Kind­ness goes a long way

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

I’ve just worked an­other 30 hours at the Emer­gency Depart­ment over the week­end and it is time again for re­flec­tion. Time to re­flect on the pa­tients I’ve seen and how I have con­trib­uted to their well­be­ing. As doc­tors, we can get so fo­cused on treat­ing ill­ness that we for­get to think about well­ness. Our at­ti­tude and the way we treat peo­ple when both staff and pa­tients are un­der pres­sure can some­times leave a lit­tle to be de­sired. A tired doc­tor and a dif­fi­cult pa­tient can some­times be a recipe for dis­as­ter. Af­ter 30 years of see­ing pa­tients in all sorts of duress, pain, suf­fer­ing and de­spair, there are a few who stick in your mind. It is not nec­es­sar­ily their dis­ease, their frac­ture, or their com­plaint but how you in­ter­acted and how they be­haved as a fel­low hu­man be­ing. Last week­end, I walked into a room and saw a pa­tient in se­vere pain with a se­vere ill­ness. It would rate as one of the more se­vere con­di­tions I have seen in a while. She bright­ened up im­me­di­ately and said, ‘‘Oh it’s you, my hus­band will be so pleased.’’ Not my usual salu­ta­tion, I must ad­mit, so I was slightly taken aback. Surely it was a case of mis­taken iden­tity, as there are many bald men in scrubs in our depart­ment. She ad­dressed me by my name so that the­ory was dis­counted. My next thought was that they were avid read­ers of my Sun­day Star Times col­umn. I have two fans now, count­ing my mum.

The prob­lem was solved when she said that I was the doc­tor who had stitched up her hus­band five years ago. With­out bor­ing you with the gory de­tails, it was a nasty wound and there’d been a fair amount of anx­i­ety and trep­i­da­tion in­volved be­fore I went to work on him.

The fact that she was smil­ing and thought her hus­band would be pleased to see me in­di­cated that the pro­ce­dure went well. It is al­ways best to ask and, de­spite her own pain and suf­fer­ing, she re­as­sured me that his wound had healed nicely.

‘‘He will be pleased to hear I am see­ing you,’’ she said, ‘‘be­cause you were so kind to us five years ago.’’

Peo­ple re­mem­ber how you are more than what you do. It takes lit­tle ef­fort to be kind but kind­ness con­trib­utes greatly to peo­ple’s well­be­ing.

It’s a long bow to draw, but I won­der if wounds heal quicker, pains sub­side faster and rashes dis­ap­pear ear­lier if our medicines are aug­mented with a dose of kind­ness.

I did my best to take my pa­tient’s pain away with the pow­er­ful drugs at my dis­posal but what I will re­mem­ber most is her kind­ness and grat­i­tude to­wards me for try­ing to help her.

It costs noth­ing to be kind but gen­er­ates so much. Not all pa­tients we see at the ED are kind or lu­cid.

Many are home­less, hun­gry and an­gry.

One of the best cures for a ‘‘hangry’ ' pa­tient is to treat them with kind­ness and a feed. They calm down re­ally quickly, with­out the need for pow­er­ful seda­tives.

What­ever in­dus­try or role you are in, I sin­cerely be­lieve you can add to your own well­be­ing and oth­ers by be­ing kind. I’m sure it gives us a chem­i­cal buzz.

On that note, I am off to meet my friend Chris Far­relly, CEO of the Auck­land City Mis­sion, to see how I can help. I’m sure both the staff and the Mis­sion’s clients could use all of our kind­ness.


It costs noth­ing to be kind, and it has a huge im­pact on our well­be­ing and that of oth­ers.

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