Tales and Tails of the Hospital

Graduation from nursing school, 1970

Graduation from nursing school, 1970

My sister, Linda,  near the end of her life spent a great deal of time in the hospital, and not because she was a nurse.

She was suffering from an auto-immune disease that relentlessly was wearing her body away.  It was not surprising, as she also suffered from psoriasis, which my maternal grandmother had and I do as well.   So those last few months, leading up to her death, were spent off and on in the hospital as her immune system faltered more and more.

My brother-in-law was a good husband.  There is no other way to put it.  He deeply cared for my sister and tried to make her last days comfortable, as she moved in and out of intensive care.    In the last six months of her life, she had virtually no immune system and any event might send her to the hospital.  Two stories illustrate how he cared for her in those last days.

Now those of you in health care out there, try not to be shocked or upset, as I guarantee these stories are not what you would expect.

We would often drive up on the weekends and she would ask us to go to the  local deli and get her a sandwich.  She loved reubens and I suspect that they weren’t often on the menu. One Sunday, we left to get her a sandwich and when we returned.  We noticed the oddest smell on the floor.  It smelled as if someone were frying french fries.   As we got closer to her room the odor got stronger and stronger.  When we looked in there was a deep fryer on the stand and he was cooking french fries for her.   We did not stay long, and I am not sure what the nursing staff said.   Perhaps they cut her some slack as they knew she was one of them and how ill she was at the end.

But it didn’t seem to phase either him or her.  He wanted so much to do something for her to ease her state and bring some happiness.

One one of our last visits, before she died, while we were there visiting her, he arrived late in the day.  We noticed something very odd as he came toward us.  There was a large bulge under his coat and sticking out the front was the very furry tail of her cat.    He had smuggled her cat into the hospital.   Now why the nurses didn’t see this is clearly beyond me, and why the cat allowed it, is also a mystery.  Perhaps the cat knew that she needed him at this moment.  We will never know, but it seemed to bring her great comfort, as she lay in her hospital bed to be soothed by the purr of her furry, good friend.

And so she left us in June 2002.  She had gone to the dentist as she had an abscessed tooth, the concurrent infection, coupled with her weakened system, brought on Septicemia.  She went into a coma, from which she never awakened.  She died at the age of 52; at peace at last.

When I think of her, which is quite often, I cannot help but think of french fries, cat tails — comfort food and comfort pets-and a man who went to great lengths for the one he loved.


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
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