S.W., the senior RMO sat on the edge of the bed, leaning forwards towards the small figure draped in crimson wools. “And how are you today?” The tone of her voice was not one of boisterous comradarie, nor of contempt. It was quiet and thoughtful and interested in the answer.
The white haired lady looked at her, a small smile gracing a face lined with the softness of age and the weariness of the wise. “Quite well…”.
She did not speak of the bilateral femoral fractures she suffered or the unstable bimalleolar fracture of her left leg. She simply said it was rather hard to “hop around”.
She did not speak of being widowed, nor her recently deceased son in law. She just spoke of the hope of going home “soon”.
S.W. smiled and spoke gently,”We all want to see you get better. We all love you and care about you. We are strangers. But that is the beauty of it, you know? We’re not your daughter or your sister but we can help take care of you until you’re well enough to go home. That’s what life is sometimes, strangers who can connect and love and take care of each other.”.
Her patient looks at her with brighter eyes, hands open, “The people here treat me well. They are lovely.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask us for anything,”
The two women pause to at each other, strangers yet familiars; both in a moment.
I stood, watching the exchange. I took in S.W’s subtle consideration and encouragement of her patient. Her situation was tragic, but there was beauty in the moment. It is difficult for me to capture or explain why exactly it was so profound. Even reading what I have written now, my words do not adequately meet the memory.
It was a more important lesson than what results were on the bloods tests or the need for an ECG to check for potential pulmonary embolism in a recent post-op cardiac patient with past history of deep vein thrombosis. It was a lesson in taking time to talk, to listen, to encourage and just spend moments being with patients as people, not cases. It reminded me the difference between a competent doctor and a competent and compassionate doctor.
If doctors were not called doctors, by what other name would they be know?