The Unexpected Present

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Taking the Time for Memorial Day

person holding an american flag

My favorite Abbott & Costello, “The Time of Their Lives” has master tinker Horatio Prim at the estate of Tom Danbury to see his beloved Nora, an indentured servant. He carries a letter of commendation from General George Washington but it is seized by Danbury after Nora overhears his role in Benedict Arnold’s plot and hides it in a secret compartment in the mantel clock. Danbury’s fiancée, Melody Allen, witnesses this betrayal and enlists Horatio’s help to warn Washington’s army.

Melody and Horatio are mistakenly shot as traitors, their bodies were thrown into a well, condemned to remain bound to the estate forever. Washington’s troops arrest Danbury, loot the estate, and burn it to the ground. In the final scene, after 164 years when all is said and done and their innocence is proven, Horatio meets Nora at the Gates of Heaven, but she can’t let him in– Closed for George Washington’s Birthday. Odds Bodkins!

That’s how Yuri and I feel about this “holiday” weekend. After weeks of prolonged hospitalization on a ventilator, and physically debilitated from this nasty illness, there is no physical therapy, no chair for him to get out of bed and sit in nor the swallow assessment team since Friday afternoon because, “it’s the long holiday weekend, you know.” I know.

The commercialization of this “start-of-the-summer” weekend has been branded as an economic ping long ago. It’s very unfair to the patient who after six weeks on a ventilator who is motivated to recover from this draining situation and then demoralized from unfulfilled promises, subduing positive outlook because consistent acute patient services in hospitals are lacking due to a desire to hit the road for beaches and BBQs.

Corporate overlords and financial pressures often narrow the focus on immediate and patient care, which in turn, forces employees into a 9 to 5 job mentality. Perhaps it’s time to assess the patient cases individually and assign a team to remain for the time necessary for recovery from critical care to managed care before going into another hospital for in-patient rehab. Just a thought.

Nevertheless, Yuri is put on the final treatment the doctor called the “Howitzer” because it is a powerful drug specifically to quell the vasculitis back to oblivion. And the immediate care for Yuri is good most of the time during the weekdays Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I’ve seen the assigned doctor, a surgeon who stopped by to check in on Yuri and two nurses not assigned to him suction the secretions out with skilled gentleness and compassion for his discomfort, encouraging him.

The nurses’ interpersonal bedside manner comes through with qualities of their own distinctive characteristics as they joke with him and come away laughing at his remarks. I can see how easy it can be to fall in love with a patient as so many have done while they cared for Yuri in ICU, cheering on every positive moment, quietly evaluating the setbacks, focusing on moving forward in a positive way. While I’m so happy he is out of the intensive care unit, I see the difference in the care and concern he’s getting over this holiday weekend. Very quiet.

Yuri is taking this all in and resting when I left this afternoon. Crossing the Purple Heart Veterans Memorial Bridge at Bear Mountain, I thought of my family history during WWII when my father was hit by a German sniper. A dum-dum bullet penetrated a fellow soldier then smashed into my father’s leg, exploding into his calf muscle and blood veins. He was laid up in a field hospital for months as a nurse cared for him through fever and infections. My grandmother fretted terribly not knowing where her youngest of six sons could be, so she went to see a local card reader who told her he was severely wounded but is looked after by a good person.

I wonder if this nurse did fall in love with her patient, then went on to care for others throughout the war. We’re in a different war today filled with COVID patients and victims of other pathogens that scourge the world. On this Memorial Day, I’m taking the time to remember all the nurses who care for the sick, wounded, and dying and for those who lost their loved ones in the name of freedom and liberty for all.

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