DOC CLARA |
March 27, 2009
“Can you give me the thumbs up sign with your right thumb? Great! Good job. How about your left?...Thumbs up on the left. What’s your name? Can you tell me your name?”
“Awesome, Tommy! Pleased ta meetcha!” And so went the greeting and assessment of a patient newly arrived from Germany, as we worked to displace wires and lines from the aerovac team and replace them with ours.
“Okay, Tommy, we’re gonna move you to our bed, this is probably going to hurt, you ready?”
Having survived a high velocity gunshot wound to the head and subsequent surgeries, our patient was amazingly alert and oriented. After repositioning him, a discovery of pink earplugs embedded in his ears was made. Used by the flight crew to muffle the plane’s engine noise, they are frequently still in place when patients arrive.
“Tommy! You got pink earplugs in your ears. What’s up with that?” I jokingly chided him.
“Pink? That’s fucked up!” came his laughter-provoking response.
“Hey Tommy, have to draw some blood on ya.”
“Well just don’t do it like the insurgents did, okay?”
My coworkers and I looked at each other and once again laughed at this patient’s sense of humor. We were all delighted to banter with him, a patient who against all odds was doing better than we ever imagined. Back and forth we went, asking, commanding, assessing, caring and joking as we settled him in.
“Ma’am, I’m real sorry I smell bad, but I had no chance to shower these last two months,” was his chagrined, solemn statement.
“Tommy, let me tell ya, I've smelled bad, and trust me when I say, you ain’t it," I assured him, earning a relieved smile and a chuckle.
“What’s your name?” he asked me many minutes later.
“You a doctor?”
“Nope, a nurse."
“Even though you’re not a doctor would you mind if I called you doc?"
“You can call me Clara, it’s really okay," I assured him, a lump forming in my throat at the implication of that particular title. “Just call me Clara,” I told him again, uncomfortable with the honor he was attempting to bestow upon me.
“How about Doc Clara then?” he persisted.
“Ok, done.” Seeing I was not going to win I gave in.
Many times over the following days coworkers and other hospital staff would come to me and say, “Tommy’s asking for Doc Clara, do you have a moment for him?” And each time if my own patient was stable I would walk across the hall and marvel at the young man with the remarkable will to live and endearing sense of humor and it would make me smile, glad that for once I was looking at a wounded warrior who would survive.