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Stan’s Stuff

A column by Stan Stewart, who owns The Informer with his wife, Pauline

Hospitals, that is all I can think of at this moment. My son is desperately sick. For seven weeks, visiting him in a huge Brisbane hospital has been my daily focus.

In the lifts and coffee shop and waiting areas, I see and hear many people who need the services available in the hospital. Some have travelled hundreds, some thousands of kilometres. Their beautiful homes in the bush and/or near the beaches are not what they need now.

I heard a bush couple talking of buying an apartment in a multi-storey building near the hospital, a previously unthinkable thought. Such is life, old Father Time takes no prisoners!

Sixty years ago, I was hospitalized as the result of a motorbike accident. It landed me in the emergency ward of a very big Melbourne hospital. I can remember lying in a ward with my leg a pulp. I was surrounded by medics, junior doctors I imagine.

The doctor in charge wore a white coat. After inspecting my leg, he turned to one of his assistants and said, “Ask him to move his foot”. I was incensed. He was standing beside my head. Why didn’t he ask me directly? That incident has stayed with me. At the time, I asked a nurse friend, why did he ignore me? Why did he treat me as a non-person? “Oh, that’s the way doctors are,” she said. “They see themselves as a cut above ordinary people.”

For weeks now, I have been in a hospital ward for more than six hours each day. As well as ward doctors and trainee doctors, I have seen registrars, surgeons, specialists and heads of departments. I want to say that the “Ask him to move his leg” brigade has moved on. Never once have I sensed even a hint of that attitude.

The dozens of people who have examined and advised my son, have been highly personable. They relate to him directly with no hint of superiority. They listen carefully to his questions. They don’t come across as “a cut-above”. My son and I have experienced them as one of us. They are experts for sure, but part of our humanity.

However, because of my exposure to hospital life, I feel compelled to sound a note of warning. I don’t think it is widely known, but a large proportion of hospital staff these days are teenagers, adolescents from around the world. This also applies to the doctors. I look at them and wonder, have they actually finished high school?

Such are the ruminations of an old man. I had heard that nursing these days was all hi-tech with none of the old-style caring for the person, the patient. Baloney! Certainly, there is hi-tech evidence everywhere, but these nurses and doctors, male and female, from around the world, reach out to their patients with human warmth and understanding. They encourage me.

We face an unknown and threatening future. However, this array of young people working in medicine give me hope. I think they are up to the task of facing the future. I admire them. I think my role is in turn, to encourage them.

May their tribe increase!

Pictured is Stan Stewart, co-owner of The Informer.

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