Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Red Shoes



This past February it happened and I was in complete disbelief that it happened. In one split second my life was altered. No, not a doctor telling me I needed further tests but in fact a sure thing, I had severely crushed several toes on my left foot.

MANY people begging me to tell the whole story and the ones I finally did wished that I had not, a bizarre accident. I will not be any more descriptive to you my readers either!

Fortunately within minutes I was being driven to a local hospital for x-rays as I texted an MD friend of mine for an orthopedic referral.

In all my years I hadn’t ever been to an ER for myself. I believed the injury to be serious enough to need surgery. Before I left for the ER apparently I gave explicit instructions to my sons wife as to how to take care of my elderly cat with her special needs. I have always found it interesting what a person will focus on amidst a crisis. I was just like everyone else. I was triaging the NECESSARY.

Indeed as I already knew 3 of my 5 toes were severely crushed. As a runner no less a person who works on her feet every day this was potentially a life-altering event. Trauma? Indeed!

The following day I consulted with the MD who told me he thought with time, I would heal without surgery. Time.. as we age that timeline stretches much farther than our patience does. The first week I was off my foot 100% with it elevated above my heart. The second week I was allowed to ambulate using crutches but again not allowed to put my foot onto the floor. The third week I was allowed to use the crutches and put pressure on my heel alone. The fourth week I was allowed to walk but only placing my foot flat, no flexing. The fifth week I was allowed to walk that same way without crutches. I was out of work for 5 weeks! If I had to have had surgery it would have been 6-8 or more so this was a true fortune in the recovery timeline.

As I was able I was allowed to rehab using gym equipment that didn’t compromise my foot. It was indeed it took a mental focus to drive a total of an hour to and from the gym to move for 20 minutes maximum.

Clearance? I was given clearance to go back to work when I could wear a particular brand of clog. The MD didn’t want me to be in any other shoe that would flex. This particular one has a thick and supportive foot bed.

I hobbled to the store determined to return to work as soon as possible. The clog style didn’t allow me to slip my foot into the shoe. I was disheartened.

But then, the clerk brought me just one more style. There they were! BRIGHT RED PATENT MARY JANE STYLE CLOGS!!

I could get my still swollen foot in them my loosening the strap. The red were the only color she had in my size. “Sold” I said!

I returned to work after many weeks away. Since then not one day passes that someone doesn’t remark about my shoes. Yes, I have continued to wear them all these months since. EVERY DAY I have worn the red shoes.

“There’s no place like home, right?”
“Do you click your heels?”
“Love the red shoes and your orange jacket!”
“Pop of color, love it!”
“Nice to see something cheerful”

The comments are varied and daily. Now, I feel an obligation to wear the red shoes much like other expectations. I begin my 6th month wearing the red shoes. They came into my life as a necessary tool and now, they have morphed into a topic of conversation. Maybe someday I’ll wear my western boots!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Keeper of the Coat


Handed to me wrapped in sanitary plastic it came, the white coat. Uniform of the medical field that brings often anxiety but more so in my setting, authority, wisdom, and care; I awkwardly slipped it on. Immediately I scanned the area to see who might know me and be confused by my assumed role. Had I now become an employee of a neighboring facility? Medical, how could a Chaplain now be medical? The real question was for myself. How would I be viewed now in the white coat?

The MD who agreed to allow me to shadow her on medical rounds smiled. “How does the coat make you feel? Does it change anything for you?” she asked. I replied, “This is about how the patient will view and respond to me.” I replied. Yet, I valued her question to ponder.

I intuitively placed a pen and notepaper and my cell into the generous pockets. I liked that my hands were freed and I didn’t have to carry anything in my hand as usual.  The MD resident began to report on the first patient we were about to see.

We walked into the room and the MD introduced the 3 of us, noting my name and role as the Chaplain. She quickly discovered the man was more ill than the MD’s had expected. He was in what she assessed was unacceptable pain. She washed her hands and palpated his belly listening to his sharing of suffering. He needed to be examined exposing a part of his body that would be considered private under other circumstances. The MD’s moved to examine as I moved to not view that what wasn’t necessary. I later remarked to the MD’s although I am comfortable with all medical issues and views I was intuitively protecting the patients need-to-know privacy. I was moved by the care of the hands of examination, by the concern of the levels of pain, the incredible caring, concern and TIME needed to be sure the marshaled medical teams would come to care for this man. Phone calls, charting, more calls, follow-up later in the day. I was surprised by the amount of time this one patient utilized, appropriately so, of these MD’s time. There would be 7 patients seen before 12:30 this day.

My sense was the MD’s are troubled by a disease progressing that cannot be managed as well as they hope. I knew that but now I saw it first hand. I saw the concern during the exam, heard the discussions afterwards.

I had the sense of relentless disease and the angst to relieve the disease’s hold or at the least the suffering. The responsibility of the doctor to affect the process is a hands-on, intense and vulnerable.

We moved on. We moved on to 6 additional patients during the long morning before a late lunch. I was moved as I removed the white coat. I wondered if I held more value with the medical team wearing their uniform. I wondered if I was held at arms length because of the same uniform by the patients and families.

I reflected that the origin of Chaplain is said to be of the derivation of the term relate to the relic cloak (capa or capella) of St. Martin of Tours or from the Latin term Capellanus.

Keeper of the sacred? Wearing a cloak? Indeed, I will return to my non-white-coat visitation of patients. I am so grateful for this experience however as much as I appreciated watching the care of the physicians I also reaffirmed the patients need my care as well; Chaplain.