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Dr. Varsha Joshi, MD, Internal Medicine

Ultimately, being a physician is, quite possibly, the most humbling of experiences.


Even after being objective and applying all of one’s skills, drawing from a vast pool of experience while relying on the collaboration of partners in the treatment of critically (as well as chronically) diseased patients, a physician is never adequately prepared to peer into the essence of the human condition to determine how such qualities as spirit, resilience, compassion, resolve, hope, and love are greater determinants in vanquishing and conquering seemingly-terminal illness than all the healthcare that is out there!


It was in the context of a close family friend that I first came across Vivek Sardana, almost 20 years ago. I came to know more about his medical history. When first diagnosed with a particular type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Ulcerative Colitis, Vivek was in his mid-20s, a perfectly healthy, normal, even athletic young man. After the diagnosis, he had to undergo a 2-stage surgery that involved removal of his entire colon and rectum. Vivek then recovered from the disease, and led a normal life for almost a couple of decades, until IBD’s resurgence – this time in the form of Crohn’s Disease – in 2009. There were additional complications, such as pouch-dysmotility, small bowel obstruction, and pelvic floor dysfunction, which were essentially being triggered by deterioration of the original organ repairs, ravaged as these were by the relentless march of time, wear and tear.


Over the next few years I witnessed, first-hand, his brave and valiant struggle to balance the deleterious effects of IBD, while continuing to juggle the various dimensions of his life including his family, career, and social life. It got increasingly difficult each day, as IBD very deliberately and emphatically continued to dominate his life and its symptoms began to demote everything else to the sidelines. As with many other patients affected by such debilitating diseases, Vivek resorted to a wide variety of alternative therapies including Eastern medicine and healing, such as Yoga, Ayurveda; yet these proved no match for treating, let alone curing, the painful symptoms of IBD in its various manifestations. At times I almost felt helpless, but soon realized that so powerful was the impact of this generally little-known syndrome, that it can require the most complex of surgical interventions by some of the best specialists, treating patients like Vivek, at some of the nation’s premier medical institutions.


Vivek finally decided to undergo a 3-stage surgery this time around, that would take place over a year-long period, essentially to repair and renew the original procedure. Needless to say, these were a very complicated series of procedures and not for the faint of heart! Vivek underwent these successfully and is now on the path to recovery, once more.


Not only for patients, but also for physicians, Vivek’s painstaking account of his decades-long journey provides immensely moving insights into the widespread impact of the treatment of serious disease syndromes. Patients of course, can relate to and even benefit from, the rich set of experiences outlined in detail in Vivek’s heartfelt account. And physicians get a much closer and candid view of the far-reaching effects of every interaction, diagnosis, intervention, and treatment on their patients – knowledge that often time they may either not be privy to, or is most often taken for granted. Those who are in neither category can find a story here that’s entertaining, witty, heartbreaking, warm, inspirational and deeply engrossing, all at once. Rarely have I come across a patient’s account of a battle with a chronic ailment, which was simply “unputdownable”!


Knowing Vivek over these past two decades has been both an honor and a privilege to me. I have learned first-hand about the carnage that can be wreaked by an instigator as innocuous as an overzealous immune system. I have learned how some of my colleagues in the medical profession can sometimes perform miracles by granting life back to their patients. And most of all, I have learned about the healing power of the greatest force on earth – love.

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