Saturday, December 29, 2007

Feeling Like Scrouge

Been an interesting week at work. A week filled with chaos and angst and frustration and sadness. Chaos because even in the midst of the Christmas holidays the wounded arrive, 3 times a week. Angst and frustration at some of my coworker and their lackadaisical attitudes. Sadness because the holidays are a time to be with family and many of us do not have that option.

Most years I LOVE Christmas. I love driving around neighborhoods to see which neighbors outdid each other with decorating. I love looking at the seasonal displays and singing carols at church. Going to see a performance of Handel's Messiah is my all time favorite Christmas event. This year though, I didn't even do that. I didn't really feel the connection to Christmas this year. It wasn't as if I was horribly depressed by it, I simply didn't feel the joy and happiness I usually do this time of year. People say Christmas has become too commercialized. They say it's more about the "true reason" for the season and what's in your heart. I'll agree with the first part being a believer but the second. . . . .well. . . .what if your heart's just empty?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Visit

Over the past couple of days the Commander in Chief has paid us a visit. Life gets very interesting when this happens. A hospital's daily routine is quickly interrupted and schedules are thrown into chaos. I think the one thing that disturbed me the most about this visit was the circulating rumor allegedly coming from a high placed hospital official. Supposedly while visiting the traumatic brain injured (TBI) patients, a couple of these guys did not recognize our CIC. So just to make sure this did not repeat itself hospital personnel were told to "make sure every patient knows who HE is".

Again I want to state this is all alleged but I think it's kind of ridiculous to to expect these TBI patients, many of whom don't even recognize their family members or know what day it is to remember who he is. Some of these folks are barely aware of their surroundings and probably would never expect this particular someone to show up in their hospital rooms. Someone clearly did not do a very good job at briefing someone else on traumatic brain injury patients!

I know this isn't the usual Clara story but I needed to vent! Please forgive me as I don't mean to offend.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Holiday Story

Thanks again to Keith for bailing me out. I had somehow locked myself out of this blog, I am sooo technologically challenged, I willingly admit that being the main reason I can never have a blog of my own! ;-) On another note I had quite the experience at work this past week and since I tend to write about things to help me process them here's the story:

Titled "Finding Santa" I hope you enjoy it!

“Ms Clara?” came from the tiny voice at my side.
“Yes, Jonathan Matthew?” I responded.
“Do you think Santa will find me and Thomas here?” was the earnest question.
“Most definitely Santa will find you!” I assured my small friend. That particular comment was met with silence as the 5-year-old boy at my side contemplated the answer. The son of one of my wounded patients he had climbed up to sit beside me as I sat in an alcove completing a chart

“Are you sure Ms Clara?” pled Jonathan Matthew. “I mean, I’m not asking for me, you know? I’m asking for Thomas because he’d be really upset if Santa didn’t find him. He’s littler than me and this is his first Christmas”. Thomas was Jonathan Matthew’s 2-month-old brother. “Do you suppose you could talk to him for me?” he asked. “Talk to who?” was my perplexed response. “Santa, Clara! Santa!!” Jonathan Matthew disgustedly exclaimed. I felt a lump start to form in my throat as I looked down into the earnest face of a small boy. Unsure of how to respond I was momentarily lost for words. Not getting an immediate response caused Jonathan Matthew to tell me “My mom says you’re an angel on earth so I figured since I know angels talk to God you’d be talking to God too. And if you’re talking to God you gotta be able to talk to Santa”.

Oh Wow! Holy Hooeee. What do you say??? Now I was truly at a complete and total loss for words and the lump in my throat had just grown to boulder size. Eyes burning with tears, I cleared my throat and as I was ready to speak I saw Jonathan Matthew’s grandmother turn the corner. The expression on her face told me she had heard the conversation we were having. “Hi, Grammie!” said this small boy “Clara and me were talking about Santa and I was asking her to talk with him about making sure he found Thomas on Christmas”, all his words ran together. “Cuz mom says she’s an angel here on earth so if there’s anyone who can talk to Santa I know it’s her. And since I know she already talks to God to help Daddy get better it should be easy for her to talk to Santa” he continued.

“Jonathan Matthew” Grammie started to say. I quickly held up my hand to stop her flow of words and said, “I’ll tell you what Jonathan Matthew”. My voice broke and I had to clear my throat before continuing, “I’ll make absolutely sure Santa finds you and Thomas”. “Cuz you’re an angel here on earth and you can do things like that, right?” was his question. “Well, I’m not too sure about the angel here on earth, Jonathan Matthew, but let’s just say I know the right people” was my assurance.

“Ok, Ms Clara, if you say so I know it will happen”. He leaned over, wrapped his small arms around my neck and squeezing said, “I don’t care what you say, you’re my daddy’s angel and I love you”. With that proclamation he abandoned his seat next to mine, grabbed his Grammie’s hand saying “Let’s go tell Thomas Ms Clara is gonna make sure Santa finds him”. Tears in her eyes she gazed at me, a silent “thank you” formed on her lips as she turned and followed Jonathan Matthew down the hall. Trust me when I say I will do everything in my power to make sure two little boys receive a visit from Santa even if I have to go rent the red suit and beard myself!

