Friday, December 25, 2015

Harry and Harvey send a message from Oz

I'll be writing from Melbourne, Australia for the next several weeks.  I've been invited to be a "Thinker in Residence" at Deakin University, which has campuses here and in Geelong several miles to the south. Beside participating in university activities, I'll be offering advice to the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA), which provides liability and other insurance to the various state agencies, including those involved in health care and infrastructure. And also to GMHBA, a non-profit private health insurer based in Geelong.

I'm hoping my regular readers--and maybe some new ones--will enjoy some observations from here in Oz.  Given the reach of the Internet, I'll still be watching things back home, but maybe my observations about them will also benefit from the perspective that distance offers.

In commemoration of the Christmas holiday and its emphasis on kindness, I want to start with one story from Dr. Kate Cherry, an infectious disease specialist here.  Several years ago, she was treating a patient named Harry for AIDS, and he had entered the palliative care unit at Alfred Health, housed in a separate structure from the main hospital.

Harry was near death, and Kate asked him that all-important question: "Is there anything else that I can do for you?" Harry mentioned that he would like to have the company of a cat.

Kate went to the charge nurse in the palliative care unit, a person known for being a stickler about rules and also for being a bit gruff.  She asked about bringing in her own cat, Harvey, to visit Harry.  The charge nurse paused and thought and responded, "Well, I guess if you brought in a cat, we'd be unlikely to notice it."  Give this authorization, Kate brought in Harvey and put him on the bed with Harry, at which point Harvey relaxed and started purring loudly.

Harry, though, could no longer hear very well and could not detect the purring. So Kate took his hand and put it on Harvey's back so he could feel the purring. Harry's face lit up and his body relaxed.

Kate asked Harry if she could share the picture, and he insisted that she do so, and widely.  I'm happy to help honor his request.


Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of the North Melbourne Roos, the Blues, Hawks, and the Saints since ... the 1980's. Enjoy!! Buy a jersey will ya? Ask about footy. :)

Best of luck to Harry and I'm glad Harvey is "good medicine". That's a great doctor who cares that much for their patients.

Paul Levy said...

Will do!

Thomas said...

Put the patient first and all else falls into perfect alignment. Thanks and Merry Christmas.

Susan Shaw said...

From Facebook:

A lovely story, Paul. Thanks for reminding us that these seemingly small acts of kindness that we all should do often have great impact. (And I still try to ask all my patients and families, "Is there anything else I can do for you?")

Kate Cherry said...

To Anonymous.....

Harry died peacefully and content a day or two after that photo was taken - and a framed copy of it hangs in the staff room of that ward as his and my thanks for the lovely, holistic care they gave him over has last days.

Paul has come to Oz right outside the football season! It's cricket all Summer. But I'm sure we can find him some Australian Football League gear if he really wants some!

Carole said...

Mr. Levy
First and foremost, Merry Christmas and God bless you and your family. Never ever in my entire life have I been more impressed and in admiration of a fellow human being I don't know and have never met and more than likely never will- than you. What you share with us inspires me because of who you are and all the good you do, and I just love it. The truth and the knowledge I've gained from you has helped heal my broken and what I felt was a destroyed heart, because I thought I could never believe in or trust another person in the medical system again. But it was no accident I ended up on your blog, you have no idea you were an answered prayer to a complete stranger who was hurting real bad, and the positive difference you've made in her "my" life!!! Thanks forever---

This story like most you share touched my heart, what was done for him was so sweet and truly truly thoughtful and kind, thank God for that loving and special Doctor and caretakers. It chokes me up but I'm so happy he had that, and he knew it, and I believe that :)
Please be safe in your travels. And Do what you do best- make a difference.....

Paul Levy said...

Thanks, Carole, and best wishes to you and yours!

I'm pleased our interactions have been so helpful to you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you and to Dr. Cherry on the update. Its sad to hear that, but also good to know someone went comforted rather than just a cold, austere hospital bed.

PS My Indian friends do cricket. Never could get into it like I can footy and football (European not American). Buy a jersey, they keep you warmer than the American football ones do.