"Then I look at you.
And the world's alright with me.
Just one look at you. And I know it's gonna be. . .
. . . .a lovely day."
~ Bill Withers
I was making good time the other morning. I wish I could say that this is always the case, but it isn't. On this day, though, I was turning into the garage exactly ten minutes before I was expected to be in the clinic. A miracle, I tell you.
The day was pristine--the sun shining bright like a diamond and the temperature not oppressively hot either. The minute I saw that blue-blue sky I knew that it was going to be a good day. I just knew it.
On the way to work, the radio personalities were all talking about a whole bunch of nothing and NPR was feeling a little bit overwhelming. The latter half of my commute that day was in silence as a result. And that part was cool.
So, boom, I swing into the employee parking garage and I see the same person I always see: Mr. Lewis, the security officer in the parking deck. His big, booming, jovial greeting was as bright as that sun. "Heeeeeey there, doctor! How you doing?" he announced. And, like usual, I returned his welcome with the same thing I always say, "If I was any better, it'd take two of me!"
I realized in that moment that seeing him is one of my favorite things about Grady. And any person who pulls into Grady in the morning knows exactly who I'm speaking about.
Anyways. I had great parking lot karma that day and snagged a ground level space. Another miracle, I tell you. And a welcomed one at that.
I walk across the street and into Grady. I see the regular sights along the way. The people smoking in the smoking area. For amusement, I always look to see if anyone is puffing in the nonsmoking area, too. And, as usual, someone always is. I sort of enjoy that for its Seinfeldesque irony and always feel a little tickled inside when I see that.
One of the environmental services workers gave me a high five as I walked by him in the hallway. And that made me extremely proud for some reason. I think it's because he initiated it -- not me -- and did so because he had to know I'd oblige him. It made me happy that he saw me that way and it felt far more endearing than disrespectful.
I strode into the main atrium and waved at the man selling newspapers across the way. "Hey there, Miss Manning!" he shouted. And I shouted right back to him even though his name escaped me. "Hey there, sir!" Ms. Renee in the gift shop was taking in some inventory at the door and winked in between signing off on boxes. I'm a terrible winker but I winked back. I sure did.
Another Grady employee passed me as I entered the stairwell and called me "Miss Lady." And that made me smile because when I first met Harry he used to always call me that on our earliest phone calls.
"Hey, Miss Lady."
And you know? Even when Harry said it, it wasn't fresh. It was just friendly and chivalrous-sounding to me. That morning I took it the same way.
"What you know good, sir?" I asked.
"Awww, Miss Lady, I don't know nothin'."
And that was enough to take me up the stairs because anyone who knows about certain pockets of down South lingo knows that "what you know good?" is a perfectly acceptable way to ask "how are you?" And, of course, "I don't know nothin'" or "I ain't no count" are also absolutely reasonable replies to that question.
Once I entered the clinic, I saw Lex, one of our patient access reps. He always, always seems happy to see me which makes me equally happy to see him. He also wears a collection of very cool glasses which, for some reason, he didn't have on this day. "No specs today, Lex?" And he just chuckled and told me that sometimes you have to change things up on people to keep 'em guessing.
But I still think of him as Lex with the cool specs. Which rhymes now that I think about it. Ha.
The clinic wasn't too busy yet when I got there so I checked my email. One of my emails was from Joe, the Grady transporter. Remember him? The guy who wanted to know the inner workings of a hospital like Grady so decided to work NOT as a tech or even someone shadowing physicians. Nope. He took a job as one of the people pushing patients from place to place at Grady Hospital. And when he told me that, it blew my mind. Even more amazing though, is that he did that for over two years while in grad school.
Well. Joe is officially applying to medical school this year and wanted me to read his application essay. That's why he "cold call" emailed me, opening up with "You probably don't even remember me but. . ." Ha. He must have forgotten who he was talking to. So yeah. He emailed me some two plus years later. And can I just say that this also made me feel happy inside, too? Kind of like that high five did. One, I was happy to hear that he was actually applying. But two, I was so glad he also felt like he could reach out to me once he did.
I am rooting for Joe. I am. I've since spoken to him on the phone for over thirty minutes, hashing out his beast mode med school strategy. "Tell them you took a job as a patient transporter at Grady for two years. Tell them what you learned because I know it changed your life."
"It did," he said. "It has." And we talked about other things, too, but Grady was the main topic.
Look man. I just want my light to shine. So little things like a high five from a dude pushing a giant floor waxer and a young guy I met for five minutes reaching out to me made me feel like, just maybe, I sometimes get it right.
Okay. So the truth is that I could do this for another thousand words about every little tiny thing that happened around me. I could. Suffice it to say, I loved my day in clinic that day. I noticed as much as I could. The encounters were rich and the conversations were ordinary but pivotal. We took really good care of people and I could feel it in my bones that we were. I could.
But I have to share this last thing, okay?
On my way to see one of my last patients, I saw a familiar face.
"Dr. Manning? Hey!"
"Hey!" I responded. I stopped and turned my head sideways. I knew I'd cared for this patient before but I couldn't place when or where.
"You don't remember me?"
As soon as she said that, I did. This was a young woman who I'd cared for more than a year before. She was supposed to have a few months to live after failing treatment after treatment for a very advanced blood-borne cancer. And you know what? There she was. Standing right there in front of me on her way out of a clinic appointment.
And here is the truth: When I discharged her from the hospital back then, I was sure I'd never see her again. And that made me so sad. It truly did. I remember crying many a day in my office or on my drive home about her. So seeing her . . . alive. . .it just. . .wow. I said, "Of course I remember you. Of course I do!"
I walked down the hall straight to her and, as if scripted, we embraced tight. A long, telling hug. I pulled back, put my hands on her shoulders and studied her, then pulled back in and hugged her once more.
"I'm doing really good," she said. And I didn't even care about that being grammatically incorrect because "really good" sounded even better than "well." It did.
"You look wonderful. And healthy. I'm so happy you stopped me. I'm so happy to see you." I said that because I meant it. She looked very different now. Much thinner and hair now grown out from her chemo-induced alopecia that I'd come to know during her hospitalizations. I would have never recognized her.
"It's good to see you, too," she said. "How are your sons?"
And I immediately wanted to cry when she said that. How could she remember anything about me when she'd been so ill? Just. . . .how? "They are good," I replied. "Very good. Is your sister doing better?"
I wanted her to know I that I remembered her story, too. Her sister was very, very close in age to her and so worried about my patient that she'd left college to be by her side. This decision was a big deal to my patient who wanted her sister to stay where she was. My patient believed that she was dying and saw no point in robbing her sister of a future since the chance of meaningful recovery was so slim. She'd urged her sister to go back to her university but her sister vehemently refused.
A true Ruth indeed.
Just like Ruth and her beloved Naomi of biblical fame, both were now thriving. "She's back in school. Going to graduate this year actually."
"That's great. Just great." I hugged her one more time before leaving. If I stayed two more seconds, I'd have broke down crying.
Especially because I know how awful it feels to lose a sister and I was so, so happy this wouldn't be something her sister would have to live or know in the near future. I said a little prayer in my head as I walked away and stuck them on a post it note in my head for prayers later.
The rest of that day was great, too. Quiet moments of wonderful bookmarked by teeny-tiny whispers of grace. All of it so very ordinary. Yet so very extraordinary. Which, like always, is very, very Grady.
I love this job. And damn, I'm just glad to be here.
Happy Sunday. And think positive thoughts about Joe and his journey as well as my young patient in remission, okay? Thanks.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . . if you read this post, imagine this playing in the background the entire time. Because it was.