Emotional blackmail

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The medics and nurses have come to realise how much I like talking to the patients as well as working out what’s wrong with them and trying to fix it. I think they feel I have special persuasive powers when it comes to health education. Of course, I can’t speak more than half a dozen words of Karen, but the medics and nurses do a fine job translating my pearls of wisdom.

“She wants to take the baby home doctor,” said the medic. “You speak to her, I’m sure you can persuade her to stay until the baby has finished the intravenous antibiotics.” So, no pressure then.

I started with the “soft sell”, complimenting her on the beautiful baby she had just delivered. “Of course you want to go home, but you want the very best treatment for your newborn, too.”

She explained that her husband had to go back home to work in the fields. Her mother would have looked after the two year old at home, but she also needed to work. The poor two year old had been left with a neighbour, and the mother felt guilty. She could have looked after both little ones at home quite easily.

“Well you could bring the two year old here and look after them while the baby finishes the course of antibiotics,” said the medic.

She replied saying that it was difficult for her doing the laundry here, the food was good, but not what she was used to, she had no money and she was lonely. She wasn’t sleeping and was homesick. I was horrified to see her eyes well up with tears. My emotional blackmail had worked too well. I put my arm round here shoulders and gave her a hug. I’ve never done this before here. I have no idea whether it was culturally appropriate or not, but it just felt right. I said that we would try and work something out. I felt a real cad. She was probably suffering from baby blues, too.

I checked the baby over again, scrutinised all the results. Everything seemed normal, apart from the short period of high temperature immediately after birth. By this afternoon she would have had three days of powerful intravenous antibiotics (amp and gent). I took the executive decision to discharge her so she could get the bush taxi along with the antenatal women. Mother and baby would be home in Myanmar by evening.

I didn’t feel that it was fair to make her chose to leave against medical advice. I took the responsibility for that decision. I only hope I’ve done the right thing.

Back in the office, I turned to the medic who had previously praised my persuasive powers and said, “That went well, then.” She just looked at me and smiled.

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2 Replies to “Emotional blackmail”

  1. It seems that the poorer people are, the more the web of social connections weighs on them. Your talking with her and listening to her does help to get clarity. Even if the decision is further complicated, the talking and listening is a human connections that helps enormously. Keep us the good work. And, you may introduce the foreigner hug that they don’t use but may appreciate. Diane

  2. Thank you for the great work you are doing. I have many Karen and Karenni friends who I help here in the US. I have noticed many refugee men and boys with kidney disease and on dialysis. I think there may be a connection to the camps or Burma. I would love to speak to you about this.

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