December 31, 2013
Name: RN Clara Hart
Stationed in: a civilian military hospital in the U.S.
Two years ago I read a Washington Post story that really hit home. It spoke of two Marines, General John Kelly and his son, LT Robert Kelly. There was a short sentence that mentioned a nurse, and reading it I realized that nurse was me, and I saw how a small, seemingly insignificant act had turned into something with deeper meaning than I could have imagined.
The phones are always ringing in the ICU, and multiple times a day I answer. On one particular day I heard "Hello Ma'am. This is LT Kelly, calling from Afghanistan. I'm trying to reach LT ---, would it be possible to talk with him?"
There are no phones in the patient rooms in the ICU, cordless or otherwise. And there is an issue of keeping unstable/semi-stable patients attached to all the monitoring devices. However I knew this Marine wanted to talk with one of his guys and that he was calling from a combat zone, and I was going to do whatever it took to get a phone to this particular patient.
After telling LT Kelly it might take me a few minutes and asking him to please not hang up, I proceeded to pull the phone off the nursing station counter as far as it would reach. I dragged a trash can into the middle of the hallway and placed the phone on top of the closed lid. I went into the patient's room and told him his buddy wanted to talk with him. Since the phone wouldn't reach all the way I had to do some rearranging. I released the brakes and rolled his bed as far as the monitoring wires would allow, turning it around so the patient's head was in the doorway, closer to the hallway and thus the phone.
Running back to the phone I picked it up off hold and said, "Are you still here?"
"Ok, I'm bringing the phone to him right now, don't hang up."
Stretching the receiver cord as far as I could I held the phone out to the patient. "Hello?...Hello?" he asked repeatedly, phone up to his ear. Then he looked at me, handed the phone back and said, "There's no one there." The call had been disconnected.
Argh! All that maneuvering for naught. Back went the bed into proper placement, the phone came off the trash can and back to the nursing station. Just as I was sitting down the phone rang. Picking it up I once again heard, "Hello Ma'am, this is LT Kelly calling from Afghanistan, I was trying to reach..."
"It's me, the nurse who you talked to before," I said
"Sorry Ma'am, the phone cut out here and I lost the call."
"No problem, hang on, I'll get LT ---." Running back to the patient's room I told him LT Kelly was on the phone again and once again proceeded with the maneuvering necessary to get these two Marines connected. As he answered his call and identified himself I watched the smallest glimmer of a smile appear on this critically injured Marine's face. Walking by in the hallway my coworkers took it all in -- the phone, the backwards bed in the doorway, and a Marine talking with his battle buddy thousands of miles away.
Shortly the call was over and the patient handed me the phone.
"Hello?" I said.
"Thanks for letting me talk with him, I really appreciate it. It means a lot to know he's doing okay," said LT Kelly.
"No problem, we're taking good care of him."
"I know you are. Can you please tell him my dad and sister will be up to visit him? They're gonna be checking on him."
"No worries, I'll pass it on. You and your Marines be careful there and stay safe."
"We will. Thanks a lot Ma'am."
Nine days later LT Robert Kelly was killed in action. It was the last time his friend would ever speak with him.
General Kelly, we've never met and I only briefly spoke with your son. However, he left a lasting impression on me as a Marine who cared deeply for his men. I am sorry for your loss. I will not forget him and all the others like him who have made the ultimate sacrifice.