Sunday, March 12, 2017

Does Your Heart “Murmur”...?

Humor in Uniform

“Quack” in Uniform
Hilarious Encounter with a “Fauji” Doctor
A Spoof


In the Defence Services  once you join a particular service  you remain in that service.

If you join the Army  you remain in the Army.

If you join the Navy  you remain in the Navy.

And  if you join the Air Force  you remain in the Air Force.

Yes  I have seen some grounded Air Force Flight Cadets  who are unable to fly aircraft – they are sometimes sent to the Navy or Army – especially ex-NDA types.

But  once you are commissioned as an officer  you cannot change the colour of your uniform.

The only exceptions are Military Doctors – officers of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) – who often change the colour of their uniform  like chameleons.

I have seen doctors being transferred from the Army to the Navy  and vice versa – and maybe it happens with Air Force Doctors too.

Strictly speaking  there are no “Air Force Doctors” or “Navy Doctors”  since all doctors belong to the Army Medical Corps (AMC).

Let me tell you a story about a landlubber “pongo” doctor in Olive Green (OG) who was suddenly transferred to the navy and found himself all at sea.

This happened long back  39 years ago  in the late 1970’s.

Our ship was not a capital ship  but a frigate.

However  she was a “top heavy” ship  since she was designated as “squadron ship”.

Sister ships of her class were commanded by a Commander  and had Lieutenant Commanders as Heads of Executive, Engineering, Electrical and Supply Departments  and young Lieutenants as specialist departmental officers.

However  our ship  being the “squadron ship” – had a senior Captain in command  a Commander (E) and Commander (L) [Squadron Engineer Officer (EO) and Squadron Electrical Officer (LO)]  and an extra Education Officer (Lieutenant Commander).

However  the second-in-command  the Executive Officer (XO)  was a Lieutenant Commander  and this caused some friction as EO and LO outranked him.

And  we had a young Medical Officer who was a Surgeon Lieutenant.

One day  the young Surgeon Lieutenant was transferred out to do a Post Graduate (PG) course  and for some time  there was no replacement.

A few days later  just as we were about to cast off to sea  a portly middle-aged gentleman arrived at the gangway.

The gentleman was in civilian clothes.

He proclaimed to the OOD that he was the new Medical Officer.

The OOD asked a sailor to take the gentleman to the Sick Bay.

Meanwhile – the OOD informed the XO – and  he also told the stewards to get the Medical Officer’s Cabin ship shape.

Later  when the ship was underway  the XO approached the Captain on the bridge and reported to the Captain: 

“Sir  the new Medical Officer has reported on board ship.”

“What...? The new Doc has come...? I did not see any appointment letter in the mail...” the Captain said.

“Sir  the new Doc has brought his appointment letter by hand – he has come from the Army...”


“Sir  he has been transferred to the Navy on promotion to Surgeon Commander rank.”

“Surgeon Commander...? The new Doc is a Surgeon Commander...?

“Sir  have a look at his date of commission – he must have been quite a senior Major  in the Army – I wonder why they moved him from the Army to the Navy...” the XO said.

The Captain looked at the papers  and he said: 

“Bloody hell – we have one more headache now – Commander (E)  Commander (L)  and now a bloody Doc who is a Commander. The ship is getting so top-heavy – we may just topple topsy-turvy...

“Yes Sir  as a Squadron Ship  we have too many passengers” on board our ship – all these Commanders  and a bloody Schoolie too...” the XO said.

“Where the hell is this new Doc...?” the Captain asked.

“Sir  he is violently sea-sick” – he is throwing up in the Sick Bay...” the XO said.

“Sea-Sick...? In this weather...? The sea is hardly rough...” the Captain remarked.

“Sir  he is a “Pongo” – maybe he is not used to it – I think it is his first time on a ship. Sir, shall I get him to your cabin when you go down...?” the XO asked.

“No. Not now. Let the new Doc find his bearings. I will see him later...” the Captain said. 


Dear Reader – since I have used the term “Pongo” to describe the Army Doctor – let me tell you why Armymen are called “Pongos” 

Yes – “Pongo” is Navy slang for an Army Soldier.

Why is an Armyman called a “Pongo”...?

Well  there are many apocryphal stories on the origins of the term “Pongo”.

Here is one such yarn that I heard long back from an old Sea Dog.

He told me that the term “Pongo” originated in the Royal Navy to denote an infantryman. 

As per a myth  the “Pongo” was a unique Ape (monkey without tail).

When this unique Ape called “Pongo” sensed danger or felt scared – the “Pongo” did not climb trees  like most Apes or Monkeys normally do.

In contrast – the “Pongo” would dig holes in the earth and hide himself in the ground  in the same way as infantrymen dug in and entrenched themselves in the ground – when they were under attack in battle.

Another similar yarn says that the term “Pongo” is derived from the archaic name for the Orangutan  yes  some say that a “Pongo” is a type of Orangutan – and – the “Pongo” had the habit of digging holes in the ground for no apparent reason  and then  filling the holes back. 

