Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Paradox Of Care

Over the past five days I have found myself dealing with an unexpected time of incapacitation caused by a random medical situation.  While dining out with a group of people from our church, a piece of steak got lodged in my oesophagus, resulting in extreme pain and vomiting a lot of blood.  After a number of non intrusive attempts to dislodge the steak in the Emergency Department at Berwick Hospital, I was transferred to Dandenong Hospital where I required a gastroscopy to remove the blockage, which also revealed a couple of significant tears along my oesophagus.  Four days in hospital, excellent care from medical staff, the love and support of family and friends, and faith fueled prayers for healing have led to a full recovery.  Praise the Lord!!

During my stay at the Dandenong Hospital it was interesting to observe the ethnic mix of medical staff, reflecting the cultural diversity of the greater city of Dandenong.  I was cared for by doctors, nurses and orderlies from a variety of Asian, Middle Eastern, Islander and African nations.  Beyond the obvious differences in appearances and accents was a universal professionalism and level of care that transcended these cultural differences.

As a sick and vulnerable white Australian laying in a hospital bed in an Australian public hospital, I couldn't avoid noticing the paradox between the care I received from culturally diverse health professionals and the care that is given by Australian political leaders to vulnerable people seeking asylum in Australia.

While our circumstances are very different the contrast in care cannot and should not go unnoticed.  Vulnerable and desperate human beings who cannot help themselves should be treated with dignity and compassion by those who can, regardless of their nationality and circumstances.  It was humbling to be cared for in my time of vulnerability by people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who experience racial discrimination and may well have family or friends being rejected by a government they are serving through their medical expertise.

In transit between Casey Hospital in Berwick and Dandenong Hospital I met an Indian taxi driver who is studying a Degree in Commerce and drives taxis part time because he is not entitled to the same study concessions as other Australians.  In the ward at Dandenong Hospital I met an Islander male nurse who showed a particular interest in my case because of his training as a doctor back home but who is not qualified to practice medicine in Australia.  Yet, in the bed next to me in the Day Treatment Centre at Dandenong I overheard the phone conversation of a young drug affected Australian making racially critical comments about the staff and service of the hospital.

The experience of being hospitalized this week, while unwelcomed on many levels, gave me a deeper respect for people from culturally diverse backgrounds and a stronger resolve to bridge the growing gap of misunderstanding between Australians and those who seek to call Australia home!

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