Tom Hanks in Forest Gump, famously said, “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” For me, the holiday season this year was feeling rushed, stressed, busy, and let’s not forget the last minute shopping. That was until a single unexpected event changed everything.
I’d like to share a story about the best Christmas present I could have asked for, and in fact, have ever received. It was simply to have my dad come home to his family healthy. I received a call from my mom that dad had a heart attack at the cottage while he was collecting firewood on Friday, December 9th in Muskoka.
At the time, I was at our annual Manawa Christmas party, celebrating another successful year with the entire team. It was a joy reminiscing about a great year, joking and reconnecting with colleagues and friends.
Early that day, my dad started to experience severe chest pains, headache and numbness in his arms while gathering wood. After getting back to the cottage, my mom called Dr. Lester Affoo, a GP and family friend, who has a nearby cottage. Lester practices in Alliston and asked my parents to drive to Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket immediately. As they drove, Lester called to check on them every 10 minutes.
When they arrived, Lester was at the emergency entrance waiting. My dad was admitted and monitored by the emergency department staff. While in the emergency department my dad’s symptoms had improved and the ECG looked normal. Lester went to see Dr. Steve Minor, a professional colleague, who is a Cardiac Interventionist at Southlake. Dr. Minor saw my dad after his current patient and performed an angiogram and angioplasty. Dr. Minor said my dad’s arteries were severely blocked and was surprised he made it out of the woods. My dad was transferred to the Cardiovascular Care Ward and on Saturday was met by Dr. Charles Peniston, the surgeon. Dr. Peniston told my dad he would need triple bypass surgery and scheduled it for Sunday morning.
Our family stayed with my dad as long we could until visiting hours ended Saturday evening. We said our goodbyes. My dad told us how proud he was of each of us and how much he loved us. My dad had one simple wish saying, “I just want to wake up after surgery and see you all again”. Sunday morning was one of the longest days in my life, waiting for any news of dad’s surgery. When someone’s life is in the hands of a few healthcare trusted professionals down the hall, time feels ever so precious. We were heartened when the surgeon came out and informed us the surgery had gone well. My dad would be kept asleep in the Cardiovascular ICU, until his vitals stabilized. We stayed with my dad while he was sleeping all day Sunday. On Monday, when my dad awoke, he was ecstatic to see us, to see the hospital staff, to see everyone. His wish had come true.
The quote below by William Arthur Ward sums up the emotional jubilation and overwhelming gratitude my dad felt after he woke up for the hospital staff on the Cardiac ICU floor.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
Well, my dad, whose name is Randy by the way, didn’t waste any time and sent the rest of the family on an errand for chocolate truffles – all 150 lbs. of chocolate! He wanted to personally give every staff member at the hospital on the fifth floor a box. He walked through the hallways in his Hospital gown with his “Harry Potter like” glasses interrupting anyone to give each and every staff member truffles. It didn’t matter whether they were a cleaner, admin, security guard, nurse or doctor. A nurse who hadn’t worked on my dad asked, “Everyone is getting chocolates?” As my dad handed a box to the cleaner, he expressed with sincere appreciation saying to them both:
“You all worked on me, because if the guard wasn’t keeping everyone safe, and the cleaners weren’t keeping things clean and sanitary, you couldn’t work. Even though you didn’t work on me directly you were doing something else for someone else freeing up the people who did. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be here.”
Dad asked each and every person involved in his care and recovery to sign his heart-shaped pillow, because he wanted to remember the people who helped save his life. Now, as he recovers at home, dad often gets teary-eyed looking at the signatures on the pillow, feeling a sense of connectedness. He knows the Southlake staff are right there with him. Each time he grasps the pillow against his chest to push back the pain when he coughs, he feels that same support and love he experienced at the hospital.
An Attitude of Gratitude is a popular theme during the Christmas season. I believe the amazing care and attention my dad received would be the same had he been admitted to Southlake at any time of year. Organizations that deliver incredible service to customers do so because of the talented team of people that consistently deliver.
And that brings me to nurses, a group known for working long hours and being underappreciated for their contribution. A website, called Nurse Uncut, an online community for nurses ran a contest asking nurses why they choose the profession.
Just like the staff at Southlake, their responses offer a glimpse into their “Attitude of gratitude” view that extends far beyond the holiday season. Three contest responses, for which we might learn from are:
1. “True fulfillment comes when you know that you’ve rendered love and care selflessly to a complete stranger.”
2. “Because each day I go home feeling like in some small way I have helped at least one person. Whether it is a clean bed, assistance to walk to the bathroom or a shoulder to cry on. Someone feels better due to the attention they receive from me. Even the flower in my hair makes someone smile!”
3. “I’ve stayed with Nursing because it has enabled me to journey deeply and broadly in understanding what it means to live a human life. By encouraging compassion, common sense and communication in all of life’s situations, inside and outside “nursing”, it has given me gratitude, joy and laughter.”
Nurses truly are ambassadors of compassion, care and good will. They live an attitude of gratitude for their patients (my dad seen with some nursing and hospital staff above). I’m glad our family was able to recognize them with our small gesture of appreciation. Life really is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re going to get. I got the best Christmas present ever. My dad did too! Our family and Manawa Networks wish you and your family a safe and joyful holiday season and a new year filled with gratitude and success.