I was on my way to do an assessment for a possible admission into our nursing home.
The patient was an 81 year old male, who had a stroke and was non ambulatory.
The place was the Veteran’s Hospital.
The head intake nurse came along with me.
“These people usually are not responsive, and not viable patients for nursing homes.”
The intake nurse began tapping her pink fingernails on my dashboard.
She continued, “I am going as a favor to you our Director of Admissions and Social Work.”
I couldn't understand the reason for her deliberate and arbitrary views.
My best friend Barbara,the Director of Therapeutic Activities, was backing me 100%.
Vivian however, an entirely different matter where the vet was concerned.
Barbara was the sweetest and kindest soul I have ever known.
She was my best friend for 19 years. We clicked the moment we met.
We were so alike, it was scary.
She had compassion for the elderly as I did, and we fought for their rights together.
We arrived at the Veteran’s hospital.
I stopped at the ramp.
Vivian hopped out glancing at her ornate white wrist watch.
I parked a few hundred feet away.
We went to the fifth floor.
When we exited the elevator I noticed a man in a black wheel chair, I immediately knew it was Sal.
I walked over to him while Vivian was waiting for his papers and medical chart for review.
He was leaning forward, staring at his feet, drooling.
He was grasping the wooden handrail in the hallway.
I bent down and smiled. “Are you Sal?”
He looked at me and smiled back.
He had the most incredible smile, and sky blue eyes that sparkled.
The nurse walked over. “This is Sal; he is an 81 year old post stroke patient.”
I was irritated at her indifferent manner rattling off his medical issues.
“He is non-verbal, aphasia, and he also has dysphasia, so he cannot swallow.”
Sal took my hand, and kept smiling at me.
“How are you doing Sal…They treating you okay?”
A wider smile was his response, and he squeezed my hand.
I felt my eyes filling up, and stood up so he wouldn't see.
Vivian motioned for me to join her and the indifferent nurse.
“I will be back very soon Sal, I have to go and speak with the nurses.”
Another smile and then he brought my hand to his mouth, and kissed it.
My heart was breaking.
“I will be right back Sal.”
“This is not a good candidate. He cannot speak, walk or eat.”
“Excuse me, but I have to disagree with you, I believe he will excel in our facility.
The intake nurse continued with raw and obvious annoyance, “He is not a good candidate.”
“He is a big risk.”
“I feel he will excel, we are a skilled nursing facility, he will excel.”
“I think we need to go and speak with the Administrator.”
Vivian was unmoving.
I walked over to Sal, “I will see you again, I promise. I will get you out of here soon Sal.”
He smiled and kissed my hand again, and his eyes started to tear up.
I bent down and smiled, “I promise Sal,you will come to our place soon.”
The drive back to the facility was deafening in its silence.
Neither of us had a thing to say.
Vivian took the cobra’s stance and I the mongoose.
As I pulled into the driveway of our nursing facility I saw Barbara.
She was smiling waiting for the report.
Vivian stomped out and slammed the door.
“Oh Barbara we have to get that poor Vet in here. He needs us.”
“Well, let’s go and see the administrator together.”
Vivian already told the administraor her views and left.
“He just needs a chance Sir”
He looked at me, then my best friend.
“You always have great expectations for our patients, admit him.”
Sal was admitted the next day.
With love and God’s grace,
He thrived in “our care” for 6 years.
"This is a true story. Sal’s speech returned and he was able to resume eating. Sal was God’s gift to us. He lived longer than expected. Barbara died three years ago. I miss her every day."
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