Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Catch of the Day

Laughter is higher than all pain.

Elbert Hubbard

A phone call.

A plane ride.

A race to the hospital.

I still shuddered at the thought. I had come so close to losing Kyle. Although he wasn’t out of the woods yet, at least he was stabilized. At least he was still alive.

In the mean time,my life settled into a routine of its own. A simple breakfast, a ninety-minute drive, and each day spent visiting the care unit to spend time with my twenty-two-year-old son—before the long drive home at night.

During the coma, pneumonia attacked his lungs, infections invaded his blood, and bedsores appeared in odd places. On the other hand, while he was asleep, his cracked ribs healed, his lungs reinflated, and his crushed leg accepted the titanium rod. Now that he was awake and alert, I fretted over the “wait-and-see” outcome of his severe head trauma.

Early on, I had hardly recognized my son. Kyle was like a voodoo doll. Needles, wires, and catheters pierced him. Hoses shackled him. Tubes and cords crisscrossed his body like a fishing net. And it felt odd to see him prone, horizontal, still.

Before this hit-and-run biking accident, nothing about Kyle was still. He was as lively as one of the trout on his stringer—busy flipping and flopping between one activity and the next. Fishing was only one of his outdoor hobbies, like archery and camping. He roamed the foothills of Colorado’s Front Range and hunted the Rockies for signs of elk and deer, hoping for a glimpse of moose. And, of course, he tossed the occasional line into icy mountain rivers, looking for relaxation along with a mess of fish to cook over his campfire for supper.

Nevertheless, he was handling his hospitalization better than I was. Those first tenuous hours had melted into days and the days into weeks. Dark circles ringed my eyes, worry lines gridded my forehead, and clothes hung on my too-thin frame. I was exhausted. Utterly worn down. Kyle noticed, I could tell. Now he was worrying about me.

But today was different.

Even before the elevator doors slid fully open, I heard it. Laughter. Laughter?

Oh, it wasn’t the stilted laughter of awkward visitors. It wasn’t even the brittle laughter born of tension. It was real laughter. From the belly. And it was coming from Kyle’s room.

I paused at the threshold, hardly believing my ears . . . and eyes. The room pulsed with more than the beeps of monitors. It throbbed with the life that only laughter brings. And it was due to Liam, a new nurse.

His was a one-man comedy routine. He cast out snappy jokes, witty one-liners, and rib-tickling stories. Not only was Kyle actually grinning, so was the small crowd of staff that had collected to provide an avid audience and to egg Liam on—while he reeled in everyone with his nonsense.

My initial reaction was indignation. How dare he? Didn’t this cocky male nurse know the seriousness of Kyle’s condition? Didn’t he understand how to act in a hospital room?

As I paused in frustration, I looked toward my son—and witnessed a slow smile spread across his face. It widenened until it erupted into a full-fledged grin. His golden eyes were bright as they met mine. I could see his own quick wit itching to toss out a few quips of his own. I knew that, if it weren’t for the trach at the base of his throat, he would be matching Liam, joke for joke. Suddenly, for the first time in weeks, my own spirits lightened and lifted . . . with hope.

I, too, found myself responding to the gags and tales. It dawned on me that Liam’s vivaciousness, his optimism, and his contagious cheer weren’t an intrusion; they were antidotes. Good medicine. A clear reminder that life has its joyous moments, too.

And, thanks to Liam’s example, I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that humor heals. Hook, line, and sinker.

Carol McAdoo Rehme

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