Dink’s Angels

by | Jun 9, 1998 | Caring, God's Hands

It was December, 1999, and my wife Debra (known affectionately as Dink) was nearing full-time dependance on caregivers as a result of her two-year battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Her only means of communication was an electronic device that could speak what she typed – with her one good hand – and she was in a wheelchair. She was, however, still working at Newton General Hospital (NGH), doing chart reviews and quality assurance duties. This was Dink’s response to an administrator’s concerns that the strain of working might adversely affect her condition:

“On the contrary, being here boosts my immune system because I love it here. I go on the energy I glean from those around me, so I seldom get tired. If I poop out, I sit back and breathe deep. If I’m really feeling bad, I have an army of Moms that can skirt me away. But even tired, I feel better here than home alone. If I am tired of work, I clock out and piddle around til time to leave. So there you are: my secret for livin’ on love.”

Around four o’clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 8, I got a call from the Human Resources director at NGH. He said, “Alan, we need to meet with you and Debra. When can you come in?” I told him, as a school teacher, I had to work every day and it would be the next week before I could arrange some time off, but he pressed, “We really need to meet tomorrow.” As we continued talking, he persisted and I relented so we made an appointment for the next morning.

Dink heard the conversation and realized who I was talking to. When I hung up the phone and looked at her she was crying and pounding away on her LightWriter, “I WILL NOT LET THEM FORCE ME TO QUIT!” Her eyes were glaring in a way that confirmed she would not negotiate that point.

Wanting to refocus all of the emotion I could see on her face, I said, “Well, work on your argument and get it bullet-proof so we’ll be prepared tomorrow.” I don’t remember exactly how much planning she did for the next morning’s meeting, but I do remember neither of us could sleep much that night.

When we got to the hospital on Thursday morning we met with the HR director and the Nursing Services director. Dink was incredibly tense as I wheeled her into the office, because she was “loaded for bear” and ready to fight it out. Knowing Dink as they did, though, the managers were very shrewd. They told us the emotional and physical strain on the people who worked closest to Dink (and therefore were her primary caregivers at the hospital) was beginning to effect the caregivers’ ability to perform their other duties. Dink immediately softened. In fact, she didn’t even ask any questions for clarification because she was more adamant about not burdening her friends at work than she was about staying on the job. We listened distantly as the managers explained the details about the separation of service, then we all cried, and I took her back home. It was a long, silent drive.

There were only a couple of weeks of school left until Christmas holidays started, so Dink stayed home by herself during that time. Before leaving for school, I would set her up in the recliner with her Bible, another good book, and the remote control for the TV. I’d also put a movie in the VCR that she could watch if she wanted. There was one movie she watched almost daily and she would cry every time she watched it. I said, “Baby, you cry every time you watch this and you watch it every day…how many more times are you gonna watch it?”

“Until I can watch it without crying.”

“Okay, dear.”

I would come home each day at lunch to give her a potty break and feed her, make sure she had everything set up for the afternoon, including another movie if needed, then head back to school. That system worked fine for those ten or twelve days, but I knew I would have to make other arrangements for January. What I didn’t know was the fact that those arrangements were already being made.

According to the Bible, your good works here on Earth don’t get you into Heaven, but they do influence the size of your heavenly home. Ardis Young and Lynn Wojcik must have mansions beyond imagination waiting for them there. Ardis, calling on members of our church, and Lynn, calling on the staff at NGH, put together a team of volunteers that came in to sit with Dink when school resumed in January. They handled the entire matter: recruiting, scheduling and even training the ladies, whom we called “Dink’s Angels.” In fact, there were many days I would leave for school, not knowing who would be coming in that day. Some of the ladies were nurses, but many were not. Some took time off from work to come in. Some could come only for mornings, others only for afternoons and a few could stay the whole day.

Once or twice, I came in at lunch and had to say, “Hi. I’m Alan. Who are you?” Because I had never met that particular sitter. I never had to think twice about the entire operation because Ardis and Lynn were so dedicated and took total responsibility for everything from the very beginning. There’s no telling how much money they saved us, and I can’t even begin to estimate how much stress they personally eliminated from our lives. I wish I could adequately express my gratitude but, as yet, I have not been authorized to create new words for the English language and that is exactly what it would take for me to have the right words to use. Ardis, Lynn, and the rest of the “Angels”…my heart is eternally yours.

Alan Coleman copyright 2001 bigal@teamflamingo.com

Alan lives in Georgia, where he is hard at work on his book, “Firmly In His Hands,” based on a series of letters written by his wife, Dink. An inspiring portrayal of their successful approach to day-to- day living as they battled with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the book should be ready for publishing in the very near future. Dink joined the ranks of heavenly angels March 28th of 2000. Alan is our August Writer of the Month – read more about him and see a photo of Alan and the beautiful Dink, here: www.2theheart.com/writers_hall_of_fame/


Dink’s Angels