The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 18, 2014

Twelve days of Christmas

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — “Ms. Bender? Are you awake?”

The guy sounded cute. I opened one eye.               

“I’m Dr. S. I’ll be your brain surgeon.”


“Don’t panic. You’re experiencing slight bleeding in your brain, but you don’t need surgery.”

He smiled reassuringly.

“You have a small lesion, but we can treat it with medicine.”

So, it’s really true! Tests over the course of six months have concluded that I DO have a brain.

Apparently, it justs leaks occasionally.

Strong medicines clouded my memories of three days in the intensive care unit, but the angels who watched me – Pam, Lori, Paul, Shannon and Rhonda – will remain in my heart.

This was my second Christmas in a hospital. Elegant, tasteful decorations decked the halls, a pleasant change from tacky, cheap and gaudy Santas, elves and reindeer that certainly didn’t comfort or cheer seriously ill patients.

Dr. B appeared the fourth day. He’d ordered additional tests with great results. No new blood clots popped in my legs, and the residual damage done  seven years ago had totally healed.


Hospital staffs go out of their ways to promote holiday cheer.

Margie, Nicole, Jess, Jessica, Courtney, Amanda, Kristen, Tara, Alyssa, Lauren, Lori, Pattie, Chelsea, Kayla and Theresa wore colorful, seasonal scrubs to make us smile. Some sported blinking lights to brighten the atmosphere.

DJ’s headgear outshone the elves.

Therapy wizards Pat, Libby, Cathy, Penny and Susan took motion range and flexibility very seriously.

They introduced us to outdoor therapy. They led us to the roof and taught us to rotate Santa’s reindeer so they’d wear evenly.

(Rumors say that might be an Olympic event next time.)

The food is still delicious!

I coerced the stewed tomato recipe out of Greg, but I still need “the spinach chicken

alfredo flatbread receipe. It’s a religious experience.

IV staffers gently “needled us” with magic wands; Melanie, Wendy, Drew, Joseph, Darlene, Mike, Gloria and Nolan. Volunteers Shirley and Janet, and Supervisor Lois kept things running smoothly.

Comfort and dignity of the patients remained major concerns of every employee.

One morning as I was bird-bathing, a flustered aide dashed in and grabbed for my curtain.

“Hon, what’s wrong?”

“Your curtain’s open! Someone could see in.”

“Don’t worry,” I reassured her. “Anyone who wants a glimpse of my fanny badly enough to scale the side of this 10th floor building has definitely earned his peek!”