply muttered the dreadful words, “God will save me.” The next morning, a lifeless corpse was carried off the street while a bereaved woman and child slowly and drudgingly trailed it.

Many in India believe that only through the devotion to God do beauty, humanity and health grace their lives. But what I saw was not beauty. What I saw was not humanity. What I saw was the unbearable pain and suffering of human life.

Every day, health forces are stymied in their efforts throughout third-world nations, including India, by individuals who continue to believe that health derives from devotion to a god. They ignore much of Western medicine and quickly fall toward prayer. Only, they do not realize that they literally fall during prayer because bacterial and fungal lesions have set host in their lungs and are eroding away at their airway, blocking any chance of restoring respiration or circulation.

I witnessed countless victims proclaiming their love for God and spiting the aid of healthcare providers. However, I learned that where a physician’s practice of medicine is loved, so, too, is there a love for humanity. Finding safety and comfort in the loving arms of health care providers rather than God is where we truly find beauty, humanity and health in the world.

Shiv, 18, is from Phoenix and will be attending Arizona State University. “My family moved from Chicago to Arizona because, as my dad says, ‘You can’t shovel sunshine,’” Shiv writes. He plans to study neuroscience and eventually attend medical school. He enjoys reading classic books (Faulkner and Heller are favorites). He is a laboratory intern at a brain lab studying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).