HUG (Spanish language definition): action and effect of embrace.

To HUG: 1. Wrap with the arms. 2. Strengthen the arms as a sign of affection.

[…] 3. Understand, contain, include.

Who don’t like a hug? Everyone likes to be embrace and embrace. But we tend to choose the people to give our hugs and just allow ourselves to embrace by those people that everyone wants or allows. Even though it has become fashionable “giving hugs”, we are not used to go through life embracing strangers… and nor the majority of our well known people. The hug is a violation of our intimate space: it is transferred that distance from social or even personal comfort, and that, if it is not something desired, produces discomfort and siltation.

Hug is a sign of love, which is something demanded by patients and relatives repeatedly. Affection is nothing more than a sign indicating that patient and family we care about are important, we are concerned about them, and not just from the clinician or intellectual point of view, but also from the human side.

To hug is understanding, containing, including. When we embrace we include and share the pain or joy of others, assuming and understanding what people are going through.

I was taught by my Intensive Care Medicine teachers that we should maintain a professional relationship with patients and their families, based on mutual respect, but without exceeding the trusts, each in his place: they have to suffer and we have to work without respite, scientifically, with cool head, not get carried away by sentimentalism. We should have a hard heart wrapped in a still more hard shell, if possible.

For years I tried to be a good follower, but the armor shouldn´t be under a proof of feelings and the heart returns to be just a heart as soon as you neglect a little and raise the guard.

I do not remember exactly when I went from “shake hands” to receive or to dismiss relatives at the time of the information “grabbing hand” at times while I report bad news. I also can´t remember when I gave my first hug a human being shattered by pain, loss or uncertainty. And, finally, I don´t remember when I cried and my eyes had the first tears of compassion or joy. But I know for sure that it was something natural, not forced or violent. And it was something that didn´t made me feel less professional, scientific, or able to develop my work without respite.

It just made me feel better, more human… and more useful when science does not give more.

For some time now, I’ve discovered myself giving more hugs than usual without looking for them. In the last of them, a despondent mother told me the best compliment I could expect: “I can feel you are a physician by vocation”.

I still have a knot on my throat!.

Dra. Ángela Alonso
Intensivits. Hospital Universitario de Fuenlabrada.
Member of  the International Research Humanizing Intensive Care Project.