January 25, 2010

The Bond Of Love

" Don't cry when you hear about what happened to me, Henderson, honey. I feel just fine. I feel better now than I ever felt in my life. Don't be sad about Dr. Chilton anymore, either. He's just fine. Bye, Henderson...don't you cry, you hear?"

I had worked the eleven to seven shift the night before. I had been working double shifts for awhile, due to personnel shortage, and although I had been working a single shift the past few days, I was still exhausted from sheer mental strain and lack of sleep, so I had been sleeping a few hours later than I would have, normally.

At the hospital where I worked as an admitting officer, we worked what was called a swing shift. So many days from seven a.m. to three p.m., so many from three to eleven, and then from eleven p.m. until seven in the morning. Since we were short of help, I had been working double shifts, on and off.

At ten p.m., the one working three to eleven in the evening, would close the main floor office, taking all necessary paperwork and money, down to the emergency room and admitted patients from there. Sometimes, especially weekends, it got pretty hectic.

Jewel Teal was the R.N. in charge of the emergency room. Miss Teal, I called her. She knew her job, and did it well, and the patient just couldn't help feeling secure when she took over. I'll never forget the first time I met her.I had been living in California, but had left, and was hiding from an abusive, alcoholic husband, who had come close to killing me many times. This time I had fled in the middle of the night. Literally, running for my life, from a machete. At the first opportune time, I had grabbed my son, who was not quite six years old. I started running through the darkness, not daring to stop, or even to look back. I had enough money for a motel room and a bus ticket to Georgia. Nothing else, other than the clothes on our backs.

I went to Georgia, because I thought that he would not think of looking for me there. I was almost seven months pregnant, and once there, I couldn't find work, had no money, no friends, and no family who were in a position to help...or wanted to be bothered.

My son, and I, were staying in a store-room filled with broken wheelchairs and bedpans, at a dilapidated nursing home for old people on welfare. I worked around there, doing odd jobs, and in return, we got two meals a day, and the use of the store-room. We got the same meals as served to the residents, and it was hardly enough for anyone with a normal appetite. Seeing the nearly inhumane treatment the old and sick people received saddened me very much, and I hated for my little boy to have to see it, but I had no choice. I was desperate

As the days passed, my son who was normally so active, became quiet and listless. After several days, he began having an extremely high temperature. By now, he complained of having a stiff neck, and sore throat, and was vomiting blood.

Being unable to obtain any help there, after trying tirelessly, and being turned away because of no money, and no insurance, I finally called a relative in the next state, and begged him to come and take us to the hospital there, in my hometown. He agreed.

It was about an hour and fifteen minutes driving time, and by the time he got there, my little boy was already sinking into a coma. I wrapped him in a blanket, and held him close to me on the drive back to the hospital in the next state. I kept talking to him, wanting him to know how much I loved him--knowing that he was near death. He could no longer hear me, nor respond.

This pregnancy had not been easy, and I had had no prenatal care. I was tired, and weak, and sick, but I knew that I had to keep holding onto him. If only I kept holding him, he wouldn't stop breathing.

"Let me hold him awhile, Hon, he's heavy, " my Aunt Polly said, reaching for him. "No!" I shouted angrily. How dare she? Didn't she know what would happen if I let him go?

When we pulled up to the hospital entrance, my uncle came around to carry him in. "No," I said, holding him closer to me, walking toward the door. An orderly walked out to take him. "No!" An aide. "No!" I was inside then, and they were still trying to take my baby. And then, "Here, honey, let Miss Teal take care of your baby."

Miss Teal. I looked up, and coming toward me was a tiny woman, only about four feet, eleven inches tall, and weighing not more than eighty-nine pounds. Her smile was kind, and her eyes were full of concern. She very gently took him from me, the blanket wrapped bundle almost as big as she. "Get Dr. Woodruff! Stat!" she snapped, as she disappeared into a treatment room with my child. Dr. Woodruff, as it turned out, was the best, and best known pediatrician in the area.

My son had spinal meningitis, and wasn't expected to live through the night. By the mercy of God, he did, and with no after effects, but he was hospitalised for over three weeks. We were both in isolation, because I wouldn't leave him, and as it turned out, I was in a deep state of shock.

