Small gestures

The first patient on my high risk clinic list arrives with her daughter. A cheerful elderly lady with an equally bubbly daughter. She has questions for me. The clinic is to assess patients who are at a high risk for surgery and to do the needful. I do not get a chance to ask her questions. She starts talking and I cannot get a word in. She doesn’t remember much after her previous major surgery. It was two weeks before she started recognising the family. She is worried it might happen again with her next procedure. I try to interrupt and answer the queries. It is a bit weird. I do not know whether they actually want answers or just want me to listen. It goes on for a little while. They talk, I try to to intervene and reply but I am not sure it is working. I still can’t get a word in edgeways. They are not irate. The lady is quite happy that she doesn’t remember this period although her children are quite traumatised by the fact that their mother couldn’t recognise them. Finally we get somewhere and I explain what I know about post operative cognitive dysfunction. A much known complication which we hardly warn patients about. 

The lady tells me that she can write books about her experience during this period. The auditory hallucinations seem all too real to her. She was in a different planet and seems to think that she met god who told her in no uncertain terms that if you are truly repentant about the wrongs you’ve committed in this life you will be forgiven. However if you are not sorry, there is no second chance. You are done for, she says with a swishing sound and hand action as if that’s the end of you. 

This piques my interest, but time is ticking on. I tell her that she has just opened a can of worms and I do not have the time to discuss this. What is actually right or wrong, acceptable and not, I ask. A right in someone’s eyes may be wrong in another. Isn’t it society that conditions you as a child as to what is right and wrong, and will it always be the correct decision. She is getting ready to leave. She smiles at me, thanks me and tells me that I am more than a doctor. She means it as a compliment and I take it as one. I wish her well. 

An encounter that I enjoyed and a simple gesture that brightened up my busy day. Simple gestures and words. That is all it takes to lighten up someone’s day and yet not many people make that effort. Recently I received a message from a cousin’s daughter telling me how much she looked up to my sister and me during her student days. She is the first in our immediate family to go on to achieve a doctorate in medicine and that too in paediatric cardiology. Similarly another cousin’s children tell me that they aspire to make me proud of them. They are both doing well and once again we are very proud of them. 

Words they didn’t have to say. Words that made a difference. Words that tell me that I have, without knowing, made a positive contribution in someone else’s life. Words they said because it mattered to them and as a result to me. 

The PM is on the radio explaining her Brexit deal. As the interviewer tries to close the session she asks her how she is dealing with the stress. She tells us about a nine year girl who sent her a cup cake with icing in the shape of the PM on top of it. The message which accompanied it said that the girl’s dad told her that Mrs May was having a tough week and she wanted to cheer her up. The PM is going through another tough challenge and month. With most of the cabinet members against her, and no end to the Brexit debacle, one can only sympathise with her. A predicament that we also had a part to play in. Is she doing her best or caving in to the EU bullies?, we hope and believe it is the former. Whatever it is, she is still human and these little gestures seem to give her the encouragement to keep fighting on and one cannot help but admire her attitude and resilience. To quote Barbara Bradford Taylor in the papers today, ‘she is a woman of substance’ and I totally agree with this sentiment. 

Good deeds increases one’s happiness quotient. If simple gestures can increase the happiness levels in the giver and the taker, then one cannot go wrong can they?  

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