One of my favorite jokes about my husband relates to his meticulous grooming. The man irons everything and, as if that wasn't enough, insists on having his shoes always be as clean as possible. This can mean everything from scrubbing them with a toothbrush and bleach solution to replacing them at a point where nearly all others wouldn't.
Harry blames it all on being from the midwest. The Cleveland native in him believes in keeping shoes "fresh" and everything else the same.
Instead of this translating into reckless indulgence, it is actually quite the contrary. Harry and allegedly all of his midwestern comrades believe in high standards, yes. But they also believe in preservation of what you have. While their trash might look like your treasure, never assume that whatever that thing is was purchased in the last five years. Not when you're dealing with a Cleveland or Detroit native.
That brings me to this photo. This is a pair of shoes that belonged to the BHE. They are, quite literally, over ten years old. Harry wore them a great deal back then and, in true Harry form, kept them very, very clean. Eventually they exceeded the limits of midwestern cleanliness and got retired. The best of Harry's sneakers that get put on the bench end up getting saved. A while back I realized that the combination of my husband's well kept old shoe collection and the size of his foot (twelve) was a mighty good thing for a Grady doctor to have in her life. For whatever reason, most of the homeless patients I see who need shoes are a size twelve or less. And are men.
And so. On Thursday, my sweet patient sadly told me of his frustrating situation of having only one shoe. And the one he had was on a prosthetic leg which, as Murphy's Law would dictate, was not the same side of the one shoe he did have. Because he didn't want to ruin his expensive prosthetic, he made the choice to go shoeless on his remaining foot to protect the one that he had worked so very hard to get in the first place.
"What size shoe do you wear?" I asked.
"Twelve," he replied.
I simply nodded in response knowing what I'd do. And him? He didn't even notice it because this had been his lot in life for some time and never did it even occur to him that the doctor caring for his serious medical problems would also care about him leaving with two shoes.
But I did. A lot.
And so. I brought him some shoes the following day. But not just any shoes. Some shoes that were mostly like new. Shoes so nice that two different people asked me in the elevator what they were for and tried to get me to reconsider "just giving them away" and selling them instead. (Turns out a clean pair of Air Force One Nike shoes is a pretty hot commodity.)
Without question, this was the best part of my day. But not just because of the look on my patient's face when he realized that he'd now have shoes for both feet. . . . it was something more.
"You're giving these away?" he asked.
"No," I replied. "I'm giving them to you."
"But they're so nice."
"You are, too."
And we both smiled at one another for a beat, speaking volumes without saying a word.
The older I get, the more I realize how much life is a continuum. The pieces of our lives in one world intertwined with the other and God somehow offering up these sweet little moments in time where He shows you that all things work can work for good if you let them.
Happy Friday. And happy actual birthday, Dr. King.
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?