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It's a crying shame that more tears aren't shed

Pam Rachootin   more by this author
19th Jul 2010

THIS week I made a patient cry. Maybe that’s not completely true. She was heading in that direction already and I just added a little push. I was in one of my Doc Martin moods.

The patient had a rash. I had previously given her a prescription that had worked. When she stopped treatment, the rash recurred. She was desperate.

“You need to re-start your medication.”

“But it came back; I want a cure.”

“There is no cure.”

That’s when the tears began forming. Huge, Brontosaurus-size tears.“That’s what dermatology is all about; managing skin diseases that never go away.”

Maybe those weren’t my best-chosen words. Now I had to pay the price. She wanted a referral to a dermatologist.

I called to make the appointment. You know the routine: the next available slot was months away. Perfect, I thought. She could resume treatment, see the benefits, and then cancel her appointment.She left with a smile.

I do understand the tears of negotiation. After open heart surgery, my husband had recurrent attacks of AF in hospital.  We had been informed that one-third of patients suffer this complication, and it doesn’t always resolve. For Hubby, an irregular heartbeat immediately post-op indicated he had acquired a new, permanent, cardiac condition.I was visiting him during one of his episodes. I took his hand.“That’s nice… really nice,” he said, clinging on to help counter his dark thoughts.

Later that night he experienced another episode of AF.  This time I wasn’t around. 

Having noted his arrhythmia on the monitor at the nursing station, a young nurse entered his room.

Hubby knew exactly what he needed, but realised that it would require careful negotiation.

“This AF causes me to lose confidence. I need you to do something intimate for me,” he said, letting a few tears flow. “I know that this is an unusual request.”

The young nurse stiffened and shifted uncomfortably at the bedside.“I need you to hold my hand for 10 seconds.”

She considered his request and then complied.

The tears I find especially precious are those shed by the young. I’m thinking of a lad who cried because he had sprained his ankle and would be unable to play in a sports carnival. I was brimming with empathy. He was sweet and sincere, and simply frustrated by his injury.

Fortunately, on the scale of human disasters the cause of his disappointment was on the mild and temporary side. Before me sat a youth who had been spared any true tragedy in his life; for him a mere pebble was a mountain peak. 

I felt relieved and almost content to witness the beauty of innocence again, amid his free-flowing, earnest tears.