I’ll Call Him Ralph

Years ago I had a bit of surgery that resulted in a blood clot.  The doctors couldn’t say with “absolute certainty” that the surgery was the cause of the blood clot.   But even without the extensive training the doctors had, I could say quite convincingly the surgery did cause the blood clot.   I had knee surgery, within hours I had pain in my leg unrelated to the surgical site or damage.  I developed a blood clot that took many days to diagnose.  Almost a week.

By the time the doctor realized something was seriously wrong and the normal imaging tests were not showing what was so obviously a problem he had to send me to the hospital to have a different test.

I woke up that morning at 2 or 3 a.m. knowing something was wrong.   My husband at the time didn’t want to miss work to go to the ER.  Other’s I called didn’t want to get up.  I had returned to work two days after the surgery and had yet another doctor’s appointment later in this day.   I knew something was wrong.   But I didn’t want to go to the hospital alone.

I went to work and then to the doctor appointment.  I was a little worried.  The doctor did the ultrasound test yet again.   It showed nothing.   But looking at my leg with eye balls showed something terribly wrong.

The doctor’s office told me to go to the hospital and sit in the cafeteria.    Don’t go anywhere else.  Do NOT go any where else.  The hospital imaging schedule was completely full and he couldn’t get me in until after they were closed.   What he doesn’t quite understand is that while I was in his exam room I could hear him where ever he was, on the phone, with the hospital yelling “SHE HAS A POTENTIALLY FATAL EVENT GOING ON NO SHE CAN NOT WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW!!!!”

I took comfort from his passion for my circumstance if it was in addition to a little bit of panic.

The lady who did the test, and her assistant, were in hushed dialogue and not happy campers being ordered to do this test after 5 p.m. after their shift was over.  I didn’t blame them.  They were very nice.  But I appreciated their desire to end their day’s work and go home.   They were stiff lipped, but polite.  They just wanted to be done.   She tells me the needle between my toes would hurt.  I told her, no it did not, I couldn’t feel anything.  The pain in the leg was masking it so there was a bit of good luck.   When they completed the process of putting dye in me, running this and that machine I hear him say to her “should I move her?”

She says “NO!”

She comes over and turns a monitor so I can see it and says very kindly and in very specific terms and with very clear images  “Colleen you have a blood clot.   From here” and she points to my leg image still hanging to the right on the monitor above my head.  She taps the part that I see as my ankle and runs her finger up my imaged leg along the white of the bone “…to here”.   She stops right below my hip.  Her finger resting where, if she was touching me, my leg would be bent at the point it joins my torso.  She pointed out the white line of my bones and I see at the very top and the very bottom an odd shadow.  She says that shadow should be running the length of my leg.  And carrying blood.   She said that it is 100% blocked.  I had no pulse in my foot.


I spend seven days in the hospital.

Months off of work.

Then I return to work.

One day I’m sitting in my office and an acquaintance calls.  I know him because of work.  I’ll call him Ralph.   He knew I had been gone and asked questions.  I gave him answers.

He was older than I.  He was soft spoken.  Kind.  A master at what he did for a living and a master at his passions.  One of his passions was self defense and safety.  One of his passions was his beliefs.

As I told him what had happened he expressed concern, sympathy and expressions for continued health.  He asked about the healing.  I told him it was coming along and was surprised at the length of time it was taking.  I had no idea such a beast (clot) existed and was obviously clueless before it happened to me what it could do to someone.

He asked me if he could pray for me.  I was surprised.  Not upset or offended.  I was young.  I was ignorant of other’s faiths, beliefs, and other’s walk with their faiths and beliefs.  I said “okay”.

He asked me to put my hand on my healing leg.  So I sat in my office with the phone in one hand and my other hand on my leg.   I felt….odd.  I felt….goofy.  But I complied.

I can’t remember Ralph’s prayer.  But I remember some other things.  And since then I have thought of this often.  And have had many moments of comfort from his willingness to pray for me and to give me comfort.

I have learned, since then, many things.

And I think of Ralph’s prayer often.

Even though I don’t remember his prayer I remember other things that have been discovered by me since that prayer.

I realized that, sadly, it takes courage for a man or woman to speak up and say they believe in this (THIS could be any form of faith or belief system) and they want to use their experience in this to comfort you.    It will cost you nothing but they want you to know that they are using this of theirs, to comfort you.  I wasn’t asked to believe in anything.   There was no preaching or requests for me to join anything.   I was given an offering of comfort as an extension of human compassion.

I realized that whether I share this with the person offering comfort is irrelevant.   What matters is that I accept a fellow human beings kind wishes and offering of comfort.

I have learned that it is very difficult for many people to accept offerings of comfort and kindness from sources that they don’t understand.  Because it differs from their own beliefs.

I have also learned that there are many people who don’t believe in anything  but can be  gracious, say thank you, and accept the gift offered as it was meant to be accepted.  An offering of sympathy or compassion and a gift that is not expected to be repaid.   Because a gift is….a gift.  Given freely.

I don’t write this to point out our differences in beliefs and faiths and walks in life.  I write this so I can again take comfort from knowing there are people who care about me, you, us.   That despite our differences (that I’m not trying to expound on) we have many similarities.   We have desires to help, comfort and aide.  We don’t have to know one another deeply or well to wish for, pray for, hope for, think for-good things for one another.

I often think of Ralph and his willingness to share this that gave him comfort.   He got nothing out of it.  He wanted nothing out of it.   His hope was for me.

And I take comfort and hope from anyone who is prayerful, wishful, hopeful or just thinkful for good things for me and our world.