So the other day I burnt the side of my hand with a frying pan and it formed a scald and a blister. It could’ve been worse, but I had put my hand under a running tap for a few minutes after the burn so the scald was small but still painful.
Anyway, at work the next day I was complaining about how annoying and painful it is to a colleague when a feeble old man walked in, close to tears.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, seriously concerned. I hate seeing people cry, especially old people.
“I have a little problem” he trembled.
“Oh my, what’s going on? Maybe we can help.”
“I… I c-c-can’t open it.” He placed his hands on the counter and my heart quivered. His hands were crooked, his fingers were lopsided and his joints swollen and deformed. He’s got rheumatoid arthritis and he’s in pain. He’s trying to open the container so he can take his medication but he can’t and that’s why he’s here; so we can open it for him.
I nearly slapped myself. I mean here I was, complaining about a stupid little burn blister and this poor old man has almost completely lost his dexterity. I opened it for him and got him some water to take his medication, all the while trying so hard to fight back my own tears.
He used to play the piano, Chopin and Tchaikovsky were his favourites. Now all he can do is listen to it on his sound system which sometimes he can’t operate when his joints get even more inflamed. His wife would’ve helped him, but she passed away years ago and he’s all alone.
It felt so strange. What a weird coincidence! Was God trying to tell me something or did this man just have impeccable timing? Or both? I usually try hard not to complain, but every now and then something happens that I just have to grumble about – I am human after all.
I had seen rheumatoid arthritis before this, but I have never given much thought to how difficult a person’s life becomes. If there’s any way to make their lives easier, I’m up for it – say Webster Packs maybe. I’m slowly falling in love with Geriatric Pharmacy! To see these old people who have lived their lives and now when it’s time to rest and relax, they are burdened with illnesses while their children just dump them in nursing homes and go about their lives is really heartbreaking. I don’t think I can ever put my parents in a nursing home.
I felt so guilty. Like I owed him something. I felt bad that I could use my hands and he couldn’t. It got me thinking – What if I wake up one day and realize I can’t use my hands? How much of a nuisance will that be? To find out I can’t do the things that bring me joy? What about my crafts? My jewelry? My games? My writing? Even the mundane daily tasks that we often take for granted?
I wanted to take a picture of him and hang it on my wall so that whenever (If ever!) I feel life sucks; I can look at it and count my blessings! But that would be breaching patient ~ pharmacist confidentiality.
For now, I have my memory and my conscience – I hope they serve me well.
Lots of Love and Empathy
Fatima “It-could-have-been-worse” Bukar
P.S – I’m doing my Community Pharmacy placement (pharm jargon for community internship!) at Captain Stirling Pharmacy, Stirling Highway Nedlands! Please drop by and see me in action! I can’t promise you a discount, but I can assure you excellent service! And let’s face it – that’s all you want right?