The Surgical Friend

While there’s a certain sanctity in seeing patients at a hospital or a clinic, a doctor must learn to make exceptions for friends who reach out in good faith


“Hey Maaz (which is what my friends affectionately call me), got a minute?” A frizzy-haired school friend had called to ask about her mother. “Mom’s got this back pain going down the leg for the past few days,” she narrated, sprucing up the account with how her mother had had a small operation for a deviated nasal septum a few weeks ago and why her stomach was hurting as well. “It’s probably just sciatica,” I said, disregarding it while in the midst of something else.

A few days later, she called back saying that the pain in her mother’s leg was better but that the leg was slightly swollen. I promptly removed my ‘friend hat’ and put on the ‘doctor topi’. “Why don’t you bring her to the hospital, we’ll take a look,” I advised, switching from dismissive to cautious. She was there within the hour, holding by the arm her mom, who was walking with a limp. I gently lay her down on the examination bed and ran my hands on the back of both her calves. The left one was distinctly taut while the one on the right was soft and flabby, as it usually is for most septuagenarians. This was clearly deep vein thrombosis that I had initially brushed aside. I got a doppler to confirm the diagnosis and directed her to a physician who started her on the right medication.

Before leaving the hospital, they profusely thanked me with a big box of chocolates (which is what most people do when you don’t charge them) for treating them with such care, but as soon as they left, I sank into my chair. “This could be fatal, Maaz,” I said to myself. An untreated clot in the leg can easily travel to the lung and cause sudden death. But thanks to some borrowed grace I have accrued over the years from curing patients, she made a good recovery and came back a month later with another box of chocolates. ‘We are all more than the sum of our sins’ – I remembered Jeaniene Frost.

Is there a difference between treating a friend as opposed to a complete stranger? As much as the official answer should be an emphatic “No!” human beings have a few inherent biases. While advising someone dear, I’m either much too concerned or completely carefree. I wish to be like the Buddha and follow the middle path, but for now, the pendulum swings depending on who the person is, how often they call you, the environment in which the issue is discussed, and whether their problems fall into the spectrum of your specialty.

There are some friends who call me with numerous minor health issues, to which my standard reply is “It’s nothing,” and they echo, “I know it’s nothing but I still wanted to check with you.” There are times when you don’t want them to expend on countless investigations and want to offer them the quickest and least bothersome solution. But sometimes, albeit rarely, in trying to help someone, you may get hurt yourself.

Then there are friends (or rather acquaintances) one bumps into at a wedding or funeral who, when they see me, want to catch me up on their blues. It is not uncommon for me to be checking a neck for tenderness, a back for spasm, or tracking someone’s eyeballs to examine for giddiness amidst a social gathering. “Doesn’t this drive you nuts?” someone asked when a friend’s uncle dragged me to the washroom at a party to show me a testicular swelling. “Not at all; in fact, I enjoy it,” I replied. “Not the toilet part,” I clarified, “but the ability to make someone feel instantly at ease is a privilege.”

Of course, there is a certain sanctity in seeing patients at the clinic or hospital where they receive undivided time and attention, but we must be flexible to make allowances. After all, wouldn’t I unflinchingly discuss my next holiday plan with a professional globetrotter friend or a broken washing machine with my buddy, who’s an expert with appliances?

All through the pandemic and initial lockdowns, I was flooded with calls from friends on how to ‘manage the virus’. It’s not my area of expertise at all, but then, in hindsight, no one knew much about it anyway, so why not help someone out to the best of my abilities? My driver could probably impart the same advice, but my friends would rather hear it from me. My mother directs all her geriatric friends to me; they have problems I know nothing about, but simply talking to them about it alleviates half their pain and all of mine.

“Doesn’t it irk you that so many people are calling you and asking for advice without any consideration for what you might be doing or where you are?” I was asked recently when inundated with calls over dinner one evening. “If it weren’t for them, no one would call me; at least that way we can have a conversation. Who calls anyone nowadays?” I justified. And after the phone call, I usually shoot of a bunch of WhatsApp messages prescribing elixirs, because every phone call to a friend ends with their saying, “Just message the meds, na!” Thankfully, no one has died yet, even with autocorrect prescribing dangerous stuff on its own.

