Sleeping With The Patients

Ankle, calf, tube socks and shower shoes at the new WWMC

Sorry about not posting yesterday, but I had to get caught up on some LHCP work and FINALLY got our sponsors updated on our web page.  Yesterday started busy and it really did not stop.  It looked like there was a party in the WWMC over the weekend and the place had to be cleaned and restocked.  The bins of socks were empty and many of the shelves were also bare.  With patients coming in at the same time, this is a difficult thing to accomplish.  On most days, only a few patients arrive in the morning, but there was a large influx over the weekend, so they all came back to get items they had not picked up with their liaisons on the weekend.  There was a delivery from our warehouse also and those items had to be sorted and put up, and then mail came and the same thing started all over again.  These are always fun tasks; did you hear the sarcastic note in my voice?  The items from the warehouse are part of a very large shipment that was delivered here and many of the boxes are packed with multiple sizes in the same box.  So, if we need large sweatshirts, we have to unpack 2x-3x-4x clothing just to get to the large sweatshirts.  We have massive amounts of 2x-4x clothing.  It’s become a huge burden here.  When I say we could cloth the NFL and NHL, I really do mean it.  This shipment also included shoes, which is a great thing, but the other day I unpacked men’s shoes in size 14, also a good thing, but they were pink and yellow.  I always bring them out but no takers yet.  So more precious storage space gone!  I know, I am beginning to sound like a broken record about the lack of storage space here but every inch really does count.

LRMC is a large complex that serves active duty, reserve military, dependent, and retired military personnel throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.  LRMC is a full service hospital with outpatient clinics, an emergency room and also provides elective surgery.  The staff consists of members from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

LHCP helps patients on 5 different levels of care as patients pass through the military care system.  If we consider the medic, where we are providing supplies to those working in a unit with no facility, then we can count 6.

I was thinking about this today as I listened to a patient tell me about his travels.  As he told me the stops he made I would ask, “What facility were you at” and as he told me; I just thought to myself “Good, we already support them.”  Here is his travel:

His first stop was his BAS, then to the FAS where his bleeding was controlled and his leg was splinted; I’ve called it ‘damage control’ surgery.  He was stabilized and was forwarded to the CSH.  They did more repairs to his leg at the CSH and then he was moved to LRMC.  We support each of his stops with supplies.  He said that if he had been injured in Vietnam, he would have lost his leg and even though he had a long recovery, he would keep his leg and it was thanks to the care he had received, not only at LRMC, but even in the very beginning from his buddies and the CSH.  I think he was transported to Walter Reed today.  Even though we have only supported Walter Reed with visits to patients and helping them clean out excess supplies, I was happy to know that LHCP has the bases covered when our warriors from the GWOT arrive for care.  Three years ago we had a burn patient that I talked to that went to Brooks and I’m glad that LHCP can say we have helped that hospital with supplies also.

Our contact for LRMC had his going away luncheon today.  It was very sad to say good-bye to a chaplain that I have known for 3 years.  This man has worked in the ICU giving comfort and peace to family, loved ones and patients for a long time.  He is a wonderful, caring chaplain and human.  He was afraid that he would not be able to live up to the standards set by his predecessor.  The chaplain he followed was known for staying all night with a patient in need.  He made the mistake of telling the Colonel that once he started sleeping with the patients, things had really turned around and he felt more comfortable here at LRMC.  He did not realize exactly what he had said until it was too late.  Of course he did not mean ‘sleeping” with patients but he stayed at the bedside of the injured or sick.  He turns red just telling the story to this day.

The ICU is combined with the medical/surgical unit and has 12 rooms and can be a very busy and a heavy burden for a chaplain.  Not only are they responsible for the patients, family and loved ones, but for the staff caring for those patients.  To perform the job for a short period of time has to be physically and mentally draining, but to have accomplished it for 3 years with such love shows you the compassion this man has.  He has my utmost respect and thanks.

I remember about 3 years ago being at Walter Reed after a working trip to LRMC.  I was outside of the radiology department when a young man came up with his father.  He was looking at the board with the radiology department staff names listed.  He said ‘Dad, look, this guy has the same name as I do.’  When I looked at the name, I realized I had been at LRMC when this kid came through.  I asked him if he remembered LRMC and he said no.  He had been shot in the head and did not remember anything.  Then he said that there was one thing he remembered; the chaplain coming in and praying with his father.  I asked him if it was Chaplain xxxx.  He told me that he did not know, but his father said that it was and asked how I knew that.  I told him that I had worked at LRMC when his son had come in; that we had not expected his son to live.  To see him walking, talking, and other than the protective helmet for his head where he was missing half his skull, you would not know he had been shot in the head.  The patient told me that he felt peace in his room when the chaplain was there.  The dad told me that he was glad to see the chaplain walk in every night because it was the one time each day that he felt at peace and the machines and noises seemed to disappear.  What a wonderful thing to be able to accomplish for a patient and a loved one.

Friday, a patient came in who seemed to be very tense.  She had her hands balled up in tight fists.  Before I started to fill her bag, I took her hand and put it in mine and softly pulled her fingers into my hand and told her she was safe; she could relax here.  She told me that she was ok’ that it was a nerve condition but my hands felt good to her.  They were warm and she wished hers could feel like that all the time.  I just held her hand in mine as we talked for a minute or two and as I released it to fill her bag, her hand tightened back up into a ball to match her other hand.

One of the patients on Friday was trying to convince me that he was ok to go back downrange.  He has no feeling in his left arm.  I tried to explain to him that if he went back downrange, he could endanger his buddies and it was best for him to be at LRMC to be ‘fixed’ and then once cleared he could go back.  He told me it should be ‘his’ decision if he wants to go back downrange and if he wanted to go then he should be allowed to.  He was probably the most argumentative person I have had on this subject even though he was not the first.

He was not the last, as I had another today.  An older Army troop who also wanted to go back in theater.  I told him that he had to think about himself first.  He told me he had been told that already.  I told him that once he was back to 100% he could give his troops 100% again.  He told me he had been told that also, but he still wanted to go back.  I then asked him if this was one of his young troops, what he would tell them.  He said nothing to me and got up and walked away.  I guess I struck a nerve with that question.

We had another large transport of patients leave today for the States.  It is amazing for me to see how quickly they move in and out of here, either back to the Middle East or to the U.S.  I have watched the CCAT personnel while loading patients and making sure that every patient has what is needed for a safe flight.  Since I have been an air-evac patient, I know the CCAT personnel are always checking in the day before to see what special arrangements, if any, need to be made for each patient.  Even if a patient has complications at the last minute and can not be transported they can usually get another patient on the flight.

I know that patients can some times complain.  I sure was not the best patient with my kidney failure 3 weeks ago.  I can say that with the 9,000 plus patients that have come through here under the last commander of the hospital, I hear very few complaints.  I am sure the new commander will do just as well.

Monday and Tuesday I worked 9 and 8 hours thanks to the support of my Vice President, who not only helped contribute to the trip, but is also helping to hold down the fort while I am away.  THANKS JIM!

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