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
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
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!