When I worked as a cardiac sonographer, often times we were the first ones to have a close interaction with new patients and their families in the clinic. We performed the study so the cardiologist would have time to read it before they saw the patient.
Not a day went by that I didn’t hear at least one great story. Since we were the first stop – and the study is performed in a small (usually quiet) room – plus the fact that they were scared out of their minds, people would open up. I always encouraged it. Maybe it’s the storyteller in me, maybe it’s because I could feel every anxious beat of their hearts across the stretcher where their child lay for the test. Maybe it was a little bit of both. In the end we all got something out of it.
Like this story a dad, dressed in faded Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots, told me while his baby slept for the study. He was extra nervous, because his wife was home with the flu and he was afraid he would have to give her bad news about their little one.
I asked the first thing I could think of to get his mind off of the fact he was at a cardiology appointment. I asked if he had a horse.
I found out he was a real cowboy – from the rodeo circuit. He told me a story about when he first started out. He said he was young, barely had a pot to piss in, but he was determined to live his dream. He was driving across the Midwest to his first big competition when his truck broke down in the middle of nowhere.
He was broke and broken down, he said. “I didn’t even have money to stay at a cheap motel, I was going to sleep in my truck. I was banking on winning enough money to get back home on.”
Out of nowhere a man pulled up and offered to help. He told the guy that he had a ranch up the road and a place to water his horse. They hooked up his truck and trailer and hauled it to the ranch.
Once there, the owner of the ranch told the guy he knew someone who could work on his truck, not to worry. But the young guy said he was worried, and told the stranger that he was supposed to be at three rodeos in three days.
“Get this,” the man told me, “this guy-a complete stranger-gave me his rig to make the circuit.”
He grinned at me and looked down at his baby, reaching out to stroke the top of its little head. “He said when I came back through, my truck would be fixed.”
He took the guy up on his offer, made the circuit, and went back to the ranch to return the rig. His truck was fixed and he’d won enough money to pay the man back for the cost of the repairs with extra for loaning him his rig, but he wouldn’t take it.
When he’s free – between rodeos – he goes back and works at the man’s ranch, free of charge. He’s been doing it for years now.
How’s that for an uplifting story? I loved it and wanted to hear more, but our time was up.
I put the transducer in its holder and started wiping the gel from his baby’s chest. And said a silent thank you that the baby’s heart was normal.
“Oh, we’re done?” He looked at me, surprised. “Whew, that was painless – I forgot I was nervous.” He laughed. He scooped up his son and reached for the diaper bag like a pro.
“Thanks for letting me talk.”
“No, thanks for sharing that story.” I replied, and meant it.
The guy asked me as we were walking towards the nurses station if I wore rings…I held out my hands and we both laughed. ( I love rings). He pulled out a handful of horseshoe nails that’d he’d turned into rings from his pocket. He picked one and asked me to try it on. It fit. I asked what he sold them for.
“I don’t. I give them when I want to.”