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STORIES -'Sunshine and Flowers'  
Taras Shklyar's Story - PART 1

In 1994 Zeraiah, my daughter  had to undergo painful surgery. Her doctors felt that her dribbling was incessant and must be stopped. The procedure involved diverting the salivary glands under her tongue and repositioning them in her throat. 

How do you explain to a four year old who has spent the best part of her life in and out of hospital that more surgery was a good thing? Especially when it was a new procedure with esthetic rather than essential surgery?

Whilst I had no doubt that the surgeon was skilled and the hospital workers were competent, the the cold indifference of the parade of nurses and doctors who came in and out of Zeraiah's room during previous hospital stays was a depressing, demoralizing, and dehumanizing experience that I could not forget.

They often treated her disability/disease rather than treating her as a person with a disability/disease, often talking in front of her as if she were a dumb animal who couldn't understand what they were saying. How awful it must have been for her to hear that her life expectancy was no more than 7 years. Even more demoralizing to hear that her vital organs would serve another better. Another child who was not disabled and so had a better quality of life. The piece de resistance was when they asked whether I would want her resuscitated if they lost her during surgery. Nothing said is ever lost on Zeraiah who is physically not mentally disabled. If only they had looked around to see the transition from horror to fear then despair in Zeraiah's eyes. Her eyes searched my face for the answer to the last question... My heart bled for my child.

Although they were assigned to her care, they acted as if they didn't care. Their behaviour was outright toxic to say the very least. But in all this I can understand why medical practitioners keep an emotional distance from human suffering as a form of self-protection. And I also understand how confronting difficult and demanding patients as well as pain, disease, and even death on a daily basis can form calluses around the heart. But when professional distance translates to this level of disregard and disrespect, surely this is a a form of malpractice?

The job of medical professionals is not simply to cure disease but to care for the overall well-being of patients. They do their job best when they help patients get better and help them feel better. What saved Zeraiah wasn’t the pain-killing drugs but the love of  family, special friends and the attitude of a few nurses who uplifted her spirits by simple acts of human decency a smile, a kind word, a compassionate expression or tone that conveyed the message that they cared.

We have to love and admire those who can bring their hearts to their work, knowing that mental sunshine and flowers are powerful medicines.

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