Monday, January 30, 2012

Perspective

Deb: Mom and I spent the night in the emergency ward. She lost control of her electric wheelchair and rammed into her chest of drawers, splitting her legs open. She required several stitches in both legs. The doctor was further concerned that infection would set in, given that they could not suture the whole thing due to large pieces of skin that had come away from the leg. This was a very serious concern given the fact that her leg was already compromised from her gangrene a few months ago and still on a slow mend.

A plastic surgeon was called in to see her and gave instructions to the nurse regards bathing and dressing the wound and gave us an appointment for follow-up in two days, at which point they would do a skin graft.

We had arrived in the emergency room at 8:30pm and finally left at 5:30am. The care was attentive and thorough and Mom was grateful and said so to each person who helped her. But as the hours wore on her patience wore out. She just wanted to go home and became increasingly frustrated. She had never had stitches in her life and was frightened. Add to that the fact that the doctor could not properly “freeze” the compromised leg and said that she would certainly feel the sutures as they were administered, which sadly she did. She was a trouper though, squeezing my hand and bearing up the best she could. When she cried or called out, she would apologize to the doctor who told her, “Mrs. McGrath you have every reason to express your pain and many people could not bear up what you are going through, so yell away.” Bless his heart.  

After she was stitched, they came to transfer her to another part of the emergency department as this one was closing down given the lateness of the hour and the fairly slow night in the waiting room.  The orderly who was wheeling her received an emergency call. He started to run down the hall and, turning to me over his shoulder, said, "Stay with your Mom, I will be right back." In seconds he came running back towards us toting a large white cooler marked “Human Blood” and ran through the large heavy doors right in front of us marked “Trauma”.

Strangely enough I had not even noticed we were in front of the trauma ward as I had been chatting with Mom, trying to keep her mind off the stitches, the possible infection, and her mounting panic around the even slight possibility that she should wind up back in the hospital for an extended stay as she had done in November.

Suddenly the trauma doors swung open and my heart jumped into my mouth. There were people on stretchers, blood everywhere, police rushing about, doctors suiting up, nurses running in, voices calling out and the flash of metal, sharp against the bright overhead lights. My mouth was dry and open, my eyes wide. My heart was beating like it wanted to escape me. Suddenly a nurse, shocked that we were standing there, pulled a bloody gloved hand across a curtain. All that was left were the sounds. Sounds like I had never heard in my life.  And it seemed ... well, it seemed like TV. I had never been that close to anything like that and I was overwhelmed with the reality of it.

As our orderly returned, rushing us away from what we should not have seen,  I sputtered out, "Is ... everyone ... okay?” He said with sadness, "It's not good.” “Was it a car accident?” “Yes ... it’s bad." As we rounded the corner, I began to wonder if I had even seen what I know I had seen. It happened so fast. Maybe it wasn't real. After all I had horrible insomnia the night before and after all it was well after 2am at this point and I was punchy. But I was reminded that it was all too real as people were still running by us towards the trauma room and I could still hear the ching of their I.D. tags which were opening the heavy doors, admitting them to that horrific scene.

As we walked quickly on, the pounding in my ears was abating and it was just starting to seem like a bad dream when we came upon the "Family Quiet Room", which was filled with crying frantic family and friends who were waiting for word about the accident.

The accident that was bad.

They were waiting to find out about their loved ones who were receiving all that care from the people with the chinging I.D. tags. They were waiting and praying for good news from the event our orderly had described  as...

It doesn’t look good.

We walked by them in what seemed like slow-motion, offering weak smiles and glances of hope. Some of them looked back and my eyes locked with their visible panic. As our silence thickened, our orderly Gregory stopped abruptly and turned to us. He looked my Mom in the face, smiled a broad smile and said, “Mrs. McGrath, aren’t you lucky!” My mother, kind of shocked by this odd chirpy statement amidst this scene, faltered a little but said, “Yes ... yes, I am ... I know I am.” He continued, “I work here every day and I see all sorts of horrible things. But what stays with me is the kindness, the humanness. I don’t know exactly what is going to happen to the people in that room, but I know they are receiving the strength of skill and the best of the human spirit and that is all any of us can do. That is why we are here, Mrs. McGrath. You are here having your own trauma and I am not belittling that one bit. But you are here with your daughter who loves you and who you love. Terrible things happen. But it’s love. To love and be loved and to know it. That is what I am grateful for every day I wake up, every day I get to work here, and every night I lay my head on the pillow.”

