Thursday Re-View — “Wounded Hearts”



The young father walked down the hall, each of his daughters holding one of his hands. He looked to be in his thirties and his daughters, perhaps 3 and 5 years old. They were dressed like little princesses – dresses with skirts that puffed out, patent leather shoes and white socks with embroidered flowers and ruffles. Their mood matched their father’s – quiet, determined, serious. It was almost as if his energy flowed into theirs and they became one. You could barely hear their footfalls in the long hallway, the lowered lighting bathing them in softness from behind.

Late at night, a special visitation, they were on the Trauma-Neuro floor of the hospital where I worked. They were on their way to see their wife and mother.

In her thirties, she was in her prime – physically fit from the bicycling that was her passion. Each year, she bicycled several times a year for different charities that were close to her heart. Today’s was for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where they provide care and find cures for sick children at no cost.

Late at night, a special visitation, her husband and two daughters were on their way for a visit.

Earlier that day, as everyone was packing up and leaving the successful Bike-a-Thon fund-raising event, the young mother was struck by a small panel truck that barreled through an intersection without brakes. Med Evac flew her to our trauma center. But it was too late… In spite of all that modern medicine had to offer, massive head injuries left this young wife and mother brain dead. Her family was here to say good-bye before she was removed from life support.

When gathering her things together before her family arrived, I looked at her driver’s license, seeing her smiling eyes and the words “Organ Donor” stamped on its front. She would still be giving of herself after death, and several of her organs were already designated to people across the country.

Late at night, a special visitation, her husband and two daughters were on their way to say good-bye.

As I watched the small family enter her room, I couldn’t help but think of all that she would miss of her daughters’ lives – kindergarten and grammar school, getting their driver’s license and experiencing their first kiss, senior prom, graduation, college and another graduation, their weddings, the births of their own children – gone forever in an instant. A tragedy unfolding in the privacy of her hospital room…

Trauma-Neuro was always quiet at night; those with severe head trauma were often kept in a medically-induced coma while their brain swelling was monitored. I walked toward the only other person near-by – a young resident who had been looking at the wall of monitors behind the nurse’s station. He stood still, staring off into nothingness. Tears welled in his eyes.

I placed my hand over his clenched fist that rested on the counter.

“I shouldn’t be like this,” he ground out without even looking at me, wiping a stray tear from his cheek with his free hand.

“How can you not be?” I offered quietly. “You’re exactly the kind of doctor this family needs right now.” I hesitated. “You’re exactly the kind of doctor medicine needs.”

As he dropped his chin to his chest, I felt his fist relax, as we stood together, both hearts weeping.

I heard a muffled “thank you” and looked up to see the young family standing just past the nurse’s station. The man’s eyes filled with tears, he slowly turned and walked away, his back stiff as he held his girls’ hands. As they walked down the hallway, passing through the shadows, a soft light bathed them in a familiar shape – wings??? – before they exited through the door.

Angel wings VI

Sacred ground.

Time stopped. A mother who bicycled for charity, breathing with life support until her family said good-bye and her organs were harvested; two little girls in ruffles and bows, their lips quivering with an unnamed fear; a young husband and father walking toward an unthinkable future in agonized disbelief; and, a physician who now understood that not all stories have a happy ending and that sometimes the simple one word question – “Why?” – is so terribly vast and complex that any acceptable answer defies human comprehension.

At that moment, I heard the soft strains of Brahms’ Lullaby echoing from the hospital’s public address system to announce the birth of a new child in the maternity wing.

As one life ends, another begins in the eternal cycle. An ending to be mourned and a beginning to be celebrated. Second chances made possible by the gift of life from a selfless woman.

I celebrate all of you for coming into my life – the mother and father, their daughters, the doctor…and yes, even the new baby. I keep you in my heart awash with blessings.

Interconnected. Circles of Compassion. Circles of Grace.


Thoughts and Prayers Needed

I have been called to volunteer as a Disaster Mental Health responder at the dedication and opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The Red Cross deploys me tomorrow for the next 7 days. Invited visitors to this dedication preview period will include victims’ families, first responders, recovery workers, survivors and residents of Lower Manhattan. Licensed Mental Health Professionals have been requested to be available on-site in what is sure to be an emotionally charged environment.

Your thoughts and prayers will be appreciated, to give me the strength needed to support each and every person in need who might cross my path during this deployment.

My daily quotes and weekly posts will continue as usual; however, I may not be able to “like” or comment on your sites.

