A lesson in compassion [014]

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Today is World Kindness Day – a day to promote kindness, and compassion (may I add).

And today I want to share something that has been on my mind for the last couple of months. It’s a reminder to give kindness and compassion, instead of judgment or indifference.

a-lesson-in-compassionMy own lesson in compassion

When I broke my leg a couple of months ago, I stayed in hospital for 5 nights. Having hurt myself at 9 am, that morning and early afternoon weren’t great, with the trip to the A&E and all the pain. But once I had a temporary cast on and was settled in the ward, I even thought: “Well, this is my opportunity to have a rest now. To have a night without a breastfed child waking me up every couple of hours. To be on my own for a bit”.

But everyone knows you don’t get any sleep in hospitals, right?

First of all, I underestimated the fact that I was in there for a reason. I had just fractured two bones – I was in pain. A plaster cast and a few painkillers weren’t really making that much of a difference.

And I was uncomfortable. Try and be stuck on a bed all day and then sleep on your back like a mummy when your leg weighs a ton, and you can’t move it anyway, and then we can talk about how much sleep you (didn’t) get.

So that was me, but all around me, no one else slept much either.

Bed #1

On the bed across me, there was an elderly lady – I think she mentioned she was 92. She was just so tiny and looking so frail. So kind to all the nurses. Every single morning, they’d come in and ask her whether she wanted tea or coffee. “Coffee, dear, I don’t drink tea!” Same drill in the afternoon when the trolley came back again.

I don’t know why she was there. She never moved from her bed and didn’t have anyone coming to visit her. She was there the whole time I was there. I don’t know how long she’d been there before and how long she stayed after that.

But at night, she’d try and rest, and often start screaming out of nowhere. Crying. “Help! Help! Please, somebody help me!” I was the closest to the nurses’ station, and I’d look over, worried. They could hear but didn’t come. I felt so sad for her. Of course I soon learnt that she was doing that every night, and only in the night. Only when the lights went down. They would attend to her at regular intervals of course, to give her medications and take her readings. But otherwise, no one answered her screams.

I laid there wondering what her story was and feeling sad that no one had the time to go and just briefly hold her hand. Just for a minute. Maybe she didn’t need anything material – not a pill or her back propped up. But maybe she just needed someone to tell her that everything was ok. That it was just a dream, or just the past, maybe.

Bed #2

Next to the elderly lady was a 47-year old lady who was dying of cancer. This I know because of course in a mixed ward you get no privacy. When relatives, doctors and nurses come, you can pull a curtain, but you can’t help hearing what’s going on. She was in hospital because her doctors were trying to manage her pain. She wanted to be at home, and spend the time she had left with her 16-year old son. A son who came to visit her a few times. A son who came once and was unable to wake her up. So he gave her a kiss, gave the nurses a bag of things he’d brought for her and left.

I wondered how far he’d come from. And how far he’d have to go to go back. I wondered how heartbroken he must have felt and asked myself whether he had anyone to go to for support when he left, and whether he’d reach out to anyone at all, because it must have been terrible for him.

She was struggling with her breathing, and nights were really bad for her. I could hear her making worrying noises, and I’d sit up, look over, ask her whether she needed help. She’d nod, so I’d call the nurses. I’d have to call and call. Often they’d give her an oxygen mask. But often they’d tell her they couldn’t give her anything else. And left.

And that’s probably true, that they couldn’t give her anything else, but I don’t think anyone can even imagine the amount of pain she must have been in – physical and emotional pain. I felt sad that no one was there to give her a little extra kindness.

Bed #3

And next to this lady was another lady who came in probably during my third night. She was in hospital for a chest infection, but she also had a mental illness. Unfortunately, I’m too ignorant on the subject to be able to say what she might have had, but she had a carer with her, day and night. She’d often be asleep in the day, but come evening, she’d be up, and restless. She’d walk off. “Sharon, Sharon, please come back to bed”, the carer would say. And sometimes she’d get abusive. She’d shout and swear at them. Cry. She’d throw herself on the floor. Then a couple of nurses would intervene, try and put her back to bed, pull the curtains. She’d hit them. And then there would be talk about the fact that she shouldn’t be on that ward, because these nurses weren’t trained to be able to look after her properly. By the early hours of the morning, she’d calm down and sleep. And become this helpless, ill lady, who of course never wanted to hit, or swear or be lying on the floor.

Back to me again.

With my broken leg.

In pain, yes, especially on my 4th and 5th night, after having surgery.

Unable to get comfortable. To sleep. Unable to stop thinking about the ladies I was inevitably ‘staring at’ all day and all night. Trying to help and call the nurses when I could, but otherwise feeling so helpless.

Feeling sorry for myself for being ‘stuck’ in a bed and not even being able to go to the toilet. For having so many months of recovery ahead. Feeling upset for the impact this would have on my family – how were we even going to cope??

But actually, yes, I had an accident, I hurt myself, and I was in a lot of pain for a while. But with time, a lot of patience, a lot of hard work and a bit of luck my life will go back to ‘normal’. It may have felt like a long time back then, but I was only in hospital for 5 nights. How long were the other women there for? How are they now? Are they really better, or are they still suffering?

