Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Good Bye

There's a patient that I have been working with since last July. I've written about Mitchell a few times before (here and here). Last week he was discharged to his next care facility.

I heard about his upcoming discharge during a routine visit. I showed up at *just* the right moment when the physical therapist(s) were preparing to remove his stabilizing halo. (God has a way of arranging these things!)

(The halo had been installed in February, following a decline in his neck bone quality. This device, which sets on top of a sheepskin chest harness, held his head and neck completely still via the four screws that were placed into his skull and attached to the round ring that encompassed his head. That ring was then held in place by four bars connected to the aforementioned harness. )
When I showed up for my routine check in, I asked Mitchell if he was up for a visit? Sure, he replied, and behind me I heard the voices of his PT and nurse team. They all invited me to stay as they removed the halo. Lefty loosey / Righty tighty - get the angle of the dangle just right and with the flip of the last screw, just so, *poof* he was free of this contraption!

There was no shortage of applause from the eight medical care givers in the room and comments like, "Moses said Let My People Go!" or "Freedom, yay, Freedom!"

This was the last major medical barrier before Mitchell could move to a more appropriate living situation. (I keep telling folks, any hospital is not the place to get well... we want you to go home as soon as possible!) On that halo-removal day, he let me know that the following Monday he had a ticket to ride!

On Monday morning, I showed up for my last check in with Mitchell. His PT was about to give him instructions about his electric wheelchair when I popped in his room. PT allowed me some moments with Mitchell as she prepared the chair for his daily work out.

As I told him goodbye, I realized many things that he had taught me in the last 9 months.

  • He taught me the importance of perseverance through his patient responses as I bumbled my first few conversations with him, asking over and over "what did you say?" (That was before he had his trac removed and he could not speak ~ only mouth his words.)
  • He taught me humility when he shared his inner courage to get strong and show his kids how he can still be their strong papa.
  • He taught me how to suffer with when he invited me to stay with him during medical procedures and I learned to not shy away.
  • He taught me the importance of simple presence when he thanked me for watching TV with him one day.
  • He taught me how a smile from someone who otherwise cannot move a muscle can mean the world.

I'm not the only one who received gracious lessons from Mitchell. I am pretty sure that I was one of dozens. The day after Mitchell left, I saw the Art Therapist at the cafeteria. She explained, ...

"I went in to say goodbye to Mitchell yesterday. When I walked in the room there was a circle of nurses praying for him and wishing him well. It was quite moving."

It was a Good Bye, indeed.


  1. Wow! So beautiful. So glad you wrote this down and shared it.