We left Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh not aware we’d be returning only a few days later. The original procedure didn’t hold on to its promise. A Friday exit, then a Sunday return for another five days fix-up in a smaller, less accomodating room. The newer plastic mechanics seem to be working better, thankfully so. The fourteen days stretch, with that two day respite at home in between, was a long spread of time. Not too many opportunities to celebrate fun things.
Except one. Creature.
We sat patiently near a large revolving door in the Posner pavilion waiting for a chariot after visit #1 ended. Once the car arrived during a very pleasant Pittsburgh afternoon, a short wheelchair push through accomodating heavy glass doors gave us a chance for deep, fresh air in our lungs. So nice after five days. Even the bending sun coming under an overhang felt warmishly friendly on our faces.
Out of eyesight until my ears caught her saying, “Look, a puppy!”,… a sweet soul leashed onto Greta’s ever canine-attentive heart. She gently pointed her one free hand off to the right, but was unable to get the attention of the gentleman carrying the angel puppy. The one fun, furry, happy experience – given to her after five days of blah, colorless beeping and proding – looked like it was about to whisk by.
… and it did.
Others behind awaited their chariots as well. My sole beat-up Honda sat alone in the 5th level parking garage spot where I left it days prior. With Greta comfortable in the back seat of her transport and many thoughts of my own packed away in my brain, off I went back through the impersonal revolving doors … alone this time with any empty wheelchair.
Fate finally did allow an arched rainbow of color moments after I began my trek back through Posner. Fortunately, the shortest distance back to the parking garage was returning through the hospital, oh, and I suppose pushing an empty wheelchair up Centre Avenue wouldn’t have been the smartest thing to do, either.
Only a few feet back from the information desk, there they stood. A young man and his puppy. The same young man and puppy eluding Greta’s pleas moments before. The urge to stop was overcome by my sheer joy in seeing them. What an opportunity it was to at least get a picture to send to Greta! It wouldn’t be the same as a puppy-lover’s dream hug in person, but a picture could be worth a thousand barks in this case?
His name is, “Creature”, and the story was more than I expected.
The young man, perhaps in his 40’s, stood inches away. In a blue, apparently comfortable, t-shirt and wearing the all-too familiar paper hospital ID bracelet, his stature was taller than his smaller frame would suggest. His story began as I kindly asked for a picture and the puppy’s name to send to Greta…
A brain injury set his life back unexpectedly. As he said, “No one expects to lose their speech suddenly, without warning. One day you’re talking. The next? You can’t…I had a long road back.”
His recovery – in and out of the same hospital I would, unknowingly, find myself back in a few days hence – was long and tedious. Literally, one word at a time. “One word, one heartbeat at a time”, rang sympathetic in my brain as this is the purpose of DougHugs – the main reason I began this amateur quest after my seizure over three years ago.
Enter, “Creature” into his, then, confused world. By suggestion, he went to a humane society shelter. Thinking a puppy partner would help him through the maze of words, glancing into a litter of fur babies changed his life. Most scampering paws within the pen hustled toward the front anticipating a head scratch or nuzzle pat. Off in the corner sat a rather shy one. “Who is that little creature over there?”, gently spoke my friend in a fractured, soft manner. Slowly, the little one made his way forward – as the story was told to me. And so, the name stuck. So did the everlasting, deep love and friendship … and remarkable healing a year later.
As time was clicking forward, I did need to get a move on toward the parking garage. Picture in tow – as it were – and the empty wheelchair safely back ready for a quick cleaning spritz and reuse, I said a quick, gracious thanks and headed down a long hallway. I was not so quick to forget about Creature cradled in nurturing arms, but anxious to send Greta a picture. She needed a loving doggie. If not in person during a quick exit out, at least over a FB message as a reminder that she wasn’t alone during a long ride home.
A home where she could only stay a few short days until a return visit back to Shadyside had to happen.
I don’t know the rest of Creature’s story. In the bustle of that day, I neglected to catch the young man’s name. That little bit of information got by me. Hospital stays – with the admittances and discharges bookending such pleasures – are exhausting. The fact I even remembered my chariot was on level 5 surprises me to this day. I didn’t remember what I ate for breakfast that morning and I pushed down the same cafeteria fare every morning.
Well, however the story unfolds for Creature in his lifetime with his owner, he gave Greta a remarkable rehab on her way home … if only in a picture. We should all be so lucky to have a picture of healing like Creature in our phones like I do.
Maybe reaching out and saying, “Look, a puppy!”, could work for you sometime. You never know who may be around to snap a picture. Oh, and there might just be a story of healing and love behind it as well.
A picture is worth a thousand barks after all.