Wednesday like many other days, I woke up frightened and empty. But decided I once again would delve into office work to deaden the pain. I worked all morning, had a ritual peanut butter and jelly sandwich and left to go to a doctor's appointment.
I was called on my way by a nurse from the VA Polytrauma here in San Antonio. It seems one of the warriors that my therapy dog, Kelsie, and I had visited just the day before had had a huge setback. A., as I shall call him, had stepped on an IED in Iraq. He had lost both legs and one arm and a thumb on the remaining limb. He adored Kelsie's visits and he brushed her and loved her and would just lie and stare into her eyes and she into his. He would contort his body to get closer to her and she would nuzzle his cheeks and hair. He would laugh and smile and then he kept trying to turn his torso closer and closer to her, until we were afraid he might fall. He adored her and the feeling was mutual.
But this phone call changed everything. You see he was in the gym with his physical therapists when suddenly and seemingly out of no where, there was an IED blast on the newscast on the television in the room. It instantly threw him back into Afghanistan and the IED that blew off his legs and arm. He remembers in great detail the entire thing (which is unusual). He was rushed back to his room and the doctors came and the entire staff and his mom worked with him to bring him back to his new reality. But he simply wanted to stop eating and just die. Anything to stop the pain and the horror of that day that changed his life forever.
This is when I got the phone call. The docs and staff had tried everything. "If you aren't too busy and if you could, would you and Kelsie be able to come help us with A." My answer ~ "Absolutely!" "But if you are too busy....." "I am not too busy. Was A. too busy when he went to war for this country?" I went home and got Kelsie. And we rushed to the hospital. The nurse told me she had held him and rocked him gently back and forth as he cried and sobbed saying, "This just isn't fair." She had responded, "No it isn't. It isn't fair at all."
We got to his door and I took a very long slow deep breath, exhaled and said a prayer asking for the right words, the right things to say, to be of some help. Then the nurse looking hopeful opened the door.
The moment he saw Kelsie a big smile covered his face. I turned to the audience of hospital staff behind me and gave a thumbs up. They stood and observed as Kelsie and I went to work. I had taken a beautiful handmade quilted lap robe that I had been asked to give to a very special warrior. It had been in my trunk for weeks. And I had carefully placed it into Kelsie's bag before going into the hospital.
I placed the chair by the bed as before and covered it with Kelsie's paw print blanket. I gave her the 'up' command and she popped up on to the chair. I told A. to cover his eyes with his arm and if he peaked "I would never speak to him again." There was the slightest smile as he did as I asked. I remember thinking that at that moment he was just like a little kid, being asked to hide his eyes before a big surprise.
I was winging this entire thing and hadn't a clue what to do next. So I took the vividly colorful quilt and folded it and placed it over Kelsie's back and tucked it under her chin so that only her face was visible. She looked a bit like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood! Then I told him it was alright to uncover his eyes.
As he looked over at Kelsie he burst out laughing! I turned and gave the medical staff the thumbs up sign and it was then A. returned to the present moment...Afghanistan was not in the room. Smiles and relief abounded.
I told him Kelsie had brought him a very special gift, because he was a very special man. He softened, his facial muscles relaxed and his fingers touched the quilt with such tenderness and love that it was almost unbelieveable. He looked at me, at Kelsie and at the quilt and said the most heartfelt 'thank you' that I had ever heard. Over and over and over he said it. I gave him a gigantic hug and whispered in his ear that I loved him and it was going to be alright and that I was so proud of him.
I removed the quilt from Kelsie's back and unfolded it and laid it gently on top of A. He took one corner and pulled it up under his chin and again softly said, "Thank you."
The staff looked on mesmerized. What medicine couldn't do, one very beautiful golden lab was able to accomplish.
We stayed for a while and I told a couple of funny stories about my dogs. Then seeing him tire and relax, I told him to take a nap before dinner and we packed our bags and quietly leflt. I thanked the nurse for calling us and told her to call anytime anyone needed special animal assisted therapy. I feel quite certain they will.
Then as if this was monumental enough, his mom rode down in the elevator with us and shared with me that just the day before he had asked her if there was any way he could get a quilt to cover up with ~a brightly colored quilt that could at least temporarily cover and hide his wounds.
Yes, there were busy angels at work that afternoon. And the thought briefly returned that maybe there are times when we are the angels.
I knew at this moment that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I now know which road to travel.