June 07, 2015(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Illness does not erase a person's intrinsic qualities
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「患者さん」に救われた /東京

While I was seeing a patient the other day, we were hit by an earthquake. Earthquake alerts blared simultaneously from people's mobile phones. The quake registered a 4 in Tokyo on the seven-point Japanese seismic intensity scale.

I half rose from my chair, saying, "This one's pretty big, isn't it?"

The patient in my consulting room smiled. "I've long worked in construction," he said, "and I can tell this building will be just fine in an earthquake this size."

Relieved, I finally sat back down. From that point on, the patient told me stories about his past with a sense of humor, like about the time he experienced an earthquake while he was high off the ground on scaffolding. He was probably trying to relax me, seeing that my face was still ashen from fear.

Thanks to the man's kindness, I was able to finish the rest of my consultations that day without any problems. When I said goodbye to the nurses and left the hospital, I thought to myself, "That man saved me today."

Until the earthquake, the man had been talking about the various symptoms that he was suffering, and I had been the one giving him advice. But in the moment the earthquake occurred, our positions flipped. I was now the troubled one, and he gently calmed me down. You could say that as a human being, my patient had far more poise than me.

I am merely a doctor by occupation, and that does not make me more mature than anyone else. But it's possible that being addressed as "Doctor" all the time, giving advice and prescribing medications, has gotten me fooled into believing subconsciously that I'm more mature and composed than I actually am.

At the same time, I was reminded that people who are in the position of "patient" may suffer from a range of ailments, but that doesn't mean they've lost their intrinsic kindness and strength.

A person is uniquely that person regardless of illness.

Their strong suits are still there.

The earthquake made me reflect upon a lot of things.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2015年06月02日 地方版