I have spent two periods in hospital in my life: pretty healthy for a smoker.
The first was when I had my first child. A long and protracted labour, v-e-r-y long. After around 20 hours my lovely midwife - a large West Indian woman with children of her own - rolled me into a wheelchair, pushed me down the hospital corridor to the smoking room, lit two cigarettes (one for herself and one for me) and popped mine into my mouth between contractions. She soothed me, saying that she knew I was very tired but after the ciggie-break we’d go back and I’d give a few more pushes and there we would have my lovely baby. She was right, and the lovely baby is now almost 40 and a mother herself.
The second was worse. Our second child had a life-threatening condition (congenital kidney failure) and throughout his babyhood and early life almost died many times.
The anguish of sleeping with him in the children’s ward thinking he was dying was relieved only by occasional visits to the parents’ smoking room where we met other distraught parents, many worse off than we were, and we gained comfort from each other and our cig-breaks. The nursing staff and doctors to a person were sympathetic and caring and often suggested we went for a smoke-break along the corridor to relieve our anguish.
Belinda of the blog Freedom-2-Choose (Scotland) draws our attention to a retired doctor who has written eloquently that he has ‘looked in dismay at the degradation heaped on smokers in our hospitals in recent years’ and regards the banning of smoking even in hospital grounds as ‘primitive savagery’. I shouldn’t need to mention this, but the doctor is a non-smoker.
This was medical care and compassion for ‘the whole patient’ at its finest.
When can we hope to see such care and compassion again?