The Sailors probably observed Army Soldiers digging away  hence  the nickname “Pongo for Army Soldiers.

Sorry for the digression, Dear Reader – let me continue the story of a “Pongo Doctor.


Dear Reader – if you are wondering how this “Pongo” Doctor got posted to our ship – this is what had happened...

Let is call this “Pongo” Doctor as “M”

This Army Medical Officer – our “Pongo” Doctor “M”  in his previous appointment – was posted as in an administrative appointment in a Military Hospital. 

“M” was more of an administrator than a doctor (you will find many such examples in the military and civilian government of doctors who practice more administration and less medicine)

In the Military Hospital where he was posted  “M” was considered a pain in the arse  and his boss and his colleagues wanted him moved out of the hospital.

They repeatedly complained to the “powers-that-be” about “M” and requested that “M” be posted out of the hospital.

But  M’s reputation was so bad – that no other Hospital in the Army wanted him.

So  when the opportunity came  the “powers-that-be” transferred “M” to the Navy – yes – they dumped him in the Navy to get rid of him from the Army.

When “M” protested  they told him that there was no vacancy of Lt Col in the Army  and  if he wanted to get promoted  he had to go to the Navy.

So – “M”reluctantly came to the Navy.

Unfortunately  his reputation had preceded him in Navy medical circles too.

So  the Navy Medical Top Brass shunted “M” off to a ship  rather than suffer him in a Navy Hospital.

So – our ship’s new medical officer “M” was extremely unhappy on board the ship.

First  he had the harrowing experience of seasickness.

Secondly  he was very piqued at the way he was being treated on board ship despite his service seniority and rank.

“M” was peeved because the other two Commanders  Cdr “E” and Cdr “L”  had spacious upper-deck cabins. 

Even the two Lieutenant Commanders  the XO and the Supply Officer  and – the Navigating Officer (NO)  who was a mere Lieutenant  had better cabins than him.

On the other hand – despite being a Commander  “M” was consigned to a suffocating cabin in the Lieutenants’ Cabin Flat  which reeked of the nauseating smell of FFO (Furnace Fuel Oil).

His request for a change of cabin to one of the good cabins on the upper-decks was denied. 

The PMC stated that the upper-deck cabins were marked cabins reserved for respective appointments. 

“M” complained to the Captain.

The Captain candidly told “M” that normally a young Surgeon Lieutenant was posted on board this ship as Medical Officer (MO) – and so  a small cabin had been earmarked for the MO – and he could not change it – since the cabins for Department Heads were specified in the Ship’s Standing Orders

To add insult to the injury  the XO bluntly remarked that they would have been happier with a younger Medical Officer  but now – since “M” was posted on board  “M” would have to make do with the same facilities as the earlier Medical Officer.

M’s family had not joined him  since he had retained accommodation in previous station – so  “M” had to live on board ship 24/7  even when the ship was in harbour.

His request for a cabin in the luxurious Navy Command Officers Mess was turned down – since ship’s officers were required to live on board their respective ships.

“M” was also upset that no one gave him any importance on the ship  unlike in the Army  where a Medical Officer is treated with reverence in the unit.

“M” would vent his frustrations by smoking furiously throughout the day  and – drinking whisky sorrowfully in the evenings.

“M” particularly hated the XO  who  despite being a rank lower  tried to boss over “M” – because – technically  the Medical Officer was subordinate to the XO in the ship’s hierarchy. 

“M” was seething to take revenge for the injustice done to him.


Finally  after a long wait  “M” had his revenge.

It was December – time for the Annual Medical Examination (AME).

Earlier  this AME was quite an informal affair.

But “M”  who was a better administrator than doctor  decided to go by the book.

So “M” promulgated the AME roster giving dates for Annual Medical Examination (AME) department-wise.

On the promulgated day  the XO reported to “M” in the sickbay for his Annual Medical Examination.

“M” asked the XO to strip and lie down  and then “M” thoroughly examined the XO with a stethoscope.

“M” then filled up a few forms.

As the XO was buttoning up his uniform  “M” gave him the forms. 

Then  “M” said matter-of-factly to the XO: 

“You have got HEART MURMUR...”

Heart Murmur...?” the XO asked, bewildered.

“Yes. You will have to get admitted to hospital  you will have to get some tests done  and you will be required to undergo a detailed examination performed by the specialist...” said “M” to the perplexed XO.

“You want me to get admitted to hospital...? But – nothing is wrong with me – I am absolutely fit – I just won the Navy squash championship…” the XO protested anxiously.

“Why are you getting excited...? It looks like you have hypertension too...! I think I will have to refer you for a hypertension check-up too...” the doctor “M” said to the bewildered XO.

“Can you please check me again...? I am sure that nothing is wrong with me and I am absolutely fit. I do not want to get admitted to hospital. I am in promotion zone – my promotion board is scheduled in a few months. And – I am scared – if I get admitted to hospital  you never know what may happen once I get into the labyrinth of medical tests and referrals  those specialist doctors may lower my medical category – and – Low Medical Category may jeopardize my promotion...” the XO pleaded to “M”.

