The Power of a Hug

Sally Mitcham by Sally Mitcham Additional Needs

Sally Mitcham

Sally Mitcham

I was transported back to Manchester Children’s Hospital, the clinical trial ward.

We spend quite a lot of time there as my youngest son has Hunter Syndrome, a progressive and life-limiting condition.

Our visits are full of emotional ups and downs - balancing the hardship of putting him through yet more medical procedures with the possibility of saving his life.

Sometimes we meet other families riding this roller coaster too.

That time in December 2015, I’d chatted briefly with another lady while her son played football with mine. Later, she was on the ward again talking to one of the doctors.

I didn’t know what condition her son had or what the doctor was saying but I could tell it wasn’t good news.

It was written in her body language - the nervous hands and anxious questioning.

I know that feeling myself, the way you listen intently to the worst news you can hear while hoping upon hope that the doctor has got it wrong.

Leaving the room so they could talk I remembered all the times since diagnosis that the empathy of others had saved me.

I remembered falling apart on my sister when I first told her the terrible prognosis, the portage worker who cried with me when the tests confirmed it, our specialist nurses who were there for me whenever the trip for weekly treatments became too much.

I remembered and I knew what I needed to do.

The doctor left.

I walked straight to her and wrapped her in a hug. We didn’t speak; there wasn’t anything we needed to say.

She sobbed on my shoulder for five minutes and then dried her tears as she couldn’t let her child see her distress.

Sometimes we can feel so powerless to help anyone when there are so many insurmountable problems in the world.

But the simplest of things can make a difference. I know it made a difference to that lady.

I saw her again a year later and she told me that on that day it felt like I’d been sent by God to help her when she needed it.

I’m a lifelong atheist but that’s quite possibly the best compliment that I’ve ever been given.

So when my eldest son asked me the question that’s what sprang to mind.

If I could do a good deed for anyone it’s to be there when someone has been told the worse news.

I’m not a scientist or a doctor; I can’t find a cure for terrible diseases or provide treatments.

But I can give a no-holds-barred hug, a hug without words or promises that it will get better, a hug to hold someone together when they need it most.

We all can.


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