Saturday, April 27, 2013

So That Others May Live

Julie, 'Momma' to Mia
       Forty-five years ago today, an equally bright, sunny day filled with dreams and hopes of an equally bright future with the medical student I was about to marry, we celebrated our union at a high nuptial mass in Queens, NY.  The Forest Hills reception, island honeymoon and our very own first apartment in Maryland were pure 'Disney'.
       Then the reality of obligations - career and family - 'took the wheel', catapulting us into and through the rigors of daily living - and supporting same, as well as each other.  We dedicated ourselves to our professions, ever striving to learn more, improve skills and, hopefully some day, be a part of 'doing the miracle', saving a life.  We were then blessed with a life - our fist-born.  The Navy brought our inchoate family to Norfolk, VA and took First Lieutenant Philip G., MD to the pier, depositing him on a destroyer - the flag ship of a fleet bound for a nine month cruise.
       Having but three weeks to acclimate - to the South, a new city, new status, singular responsibility for a 10 month-old son - was to feel a mudslide of life slosh over and around you with untenable force, unrelenting helplessness.  So often I'd lie awake asking why, how, what - all the unanswerable but permanently affixed-to-my-being questions.  Fortunately, there were but seconds to laze/dawdle in this fashion, so entrenched was I in the basking of the luxury of frenzied survival.
       And survive we did; the lieutenant returned, terrifying his son with a handlebar mustache, looking so like the "Frito Bandito" and making a clean shave the first order of 'welcome home, Daddy' business; and then on to the dual reality of military doctor/husband-father.  Working long and extra hours, we managed to buy a starter mansion but had great trouble filling it.  We couldn't afford furniture but didn't need it because we couldn't bring child number two to viability.
       Again, the nagging 'whys'.  Quite unexpectedly, the questioning was back-burner-ed when clothes began not buttoning at the waist (even though pregnancy tests were negative).  We quickly erred on the side of hopeful caution, hunted and found an enormous, affordable starter mansion 'two' and just as quickly moved our fourteen pieces - total - of furniture into it in time to assemble the cradle into which baby Julie was carefully placed.
       The following four years were absorbed by illness, loss and change - of the monumental variety.  After eleven months of fighting pancreatic cancer (we had moved my parents and their bedroom furniture into our home), having won some extra innings, Mom lost the game; Dad remained living with us - angry, frustrated and devoid of his entire former wardrobe.  Mom had always bought 'blues' to match his eyes.  He hated blue.  After throwing everything out, he acquired the most encompassing brown wardrobe known/possessed to/by any man.
       Again, a protracted period of the 'whys'.  But it was short-lived as we watched in awe this little angel child grow and run and speak.  Mom's illness had so taken over our lives that Julie was  - at age two - a brand, new experience.  Naturally, we, as my mother before us for as long as she could, fawned over the child.  Indeed, big brother Philip began muttering aloud about the "golden years" - the first seven of his life, an only child.
       A serious, non-whimsical child (a toddler who would stare at the food on her plate, then at her family and, though saying nothing aloud, shouting with her glare, "Touch nothing on this plate and nobody gets hurt.") as she grew older, it came as no surprise when she announced her desire to attend Georgetown - the School of Nursing.  A sedulous and happy student, she made wonderful, lifelong friends and loved her profession.  After graduation, she spent a year at our Level I Trauma Center in Norfolk, then drove North to Boston, her new, adopted home, and her future - husband, child, achievements.
       Sad and missing her so, we focused on her remaining siblings - Jennie, born four-years after Julie and Declan, who was only to be with us for seventeen months before he was returned to God, a victim of a choking accident.  Of cours Philip, devastated at losing his little brother - "big guy" - went through his personal hell during this time as well.  Why?  Why?  Why?  We had a standing family 'mantra'.
       The years flew as did the kids, starting their own families.  Philip and Jennie settled in nearby Portsmouth.  Julie worked for ten years in ER/Trauma at Boston City, married and moved back to Virginia - Richmond.  They had Mia - who charms the world still.  But Boston kept calling Julie back.  Tufts Medical Center wanted to be a Level I Trauma Center and her friends at Boston City told them Julie was the one gal who could get the job done - well and fast. 
       And so she did - while Matt stayed behind to sell their home in Richmond.  Whispering into the phone on her first day, she urgently confided, "Mom.  I have this bog office.  What do I do?"  I suggested she go in with". . .this lady who keeps following me around" (her secretary).  She then described a huge desk (seaworthy variety) seeming larger in that it was home to one telephone, a lamp and two yellow past-its.  After reading the first one (Nurse A informing the new director that she had personally observed nurse B remain in he rest room for twenty minutes during their wok shift), Julie asked the 'follower' to kindly bring her the files of the employees involved.  To the silent, raised eyebrows she explained, "I'm going to terminate both nurses.  If A spent twenty minutes in reconnaissance, she wasn't working either.
       That incident began a series of investigation, observation, one-on-one interviews and working side-by-side with the Emergency/Trauma nurses for several hours on each shift. Within four months, staff was terminated, replacing those unfit/unwilling to perform at Level I Trauma Center pace.  They were easily replaced by recruiting staff from Boston City with whom she'd worked and knew- personally and professionally.   Tufts became a Level I in October, 2011.
       Last year, Julie fought long and hard to convince the administration that there should be tents set up during the Boston Marathon - in case inexperienced runners needed fluids or more
 serious medical attention. She got a green light - albeit reluctantly.  Due to unusually hot temperatures, Tufts admitted over 30 runners last year - some with life-threatening conditions.
       That experienced planted the seed for unified, broad-based protocols to be utilized in the tents during the race.  This year, they were disseminated and used in ALL the Boston hospitals.  And didn't it pay off.  We spoke often, but briefly, during the week.  She went to the interfaith service.  She was asked to do many interviews.  Everyone was thrilled when players from the Nw England Patriots, and Boston Red Sox visited the bombing patients as well as the first responder staff in the ED/Trauma areas, spending time to say thanks and pose for pictures. 
       Last night, she represented the medical First Responders at the Boston Celtics game where all the services were honored.  "Mom, I can't explain how it felt, walking out on that shiny, wood, court floor - standing next to those great cops who saved so many lives."
       During an interview, she was asked how she would feel caring for a suspect.  She responded, "It's the ultimate ethical dilemma. What do you do?  You have to do the right thing.  It's not one of the things they teach in Ethics 101."  (It turned out that she had treated a suspect.  She admitted to not liking the patient before knowing it was a suspect, but administered appropriate treatment nevertheless.)
       We have no more 'whys'.  We have loans to repay and worries about her mental state post this traumatic experience.  We are concerned for the integrity of her unborn child and the pregnancy in general. But I am - along with her Dad - celebrating HER life today.  Julie proved unequivocally and with grace and ease, that she does what she does so that others may live.  Thanks, 'Muffin'.
Later, Lorane. . .. .
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