I have often been stopped by the traffic police for violations that I firmly believe I never committed. But every time I tell a cop that I’m a doctor, I’ve ended up prescribing medication instead of paying a fine. They invariably talk about what’s hurting and are happy to receive a roadside fix. Waiters in the restaurant across the hospital, ushers at NCPA, my regular chaiwala, fruitwala, and postman are now all friends whom I recognize from what’s distressing them rather than what they’re doling out. At the end of the day, all we are doing is walking each other home.

To all my buddies out there: Whether I’m able to solve your problems or not, whether I give you advice that helps a little or a lot, if you’re in a health quandary, call me, and we’ll do whatever it takes to fix it. In the words of Carole King, ‘You’ve got a friend in me’.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Mid-day on 6th February 2022

26 Comments on “The Surgical Friend
  • Anuradha says:

    Congratulations Mazda! A very good article. A doctor with oodles of compassion yet firm and honest to the core is a doctor we need when we are distressed.

  • Supriya Correa says:

    Many of your readers will squirm in their seats after reading this…!

    If you had a dime for everytime I called you…
    Cannot thank you enough:)

  • Laina Emmanuel says:

    The curse and boon of being a doctor! Also, that wedding story is priceless!!

  • Navzer Irani says:

    With your last comment…….you will have positive Karma always. That grace will heal your friends. Keep up the good work.

  • Leah Gwangwa says:

    Thank you Dr Mazda for another beautifully compassionate and funny piece! You’re a genius! Be thou blessed Mazda🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

  • Pinky Mistry says:

    Dangerous autocorrect! + You’ve got a friend in me, thank you for our weekly fix of guffaws.

  • Azmin says:

    Oh my dear dear Mazda,

    I’m sure most of your friends, like me, will squirm in their seats while reading every bit of honesty that drips from your article!

    I remember the covid call, the vaccination advice, you dropping by when my daughter was at the hospital, just to comfort me, phone call advice for a back ache or whatever it was!

    Let me tell you why some of us call you despite being aware that it is NOT your area of expertise —

    – who doesn’t want an excuse to talk to a friend?
    – speaking to you, besides medicine, is also free humour and guarantee of a happy day (why buy a ticket to go to ncpa when you can ‘phone a friend?’
    – on a serious note, it’s because you’re so warm, so kind and so compassionate, that the comfort you provide is unmatched!
    – you’re approachable
    – also, you’ve never told us before not to 😉

  • Rita singh says:

    Dear doctor ,you r a rare commodity in todays world.I know of doctors who will b really rude and disgusted if one happens to call them after their consultation hours.U have reserved ur place in people’s heart as well as up there.

  • Vipul shah says:

    Hi Maaz

    It is a a Lovely piece on friendship where In you are a winner sir …..

    In today’s time everyone come across a Rude & Money minded Doctors where as you are a Sweet exception …….

    This kind & caring nature of yours is very affectionate & same for friends to Fruitwalla….

    In fact it is reflected in today’s Jame a more or less on same line an Article on disappearing of Kind hearted GP……..

    You are unique & different & my prayers for you to be continued like a friend in need and friend indeed….

    God bless dear ‘ Maaz ‘

  • Marzban Patel says:

    Hey Dr. Brilliantly written – shows the man you are.
    God bless.

  • Bikram Dr. Shakya says:

    Thankfully, no one has died yet…🙀🙏🏻😀

  • Herois Kambata says:

    A good soul who cares for the world. Wish there were more like him

  • Anjali Patki says:

    Great going dr Mazda, so rightly you have pointed out. For the sake of doing the correct thing, tis so important to be professional. In this day and age where friendships, meetings, dating, celebrations, functions and so much more, are all on a virtual platform, you have emphasised the importance of personal yet professional touch especially in a doctor patient relationship. Excellent observations dr Mazda.

