Friday, July 29, 2011
The Miracle of a Little Gauze Dog and a Yellow Lab Named Kelsie
".... we all have our own battles and are heroes quietly in our own way…I hope that that is what we can pass to our children – be a hero in all you do, and recognize that it is only by the support of others that we are enabled to succeed."
Not too long ago a nurse approached me at a Marine barbecue at BAMC and told me of a young soldier who had just arrived from Walter Reed Medical Center. He had lost a leg, use of one arm, was badly burned and severely depressed.
There was nothing terribly unusual about this story, for it is but one of many that I hear daily. Sadly, it is commonplace. However, this particular one touched me in a most special way. The saga is full of compassion, caring, healing, love, and commitment to country and warrior.
The nurse told me that when this young man was at Walter Reed he had frequent visits in the hospital from a most special Labrador retriever. He adored this dog. The visits brought him comfort and temporary release from great pain. But after leaving Walter Reed to transfer to BAMC, he no longer had a therapy dog visit him and his depression worsened.
So, the nurse asked if I would go to the hospital and visit Matthew. Explaining the story to me, there was no way I could say no. But it wasn't quite that easy.
It seems his first night in this hospital had been just the evening before. He was in excruciating pain and crying out for his therapy dog to come visit. He was unable to sleep and nothing anyone did would ease his suffering, until the nurse had an idea. She took bundles of cotton and gauze and surgical tape and fabricated a stuffed dog. She took it to his room and lovingly placed it on his chest. He took the dog and snuggled it close and fell into a deep sleep. It was by her perseverance and support that she too became a hero, as she faced extraordinary circumstances and acted with honor and self sacrifice, love and compassion.
Getting Kelsie in to see him was more difficult. It seems he was in the Burn Unit and obviously no dogs were allowed! But the nurses promised him that if he kept working at improving they would take him outside the Burn Unit into the hallway in his wheel chair so he could visit with Kelsie. Well, it worked. The day came when the nurse called me and said he had worked hard and was now able to receive a very special visitor. I couldn't get there fast enough.
The rest of the story is not as important as the beginning. For it is in the beginning that steps are taken and work is begun and fears are alleviated. It is in the beginning when you release the tears and focus on getting better. So the story goes... Matthew learned to slowly awaken to life and recognize and love the people who treated him right.
With the help of a very special nurse, a little gauze dog, and a yellow lab named Kelsie, Matthew is on the road to recovery. It is a slow road, but it is also rich with treasures and beautiful souls.