He was an old man, well into his eighties and I had always been particularly fond of him. I entered his room in the hospital and found him bent with his back to me doing something to his leg. I walked up and gently touched him, "Bob," he said, "my leg hurts!"
It was an old leg, wrinkled and gnarled. "It'll go away," I said and then watched him as he tried to massage it. I couldn't bear seeing him in pain any longer; I sat down, placed my hands on the part that hurt and slowly started pressing it. Suddenly I did not see the wrinkles nor tired veins but a person who needed my touch. I massaged for a good fifteen minutes and when I looked up he had tears in his eyes. "Thanks Bob," he said. He was discharged the next day.
That day as I left the hospital I realised how significant my touch had been. I remembered my mother who in my childhood spent hours rubbing balm on painful limbs, kneading hurting flesh and massaging pain away. Her touch worked more than the best medication!
An Ohio University study of heart disease in the 1970's was conducted by feeding quite toxic, high cholesterol diets to rabbits in order to block their arteries, duplicating the effect such a diet has on human arteries.
Consistent results began to appear in all the rabbit groups except for one, which strangely displayed sixty per cent fewer symptoms! Nothing in the rabbit’s physiology could account for their high tolerance to the diet, until one day while watching the rabbits being fed it was discovered that the student who was in charge of feeding those particular rabbits liked to fondle and pet them.
He would hold each rabbit lovingly for a few minutes and then feed it!
Astonishingly, this alone enabled the animals to overcome the toxic diet. Repeat experiments in which one group of animals was treated neutrally while the other group were loved came up with similar results! Once again the mechanism that causes such immunity is quite unknown. It is baffling to think that the mind of a rabbit has an immune response that can be triggered off by cuddling!
I recollect a few years ago my father falling sick in America. I remember him wanting to come home to India, so he was brought back. "Why did you want to come back?" I asked, "Didn't you have the best treatment over there?"
"I missed people!" he said and I watched as his friends and mine came and spent time with him, held his hands.
"Shouldn't they wash their hands?" I wondered.
"No need to be finicky," said my dad, "I like their touch!"
It's not flowers my friend, or a get well card, it’s your healing touch that someone sick in bed needs to feel today..!
Robert Clements is a newspaper columnist and author. He blogs at www.bobsbanter.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org