He wheeled us into my Mom’s E.R. room, “You are lucky. Good luck, Mrs. McGrath,” and he left.

All the way home that morning I thought of those people we had seen. I don’t know what happened to them and I pray that they pulled through.  But thanks to Gregory I was reminded that they were loved. That they too were lucky.

Barbara: What a story, Deb. My heart was pounding the whole time I was reading it. We haven’t had a chance yet to talk about that night with any real detail and I thank you for sharing this.

There’s nothing so soul-shifting as sudden accident. How everyone is forced to stop in their tracks and cling to the pulsing heart of things, which is the heart of everything: love love love. My heart goes out to those people and the shock they faced that awful night and must probably continue to face now. I also hope and wish for a healthy recovery for your dear Mom, Deb. Love. 

55 comments:

  1. My heart was pounding too Deb, what a nightmarish night you and your mother experienced. It all seems so surreal when you are in emergency anyway and to witness something like you did is frightening and very upsetting for you both. But thank goodness for Gregory, to spend what little time he had and to give you such significant comfort when you were so shocked and exhausted was indeed a gift. And, you accepted it and left with it. I so hope your mother is doing well Deb, it is so difficult when we see our parents go through hard time physically. it's always shocking to us. Take good care of yourself and her. So lovely that she had your hand to hold on to while she was getting stitches. Love,....indeed.

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    1. Thanks Mary-Jo, we're headed to the plastics department so hopefully they can fix her up! Gregory was something special I can tell you that. I wish he know how much his time meant to us.

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  2. Wow. What an experience. I couldn't imagine what that was like. My heart goes out to those people and to you and your mom, Deb. I'm hoping and praying that she has a speedy recovery. Lots of love.

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    1. Thanks Steph she is doing well. Just have to keep that leg from getting infected. Job One!

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  3. Sick for you Deb...Hope your mom is on the mend soon. Poor thing...she must be shy of demented with worry. As for the other accident, the bitter reminder that life can be one way one minute and forever altered the next. Terrifying really...

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    1. It is terrifying Annette. I looked at those people and thought "they were just at home, maybe watching TV, having no idea that their lives were about to turn upside down. I have not stopped thinking of them.

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  4. Oh My God, Deb, my heart was pounding and teeth clenching the whole time.....But when I came to the part where the doctor expressed his feelings....OH MY GOD !!!
    Really LOVE is the heart of everything....and I'd like to add something more. Including love I guess most important is HOPE !!! I think it makes a big difference .... when you are in a situation and are HOPEFUL than fearful!!! Our spirit, our willpower, our HOPE, our prayers and Our BELIEF in all this ....can and is responsible for every single time a person is saved in whatever happens!! And I know its gonna be alright....I am sending a lotta LOVE and HOPE to all of those people! I am here praying and hoping for your Mom's recovery...Its gonna be alright Deb !!! We are all here praying and knowing that she WILL recover really fast and really soon !!!!
    THERE IS LOADS OF LOADS OF LOVE HERE FOR YOU HONEY...FOR BOTH OF YOU !!!! xoxo

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  5. Shalaka that was beautifully said. And thanks my girl, I do feel the love and support.

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  6. :) <3 And we'll always be here for ya honey....we used to be a post away....now we are all a TWEET away too :) xo

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  7. Im glad ur moms ok Deb. i hope she recovers fast.

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  8. Thanks Shalaka! xo Thanks Lynsdie, hope you are doing well today too!

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  9. Thanks, its just been,one of those weeks. Thanks for the concern.:-)

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    1. feel better Lyndsie. Been one of those for me too!

