A lesson re learnt today

One
of our old (by old I mean on the programme right from the beginning ) and very
dear patients  came to see me in the
office today. He wanted to discuss some issues regarding his treatment and
spent the whole of lunch hour chatting with me. It was apparent he was in need
of some counselling. It was a good, productive hour and more that we spent together.

 As
always it is good to see our patients and over the years we have all developed
very strong bonds with many patients like these and their care givers too –
some friendships are very deep and we derive a lot of strength from them . And
we give a lot to them also. Confidences are shared and time spent even outside
of the working environment.

We
may go out with each other, break bread so to say together, spend time together
while traveling for meetings , conferences and so many other occasions may
bring us together . As bonding increases and relationships strengthen it is possible
some lines become blurred.

We
may sometimes even forget this person is a patient in the programme and our
relationship primarily began in a professional manner.  We may also make close bonds with the
patient’s wife, son, daughter, husband, brother, sister – even with their close
friends.

I
am very conscious of this for I have forged many close relationships with many
patients from all over the country and believe me there are many of them.  And they all confide in me. As do so many of
the patients with so many of the MAX team world over.

Anyway,
what led to this sharing is that , today , well into our session  , my patient  friend , very dear to me having known him closely
for the last 12 years , asked about the well-being and health of a few of the
other patients in the programme . I have schooled myself very well and never,
ever tell one patient anything about another – not even to our volunteer
friends who are neither patients nor caregivers.

So
when he asked me about many patients one after the other I found myself giving
my standard non-committal answer – must be fine , not spoken recently, have
you  been in touch with them and enquired
after them  , he /she would love to hear
from you .

He
looked puzzled and then he said  , “ oh ,
I ask you for if you share with us and if you tell us good news about other
patients , how they are doing well, we all feel happy. And if any one has a
problem then  we can also know and be
warned.” 

I
reminded him of the great sharing tool they all have – the yahoo e mail group
through which they could all share with each other what ever they wanted . And
how they could enquire about each other . He agreed but fell silent . And asked
me again if I had not met so and so recently or not been in touch with xyz in
the recent past.

Then
he said after some thought ,  “Amma, when
someone asks after me,  you must be
saying the same thing na ,  that you
don’t know?  That you have not met me in
a long time ? You will forget about me so easily or what ? That we met today ?
All I have told you ? “

I
understood what he was saying and I had to ask him straight and up front –

Beta,
will you really like me to discuss your health with someone else ?  Tomorrow , someone may ask me , so how is DC ?
You must be in touch with him? What medicine is he taking ? What does his doctor
say about him ?  Even if I have all the
answers and even if you do not mind , do you think I will share it with some
one else ? Do you think I should?

I
cannot break the privacy rule and  I
cannot discuss  you with somebody nor
somebody with you,  however close you and
I are ,  or you and the other person are
or the other person and I .

He
seemed to understand and said oh I never thought of it that way . I shared this
with the India team in an e mail for each of us have special relationships with
patients in our region and under our care . It is possible that in an unguarded
moment we share confidences unintentionally.  My message to my team was

 “I feel we are
all in this sensitive place and I am sure you are all also mindful of this and
do your best to maintain and respect patient privacy and confidences

Wanted to
share this before I forget how intense my conversation was with him “

 And
then I thought I should post it in Pat’s Blog so that all of you out there
could share some insights and inputs given your experiences
The picture I have added is of the daugther of one of the city chapter leaders of Friends of Max – taken on her first birhtday , a couple of weeks ago . She is my god daughter . I traveled to another city to be there with them on the special day. I do not meet my own children and grandchildren as often as i meet this little one and others in the FOM family . This is how close some relationships become but throughout it all we have to maintian professionalism and follow the guidelines given to us .

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