Our hospital, here in Grass Valley, is far from those incredibly high tech buildings you see on TV or come across by way of acquaintances who have special procedures or surgeries, usually considered as "trial" solutions.
We're in a small town. So just like going to the bank or the fair, or the grocery store, the hospital becomes one of those places where you bump into people. Some are friends come to visit. Others are the doctors or nurses. And every once in a while, you side up to another patient who has an impact on you.
My recent visit to the hospital, three weeks ago made for interesting contact of all three types. The one that surprised me most was the emergency room nurse who was moved to my floor to one day due to unusual activity up there.
I was lousy with dilauded, the pain medication that always seems to work for me, when this woman appeared in my line of sight... "My name's Holly, I'll be your nurse for a bit..." That's the standard greeting, I've learned, at the shift change.
I had been seeing things for days. Blue spiders on the doctor's collar, lots of post-it notes and yellow legal papers stuck upside down with handwriting in red ink. No matter how I tried, the visions would fade before I could read what was written. I saw shapes and faces in the clouds. Some of what I saw has been recounted to me and I can hardly believe the stories are true.
Some odd clarity of thought passed the instant I saw her face and heard the name "Holly".
About a year ago, we began looking for office space in Auburn for Freepath. In trolling for office furniture, Kathy came across a wonderful conference table on Craig's List. We bought it and I took part in delivering the check and transporting it from the seller in Grass Valley to the new office digs.
The woman who was selling it, as it turns out, was Holly. I remember telling her about my trauma and stay at Sutter-Roseville after she told me she was an emergency room nurse.
My eyes popped open and my slurred speech asked, "what is your name?" When she told me again, I said that I knew her. Which of course she began to deny, they hear lots of misinformation from drugged patients. I said, "No, really, I bought a really cool table from you..."
Melinda said that throughout her whole shift, Holly was constantly monitoring every nuance of my condition. Something that Dr. Bosco had done in January of 06. It was (and is) a special connection. I can't wait to feel well enough to go visit her and thank her, as has become my custom with those who dedicate their lives to caring for the rest of us.
I was sharing a room by the second or third night. They wheeled my roommate to be into the room. His leg bandaged up, I asked him what happened. What I heard him say was, "Honey bees".
Melinda was sitting there, and when I asked if that was common she hunched that I was not entirely with the conversation. He replied that in extreme cases this can happen. I then asked, "are you a bee keeper?"
"What?" he asked.
"Wait", I said, "Did you say honeybees?"
He rolled his eyes and said, "No, I said diabetes... they had to amputate my foot."
That was the last we spoke that night. Until about 4am when we were both stirring and I started to ask him questions about how he felt about not having a foot. We talked about life and death and God and my accident and our common near-death experiences (both of us actually considered our stories to be death experiences). In the end, it was a deeper connection than I could imagine after asking the stupid question the day before. I'm sure he doesn't remember through his medicated blur that either I asked or anyone did, about honeybees. Just as well.
One of these days I'm sure I'll see him again. It's how it is here. What was a chance encounter will be an unspoken connection. I won't be surprised, in fact I sort of look forward to it. He was convinced that his diabetes will take his other foot in the next several years. Perhaps it will be the smallness of this community that will not only sustain these kinds of relationships, but will be make us what we are meant to be as we go from near-death to the rest of that journey. I don't think it will be a lonely road, just one with some of the surprises we had not experienced.