I’ve been wracking my brain lately to think of something to submit for this episode of The Handover… And it’s been a tough one. As some of you know, this year hasn’t been the best year for me. And this time of year is pretty rough on me this year. So I keep thinking, Holiday Cheer? When was the last time I felt that?
And it came to me. My first Christmas I was an EMT. I was working for a private IFT EMS agency who did some 911 in three other counties. I was on Christmas Eve and not really enjoying myself too much. I wrote this for EMS Week in 2010, but it works here very well.
My partner grumbles as she brings us into the ER bay. Time to get another patient to take home. On this very cold and snowy, very unusual for us in New Mexico, Christmas Eve. “Why are we doing this again?”
I shake my head as we go inside and get our patient for the call, a very nice lady I’ve taken on several occasions for radiation appointments. But now we are called for something different. Something that, while part of my job, can be some of the hardest calls I go on. We are taking her for home hospice. This might very well be the last time I see her. So I am determined to give her as smooth a trip as I can in this horrid weather.
She is out of it for most of the trip, her mental status having slowly degraded over the months, her husband tells me from the front. I remember it’s been at least 3 months since I’ve seen her, and when I last did, she looked nothing like the tiny woman who seems to have wasted away.
It’s slow going, as a lot of the roads are icy coated. We try our very best to minimize bumps and jostles as my patient moans in pain on my stretcher. I just talk to her, reassuring her, as her husband looks back at us from the walkthrough.
“All she wanted was to get home and be with her family this one last Christmas. She wouldn’t let them admit her upstairs,” he tells me while smiling at his wife sadly. “She just wants to see her grandchildren smile as they open presents.”
“Is the whole family going to be there?” I ask, knowing that all of their children and grandchildren live nearby.
“Almost. We have one son flying in from Iraq now. He should be here late tomorrow. She’s hoping to hold on until then,” I notice a few tears roll down his face as he says this.
We eventually get to their gorgeous home, and intact no less, and get my patient covered with a blanket so she doesn’t get wet or cold as we wheel her inside. As we walk in I notice a hospital bed, looking quite obscene, to one side of the Christmas tree. I also notice the whole family is awake, now at 11pm, to greet the family matriarch as she gets home. They just watch as we gently move her over to the bed and get her tucked in and as comfortable as possible.
As we start to step back the family circles around our patient, and you can feel the love flowing in the room. We get our gurney organized and the required signatures for the transport from the husband. I go to her bedside to tell her Merry Christmas when she looks at me and utters her first coherent sentence in the entire time she’s been with me tonight.
“Thank you, TJ.”
With just those words, and a last look around, we head back out to the bus. I feel a tear roll down my face now. I look at my partner and say, “This is why we do it, no matter when or what it’s like outside. Sometimes we do make a difference, even if it’s just taking someone home.”
After we got done with that call, we heard a ‘Merry Christmas everyone’ come over the radio, and since our board was clear me and my partner headed over to see my then-fiance and my partner’s boyfriend. We all got together at an IHOP and had a Christmas early morning breakfast. That was a morning of nothing but joy for all of us. Even though I was working, and I wouldn’t get to spend Christmas day with my fiance, since she went on shift in Dispatch about the time I got off from work, just having that little bit of time together to enjoy each others company… Well, that’s what Holiday Cheer really is about to me. And it gives me a little bit of comfort and hope that I will start to feel better about the holiday season sooner or later.