This particular morning, as I made my rounds, I knew I had to hold up my end of the deal as I approached the door of my last patient of the morning. I had not seen him for a few days, and the last day I had with him he was not feeling well at all. “Next time we meet, I will take you out to see the daylight, I promise.” He pointed a tired, but determined finger at me “you better keep your word!”
Today was the day I would take him downstairs to see the morning sky, to hear the birds chirping, to smell the early morning air. But, first things first. Clothes. Real clothes. No hospital gown for my favorite patient whom I had dubbed “Sinatra Guy.” He had the eyes, attitude, and personality of the beloved star and one could not help to see a little Sinatra “spark” in those mischievous eyes. He had been with us for quite some time, and now, as he recovered from the last leg of his journey in the hospital he wanted so badly to be in real clothes and to go outside for the first time in a long time.
Today, he greeted me with a wink and a cheezy grin “Today’s the day right???” I smiled, and reassured him that today was his special day, the one he had worked for all those times I dragged him out of bed to walk. His family was to meet him downstairs on the outdoor cafeteria seating area for breakfast. As I did my morning assessment, gave his medications, and helped him clean up and dress in a favorite t-shirt he anxiously clutched his cell phone wondering if “everyone was on their way.” “I want to check my hair one more time,” he insisted. So, I waited quietly as he combed his hair one time, two times, three times . . . “You look fine big guy, its time to go now.” “What?! Oh! Yeah lets go!” With that, he firmly gripped the handles of his shiny red wheeled walker and slowly, deliberately, made his way out the door of his room with me at his side.
My colleagues oohed and ahhed as they saw him walk down the halls in his new clothes, combed hair and cheezy grin. They cheered him on, and as they did so, he made it to the elevators. Surpised by this feat, I asked if he would like a wheelchair the rest of the way down to the cafeteria. “No,” He replied. “Today I’m walking all the way.” I hesitated for a moment, but then I looked at the determination in his face. He was going to do this. Before I knew it, he was taking his first steps out the cafeteria doors into the morning light.
He instantly stopped, glanced up to the sky, and took a deep breath. I stayed quiet, although he knew I was there. I let him be. He had worked months for this moment, to be outdoors, to breathe fresh air. We must have stood there at least five minutes as he took in the desert scenery and felt the breeze on his face. “Its been so very long since I have seen the sky and felt the wind.” The baby birds chirped at his feet, bouncing about, pecking at his old tennis shoes. He looked at them with new eyes, with amazement, with a new smile.
We proceeded to a table to wait for his family and he remained quiet, looking at his surroundings as if he would never lay eyes on them again. “Can we stay a while, do we have to rush?” He looked at me with a worried face, and I reassured him that he could have as long as he would like with his family.
This moment, this morning I shared with “Sinatra Guy” was a day I will not soon forget, because it helped me remember what all the hard work is for. Sharing his first journey outside made up for all the challenging days he had with setbacks, not wanting to walk or eat his food. It was a moment of feeling like I had come full circle with another human being, that I had shared in a moment of hope that was long overdue.
On the hardest days of my career I remember this one man, that one moment that he saw daylight for the first time, smiled at the baby birds at his feet, closed his eyes smiling with the touch of the breeze on his face. I remember his joy . . . that I could help bring that to someone . . . is why I keep coming back. Taking care of people’s hearts, it’s the best job there is.
This post was submitted by Amanda L. Trujillo, RN, MSN, NP Student, Cardiology, Mayo Clinic Arizona.