A Caregiver Vignette: The Power of Kindness


Dedicated to all the caregivers who help keep us going in times of difficulty.

Aldous Huxley wrote the novel “Brave New World.” Toward the end of his life an interviewer asked: “Dr. Huxley, perhaps more than anyone else alive, you have studied the great spiritual traditions of the world. What have you learned?” Huxley replied, “I think we could just be a bit kinder.”

I was the beneficiary of extraordinary kindness in 1971, when I was 24 years of age. I have forgotten his name, but not him-I just refer to him as my guardian angel. He was an orderly in a French hospital in Ottawa and thanks to his dedication and caring I recovered from a car accident several months before the orthopedic surgeon had predicted.

Following a bad accident on a hot July 1st, I regained consciousness in the recovery room of the Ottawa General to discover that I had a broken pelvis and collar bone while deeply convinced that I was also pregnant.

The next few days were difficult for the nursing staff as I stubbornly refused all pain medication and as a result would faint from the pain. I was determined that my unborn baby would not be exposed to any drugs that were potentially harmful.

My French guardian angel, who spoke limited English, appeared in my room at midnight, three days into my hospital stay. When we met he took my hand while questioning me on my reasons for being uncooperative. After listening to my story with his serious and open heart, he agreed to help me and help the nurses responsible for my care. “It is not good for you to be in so much pain, he said. “There is only one thing to do; I will have to help your healing through laughter.”

“The nights are quiet here,” he explained, “so I can spend time with you. And you aren’t sleeping anyway, so we will tell stories.” And that is how he began his ten-day midnight shift and I began my healing journey through nights of laughing and crying to his stories and songs, mixed in with the pain of broken bones and bruised ribs.

At first I would beg him to stop as the laughter worsened the pain, but he kept on, while holding my hand and fanning me from the heat. My suffering, however, began to ease. The fainting stopped. I soon could sleep for a few hours, and physiotherapy began. As the days went on and I was able to be lifted into a wheel chair, he started the next phase, which was to get me to eat.

“If you could have anything you wanted to eat in the whole world, “he asked me one night at two in the morning, “what would it be?”

“A pepperoni, green pepper and mushroom pizza from Mario’s Pizza,” I answered instantly.

“You’re in luck, “he said, “I will order out right now and when it arrives, I will bring you down to the nurse’s station and we’ll all have a pizza party. I’m buying,” he insisted.

Eating began again.

And so it went. Caring, kindness, skill, devotion, humor, thoughtfulness, even his own money, to help a “patient” who was lucky enough to be there on his shift.

My daughter, born eight months later, and I, are eternally grateful to this extraordinary caregiver of our lives. With lifelong appreciation and love, to this unnamed but not forgotten human being. Trudy