“Hey Mary, sorry to bother you again,” I said knocking on the door as I stuck my head in, “I just need to check your drains.”
Mary sat in her hospital bed, her bare head wrapped In a colorful scarf. Her wrinkled face broke into even more smile lines as the eighty-two-year-old waved me in.
“Yes of course! Come check out these dreadful things,” Mary said, brandishing the fluid-filled plastic bulbs. Lines of dark red ran from the bulb and into her gown.
I knew full well those drains ended almost another foot inside the body. But it was best not to think about it. I was still a new Healthcare Assistant and wanted to put my best foot forward with my patients.
“Well they’re not not that dreadful,” I said, remembering a pair of ill-colored drains in the next room over.
“Oh really?” Said Mary, a note of incredulity plain in the air between us.
“Errrmmmm-” was all I could say without grossing her out or breaking legal confidence.
“You know Mike, I think you’ll appreciate this,” she said as a sly smile crept across her face.
“When I was a young girl my father owned his own farm. We kids would be up at the crack of dawn to help him feed all the livestock. We had cows and chickens, horses and pigs, sheep and ducks. Everything.”
“That’s amazing!” I said, emptying the contents of a drain into a cup and setting it aside.
“It was,” Mary said with a knowing smile, “but my favorite had to be the group of silly goats my father had bought at a livestock auction. They were the most bizarre animals I’d ever seen.”
“Goats are the weirdest!” I exclaimed, trying to not show how much I loved everything about goats. This poor woman already knew I was an odd duck, no sense in giving her more fodder.
“They are! They eat everything and anything they can get their little mouths on,” she said with a laugh.
I took a cup to the restroom and flushed the contents down, then returned with another container.
“Anyway that’s beside the point,” she said, lifting one of the surgical drains with a wrinkled hand, “why I mention the goats is because of these drains.”
“Really?” I asked, confused as to where this was going. An image of a goat eating surgical drains came to mind, but I waited for her to continue.
“Yeah, you see the goats made me laugh so hard because, well . . .” she paused, her face going a light shade of pink.
What on earth? I thought, pausing with one hand holding another drain and cup.
She gave a small giggle, “because they had these weird goat balls . . .”
Mary was now holding a pair of drains up in front of my uncomprehending face. My brain wasn’t registering what she was saying and it wasn’t until she threw her head back and laughed out loud that I understood.
“Goat balls!” I all but yelled as this 80-year-old woman shook with laughter.
“Yes!” she said between guffaws, “I have goat balls!”
I tried to hold my professionalism together for about three seconds and then exploded with laughter, “You totally have goat balls!”
Tears were pouring down our faces as I tried to find a seat to keep me from falling over. Mary couldn’t catch her breath as she rocked side to side with laughter.
“Oh my gosh, Mary that’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!” I said when I finally caught my breath.
“I know!” she said with glee, “I’ve been wanting to tell you this all day!”
We sat there giggling for a minute, staring down her drains, and then I remembered the cup of fluid I still held in my hand.
“I better get these emptied,” I said and emptied the remaining drain. Stepping back into the room I saw Mary’s face covered by a large smile.
“I needed that Mike,” she said.
“I did too,” I admitted pulling off my gloves and tossing them into the garbage, “I’ve got to step out now but you call me if you need anything.
Mary nodded her head and lifted a couple drains up, “If they fill back up I’ll call you to come empty these goat balls.”
We laughed more as I stepped away. The day moved on and before I knew it shift report was happening. People were moving everywhere. In the melee, I forgot to stop by Mary’s room one last time to say goodbye and didn’t remember until I was at home in bed.
A few day’s later when I came into work my manager had a small white card waiting for me in the break room.
“This was from one of the patient’s you took care of a few days back, at least I’m thinking it’s you,” she gave me a weird look and handed the card to me.
“Are you ‘Goat Boy’?
Simultaneously choking on a laugh and trying to keep a straight face I said,”yeah, you could call me that.”
Inside the card, in a neatly scrawled hand was this note:
To all those who took care of me,
While I recovered, thank you. I could never have recovered as well as I have under your special care and support. I will remember each and every one of you, you have my sincerest thanks and appreciation. And to my Goat Boy, thank you for all the laughs.