Because a lot of the time, and especially at night, I didn’t end up sleeping. I didn’t end up ‘enjoying’ the time away from a breastfed baby who’d wake me up at regular intervals. I didn’t.

But I did experience empathy, consideration and understanding for the ladies I briefly shared a room with. For those 5 days and nights I became a more compassionate person, and I don’t want to forget that.

And please don’t misread this and think it’s about me saying: “look at them – there’s always someone who’s worse off than you”.

It’s not about that.

This is about knowing that even when you feel hurt and down, there is always someone out there who still needs care, humanity, help and a little kindness, and we shouldn’t forget that.

We get too wrapped up in our own stories sometimes, and we forget that.

So today, for World Kindness Day, I wanted to remind myself of the lesson I learnt in hospital.

A lesson in compassion.

And a lesson I don’t want to forget.


  1. 16th November 2016 / 12:57 am

    I love this post. Powerful and full of humanity. I have spent a fair amount of time in hospital as I have a kidney disease. It has taught me empathy & I always feel you should ask how others are. I was like you worried about other and wishing I could help. Sometimes a word or a hold of the hand is all they need. I wonder how those poor ladies are. How awful to be 47 & dying of cancer & the poor old lady & the mental health one. You must think of them often. I hope you are on the mend. Hugs x

    • Sara Bussandri
      16th November 2016 / 10:53 pm

      Thank you Susan – I hope you feel better soon. It must be hard for you and your family, and I hope you get to stay out of hospital! I do think about them often – it’s only been a couple of months, and I hope I don’t forget. Hugs back to you 🙂 x

  2. 18th November 2016 / 10:49 am

    A beautiful post. Nurses have such a hard job. Coping with all the heartbreaking stories of the patients must be waaaay harder than coping with the physical symptoms.
    I great reminder that sometimes just a hug and a listening ear can make all the difference

    • Sara
      18th November 2016 / 4:10 pm

      Thank you Suzie – they do indeed have a very hard job. And they work very very hard – they’re always non-stop! Thank you for popping by 🙂

  3. 21st November 2016 / 3:55 pm

    working at a hospital, I understand what you are saying completely. It can really put things in perspective in a hurry #KCACOLS

    • Sara
      21st November 2016 / 6:44 pm

      Thank you Jeremy – it’s a really hard job to have. A very rewarding one, no doubt, but still very hard at times, I’m sure!

  4. Soppymum (Sara)
    23rd November 2016 / 4:57 pm

    This was such a lovely and moving post. I always wish there was more I could do for people but sometimes just a small gesture would be enough. I hope you are getting better and thank you for sharing #fortheloveofblog

    • Sara
      23rd November 2016 / 5:22 pm

      Thank you Sara 🙂 I’m still not mobile but slowly getting there, thank you for your kind words and wishes! 🙂

  5. Laura
    24th November 2016 / 8:47 pm

    Such a lovely post. Nurses really do deserve medals! Sometimes just a smile is all it takes #KCACOLS

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 10:52 am

      Thank you Laura – they do! It’s a really tough environment to work in, and they’re always SO busy!

  6. 24th November 2016 / 10:06 pm

    This was such a thought provoking post. I can understand why the nurses may not be tending to every call they got from the old lady. They are so overworked that I imagine they don’t have time. But on the other hand, it would have broken my heart to listen to hear cry out.

    Hope the leg is healing nicely! Thanks for linking up with #KCACOLS and hope to see you again soon x

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 10:53 am

      It’s a tough job – they have A LOT on. A lot of people to look after and a lot of paperwork to do.. It’s a tough one…

  7. 25th November 2016 / 10:58 am

    A lovely post – very powerful! Nurses work so hard, it must be tough to know someone is shouting out for you but that you can’t do anything to help and that others need you too #kcacols

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 11:01 am

      They do! And sometimes it must be a tough call between choosing not to intervene if you know you can’t help and carrying on with your other duties 🙁

  8. 25th November 2016 / 11:08 am

    This is a beautiful post, and a very timely reminder of the importance of a little kindness and compassion! I hope you’re making a good recovery with your leg. #KCACOLS

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 12:51 pm

      Thank you 🙂 Slowly slowly getting there! 😉

  9. 25th November 2016 / 1:05 pm

    This post made me cry. So beautiful and moving I just wanted to reach out and hold the old ladys hand too to give her some comfort. #kcacols

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 1:36 pm

      Thank you Tracey – I know. I often think about what she was re-living. Feeling scared is horrible 🙁

  10. 25th November 2016 / 2:58 pm

    This post really stopped me in my tracks. We all need to remember what is going on in other people’s lives when we moan about our own. You may a very important point here about care in our institutions. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 3:33 pm

      Thank you Sharon – it’s one from the heart, to be honest. I have been lucky enough to not have spent a long time in hospital, but we might be ‘the other person in another bed’ one day, and each one of us has their own story, and one that’s important and valuable. And if we scream for help, there might be a reason… I often think about these ladies, and it helps me 🙂