I will return on May 22nd, if I survive the NYC Transit System.

With gratitude and blessings to all of my blogging family…


If I Had My Life to Live Over…


If I had my life to live over, I would…

  • watch more sunsets
  • not try to be perfect
  • eat more pasta & pizza
  • learn how to play the piano
  • go sailing at least once a month
  • use moisturizer at a younger age
  • take more naps while it rained outside
  • let my hair get messed up by the wind
  • talk to more animals
  • know that I was blessed earlier in life
  • act sillier
  • bake more brownies
  • appreciate my parents more
  • give more hugs
  • listen more and talk less
  • learn how to conduct an orchestra
  • be more flexible
  • lay down in a field of purple flowers
  • travel more
  • read more books to my son
  • color outside the lines
  • listen to more classical music
  • live in a stone cottage by the sea
  • work smarter, not harder
  • make more snow angels
  • be happy with the way I looked
  • hunt the Northern Lights once a year
  • volunteer in another country
  • take a cathedral tour of Europe
  • have a second child
  • go to school to be a therapist first
  • learn how to say “no”
  • take more pictures
  • laugh more
  • eat more chocolate
  • follow more rainbows
  • spend an entire month exploring Pompeii & Herculaneum
  • figure out how to travel through time
  • visit more castles
  • learn how to oil paint
  • write a book
  • jump into more piles of autumn leaves
  • visit more countries
  • spend more time in silence at monasteries
  • plant more wildflowers

Since I have an indeterminate amount of time left in this life, I need to see which of these I can still accomplish. I’m going to start by watching tonight’s sunset.

If you had your life to live over, what would you do differently???

What I’ve Learned From My New Love

I’ve learned a lot from my new love.

Those of you who follow me or read my posts know of what I speak; those of you who missed it, before reading any further, I’d invite you to peruse In Love Again at My Age?

Back with me? Good.

I’m talking about my Pittsburgh Hays Eagle Family: Mom, Dad, and their 3 eaglets. I’ve watched them live on the Eagle Cam for almost two months now, when the Mom laid 3 eggs. Here’s what I’ve learned from being addicted to watching:

  • Mom and Dad take turns incubating the eggs, but Mom always does it overnight
  • the eggs are never left alone, whether being watched over by Mom, Dad or me
  • my eyes aren’t as good as when I was younger, since I kept imagining I saw hairline cracks in the eggs when there weren’t any (turned out they were small twigs)
  • the eggs hatch at their own rate, in their own time, regardless of how much I sing them sweet lullabies
  • just because the last egg took so long to hatch doesn’t mean there was a birth defect involved
  • I didn’t cry when the eaglets were born, but I was a proud Mother regardless (now that I think about it, my nose does resemble a beak at times)
  • the baby eaglets are never left unattended
  • the youngest eaglet now seems to respond to my voice when I croon into my computer
  • the youngest eaglet now seems to respond to my commands during feeding time (“Push your way between them – you have to get something to eat!”)

pittsburgh eaglets V

  • it hasn’t taken me long to learn the lyrics to the “Circle of Life,” which I especially bellow when the parents bring back fresh fish or fowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner (“Some say eat or be eaten, some say live and let live…”)
  • that eaglets have that “in-between,” awkward “tween” stage, same as humans, when they’re not so cute any more (they lurch like Godzilla on huge, yellow clown feet)
  • that eaglets have that same adolescent phase when they start to grow a beard feathers and eat voraciously, snatching food from their very own siblings in a take-no-prisoners manner
  • the youngest eaglet no longer responds to my commands when it perches precariously on the edge of its (up to) 2,000 pound nest (“Get away from the edge!  You don’t have feathers yet and your wings won’t work!  You’ll fall out of the nest and suffer from severe head trauma…”)
  • it hasn’t taken me long to learn the lyrics to the “Circle of Life,” which I especially bellow when the baby gets too close to the nest’s edge (“Some of us fall to the wayside, and some of us soar to the stars…”)  My voice:  “Get away from the edge – now!  Can’t you hear me all the way in Pittsburgh???”
  • the youngest eaglet has a healthy appetite and gets fed well, since it poops on a regular basis with unerring accuracy (“Look how cute!  It leans forward, sticks its butt in the air, shakes back and forth, then lets that white stuff shoot out in a straight-as-an-arrow stream…bull’s eye!”).  Note: my husband, who thought I was crazy when I called him at work to report the first successfully sighted bowel movement, now gleefully reports his own BMs.  Actually, not his own, but whenever he sees one of the eaglets let it rip with such gusto…
  • that eagle parents allow their kids to be more and more on their own in the nest as they get older, but watch alertly from a branch in a near-by tree, ready to swoop in at the first sign of danger or a party with underage drinking
  • that eagle parents need a date night, just like humans, to keep their mate-for-life love alive

pittsburgh eaglets IV

 “In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life…”

