My brush with Writer's Cramp

Have you ever heard of the disease writer’s cramp? Let me just tell you at the onset that it has got nothing to do with writer’s block! So tell me do you know what it is? My educated guess would be that most of you wouldn’t have ever heard of the disease. Infact you would have had to actually Google it to learn more for the simple reason that it is very rare. But I have had first “hand” experience of the disease. “Hand” I say, for it affected my right hand and that too only while I took the pen in my hand to write. Hence, writer’s cramp you see!

I was in school, about to give my board exams when suddenly my right hand decided to give me a tough time. I’m sure everyone would be aware of the stress and the turmoil a student goes through in such times. If there is ever a wrong time to get sick during school life, believe me it is just before the board exams. At a time when I really needed my right hand, the hand that I wrote with, to function properly; it managed to screw me big time. It was further strange for I could do everything with my right hand except write. Yes, the only thing I actually needed to do! Whatever I managed to scribble looked to be in an unintelligible ancient script which even experts wouldn’t have been able to decipher, let alone my unsuspecting teachers! 

My right hand would grow stiff the moment I would hold a pen between my fingers. It was impossible for me to write. Cramp, spasm, whatever you call it but my hand blatantly refused to write! It was as if my finger had sworn to not let my pen touch the paper ever. Every alphabet I wrote involved an effort equivalent to moving a heaving load. But inspite of that the words that formed on the paper were anything but intelligible. It was not only painful but it was just simply impossible for me to write. Infact, I had reached a point when writing in capital letters was the only possible solution to ensure a certain degree of clarity in what I had written.

Before: My Handwriting while I was suffering from writer's cramp. It took me almost 15 to 20 minutes to write this much. 
It was scary for I had to be able to write if I ever wanted to get anywhere in life. I couldn’t pass my exams if I couldn’t write. And if that happened, I feared I would have to end up as the wife of some man cooking for him and running after his kids for the rest of his life. My life would end then and there. That couldn’t happen for I wanted more from my life.

It was evident that I needed to get this sorted. A few of the doctors I had shown initially in my hometown of Shillong failed to recognise the disease. Infact, they shrugged off my problem as a non-issue. Well I don’t really blame them for it was a small hill station town and the medial facilities, though not bad, weren’t as advanced as probably in the cities. It was then that my father decided to take me to the nearest speciality hospital which was in Guwahati. It was there that I met a doctor who knew instantly what the disease was and there began my slow but certain journey towards recovery.

Dr. Radhika Das was working in Guwahati Institute of Neurological Sciences and it was there that I first met him. He was a renowned doctor in that part of the world. An astute doctor, he was extremely well versed and updated in his speciality. He had attended several conferences around the world on medicine and though he could have very well settled in some foreign country earning dollars, he stayed back using his expertise to help people of his home town. He implemented what he learnt during his deliberations with doctors from the other parts of the world to help us. I was lucky that he was there to treat me too.

It was from him that I learnt about the disease I had. I could give a name to my problem. It was writer’s cramp (also called mogigraphia or scrivener's palsy)! But he gradually began to treat me and to his aid came the advances in the medical field. It was a challenge to treat it as the cause of the disease was still not clearly known. But he took it up anyways and even used it as his case study in several conferences around the world. He documented my writing during the course of the treatment. He sent the copies across to his friends in the US and UK and sought opinion from them too. He did that to ensure that he was on the right track and also for the simple reason that advances in medicine always tend to arrive first in that part of the world. So if there was anything to know of the way he could treat my disease he would get to know that right away. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he was always on top of the case. And yes another important thing to note here is that he didn’t subject me to unnecessary tests like some doctors these days do.

I began slowly and with time my writing improved. He even encouraged me to start writing with my left hand and use it till the problem in my right hand was cured. I did that too. I did exactly as he said and true to his words he cured me with his treatment. I continued taking the medicine for three years and today I am totally cured. Ofcourse, I don’t write so often with pen these days but still he cured me and that he did with the help of the knowledge he had about the advances in medical science. Yes, it was due to the advances in medicine and a doctor who used them judiciously that I was able to overcome the sudden set back in my academic life inflicted by this odd disease.

After: My handwriting today and I wrote this in less than a minute!
There is another point that I would like to make here. My father, being my father, wanted to make sure that the treatment in Guwahati was not wrong. I can ofcourse understand his ambivalence and perhaps it was justified too. So he took me to reputed hospitals in the south too and was satisfied only when he learnt that the course of treatment that was taken up in the north eastern corner of the country conformed to some of the best there evidently was. Nevertheless he still has preserved all the copies of my handwriting from those days ( the photo of one such page is attached above ) and the reports too, just in case I need them in future or just as my medical history.

What would have happened if I had this disease in an alternative timeline where medical advances were at its nadir? Well that would have been a scary proposition considering that writing exams using laptops was not really allowed in my school! So the point that I am trying to make here is that modern healthcare helps us in more ways than one and sometimes in unusual situations too.

I agree that healthcare in India is in a deplorable condition in the public sector; it is actually quite the opposite when it comes to the private sector. However in the private sector with the increase in the number of money mongers in the guise of doctors, it is anything but a comforting ride. Ofcourse, to add to that the highly advanced services of the private sector are only available to about 25% of the Indian population. But if I were to see something positive in this, I would say that judging by how lackadaisical the approach of the authorities has been in providing health care facilities to every individual of the country; even 25% is a miracle figure to have!

Well, that was my story; my positive brush with the field of medicine and how the advances in it helped to cure me of a disease that only a few people had heard about in my part of the world. I know we still have a long way to go. But then a few steps in the right direction are always better than none!

This post is an entry for Indiblogger's How does modern health care touch lives? Contest in association with Apollo Hospitals.

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