A Simple Act

When I was in my late teens I thought I was having a heart attack but it proved to be a collapsed lung instead. The doctors said the lung might heal itself. It didn’t.

It was like a balloon with a slow leak. The air–my AIR–would leave the lung and get stuck between the outside of my lung and the inside of my chest cavity. It hurt.

I was scared. It got to the point after multiple collapses that I couldn’t walk across a level parking lot without stopping to gasp for air.

Then, the unthinkable happened. My other lung started going bad. I knew that if they both deflated at the same time I would die, even if I was in the hospital on an operating room table.

It was also about then that my fiance’ at the time–not the woman that later became my wife–decided that she loved another man more than me and broke off our engagement.

And my oldest and closest friend moved to Iowa.

I was lonely, heart-broken, lung-broken, in pain, with an unknown future, facing (if I lived long enough) two dangerous and very painful surgeries. I didn’t care if I lived or died, and I was leaning in the direction that would permanently take all my pain away.

As I understand it, each surgery required that my ribs be separated far enough apart that a total of 3 hands could work inside me at the same time. All I know is that when I came out of the surgery I had about an 18 inch scar running up my back from one of my sides, and a LOT of stiches. Pain does not come close to desribing what I felt. Agony was closer, but perhaps even it doesn’t do justice to what I was experiencing.

I think I was in ICU for about a week and began recovering from home for 3 more weeks before heading back for my second surgery. When it was done, I had about 36 inches of scars and stitches, and even more pain. While I was in the hospital the second time, there was no position I could be in that didn’t involve laying on stitches and/or vital tubing, and incredible pain.

Just about the point at which I didn’t think things could become worse, they did.

A nurse turned me on my side that had just been operated on so that I was laying on my wound, stitches, newly separated ribs. Despite my strong protests, propped me up and wedged me in so that I couldn’t move. Then she ignored me and my whispered pleas for the rest of her shift. I was in so much pain and had so litle lung capacity that whispering was the best I could do. I was reduced to wimpering and tears.

Then an angel of mercy arrived in the form of a young male nurse in an era when that was still somewhat of a rarity. He took one look at me, and a look of compassion came over him as he immediately helped get me into a less painful position.

It might have been a simple act of mercy and kindness for him–one that he probably forgot soon later–but his kind act remains warm in my memory and heart three and a half decades later.

To that wonderful nurse, and all others like him, thank you for all you do to help ease pain and sufferring, and for making my world a better place.

About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 4 young grandsons. I manage a wealth management firm I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of 23 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and enjoying our small redwood grove and fern garden.
This entry was posted in Healing, Making the World a Better Place, True Stories I've Written and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Simple Act

  1. Gina's Professions for PEACE says:

    Oh my gosh Russ, what a horrible time you survived through. And how that uncaring nurse left you like that! But oh how I know that those moments, when a cherished angel steps into our heart and lives on in our memories forever, they are like God’s rays of light piercing the dark. I am so glad he came along and immediately helped you. Thank you so much for sharing this hurtful time with the very bright spot from a kind nurse. Now he can live on in my heart too. ~Gina

  2. russtowne says:

    Thank you, Gina. You are one of my treasured internet angels who manage to brighten my days and spirit with every interaction.


  3. JanBeek says:

    Each act of compassion leaves its indelible mark on the recipient, doesn’t it? And by sharing this, you allow that mark to touch us, your grateful readers, too. Thank you, Russ, for sharing your story. I wonder who needs me to help them “get me into a less painful position” today? I’ll keep my eyes open.

  4. russtowne says:

    Thank you, Jan. I love your question and commet: “I wonder who needs me to help them “get me into a less painful position” today? I’ll keep my eyes open.” That sounds like a great way for everyone to begin every day! For themselves, at least as much as for those they find to help.

    Thank you for bing in my life!


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