Mary was awakened by two young African-American nurses.
“Good morning, Mrs. Cusak. My name is Shawanda and this is my twin sister Shawnda. Don’t try to tell us apart. You won’t be able to do so unless you see our name tags. We are here to give you your bath.”
The twin sisters went to work with remarkable efficiency. They bathed every part of Mary and changed her gown in an amazing short period of time and without causing her very much pain. She felt so good and refreshed after the bath.
“Thank you so much.”
After that she was served breakfast. The nurse cranked up the head of the bed so that she was sitting up to eat. She really didn’t crank it. The bed has an electric motor. Mary still didn’t have much of an appetite. She drank the juice and picked at the grits. There was a can of Ensure and she drank all of it.
When the nurse came to pick up her tray, she said,
“Try to eat some food. The medicines need something to work with. I’m glad you drank the Ensure. It has a lot of nourishment in it.”
After that Wanda and Shawnda came in. Wanda lowered the head of my bed.
“I’m going to let Shawnda unwrap your dressing. After I look at it, she will wash it and apply the new dressing. I have been a nurse for twenty-four years and she has only been a nurse for three years. I’ll be the first to say that she is better with dressings that I have ever been or ever will be.”
Shawnda smiled and quickly unwrapped the dressing. She did it so smoothly that Mary didn’t feel a thing. Wanda came over and looked at the stump and leaned over to smell it. Afterward Shawnda washed it and patted it dry. That did hurt somewhat. Then she applied the new dressing. When she was finished, she and Wanda rolled Mary onto her left side. They did not work together as well as Wanda and Ilene. Mary asked them to hand her the Kindle before they left the room. Shawnda also moved the TV remote/call button to the left side of the bed.
Lying on her left side Mary worked on a jigsaw puzzle program. She was able to complete two jigsaw puzzles of old masterpiece paintings before it was time to roll her onto her right side. This time Shawanda and Shawnda were working together. They worked very well together and spared Mary as much pain as possible.
The pain of lying on the stump made it impossible to concentrate on a puzzle or reading a book on the Kindle. Fortunately, she was distracted by a visitor. It was a Red Cross volunteer. They had wrapped her in a paper gown and she was wearing a paper cap and a mask over her nose and mouth.
“Mrs. Cusak, I am Mrs. Boudreaux from the Louisiana Red Cross. I want to take down your personal information so that when your loved ones are looking for you, they will know where to find you. Your name is Mary Cusak?”
“What is your husband’s name?”
“Karl Ruderich Cusak”
“Do you have children?”
“Just one, a daughter, Dana Delania Cusak.”
“Before the earthquake you lived where?”
“Victoria, Arkansas. My father lived several miles down the road in Whistleville.”
“What is his name?”
“Henry Wallace Fairfield.”
“Mrs. Cusak, the Red Cross will record this information. If someone is looking for you, they would be directed to the Red Cross. For right now, they would have to know that you are in Monroe, Louisiana. That would be unlikely. After things settle down, I’m sure someone will know how to merge the records of the various locations, create a huge database so that someone looking for you would just have to give your name.”
“You are a lovely woman. I hope you find all of your family and that they all are well.”
When she left, Shawanda came with Mary’s lunch.
“Whew, lady, I don’t know how you can eat lunch lying on your side. I think that I am going to do some cheating, if you promise not to tell on me.”
She smoothly rolled Mary onto her back and raised the head of the bed. She rolled the bedside table into place and set the tray of food on it. Mary used the trapeze hand to pull herself into a more comfortable position. Lunch was some kind of fish croquet, carrots and peas, soup, crackers, jello, Ensure, and iced tea.
Mary wondered why Shawanda left her lying on her back when she finished lunch. She didn’t have to wonder long. Shawanda returned and removed the dressing on her stump. Doctor Kubicki came and looked at her stump intently. He pressed his fingers and thumb at various places on her leg. Then he stood up and smiled,
“I am very pleased. If the healing continues to progress this well, tomorrow we will begin with the elastic bandages.
“What I am concerned about the most is your kidneys’ functioning. You were unattended for a long period of time after that crush injury occurred. Theoretically you could be close to death, but you are not. Maybe the pile of debris on your legs acted like a tourniquet of sorts. I don’t know. I do know that enough of that toxin made its way through your body that it has affected your kidneys. We are giving you daily dialysis treatments to flush the toxin out of your body. We are hoping that the kidneys will repair themselves and begin functioning again.
“If you believe in prayer, this is a good time to start. I’ve seen the Lord do things that I can’t do and never heard about in medical school.”
“Doctor, my mamaw lived in a log cabin on the frontier in Arkansas. They didn’t have doctors. They treated themselves with remedies they learned from Indians, other settlers, or what they learned by experiment. She always told me that the best thing for kidney complaints was cranberry juice.”
