The one where it was 22 years ago (On “Comfort”)

June 1998

As I talked with Sarah* and prepared her for theatre, she talked about how she was feeling. I asked her if she would mind if I came in with her and she said she didn’t. She asked if I was going to hold her hand. I explained that there would be a nurse with her who would hold her hand and I was really only there to observe the operation.

When the time came, we went into theatre and I sat out of the way, noticing that there was a nurse sat next to Sarah. I presumed she was holding Sarah’s hand and I settled down to watch the operation on the big TV.

After the first cuts were made, I glanced across to make sure Sarah was OK. I noticed that nobody was holding her hand. A rush of several different emotions came over me. I felt annoyed – the nurse sitting by her had her arms folded and was watching the TV. Then I felt guilty, remembering how I had just hours earlier reassured Sarah that someone would hold her hand and I wondered how she must be feeling. Then I felt fear, because I realised I was going to have to do something. I sat for what seemed like ages but it must have only been a few moments, weighing up the options. I could stay where I was which would mean I wouldn’t disturb the operation or the nurse sat next to Sarah. The machines seemed to get louder in my mind – the beeps and the whirring and the jargon that the doctors were saying. I suddenly had a sense that this was “my” patient and she was lying on a trolley in front of me, probably confused and worried about what was going on around her, and it was me that needed to do something about it.

Slowly, and as quietly as I could, I got up off my stool and walked across to the nurse sitting next to Sarah. I whispered to her “Would you mind if I sat next to Sarah and held her hand?”. She looked surprised but swopped places with me. I took my place next to Sarah and waited until the surgeon had taken his tools out of her eye before taking her hand. I didn’t want to startle her while they were still in in case it jolted them and causes damage to her eye. When I took Sarah’s hand she gave mine a quick squeeze but she didn’t jump at all.

After the operation, in the recovery room, Sarah talked about how marvellous it was that the operation hadn’t taken much time and how wonderful the surgeons were. She then went on to thank the various nurses and the surgeon. Then she turned to me and said “Thank you so much for holding my hand”. I was puzzled – I couldn’t work out how she knew it was me. When I asked her she said “Oh, it was you wasn’t it? I could just sense it” and she smiled.

Photo by Pixabay on

*Not her real name. Obvs. Also, some of the grammar has change a bit from the original. Details remain the same.


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