Archive for March, 2011
There is this boy. I presume like any other boys, he once dreamt to wear the Batman costume to save the world. I presume that he is just like me, wanting to hold a girl’s hand and walk down the aisle. But that day, he held on to his IV-pole and walked all the way to the toys room to select a game. Then he chose one and made his way back to his bed. As he walked back with his IV-pole weakly, we saw him. I was with a few nurses. We laughed at him. He smiled back at us.
We laughed because this boy was in ICU a few days ago. We laughed because this strong boy was finally able to walk on his own. We laughed because the persistent boy had the energy to play a PSP game. We laughed, because we were so happy for this brave boy that we could not contain our happiness. He had smiled—not because we were laughing. He smiled because he agreed with our happiness—that there, we had all laughed because we were truly happy.
That day, laughter takes a new meaning.
This is a true story. I was there to see the real courage.
I have the privilege of visiting a few hospitals when I did my research for Journey and my next novel, For That Day. In the wards, I always saw what courage is made of. Courage is not about daring to go for bungee jumping. Courage is not about driving 150km/hr. Courage is about lying on a bed and telling the nurse that you’ll go all out to fight a disease despite a bad prognosis. Courage is about you telling someone about his prognosis, holding his or her hand and suppressing your tears.
I shook hands with a nurse. She is a cancer survivor. She used to fight cancer, and now, she helps others fight cancer. Do you still think it is merely a job? When I passed by a consultation room, I saw the most beautiful room in the world. There are a few chairs and a table with a computer. It is small with a window. The colour of the wall is dull. It looks like a storeroom…but on the walls are pictures of patients: some balding, all smiling. These are the scars of victory—that is the dullest room brightened up with trophies of fighters. You don’t use eyes to see the room.
In order to protect the privacy of the doctors and nurses, I am not going to describe all the events that happened there. But I’m going to show you a few things that I spotted, and why a nurse is just a nurse—he or she is just the person who sacrifices everything to save another person’s life. He or she is just the person who determines the life and death of a person. He or she is just the person who makes a big difference with a small action.
A nurse, with her mouth covered with a facemask, went to the toys box to search for toys. She showed me how eyes could smile as she rummaged through the toys. She, a woman in her late-twenties, was trying to find some toys. Then I realized I was wrong. She tried out each toy like a child, and her eyes brightened up when she found an interesting toy. She would put it on her tray and her eyes would smile. She was not searching for toys—she was searching for something that could bring a smile to her patient. She could have just dumped a few toys onto her tray. But she’s a nurse. A small action, a big difference.
I have friends who are nurses. One of them posted a picture on her Facebook wall; apparently, a patient drew a cat for her and wrote this: “Sister, I know you miss playground, so here is a cute cat to play with you.” When you are sick and down in a hospital, the only person who brings you back to this world is that man or woman who wears a uniform, that man or woman who will cry when you leave, that man or woman who touches your hand and says, “Don’t worry, I’m here.” That man or woman is a nurse. A small action, a big difference.
A nurse once confessed to me that once a while, they will silently hide in one corner to cry. Unlike typical working adults who cry due to certain office politics or crazy deadlines, these nurses cry because they had just lost a patient. They would suppress their tears, remember the days when the patient had talked about his or her dreams, and then hide in one corner to sob. Whatever you are doing, be it studying or working; is the emotional stress as bad as theirs? Yet each day, they face another patient and have to smile, because their smiles can make another difference to another patient. A difficult small action, a damn big difference.
In my next book (please join the blog by clicking here for the latest update), the narrator has cancer and there are two “wires” sticking out from his chest for easy assess for his treatment. The narrator narrates, “One day, I jokingly told the nurse that I was like a charging handphone. She said the “wires” were USB cables, and that they were downloading my courage to upload them into those weak fifteen-year-olds who cried upon failing their examinations.” That, my reader, defines courage. Do you cry when you see your examination results?
If you would like to know how blessed you are, take a walk down a cancer clinic. Remember to smile at the heroes who will greet you and tell you to wash your hands—no, not because it’s the rules. Because they’re the guardian angels of those fighters, and they’re protecting the fighters. Small action, but you can’t use words to describe the difference it can make.