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KHAKI



Throughout the years, I have had many unusual experiences while working in the nursing profession; but none as unusual as the night Khaki came into my life.

As my life was rather disruptive and in turmoil for many years; I cannot remember exactly where I was or which hospital I was at when this incident occurred. I am pretty sure it was Carbon County Memorial Hospital in Rawlins, Wyoming or Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Georgia. I was sixteen or seventeen years old at the time. Before becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse, I worked as an orderly for about a year.

I was working on the second floor Medical Ward when I met an elderly gentleman by the name of Mr. Charles Krauthhammer. I had never heard of such a weird name before, but now-a-days I think of him, almost daily, as a reporter who appears on Fox News has that same name.

He was a friendly man but he never had much to say to anyone. What I do remember most about him was every time I would walk into his room I would hear him say, “I love khaki more than anything in this world.” His almost silent voice would always quiver as he mumbled those words.

I never knew exactly what he meant by that, but taking a guess I thought he was talking about the color khaki or khaki pants.

As the days went by, everyone on the ward was rather surprised that Mr. Krauthhammer continued to live. He was very sick and he must have been almost a hundred years old. He had to be the oldest man I had ever known. For some reason, maybe it was his long white beard, he reminded me a little bit of Moses from the Bible.

I began to ask some of the nurses if they knew what “Mr. K” meant when he said the word “Khaki,” but no one seemed to know. I learned from another orderly that Khaki was his only living family. That Khaki was the name of his little Bull Dog.

Knowing that he would not live much longer; I asked the charge nurse if "I might try and find his dog so they could visit." I was told, in no uncertain terms, that “animals are not allowed on hospital grounds,” and “that I was to mind my own business.”

That was a very hard thing for me to do. I mean, someone was dying just down the hallway and the world just kept on moving on. It was as if no one cared about anyone who was dying. Laughing and joking at the nurse’s station; the big fish someone caught last weekend or the party they were going to throw was all that seemed to matter. Mr. K had no more importance than did the dirty old piece of cardboard I had seen earlier, blowing across the parking lot.

Late one foggy evening, I walked to the hospital to see if I could locate the pack of cigarettes I had lost. Not having much money; I didn’t want to spend another thirty-eight cents for another pack, until it was absolutely necessary. I located the cigarettes in the break room, stuck them in my pocket and walked out through the back entrance of the emergency room. I sat down on the cement banister and lit a cigarette.

“Excuse me,” said a woman’s voice, from behind the five foot brick wall.

Looking over the edge, I saw a somewhat frail woman dressed in a black robe, black boots and a black hat. She had a rolled up towel in her arms.

“Will you please take this to Mr. Krauthhammer?”

Standing up, I tried to see what she was talking about.

I walked down the four or five steps and headed toward her. Stopping in front of her; all I could see was the bundled up towel.

“What is it?” I asked.

Very carefully she unrolled the towel, exposing the contents.

“That’s a darn weasel!” I exclaimed, as I saw a small animal.

“No, it’s not a Weasel, it’s a Ferret.” She whispered.

“Why would Mr. K want a Weasel, I mean a Farrel?”

“A Ferret and his name is Khaki,” she told me.

“I thought Khaki was a bull dog.”

She just smiled and held the animal toward me.

“I can’t take no animals in the hospital or I’ll get into real bad trouble.”

“You won’t get into any trouble, I promise,” she advised me.

Pushing the animal in my direction, I reached out and took the ferret, covered it with the towel, and just stood there.

“Now listen. Take Khaki to Mr. Krauthammer’s room. He will be lying on his back with his arm resting on his forehead. Place Khaki in the fold of his arm. Now this part is very important. Do not touch any patient or any living thing until you wash your hands. Do you understand?”

“Right now?” I questioned.

“NO, after you deliver Khaki.”

“I’ll never make it to his room. I’ll get caught.”

“No one will see you. You’ll see,” she told me, as she backed away.

I turned around to throw the cigarette butt in the ash can and when I tuned around the woman as gone. I stood there for several minutes debating on whether I should release the animal behind the bushes or do as instructed.

I covered the ferret, as best as I could, and headed inside. I was surprised when the entire emergency room crew was in the back room eating birthday cake and giving Joyce some presents. I made my way to the elevator and went to the second floor. Seeing no one at the nurse’s station; I quickly walked to Mr. K’s room. It was just like she had said; he was lying on his back with his arm resting on his forehead. Reaching his bedside, I opened the towel, took out Khaki and placed him between Mr. Krauthammer’s neck and arm. Slowly he opened his eyes and smiled at me.

“Thank you so much son. Wish you would eat that small Jell-O on that tray, Be a shame to waste it,” he whispered.

As I reached for the Jell-O he said, “You forgetting something?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Aren’t you supposed to wash your hands?”

I walked to the sink and began washing my hands. When I turned around the ferret was no where to be seen. Mr. Krauthammer’s eyes were wide open and he lay motionless. I ran out of the room and was out of breath when I reached the nurse’s station.

“I think something’s wrong with Mr. K. He’s not moving at all and his eyes are open,” I yelled at the charge nurse.

Holly Hell broke lose when a “code red” was called over the intercom. Doctors and nurses came running from every direction. I stood by the maintenance closet for more than thirty minutes waiting for things to settle down. When all was said and done; Mr. K, completely covered with a sheet, was taken out of the room and taken to the basement. I walked into his room and inspected every nook and cranny. Khaki the ferret was no where to be found.

Several heavyset housekeepers came into the room and began stripping it down. One picked up the plastic cup of Jello and headed toward the garbage can. “Mr. K said I could have that Jell-O,” I told her.

She sat the Jell-O back on the patient stand and began stripping off the bed. I picked up the small cup and walked back through the Emergency Room, out the door and sat back down on the cement banister. I really did not want to eat his Jell-O, but that was Mr. K’s last wish and he was important to me and Khaki.



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