On that note, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season filled with many blessings! Best wishes for a healthy, happy new year!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Harbor Day Thoughts and Thanks

Here are a quick couple of thoughts, not particularly well connected, but they are timely....

This morning the flags were at half staff because today is Pearl Harbor Day, the day the America of the 1940's was called to defend itself and ended up defending most of Europe as well. Possibly the last popular war we have had. Thank you to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and those that served even when not in uniform.

I was up in Vernonia the other day checking on some soldiers who are helping out in that flood devastated community, and I am happy to say that the Oregon Guard still helps out in floods, fires, and hurricanes. The civil authorities seem to have things well in hand, and our help, while needed was not the main effort. Which is the way things ought to be anyway.

I stopped in at a local restaurant today and had a salad and ice tea, and before I could pay someone, I don't know who, paid my tab for me and told the waitress to say thank you for my service. I want to say on behalf of the soldiers that I serve with, Thank you for being aware of what is going on, and thank you for the good will.

Many of the people I served with in Shindand will be coming home for good (we hope) this next couple of months, and I am sure happy that they have been safe as well.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and a happy New Year.....

"Thank you FDNY" Written by Clara Hart

On a day darkened by issues, on going problems and irresponsible behaviors there was one tiny light in my pitch-black tunnel. Friday was, without a doubt, one of the worst days I have had in a very long time. Running around like a crazed person I barely had enough time to hit the bathroom and grab a quick on the run meal; a coke and a snickers bar.

Troubleshooting the needs of my patients, attend the committee meetings I had been sucked into, and helping a mother run the emotional gamut with her wounded son, I was quickly becoming depleted myself. As I hurried down the hall into one of the patient wings I came across one of the chaplains. He was surrounded by tall, fit men in navy blue shirts proclaiming “FDNY supports our wounded warriors” and a cart filled with t-shirts, hats and other mementos to hand out to the wounded. I must have had an “I’m having a really BAD day” look on my face because he stopped me and asked if I was ok.

“It’s been an awful day! My issues have issues and today it just goes on and on.” I wearily proclaimed to him. He hugged me and then with his arm around my shoulder turned to the men and said “You will never meet a harder working nurse in all your life. She helps me keep track of these patients and gives me a heads up when they need something.” Shocked I stood there, too tired to even say thank you.

One of the firefighters approached and without hesitation pulled me into his arms for a brief hug saying “thank you for what you do”. A wizened gentleman, his face lined with experience, he appeared as someone who had spent his life moving through the ranks of the fire department. Stepping back I looked at him and said “I lost friends on Sept 11th, I responded to the scene and I can honestly say I feel your pain and your loss and I am truly sorry”. His expression changed fleetingly from surprise to sorrow and then to understanding and he embraced me again gruffly saying “Thanks”.

As I readied to head off to next problem the chaplain attempted to round up the men. They would have nothing of him herding them down the hall and instead stepped in front of me and one by one solemnly passed by, offering their hands to shake mine and say “thank you for what you do”, “keep up the good work” “thanks”, “thank YOU”. Stock still I stood as 10 or more men filed past me and shook my hand. My eyes began to sting with dreaded tears and I choked out “you guys are gonna make me cry”. “Fine” one of them responded, “nothing wrong with that”.

As the last one slid past I hurried down the hall to address another issue. Many minutes later, on my way to help another nurse, I ran back into the firefighters. One of them had seen my approach and, breaking off from the others, came over to meet me as I drew even with him. As he held out a t-shirt he said, “If there’s anyone who deserves this it’s you”. Accepting the shirt from him, trying to mumble out “thanks” in my tear-laden voice I felt a hat being placed on my head, “here, you need one of these too” I heard from a second firefighter. While I was removing the cap to get a closer look at it a third man silently walked toward me. The same wizened firefighter who had earlier hugged me handed me a FDNY lapel pin saying, “Take this too, what you do means a lot to us”. Cradling my treasured gifts I could only nod and wish them a safe journey home as I retreated down the corridor.

Later that evening as I vented to a friend I told him the story of the firefighters. As my voice trailed off I asked him “Does anyone care that our work day gets longer as we try to help everyone who needs us? Do you know how many people actually say thank you to us? The caregivers? Us? The nurses, the chaplains, the physical and occupational therapists, the clerical staff, the dietitians, the physicians, and all the rest who look after these injured warriors day in and day out??”

“Almost no one” was my response to my own question. My friend was silent for several minutes before he said, “Clara, I’m ashamed to say, but you’re right. I never even thought about all the people who care for these wounded folks.” “Yeah” he continued, “I’m always asking what the soldiers and sailors need or what I can do for the marines and the airmen but not you or your colleagues.”

Gazing at him silently I replied, “Not many do”.

Thank you FDNY for remembering, you helped brighten my day.