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Yesterday I visited the hospital where I had undergone my ordeal last winter. The following is the text of an email I just sent someone who'd flown 3000 miles to my bedside, telling him about my reunion with the angels who rescued me.
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Don't know if this would interest you at all, but:
Yesterday, I was at [name of hospital]. And I decided to do something while there that I'd thought many times of doing: I went back to all the wards/units where I had been a patient last winter, to see them from the eyes of health, the rooms I'd lain in, and to perhaps thank some of the really outstanding people who had taken care of me. I had the distinct sense that they very, very rarely see the positive results of their dedication - their former patients IRL, walking around in street clothes, with wind in their sails.
First stop: The ICU. I thought of you as I entered its door, imagined you coming in and passing these places, as I had never seen the door myself; I had never seen that front desk. And there was my little alcove/room, just to the left. The whole ICU looked much, much smaller and more crowded than it had felt/appeared to me from my horizontal position on that bed. I instantly remembered nurses I saw there yesterday ---- remembered their names, which blew their minds. There were even hugs and tears - they couldn't believe I looked so good, and they were genuinely grateful I'd come back: It did a LOT for their morale. I specifically asked for Katy, who had been in touch with you by phone. I wanted to thank her for her hand-holding care of me when I was first admitted there, put on the oscillating ventilation. (I don't think you saw that set-up; for hours I was strapped into a jerking/bouncing/vibrating chest-wrapped thing to jostle my ribcage while the oxygen was blasting in through the mask - Katy explained it was to loosen the "cement"-like "fluid" that had filled my lungs.) It was really hellish, but Katy sat there with me, while I begged her to stop it, and she'd say, "Okay, fine. You want us to intubate you? Because if I turn this off, we have no choice."
You know what came back to me?
And this is really why I'm writing this to you.
She was the one who came in and said, "______ is coming from New York. I've spoken to him. His plane arrives at 2 in the afternoon."
So help me, I looked at that clock every several minutes and calculated where in the American skies you were. It was critical to me, somehow, to hang on to that while the waves of wind smacked me in the throat and the vest jostled me hard. I remembered that yesterday. I remembered a lot of things, and, you know? It was psychologically a very healthy thing to have gone back there. I had read on the Internet that that's the case for many, many who spend extended time in Intensive Care through an Emergency admission.
Anyway, I left a note for Katy yesterday (because she's a Night Nurse and wasn't there), on a special "Recognition" card, which they post in their little staff rest area, and everybody looks. Apparently this is a Major Highlight of their work. These ICU angels of mercy are in the business of saving lives, and while they get monetary rewards, their souls really do crave just this sort of recognition. Many of their patients don't recover. The few who come back and show their/our faces, healthy, REALLY encourage them.
After I left there, I did the same at the TICU and the regular ward. I was remembered, and I remembered the names, too! I recognized-in-writing two more absent nurses in the TICU, and followed up with a couple of nurses on the regular ward. One was a male French nurse with whom I had communicated in French when I was first admitted to the regular Medical ward for observation. "You were just coughing and coughing and coughing," he said yesterday. He didn't know - so I told him - that I later went Critical and was transferred to the ICU and was in the hospital another 12 days after he last saw me.
It was a very rich experience for me and gave me a certain amount of closure. I have very, very warm feelings for those people and was told that the nurses I recognized in writing would be thereby recognized by their departments and supervisors. The least I could do.
And, of course, I have warm feelings and deep gratitude for you. You really gave me something priceless by flying out here when you did. The plane was cramped, the ICU was cramped, it wasn't fun, and you must have been scared until I stabilized.
What more can I say?
Love and hugs.
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