An actress at the Oscars said: ‘I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession who celebrate what it means to live a life.’
Her words, uttered on receipt of her award, were fuelled by happiness and pride, I am sure; but she was wrong.
We know what it means to celebrate a life.
There was a teenage patient who had been awake and ventilated with us for a long time. He had a tracheostomy, but not a voice. It didn’t really matter in the beginning, because most of our conversation was based around me telling him he was safe, around reassurance. His eyes always seem wide, he was a rabbit in the headlights and his heart raced along at an uncomfortable pace.
Then he came through the initial phase of instability and he was better in many ways, but still dependent on a ventilator. These are the times I think that if I could go back to school and pick my foreign language all over again, I wouldn’t pick German; I would ask to be taught to lip read. It is the language of intensive care.
Every day I said good morning. I said goodnight before I left and I made conversation about what he was watching on his laptop that day, I made jokes and sometimes we laughed together; but I was plagued by the feeling that I didn’t know how to really connect, to make his day better.
Sometimes when there is a female patient, the nurses will bond by offering to paint their nails, or plait their hair.
We had a patient once who would work herself up, she would thrash around and shout in frustration. She was angry with the world that had done this to her and rightly so. At the end of one of these episodes, I watched her shout for one nurse, by name and ask her to paint her nails.
The nurse went and got the nail varnish she had brought in for that patient alone. It was from the outside world and it was special.
One morning during ward round a physiotherapist came and asked if I could make myself free during the afternoon. ‘We want to take him outside, but we’d need you to come.’
I set up the portable ventilator and packed my bag of what-ifs. We disconnected lead after lead and plugged him in portable screens. We took the brakes off the bed.
Two physios, a nurse and I; We pushed the bed down the long corridor out towards the main entrance. His mum walked alongside. It was raining, so I looked at him and said ‘it’s pretty cold and wet, are you sure you want to go outside?’
He nodded yes.
So we tucked the four blankets up under his chin and pushed on out through the doors on to the concrete. He blinked and his head dipped as his face entered the light. He looked up and the rain drizzled on to his face. His skin looked paler than I remembered it was, but his face had never looked so bright. We stood around the bed and chatted about benign things.
Then his mum looked at her son and said, ‘you see, the world is still here’, and it was the most joyous celebration I have been to this year.
By the Secret Doctor
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Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.
Amazing and very touching :-)
Oh my! Makes everything we do worthwhile! Thanks for sharing
Oh no, crying before the school run!
very touching thank you
To experience people's pain and then their elation first hand is an honour we all should cherish. Brilliant story
One of our grandchildren is a doctor. I love all of them equally but that she may give others the gift of life makes my life worth while too. I am so grateful to doctors and nurses and all who make life worth living.
beautiful.. in the spirit of the question(s) I suggest asking: 'what are your small pleasures' and 'what does comfort mean to you?'
It is very good that doctors care not only about the physical health of patients <a href="paperwriting-services.com/.../a> but also about the moral and psychological state.