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  10. Oh my. I send my thoughts to you Deb, your mom, and all of those who you saw in far worse condition in that emergency room.
    I don't know exactly what else to say besides to wish your mother a speedy recovery and good luck. <3

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    1. You said enough. Thanks so much for your good wishes.

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  11. Deb- yes, that is perspective, and when it all comes down to it, we are lucky if we have love, and especially, if we have health. I spent the day at the hospital yesterday with a dear friend who is fighting for her life. I certainly feel very, very lucky to have been able to get up and walk out of that hospital, when so many couldn't. It's too easy to get caught up in pettiness and griping sometimes...Perspective is good.
    I'm so glad your mother is on the mend. xo

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    1. I know Hollye and I thought of you when I read your FB post. You are right. She is loved and you are loved and you walked out of that hospital and you know how lucky you are because of it. Seems simple but we don't always get it do we?

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  12. What a story, my heart goes out to those who were involved in that accident as well as to you and your mom. A trauma no matter how big or small is difficult to get through. I hope that things went better than expected for those involved.
    I had a similar experience when I was about 6 years old. My brother had broken his leg and being a curious kid who was fairly used to hospital visits had wandered off and ended up walking straight into a trauma. I don’t know what had happened but even at such an age I recognized the seriousness of what was going on around me.
    I’m glad you had an orderly who recognized how hard it is to see something like that and made an effort to change your perspective on it. No one saw me that night or recognized what I’d seen, by the time I was found I had run away from the trauma room and was hiding in a corner. They assumed I was crying because I was lost.
    It wasn’t until months of nightmares later that my Aunt discovered the real reason for my upset that night and the nightmares that followed. I still get a feeling of unease thinking about it almost 30 years later not even knowing what exactly it was I saw that night.
    Ok changing the subject now.....
    Tell your Mom that the best and most experienced wheelchair drivers sometimes lose control. My Dad and Brother both having used power chairs for years have tipped, slipped and completely lost control many times. Between the two of them they have driven off ramps, tipped on ice, driven off stairs, run full force into objects and destroyed countless walls and doorjambs.
    It happens to everyone in a power chair from time to time and the results usually aren’t so serious. I think the worst my Dad has done is break his pinky toe after more than 15 years in a power chair. The worst my brothers done….. well that won’t make her feel better so never mind.

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    1. Erin I cannot imagine going through that when six years old. No wonder you had nightmares. I hope you don't anymore. I do hear you when it comes to the electric chairs and scooters. My Dad has already had three falls-one in the middle of a trafficked road and someone had to pull him up. He has since decided to sell it. He is too nervous to use it. And to think that just over a year ago he was driving a car. Thanks Erin.

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  13. Deb, so sorry you and your Mom ended up in the ER. Having worked in hospitals for years I know this scene. But love and good care is the answer and a lot of luck. Does your Mom live by herself (I have forgotten)? Might be time for some extra help during the day or night to make sure she can get around okay. Glad she is okay and hopefully, no infections for her. And no more trauma for either of you.

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    1. Madge thanks. She lives with my Dad actually and has home care three times a day and a nurse once a week. We will take your wish of no more trauma!

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  14. Reason #686589779798798978 why I will never work in an ER. I know that physically and mentally I would not be able to deal with all of that stress...bottom line. And that's ok.

    Deb, I am so glad your mom is ok. And yes...she is lucky. Ironically, I was just in the ER a few weeks ago. After my root canal, I took...too many Lortabs and Ibuprofen. Ended up....yeah. It was not pretty. The guy next to us (my sis went with me) was just...miserable. I think he had glaucoma surgery or something, but I distinctally remember hearing him moan and moan and moan in pain. I had done clinicals in that ER before and was about to tell Holly to go to the nurse's station and bring it to their attention. Sad. I hate ER's.

    But, I am ok now...praise the Lord. And yes. We are lucky. Stories like this in which we shouldn't take the little things for granted. :]

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    1. Oh Kelly sounds like you had a tough experience in emerge. Glad that's over for you. Mom is okay thanks, we go Wednesday for the skin graft but she says she can feel it knitting already so that is great news. Thanks.

