Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A piece of cake.

 Today on the A elevator at Grady: Special Delivery

I was riding a full elevator shortly after lunch today at Grady, and a cafeteria worker stepped on holding a tray of food. She wasn't pushing that giant hot cart that forces everyone riding along into a tight corner. This seemed to be a special meal being brought to one person. Most notable were the two pieces of cake balanced on top of the rest of the food.

I made a bit of small talk as I often do in the Grady lift. "Somebody missed the trays getting passed?" I asked. "Looks like they lucked out and got two pieces of cake for their patience."

The other people on the elevator all politely offered smiles.

The food services lady just beamed and replied, "No, ma'am. She didn't miss her tray. I just been bringing her food in the whole time she been here, and it seems like it ain't never nobody there to visit her or nothing. Today was something I know she don't eat. I know what she like, so I went on ahead and got her something else."

Wow. How nice, I thought to myself. The softened eyes and approving expressions of the other passengers let me know that they felt the same way, too. The woman holding the tray offered the sweetest, most endearing smile and added in a quiet voice,"I saw on her arm band that today her birthday. I know it ain't much, but it seem like everybody should have something at least a little bit special 'bout they birthday, don't you think? She probably gon' be like, 'If you don't get outta here with that cake!' " She chuckled, amused with herself.

Read her armband? Noticed her birthday? While passing hospital food trays? Seriously?


She lightweight choked me up with that one. I shook my head and sighed. "That is so kind of you. For real."

"She just don't seem like she have nobody," she answered, now looking slightly embarrassed. "I tried to find a candle for her to blow out. . . " she laughed nervously, "but since I couldn't find n'an I just put some white frosting on what I had and give her two pieces instead of one."

The whole cabin fell silent as we all took in the thoughtfulness of this simple gesture. The doors parted and she stepped forward with the celebratory tray. She looked back at us, shrugged her narrow shoulders and said, "Guess I'm gon' sing Happy Birthday to her, too."


See y'all? This is why I love Grady. It is moments just like these that I am reminded of exactly what is so special about this place that is so often poorly understood. Are we short on some things that some other fancier and better-funded hospitals may have? Sure. But one thing this place isn't short on at all is heart. And, trust me, heart is a sho' nuff part of healing.

Today I was reminded that "heart" comes from more than just the doctors and the nurses. Sometimes it comes on a Formica platter with a singing telegram.

"This patient will never forget you doing this for her, ma'am," I told her firmly. I touched her arm when I said this, and I'm not sure why. I just felt the need to touch her. Others on the elevator seemed equally moved. It kind of felt like we were having a bit of church up in that elevator. Or better yet, like the Grady elders say, "God is in this place."

Silence fell again as she stepped off onto her floor.

"Thank you," a nurse standing in the back corner finally blurted just before the doors met and sealed. The nurse then muttered under her breath, "Y'all can say what y'all want about Grady. . . ."

I looked over my shoulder and let my eyes quickly meet those of that nurse.  She had taken the words right out of my mouth.

 Coming right up. . . . food AND heart.


  1. It really does take just one person to make a difference. The cafeteria worker may not realize it but, she was a part of that patient's healing process. Beautiful story, thanks for sharing!

  2. Great story! There is so much heart there. I miss you all!

  3. Thanks for sharing that story. Now let's hope the administration hears about this cafeteria worker so she can be recognized somehow, even if it is just a mention in the hospital news. Now cash appreciation would be great, but any recognition is better than none.

  4. Touching's always the little things that count. It was pretty special for her to notice the patient's arm band.

  5. That is a seriously awesome story! You know I find similar things happening at the VA hospital where I work too... I think because there is such a specific and often under served patient population where we are at... people who work there REALLY care about those that they serve. One of the biggest blessings I have been able to be apart of such a wonderful group of people. Makes going to work a joy doesn't it?!

  6. Thank you so much for your beautiful writing. I feel the tears well up when I read your stories. I found your blog after you responded so thoughtfully to another blogger's re-posting of the facebook letter regarding Medicaid patients and the "culture crisis." You so eloquently, and graciously, stated what I could not. Thank you for your kindness, your grace, your faith. It is truly beautiful to behold.

  7. i currently shadow at Grady, with a clinical pharmacist (hopefully future profession) and i LOVE Grady. love it! i think my friends are weirded out that i love THIS hospital this much, but i love the staff and although some patients can be difficult, for the most part they're great. I found your blog through O magazine and i was so excited about it! i've been reading it for a while, but felt awkward saying "hey, i get that feeling too!"
    anyway, i figured this was as good an entry as any to mention how much i love this blog (and Grady!)

  8. See, there's the sunshine I was looking for. (She says with tears in her eyes--but really, they're happy tears!). Thanks for the uplift... it was needed today. :)


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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