I first came to know of Sardar Fauza Singh in June of 2004 while I had just begun my job in the National Health Services as consultant in Leicester, England in 2004, while watching a BBC programme. I wrote the following piece then to share with my friends. I thought to share it with the web community now.
WHAT IS COMMON BETWEEN MR GEORGE CHAMBERS AND SARDAR FAUZA SINGH
What is common between Mr George Chambers and Sardar Fauza Singh, well, both are nonagenarians.
As you are probably aware, I have been appointed as Consultant in Adult Psychiatry at the NHS. That effectively means that I should normally be seeing people between the ages of 16-65 years, though, sometimes I may continue to see a patient beyond 65 too if he/she were receiving care from our services earlier also, and the reasons of consultations have not changed. I have enjoyed looking after elderly people at AIIMS, New Delhi. They have many interesting stories to tell and enrich you with their vast experiences. And they come with less complicated personal problems. Looking after them would have been ideal here, as adult psychiatry at general hospital setting is much different here as compared to India. You are saddled with so much personality disorder patients, and you keep on struggling with their unchanging life styles, and recurrent problems at all the fronts, personal, social, relationships, and repeated suicidal attempts and drug and alcohol problems. And if it is anti-social personality, then it is icing on the cake. Most of the times they are unemployed, but are well looked after by the government-provided monetary benefits.
A few days ago, I was on emergency call duty. I was assured by my other colleagues and friends that there was nothing to worry about this since as a consultant, one hardly gets a call to see the patients in emergency. Mostly, junior doctors are able to handle it, or may take your advice on the phone. Well, true to Murphy’s law, call came in the afternoon from the Surgery ward of this hospital asking me to see a 92-year old patient who was threatening to commit suicide. I wondered why this call came to me, should have gone to the Old-age Psychiatric Unit. I did not know where to protest, so I went. I went to the surgical ward, and found Mr Chambers sitting on a chair chatting with his friend. He appeared to be not more than 70-75, had full growth of white hair, erect spine, and shook hands with a firm grip, and greeted me with a smile and clear loud voice. He had survived surgeries for prostate cancer, colon cancer and a few others. Lately he had had a few fainting episodes which resulted into his current admission, and that was worrying him. Surgery team had not taken this into account while drafting after-discharge care plan. He had lost his wife a few years ago, and was leaving alone in his bungalow with part-time support from the social worker. His concern was that if he fainted at home, and no medical help was available on time, he would die unattended. It was a reasonable concern. So when surgery team asked him casually in the morning if he was looking forward to going home, he replied he would shoot himself after reaching home. Then the surgery team decided to send for a psychiatrist. I found him a very reasonable person, full in command and well articulate. I assured him that I would recommend his case for him to shift to an old age home with all the facilities. When I was about to leave, he asked me if I was from India, and on my affirmative reply, he told me that he spent 4 years in India during the WW II. I had stood up to leave, but I sat down again. And he narrated some of his experiences while living in Lutyen’s Delhi. His memory was sharp, and he could remember the ‘Viceroy’s Palace, Queens way and Kings way, Jahanpanabad, Tughalak Fort, ChandniChowk, Delhi summer with mosquitoes and malaria, and of course delicious mangoes. His journeyes to Shimla, Dehradun, Massourie, etc etc. Lastly he said that the biggest mistake British did was to segregate India into two. I had come to see him quite reluctantly, but I left very satisfied.
Sardar Fauza Singh is a 93-year old gentleman living in England for last 50 years. He too served in Royal Army. I saw him only on the BBC, being interviewed before his participation in the London marathon. Participating in marathons is his way of life. Has gone all over the world for such meets. His bone scanning was done some time earlier, the age of his right leg came to be 35 years, and that of left 50 years.