Last week, I wrote in my News-Sentinel editorial about my nearly three-month stay in the hospital battling pancreatitis. I identified as one of the reasons I pulled through was the dedicated care that I got from hospital professionals.
But there was one specific act of human kindness—well above and beyond what any patient might expect—that gave me the boost I needed to prevail.
Here's what happened. During the early days of my hospitalization, a friend brought family pictures of me with my son, my grandchildren, and my pets. She put them up on the wall.
When nurses and doctors came into the room, they would ask questions about the kids and about which dog—Fido, Sparkle and Hoppy—had what name.
And I would tell them about my family as well as the history of each animal and how it became a member of my household.
The animal photos reflected happier times since they were taken during the summer at the local irrigation canal where the dogs were swimming and racing after jackrabbits through the vineyards.
Often, after my visitors left, I would look at those pictures with despair so far away did those carefree summer days seem.
In fact, through those pictures I first realized how grave my condition was. Nurses would point to a photo of me and ask, "Who is this?" And from that moment forward, I could never summon the courage to look at myself in the mirror until just days before I left the hospital.
Then one day the lead floor nurse, Kathy, came into my room and said, "I'll bet you'd love to see your dogs. If you would, I think I can make that happen for you."
I had never dreamed that it would be possible for my dogs to visit me.
But Kathy got the ball rolling. Kathy coordinated with my Lodi friends who would drive the dogs up to Sacramento. She secured the doctors written permission, arranged the time and place for the reunion.
And when the much-anticipated day of the dog visit arrived, Kathy let the nurses know that I would be outside in the patio…not only seeing my dogs but also grabbing my first breath of fresh air in weeks.
Kathy wheeled me down the elevator and rolled me out to the appointed spot.
One by one, the dogs raced toward me tugging on their leashes, while Kathy sat protectively by to make sure that none of them jumped into my lap.
I fed them dog treats and scratched them in all their favorite places.
Our visit lasted about an hour. Kathy told me I could take longer if I wanted; she was in no hurry. But an hour was all I had in me.
When Kathy and I got back to my room, I told her that seeing my dogs filled me with an even stronger desire to get well and go home.
Kathy said: "Most of today's nurses are very proficient technically. But too many forget that good nursing includes patient comfort. It's up to us to do all that we can in that regard although overcrowding makes it hard."
I ran into Kathy last week when I returned to the hospital for my weekly check-up. She is busily making plans for her son's Maui wedding later this spring.
We talked about her hopes and dreams for her son. And I told her that I would always remember her for her kindness and that she and her family would forever be in my prayers.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.