Monday, January 28, 2008

The Faces

Asked to see and evaluate an OEF patient in the trauma ICU, I wandered into the bay only to stop short at the sight before me. The wounded patient lay motionless with wires and tubes, dressings and splints all entangling each other. Ventilator high-pressure alarms shrieked off-cadence with the beeps of the heart monitor. Intubated on a vent, multiple IV lines and specialty dressings all around, this patient lay in drug-induced slumber.

Keeping a bedside vigil was his wife, not an uncommon site on any of the nursing units temporarily housing our wounded warriors. What caught me off guard and stopped me stock-still were the small bodies occupying the chairs that flanked her. Two beautiful young children sat beside her, alternating between coloring pictures with dry erase markers given to them by the nurses and staring silently at their father.

As I introduced myself to Sarah, I also introduced myself to the children. Victoria, who is seven, and Jacob, who is five, shook my hand gravely as I held it out to them. I learned Victoria had been eating blue candy, as evidenced by her blue tongue, lips and teeth. I learned Jacob loved the Transformers and wanted his dad to teach him how to ride an ATV, “when he gets better." I learned Sarah had arrived on Saturday, the day after her husband had been flown in, and alone at the hospital had no one to watch the children. She told me, with tears in her eyes, that they came with her every day and sat in the ICU room, coloring pictures, playing games, and watching their dad.

As we talked I looked at the children. I could see the fear and uncertainty crowding their small faces. I asked if I could bring in a DVD player so they could watch movies. Eyes filling once again with tears, Sarah thanked me, telling me over and over how much she appreciated the help. I asked her to forget it, as it was such an easy thing for me to do. It’s not hard to take a portable DVD player off the closet shelf where it is gathering dust and loan it to two children so they could forget where they are if only for a couple of hours.

That was four days ago, and this patient has been extubated. Yesterday I watched joy instead of sorrow fill this family’s faces. I watched a wife and mother hold her children up to the bed so a little boy and girl could say, “Hi Daddy!” I smiled in delight at the looks of pure happiness as their father opened his eyes and smiled at them. I choked back tears as Sarah laid her head on his chest and sobbed, “Welcome home, Baby.”

Today as I walked down the hall I heard a tiny voice call out, “Ms. Clara!” Turning, I saw Jacob and Victoria dragging their mom toward me. “Ms. Clara!” they eagerly exclaimed. “We watched the Transformers in the hotel room last night!" And so they rumbled on, anxious to tell me about their day. While listening I felt a little hand encircle mine and tug. “Ms. Clara, want to come see our daddy with us?” Victoria asked. “I’d love to come see your daddy with you." And off we went, off to exchange smiles and laughter with a soldier on the long road to recovery.


Melban said...

Thank you for sharing that borough a few tears to my eyes. The world needs more great people like you. Thank you for looking after our hero's and their families.

Ky Woman said...

I don't know how you do what you do without your heart breaking daily...
Children's laughter make it all worth while.

Stay strong.