Search This Blog

Monday, December 12, 2016

History Windows

Thanksgiving Dinner during WWII
As a photographer and paramedic, I have been blessed (sometimes cursed) with the ability to permanently capture the world around me in vivid, exquisite detail, in "History Windows" (pictures). Each profession, I believe, has made me better at the other.

Saturday night, I worked with Jamie. It was our first time together though we had known each other for years. The call volume was steady. A little of this, a little of that. Some needed advanced life support and others not. Around 02:30 in the morning, we went to the address of a 92 year old female who was having gastrointestinal discomfort. She had recently been hospitalized for the same and probably would benefit by returning tonight - just not with the care of the paramedics as she was completely stable.

I disconnected my equipment and explained to the family that the local EMS agency would be taking their mother back to the hospital. Across the bed from me was the patient's son and daughter in-law, tired, frightened and out of their comfort zone, as they were not from the area and were probably tired of dealing with mom's medical issues.

While talking to the son, I noticed a very large, stunning black & white photograph of a newly married husband and wife on their special day about 3/4's of a century earlier. It took my breath away, the etched excitement, happiness and hope in their smiles - present, their entire future - ahead.

So here we were in the midst of her future, particularly the part wedding vows refer to as "in sickness" but her other half had long since left, as did most of those she knew from that time.

I excused myself and told the son, "I apologize for staring. That picture is striking. I, I'm a photographer also." Distressed, he couldn't offer a smile but he did ask, "You like pictures? I'll show you a picture." He circled the bed and led me out of the room and into the kitchen. There on the wall was a large, elegantly framed,  photo somewhat similar to the one above. It was, of course, black & white (as were all pictures of that era). The picture was composed beautifully as it used vanishing points and the rule of 3rds which any photographer will understand. In the middle at the most distant end (the vanishing point) were the patient's two grandparents. Flanking the grandparents were a seated group of young adults, male and female emerging into the foreground. Between them was an enormous spread that lined every inch of the rectangular Thanksgiving table. Along the right side were six GI's in their pressed army uniforms, their smiles as broad as their shoulders and behind them, standing, were two beautiful young maidens.

At a glance; "Meah, an old picture of some people at a table. Big deal." The same response we sometimes have toward our patients, 'another gomer,' or 'waste of our time.' Nothing will put you at odds with me faster than disrespect for the elderly. We do not 'sling lizards' or whatever other ignorant pejorative idiots use. We are their guardians and protectors for as long as we wear this patch and do this work.

The picture (History Window), her son explained, was taken after combat had ceased in Germany and Japan. The six handsome GI's were all her brothers, safely home from the different theaters and the second fair maiden, her sister. Our patient is now the sole survivor of the lot.

I was happy that I got to share a moment of her long life and that in that moment, I earned her trust, made her smile and even dance with me as I helped her from the bed and spun her around into the awaiting stair-chair.

It was the first and probably last time we would exchange glances.  My position as a paramedic granted me access to a moment with this beautiful nonagenarian. And now she and her family are etched permanently into my History Window.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. Watch for and record your moments, your History Windows.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Giving Thanks and Seeing Why

Much has occurred recently, some good, some bad, some by design and some by coincidence. All of it has lead to a late November holiday worth truly giving thanks.

On Health
I've been a diagnosed type II diabetic since my Nicolette was born 20 years ago. The disease has a lot more complexity to it than just managing a euboxic glucose range.
Good diabetics go visit their eye doctors annually. I am a good diabetic. By the age of forty I began wearing glasses. Unsure if my vision was declining due to age, diabetes or a combination of, I kept visiting and every so often, he kept changing my prescription. Me, a photographer and avid reader with declining eye sight - go figure. Last year he dropped this bomb on me; "Steve you're developing a cataract in your right eye. We're not going to worry about it unless it begins to affect your vision." "Cataracts?!" I yelled. "Cataracts are what my grandparents get!" This guy was obviously unaware that I'm a Paramedic and thus immune to bullets, disease and yes - cataracts!
Fast forward to this year. Eye dr. finds evidence of a large, abnormal blood vessel that is bleeding right in my macula (DME - Diabetic Macular Edema). This vessel is exactly what diabetics go blind from. It's not gradual either (or so I'm told), you just wake up one day and are irreversibly blind. He gave me a name of a retina specialist in Little Silver, NJ and told me; "Steve, you need to make this appointment... not two months from now, not two weeks from now, you call tomorrow." Okay, so now I'm scared senseless I might lose my eyesight. The ONLY bright side is I could finally get a cute dog I rationalized. Alright, alright, back to my unfolding tragedy. 
I get to this specialists office and I have to be the youngest patient in the waiting room. Everyone else there are septua and octagenarians, I'm not even fifty! Long story short, the specialist was happy we caught this early and young. We attacked the problem with a combination of injections and laser treatments to both eyes. After several visits, he wished me well and assured me, not that I'll never go blind, but that I won't go blind from that cause. Reassuring.
A few weeks ago I visit my eye doctor hoping he will write a new script to replace my old, scratched and beat up glasses. He would not. No combination of lenses could correct my sight. The cataract (a cluster of proteins that build in the lens of the eye leading to blurry, decreased vision and the principal cause of blindness around the world) had grown and was now encroaching on my field of vision to the point it needed to be removed surgically.
This past Monday (Nov. 21, 2016), I sat in the chair was sedated and had a cataract removed from my right eye. I spent an uncomfortable day wearing a patch. Disoriented and escorted by my Kimmie wherever I went I, a level-headed individual impervious to anxiety, was near a full-blown anxiety attack. Tuesday I returned to the doctor to have the patch removed and my eyesight restored.
The patch was removed and the battery of tests began. I knew immediately there was drastic improvement when I read several lines of the eye chart I haven't been able to read in years. The doctor was equally impressed when he stated how significant and drastic the results were.
Like a scene in a movie, I gazed at the world around me. I observed the lines, colors and shades with a child-like enthusiasm as I realized I had not seen this well since my childhood. It truly looked like God put the world through a car wash and added a coat of ArmorAll for good measure.

I opened several of my photography apps on my phone to view some recent photos I shot and I actually cried as they looked so incredibly rich compared to what I had been seeing seemingly forever.

So this Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful for having health benefits, for fantastic doctors and their teams of specialists and for having my eyesight back.

Giving Thanks