By Mike Peters
I walked into room 358. It was a private room like many of
the others. The occupant was a patient like all the others,
suffering from emphysema or what is sometimes called Chronic Obstructive
Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This patient reminded me of my Grandfather
Coleman. Here was a small man with a barrel chest and having some
difficulty breathing. I never knew my grandfather when he wasn't
breathless. With COPD, shortness of breath is your constant
companion. This patient was experiencing an exacerbation of his condition,
worse than the normal and difficult to tolerate. It would require a
The patient was very friendly and
talkative. Another therapist in the hospital told me, in report, that he
would "talk your ears off." She suggested that I "get in and out as
quickly as possible." It's true that we live in the era of
overworked and understaffed hospitals and that there is less time to
converse with your patients. But I believe that the therapist, that
gave me report that day, was more concerned with going out to smoke her
next cigarette. Listening to and talking with her patient was
secondary. Her loss!
The patient introduced his daughter to me.
She looked up from the conversation she was having with another family
member on the phone, smiled, gave me a "good to meet you" nod and then
returned to her conversation.
The patient was growing more
short of breath as he talked, as is always the case with his
condition. But there was an excitement in his voice, a pride in who
he was and where he came from that overrode any shortness of breath.
He had something to say and wanted me to hear it.
The patient was
proud to hail from Oak Hill in Fayette County, West Virginia. His
daughter interrupted, told Dad to relax and said, "The man doesn't want to
know about the old days in West Virginia." Boy, was she ever wrong!
I told him that many of my people were from next door in
Raleigh. He smiled a smile absent of teeth or dentures and
cackled. He was happy to have an audience with someone willing to
listen to the old stories.
The patient was proud to have fought the
Japanese in World War 2. I told him that my uncle, Charles W. Walker
from Kanawha Two Mile, had also fought in the Asian Theater and that he
had driven an ambulance in The Philippines.
The patient told me
that he was gonna go to the VA Hospital in Chillicothe. They owed him
that. But Mt. Carmel East in Columbus was much closer and his daughter was
driving. Many of you that have studied the Mitchell Clay and Phoebe
Belcher family know that Chillicothe, Ohio was where the Shawnees took
Mitchell and Phoebe's son Ezekiel and burned him at the stake in 1783.
Chillicothe is in Ross County and maybe an hour south of
The patient was proud to have worked in the coal mines.
Sure it was hard. But it was honest and he was providing for
his family. I told him that many of the men in my Stover and Peters family
had done the same in Raleigh County. He said he had worked in
I spent extra time in his room, more than
usual. Maybe it was unfair to some of the other patients, but I
enjoyed the down home atmosphere. It had been a busy and stressful
evening, like all the rest. I needed the tranquility and serenity that his
On this night, I bonded with the friendly and
talkative man in 358. This came about because I had listened to him,
because I had ignored my fellow therapist and because he had ignored his
daughter. I got to meet a man who was one of the 16 million
Americans who served in World War 2. I got to know a man who had
worked in the coal mines. I spent time with a man who wanted
everyone to know that he was from West Virginia.
In room 358, for a
short time, there lived a proud man and not unlike many of our
Thanks for listening and as my Grandma Coleman used to
say, "Ya'll come!"