24 January 2011

The shoes off his feet

Charleston, S.C.

I keep a stash of used clothes in my office closet. I don't have much room but I have a pile of folded shirts, pants in a few different sizes and a bag of new men's underwear. There are a few relatively nice jackets.

Every once and a while I get a call from a nurse on one of the units, who is ready to discharge a patient who has no clothes. Things happen. People land in the hospital after the most unusual circumstances.

Last year I got the call and carried up a selection for them to choose from. I had a beautiful black leather jacket and I was secretly smug that I might be sending someone home in better clothes than they might have ever worn but the nurses shook their head and said, "What he needs is shoes. It's cold outside and we can't send him home with bare feet."

Shoes?! I didn't have any shoes. What the heck? I was going to ask one of my volunteers to make a trip to Walmart when Dr. Rosen walked by. He heard the conversation and said, "He can have mine. He can have my shoes but I have to finish rounds first." And that is what we did.

Now, every so often the shoe fairy leaves a bag by my door. Dr. Rosen is a runner and wears the tread off of perfectly good shoes. No one should go home from the hospital in bare feet.

I work with good people in the friendly little hospital across the river.