“M” was happy to see that XO was getting panicky. 

So  to drive home his point  “M”said triumphantly to the XO: 

“Of course  they will lower your medical category – heart murmur is a serious matter – you can even get a heart attack – your health is more important than your career – yes  for a heart condition – they will permanently lower your medical category – you will be in Low Medical Category – or – LMC – as we call it in the Army Medical Corps…”

The XO got so rattled and panic-stricken on hearing these words  and it seemed that the XO would have an actual heart attack  there and then.

On seeing the XO’s jittery condition  “M” asked the XO to lie down.

Then  “M” told the Medical Assistant to ask the OOD to summon an ambulance.

And – to prove that he was not being vindictive to the XO – his bête noir – and to display his sense of fairness – “M” examined the other two officers who had reported for Annual Medical Examination  and  “M” declared that the other two officers also had Heart Murmur.

And so – along with the XO  “M” referred these two officers also for hospitalization and further tests and examinations by the specialists. 

Then  “M” called up the OOD told him to get a big ambulance  since a total of 3 Officers had to be rushed to the hospital for Heart Murmur.

When the OOD informed the Captain that the XO and two officers were being sent to hospital  he was livid.

“We are under sailing orders. I cannot have my XO and two of my key officers in hospital...” the Captain told “M”.

But  “M” threw the book at the Captain – and  “M” asserted that the Captain could not interfere in medical matters. 

The Captain called up some higher-ups to protest  but – the Captain was firmly told that  in medical matters  the decision of the Medical Officer would prevail.

The Captain was advised to do as his Medical Officer recommended.

They told the Captain that – of course  if the Captain wanted  he could always speak directly to the specialist doctors in the hospital.

So  the XO and the two Lieutenants were on their way in an ambulance to the Naval Hospital to get checked up for Heart Murmur.

The XO had broken out into a sweat – panic-stricken and scared at his uncertain future.

He was terrified that his medical category might be lowered  and Low Medical Category (LMC) would put an end to his dreams of becoming an Admiral  which was his whole and sole aim in life  ever since he joined the National Defence Academy as a Naval Cadet.

The two Lieutenants seemed unconcerned.

The two carefree Lieutenants tried to cheer up the XO: 

“Sir, you don’t worry. This pongo bugger is a quack. Nothing is wrong with us. What is the harm in getting all the tests done free of cost...? We will have a nice time in hospital – we need some relaxation after all this hectic sailing. So – we will enjoy our R&R in the hospital. In the evenings  we will enjoy drinking and eating in the club. And – after a few days we will come back to the ship all refreshed and rejuvenated...”

In fact  the two Lieutenants were looking forward to some R&R in hospital.

But  their hopes were dashed.

While the ambulance was moving towards the hospital – at the same time  phones were ringing  and their Captain was desperately talking to the Medical Specialist  the Heart Specialist  and – the other Medical powers-that-be.

When the XO and two Lieutenants reached the hospital for admission  they were instead told to go first to the Medical Specialist.

The Medical Specialist was a classmate of “M” during MBBS.

He knew that although “M” had somehow managed to pass his medical exams  “M” he had absolutely zero acumen to be a good doctor.

The medical specialist had also heard about “M” on the AMC grapevine.

The specialist smiled to himself.

“M” was truly a “Doctor at Sea” – literally and figuratively.

Yes  the Medical Specialist said to himself  “M” was a “Quack” Doctor at Sea.

Well aware of the medical incompetence of “M”  the Medical Specialist was inclined to declare all the 3 officers medically fit even without examining them.

The Medical Specialist noticed that whereas the XO seemed anxious  the two Lieutenants looked unconcerned and carefree.

The specialist examined all three officers with his stethoscope.

“Nothing is wrong with you guys,” the medical specialist said, “take the day off – all of you can go home and relax – then – come and see me first thing tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock...”

Next morning  the Medical Specialist took an ECG  and then – he declared all three officers medically fit for duties. 

So – the XO and the two Lieutenants returned to the ship in time for sailing. 

Soon – everyone came to know that “M” has been allotted a “B” type house and he would be going on leave to collect his family from his previous station.

So – the officers on the ship waited till “M” went on leave – and then  they got their Annual Medical Examination (AME) done on other ships.

When “M” returned from leave  the ship’s officers made life hell for “M” 

So – “M” spent most of his time sulking in his cabin  while his Medical Assistant ran the show from the sickbay.

Mercifully  “M” was transferred out to the Station Health Organization (SHO)  where he could happily demonstrate his “medico-administrative skills supervising hygiene inspections and sanitation management in the cantonment.

The “Pongo Doctor “M” was replaced on board ship by a young Surgeon Lieutenant  who was an excellent doctor.

As they say: 

All’s well that ends well” 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh. 
2All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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