...are the ones that make the biggest difference

5.24.2006

Bad day

Work today started out kind of rough. We had one patient turn violent over night and lucky me, being the biggest guy in our hospital, I was called in to help this man off the floor after he slipped in a puddle of his own urine whilst fighting one of the nurses. I tell you, nothing makes that 445am alarm worth it more than starting your workday with someone else's pee on your pants. So we get him settled, or so we thought, and I head off to start on my regular duties. While I'm in a room, I hear a "Code Strong" go out over the intercom, which means "unruly patient or visitor". I stuck my head out the door to see if they needed any help but they seemed to have things under control. "Seemed" being the operative word. They had basically barricaded the guy in his room after he attacked the nurse again and called security. He was unhappy with this resolution and in an apparent effort to find an alternate exit, he tried to toss a table through his 8th floor window. And quite nearly succeeded, judging by the largeish hole that resulted. He was eventually carted off to one of the padded rooms in the ER downstairs. The incident created quite a stir and the corporate administrative staff were buzzing around most of the morning trying to "listen to staff concerns" and answer any questions. It was a real treat.

But the worst part of the day happened not soon after Houdini tried to pull his grand escape. We had a patient, R.F., and aside from a real nasty and persistent abdominal wound which would have healed in time, was in good shape. And he was a dear, dear man. He was 82, didn't look a day over 65, and had the sunniest, kindest disposition I think I've ever encountered. He was sweet, humble, caring and just earnest about life, faith and what he considered most important: God, family and helping people. He was a devout Catholic and prayed often, and was tickled pink when a pastor visiting another patient came in and prayed over him, as well. I was assigned to him all last week and he and I became fast-friends over the course of that week. We talked a lot, while I was giving him his bath or when I had time to hang out in his room. He was a WWII vet who was on the beaches at Normandy. When he came back he worked the rail yards and eventually became a yard-boss. He married young and was devoted to his wife until her death 8 years ago. Actually, he was still devoted to her and spoke of her often. His family was in with him all the time, which I think is a testament to the kind of man he was. He said probably 100 times last week that he thought he and I were two of a kind, which if true, would make me a much better person than I take myself for. He said he thought the world of me and, even though we'd only known each other for a short while, thought of me as a friend. He said "you don't make too many friends in this world, so you gotta keep the ones you do."

As I'm sure you've noticed, I'm talking about R.F. in the past tense. We found out yesterday at about 11am that he was being transferred to the local VA hospital at 1230 that same day. We found out so late due to a break-down in communication and after we had spent a good 45 minutes getting him onto a new bed, which required pulling his roommate and his roommate's bed out of the room in order to get the new bed in. At that time, we were chagrined due to all that wasted effort, but it wasn't that big a deal. I was going to miss him, but the VA hospital is closer to home than my work and I was planning on visiting him at least once a week. And, I was definitely going to take him up on the steak dinner he promised to take me and the wife to after he got out of the hospital. Last night, at about 6pm, his family called my hospital because his wound was bleeding profusely (which it hadn't been doing before) and the VA people had no idea what to do about it. He was eventually taken to the ER, but due to apparent indecision on the part of the VA doctors, it was too late. His pressure and heart rate dropped too low for him to recover on his own and his family, following what I believe would have been his wishes, declined to intubate him. He died early this morning. When last I saw him he was on a stretcher being wheeled down the hall, grinning but also a little teary-eyed. He told me that he loved me and I told him I loved him, too and not too worry, I'd see him soon. I guess I won't see him as soon as I thought. But on more than one occasion, his response to my "how're you doing?" was "I've got Jesus Christ so I can't be doing too bad", which leaves me with little doubt that I'll see him again, if only a bit later than we had planned. And I'm still going to take him up on that steak dinner.

His favorite restaurant was Cork'n'Cleaver - I hope they have one in heaven.

4 comments:

Hilarius said...

Thank you for sharing this -

You have given the love of Christ to your brother, and you have seen it returned to you. Perhaps that is a good day, despite the grief.

The Ochlophobist said...

Thank you for this post.
I happened to be listening to Emmy Lou Harris' song Green Pastures when I read this --
"even the Lord will be in that number,
when we shall reach that heavenly shore..."
I have a grandfather who is at the end of his life, also a good man. He grew up on a sassafras farm in WVA. He lied about his age to join the Navy during WWII. The destroyer he was on was sunk at Midway. After the war he spent 40 years in one steel mill in Ohio.
Reading about R.F. reminds me of the gratitude I have for my own grandfather. Such men are rare in every generation, but seem to be sorely lacking these days.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, yet so glad you were able to bond with a man who was so special. Your description of him reminds me of my dad, who liberated concentration camps in WWII, came home to raise four kids and be devoted to his wife and family. I don't know if Brokaw's term is the best, "greatest generation", but it certainly produced some sterling individuals. mcs

David Bryan said...

Thanks for this.