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  15. Wow; thanks for letting us in on that wild ride of a night. Glad you and Mom are through it and you were able to be there with her. It can also be painful to witness the pain of a loved one and be helpless; a different kind of pain, but nevertheless it's upsetting. Then to be a bystander to the aftermath of a traffic accident ... oy. I hope you're taking your B vitamins for stress, girlysue.

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    1. Kate, love the girlysue. Multi vitamins actually. And CAlMAG so I'm good there. All I can say is I am glad she was not alone. Thanks Kate.

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  16. Thinking of you and your Mom. I hope her recovery is smooth and you can find rest among all the things you must do. You only hear the bad stories about hospital workers, they were so rude, they didn't help us, we were left waiting for 2 hours with no one checking in on us, etc.... But to hear your story about Gregory is a nice reminder that for all the bad workers, there are some golden people at the hospitals too. I'm glad you had one of those amazing people.

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    1. Thanks Molly for the good wishes. I have to say that we have been lucky over these last few years and all our hospital visits. WE have encountered so much loving care.

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  17. Gregory was such a help, wasn't he? I would give positive feedback to his boss or the hospital. I'm a firm believer in letting people know when they do good so that they know they are appreciated.
    Your poor mom. I bet she feels dreadful about losing control of the chair like that. Big hugs to both of you. Hang tough, girls.
    Hugs,
    Karen

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    1. Yes Karen believe me I was all over that. And not just for him. For our wonderful nurse too who showed patience and kindness. That is always my M.O. I am the "anti-complaint" department. I think as you do, that it is so important to speak up when something goes so right!

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  18. So sad to hear about your mom, hope she recovers quickly - she sounds like a tough woman. All good woshes to you and your family from Norway <3

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    1. Anette you will be happy to know that I read it as wishes. But I will take your kind thoughts however the spelling. Thanks.

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  20. Oh my goodness, Deb. I was so scared for you and your mom at first, but I am so grateful that she is on the mend (and I hope she gets better soon!!!!!!!)

    I too have to say thank goodness for Gregory; so many healthcare systems have this "wham bam, thank you ma'am" mentality and absolutely no time is spent focusing on the well-being of the patient. It makes me sad, and it's one of the many reasons why I don't like doctors.

    You have a support system here, Deb, and I'm wishing you and your mom the absolute best! :)

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    1. Holly I know I have a support system and I love each and every one of you for it. Thanks.

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  21. I hope your mother and those people are alright

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    1. Thanks Garrett, I am still thinking of those people. I so hope it turned out alright. Thanks.

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  22. Oh no...I'm so sorry you had to go through all this.
    I hope your Mom can make a quick recover, and that her legs heal nicely.

    I hope and pray that the people, who were in that car accident all made it.
    I can imagine that you're pretty worn out and distressed. *sends strength and lots of love*

    Gregory seemed nice. I guess your Mom is lucky that she has you and the family, who love her, and take care of her.

    My Grandma is in hospital again...Intensive care. I don't know, my Granddad said that she is feeling fine. I'm just scared.

    My Mom told me that she fell down yesterday. Made me sad. Every time she thinks there's an improvement, it becomes worse again.

    I try to give her as much love as I can...but love cannot make her healthy again. It can only help to deal with the pain and frustration, and it can give you strength to carry on.

    Thinking of you! Love you.

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    1. i am very sorry to hear about your grandmother becki .

