Closing the year with Kindness

The last six months of 2018 have been filled with challenges, sadness, perspective and remarkable kindness. I thought it would be a good time of year to write about kindness and perspective in our consumer driven world. Our daughter was diagnosed with Crohns’ Disease this year which is classed and as IBD (irritable bowel disease).  It can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the ‘other’ end and with the symptoms being unique in every person, it can be difficult to diagnose, so it has been a long journey. It is a lifelong illness that is thought to be where a “rogue” immune system attacks the digestive tract.

Leeds General Infirmary is the main Paediatric specialist centre closest to us and is over twenty miles from where we live, it had been a long tiring day in September and the consultant sat with me and confirmed our daughter had Crohns’ Disease. Tears rolled down my face with relief because after many years in the wilderness now we could come up with a plan but the tears were also tinged with sadness for the fear of the unknown.  There was a senior IBD nurse in the room that day and little did I know what a beacon of hope and kindness she would be to us. She took me outside and put her arm around me and I immediately felt safe.

We embarked on liquid diet therapy as children with Crohns’ respond well to this form of treatment but due to some complications from the disease, my daughter became seriously unwell and was admitted to the nearest major hospital.

We spent six days in hospital, the kindness of the staff and our family and friends kept us going. My Sister in law Tina has had a knack of turning up over the years just at the right time and is a pillar of strength. She made us laugh and gave us back some perspective that real life existed outside the hospital.  I am a reasonably grounded individual but it took a major event for perspective to arrive. When life gets too full or overwhelming I remember those hospital hours spent laying on a camp bed staring out of the window at the autumn leaves. I didn’t care about emails or work, only that my daughter would get better and we could be at home together. It is a cliché, but without your health you have nothing.

My daughter needed specialist care along with surgery so in the early hours one morning we were taken to Leeds General Infirmary by ambulance which was further away from home again. The staff there were so very kind to us, the Senior IBD nurse was there with her hugs and kind words.  After surgery we were allowed to come home and our daughter had four weeks off school. I had numerous phone calls with the Senior IBD nurse who was kind and patient with me.  The kindness again of my Sister in law and parents allowed me to return to work part time.

After two months of medication, MRI scans and blood tests we were told this week that the disease is in remission. Again the Senior IBD nurse was with us, she made a real fuss of my daughter and hugged us as we left.  

On our last visit to the hospital, I was reminded how importance kindness is.  Leeds General Infirmary is huge and set over many sites and can be a confusing place to navigate. I spotted a teenage girl who looked upset so I stopped and asked her if she needed help. She was lost, anxious and crying and late for her appointment.  We took her under our wing and got her to where she needed to be.  It turned out that our letter had the wrong instructions on and our appointment was in a different building, we had plenty of time to get there so I guess it was meant to be which allowed us to help someone else.

As a family we try to advocate kindness and at Christmas we make up a ‘reverse advent calendar’ food parcel and take it to the local Salvation Army Centre. This year I was so moved at how much food and how many presents had been donated by the community. I am part of a volunteer team who organise a community Christmas Market, I am blown away by the kindness of people who give up their time to make these events happen and who help raise money for local charities.

I read a lot and this quote from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (Penguin 2005) stood out to me “humans suffer more in the hands of each other rather than from natural disasters.” This saddens me, but as 2018 comes to a close, I have witnessed so much human kindness this year that the force of good warms my heart. Interestingly, some of you may know that – A New Earth – is a life changing book, so I see it very fitting that it happened to have been published the year our daughter came to Earth.