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Life on 10N

PYS 1.33: Maitri Karuna Muditopeksanam Sukha Dukha Punyapunya Visayanam Bhavantas Citta Prasnadanam Definition: Maitri -friendliness karuna -compassion mudita -delight upekshanam-disregard sukha-happy dukha-unhappy punya-virtuous apunya-wicked vishayanam– in the case of bhavanatah-by cultivating attitudes chitta-mind-stuff prasadanam-undisturbed calmness.

In the effort to keep the mind-stuff calm, be happy with the happy, compassionate with those who suffer, delighted with the virtuous, and dispassionate with the wicked.

Since February 2013, I have been in a relationship with the doctors, nurses, registrars, housekeeping and accessory staff on the Liver Transplant Ward, so affectionately referred to as 10N. It is not just a liver unit. Officially, it is the gastroenterology and liver unit, and as such, there are people with all kinds of digestive and liver related illnesses that become inpatients here for a period of time. What is complicated about this unit is that there are some people with auto-immune illnesses: diabetes, chrohn’s, hepatitis; and others who are no less ill, but diseased with addiction by way of alcohol and other drugs. People may be in any stage of their given illness on the ward, the only real criteria being that all are unstable enough to be an “in-patient”. The transplant team appears to be the intersection point that connects these various complex groups together.

Since I was discharged from the ICU on September 29th, I have been sharing a room with three other ladies in the top priority square-shaped room: two of us on one side of the room have just had transplants due to long-term auto- immune disease; the two on the other side of the room brought in as alcohol-related, seeming to have ended up here as a last chance, completely unaware that they are in end stage liver failure, yet both a still very much caught up in the disease of addiction itself.

For over a week, the two ladies on the other side of the room lie lifeless during the day, having developed bed sores, muscle wasting and apathy as a result of being treated with cotton wool by the staff who appear fearful of them. By night they become confused, screaming out throughout the night phrases like “somebody help me, I’m dying”, “god help me” , “I’m going to kill myself”, intermixed with turrets-fueled explicatives. All night, every night.

It has been very interesting to observe the juxtaposition of sides of the room. As the two having undergone transplantation slowly re-emerge, transformed, the other two women seem to going through a basic detox at the hospital’s expense with only the mildest interventions to get them up and out of bed during the day. It is an interesting contrast to say the least.

All this seems to be coming to a head today, with the worst night behind us. Last night, the two of us transplantees lay awake as the night unfolded hour after miserable hour of night-time treatment of one of the recovering alcoholics. This morning we all emerged worse for wear.

The day has largely been lost as a result. The family of the woman in question has been here all day, completely unaware of what the others on the floor have gone through as they coddle and create an air of merriment around her. And through all of this I have been asking myself why I have so much difficulty finding compassion for this woman in particular, compared with another- someone who perhaps was suffering from a disease other than alcoholism throughout the night.

And, you see, this woman was. She has become very unwell physically and mentally as a result of her addiction.

Yoga Sutra 1.33 says be happy for those that are happy; be compassionate for those who suffer; be delighted for the virtuous and indifferent to the wicked.

This woman is clearly not wicked, or happy, or virtuous; she is suffering tremendously. I have had increased compassion for her throughout the day as a result of realizing my limited perspective on the night’s events. The sutras are always a powerful tool to help overcome my boundaried perspective of the world.

Hopefully, we will all have a better night.

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