Re: Near- lethal illness

Those who have traveled the road to the River and stood on its very brink will reflect on their own emotions, emotions which are described with perception and sensitivity by Dr Erik Paterson, “Feelings on encountering a near-lethal illness,”[BCMJ 2002;44(5):278]. 

May I add that there is an aspect, and a very practical one at that, which Dr Paterson has not touched upon? It is the small kindnesses which are so important: a short visit just to say hello and show that you care, a note or letter, a card or a phone call. Long and exhausting visits are unnecessary and undesirable; a brief moment is easier on both visitor and visited.

Incidentally, it is not the learned nurse who has written a master’s thesis on the protein composition of the prion, but rather the considerate and practical one, the one who ensures the water is hot before giving the sponge bath and who smoothes the wrinkles from the sheets. No words can describe the unspoken message when, believing you to be asleep, she quietly changes the infusion, stands beside you observing your breathing, and then leans over to touch you.

It is in the still small hours, with the oxygen bubbling softly in the vaporizer and misting the mask, with the soft glow of the monitor where the lines flutter and dance like Wordsworth’s famous daffodils on the shores of Lake Ullswater at Easter time. Then it is that the lovely lines from Cymbeline, written in the quiet of Shakespeare’s closing years, come to mind:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
Nor the furious winter’s rages:
Thou thy worldly task has done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages.

—H.E. Woolley, MD

H. Ewart Woolley, MD. Re: Near- lethal illness. BCMJ, Vol. 44, No. 7, September, 2002, Page(s) 339 - Letters.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

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