  • Aspi AIBARA .. says:

    In this day & Age …one finds very rare to have a Doctor like u ..
    Seriously..i am not flattering u ..Now a days Modern Doctors….just think of making money ..They have their own team .. recommended to patients..
    It was refreshing to read ur article..

  • Harisb Afzulpurkar says:

    We all used to do this unhesitatingly till the consumer courts laws came up and then it all became a forbidden sin to prescribe on WhatsApp

  • Burzin Panthaki says:

    A good soul who helps one and all
    In this day there are a handful such souls.
    Keep up the good work doc.
    You are adding good karma

  • Gladys T K Kokorwe says:

    Good writing indeed. So very interesting. But hey yours is an interesting job isn’t it. Unlike mine as a former Speaker of Parliament where I used to call old people to order or even send them out of the House. Fortunately now that I’m retired they still call me and tell me how they miss me. Such is life.
    Good job my Doc. You are number one. Right now I feel much better because of you. Check my status and see what’s happening there 😳

  • Chandan R. Sanjana says:

    You are such a kind, sweet compassionate person, a good listener and then a doctor! God bless you for who you are and we feel privileged to be able to pick up the phone and ask for your guidance. 🙏👍🏼

  • Anita says:

    This piece brought a lump to my throat. It would be privilege to have a doctor and friend like Dr. Mazda. The purity of thought “borrowed grace”, ” Walking each other home” Make me want to give Dr. a biiig hug. God bless you doc 🙏❣️🌹

  • Vijayakumar Kotteri says:

    Whenever I read you, I understand why humour is the best medicine, especially when a doctor is serving it, autocorrect notwithstanding. I used to know a doctor who scrupulously avoided asking one question at any social occasion: “How are you?” I still know one who, before she prescribes some chemicals, lends a three-letter panacea to every patient: ear. Thanks to your piece, there is now a whole new meaning to toilet humor. Looking forward to your next!

  • Gloria Msampha says:

    Beautiful article as usual. It’s really nice to have “friends” with benefits.

  • Neelam says:

    Very nice article as usual. Sparing time for your friends and relatives from your busy schedule must be difficult but it’s your kind nature that makes it possible

  • Gool Kotwal says:

    Your innate personality flows out of your pen .
    Keep the good work going.
    Bless you

  • Zee Pasta says:

    Ever aMAAZes me – our Doc-Friend Maaz

    Who listens to and obeys his inner awaaz

    Never a member of the callous rat race

    His fuel – blessings n “borrowed grace”

    O ’tis true ! he’s there for us 24/7

    To ease us — wrench us from pain hell to peace heaven

    Just pouring our woes out to him puts us at rest

    No small wonder – with patient ears size XXXL is he bless’d !!

    Even social occasions see him at our beck n call

    Checking a tender neck or tracking an errant eyeball

    Whether matters perpendicular rectangular or testicular

    For Doc Maaz, restoring you to ease is right n regular

    Bless you, sweet soul, ever seeking our mind n body’s serenity

    The euphonic echoes of your concern will reverberate throughout eternity

    Blessings from us all.. not forgetting the cop, chaiwalla, fruitwala

    We’ve got a friend in you – truly a jolly good fella !!!

    Dr Mazda 😃 Cant dole out enough gratitude.. For the wondrous human being you are Dr Mazda.. With a delicious sense of humor too.. Nudge nudge wink wink😉

    May your fine skills and expertise inspire upcoming doctors and surgeons, yes..

    But may your kindness and compassion inspire them to be great human beings FIRST..

    The rest will follow.. ..

  • Lois says:

    Beautifully presented as always. Do keep the good work. God’s blessings always 🙏🏽

  • Di says:

    How very helpful and sweet of u to patiently and endlessly give advice to everyone! Very kind of u to hear everyone out to make them feel better…. ur friends are sooo lucky to have u… a good soul like u is always helping others… God bless u! Abundance and blessings coming ur way for all the good karma u do


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