I arrived at the hospital to find my dad in an ER room, pulling himself up repeatedly by gripping the side rails of the bed, only to drop back breathlessly on the pillow, accomplishing nothing. His eyes searched the ceiling for curiosities only he could see. When he did take a break from pulling himself up, it was to reach longingly for these things and to beg me to help him get them. Then it was back to the heartbreaking pull-ups. I watched helplessly each time as his abdominal muscles clenched down with the effort. I drew close to his head and called to him. He turned his head and focused his eyes on me. I asked him what he was trying to do by pulling himself up over and over again.
"I don't know," he said, then turned his eyes back to the ceiling, gripped the handrails, and struggled up again. I asked him to please stop because he was pushing himself gradually off the end of the bed, which had no footboard. Again, he looked at me when I talked to him and seemed to understand, but as soon as I was finished talking, he resumed the pull-ups and ceiling searching.
Finally a nurse came and collected a urine sample to be sent to the lab. The results were announced enthusiastically by the ER doctor, "Your dad has a RAGING urinary tract infection!"
I immediately thought of my friendly redheaded EMT.
"And he has pneumonia in two lobes of his lungs," the doctor finished.
After more waiting, Dad was admitted and transferred to a hospital room where they finally began the IV antibiotics he so desperately needed.
I spent the night in the bed next to him, as this tiny country hospital had no aides to help the nurses. Wearily I climbed into bed about 11:15, only to be asked questions by the nurse until midnight about Dad's medical history but also personal information like his tv watching habits. "Maybe I am dreaming," I thought to myself. "No, welcome to the world of government medical care," my rebel self replied. Finally she finished her questioning, and I fell asleep. I awoke several times during the night when the nurse came in and talked to Dad. I could already hear the difference in him. He could answer questions coherently. Relieved, I would drift back to sleep.
|Dad happily enjoying a cup of coffee before breakfast.|
By the following morning, he seemed his old self. I went home for a while and returned that afternoon. I had noticed in the ER that one of Dad's sandals was missing. Now I saw that it had been returned. I suspected the ambulance crew had found it. I decided to go look in the ER driveway and see if the redhead was there with the ambulances. I busily formulated in my mind how I would instruct her--with all charity, of course--in the fact that she was an idiot and a danger to society. I got as far as the glass door at the exit. I stood there and watched as the redhead in her manly navy blue uniform repeatedly drew deeply on an e-cig and blasted giant clouds of vapor into the air around her co-workers. I thought again about what I could say to her, and this time I tried to think along the lines of something that Christ would want me to say. Confronted overwhelmingly instead with my own weaknesses and failings, I turned and walked back to my Dad's room, determined to pray for her.
I pondered the situation. Maybe she had returned the shoe herself. Maybe she had asked the nurse for his diagnosis and discovered how wrong she had been and repented. I don't know. I just knew that I was not yet the person who could tell her. We had had a happy outcome. I counted my blessings and brought Dad home the next afternoon.