The gift of chocolate

So this may not be the blog post you are expecting.

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A little back ground, I have worked within the NHS for around 7 years now – admin/customer service related in three different department. I currently work within a department which carries out procedures, it is not an emergency department but it is the first time there is a real possibility that a patient could be admitted following the procedure. Prior to this I worked in Sexual Health and Physiotherapy. I joke that I am working my way around as many disciplines as possible.

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So now back on track – I am now in the habit of carrying a couple of bars of chocolate in my bag. I am not a big fan of chocolate to be honest, I get the occasional craving for it but generally speaking it isn’t a big concern. But I am make sure that I don’t leave the house without a bar – and a magazine if I have time. And there is a good reason for this….

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This week, I called a ward to see if they could bring a patient down a little earlier for this appointment. I was treated abruptly by the member of staff on the phone (yes, it isn’t just the public) and told the patient had been discharged ‘days ago’. Which led me to calling the patient’s wife and confirming that they would be coming in later – I had had the presence of mind when making the appointment to send a letter to the home address as this is not the first time. Now I am the clinic co ordinator, so I don’t actually have a lot of direct patient contact and generally speaking, I am snowed under so I didn’t see the patient come in. But a couple of hours after my lunch break I became aware of fluttering and a lady who had been sat in our reception area since I had got back from lunch. It appears that a patient had taken a turn and it was suggested that he be admitted.

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It was at this point I put two and two together and realise that the patient’s wife was sat in our reception area and would have a long evening ahead. So I reached into my handbag and pulled out my bar of chocolate, and walked over to the patient’s wife. She started laughing and commented that with breasts as big as hers, did she really need chocolate. We got chatting, she started crying, I nearly started crying, we had a discussion about her children, and we even laughed. I felt bad leaving, I mean, I really felt guilty. Why should I be going home while her husband is still on a couch in one of our exam rooms?

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This isn’t isolated, a couple of weeks ago, a patient came in for a procedure and it was deemed clinically necessary for him to stay over night for observation. This is rare but happens. Unfortunately, as usual there was no bed available so he was left spending the afternoon in the clinic with his wife. After our last patient had gone, one of the nurses popped down the canteen to get him and his wife dinner. I made tea. It was a silly  little thing to me, just a cup of tea, but both the patient and his wife were so grateful. I then remembered I had bought a magazine that morning, so I gave it to the patient’s wife to read. Not her usual reading material but waiting around in hospital especially when you aren’t expecting it, can be long, and tiresome. Then just as I was packing up to go, I rememberer I had emergency chocolate (that is a thing, right? ) in my bag, and gave it to them as a desert. Again, they were both very grateful and it over whelmed me somewhat so I quickly beat my retreat.

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I am not suggesting that you all go out and start stuffing your bags with chocolate – unless you want to. What I am trying to say is that it is a multitude of small gestures and not always a grand gesture that makes a difference. When you help someone cross the road, pick up an item that was dropped, hold open a door or even smile at someone. Try and treat people the way you would want to be treated, I know it can be hard and at times challenging. People have a lot on their minds, they can be selfish and self absorbed. But not only does one good turn deserve another… it is also a positive for you. I always end up feeling happier when I have helped someone. And you don’t have to feel guilty about it – you are on a dopamine and Oxtocin, dopamine is released in the anticipation, and Oxytocin is released during social bonding. It is a reward situation, which is to say, when you anticipate something and get a good feeling, it strengthens your resolve to do it again.

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And I am getting all pseudoscience on you aren’t I ? I remember watching an episode of Friends, years ago, in which Phoebe was getting upset over her inability to preform an entirely selfless act. Because it is impossible. We are driven by a risk/reward in our own body. We do things because not only do we understand that it helps another person out, but because we feel good about it. So don’t ever feel guilty! Embrace it, if it makes you feel good and you want to do it again? That is fantastic, we all start doing a little more good and feeling a little better! 

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