What happened to kindness?

On Friday a frail guest arrived after three weeks in ICU. His clothes were falling off his once tall, strong frame, he was the colour of a rainy day and I cannot find words to describe his exhaustion. We tucked him into bed and attended to his most urgent needs with the tenderness we knew he needed.

Later in the day when I went to talk to him, he could not stop crying. He repeatedly thanked us for being kind. For the past few days, he’s been saying those words in every sentence: “Thank you for being kind to me”.

It dawned on us, that no one had shown this man any gentleness for weeks. His body was attended to; he was put on O2 when needed, he was put on dialysis when needed, he got the necessary pain meds and antibiotics and his disease was managed. Everything else however, was neglected, including his feet, his dignity and his right to communicate with family. He was isolated, lonely, scared, in terrible pain and largely ignored.

Our healthcare workers are in an impossible situation at the moment and are mostly, beyond breaking point in every way. I strongly feel that often they are blamed for not caring about patients when no one stops to think that little to no care is ever shown towards them.

It is a complex problem – kindness, compassion and individual attention, versus efficiency, regulation and what’s best for everyone over the needs of the one. This is especially true in healthcare settings, and this was even before the impossibilities Covid brought with it.

My incredibly grateful guest reminded me though, that a little bit of kindness goes a very long way and I wonder what difference it would make if all of us found ways to be just a little bit kinder in every encounter. Kindness is definitely among the strongest medicines for recovery we have in our arsenal.

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