Today [Friday, May 5th] started early. I arrived at the hospital so they could put my port in.
I was ushered into a small room, handed a plastic bag for my clothes and told, “take everything off, including your underwear, and use these two gowns to cover yourself.” The nurse then handed me two of her largest gowns. Looking at me, looking at the gowns she then said, “I am sorry. Our larger gowns go wider not longer, you will have do your best with what we have.” The fact that she said it in a sympathetic and caring tone made it all seem okay…until I was completely naked and put on the gowns.
In case you may have forgotten…I am not a short man. These past few days in the hospital have been met with comments like, “sorry you do not fit in our beds”, “I hope you do not fall…not sure I could pick you up”. So there I am emotions all over the place…feeling exposed, nervous, anxious and getting colder by the second as the draft reaches regions usually well covered.
A short while later I met Carol. Carol had come to take me from pre-op to the operating room. My feet hung off the end of the stretcher and I laughed about not wanting to go home with a broken ankle so I was trusting her to not run me into a wall. She laughed and said, “there will be some tight spots…it might be good to put your feet on the end of the stretcher.” Well now…fearing exposure I was not a huge fan of that plan. She could sense my unease and said, “It is my job to make sure you are covered and produced a blanket and restored my dignity, or at least some of it, in short order.
As she wheeled me down the halls and up elevators to the surgical unit I asked, “Carol, how long have you had this job with the hospital?” She laughed one of those healthy belly laughs and said she had been with the hospital for 39 years. She started right out of school as a seamstress, back when the hospital sewed their own bed sheets, gowns and such. After a few years she moved to the laundry and spent years cleaning all the sheets, gowns, towels and such that a hospital uses. Finally she decided it was time to “get out from down there” and she moved into her current role of helping move patients around as needed. When Carol started I was 8 years old. I was attending Ravena Elementary School enjoying life…trying to stay out of trouble. We had less than ten minutes together…her role was not one you would call “essential or important” to a successful day for me, but she certainly made my day.
I saw Carol one last time today. My surgery was over, it had gone well, I had recovered enough to go home. Dignity restored, I was in my street clothes and was about to walk out the door. Carol had someone else on her stretcher. They were heading towards the operating room. I called out, “Carol, thank you for today…have a great rest of the day.” Her reply, “My pleasure, I hope you feel better.” Her smile lit up the whole room…it made me smile.
Here is my thought…nothing earth shattering…but it has sat with me all day long. There are a lot of Carol’s out there in our world. People who work everyday, ordinary, difficult jobs so that we can move through life with ease. Nobody ever gave much thought about young Carol the seamstress who sewed bed sheets or gowns for the hospital. Few thought about an older Carol who worked the laundry to ensure things were sanitary and clean. To many today she is simply the person who gets them down the hall to the “important people” who will do the procedure.
I wonder what and who we miss when we move through life blind to the people around us who are there to serve, care for and make life easier for us all. I wonder how all our lives would be enriched if we took the time to get to see them for who they are and to get to know them as individuals and not just as people to meet our needs.
Today was a good day. My port is in. God allowed me to see Carol for who she is…even in the midst of my own struggle. Nancy was an amazing support today. She always has been but there is something about being needy and vulnerable which allows you to see in a much clearer fashion where your support comes from.
Thank you to everyone who has sent words of support, prayer and encouragement. You have no idea how much it means to hear from you all.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
Let me close with an apology.
I am a writer…it helps me process, it takes my mind off of the realities around me and helps me focus on what is truly important in life. I need that these days. My plan is to spend time a few days each week sharing where this journey is taking me and how God is meeting my family in the midst of it. I will post a link to these posts on Facebook…if it gets old…I apologize in advance.