That morning, as the towers were
attacked and those buildings, along with our sense of security, came
tumbling down, we had raced from home to the doctor’s and then the ER,
and finally settled into the pediatrics unit while the doctors tried to
find the source of the pain and the nausea that had cost my son a week
of school and about five pounds he couldn’t afford to give up.
Appendicitis would seem, at a distance of more than seven years, to
pale in comparison to the trauma the nation and the world were
undergoing, but at the time the one seemed to multiply the other. Our
larger world and our immediate world were both in harm’s way. It was
the worst of times.
Somewhere in the night, I heard soft
shoes enter the room, and a man glided in, almost dancing. A tall man
with sandy gray hair wearing pale blue scrubs asked, in the most
remarkably soothing voice I have ever heard, if I wanted some juice. He
checked on my son without waking him, and brought me back something to
drink. We sat cross-legged on the floor for a few minutes in the
blinking glow of the TV, exchanging whispered updates on what we had
learned of the unfolding tragedy in New York City, Washington and
Pennsylvania. Then he tapped my wrist twice, unfolded himself from the
lotus position, and went about his rounds.
That was how I met David Delaney. Over
the next few days he watched over my son with kindness and competence,
and watched over our family, offering reassurance and serenity at a
time when those qualities were in short supply. He was one of those
people you meet at critical times in your life and you think you’ll be
their friend forever, but I wasn’t that fortunate. In the days that
followed David showed the gifts that made him a superb pediatric nurse,
keeping my son entertained with his questions and his stories,
reminding a kid that life wasn’t really about tubes and needles and
killer planes but about the pennant race and getting back to running
and teasing your brother. He introduced him to Nintendo.
David shared stories of his own kids as
he wove his way in and out of our lives during those anxious days. My
son’s recovery proceeded according to plan. He was discharged and went
back to school. The scars are long since forgotten.
A few days back I opened the paper to
see David’s face, and learned from his obituary that he passed away
from a brain tumor. His family should take solace in knowing that many
of us will remember his steadiness and kindness, and his ability to
project assurance in unsettled times.
On the Syracuse University Hill where
David worked for 30 years, a new monument to children’s medicine is
nearly complete. The Golisano Children’s Hospital that this community
has dreamed of, worked on, and saved for, will be a landmark and a
milestone in our commitment to health care for children.
On another hill, in Washington, D.C.,
debates will soon take place about the nature of our nation’s health
care system, or what I call our illness treatment system.
In dedicating this new building, in
revamping our heath care system, I’d like to think that we can keep the
memory of people like David Delaney central. It’s not the building or
the health plan, as important as those are, that the patients remember.
It’s so often the thoughtful touches of nurses and aides that add, in
ways we really can not measure, to our healing. For me, it was that
quiet voice in the night, those skilled hands delivering compassionate
care, which made all the difference.
The inhabitants of heaven are being well cared for tonight.