On Caregiving

From Harvard Magazine:

Med In 1966, as a visiting medical student at a London teaching hospital, I interviewed a husband and wife, in their early twenties, who had recently experienced a truly calamitous health catastrophe. On their wedding night, in their first experience of sexual intercourse, a malformed blood vessel in the husband’s brain burst, leaving him with a disabling paralysis of the right side of his body. Stunned and guilt-ridden, the couple clutched hands and cried silently as they shared their suffering with me. My job was to get the neurological examination right and diagnose where the rupture had taken place. I remember the famous professor, who went over my findings, repeating the neurological examination and putting me through my paces as a budding diagnostician. He never once alluded to the personal tragedy for the sad lovers and the shock to their parents. Finally, I found the courage to tell him that I thought the failure to address what really mattered to them—how to live their lives together from here on—was unacceptable. Surely, it was our medical responsibility to offer them some kind of caregiving and hope for the future. He smiled at me in a surprised and patronizing way; then he said I was right to insist that there was more to this case than the neurological findings. The professor had the patient and his wife brought to the lecture hall where he presided over the teaching rounds, and he gave them as sensitive an interview as I might have hoped for, including empathic suggestions for rehabilitation, family counseling, and social-work assistance.

More here.