On human kindness, sickness and the NHS

It’s easy to feel cynical about the world, especially at the moment; but this week I am amazed at the acts of human kindness in this world.

One of my in-laws suffered a stroke or rather a sub-arachnoidal hemorrhage late Monday afternoon on his way home from a weekend visit with us, his family, in a car park. He is still in intensive care and still unconscious. He is old, as every medic knows, diagnosis/prognosis in these cases aren’t so easy – balancing human equilibrium is not always straightforward.

The Intensive Care Unit ain’t a pretty place, it’s a place where there is unrelenting pain and sickness. And though many of us want to die in a manner more similar to Rupert Brooke’s view of death the reality can be very very different, as Wilfred Owen, the poetical antithesis of Brooke who wrote about death, unflinchingly in all its sorrows; knew all too well.

But then there are these amazing people who work for the NHS. Who have the extraordinary gift of human kindness, extraordinary because they seem to have a super-abundance of it. They have waived the ‘visiting hours’ for us, because he is so ill and is probably their most critical patient. The nurses make us cups of tea and toast and ask every hour or so if we need anything. They field phone calls, they LISTEN, these lovely care workers listen to what ever the loved ones need to say, regardless of how banal or irrelevant. They bathe and talk to the patients gently, oh so gently, even when they are evidently asleep. They come and find us in the hospital just to tell us to not be afraid. They show us brain scans, chest X-rays, blood numbers, cat scans, MRIs, they find the doctors and techs that took them to come and have a chat. They are never snappy or sharp as I am sure I would be.

I have no conclusion, nor anything particularly poignant to say, but I wanted to just take a moment and express my gratitude toward those caring NHS workers who sometimes may be forgotten.

About Sylvia McLain

Girl, Interrupting aka Dr. Sylvia McLain used to be an academic, but now is trying to figure out what's next. She is also a proto-science writer, armchair philosopher, amateur plumber and wanna-be film-critic. You can follow her on Twitter @DrSylviaMcLain and Instagram @sylviaellenmclain
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6 Responses to On human kindness, sickness and the NHS

  1. akkie bardoel says:

    Dear Sylvia, Thank you for these very touching thoughts. I know that of which you speak. There is a lot of love and kindness out there. I am glad to read a small celebration of it this morning.

  2. Steve Caplan says:

    I’m assuming that NHS is National Health Service? In any case, since I unfortunately needed to follow a close friend through terminal stages of care two years ago–from ICU onward, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the highly professional and compassionate people who do this day in and day out.

    Wishing you a smooth and rapid recovery for your in-law.

  3. Sorry to hear this, Sylvia, and glad to hear the ICU folk are doing well by you and your in-law. My Other Half used to worked on the ICU and nearly became an ICU specialist -“balancing human equilibrium” is a good way to characterise what they (and the other acute medics) do. ICUs tend to have some of the very best people, but the ICUs can be very disorienting places, and I’m glad the staff have done so well with the care of you guys (i.e. the patient’s family) too.

    Anyway, hope your in-law is holding their own. As our parents and parents-in-law get into their 70s and beyond – which I’m guessing applies to a fair few OT bloggers – we all live with a bit of a lurking fear of this stuff. So we’ll be thinking of you.

  4. thanks all – very nice comments, unfortunately my inlaw died on Monday night, however it was pretty peaceful as these things go – so we were happy about that – and yes the staff continued to be wonderful – in fact I think we are setting up the donations in lieu of flowers to go to the hospital

    NHS is National Health Service in the UK

  5. rpg says:

    Sorry to hear that, Sylvia. Condolences to you and yours.

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