We live in such hurried times. Doctors, nurses and other care givers are often in such a hurry to treat so many patients that a kind gesture, a word of comfort from them can be such a welcoming gesture. Especially since when sick, even the most powerful can become so helpless and in need. That’s why when a letter penned by an emergency room doctor at New York Presbyterian Hospital touched the hearts of millions when it went on the Internet.
The son of the deceased woman first published on Reddit from which other websites caught it and it went viral in an instant. The woman who reportedly died of breast cancer in December 2012, touched the heart of the doctor who treated her. In the letter addressed to her husband, the doctor explains that this is the first such note he has written during 20 years of working in the emergency room of a busy hospital.
Most of us are familiar with the busy atmosphere in the ER – having watched the hugely popular medical TV shows such as ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs, it gives you an idea of just how stressed out it can be. Our own accident ward is equally busy – doctors and nurses there manage admirably with limited resources.
Personal interaction
Viewed by over two million users on Reddit, with thousands leaving comments, the doctor's letter has warmed the hearts of thousands of people all over the world for one obvious reason – he cared enough to put pen to paper. Living as we do in an era that leaves little time for nice gestures, his letter comes as a bolt from the blue, a pleasant one at that.
Not many of us bother writing these days. Why write when you can either text on your mobile phone or e mail – or even Facebook or Twitter your friends and family around the world in seconds. Yet, a letter remains one of mankind’s legacies that give a glimpse into gestures that are precious and memorable.
In his letter, the doctor whose identity was withheld, stated “I am the Emergency Medicine physician who treated your wife in the Emergency Department. I learned only yesterday about her passing away and wanted to write to you to express my sadness. In my twenty years as a doctor in the Emergency Room, I have never written to a patient or a family member, as our encounters are typically hurried and do not always allow for more personal interaction.
“However, in your case, I felt a special connection to your wife, who was so engaging and cheerful in spite of her illness and trouble breathing. I was also touched by the fact that you seemed to be a very loving couple. You were highly supportive of her, asking the right questions with calm, care and concern. From my experience as a physician, I find that the love and support of a spouse or a family member is the most soothing gift, bringing peace and serenity to those critically ill.
“I am sorry for your loss and I hope you can find comfort in the memory of your wife’s great spirit and of your loving bond. My heartfelt condolences go out to you and your family”.
Faith in humanity
The note was brief but filled with care and concern a perfect stranger can have for another human being. Not out of pity as we sometimes do nor out of superficial care some of us are good at putting on display but out of a genuine sense of concern as only a care giver can display to someone who has been in his/her care. It was a touching yet poignant display of humanity, penned by a doctor through whose hands many would have passed through.
It is encounters such as these that help me, for one, renew my faith in humanity. A lot of things may be wrong with the way we do things but there are these occasional outbursts of love and caring that assures me that all hope is not yet lost. For every cold and busy person who does not have time for you, there is someone who has the time. There is always enough hope to make the world go on. The man who posted the letter on Reddit said the outpouring of grief by strangers had touched his heart and enabled him to deal with his loss.
"If my mother were alive to see this, she would want readers to reflect on the power of showing compassion toward a total stranger," he said in an interview. "The support I got from Reddit was amazing — doctors, nurses and other Redditors who have lost their mothers to cancer were all shocked and amazed that the doctor took the time to write such a heartfelt, meaningful letter.”
Always find the time to do little gestures – saying thank you, saying how much you feel someone’s loss, how much you wish things had not changed. Little gestures go a long long way in touching someone’s life. And we can all give a little bit of that towards one another.


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