I spent a few minutes at the bedside of my patient in the hospital today. I sat in a chair to the right of her bed and rested the side of my face on the bedrail so that our faces were aligned, her head resting on her pillow. We spent several minutes smiling at one another and looking into each other's eyes. Of course, she asked me for news of my wife, son and dogs, and I told her a story of Mary calling me in a panic this morning when one of Sparkey's nails broke off and he was spurting blood all over the house. She laughed and said "bendito!" ("poor thing").
While I was sitting at her bedside, I noticed that the site of the needle biopsy on her upper chest was bleeding through the lame little bandaid that someone had pasted there, and I alerted the nurse that she needed a pressure dressing on the area. While holding a gauze sponge in place while the nurse searched for dressing supplies down the hall, I took the opportunity to not only hold the gauze in place, but also to perform a little Reiki on my patient's heart chakra. We stared into one another's eyes and breathed, chatting nonchalantly until the nurse returned and broke the spell. In a way, though, the nurse entered our little tete-a-tete with her own caring energy as the she dressed the area more securely and placed a nasal cannula on my patient's nose so that she could have receive some oxygen. I translated for the two of them and we all had a few sweet moments as a triumverate. After the nurse left the room, I said "Are you depressed, my love?" She nodded very sadly and we were silent for a few more moments.
At times my visits to see my hospitalized patients are more social than anything else, and at other times I am advocating, cajoling, fostering communication, or simply adding my two cents based on my intimate knowledge of the patient from outside the clinical austereness of the institutional setting. This visit was filled with meaning for me on many levels.
As I was leaving the room, my patient said, "Gracias por su visita, mi hijo" ("Thanks for your visit, my child"). The way many of our patients say "mi hijo" sounds like "me-hoe"---one word, really almost one syllable in the Puerto Rican vernacular. Coming from some of my younger patients, it feels somehow strange, but from this 69-year-old woman---old enough to be my mother---a grandmother with HIV and a myriad of illnesses but with a bright light in her eyes, it's like a benediction. I'll visit her again tomorrow, and I will hold her hand when we deliver the verdict on her biopsy.
There are many ways to be an "hijo", and this is one way that sinks deep into the heart and lodges there forever.