~music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice


Monday Meeting — Superhero Window Washers

Superhero window washers give young hospital patients a lift
By Colleen Mastony
Los Angeles Times – April 24, 2014

CHICAGO — The nurses on the 20th floor were the first to see them. “Oh my goodness,” declared Colleen Forrester, 29, a nurse dressed in green scrubs, who pointed to the windows. Other nurses came to look and laughed. Were the children strong enough to come see?

Soon, parents and nurses were leading kids out of their rooms. The children were small and frail-looking. Most were undergoing treatment for cancer and other serious disorders.

But on this cold April morning, they had a precious moment of distraction.

The window washers at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago were dressed as superheroes. All morning, Captain America, Batman and Spider-Man swung on ropes outside the windows – waving to the children, posing for pictures – in what is fast becoming a semiannual tradition.

superheroes II

“Wow. They are so high up,” said a wide-eyed Mason Turngren, 8, whose colon is failing and who has been in and out of the hospital the last four years. On Tuesday, he was exhausted from the most recent battery of tests and had to be coaxed to the window. Once there, he was transfixed. Mason waved to the heroes and put his hand on the glass to exchange a high-five with Captain America.

That moment meant a lot to Mason’s mom, Dusty Turngren, 42. “Just to see a smile on his face,” she said. The hospital had offered other events in recent days, including a visit from a therapy dog, but none had aroused Mason’s interest. Then he heard that Spider-Man was outside.

“Superheroes are his favorite,” said his mother, “especially Spider-Man.” Mason spent half an hour at the windows.

The superhero window washers made their first appearance at Lurie last year after Phil Kujawa, 46, the foreman of the crew, saw a news report about a similar event in another city. He mentioned the idea to his bosses at Chicago-based Corporate Cleaning and quickly got the green light.

Then Kujawa had the little issue of getting his crew to don the capes and tights. “At first, they were like, ‘I am not wearing that,'” Kujawa recalled.

He emphasized how much it would mean to the kids, and eventually won over his crew.

Each window washer, Kujawa said, was selected for his experience and skill. (Because of the architectural details on the building, Lurie Children’s is not an easy building to clean, he said.) What’s more, each man had to look like a hero.

Roberto Duran, 32, with a chiseled jaw and clean-cut good looks, would make a perfect Captain America, his bosses thought. Gerardo Vaca, 36, with a short, athletic build, seemed more a Spider-Man type.

And Pedro Castro, 45, with a bushy mustache, was chosen to become Batman “as a little bit of a joke,” Kujawa. “We wanted to see what he would look like in a costume.”

Now, he said, his team revels in the chance to assume the super identities.

superheroes III

“They smile and wave their hands,” Vaca said of the kids. “They are so happy. I like (dressing up) because I like to see their happy faces.”

Evelina London Children’s Hospital in England might have been the first to ask its window washers to don tights and capes, according to news reports. After photos of the superhero window washers hit the Internet a few years ago, the idea spread to children’s hospitals around the world.

Doctors at Lurie believe – even if they can’t cite scientific studies to prove it – the happiness that is generated by “Superhero Day” can help children heal. “There is power in laughter and joy and excitement,” said Dr. Stewart Goldman, a neuro-oncologist at Lurie. “I can’t quote you a trial, but I know in my heart that it helps.”

The heroes swung back and forth in front of patients’ windows, lingering outside each floor, before lowering themselves again. Everywhere they went, they created a stir of excitement.


Ricky Canas, 27, stood away from the crowd with his 10-year-old sister, Angelina, a tiny girl with a tall IV pole. She got sick in February; doctors found a tumor in her liver. The days since have been long and terrifying. But Angelina has been a trouper, through the biopsy and surgery and now in the run-up to chemotherapy.

“I always liked superheroes,” Canas said. He looked down at his sister, and gently touched her delicate chin. It was clear that Canas thought his sister was the real hero of the day. “Someone told me once, ‘We don’t have to find heroes. We can be our own.'”