Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Love and Pain.... Why It Hurts to Care ?

Nested in a bundle of wires, leads, and syringes, a baby—scarcely three weeks old—breaths labored, deep breaths. Within his tiny body, lengths of tubes and catheters reside, each designed to manipulate his vital functions enough to ensure another hour, at least, of life. His problem: A congenital heart defect known as tricuspid atresia, a malady in which the right ventricle of his heart didn’t form correctly. An emergency procedure has temporarily saved his life, inserting a necessary shunt into a pulmonary valve. Now he rests, his worried and fatigued parents standing by his plastic walled crib, watching powerlessly as machines assist his breathing and methodically drop medicines into his tiny veins.

Where is the greater drama? What is it that draws the eye to this particular scene? Is it the pathetic form enfolded in the plastic arms of an Intensive Care Unit? Or does it lie in the unseen weight that bares down on the distressed parents? What is it that transmits this image so forcefully?

The emotion most sought after—and, perhaps, most rarely reciprocated—is that of love. Such a powerful and enigmatic sentiment has been a permanent fixture in humanity throughout the millennia. Every form of expression—from modern “emo” songs to the surpassing poetry of Shakespeare—has attempted to contain what is felt for love, to somehow encapsulate and apprehend what is, essentially, an almost incomprehensible emotion.

Mothers most especially are cognizant of this capacity for loving. They put their own lives on hold—sometimes even approaching the valley of death in an attempt to bring another being to life—as they altruistically sacrifice self-interest and -comfort for the benefit of their progeny. The love of a mother is without peer.

It is this commiseration between sufferer and observer that lies at the heart of this hospital drama. Couched within the mother’s ability to love is an equal capacity to hurt and suffer—often vicariously—with her child. Indeed, it could be said that the depth of pain for one is a perfect reflection of the depth of love that is likewise felt for him or her.

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