As Thanksgiving approaches, I often think about my patients and those who have embraced hope and happiness, despite their circumstances. In this case, there is one particular patient that comes to mind. I was asked to sign up a patient that lived on the Oregon slope. It was winter and snow was on the roads. When I am headed to a patients home, I often think about them and ponder what I may encounter when I arrive. At that time, I knew very minimal information. I arrived to find a very humble home and circumstances filled with very loving and gracious people.
When I asked the patient to tell me his story, I noticed he had a twinkle in his eye. He began with his marriage to his beautiful wife and his new career as a logger. He worked for his father-in-law and they carpooled to and from the forest where they were logging. One day, while he was at work, a big rig that picked up the logs and moved them to open areas dropped a log on his head. He was instantly killed. The log had fallen on its end, directly on top of his head. The ambulance was called and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
His father-in-law removed the boots from his son-in-law, in hopes of selling them. Then he went to his daughter and explained what had happened to her husband. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. His daughter was pregnant and went crazy with grief. She begged and begged her father to take her to her husband. The father tried to explain that her husband was dead and lying in the morgue. However, she was having none of it! He finally consented to take her, hoping that maybe if she saw him, it would help her with acceptance.
When they arrived at the hospital, she was taken to see her husband in the morgue. She immediately demanded that they take him off of the slab, put him in a bed with oxygen, and warm him up. Because everyone was concerned her grief could cause a miscarriage, they decided to pacify her until she could adjust to the fact that her husband was dead. However, after they followed her requests, they realized he was, in fact, not dead. My patient proceeded to tell me that his wife had saved his life! He lived to die another day and that day had come.
While he told me this story he kept saying, “Huh, baby? That’s what happened, huh?” She would look at him sweetly and say, “Yes dear, that’s what happened.”
This man had many, many long days of recovering. He had a crushed diaphragm and his vertebrae were shattered. After multiple operations, he was able to come home to a hospital bed and the care of his wife. One day he woke up and saw his wife cooking, with their baby crying at her feet and sweat pouring off her brow. At that moment he said to himself, “If I don’t get out of this bed she will die trying to save me.” He was determined to get up out of his bed and go to work in order to make a living for his family. He did get up and worked as a truck driver for many years.
This man was on hospice because he struggled to breath and could hardly stand from the pain. It was all a result of the logging accident and how his body was now responding. The love and dedication this man and wife had for each other was very apparent. Her caregiving was some of the best I ever witnessed. It was a privilege to serve them. Have you ever met someone that died and then live to tell about it? Well I have!
This man was so amazing to me. I imagine he had more pain than we could ever understand. Yet, he was such a happy guy. His outlook and positivity were astounding. It makes me wonder, what do I have to be unhappy about? As we serve our patients, we often see dire circumstances, surrounded by pain, loss, and fear. We also see hope, love, and strength. We are so very blessed to be touched by the people we serve. I encourage you to evaluate your outlook this Thanksgiving season. Take the time to be grateful. Celebrate life. Think about the many blessing you have been given.
Cindy Lee, RN, CHPN, CHPCA
CEO and Administrator