As soon as I entered the room I could feel the sadness…
The patient, a female, perhaps in her late 40’s sitting up in her hospital bed, a visitor, maybe her husband, sitting next to the bed. Her eyes were swollen, she had been crying. I introduced myself and explained that I had students from our massage program on the floor and that we received medical clearance to offer her a massage to lower her stress, help her sleep, and try to help her feel better.
She looked overwhelmed, so I went on to explain it could be as simple as a neck and shoulder rub, something to deal with the stress of being in the hospital.
She burst into tears, “They’re cutting off my leg tomorrow”.
I had encountered a similar situation about 2 years previously, with a woman who was only in her 30’s. She had asked if I would massage the leg she was about to lose. It was a profoundly moving experience, almost like saying goodbye to a loved one who was dying.
But today, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I asked her if she thought some gentle touch would sooth her, but that seemed to just overwhelm her more. I realized I had interrupted some intensely personal time between her and her visitor. I told her I would check back later, I didn’t want to pressure her.
Each time I walked by her room, the door was either closed, or she had another visitor, and I didn’t want to interrupt. Finally, I got the chance to re-enter the room with one of my students. Again, she seemed overwhelmed at the thought of a massage. Or maybe it was having total strangers witness her suffering. I was about to wish her well and leave the room when my student turned to me and said “I’ll handle this. I just want to sit with her and hold her hand”. I took the hint and left the room.
She eventually allowed my student to massage her hands and arms. I don’t know how much good we did her that day, but my student told me later how blessed she was to be there with that women, a woman she didn’t know, and who she would probably never meet again.
These are the wonderful experiences at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies Massage Therapy School.