Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The woman in the elevator.

Yesterday I ran into that woman that I'd met in the elevator last year who worked in the cafeteria. She was the one who had taken it upon herself to bring a patient a special meal and two pieces of cake--because she had noticed on the patient's ID band that that particular day was her birthday.

It was quite a moment.

The funny thing is that I never asked her name that first day and I wished that I had. I loved how much pride she obviously took in her work. It actually made me want to do better. I kept thinking. . . anyone who would be kind enough to do such a thing (when no one was watching) just seemed like the kind of human being I wanted to know by name. And you know what? I wasn't alone. At least three other people at Grady Hospital asked me if I knew her name. Everyone, it seems, wanted to know exactly who this nice person was.

And so I finally had my chance to end the mystery. I asked her, "Do you remember me from that day that you let me take your picture in the elevator? I asked if I could write about you? I did write that story about you, but never got your name."

She looked at me with wide, surprised eyes from around the giant metal food cart. Kind of like, Who me? Which immediately made me feel a tiny bit ashamed that maybe people in long white coats usually aren't talking to her or even noticing her on elevators, even when accompanied by a six by six foot box of stainless steel on wheels. "I do remember," she answered. "I do."

"That . . .what you did. . .was one of the best things I have ever seen. Seeing you that day made me want to find ways to make my ordinary actions more extraordinary. I know that woman was so blessed by you that day."

"She was a prisoner. I know that it ain't my business why someone in a situation, but it was her birthday and she was a prisoner. She didn't have anybody to see her or make her smile or nothing."

I imagined this patient with her ankle shackled to the end of the bed--unfortunately not an unusual sighting in a public hospital. I thought about how easy it is to pass judgment on such a person, and how helping somebody on lockdown celebrate their birthday is generally not at the top of most people's to do list.

"What is your name?"

"Regina," she replied. She flipped over her work badge so that I could see it. "Regina L."

The elevator doors swung open on the tenth floor--my floor--but I let them close. Regina reached out to hold the door for me, but I waved my hand to tell her I would stay on and ride with her. I needed to tell her what I hadn't told her before. And I needed to tell her by name.

"Well, Miss Regina, you are something special. What you did that day was really remarkable.  I've thought of you often since that day and I'm so happy to meet you. I just wanted to tell you that."

"I 'preciate that, ma'am. I really do." She placed her hand on her chest and softened her eyes and voice.

"No, I appreciate you."

"It ain't every day you hear somebody say that to you. I don't even know what to say."

The lift had climbed up to the twelfth floor and had returned to ten again. Miraculously, no one else had joined us on the entire ride. I knew my team was waiting for me to start rounds and that I needed to go. I thought about my friend Crystal C., and something she once said to me:

"There is power in touch."

So I decided to touch Regina. To physically touch her. Before stepping out of the cabin, I reached out and grabbed her thin hand and squeezed it tight. "I'm so glad I saw you again, Regina. My name is Dr. Kimberly Manning, and I'm so honored to know you. Really." I covered the top of her hand with my other hand and held it for a moment.

She stood next to the enormous rolling box smiling as the doors swallowed her up and carried her off to the next floor. Just like that.

A name to go with the face.

Yeah, man.

Crystal was right. There is power in touch. Just like that first day when I met Regina. And just like that moment last year when she took it upon herself to bless someone for no reason.

Today, I think I'm going to do my best to channel my inner Regina. Maybe you can, too.

Extraordinary Grady.


  1. If you ever see Miss Regina again, please tell her that those of us who have never seen her (but might, one day, Atlanta is like that) wish her soul receives as much as it clearly gives.


  2. The world needs to be filled with more of the likes of Miss Regina. Thank you for noticing her, Dr. M., and reminding us - your readers, that we should all be a little more like Miss Regina.

  3. Bravo for a wonderful post and for recognizing Miss Regina and bringing her goodness to us.

  4. Thanks for reminding us to keep our eyes open to see the folks no one else recognizes, and to recognize them. Or appreciate them as you say.

  5. Beautiful. Tell her that she just made an NZ girl a little bit happier today! :) We need more people like Regina.

  6. Miss Regina's first post really resonated with me when I started reading your blog. It's the one I think about when Grady comes to mind. Thanks so much for this follow-up--'say what y'all want about Grady' :)

  7. Loved this post. But I've been checking your blog all day and side-eyeing you for not posting Thursday's Ten Things.

    Then I figured out it was Wednesday.

  8. Oh no, P! I panicked for a minute there. . . .

    Thursday Ten coming mañana!

  9. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this and truly I hope to be more like Regina in my every day life too.


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

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