It Is November Again! by Dr. Iraniha
It is November again! My son came to stay with us a few days ago for the Thanksgiving break. Today, after having lunch together he went to his room to study. I was sitting on the couch, looking through the window, calm, quiet with no pain. It was such a beautiful sunny and warm day and I could feel the warmth of the sunlight on my skin. But then a cluster of memories from four years ago rushed into my mind. November 2013 was a beginning of a dismal year, filed with unbearable and painful experiences for me and my family. That gruesome year was a cross road in my life that incited me to see the world differently. Before that experience, life for me was an easy equation and I thought I had figured that out. The recipe for success and contentment was to have purpose, be determined, have discipline, work hard, be fearless and just do the “right thing”. Up to then, I always considered myself a mentally and physically strong individual who was not afraid to face the pain and struggle. Of course, my life was never easy and I always needed to work extremely hard to achieve anything I desired, but in the midst of this grueling journey, since facing the pain and struggle was unavoidable, I learned to embrace the painful conditions, comprehend them and apply that energy as a fuel for my motivation and growth. But the pain that I experienced in that year was absolutely incomparable. It was a crushing, heartbreaking and harsh experience filled with so many dark days with fear, uncertainty and despair, so many setbacks and roadblocks. My family and I were part of this unpleasant experience and had to endure those darkest days of our lives. That experience made me realize our frailty and vulnerability as a human being. It thought me an incredibly valuable lesson that even our most valuable assets in life like our health and our relationships with our family and friends that we usually take for granted, could vanish in a matter of seconds. That experience also made me understand that it is extremely hard to cope with these difficult conditions alone. We need each other, our family and friends to be able to sustain the traumatic events. Now, four years later, my family and I fully recovered from that dark period of our lives, and the only imprint that has left in our hearts, is the recollection of human interactions and encounters that we experienced throughout that horrific year.
Patient experience in these desperate conditions
As a surgeon, being in charge of taking care of others and constantly giving service to patients in the health care environment creates a sense of authority and power which is extremely different with what the patient experiences. For more than a year, my family and I had to experience the health care system from the patient`s perspective and at times we witnessed injustice, impersonal care, ignorance and lack of humanity in our health care system. We also witnessed and experienced sparks of compassion, care and kindness which gave us hope to withstand the misery of pain, fear and uncertainty. Now the memories that stand out in my mind are the ones filled with the essence of humanity, the health professionals that had compassion, care and kindness, who strived to give us hope, helped us to endure those difficult times and assisted us to overcome the illness.
Health care system is a service industry to care for people in need, and it seems that creating an incredible patient experience in these desperate conditions should be indisputable. For me achieving this goal has been extremely personal. It was just part of a promise. The promise that I made to myself to care for others, to treat them as a human being like my family, treat them with respect and dignity, empathize with them and challenge myself to find a way of relieving their pain and suffering. But in this process, it has also made me happy, proud and content. But the most important part of the puzzle is what really motivates other health professionals to pursue this vision and what they would gain by that mindset. I reached to a conclusion that creating such an experience would not be possible without close attention to the health professional experience, their happiness and well-being in their life and work environment. However, health care profession is a difficult and stressful carrier associated with pain, suffering, tragic events, unforgiving challenges, and stressful conditions. So happiness as a daily pleasure is not part of this profession, but I am certain that anyone can feel and experience joy even in the midst of suffering and stressful condition if they believe their profession has an extraordinary and distinguished meaning, overcoming the gruesome challenges and achieving the daily goals are noteworthy and honorable, and creating authentic human connection and experiences are respected and memorable. The feeling of fulfillment for health care professionals comes from creating an amazing experience of humanity in patients, seeing their smiles and happiness, their sense of gratefulness, appreciation and affirmation of the very existence of compassion, care and kindness.
Now, it is November again, but four years later. My son is healthy and happy and I am calm, quiet with no pain. It is a beautiful sunny and warm day and I still feel the warmth of the sunlight on my skin. I am extremely grateful to the ones who helped us to withstand that horrifying storm and left us those amazing memories.