  11. 25th November 2016 / 5:44 pm

    This is so sad- I know our NHS is stretched but I do think sometimes when you work in that environment every day and see awful things everyday you can become a bit hardened to it and forget to be as compassionate as you could be. I know I certainly felt it when I was on the induction ward before giving birth to Arthur and throughout most of my labour we were left alone and I really felt that. It’s such a shame #kcacols

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 6:05 pm

      Oh I’m sorry you felt that way – thinking about it, I was also left on my own with my first, and I did feel it. They are very busy and do a great job – I have a lot of respect for their work, but maybe you are right – maybe you can become a bit hardened. And maybe you have to. Otherwise you go home in tears every night? 🙁

  12. 25th November 2016 / 10:44 pm

    grrr commented and comp crashed. basically what a great post. I really feel for the elderly lady. there must be so many people in this situation – lonely, without family. it’s truly heartbreaking. I do hope your leg recovers soon though x #KCACOLS

    • Sara
      25th November 2016 / 11:36 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I know – I think of her often and would have loved to know her story 🙂

    • Sara
      26th November 2016 / 11:52 am

      Thank you Rachel 🙂

  13. 26th November 2016 / 12:08 am

    Hey Sara, such an important post. Gosh I remember when I was in hospital on shared wards and you soon realised others had far worse things going on. It does put things into perspective and yes, compassion is so important when we can get absorbed by our own little worlds at times #fortheloveofBLOG

    • Sara
      26th November 2016 / 11:51 am

      Thank you Sunita – I’m getting there slowly, thank you. After a few months, I think we’ve figured it out now 😉

  14. 26th November 2016 / 10:00 am

    Such a moving post, and how we as individuals are bought together. I hope that your leg is a little better now. It must be such a hard job being a nurse, dealing with all sorts of different illnesses, and often not being thanked. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    • Sara
      26th November 2016 / 11:48 am

      Thank you Claire – very slowly getting there. I know – I would never be able to be a nurse. They have all my respect!

  15. 8th December 2016 / 4:35 pm

    This is so sad to read. I hope you are well and healed now lovely. I think kindness is such a big lesson and it makes me sad to think of those others who were scared and alone at times with little support or help. These situations also make you feel so grateful for your health and what you have got. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst xs

    • Sara
      8th December 2016 / 10:59 pm

      Thank you Sarah – I’m on the mend. Still homebound but SO much better than I was. I often think about them and just hope and pray that they are also a lot better somehow… x

  16. 8th December 2016 / 9:57 pm

    Oh this made me cry. How many patients are there in the world, restless at night, hoping their pain would go away? We complain about the NHS being short staffed, but what we need is people volunteering time to just talk to people. Just make them feel human again for a moment. Thanks for writing this post. Renee x #bestandworst

    • Sara
      8th December 2016 / 10:57 pm

      I know – and you’re making me cry reading your comment Renee! That is so so true! And so often for so so many people the pain and the fear don’t go away at night. And they may never go 🙁 You’re right… people need people… Thank you for your beautiful words x

  17. 12th December 2016 / 10:45 am

    What a lovely post. This reminds me so much of my sister who has just passed away during the Summer with cancer. I can’t imagine how her boy is coping right now. xx #BestandWorst

    • Sara
      12th December 2016 / 11:10 am

      Oh Su I’m really really sorry to hear about your sister. I can’t even begin to think how hard it is for you all. I’m really sorry for your loss. Hope you have lots of love and support from your family during this awful awful time for you all. May your beautiful sister rest in peace xx

  18. 20th December 2016 / 9:48 am

    Another powerful post here, brings loads of emotions up to the surface just reading this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Sara
      20th December 2016 / 3:00 pm

      Thank you Mainy – and thank you for hosting the Christmas linky and sharing such beautiful comments 🙂

  19. 22nd December 2016 / 5:20 pm

    Sometimes a hug and a listening ear can make the world of difference to someone. The NHS definitely need more staff. Most nurses and midwives would love to just sit and chat to patients to talk about experiences, fears and hopes but often only have time for the bare essentials outlined by policies!

    • Sara
      23rd December 2016 / 3:47 pm

      That’s so true Helen – they have SO much to do! They look after a lot of patients and have a HUGE amount of paperwork to do as well!

  20. 27th January 2017 / 6:36 pm

    My heart goes out to these patients and the nurses too. It’s difficult for everyone. #PostsFromTheHeart

    • Sara
      27th January 2017 / 10:50 pm

      It is 🙁 Thank you for reading and retweeting Helena 🙂

  21. 29th January 2017 / 10:09 pm

    I love this post so much. It is so important to look around us and give as much kindness as we can to those around us. There is always someone in need of compassion. If we all thought like this a little more the world would be a much nicer place. I hope your leg is now fully healed. Thank you so much for sharing this important reminder with us at #PostsFromTheHeart

    • Sara
      2nd February 2017 / 12:20 pm

      Thank you Victoria 🙂 My leg is on its way to recovery. Physio is coming to the rescue very soon. Although I might need surgery again at the end of this year, so another hospital stay and 8 weeks on crutches might be in order 🙁

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