photo-22-e1347506077578Moments before my “TEE”—Transesophogeal Echocardiogram—I took inventory of those in my curtained cubicle. Kat (short for Kathleen) was in charge of the IV sedation. Bryant had the controls on the monitor for the scope that the doctor would soon be putting down my throat. When Todd, my regular clinic nurse, popped in, I asked him what his official function was.

“Moral support,” he said with a cheery smile. “What do you need?”

From somewhere deep inside me a little voice replied, “Please hold my toes.”

Todd immediately took hold of both my feet, which were covered by a blanket, but still accessible. “How’s that?” he asked, giving them a solid squeeze.

Tears started running down my cheeks.compassion_fatigue

Years ago, when I began attending all Rick’s cardio doctor appointments and procedures, he had always asked me to hold his toes. I thought the request was a little odd, but did his bidding without question. Now, when the tables were turned, and it was my time to submit to the scans and probes, I found myself automatically reciting his words.

And when Todd took hold of my toes, a sudden wave of calm washed over me. A wave of peace—the comfort and compassion of human connection. I knew without a doubt there was a human being in the room who cared more about my emotional well-being than about any of the numbers on a beeping digital monitor.

hospital-bed-4“I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep,” said Todd, “but I’ll be gone when you wake up. I have to go to work, but you’re in good hands.”

The warmth in his words was almost as palpable as the warmth I could feel in my feet.

“Thank you,” I whispered as I drifted off. “Now I understand.”