Monday, March 16, 2009

A Zen Moment

I had a spiritual moment when I was with a patient last week. It was late afternoon, I was tired. Mrs. H was the last patient of the day, intentionally scheduled so because she spoke no English, but rather some Ethiopian dialect, and so the consult was expected to take more time.
We used the language line, a pretty neat service where we use a telephone interpreter. Except these things take forever. And there we were, late Friday afternoon, when I was tired, and crabby. I was trying to explain to the patient what Grave's disease was, and how it may affect the pregnancy. I was trying to explain how I planned to treat this. While using a telephone speakerphone that was neither clear nor picking up our voice well. And as the consult dragged on, I tried to be patient but I admit, it was tiresome. Especially that late in the afternoon and you're trying to get your work done.
And then I caught myself taking a step back (not literally), and looking at this Ethiopian couple, half a world away from their homeland, with foreign and strange-looking people who didn't speak their language. They were probably homesick, and missed their culture. They probably felt out of place. And then for some reason I thought of my mom and dad. And I pictured them in a doctor's office in some foreign land, with some kwailo who spoke some gibberish language. And I thought how if it came to that, I'd want that doctor to treat them kindly, with the respect and patience they deserve.
And with that thought, a sudden peace and calmness came over me. Mrs. H was my last patient, after all, and so we took our time. Ensured she understood every word I said, and I understood hers.
I drove home 30 mins later than I had planned. And yet, inexplicably, felt relaxed and even hummed a tune during the drive, thanking the Guy Above for the gentle reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing for my patients.
It was a Zen moment, and it felt wonderful.


Blogger pavlova said...

wow, i'm surprised she didn't give you problems.

in my experience, most of the people from the said country (and/or region) were horrible. demanding, sense of entitlement, unappreciative.

bear in mind, i'm generalising though. not ALL of them are like that, but 8 out of 10 times you face them.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous AL said...

Be it 9 out of 10 or 99 out of 100, it takes a lot of courage and humility to (or try to) treat everyone with respect and care. It does feel good knowing you spread a little kindness in this harsh and unforgiving world. It's one of those good feelings money cannot buy.

Keep up the good work doc. The Big Guy above knows. And I certainly will keep you and your love ones in my prayer.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Kwailo said...

God bless you Vagus. Sometimes we need to take a step back and try to empathise with these people. They are not there because they want to. It could happen to any of us, our parents, our loved ones. All it needs is a bit of empathy and a grain of compassion. We are all here for a purpose. It is very easy to blurt out and get cranky at the spur of the moment.

10:36 PM  

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