After my child was born, I was in the hospital another three weeks because of complications. During that time, I made many friends there at the hospital, and they were instrumental in my getting a job at the hospital. I especially loved working with Miss Teal. Any mistakes I made, she covered with a smile, a pat, and a wink.

Now this strange dream that I'd just had. She was there--it was so plain--just seeming to hover over me, looking down at me from her position above my bed, with her gentle, assuring smile. "Don't cry when you hear what happened to me," she had said. The Dr. Chilton she had mentioned, was an obstetrician, and he had died only a couple of months before. He had come through the emergency room around two in the morning, after delivering a baby. He was going home to sleep, he said.

"Don't send me anymore babies, tonight, Henderson," he had said in parting, and went home to bed, where he died in his sleep.

I felt uneasy about what had just happened. Seeing and hearing Miss Teal had seemed so real. It was hours until time for work, but because of my uneasiness, I called the hospital. As soon as I called, I heard, "Oh, Henderson, did you know Miss Teal is dead?"

She had been on her way home that morning, having worked the same shift with me. She thought she saw a car coming toward her on the wrong side of the road, and swerved to avoid hitting it, and crashed into a tree.

She was still conscious when the ambulance came, and she told them what had happened. She also told them that she thought that she had a ruptured spleen. She had. She died in surgery that morning, surrounded by doctors and nurses, and others who had loved her.

Yes, I cried for my Miss Teal.

Post Script

Aunt Polly, mentioned here, is the same, beloved, aunt written about in some of my previous posts. She passed away one year ago, this past August, and i miss her, so much.

Ironically, as I write this, I am reminded of the very morning that she died. I had talked to her the day before, and she was her usual, sweet, uplifting self...laughing with me about things that we remembered, together.

I had told her about writing about when she was teaching me to make fudge, and how several readers on here had suggested I write the recipe in a post, since it sounded like it was so special. She laughed, and said, "Why, Baby..all they have to do is look on the Hershey's Cocoa box, and they'll see it." I had no idea, and we laughed so hard about that.

During that particular phone call, we were talking about how much we had loved each through the years, and what great times we had had, even in adverse times, being able to laugh at ourselves.

She had married my mother's youngest brother, the baby of the family, the same year that my mother married my stepfather. Uncle Bo, my mother's brother, had brought his new bride to meet Mama, and her 'little girl' and her new family. As Aunt Polly so eloquently put it, "It was love at first sight." Even now, I can see those sparkling eyes, always filled with laughter and goodness. "Yes, Aunt Polly, " I agreed. "It was love at first sight." And it was. I spent more time at their house, it seems while I was growing up, than I did anywhere else. There was nothing that we wouldn't do for each other. She was like a big sister/mother, and was as dear a friend as anyone could ever be blessed with.

We had planned to go down on the following Thursday, because she said, "I just have to see you one more time."

Now, this particular morning, after talking to her the previous day, I was waiting until I thought the aides would be finished with her bath and other things, before calling to tell her that we would be there in just a few days.

As I sat there, waiting to call, I don't know if I dozed off, or what; that's not something that I normally do, however, I thought I felt a hand on my shoulder, and my name being called. I looked up to see my Aunt Polly, standing there with that smile on her face. She said, "Baby, I'm getting ready to go home, and I wanted to tell you, "Bye."

I was totally bewildered. I, immediately, called down there, and I couldn't believe it when they told me that Aunt Polly was dying, and that it would only be a matter of a few minutes, according to what the Hospice nurse had just told them. It was so quick! It had only been yesterday that I talked to her, and we had had that wonderful conversation, and had been laughing about the Fudge recipe.

A few minutes later, she was gone.

Now, I'm sure that any who read this will be sceptical, but I know what I know, and I know that all that I have written here, happened.

What I don't know is how, or why, but what I, also, know, is that there are things that happen that we will never understand in this life.

It is said that there is no stronger bond than love, so perhaps that is the explanation, here.

I can only tell you what happened, and allow you to judge it for yourselves