Thursday, February 12, 2009

Memories of Love and War

You'll see in my profile that I also wear the hat of a journalist. No one in EMS has only one job, right?

I had an idea which began percolating years ago as I was in the back of an ambulance with an 80-year-old woman during a 30 minute ride to the hospital. I had a precautionary line started and 12-lead done with 25 minutes to go.

This is where many of the excitement-driven medics would languish, longing for the next glimpse of major trauma or cool invasive procedures. Me, I figured we had time to chat.

It turns out this woman was a nurse in World War II. She didn't say specifically, but alluded to coming from a wealthy family in Manhattan. In the 1940s women had certain programmed career choices. She became a nurse. A poster in the hospital said the Army needed nurses stateside for 1 year. What the poster didn't say was after a year and one day she would be headed overseas.

She enlisted and ended up in North Africa seeing battlefield casualties. She spoke little of that; her generation guards their military experience with an iron clad stoicism that has spanned 60 years. I could see between her words, in the pauses where memories remain cloistered, that there was more. I regret never going back to see her. To talk more about that time, listening to more of the memories, even if for my own selfish desire.

While I may have saved a patient or two in my days in EMS, I look back at my time with her as one of the best and most profound experiences in 30 years riding in the back of an ambulance. I think about it often.

I recently returned to the assisted living facility where I met the World War II nurse several years ago. My chance to talk again with her had passed. Knowing this, my goal was to gather more of these memories before they were lost forever. It wasn't an original idea. Many have written and photographed projects before me. It was a personal quest.

I pitched the series to our local weekly newspaper and they went for it. Today's installment brings this blog post full circle. The link below is to an article I did for the Valentine's day edition of the paper. I interviewed three fascinating people about their half-century relationships and how they were affected by war. It is called:

The Generations Project: Memories of love and war

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