Friday, April 09, 2010
I pushed her into the ward where two old men, also in their nineties sat in wheelchairs by the window. She patted her hair, smoothed her top, and I saw the same thing in her eyes as I see in the eyes of a teenager who is trying to impress someone of the opposite sex. I looked at these three friends as they were half a century or more ago and observed the remnants of youthful beauty. I could not understand their mother tongue but watched them reminisce, interact and even flirt with each other just like men and women who were half their age.
Another lady sits in a wheelchair crippled by arthritis and missing a limb. She has beaten back her latest physical demon and is regaining her independence. Her costume jewelery is on a stand beside her bed and she selects a piece to wear each day with her carefully chosen outfit. She worries that the hair on the back of her head may be flattened by resting in bed and I fluff up the section she cannot reach. She is only in her 80's and appearances are still very important.
I remember a lecture given by a professor/ physician when I was a student. When he noticed a woman put on lipstick after surgery, he thought she was well on her way to recovery.
One of my stroke patients appeared in the common area with lipstick smeared unevenly on the affected side of her mouth. She did not notice the uneven application due to neglect and decreased sensation on her stroke side. One of our male staff members asked me to help her fix her face without embarrassing her. I remembered the words of the professor and saw my patient's attempt to enhance her appearance as a sign that she was getting better.
We all judge by appearance and know we are judged by others according to our looks. I would say this never changes. Some will philosophize and dismiss this attititude as superficial and wrong, but we will cannot alter our social human behaviour.