Words cannot express my family’s gratitude for the physicians, nurses, aides, and technicians that cared for my dad during his month-long hospitalization. Upon Dad’s hospital admission, his lifelong friend who was also his primary physician quickly called in another specialist —an oncologist (who was not dealing with any cancer in our case). This doc brought considerable investigative gifts to bear as he put the pieces of this “Dr. House” case together and consulted with others. Both of these men are highly respected as skilled, caring doctors, and also as committed Christian men. That devotion was shown in multiple ways, including their giving their cell phone numbers to us. They asked for, and responded to, our updates, even a couple of weeks after my dad had been transferred to another hospital for state-of-the-art treatment. The primary physician/friend later signed my dad’s death certificate and also spoke at the memorial ceremony.
A general surgeon did excellent emergency surgery in the abdomen, and Dad healed well from that. A neurologist read the initial radiology report in great detail and spoke with another specialist who was in transition to another hospital. Two cardiac specialists saw Dad on rounds and monitored the circulatory system (only a side issue in this case), carefully considering the possible impact of each step taken. We have two relatives with high-level biochemistry/medical university teaching experience; it was a blessing to be able to rely on their advice.¹
I had my favorites among the nurses and CSAs (Clinical Support Associates/aides) at this first hospital, but I loved and appreciated qualities in each of them. The charge nurse Jennifer, for instance, showed above-and-beyond, sincere concern for Dad as he was administered a sedative prior to the second attempt at a lengthy series of MRIs. Tracy connected with both my mom and my dad, and she prayed for us, as several others did. Alicia, serving as an aide but about to graduate with an R.N. degree, gave amazing relief to my dad with skilled tissue massage. I cannot recall a single caregiver at this hospital who responded with anything other than attentive, helpful care and promises kept. Sure, some were a little quicker or slightly more skilled than others, but every one was good.
Some nurses and aides seemed to travel in pairs, working closely together. Callie & Susan and Stephanie & Emily made for great teams in the daytime, and Jason & Robert at night. All the nurses and aides regularly asked if we needed anything, and when asked for something (ice chips, pillow, a med check, or whatever), each one responded willingly.
Brad the radiology tech stayed 3-4 hours past his shift to give my dad the benefit of his personal skill, seeing him through the 2nd painful, anxiety-laden MRI. I don’t think we’ll ever forget Kristy from dietary, who, upon hearing Dad tease Mom in a whisper, grinned and said if her husband said that, she’d get “butter in a sock.” It was hard to imagine that sweet person putting a stick of butter in a sock and chasing her husband around, beating on him. With a grin, Kristy said, “It doesn’t leave marks.” I’ll bet she’d heard that country “solution” from her grandmother. This was the kind of personality and warmth that existed in my dad’s room for most of the time he was hospitalized.
When we transferred Dad to a 2nd hospital, I was only there for one evening since my sister arrived then. I personally experienced one rather arrogant internist who proved to be nearly worthless in our case, except in that he eventually called in a specialist when he finally humbled himself and listened to a few things my sister said. We had the distinct impression that a couple of key people, including this “lead,” really needed to have read the medical chart thoroughly first. A neurologist seemed attentive, and a physical therapist or two helped Dad sit up one time and encouraged him, but the week+ in that hospital was essentially wasted time.
On the other hand, the hospital above was very fine. Finally, a bed had become available at this university hospital, so Dad was transferred to yet a 3rd institution. No caregiving duds existed in this bunch. Skilled docs with strong communication gifts included a CCU/ICU attending that we liked very much. Jackie, a day nurse, could be slightly businesslike and gruff but also took good care of dad and had a strong hug with Mom one evening, mentioning her prayer for us. Randy, another day nurse, holds a special place in our hearts because of his years of experience and obvious expertise, but also because of his faith statements and appreciation of our hymn singing on Thanksgiving evening. Randy told us, “Every day I work for God.” He also said one morning, as my dad had turned a corner positively, “I usually take care of really sick people, and you don’t need me anymore.”
My favorite nurse was Kelsey. Her perfect pacing, her wide-open attention, and her consistent, thorough care through the night provided reassurance. Each task (e.g., turning/wedging, leg/foot treatments, and bed changes, which she did herself instead of relying on an aide; not to mention the IV monitoring and more medically crucial items) seemed perfectly executed. It was Kelsey who by her ways and spirit gave Mom the peace of mind to leave Dad alone for the night for the first time. Rebecca, another day nurse, talked openly with me about Dad’s worsening condition near the end; she was very caring and attentive, as well.
After Dad’s death, a dear lady with whom Dad had worked commented, “I will even miss getting him a bottle of water every day, and the gratitude he showed. He was a gentleman. Completely.” In the hospital, too, Dad’s gratitude was shown in his whispers and eyes, and most caregivers got to experience that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more adept at showing gratitude than my dad when he was a patient. Although his voice was weak, no one mistook his genuine appreciation.
For all the aides, nurses, and doctors, we the family members now give thanks. We had at many points hoped to return to the 1st hospital (at least) with Dad in a wheelchair, showing them the good news that he was recovering. That was not to be. Now, we give thanks for the Lord’s mercy in not allowing Dad’s earthly life to continue in a difficult, depressing, burdensome way. We grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. While Dad’s memory will live for quite a while in those who knew and loved him, it is infinitely more important that his soul will live eternally with God.
¹ Our medical vocabularies quickly grew—perhaps too quickly for our own good, because the terms would sometimes fly over the hospital bed faster than we could take them in or jot down notes.