In your most frail gesture


As a thought experiment, try spending a morning imagining that you are such a carer, trying to expunge the smell of soiled sheets from your clothes, while awaiting a visit from a neighbour, who said he would ‘sit with him’ so you can catch the bus into town, and, like a guilty hedonist, play truant from your role as nurse for a few sanity-giving hours of normal life. You wait. No one comes. You stop bothering about the smell on your clothes, and turn towards your husband, about to say something, but when your eyes meet his, you realize he does not recognize you – and you keep your thoughts to yourself. Knuckles whiten as you grasp his collar to lift him forward on the commode, and you seem to hear a mocking voice over your shoulder saying: “…so I see we’re getting angry with him today, are we?” The careless round from mouth to anus, from bed to chair, from twilight to twilight, continues, ad infinitum. …… As ever. the way forward is by taking time to listen. Congratulate the carer, and acknowledge that they may be accomplishing more than what 3 full-time nurses working round the clock could achieve.  – Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine.                                          PHOTO CREDITS: ARFA MASIHUDDIN, M.B.B.S., BATCH XX





I saw a patient today. He had Parkinson’s. Tremors, shuffling gait — the works. His wife was with him. She was old, too. I opened the door and helped him into the room and stood by him to steady him. And then his wife came in and it was just the way she kept her hands to either side of him, letting him walk on his own, but ready to catch him if he fell. “In your most frail gesture,” writes E. E. Cummings, “are things which enclose me, / or which I cannot touch because they are too near”.


About the author: Shahzeb hopes to do his residency under the great Dr. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna. He blogs at

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