I've been wanting to write this story down for a few weeks. Today's the day. Just before Labor Day, my grandfather (a.k.a Pop-Pop) fell sick and ended up having an emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder. To ease your mind, yes, he is alive and well and recovering nicely for an 83 year old man. He's spent his recovery period in a Golden LivingCenter. An assisted living facility for seniors recovering from surgery or illness. It's something in between a hospital and a retirement home. During his stay, my grandfather had a roommate who came in on the same day. This post is dedicated to him.
Dr. Gramling was his name. In his younger years, he was the head of radiology at South Fulton Medical Center. Now, he's stuck, recovering from a stroke, in the Golden LivingCenter. The morning of Labor Day, I rode with my father to visit Pop-Pop. As I entered his room, I glanced over at Dr. Gramling and caught his eye. In a demanding, uncompromising tone, he hollered, "Orange juice! 2! I want orange juice! 2!" At first, I was thoroughly confused. I thought this crazy old man was just saying hello to me. Maybe "orange juice!" is the new way to say "hi, how ya doin'?!" Then, it hit me. Duh! This dude thinks I'm part of the nursing staff and he wants me to bring him 2 orange juices. I relayed the message to my dad, and he headed down the hall to alert the nursing staff.
Not long after this incident, one of the male nurses came to visit Dr. Gramling. He immediately demanded two orange juices from the nurse and refused to cooperate in any fashion until he received them. I was completely amused by the power struggle between the two. The nurse trying to figure out the best strategy to coax the patient to cooperate but failing miserably as Dr. Gramling became more annoyed and incensed that his requests were not being respected. A physician's assistant was the next victim. She tried her damndest to keep an even tone and be kind while Dr. Gramling demanded orange juice and accused her of being mean and trying to kill him. Ha! Poor woman. She said, "But, you're being mean to us!" Then, she made the ghastly mistake of calling him, "Mr. Gramling." Oh God, any respect she may have earned from the good doctor immediatly flew out the window.
"It's DR. Gramling. Are YOU a doctor?!?"
At this point, I wanted to laugh out load, but I didn't think that was the appropriate response at the time. Here's the thing. The P.A. was apologetic, but her apology wasn't sincere. Her pride was hurt by the thrashing she was receiving, and she was losing her patience. I felt for her. All she wanted to do was make this man better, and he was being immensely difficult. However, I, also, felt for Dr. Gramling. Here was a man, who for the majority of his life gave the orders. He was an authority, and people jumped to action when he barked. As a stroke victim and an 88-year old patient, this identity was slipping away, ignored orange juice demand by ignored orange juice demand. That's a scary, scary place to be. Though I felt the pain of both P.A. and patient, I felt that in this instance the nursing staff needed to swallow their pride and turn eyes of compassion on this dying man. Here was a teacher (and I suspect that many of their patients fit this role) sent to challenge them and make them adapt and respond to him in way that would comfort him as opposed to incense him. What would make this man respect them enough to relinquish control and let them do their job properly? I don't know the answer to this question. I hope that, by now, someone in the facility has figured out the answer. With that, I give you....
Law #2 - Do not dismiss the Dr. Gramlings in your life. Your worst enemy may just be your greatest teacher.
Booyah! More words of wisdom from the Paddle!