Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll has discovered ANGELS AMONG US. She writes:

I have always understood that I would do very poorly in a barter economy. Should all of civilization go to hell, I don’t see myself surviving by saying, “I will tell you three good jokes for that potato.” And that was when I was a standup comic. A columnist would have even less leverage: “Here, read this. You might enjoy the occasional clever turn of phrase. Do you happen to have any food?”

But I am humbly pleased to report a few occasions on which audience members have come up to me after the show to share a very personal story of what that evening of laughter meant to them at that moment in their lives.

One was a woman who told me that her husband had taken his own life six months earlier – no note, no threats or previous attempts, no warning signs — and, until that evening, she had not laughed once in all that time.

Another concerned a prominent judge in The Twin Cities who had presided over the horrible trial of an evil and insane woman who had slowly abused her little adopted son to death. The judge’s wife told me that he had seen photographs that even the jury was not allowed to see because they would have been too prejudicial. She spoke of his insomnia and depression during the long trial. The event at which I entertained the judge was an all-class reunion for Macalester College, and he finally was able to laugh heartily and let go of some of the stress. We probably don’t give enough thought to the endless parade of misery, cruelty, and human suffering that judges and prosecutors see every day.

So we all do what we can to lighten the load of our fellow humans.

But this column is about nurses. They are truly angels among us.

Since I so recently spent over three weeks with my father in Rehab, surrounded by nurses, physical therapists and caregivers too numerous to memorize all of their names, this is much on my mind. Doctors, of course, are critical to the process of healing and recovery, but doctors are pretty much already regarded as demigods and accorded that level of respect. I am not for a moment suggesting that they haven’t earned it or don’t deserve it. I just want to put the focus on the ones responsible for the hourly hands-on ministrations and human touch.

Friends, I simply could not do it. Let us set aside the patients’ expulsion of various bodily fluids that would send me walking briskly in the opposite direction and right out the door, never to be seen again. The matter-of-fact way these professionals handle accidents of all kinds with the goal of preserving whatever dignity is possible just blows my mind.

People in Rehab – mostly, but not exclusively, geriatric patients – are usually confused, miserable, and in pain. Not to mention, lonely, frightened and bored. My good friend Randy was in a motorcycle accident several years ago with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung and he told me he begged the nurses to kill him. Thankfully, they did not comply but he said that time just hung there.

He would look at the clock and it would be 6:30 am and then he would look at it again in what he thought had been at least 4 hours, and it would be 6:36. There are only so many episodes of Law and Order that a person can watch without going insane. (Bonus spoiler: if a man who is a minor character – in Law and Order or any other such program — has a timid wife who is wearing a cross, he will turn out to be the criminal. And at LEAST a wife-beater and an incestuous pedophile. Count on it. But there is NO anti-Christian bias in Hollywood. You would have to be a crazy alt-right bigot to assert that. There is slightly-less anti-Jewish prejudice in television series. That is not because of lots of Jewish writers. No, it is because, on television, Jews – at least observant ones — simply do not exist.)

Ah, but again I digress. Back to the celestial nurses. Our family boasts two nurses. My brother, who our father never fails to describe as “a male nurse,” and my nephew’s beautiful wife. They both have the requisite compassion, smarts, and sensitivity for the job, and my brother, a Navy vet, also brings to the table considerable musculature handy for lifting the modern-day 3XL patient.

I was astonished not just by the professional medical care that was delivered – which presumably could in the future mostly be done by robots – but by the human love, patience, and compassion that went with it. Robots need not apply.

We are in a sad era where the healing human touch is frowned upon, even actionable. At least in Alexandria, MN, I can attest that people know better. Elderly patients who may not have been hugged for some time are embraced, patted, even kissed on the head. Needless to say, the nurses exercise the discretion to know when it is welcome and when it may not be. Do you have any idea how happy it made Daddy to have a nurse walk into his room in the morning and say, “Good Morning, Handsome!”? The chances are vanishingly small that in 20 years, he will appear on television with an even more grotesque Gloria Allred, weeping about how demeaned he felt. And not just because in 20 years he would be 113.

At the Care Conference which was held to determine whether Daddy could go back to his Assisted Living place or needed more Rehab to meet his goals, he and I (geezers age 93 and 71, give or take) sat there with five lovely young ladies who could have been our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and who would decide his fate.

They did determine that he could use more Rehab to make sure he was safe to return to his previous residence. They wanted to be sure he wouldn’t just fall again and have to return to Rehab. My father – remember my reporting his 30/30 on his cognitive test — then suggested that perhaps if he had KNOWN what the actual goals were, he might have had more success in reaching them. Point taken. After an awkward silence reflecting our disappointment in the verdict, one young nurse quietly asked my father, “Jim, do you have anything further to add?”

He looked around the room at this bevy of beauties and said, “Well… I’m single.”

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