Early morning sunshine filters through the curtains, caressing my skin. Slowly I tune into full consciousness, holding Jessica, my love, in my arms. I feel the cosy warmth of the soft blanket covering us and a deep bubble of joy escapes from my heart. ‘Thank you,’ I whisper. And as Jessica wakes and our eyes meet, ‘What a perfect you.’
Mrs Smith is the 24-year-old mother of Laura, her two-month-old baby girl. As she sits on the other side of the table in my consultation room cradling her daughter close to her chest, I notice that even her elegant use of makeup can’t disguise her tired eyes and dry lips.
My mother’s beautiful face is etched in my mind, creased by a soft pattern of a million tiny wrinkles which resonate with me as the signature of a life spent smiling, happy. Aged 85, with short grey hair and a healthy complexion, she warms the hearts of everyone who knows her.
The day I signed up for medical school, I strode towards the University, gliding on invisible wings. I felt the sun on my skin and inhaled the crisp morning air like a nourishing breakfast. Entering the building, I steered towards the chancellery like someone who already knew their way.
‘Requesting admission for a previously healthy 14-year-old girl, found unconscious. Cause unknown. Expected time of arrival on the hospital roof is 30 minutes.’ As a young resident training in pediatrics I was getting used to receiving emergency calls from the national rescue helicopter service.
It’s Friday lunch time on a cold winter’s day. Long queues of doctors, nurses and therapists all dressed in white wait in the neon-lit hospital canteen for their turn at the counter. I sit at a table with my colleagues John and Mary, hastily eating my sandwich and quickly downing an iced tea.
It taps into and relies upon what every medic knows but only a few dare to acknowledge. Authentic compassion and loving attention play a major part in healing. All of us recover faster – psychologically, physically and mentally – when we feel loved, cared for, safe and connected. We also instinctively know that when we experience stress, discord and loneliness we are more prone to psychological, physical and mental illness.