Now safely home and feeling the love of my cats, there has been time to reflect on the past ten days in the hospital. Every time I have been admitted to Weill Cornell Medical Center, I have come to expect to discover new angels of mercy willing to demand that last drop of energy out of you with love, caring and tenderness. The nurses and doctors of this revered institution have earned their stripes.
While this stay, I was not to be disappointed in the extend of their care and love. However there were new angels to be discovered doing this journey back to health in the hospital. As soon as you enter the institution you realize the enormous toll that Hurricane Sandy has taken on New York City. Two of New York's hospitals (New York University and Bellevue Hospitals) have closed pushing thousands of other patients toward other medical centers.
Entering Weill Cornell the reception areas of the hospital have been turned into triage and emergency room facilities with sheets hung over railings to separate room. Waits as long as two to three days are common just to find a hospital bed. Surgery patients are recovering in hall ways. There are a shortage of supplies and the EMT's, nurses, doctors and support staff are exhausted and swamped. The scenes resemble out of a war movie with public rooms being turned into care and treatment facilities.
What emerged from seeing first hand the extent of damage, injuries and infrastructure from Hurricane Sandy was a city full of angels. The tough course New Yorker in us all have turned into a city of love and caring behind close doors.
Watching the staff take care of the patients was truly inspiring. Even for the least sick demanding attention, there was a patience and understanding of the fear that Sandy has generated in our beloved city. At times, I was moved to tears by the tenderness of our city and genuine care being handled out freely to our fellow citizens in need.
There were the first responders coming back to talk and check on the people they rescued with broken bones, respiratory aliments and extreme infections. The appearance of the uniformed officer which brought a huge smile, the kind that a parent usually reserved for an only child, to the elderly's face. There were the EMT folks dealing with a situation not seen in decades of triage's being held in reception areas resulting in massive lines of stretchers in hallways. Each of the EMT folks came back to us and with caring tones reassuring us that we would be taken care of and helping ease the burden of the nurses and docs.
Then there was the senior scholar who was found in his home two days after Sandy unconscious against the wall with water up to his chest. The elegant and thoughtful man has been striped of all his humanity as his body was filled with broken bones and toxic water. In one storm he had gone from respected and lively presence in lower Manhattan to broken and fighting for his life.
More than once I was brought to tears watching as my room mate struggle to regain his life. In a scene that is reminiscent of Michelangelo's "Pieta" (photograph), the nurses speaking in hushed and respectful tones held his body in their arms, constantly whispering love and assurance. They bathed him, pumped water out of him and through their touch these tough New Yorkers breathed life back into his struggle to live. It remains to be seen if he will make it or add to the increasingly number of dead and wounded by Hurricane Sandy.
What is clear is these tough New Yorkers who have been through so much will never forget that we take care of each other in this city. New York found its angels this month from the first responders who rescued people as their own homes burned, the nurses working around the clock as their families sat in the dark at home, the tenderness of the manly man EMT's giving that reassuring pat and 'we are gonna make it' pep talk and to the doctors who as they got off their own shift who filled the Park Ave. Armory to tend to our seniors and more injured.
Don't be fooled. We are tough New Yorkers but in each of us is that special bond of being each others angels and making sure we all get through the darkness. Like the Marines, New Yorkers are determined that no person be left behind. There is simply nothing like a New Yorker Angel. We are a special breed.