There’s a school of thought that says people are responsible for their own health problems. Yet, far from being authors of their own undoing, some people seem almost fated for tragedy by circumstances beyond their control.
I recently witnessed a case like this in its last, sad stages. Mrs Lynn, a middle-class lady of 40, had her life upended when her husband deserted her. She was left penniless with a teenage son, Ray, to support. From living in a prosperous area, she was forced to move to a rough corner of town, where criminals gathered along mean streets and drugs changed hands.
Lost and fatherless, Ray became caught up in the drug scene and got addicted. He became sullen and abusive, disappearing for weeks at a time, then returning and begging his mother to help him.
Social workers did wonders moving them to a different town and medics persuaded Ray to undergo rehab. He was a difficult patient but his mum’s devotion never wavered and figured prominently in his slow recovery.
But then, in a last twist of fate, Ray was found by one of his city ‘friends’, who pressed drugs on him. He succumbed, and the drugs virtually blew his brain.
Over the course of Ray’s drug taking, both Ray and his mum endured three years of suffering before he died. His mum never complained and never stopped loving him. However, the strain of being imprisoned in her home with an automaton for a son took its toll. She clung on, saw him into the grave and – her life’s duty done – passed away three weeks later, clutching his photo.
Some people may be in charge of their destiny, but they’re the lucky ones. The Mrs Lynns of the world just seem to have the cards stacked against them. Perhaps healthcare workers must simply accept this and offer help as best they can.
Lesley McHarg is a second-year nursing student in Scotland