Happy Memorial Day to all! If you know a veteran and even if you don’t know him or her and you’re in their presence, give them a hug of gratitude – just because. A slogan of war reads “We don’t know, we weren’t there.” And that’s so true, but we oftentimes get to witness the aftermath and when we do, we are forever changed.
I was a young nurse working on the Medical/Surgical unit of a Chicago Metropolitan Hospital when I first encountered a veteran of war.We were getting our assignment during report one morning and I was introduced to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD). One of the patient’s I was assigned to care for that day was a Vietnam War Veteran.
In those days, before you even went to assess the patient and to take his vital signs, you read the patient’s chart to familiarize yourself with his entire history. I read of this man’s service and his eventual decline into the mental torture he was in after witnessing and participating in the horrific of War. The patient, who was experiencing flashbacks and talking incoherently, was kept medicated for severe agitation. A team of doctors were taking care of him in this hospital, while they were waiting to place him in a VA facility, where he desperately needed to be.
When I went to the patient’s room to check on him, I was taken aback by his appearance. The man was disheveled and thrashing about. He was in what we call “soft” wrist and ankle restraints. A common use for safety measures, protecting the patient from harming himself and from those he came in contact with.
I introduced myself and began taking his vital signs. I assessed the wild stare in his eyes, his thrashing about and incoherent and mumbling. Nevertheless, I kept up a stream of what I hope would translate as compassion through calm dialogue.
I told him what I was doing, talking a bit about myself and hoping against hope that something registered in some part of his fogged memory. I wasn’t feeling like a nurse in that moment, rather, one human being trying to reach out to another and say “Thank you for what you’ve sacrificed.”
Over the years, I’ve come in contact with many Veterans of War. My younger brother served in Afghanistan. To this day, he doesn’t ‘talk’ about his time over there. We can respect that and we are grateful he sought the help he needed to live life back at home as a normal civilian. The men and women who go off to serve and protect our country, filled with pride and hope and love for their United States of America, don’t all return the same person as when they left. If they are blessed to return at all.
To all the men and women of war, I say from the bottom of my heart “Thank you for all you’ve done and for all you’ve sacrificed for us.”
Have a safe and memorable Memorial (Veterans) Day!