International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticlePatient notes
Type of ArticlePoetry
Author/sPádraig Ó Tuama
ReferenceVolume 7, Issue 1, Article 11
Date of PublicationMay 2017

Here’s the thing. While I have my asthma under control and my sleeping is no worse than usual, I am still near the uaigh. That’s the word for grave in Irish, and it’s also part of the word for loneliness. I’m near one or the other, or both. There was a time when my health was the only thing I talked about, and my friends from that time ask me now, and I remember that that was the person I was; when health was a fear, because pain was my first language.

But what’s really bothering me is the way I use the possessive when it comes to my asthma, my insomnia, my thinning hair, my symptoms. It makes me think I think I am these things. Am I? I wilt therefore I am? If they are me, where will I go if I lose them?

I remember when I learned the word ontology –  the study of the nature of being. If I am sad, is sad me? If sad is me then what happens when someone treats my sadness? If we were all speaking Irish we would say that sadness is on me. But we’re not. Because when I was five I asked where English came from and my parents introduced me to stair. If we all spoke Irish we would say stair instead of history.  But we speak English, mostly, and so stair is relegated to something we use to get up or down, never a story. Did you know that I carry my people’s history in my bones? People didn’t believe me when I said that but then scientists wrote about it, and discovered what was already there — inherited in the blood, the bones, the DNA, the genomes, the chromosomes, like thinning curly hair, like weak lungs, like poetry, like insomnia  — and it’s all the rage now, that codified stairstory inside us.

Once when I was waiting on a trolley I kept on trying to get up even though I knew I’d fall down. So they put an orderly to mind me. Well, he was there to restrain me, but I didn’t mind. He was young and eager to be seen to be good with patients. I asked him how long his shift had been and he said it was his first. After a bit of this and a bit of that he told me he wasn’t sure he’d come back for a second. I said Ah Son. I said it because I felt it even though I don’t have any sons. All of his need was raw in front of him. And my words, out of my mouth, were more surprising than anything else I heard that day. Turns out, I was happy to wait with him. He has tattoos all over his skin — quotes and quotes from poems. Stories written on the body, like a skinscripture.

Just like all of us.

This article by Pádraig Ó Tuama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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