“There is a lot we could learn from folk medicine. I’ll do everything that I know how to do. We’ll take your mamaw’s advice, and don’t forget to ask the Lord for His help.
“Nurse, get this patient some cranberry juice now and see that she gets it at every meal and whenever else she asks for it.”
“Yes, Doctor Kubicki.”
After he had gone Shawanda said,
“That was a first. He usually gets mad if a patient tells him something they think ought to be done.”
With that she began applying a new dressing. Before she was done, the big dialysis machine was being pushed toward her bed. It was good timing because she had to be on her back for the dialysis treatment.
“Can I leave the head of the bed elevated?”
She pretended that she was in a lawn chair back in Victoria. She took the Kindle from the bedside and continued reading the book she had been reading in a lawn chair on the grass in front of their home in Victoria. Reading made the time go by more quickly than it would have otherwise. The nurse was finished and was rolling up the hoses and wires.
“How am I doing?”
The nurse shrugged her shoulders and said,
“You’ll have to ask the doctor.”
When she left, Shawanda reappeared with Shawnda in tow. They had come to turn her onto her stomach. Before they began, they lowered the head of the bed. Shawanda said,
“You should have had your pain shot a half hour before being turned onto your stomach. I couldn’t give it to you during dialysis, As soon as we are finished turning you, I’ll go for the pain shot.
The turning was unusually painful. Soon after the pain shot, the pain went away like a wave rolling back into the sea. Mary soon dropped off to sleep. The next thing she was aware of was the nurse twins returning to her bed to turn her onto her right side.
When they were finished, Wanda appeared. She said,
“There is a Baptist minister who wants to know if he can visit with you. If you say No, I can send him packing.”
“Let him come in, but tell him that I am tired.”
A few minutes later, an elderly man dressed in a paper gown and face mask and carrying a small Bible came into her roomette.
“Mrs. Cusak, my name is Reverend Rowell. Thank you for allowing me to visit with you. I am Baptist and your card says that you are Baptist so we have that in common. I understand that you are tired, so I will just read a Scripture passage and then have prayer with you. What things could I pray for you?”
Mary’s chin trembled and her eyes filled with tears.
“I want to know if my husband and my daughter and my father are all right. I want my kidneys to start functioning again. I want to thank God for sparing my life.”
By the time she had finished, her chest was heaving with distress. The minister read Psalm 23 to her, prayed for her concerns, and finished with the Lord’s Prayer. His voice was smooth and almost melodic. By the time he was finished, Mary was calm and at peace.
“Please come to see me again.”
“I will, child.” After two hours on her stomach they came back and turned her onto her back so that she would be in that position for supper. When supper came there was a can of cranberry juice. She said to herself,
“Mamaw, I am depending on this to get me better. Don’t let me down.”
So far she hadn’t turned on the television set. That evening she turned it on for the rest of the time that she was on her back. When they turned her onto her left side, she turned the television off.
When the shifts changed, she was happy to see that Merrybelle was on duty again. Somehow Merrybelle seemed like a mother to her. She couldn’t explain it, even to herself, but this amputation, at least for the time being, almost reduced her to the status of a child. She felt secure with Merrybelle taking care of her. She slept that night almost the whole night. When Merrybelle went off duty, she again thanked her profusely.
After the morning routine of bathing, changing her gown and her dressing and turning her, Shawnda brought her breakfast. She had hardly started when Shawanda ran in very excited,
“Mrs. Cusak, Mrs. Cusak! We saw your daughter on television. Dana Cusak. On the news they had this news item about the earthquake in Arkansas. They showed scenes of damage in different towns. Then at the tag end of the piece the announcer said that in Osceola they brought a number of survivors to the airport. They were mostly women and children. They were supposed to be flown to some city with shelters for the earthquake survivors on Tuesday. But Tuesday it was raining so hard that the planes couldn’t fly. All these children were in this hangar. They were scared and crying. A girl named Dana Cusak and her friend Rosalita got all the children together and started leading them in playing games, singing songs, telling them stories. The mothers were really grateful.
“It was on Headline News. They usually repeat the same stories every hour all morning. An hour from now, we’ll make sure your television is on so you can see it for yourself.”
Mary didn’t know what to say. Her eyes filled with tears. Dana was alive and all right. Rosalita, a Mexican girl was the same age as Dana and they had been best friends since the Cusaks moved to Victoria,
The next hour Mary watched the television transfixed. She saw Dana leading the children in games and singing. She looked happy and well. Words cannot describe the emotions she felt. She thanked the Lord over and over for this unexpected blessing.
Someone in the hospital administration heard about it and called a local television station. Even though it had not been on their station they promised to record the program on a DVD for Mrs. Cusak. They aired their own story of a patient in St. Francis Medical Center who didn’t know if any of the rest of her family survived the earthquake. She saw her daughter on national news leading children in play time in a hangar while they were waiting to be evacuated.