A memorable patient

Biji T. Kurien, PhD
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma, OK

She was too quiet. Anyone would have thought she was dumb, but she did not care. As her doctor I did not either. I just wanted to help her. Her attractiveness did little to depreciate her poverty. She lived in a small house, dependent on others for survival.

As a patient, she was in good hands. I had good diagnosing abilities. For a crying baby I would have, without hesitation, prescribed milk or would have advised the parents to change diapers regularly. For others, I would have prescribed acetaminophen. I had mastered words like trichotillomania, hirsutism, rhinovirus, parvovirus, dermatitis, uveitis and arthritis. I had worked on frogs, calotes and cockroaches earlier in my life and was well versed in injecting and oral feeding of mice and rats, as well as dissecting them. Others might call me a quack, but I knew that as long as I did no harm it was okay.

Things became serious when she developed alopecia, became wrinkled, lethargic, anorexic, with a hunched up posture and her beauty all gone. Only recently she had been quite happy being friendly with my kids and me but having a mild aversion to my wife. I treated her with antibiotics to prevent minor cuts along some wrinkles from getting infected. Rather than refer her to a specialist, I sought the opinion of one. When he had nothing to offer there was no option but to painfully watch her just wither away.

Finally the end came, and she died in her sleep. She sat there hunched in her little house, all by herself. The wheel, which had been her favorite nighttime pastime over the last two years, stood silent, as it had done for the last few weeks. It will be hard to forget the the lovable hamster, named Ginger by my kids, who had driven the hamster wheel several kilometers into the early hours of the morning every night and who had once bit my wife for waking her up in the morning after a hard night’s work.

a peach colored hamster
Ginger in her healthier days

Biji T. Kurien, PhD, completed his studies in 1989 at the University of Madras, India. Currently, he works as Associate Professor of Research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City. His research interests include the study of free radical-mediated damage in experimental urolithiasis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjögren’s syndrome as well as the role of the nutraceutical curcumin in autoimmune diseases. His has numerous publications in national and international peer-reviewed journals and has also co-edited four volumes in the Methods in Molecular Biology series.