Friday, October 22, 2010

The Blessings of Life and Good Health

I hate hospitals. Every time I visit one, I receive confirmation I made the right decision not going anywhere near medicine. As noble and prestigious as it is, it is unfortunately not for me. Aside the fact that I can’t stand the sight of blood (which is ironic because I am a woman and no matter how careful I am not to get hurt, nature has dictated that I have to see blood on a regular basis), I find hospitals altogether too depressing and come away from each visit deeply melancholic. And no matter how everyone I meet tells me the disturbance and grief I feel witnessing death, dying and suffering would have passed with time had I gone into medicine, I am convinced otherwise. I would probably have committed suicide or taken to drugs or drinking by now. Barring these, I’d probably go mad. It’s not the profession. It’s just me.

Yesterday, I went to the hospital and the situation was not much different. I spent about two hours at the central OPD (Out Patients Department) and saw more suffering during that period than I saw the whole of last year. Seeing a group of nurses and doctors chatting heartily and laughing as they passed the corridor, I couldn’t help but gain some more respect for our men and women in white and green who work surrounded by pain and suffering all year through and maintain a merry countenance. Perhaps we really are unfair to our nurses. If I just lost a nine year old patient, I would definitely not be patient and would probably snap at you if you refused to take your soup because you don’t feel like it, or you cry because you hurt your little finger or something of the sort. Granted, some people are just sour and bitter without provocation and would snap at people even in they worked at Disneyland but I’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt.

Within five minutes after sitting down, I saw a boy who couldn’t possibly be a day over six years who had lost a leg and was using crutches, a daughter patiently walking her mum who had had a stroke and had little co-ordination and an eleven year old girl who had just had her eye taken out. I know her age for sure because I asked. Later, I realized these sights had been a walk in the park when I had to go through the accident center to get to the operating room where my mom was to be treated. A ‘kind’ nurse offered to show me around the male accident ward when she saw me looking around, probably because she thought I was interested. One look in the ward had me declining the offer faster than a speeding bullet.

Why am I sharing this with you? Being at the hospital yesterday made me realize how much we take for granted day-in, day-out. Many of us have not been to the hospital for anything more serious than a rash, the flu, malaria, changing the prescription of our glasses or tightening our braces in over five years. Some of us don’t remember the last time we were detained at a hospital. A few of us haven’t been sick for as long as we can remember and we don’t even realize how blessed we are. The blessing of good health is one of the easiest to take for granted, especially when you don’t come into contact with sick people very often. Yesterday, I was forced to take another look at that blessing.

When after six hours my mum emerged from the emergency room all wrapped up in a bandage, I thought I had never seen a more beautiful sight. Her operation had been performed with a local anesthesia so she was able to come home. Even though she will have to go back for dressing of the wound every other day and I will have to wait on her hands and foot since she cannot use her right hand until the wound completely heals, thinking of how many people came to the hospital with a parent, child or spouse yesterday and went home empty handed made me extremely grateful. Some patients died, some lost body parts and some were irreparably damaged or terminally ill. Some even go through all four conditions. Life is indeed a precious gift.

As my mom was recounting her experience in the operating room, she told how at a point, a vein tore and had to be tied up. Exhibiting my ignorance, I asked my dad if it would be sewn back, or if it wouldn’t affect her in anyway. Apparently, we destroy thousands of our finer veins every day. When you sit, you block the blood flow through hundreds of tiny veins in your backside. However, your internal transport system quickly adjusts to the diversion and nothing happens to you. When you get up, many of those blocked passages will never work again. However, new ones quickly replace those and the diversions work while this is done until it’s like nothing ever happened. In trying to explain the process to me, my dad stopped at a point in time and said “In fact, the whole process is incredible and so detailed and well-orchestrated that it tends to suggest that we were indeed created and not a result of say, a big bang”.

As you can well guess, this was the highlight of my day. Hearing this from my dad, who had studied science and the human anatomy for God-knows-how-many years, warmed my heart greatly. In this era of ‘enlightenment’ where academicians and scientists the world over are claiming their studies has led them to discover true knowledge and enlightenment and led them to reject God, it was a refreshing break. I won’t let myself be carried away by this topic though; it is a topic that will take at least another article to tackle.

If you woke up today and nothing hurts and everything works, if no loved one of yours is in intensive care or terminally ill. If you don’t have to take twenty-two pills a day under doctor’s advice to move on to the next day, you are blessed. Exercise and a good diet have not kept you that way. Certainly, they have helped. However, professional athletes in top form have dropped dead with no apparent reason. You are blessed. Use the blessing of life and good health wisely.

And just as an aside – the fact that you have access to healthcare should you fall sick, is another blessing on its own. Visit the WHO (World Health Organisation) website and find out exactly how many people don’t have even that. You will be amazed.

Copyright (c) 2010
First Published in the 'Daily Graphic' (March, 2010)

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