First a Break, Then Back to Work

October 14, 2008

Arm Wrestling With Major Alves (McGuire VAMC, 10/13/08)

Arm Wrestling With Major Alves (McGuire VAMC, 10/13/08)

Mariah used the long holiday weekend to great advantage. She listened to a couple hundred pages of her books, entertained veterinarian colleagues who came to visit (left and below), washed her Subaru Outback and had the oil changed, ate pizza in Richmond’s funky Carytown neighborhood, and thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful manicure and pedicure – remember Equadorable Coral – complete with a vibrating massage chair that tossed her around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

No Hard Feelings (McGuire VAMC, 10/13/08)

No Hard Feelings (McGuire VAMC, 10/13/08)

We had a wistful moment while driving to the Jiffy Lube. Symphonic music was playing on the radio, and Mariah started crying. I asked what was wrong but couldn’t understand her one-word answer through her tears. I asked her to repeat it for me, but I still couldn’t make it out. Growing alarmed, I pulled off the road and turned to face her as she said, “Ballet.” (Mariah danced ballet for several years as a teenager.)

“Is it too painful; do you want it to stop?” I asked. “No,” she sobbed. “I want to hear it.” So we continued into the service bay and sat in the car. Mariah sat next to me crying quietly as the symphony filled the cabin and I answered a young woman’s questions about oil viscosity and tire air pressure. Oddly, this didn’t seem odd to any of us. In fact, it was refreshing to be immersed in great beauty, and I felt honored to be a witness to Mariah’s tender grief.

Low-Tech Reader (McGuire VAMC, 10/13/08)

Low-Tech Reader (McGuire VAMC, 10/13/08)

With the return of the therapists on Tuesday, it was back to work. Mariah’s vision therapist, Cindy, offered several devices to help her manage printed material. Last week, Mariah had successfully read a page from one of her new large-print books of humor, but we were stumped when it came to holding the book in a reading posiiton and turning the page. This morning, Cindy gave her a simple device to try, and after some experimenting and modifications, it worked! So Mariah can now entertain herself by reading.

Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the standing committee on Veterans’ Affairs, toured the hospital today. He and his entourage stumbled across me on the sofa in the leisure room where I have wired Internet connectivity. Surrounded with files, I had just finished a Skype conference call with my Boston staff when the polytrauma unit director and resident miracle maestro, Dr. Shane McNamee, asked if I was available.  “My pleasure,” I said, hopping up and shaking the Senator’s hand. He asked how I was doing, and I praised the VA for its support of wounded warriors’ families. He was delighted to hear a happy story, I suspect, and promised to do even more. With a wry smile, Dr. McNamee told Senator Akaka that he had asked Mariah earlier if she wanted to meet him, but that she elected to hide instead. Akaka laughed, and I said that she had declined to meet the Secretary of the Navy, too, so he shouldn’t take it personally.

Mariah finished the day with a treasure hunt organized for some of the patients by her speech and recreational therapists. When she returned, I asked where she had gone, and she said, “We had to locate the price of several items in the mall downstairs.” “How did you do?” I asked. She grinned and said, “I was the first to get them all right.”

What a surprise. 🙂

– Mark


2 Responses to “First a Break, Then Back to Work”

  1. Leah said

    Glad to see such beautiful smiles and advances. Miss you.


  2. Ben McCashland said

    Although you are far away from us here in Baltimore you are always close to us in our hearts. Both the dogs and the handlers miss you.

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