Believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Believe that you may be that light for someone else.” Kobi Yamada
Today I was rushing and I’m afraid to say, not slowly, as is my intention. But, still, I managed a one hour walk, with a friend, on this beautiful day and that feels like progress.
We were chatting away about poetry and other things, when the question came up about what quality matters the most in life. She said “kindness,” and I agreed. Our conversation brought up a 48 year old memory of kindness.
I was the beneficiary of extraordinary kindness in 1971, when I was 24 years of age. I have forgotten his name, but not him-I just refer to him as my earth angel. He was an orderly at the Ottawa General, in Ottawa, and thanks to his dedication and caring I recovered from a car accident several months before the orthopedic surgeon predicted.
I like to tell this story every few years, in memory and gratitude to this deeply caring man.
Following a bad accident on a hot July 1st, I regained consciousness in the recovery room of the Ottawa General to discover that I had a broken pelvis and collar bone while deeply convinced that I was also pregnant.
The next few days were difficult for the nursing staff as I stubbornly refused all pain medication and as a result I frequently fainted from the pain. I was determined that my unborn baby would not be exposed to anything that was potentially harmful. Problem was it worried the nurses.
Songs, Laughter and Hand Holding
My earth angel was French but there was no language barrier. He appeared in my room at midnight, three days into my hospital stay. As he came through the door that steaming hot night he was singing and kicking up his heels. The song was a popular one that summer, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”
He arrived at my bedside, took my hand, and questioned me on my reasons for being uncooperative. After listening to my story with his serious and open heart, he agreed to help me and help the nurses responsible for my care. “It is not good for you to be in so much pain, he said. “There is only one thing to do; I will have to help your healing through laughter.”
“The nights are quiet here,” he explained, “so I can spend time with you. And you aren’t sleeping anyway, so we will tell stories.” And that is how he began his ten-day midnight shift and I began my healing journey through nights of laughing and crying to his stories and songs, mixed in with the pain of broken bones, nausea, and bruised ribs.
At first I would beg him to stop as the laughter worsened the pain, but he kept on, while holding my hand and fanning me from the heat. My suffering, however, began to ease. The fainting stopped. I soon could sleep for a few hours, and physiotherapy began. As the days went on and I was able to be lifted into a wheel chair, he started the next phase, which was to get me to eat.
What Do You want to Eat?
“If you could have anything to eat in the whole world,” he asked me at two in the morning, “what would it be?”
“A pepperoni, green pepper and mushroom pizza from Mario’s Pizza,” I answered instantly.
“You’re in luck, “he said, “I will order out right now and when it arrives, I will bring you down to the nurse’s station and we’ll all have a pizza party. I’m buying,” he insisted.
Eating began again.
And so it went. Caring, kindness, skill, devotion, humor, thoughtfulness, songs, even his own money, to help a “patient” who was lucky enough to be there on his shift.
My daughter, born eight months later, and I are eternally grateful to this extraordinary caregiver of our lives. With lifelong appreciation and love, I remember him, and his words and actions of comfort that helped me heal.
Aldous Huxley wrote the novel “Brave New World.” Toward the end of his life an interviewer asked, “Dr. Huxley, perhaps more than anyone else alive, you have studied the great spiritual and religious traditions of the world. What have you learned?” And Huxley answered, “I think we could just be a bit kinder.”
Note 1:) I will always and forever be an admirer of the caregivers in our midst. Both the paid ones and the unpaid ones. They are an under acknowledged group of amazing humans beings. I can’t sing their praises high enough. I have been the beneficiary throughout my life of amazing care.
Note 2:) Dear caregivers, please take care of yourself too. You are needed. We want you around for a long time. Please ask for help when you need it.
Note 3:) Thank you, dear readers for reading this story with me. It means alot. I am lucky to be able to show up on the page and to have you show up on this blog to read my musings. With appreciation, Trudy