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  23. Oh. My. God.
    First and foremost, thank goodness the two of you are all right. I've had a number of nasty injuries myself so am well acquainted with the ER. Most recently I was there because a wall bit me (VERY VERY VERY long story) and there wasn't anyone else there, but it still took two hours to get into. Hmmph. There have been other times, however, that I've had to watch terrified relatives wait and wait and wait some more.
    I've personally been in that situation as well.
    Two years ago, a relative of mine flew to Maine with his wife to board a cruise. Suddenly, he collapsed. I don't remember exactly what happened, but his brain went haywire.
    My dad flew out to Maine to try and help in any way he could. I couldn't go and I'm quite close to this relative, so I was nearly paralyzed with fear and every passing second meant that he could have died since I had heard from my dad last. I don't even know how I managed to function at all.
    Oh, and did I mention that while they were out in Maine, a huge storm blew through and caused structural damage to their house?
    Yeah. The week from hell.
    He recovered and is fine now, but I'll never forget the week I spent having nightmares on top of my recurring nightmare. I'll never forget the feeling of utter helplessness. And I swear to God I will never forget the relief I felt when I found out he was coming home.
    Sadly, far too many people do not feel that relief. But for those of us who are trapped in shock, we have people like the wonderful Gregory to help us through that particular abyss.
    Thank God for that.

    May your life be interesting (but not as interesting as Deb's night was),
    Sarah

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    1. I love that Sarah "but not as interesting as Deb's." So true. None of us wants trauma. It sounds like you have been through your own trauma Sarah. I'm glad it worked out for you and your family.

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  24. Oh Becki I'm so sorry about your Grandma. It's tough at that stage of life isn't it? You never know when and what is going to happen and you fear for how it affects them. I am sending you good wishes right back for her and your family. thanks.

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    1. Exactly. I mean (as harsh as it sounds) I know that she will die someday. Everybody has to. That's life.

      She had surgery today. Something was wrong with her intestine, which seemed to have caused blood loss.

      Hope the problem's solved now, and she gets better.

      Thank you, Deb!

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  25. Deb, I wish a healthy, safe recovery for your mom, and a little more rest for you. I think your strength has been tested quite enough now.
    My dad's had trouble steering those motorized carts around the grocery store. I can't, or don't want to, picture him doing it in a chair without that protection in the front. Yeesh.

    I've done my time in some emergency rooms, both as the patient and as the worried relative. I've never heard the sounds of people in physical pain, or in need of immediate care, but I have heard moans and wails of those in psychological pain. I imagine that the sounds are similar in some ways, because, regardless of the cause, pain is pain.

    Gregory sounds like he was and is in the perfect place at the perfect time. He passed on his version of Pura Vida in a way, didn't he? It is all a matter of perspective. That's not an easy lesson to absorb, but perhaps it brought you and your mother a measure of peace. I hope the families of the accident victims were able to take strength in their love for each other. If Gregory spoke to them as well, I like to think they did.

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    1. Dawn you speak the truth. Pain is pain is pain. And yes. How astute of you. Pura Vida indeed.

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  26. Deb, I am sorry for what happened to your dear Mom, and hope that she heals well. You are lucky you have each other, and as Gregory said, "To love and be loved and to know it. That is what I am grateful for every day I wake up, every day I get to work here, and every night I lay my head on the pillow.” Yes, I feel the same way. There truly are many Gregory's that work in health care. How do I know? I'm an RN for 42+ years. My husband is a neurosurgeon. We are both recently retired at 65. But working all my adult life in trauma, the OR, ICU, and air ambulance, I can say that there are many wonderful people in health care, albeit, some bad ones too. I apologize for any of them that have not shown compassion, but there is a tremendous amount of adrenaline running when docs and nurses are responsible for more than I can ever describe here. We always wished there were more people available in pastoral care or aides who could take the time, AT THAT TIME, to speak lovingly and kindly to your Mom and you. I feel sad when I read or hear that people "hate doctors" or bash health care workers. I've been a patient. My husband has been a patient, and our parents were both in hospitals. I'm a patient advocate now! It's so helpful when people write a letter if someone has been extra kind, not only to complain. We all wish we could be in the perfect place, at the perfect time, for that someone who needs the perfect words (as we all hope for), when other workers may be trying to save people's lives. And, I'd like to say that there are sooooo many people involved in providing care that never get recognized, like those who work behind every wall. Thank you for writing this blog. My very best to your Mom and you.

