today my husband and I spent (or wasted?) a day of our lives at the ER and some other hospital departments in Ljubljana. He’s had quite bad luck lately and it seems it’s “one damn thing after another” and neither him, nor his Drs are certain of what the cause and what the symptom is anymore.
I wrote a quite personal newsletter to my Slovenian community today. About this hospital visit. I never particularly fancied hospitals, doctors, nurses, white coats and jumping stickers you got as a baby if you behaved well. I don’t recall getting any and was probably great pain to my mum whenever she had to bring me. Once I even managed to hold on to the sink so tightly that it separated from the wall and broke. She probably had to pay for that.
Then my own time in hospitals – in short – essential, not fun, painful. Or so I thought. Until today.
Having all the time in the world waiting for my husband, I spent it observing people. Patients, their carers, relatives as well as staff. Not a happy place: patients impatient (funny how the word impatient implies patients/patience?), carers worried, no laughter, silent conversations on one hand or too loud screaming in the phones on the other, staff rushing, looking away not to be barked at when the next patients’ turn was. Plenty of evidence of pain, hopelessness, bitter faces, as well as sometimes shame and often loneliness. On top, used facilities, broken air conditions, smelly rooms of drugs and old, ill people. That’s what it seemed on the surface. Until one decides to look for different signs.
I so deeply admire and respect health workers, especially nurses and cleaners who spend the most time mingling with us mortals. So much dedication, so much patience and such professionalism. We spent 9 hours there and saw two shifts. They were so quick, efficient, communicated lots in order to find the best solution for each patient. Vast evidence and presence of professional work ethics. Then I listened to a conversation behind the door, supposed to be closed. Everybody knows the waiting lines for some services can be insane. The nurses were discussing what to do with a certain patient who in their opinion, needed to be seen before couple of months. They spent at least 45 mins phoning already enrolled patients on their registry just to see if there was a possible cancellation so they could squeeze this man in. And there was. So they did. I doubt this is stated in their contract as task description.
But such care wasn’t present only among staff. There was evidence of it among patients too. The way how they were with each other. At first sight, one might think that we were all sitting there selfishly, waiting for our turn to see the doctor, hoping it would have been before others. And in doing so, not wanting to engage or in case an encounter happened, take all the time in conversation to speak about oneself, one’s health history and troubling occurrence. But that was the first sight and it was not entirely accurate. For instance this: At one point, a young woman, probably a nurse or a young doctor (she was dressed in white) rushed from the ER straight onto a chair next to mine, buried her head into her hands and bursted into tears. It wasn’t just a cry, it was fury, she was out of her mind. Of course having sat next to her I leaned towards and embraced her. But I wasn’t the only one. Another woman approached too and offered her another shoulder to cry on. Then somebody brought a bottle of water and discretely backed up, as two of us were enough. Another one turned the ventilator down. And the rest were silent. Silent, unmoving, but very much present. The entire room organised itself so they could support a stranger in distress. It was beautiful to see, if one decides to look for the signs of human care.
This is what Alasdair MacIntyre wrote about and called it virtue ethics. I explored bits of it in my Doc, but probably not really understanding what it meant in practice. MacIntyre talked about needing interdependency because this is how people learn virtue of care, love, compassion and the like. We don’t learn virtues reading about it. We need circumstances where we can experience it. Experience what it’s like to look after someone and be looked after. Of course some individuals don’t take their chance, but others do. And it is those then who look after others and hence provide experience of being cared for which is then at some point, likely to be passed on.
So from today I officially like hospitals. The aspect of it which provides so much evidence of human care, vulnerability and interconnectedness. If one is willing to look out for it. This is what we train people in Solution Focused practice.
With much care and wishing you all good health,
Biba (red nose/cherry)