A Child’s “Thank You” [Human Story]
Medical college hospitals have some very interesting routines. One of them is The Grand Round. Though its structure and name may vary from one hospital to another, in the obgyn department where I worked it was on the day on which we had our minor OT. On this day surgeries which did not need major anesthesia were performed. The chief of the unit would take the round with all other junior consultants and all postgraduate students. It was a spectacle – the chief walking cot by cot surrounded by his entourage of his subordinates and nursing staff.
One fine morning in one such grand round, the chief stopped by a patient who had choriocarcinoma (a quick-growing form of cancer that occurs in a woman's uterus (womb). The abnormal cells start in the tissue that would normally become the placenta). Choriocarcinoma occurs in young subjects in their reproductive age. Thankfully it is very responsive to treatment. The subject in question was being administered chemotherapy (medicines for treating cancer). While the chief was being briefed about the medical details of the patient’s condition by his juniors an intriguing happening occurred. The small child of the patient in question climbed up her mother’s cot and started touching the chief’s spotless white apron with its dirty hands.
|Child reaching out|
The chief looked at the child with loving eyes and patted its cheek. Both communicated with each other with no words spoken. The assistants however were not very happy. “How could this dirty and shabbily dressed kid touch and soil the apron of their boss?” It is said that the kettle is always warmer than the tea it holds. After the round was over two assistants walked up to the mother and instructed her to ensure that this is not repeated. All seemed to have been forgotten till another grand round – a couple of days after.
Again the same spectacle recurred. While the chief was being briefed about the latest condition of the patient, the child climbed up its mother’s cot. It boldly reached its hand out to the chief and touched it. Prominent stains of dirt were seen on the spotless white apron where the child had reached the chief. Again the chief looked at the child with loving eyes and patted its cheek. Both communicated with each other with no words spoken. He talked a word or two of reassurance to its mother and moved on. But the juniors were now livid. As soon as the chief left the ward, all of them rushed to the patient reprimanding her for her child’s “misdemeanor”.
The week that followed saw the same spectacle – the grand round visit of the chief, the mother with an intravenous line of chemotherapy and the child climbing up her mother’s cot and reaching out to the chief soiling his spotless white apron. The chief as kindhearted and gentle as ever patted the child lovingly, smiled at the patient reassuringly and moved on. But this time he didn't leave the ward. As soon as he reached the gate of the ward, from the edge of his eyes he watched his juniors making an angry rush to the patient’s room. He quickly turned around and called all of them. What followed was something very tender.
The hospital being a government public hospital could not provide free cancer chemotherapy treatment. The patient in question was in no position to buy these drugs from her resources as she was financially challenged. The chief seemed to have sensed this. As he had done with many of his patients in the past, he anonymously arranged for the costly drugs from his personal resources. He had clearly instructed the chief-resident through whom the chemotherapy was arranged, not to reveal this to anybody. In his exuberance it seemed the chief resident had told the patient from where the money for her treatment had come. However other consultants and junior doctors were oblivious of this. Apparently the husband and wife were very thankful and had discussed their relief amongst each other in presence of this small child. Their child was sensitive enough to sense that it was the “big” doctor (the chief) who had done “something” for its mother. The happiness of the parents was sensed by the child. The brilliant chief had picked this up.
The chief told his assistants and students, “When the child is trying to reach me and make some physical contact all that it is doing is telling a thank you. It doesn't have words. It is not erudite enough to speak. But it has a sensitive heart”. The child was making attempts to reach this man who gave happiness to its parents. Little did it know what that happiness was. It knew no language but the language of touch. So it was trying to touch the chief. “Her child is simply telling us Thank You. Just listen to the unspoken words of the child. Just feel the words in the touch of the child. It is saying….Thank you!”