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    1. Cheryl I am so happy to hear your point of view. I wrote what i saw, what I experienced. Our six weeks in the hospital and our time in emerge. Both experiences reeked of compassion by all we met.

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  27. sweet Jesus deb i hope you and your mom are OK . send her my best wishes .
    this reminds me that no matter how badly things are going , there are always people for whom it is going a *bleep* sight worse.
    yesterday dad and i were leaving the hospital after visiting mom and we went down in the lift (i think you know a lift as a elevator in America) with a very nice older man who was talking to us about not knowing what button to press to hold the door open for dad and i .i mentioned after visiting here for almost 2 weeks you get used to the lift buttons . he told me he had been visiting his wife for 6 weeks . his wife had come to see him off as mom had done for dad and i . the 2 ladies started talking to each other . mom told her about her bone marrow cancer . that it was diagnosed by fluke because she fell and this was her second time with cancer after having breast cancer 11 years ago . the lady told mom first of all she did not want to burden mom with her story when mom had only got a cancer diagnosis a few days before. mom said it was OK she could tell her . the lady mom spoke to has ovarian cancer and it is secondary , she had her first bout of ovarian cancer 2 years ago . in other words the cancer will be life limiting . mom will make her remission after having chemo therapy twice a week for 5 months. it won't be easy but her oncologist does not expect any serious trouble, the cancer is new not a secondary , hell mom won't even loose her hair during her chemo.
    it is unlikely this lady will get any remission at all.
    compared to her mom dad and i are very very lucky .

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  28. Linda what a story. And yes. You are lucky. But so is she.

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  29. I was so touched by this story. Gregory is a very wise man. He had it exactly right: it's love. Love is that piece of the puzzle that is so vital. I've spent a lot of time in the ER, as a patient, a worried family member, but mostly as a nurse, and I know just how bad situations can get. However, it is the good moments that keep me going. Not just the good outcomes, but the good moments. And I've also found that even in the bad moments, like the trauma you witnessed, there are opportunities for good moments, because of love. Like the person who risked their life to save someone else's, even if in the end, it didn't end they way they wanted. Or being able to keep someone alive for that last family member to make it to the hospital to say goodbye. Or seeing a patient rally when their loved ones are present at the bedside. It's ultimately about the bonds that exist between family and friends. That's what keeps people going.
    Another aspect of this is the bond that builds between the healthcare teams as a result of these situations. I always feel closest to my coworkers after we have been through a trauma or a major emergency. There's always the moment when all is said and done, good or bad, that finds all of us standing together as a group just taking comfort in knowing that whatever the outcome, someone else is there with you, experiencing the same thing you did, knowing what you're going through.
    Deb, I am thinking of your mom and praying for a good recovery for her! I hope she heals well!
    ~Tomine

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  30. Deb, I'd like to know what hospital has been blessed with Gregory there. Thanks

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  31. So sorry to hear about your mother's accident. I appreciate your story about Gregory. Sounds like he is a special person. Perhaps a letter to the hospital administrator about his kind words would be appreciated more than you know. I'm a nurse and have had family members in the ER before. It is difficult to see what you saw. That is everyday for me and I sometimes forget that when my family is with me. I pray those families have the best outcome possible. Sounds like a long night for everyone. Rest up and keep your wonderful post coming.

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  32. I was so sorry to hear the news, Deb - I hope your mother recovers quickly. And what an experience. I've been constantly in and out of hospital myself over the past year, and it certainly makes you appreciate life all the more. Sending hugs and best wishes. x

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  33. Oh, Deb, what a HUGE experience. I really hope your mom's healing goes quickly, but yes, the ER is definitely a place to help keep us in perspective. I spent an evening in one not too long ago with my hubby.

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  34. Sharon( yea I'm a GD Angel of Mercy)ReineFebruary 1, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    Just a quick note to give my wishes too for Mrs. M's quick and easy recovery and hope for your strength to deal w all the issues of aging parents.

    yea hospital are FUN!!! places. 30+ years of nursing -most of them in oncology-
    it is never easy (IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE!) but it is always worth it.

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