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The Human Touch

"The baby's heartbeat is slowing down; we need to do a Caesarean Section for her now!" In anaesthesia, we look after one patient at a time.  With obstetric anaesthesia, the stakes are doubled, with the safety of both mother and child being paramount.

As I rushed into the operating theatre to see the mother, Madam X, a whirl of activity greeted me.  There were at least 10 people in the room in organised chaos, all talking simultaneously.  Documents were being signed, medication being given and questions being asked of the mother in rapid fire sequence.  Madam X looked lost and bewildered in the midst of the urgency.

Although my mind was racing with everything I had to do, I sensed that she needed a voice of reassurance. Giving Madam X a comforting smile, I assured her that I would look after her during the surgery, and more importantly, stay by her side.

"Could you hold my hand?"  It was a simple request but one that made me do a double-take inside.  In medicine, we are taught to maintain a professional distance.  And yet, isn't this what any of us would need in a frightening situation? We naturally reach out to a voice of reassurance, a comforting smile, and the human touch.

With the spinal anaesthetic I gave Madam X taking full effect, the C-Section commenced.   I held her hand through the surgery, squeezing it tightly whenever she looked tearful, letting her know that she was not alone.

As a new-born's cries filled the room, her fearful tears changed to tears of joy. "Thank you so much for being with me, Doctor."

When one thinks of anaesthesiology, what comes to mind is that of a distant anaesthesiologist surrounded by multiple monitors as the oblivious patient undergoes surgery.   That night, I realised that in this era of high-tech medicine with all the marvellous technology that can measure any physiological parameter, sometimes what makes the most difference is the intangible:  The value of the human touch and being present for our patients.