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Seeing others do great things

There’s this weird sense of pride to be part an organization for almost 20 years, having grown roots in a hospital such as Lawrence and Memorial. Pride has developed in unexpected ways.

Maybe I’m just getting older. Or sentimental. My wife will for sure tell you I’m just becoming deafer. And now with all these damned face masks, I hardly understand what many people are saying. (Especially these young nurses who just graduated from middle school and seem to speak in muffled whispers.)

I had to change a patient’s pacemaker generator today, and the patient told the Medtronic representative and me that the first pacemaker he had put in was in 1998. “I was just finishing my medical residency back then,” I said, nostalgically. The Medtronic rep laughed and said, “I was 8 years old back then.”

Part of aging with a place is watching others do great things. One of the cath lab techs today told me that she will be leaving the cath lab to take a leadership position in the hospital. A selfish part of me was bummed because of how awesome it was to work with her, but another part of me was proud for her. I remember the first day she started in the cath lab, how she fumbled at first but how quickly she mastered things.

We are fortunate to work with great, giving people at our hospital. Perhaps the best amongst us are those heroes who rarely receive enough recognition but who save countless lives through their watchfulness and attention, and provide more comfort, dignity, caring, and relief than anyone else in the hospital. They are the PCAs, the personal care assistants. These are the men and women who, when you are sick, in pain, thirsty, can’t move, can’t eat, and can’t wash are the people who take care of you. They give you your bed pan and wash your skin with warm, soothing water and soap. They roll you so you don’t get bed sores and put moisturizing cream on your chapped skin. They put ice chips in your parched mouths. Regardless of all the indignities that sickness and frailty can cause to our bodies and bodily functions, PCAs are the ones who gently restore your dignity and humanity and ask nothing in return.

And during the worst of the coronavirus, the PCAs provided the same care they always did restoring dignity and humanity. Sadly, one of L+M’s bravest heroes, a PCA names Elva Graveline, died from the coronavirus. She was always kind, smiling and seemed more concerned about that patient’s well-being than her own. While it is sad indeed to lose someone as kind as Elva Graveline, it gives me and my colleagues pride to work in a place with someone as brave as she was.

My neighbors Pete and Heidi put a wooden heart with the words “Thank You” on my lawn. I am grateful for the kind words and extend that gratitude to the true heroes like Elva who have given and who will be undoubtedly called on to continue giving heroically in the coming months.

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