modern medicine, when spirit meets science

The Human Touch

The big brown eyes seemed to hold deep wisdom.  Even while I was talking with her mother, six-year-old Gowri’s (name changed) gaze never left my face. She appeared to be assessing me.

“Oh yes, she understands all that we say,” her mother said, “But she doesn’t talk to strangers.”

Throughout her pre-operative evaluation over the next few days, Gowri didn’t say a word to me despite my best efforts to hold a conversation with her.  As a surgical oncologist, my encounters are predominantly with older adults.  Maybe I had lost the knack for connecting with young children.

The day of surgery arrived. Unlike most children I have seen, Gowri was extraordinarily calm. She was sedated by the anesthesiologist in the presence of her mother and taken to the operating theatre. The surgery itself was a little more difficult than usual but all went well and it was over in about two hours.

My anesthesiology colleague was extremely gentle in waking Gowri out of anesthesia.  But as soon as she regained consciousness, she seemed very restless. The nurses tried to calm her down. She held up the little finger of her right hand.  The nurse asked her “Do you feel like peeing, child?” She shook her head.  But she still held up her little finger.

Was her finger hurting? The surgery was on her neck, so why would she show her little finger?  I ran all possible explanations in my head –  Was there any pressure on her hand during surgery? An electrocautery injury? An embolism into an artery supplying her hand? I was standing off to the side, but I came to take a closer look.  She had seen me in my scrubs before and recognized me immediately.  I took her hand to examine it – she immediately clasped her little finger around my own little finger and instantly became calm.

I tried my best but couldn’t examine her hand well in this position. My rational, non-emotional, clinical mind wanted to rule out any issue with her hand. But Gowri seemed to be content now. I kept holding her finger throughout her recovery from anesthesia and during her transfer to the post-operative ward. She had become her old calm self. After some time, we called her mother into the ward to see her.

Teary-eyed and anxious, Gowri’s mother came to her daughter’s bedside. Seeing her mother, Gowri gave a tiny smile. With the mother happily fussing over her, Gowri’s finger relaxed and let my hand go.  Quickly I checked her hand again to make sure all was OK. It was.

All Gowri had wanted was a human touch.

This article was first published on https://drsurajmanjunath.com/the-human-touch/

This image depicts a cancer surgeon's experience of Reiki in an article by Suraj Manjunath on When Spirit Meets Science
energy medicine, reiki, when spirit meets science

Energy, Vibration & Reiki: A Cancer Surgeon’s Perspective

Energy, frequency, and vibration.

For me, these were words associated with physics and conventional science.

In 2007, I learned that these words also carry a completely different meaning for other people.

They seemed to be an integral part of Haripriya’s vocabulary and she used them frequently in the context of day-to-day life.

Initially, I found myself baffled by the context in which she used these words! It took me quite some time to get used to them and to know exactly what they mean in non-scientific terms.

Be it choosing a home to move into after our marriage or finding a new workplace for her, Haripriya had to first tune in to the place’s ‘vibe.’ If the ‘vibration’ of a place felt right, she would pick it. If not, she wouldn’t. She did this exercise not only for herself but also for me. Thankfully, she pronounced that the vibe of the hospital I was working at when we first met was excellent!

Now, whenever I need to take big decisions, she shares her inputs on how various options ‘feel.’ And I have come to realize that I value her inputs. I weigh her intuitive insights alongside my own logic and base my decisions on the best of both.

Haripriya also introduced me to Reiki. Way back in 2007, she explained to me that Reiki is a form of ‘energy healing’ that helps to bring body, mind, emotions, and spirit into a state of balance. She said this is done through the laying on of hands over different ‘chakras or energy centers’ associated with the body. These concepts flew over my head as I had a hard time relating to energy in this manner. I told her I would prefer to experience Reiki rather than attempt to understand it with my logical mind.

I have been receiving Reiki from her for years now. I have to say it is a very relaxing experience. I love the soft ambiance that is created with candles and soothing music. I cherish the gentle presence of Haripriya while she works on ‘balancing my chakras!’ I appreciate being encouraged to not think of anything else for a good forty minutes and to just allow myself to relax. I often drift into a peaceful slumber during these Reiki sessions and wake up feeling refreshed.

Peace and healing comfort – this is what Reiki is to me!

My objective and rational temperament is my strength. I cannot think of a scientific explanation for Reiki. But I do know how it makes me feel.

If someone were to ask me what love feels like, I would tell them to try some Reiki!