Fred Rogers once said that when tragedy strikes, you should look for the helpers. Some of those helpers are easy to find, and I have written about many of them already. It isn’t hard to remember the paramedics, the doctors, the nurses, and the family members. But when you go through an extended illness, with multiple invasive procedures and treatments, and you spend most of a month flat on your back, there are a thousand little things that can or need to be done to make the experience more tolerable.
So I want to thank the helpers.
They seemed to come out of the woodwork, and there were too many for me to mention all of them. In many cases, they dealt with needs at a time when I was unconscious or so compromised by pharmaceuticals that I had no idea what they were doing on my behalf. But I can give you at least a representative sample:
- The one guy who had pity on me when I was yelling for help in the courthouse parking garage. I could not direct the ambulance to me, and my cries for help were ignored by a small parade of busy lawyers and their clients. One person, whoever he was, did not “pass by on the other side,” but rather came to me like the proverbial Samaritan and made sure I got the help I needed.
- The technician who relieved my guilt for hitting a nurse and trying to escape while I was intubated. I was feeling horrible about that, even though my punch would not have wrinkled tissue paper. He explained that everyone tries to escape, and that the medications I was on make you a little paranoid. Or a lot paranoid, if you are me.
- The techs who were so kind to clean me up and never complained when I soiled my sheets. Honestly, when I woke up to discover that there are no bathrooms in the ICU, I kind of freaked out. I thought I had been sent to North Korea. Being told to defecate in your bed is completely unacceptable to my OCD tendencies. I was humiliated and embarrassed, but they never said a negative word or acted like I was a burden at all. No matter how much I pooped. And, brother, I’m here to tell you: I pooped a lot.
- The nurse who was taking care of me the first night shift after I woke up from the coma. I had just wrapped up a ten-day nap, and there was no way I was going to fall asleep. I was bored, lonely and scared. She took time out whenever she could get away from her other obligations to come talk with me. That would have been a long and scary night without her.
- All of the people that brought pillows, took pillows away, and brought them back as I struggled to find a comfortable position. Best bed in the world will be miserable if you are in it for 17 straight days, and Parkland does not have the best beds in the world.
- All of the people who brought books and comic books to keep me entertained. My vision was screwed up for most of my stay at Parkland, and I had a hard time concentrating. But even if I couldn’t read much, just having the Hulk and Batman that close to my bed made me feel better. No way for this not to sound wrong, but men in spandex are important to me.
- Those who brought flowers, slippers, snacks, gifts or just shared their presence with me. If I ever need to go into the smuggling business, I know some folks.
- That guy from the cancer center who was the only one who could find my veins for IVs and blood tests during my second hospital stay, and allowed us to request him by name. I had more track marks than your most devoted junkie, and trying to run one more IV or collect one more vial of blood was a torture session. Not with him. Absolute angel of mercy.
- The lab techs who didn’t get upset with my vulgarity. After getting finger pricks for blood tests every 30 minutes for days, my fingers were a bloody wreck. When they asked which finger I wanted them to use, I showed them. They took it with a smile.
- Those who tended to all of my needs at home. Meals and meds. Tips for recovery. Bringing me a bench to use in the shower. Helping me stand and walk. Cleaning up my puke. Listening to my complaints. Offering glimmers of hope. Every visitor was a cause for celebration.
- Sunnye Clark, who called my name in to every temple in the Western world. Thanks to her, I think I was the most prayed-over dude on the planet.
- My staff at work, who redecorated my office while I was out, making it a much more inviting environment to return to.
- Every other “little” act of kindness. I cannot remember them all, as much as I would like to. But though I don’t remember them, they made up the totality of my experience over the last nine months. Every supportive gesture made a difference.
God bless the helpers.
Tomorrow: The Community of Faith