I was a second year resident working on the haematology ward. I can’t remember her name but we had on the ward a beautiful young mum with acute leukemia who had failed to respond to treatment. Her body was ravaged by both disease and treatment and she shared with me her exhaustion and desire to give up. But she had 2 very young children and knew that she couldn’t give up. Every day, no matter how sick she felt, she got the nurses to dress her and do her hair and make-up ready for the children to visit after school. We bonded over clothes and makeup. She was elegance personified. One Monday morning I walked into her room and it was filled with literally hundreds of paper birds flying from the ceiling. Every child at her children’s primary school had made a bird and a committee of parents had spent the weekend hanging them. She looked ethereal amongst the birds. That afternoon her husband and children visited as usual. I always popped in to say hello and this time he asked me to take the children out for a minute. I never asked what the conversation was but I can guess. Because that night she grew wings and only the birds greeted me in the private room the next morning.
A/ Prof Jennifer Hayes
Associate Professor of Topographic Anatomy
Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience
PhD Candidate, Department of General Practice