If you’re the least bit modest, then a short hospital stay will send you over the edge unless of course you’ve crossed that line already. Draped in not much more than a smile and a few pieces of thin blue cloth that I couldn’t see, I laid exposed with a high-level spinal injury in the ICU for the world to see. While I awaited the standard pinpricks, doses of painkillers endless hours of looking up the nostrils of people passing over me, it occurred to me that the practice of mooning really was good practice.
At the time, core life functions were being maintained and monitored by the medical staff. Comfort, appearance and dignity were a thing of the past. Since my injury occurred in a river with a rough bottom, naturally I had a pretty nasty cut on my head that went from ear to ear and to the bone. A tube was in my throat removing stomach fluids to prevent the possibility of drowning in my own fluids and I had been swabbed in solutions, suave and anything else they could throw at me except money and women, sort of.
I had been very fortunate to have one young nurse who helped preserve what dignity there was to salvage. Laura Lyn seemed to be the one who looked beyond the chart and the procedure manual. I wasn’t able to speak or even gesture my needs so things were kept pretty basic. One morning she took a cloth and began washing down my face with warm water. She took the care that a new mother might do for her baby. Once the tubes were taken out of my throat, she was the first to suggest brushing or swabbing my teeth. And she spent the time needed to wash my hair. This was like finding a rose in the junkyard. I don’t remember much conversation or meaningful exchange except for the dignity she added back when all else was about survival. Five or six days into ICU and it became apparent that I needed transferred to Pittsburgh for further care. Laura Lyn was the one to stay at my side while I was being carted from the confinements of the hospital to the helipad being prepped for the flight. Just before takeoff, she leaned in and kissed me gently on the lips and gave me a warm sendoff. Nurses are pretty incredible people doing a job that most of us would wouldn’t touch. Some nurses like Laura Lyn have the special gift of healing through the heart leaving the scars of injury to hide behind a handful of love.