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I NEVER imagined myself saying this, but my recent visit to Nenagh General Hospital in County Tipperary, Ireland, was a pleasant one. I do not think anyone fancies going to a hospital unless she really has to. Other than the happy occasion of welcoming a newborn baby, most of us associate hospitals with emergency cases, blood and all its gore.

This time around, I went for a routine colonoscopy on a Wednesday morning and the anxiety drama started on the Monday prior to that because I had to go on a soft diet, followed by a liquid fast. Then on Tuesday, I had to drink two litres of MoviPrep and one litre of water. It wasn’t exactly the most fantastic drink, but the flavour had improved greatly since the last time I took it.

When the day came, I was surrounded by lovely and very friendly hospital staff — right from the admissions desk to the day ward. Nurses like Peggy, Helena, Dierdre and Aine fussed around me and made me forget what I was in there for.

That is what I call the human touch.

What a difference good bedside manners make. You are surrounded by total strangers and, yet, they treat you so well, as if they have known you for some time or you are their next of kin.

There was a number of elderly patients around me, and I observed that the staff spoke very nicely to them and cared for them with great respect. Although respecting the elderly is an olden rule, to actually see younger people putting that to practice is something else.

A far cry from what I had experienced in hospitals before.

I had nurses shouting at me in both private and public hospitals.

When I was at a private hospital delivering my firstborn, a nurse made snide and uncouth remarks when I was writhing with labour pains. Because it was so traumatic, I can still hear those remarks even though my daughter is well into adulthood.

On another occasion, my daughter was sick with croup and had to be hospitalised for a week in a public hospital known for its state-of-the-art facilities. She was 4 at the time. As I could not take time off from my lectures, I had to sit by her bedside and prepare my lessons while she slept, only to be sarcastically told off by a nurse that the children’s ward was not a market where I could bring in my “wares” and do my work.

Oftentimes, we blame it on the environment, the lack of staff or the staff being overworked. I guess when we want to find something to blame, there is always something to blame.

Dealing with humans is a calling. There are those in people-related professions, medical or otherwise, who should not have been there in the first place. We also hear of awful stories of carers, who abuse their senior patients who are not in a position to fend for themselves. In the absence of closed-circuit television cameras that can reveal the horrors of abuse, I wonder, how many patients are silently suffering for fear of retribution?

So, back to my experience at the Nenagh General Hospital day ward. When I finally woke up after the procedure, there was no lack of attention, either. I was given a can of 7 Up, followed by a pot of hot piping tea and two slices of toast, with butter and marmalade (just like Paddington bear, marmalade is my favourite jam).

I felt like it was home away from home.

A blessed Christmas to one and all.

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