This Op-Ed/Analysis is the author's personal opinion and does not reflect the opinions or views of

Ittai DayanBy: Ittai Dayan

Ittai Dayan is a young Israeli doctor who graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital. Apart from working in the hospital, he maintains a broad range of interests - politics, economy and world affairs... Read More

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Making friends

Making friends

She’s the kind of girl that doesn’t need much. Not too much attention, nor new and shiny gifts. She’s the kind of girl that likes to smile back when being smiled to, or give a cordial handshake here and there. Of course, she’s not what everyone would describe as a girl. To society she’s a woman in her mid 60’s. Born with down syndrome, she has a limited IQ. Probably lived most of her life in institutions. She’s always stayed a little girl in many ways, but now her parents are out of sight. Probably long passed away. As much as families try, it’s hard to look over an aging child. Most of us get married, have kids, try to maintain personal relationships, so when we’re old and ill someone will look after us. Maybe just visit us once in a while. And now she’s in my ward.

Admitted to the hospital from an institute, a home for mentally challenged individuals, she was supposed to be stay for just a few days. But as it often happens, once you get into a hospital, things tend to linger and grow more complicated. I came in the morning to draw blood for laboratory tests. She gleefully extends her arm. At some point, it occurs to me that this may be her biggest connection with another human. Me drawing blood from her. So I smile and make a funny face, and she smiles back and tilts her head a bit. She offers me her hand, waiting for a handshake. I shake her hand, and when the handshake is over she wants another one. We have this same routine every morning.

One day I come and she’s not as friendly as always. She sits, weary, in her chair near the hospital bed. She spends all day there. Not much social activity going around anyway. I think to myself, what’s wrong? but she’s not much of a chatter and the busy schedule soon takes over me. Later, I see the blood works. Seems she has a serious electrolyte imbalance. Also an infection cooking up. I guess I should have known that right from the start, when she didn’t shake my hand. We take care of her with IV fluids, antibiotics and soon she’s well again. One day I’m back to the ward but she’s not there. Sent back to her institute. Comfortably out of sight. Whenever I walk past her room, I wonder how she’s doing.

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