Society

The operation theatre just got bigger

SELF-EFFACING: Dr. Nancy Ann Cynthia Francis, Senior Consultant Anaesthesiologist, MMHRC. Photo: S. James   | Photo Credit: S_James

It was with great reluctance that Dr. Nancy Ann Cynthia Francis took to the dance floor during her daughter's wedding nearly a month ago. Little did this shy and reticent Senior Consultant at the Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre, Madurai, know that she was soon going to be in the public gaze.

On July 4, the Government issued an order nominating her as a member of the Legislative Assembly to represent the Anglo-Indian community – making her the first such representative from the Temple Town. Until now, the life of Dr. Nancy, 56, has been as busy at that of any other anaesthetist who is also a wife and a mother. But ever since her nomination, there has been a queue of people waiting to meet her. Her mobile does not cease to ring. Her inbox is flooded with congratulatory messages, and bouquets and greeting cards have filled up her office as well as home.

“Whatever I do, it is my desire to just help make things better. But yes, I do realise that I have to re-programme myself and allot more time to others and keep less for myself,” she says. Even though as president of the All India Anglo-Indian Association (AIAIA), Madurai Branch, Dr. Nancy had forwarded her application to the president-in-chief of AIAIA in New Delhi for the nomination, she had forgotten all about it.

“I was leaving my office when the first call came from a journalist. I wasn't sure whether to believe it because I had not received any official intimation. By the time I reached home, there were a few more calls from colleagues and doctors in the hospital. Then I thought of my parents: how they would have felt.”

Reality finally sunk in last Monday when she met Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who wished her all success. “I am grateful to God for all the important moments in my life,” says Dr Nancy, even as visitors keep pouring in. A group of young students from a local Anglo-Indian School have come to greet her. They squeeze into her office to sing a song. Dr Nancy is visibly moved, even more so when the hospital's polio-affected liftman comes and touches her feet. “I have known him for the past two decades,” she says.

As she greets more visitors with folded hands, she apologises for the interruptions. The instant celebrity is making her uncomfortable. “It's amazing how people are connecting. My old school teachers called me. I have rediscovered some of my old classmates. It really feels good to know that you have so many friends and well-wishers. I was a very naughty student. But for someone who finished school back in 1970, nothing can be more emotional than to be remembered by your 80 years-plus teachers,” says the alumnus of Sacred Heart Convent in Villupuram. Born in a middle-class family in Alappuzha in Kerala as the youngest of six children, Dr Nancy can never forget her father's sacrifice: “By the time I finished schooling, my father had already retired from his bank job. I wanted to become a doctor because I always saw my mother suffer from asthma. My father took up two post-retirement jobs to fund my studies. We grew up with a lot of financial restrictions and that is what has made me a disciplinarian.”

In her new avatar as an MLA, she would want to focus on deprived children and their higher education; and also for the aged who need care. “These two sections of population are like pre-term babies who need to be attended to,” says Dr. Nancy, who as member of the local Anglo-Indian chapter for the past 19 years and its president for three years now, is not new to community-oriented services and social work. Last October, on the birth centenary of her father Vincent Anthony Noranho, she announced a scholarship in his memory for the best outgoing Class XII student in the city.

Like the behind-the-scenes anaesthetist who plays a central role inside the operation theatre, Dr. Nancy feels her role as an MLA too would be to silently work towards fulfilling peoples' aspirations. “I want to do the maximum expected of me in the most appropriate way,” she says.

Colleagues and acquaintances who know her for two decades now describe Dr. Nancy as a “no-nonsense woman.” Her stern exterior may be intimidating to many; “but I have a soft interior too,” she laughs. “If something irritates me and I blow my top, I forget it faster than it came.”

God, she says, “has given me what he thought was appropriate for me” and among his gifts she includes the MBBS seat in Thanjavur Medical College; the MD (anaesthesia) seat in JIPMER, Pondicherry; her marriage; coming to Madurai, the birth of her daughters; and the opportunity to serve her community.

“Life is all about how you look at it and what your priorities are. It is all about your mindset and attitude,” says Dr. Nancy, who as an anaesthetist assessed, managed and treated patients in the gynaecology department over the years. Now, she is starting a new innings, though on a different wicket.

“You are your work. I have never been afraid of storms, I have learnt to sail my ship,” smiles the doctor-turned-MLA.


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 9:56:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-operation-theatre-just-got-bigger/article2226849.ece

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