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Monday, July 4, 2011

My Patient, My Hero

Hold my hand, lady!” Ed exclaimed as he extended his hand out toward me. “Hold my hand!”
Ed appeared anxious—and I sensed he seemed worried about me. I was walking by his side as he was wheeling down the nursing home hall. I offered him my hand, and he grasped it eagerly while propelling the wheelchair with his free hand, and his feet. We glided down the hall.
“Let’s go to the highway,” Ed commanded. 
His words were clear. Unusually coherent. Ed normally spoke incoherently and non-sensical. His medical records revealed his diagnoses of Dementia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Ed continued moving forward, holding my hand. 
I realized that Ed was experiencing a flashback of his service in the Vietnam War. Ed had been a prisoner of war, and was kept in captivity for several months. For Ed, the Vietnam War was not just a bad memory, it had become a living nightmare, a dreadful time that Ed relived in his mind over and over, a tormenting past that continued into his present—as if he was the captive of an evil time machine.
I felt Ed’s warm and firm hand. My gaze fixed upon him, trying to place meaning to his vivid gestures and expressions. 

My heart pounded as I started to see beyond the patient with Dementia and PTSD. I started to see the courageous man Ed had been, and continued to be, facing obstacles and dangers. 

I saw a gentleman—Ed didn’t call me “you” or “woman,” he called me “lady” even though I may have been a stranger to him. I saw a compassionate man, trying to “save me” by taking me to a safe place—the highway. 
And most importantly, I saw Ed as a proud American soldier, serving our country with dignity and grit. 

Today, as we celebrate the Fourth of July, our glorious Independence
Day, fond memories of Ed flood my mind. Ed was the first nursing home
resident who first inspired me to write stories of the Home Sweet
Nursing Home. After sharing those amazing minutes in Ed’s world, I
realized I should share with others these heartfelt experiences. 
Ed, a dignified veteran of the Vietnam War, was my hero that day, and has been since then.
This blog is a tribute to Ed, for he extended his hand to me, and lifted
my soul. 


Linda said...

Thanks for sharing Ed's story with us.

Ami said...

That was truly lovely.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

Yet I don't know how many blogs you wrote already, before revealing the 'motive' of writing this HOLD MY HAND - blog! This is incredible; such a deep meaning and indeed, you are so great to see beyond his present condition, you looked into his heart and recognized the true hero that he is. Yes, he IS a gentleman for calling you a LADY. He is a good observer too.
Lots of love,



It's lovely to hear from you again,
Thanks for sharing Ed's story,it was a delight to read.

Have a good day.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Very, very nice, DORIS!
You have so many touching stories to tell.

I hope you had an enjoyable and a safe 4th of July, Lady.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Doris .. that is a wonderful story once again told in your inimitable style. I recognise now that 'sign' of going back to an episode in their life .. that repeats .. and they are happy if we accept and comply with their needs. So small for someone with Dementia .. yet so meaningful for them.

I think the story in the book is the one about 'Rocks' .. reminds me so much of that one ..

Excellent post for the Fourth of July .. with thoughts and a good week ahead .. Hilary

Frances Garrood said...

Lovely, Doris. And illustrates so well that with those suffering from dementia it's so important to join the in their world, rather than to try dragging them back into ours.

Ann said...

A beautiful tribute to the forgotten un-hailed soldiers of the Vietnam War. Still guiding ladies to safety. What a hero.

Anita said...

This is such a touching story. Thank you for sharing your stories and seeing your patients for more than their illness. God bless you!

Amrita said...

Ed is a real hero.

dr.antony said...

That was a deserving tribute.
"Hold my hand", now I know where it came from!
We have exceptional senses.One look at you,and he would have felt, the compassion in you, though he was demented.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Thank you for this beautiful story. I appreciate what he went through for our country.

Hope your week is wonderful.

Kathy M.

Unknown said...

Well said! As I walk through a care facility I am always in awe of how many stories, lives, and heroes live behind and beyond what is visible if one only takes the time to stop and look.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

Arkansas Patti said...

Just a beautiful story and like Patrick said, there are so many stories behind those sometimes blank eyes and frail bodies. How wonderful that you are taking the time to record them. I am so glad he had your hand to hold that day Thank you.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Great post to commemorate this day. Beautifully written. I can see the hands that you describe, and cringe at the horrible memories.

Yesterday, I brought three of my piano students to the assisted living center. We played for the residents in the memory care unit. It was a good experience for them. They (and I) were amazed that people who had lost their memory in some ways still sang along to the patriotic hymns that I played. I'll write about it on my blog for tomorrow's post.


Deb Shucka said...

Such a beautiful and moving story—a wonderful tribute to a hero.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Thank you for this wonderful post, and for giving this Vietnam vet the respect and remembrance he deserves.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful tribute, Doris. And beautifully written, as always. There are so many heroes in our world, and you have the awesome opportunity to see so many of them. You're one of the most caring people I have ever met.
Ann Best, Memoir Author

A Plain Observer said...

and we should thank Ed not only for serving his country, but for inspiring you enough to write your inspiring stories.
I saw a friend years after he had been battling dementia. It was sad. And even sadder how difficult it was to look beyond that and see the man he still was.

Arlee Bird said...

We should always remember and be grateful to our American heroes. Without them there's no telling where we would be.

Tossing It Out

Toyin O. said...

What a great story; Ed is quite the Hero.

Vilisi said...

A beautiful story and tribute.