I mean honestly you guys, what can anyone say these days?
I don’t want to talk about Covid. I’m sick of Covid.
But when I opened my email to write about my dog Peanut and his escapades on our flight to California (more on that in a minute), my daughter the ICU nurse, texted me.
JULIE: I’m scared. And sad. My sixty-eight year old patient with Covid is so sweet but he is also super sick. I spent a lot of time holding his hand and watching him breathe.
ME: He’s lucky to have your soft hand to hold.
JULIE: my gloved hand.
And that made me sad.
Years ago, when I became a nurse I wanted to help people feel a little better when they were at their worst.
I left nursing for lots of reasons. Consistency was one of them. As a nurse, you must give the right people the right meds, one-hundred percent of the time. Not ninety percent. Not ninety five percent. Every. Single. Time. I am not that person.
I learned a lot in nursing school that I still use. We learned about the therapeutic use of touch. How non-sexual touch can ease pain, make people feel less alone, soothe their anxiety. As a nurse, I held hands, smoothed foreheads, patted backs.
There is none of that happening outside of our bubbles in the time of Covid. We can’t feel pulse points, comfort with a quick touch, let our cells say hello, I don’t know if that’s a thing but I like the idea of it.
It’s hard not to be sad and scared these days.
This is where Peanut and our airplane ride comes in. Airplane travel is new to Peanut but I was sure we could get to California without drama.This is what we call foreshadowing.
An hour into a turbulent flight, that had people (me) looking for the barf bag in the seat back pocket, I checked on Peanut. There, under the seat in front of me was the empty pet carrier bag. Flat. Dogless. Peanut had escaped.
I snapped to attention. I knew there was another dog on the plane and Peanut does not do well with other dogs. Before long Peanut was bound to sniff out the other dog and we would become a Twitter video about pet abuse and that would be the end of our jetsetter life.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of blond fur racing down the aisle toward the back of the plane. I stood and through my mask shouted at a woman behind me and across the aisle, “That’s my dog. Grab him!” The plane rolled a bit and I braced against my seat.
Peanut was too quick for that woman, but not too nimble for a starkly thin, bearded man who stretched his arms out like a hinged yardstick and scooped him up. Peanut became a floppy wash cloth in his grasp. I suspect he was relieved to be captured.
The man smiled. I saw it in his eyes, above his mask. He brought Peanut close to his face and brushed his temple against Peanut’s fur. He handed Peanut off to the woman across from him and she snuggled him too. The college student seated behind me collected my fluffy, nervous guy next. Despite having just pulled an Alcatraz escape, the boy told my doggo that he was a good boy, then he smoothed Peanut’s hair out of his eyes and patted his back.
No one was mad. No one looked scared. No one looked sad. They all looked happy to be touching a live, warm scoundrel. I confess, the whole thing had me swallowing hard and trying not to cry in gratitude but also, in love.
Back in my arms, I pretended to scold Peanut. I slid into my seat feeling like I had as a nurse, that through illness, rough air, and panic, sometimes we can be comforted by something that bridges our gaps; a touch, a snuggle, the fur of a stranger’s dog.
I’m hoping that through the gloved hand of my daughter, her patient felt the comfort of another person who cares, despite the latex between them. Our cells taking comfort where they can.
[Tweet “At least, I hope that’s true.”]
I wrote a bit more about my family of nurses and how to use worry. You can listen to me read it here.
Thank you to Samantha Hoffman – she edits all my posts.
Simone Dalmeri Took this photo