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Personal Experience

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Our story

Anonymous
Language: English
Country: Italy
Typology: health care professionals
Text:
Our stories have all a precise beginning, that is when our presence becomes tangible, in the womb of our mother. However, the story that we usually consider "our story" and in which we are more emotionally involved always begins further on. It is when a particular "meeting" takes place. It was like that also for me. My story as well begins with a meeting, one afternoon in late spring many years ago, when, almost by chance, I met the sister of a friend I had gone to see, together with some of my mates at university. She suffered from a severe form of "Tuberous Sclerosis" or "Syndrome of Bourneville", with serious mental retardation, symptomatic epilepsy, inability to speak and difficulty in walking independently. I was a young student of Medicine and Surgery, with the same problems and dreams as many others, perhaps with a more restless question about life, which actually seemed to never find a satisfactory answer. I do not remember anything about that afternoon in the countryside of Cuneo, except for the high fever that suddenly struck me, with a mix of nausea and confusion, and the return journey by train. I could not speak nor almost stay up on my feet. And then I can remember the moment when I came back home, where there were no more screams nor the smell of urine and the fever was gone, again suddenly, without taking any medicine… what remained was the memory of a unique presence, who had made me suddenly grasp much of the meaning of life: life is beautiful because it is there, because you can appreciate its smallest and subtlest nuances which, precisely because of that, are deeper and more real. Shortly after, I had to choose what I was going to specialize in, in view of my thesis. I had always thought it should be Paediatrics, since I enrolled in the Degree Course in Medicine and Surgery. I had already had a meeting which had swept away most of my projects, and had "hung up on me in the face" a reality that I could not pretend to avoid; it was not a matter of conformism or desire to be charitable: this reality pushed me to search for the meaning, the love, the infinite, all the values that I considered to be those of my friend’s sister, but that were also mine, to the same extent. It was my friend’s sister who had indicated me that path… and how could I choose not to follow that road, although I could only guess it was the right one for me? So, here I am knocking at the door of the Director of the Postgraduate Course in Child Neuropsychiatrists (before then, I had only heard people mention it). And here I am, a graduated student with a thesis on infantile autism, starting a new experience in the large, heterogeneous and a little strange world of the Postgraduate School in Child Psychiatry. The period of "ranks" followed: I worked at the NPI Department of the Hospital in my city, and studied neurological psychiatric pathologies, in a reality that sometimes was so different from what I had thought. I had imagined to work especially on cases of disability, but the type of patients I met was far more diverse, and sometimes they were very different from the type of patient I expected. I never thought, however, that my personal "experience on the road to Damascus" could have been a deception. I had risen to the challenge and I could not flinch from it, because, in the final analysis, it would have meant to give up my strong desire for truth and beauty. Five years later, I got a Postgraduate Diploma in NPI, with a thesis in children's rehabilitation, and I was recruited in the ASL (Local Health Authority) and, still today, I am among its medical leaders. Now I work with children and young people with multiple conditions and disorders, in the neurological, psychiatric and learning fields. My "favourite" patients continue to be the so-called "disabled" and it is precisely this preference that helps me every day to face even the most difficult situations, because "to prefer" means to love in a special way and love, if it is true, cannot be kept within narrow boundaries. Working with my young patients is an everyday discovery, first of all, it allows me to discover more about myself. In front of their cheerful or sad face, in front of them laughing or crying, it is impossible not to perceive that we share the same desire for happiness. The only difference is that the question for happiness is more immediate and tangible for them, while mine is hidden under layers of defensive structures, or even worse, under the mask of conformism. Some children sometimes tell me "how nice to see you!"; when replying "for me, too", I realize that it is really so: for me it is nice to see them, because they remind me every day of the reason why it is worth living. Thanks to their simplicity (and also to the severity of their disease), many of them make it clear to me that life is important, first of all, because it is there. People are concerned about what they will do tomorrow or about the dress they will wear on that given occasion. For most of my patients, these concerns do not exist. All days, they help me to come down to the basics and to appreciate simple things. Feeling the heat of the sun on your skin, listening to a nice song, seeing beautiful and colourful things, feeling people love you…the things which are essential to live and be happy, all the rest is something more that sometimes only confuses you. All this does not reduce the difficulty of my work, for example in front of the child suffering from epileptogenic encephalopathy who has already taken many drugs but continues to have frequent seizures or the teenager who has a psychotic crisis and beats the members of his family or the child who has a degenerative disease and will die soon. But the awareness that the road is common and that, at the bottom of our heart, we all share the same desire leads me every day to thank my young travelling companions, who help me to face this journey with greater joy.


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