A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Compassion Corner is a weekly series from Patient Worthy that will focus on the subject of compassion in the healthcare and rare disease space. In this series, we explore the role of compassion in this field and what it means for caregivers, patients, and others.
An article in the Huffington Post describes an experience by a patient in the Queens Hospital in Honolulu who was recovering from a suicide attempt and several weeks in the ICU.
The patient had summoned a night nurse who came into her room complaining that she was too needy and should realize there were other patients who needed help.
Since she was just out of ICU, the nurse may not have known that the patient was unable to walk and did not have family in Hawaii to help her. But the experience left the patient lying in bed crying with a feeling of helplessness and loneliness.
Eighteen years after her experience with the night nurse, the patient still remembers the incident. The nurse saw her crying but said nothing. She wonders if the nurse realized how hurtful her words were. She remembers the shame and guilt of being spoken to with such disrespect and lack of compassion.
However, the compassionate care she received during her seven weeks at Queens Hospital in Hawaii more than compensated. She describes the birthday wishes from the nurses who created a special flavored birthday drink instead of a cake since she was intubated.
She recalls a nurse who had not been assigned to her coming into her room and putting her long hair into a French braid.
While in ICU she was intubated for three weeks. When the tubes were removed she could not speak or swallow for a while. Doctors, interns, and students checked on her daily as Queens is a teaching hospital. A nurse commented that the group reminded her of a gaggle of geese. The nurse would imitate the geese and encouraged the patient to join her. It took a while but finally, she was able to manage the sound and it was a cause for the two of them to celebrate. A small gesture by the nurse but one that will be remembered.
Two nurses were truly outstanding. One nurse read the mail to her every day. One day she surprised her with a special treat by taking her outside, spending a little more time together, and making it a special occasion.
The second nurse treated her like a friend. She was aware of the patient’s loneliness and spent a little extra time with her each day. She would often wheel her out to the nurses’ station so that she could be around people. On another occasion, she came into her room with a few things she bought on her way to work including the Cosmopolitan magazine.
The love and compassion she received from these nurses helped her to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. The encouragement she received from those kind nurses overshadowed her unfortunate experience and motivated her to be kind to herself.