Whether we realize it or not, our lives are but a series of relationships. Egg to sperm, fetus to uterus, mother to baby, baby to mother. As we grow and change and develop into complex beings, so often the sense of relation between self and other is lost. Life happens ‘to’ us, expectation of self supersedes those we meet along our path (sometimes whom we may consider get in our way), and a lack of trust or difference of opinion shadows the relationship that may otherwise enable magic to develop. Rather than listening, engaging and offering compassion in our daily dialogue, unaware of relationship we tend to become impatient or complacent.
Having just spent a week in the hospital, half of the time I was on an ‘overflow ward’. This means the ward I usually am admitted to for my ongoing liver problems was full, and I was instead on a different floor with a hospital staff unknown to me. For a frequent visitor to the hospital such as myself, this generally means I have to be on guard. Not only are the staff unfamiliar with liver disease meaning I have to double check all medications they may normally give patients without regard (paracetemol, ibuprofen), but without a history with the care providers there is a big difference in the level of care and ability for a patient to feel at ease.
What I’ve learned, however, is that everyone is doing the best they can. As humans, we all come with a story and sensibility that makes us ripe for relationship. Most of us enjoy sharing aspects of ourselves when given the opportunity, when given a listening ear and a compassionate heart. In hospital terms and in life alike, the more patient and personable with people (doctors, nurses, housekeeping, everyone), the quicker a relationship is formed.
This time, when I was moved up to 10N, I was amazed at how many nurses knew me by name, and I them. Thinking back to the first time I arrived on the ward in such pain, I couldn’t distinguish one nurse from the next, and the last thing on my mind was envisioning these caregivers on their days off with families and friends. After weeks and weeks spent in various states of pain and wakefulness, through this time relationships have been fostered. There is equally a trust built with the registrars and doctors, and when a difficult situation arises with entry in the A&E (and it does, every time), I know it’s only a matter of time until one of the registrars will be down to smooth things over.
The reason for my most recent visit is that the stent I had inserted into the common duct came out. As a result I had two ERCPs in two days last week, one with a doctor I had never met before (that failed to read my medical history and failed to insert a new stent), and the second with a doctor who was been following my case since 2009. Seeing the second doctor’s face before the procedure brought tears of joy to my eyes as I have a relationship with him, I trust him as a doctor and know his potential both as a doctor and as a compassionate being. Furthermore, it is my deep belief that he wants the best for my health. He re-inserted the stent, and with any luck it will stay put until it’s time to replace it in three months, or I’m chosen for a transplant.
On my last day in the hospital I was discussing with one of the registrars how interesting it must be following a different consultant around the hospital each week. Each comes with his or her own personality, medical background and bedside manner, all of which contribute to making certain patients feel at ease and others less so. After speaking about some of my experiences, he said, “It all comes down to relationship. Whether looking for a friend, a partner, an employer or a doctor, we aim to surround people who make us feel good, and who challenge us to be better.”
Of course, the relationship begins with ourself. From the smallest cell to the most far fetching thought, the more we build bridges of relation within, the more we can connect to the beauty and wisdom in others. The miracle and delight is that there is no disconnect outside of the mind, only infinite and perfect union. In other words, “there is no out there, out there” (What the Bleep) Tat twam asi.