My partner had to go into the hospital and I stayed in the men’s ward with him. During the night I heard a man quietly praying in Maori. A nurse had a torch in his face observing him. He was an old man his eyes were clenched shut and he was rocking. She left and he kept praying.
I’d not long lost my own father and this reminded me so much of him. I heard what I figured was real desperation in his voice.
Myself: “I’ve got to go.”
My partner: “No, don’t. Leave it alone.”
Myself: “Sorry, you’re okay. He’s not.”
I went to him, spoke a few words, smoothed his brow and put a hand on his shoulder, gently patting and rubbing as you might comfort a child who is not your own.
The night is horrible when you’re sick, everything is amplified and it’s more frightening. He just needed to (share the fear?) know someone was there.
A nurse came into the room (young thing), and said she was going to call his family, would I come to the patient lounge to talk.
You’ve got to go, she said. You can’t approach people and you can’t touch them. It’s not allowed. Apparently a breach of some protocol.
I wanted to ask her when she last got laid. I was annoyed and I didn’t like being spoken down to especially when I was trying to help.
“Well, no, I ain’t going,” I said. “I know what he was saying and I know what he was asking”. I felt it was my cultural duty and right to help sooth him.
This whole drama took less than ten minutes.
I was dismissed and walked back through the darkness to my partner with the nurse following. “I’m getting kicked out,” I told him. My partner grabbed my hand and told the nurse “She’s not going”.
The next day as I was passing a doorway I heard ‘There’s that angel from last night!’ Someone came rushing out and called me back. The man had been shifted to a private room and the family thanked me for being there for their husband/dad/grandad.
I broke the rules but felt I had to. And I’m glad I did.
Lessons from this story
- Most people know when it is okay to touch someone else.
- Being able to tell someone you’re scared is helpful.
- Being able to soothe someone is a humbling experience.
- If you feel comfortable about helping someone – do so.
- Figure out if its worth it to break rules you may find exist later. (Hidden consequences).
- Do what you think is right.