July 4th 2015

Today is July 4, 2019. Earlier this week I began to remember July 4th of 2015. My husband, Herb had fallen a week earlier on June 26th at the extended living facility where he lived. He was in great pain and could not get up. Unbeknownst to me, an ambulance was called and he was on the way to a hospital. Strangely enough, I had seen the ambulance leaving through my patio screen, but I had no idea Herb was in it.

Also, unbeknownst to me, at the first hospital the emergency room was full. He was then sent to a second hospital and that emergency room was full. Although I was supposed to be notified when they called the ambulance, I was not notified until after midnight with a report that my husband was in an ambulance going to some hospital. They told me to wait until they knew which hospital and, of course, I called my son who lives locally that his dad was somewhere in an ambulance in the middle of the night.

I was finally notified by the extended care facility that my husband was being admitted to Skyline Hospital and was being given a room. I was told not to come over in the middle of the night, but to come first thing in the morning. I called my son and he said that he’d be there at dawn in the morning.

Upon arriving at the hospital my son and I learned that x-rays had been taken and my husband had broken the bone in his hip, but not the socket and he would need partial hip replacement surgery. My husband was in a great deal of pain and was sedated.

A decision had to be made for partial hip replacement surgery. As my son researched the consequences of surgery, the overwhelming advice and information he received was that with dementia, and at my husband’s age, he would probably not recover from surgery. And yet, with the extraordinary pain he was in would require surgery.

On the morning of surgery the hospital staff came to transport Herb to the elevator to go into surgery. The attendants and Herb and my son got on the elevator and then I stepped on. Immediately alarms went off and the elevator doors locked open. We all looked at each other surprisingly and one of the men asked me to get off the elevator. As soon as I did, the alarm stopped. Then, they told me to step back on and the alarm went back on again.

My son said to me, “Mom, do you have dad’s medical alert badge in your purse?” I said, yes and we realized that somehow, Herb’s medical alert badge to keep him from roaming from his extended living facility was the exact same alarm system as the hospital!!!

I said, “I’ll go back to the room and put this medical alert badge back into his room. You go ahead and I’ll follow you.” And so it was we realized I had a potential problem of getting out of Skyline Hospital myself! On July 2nd we were informed that Herb was going to be released back to his extended living facility. I realized that I was going to have to inquire as to how I would leave the building with his medical alert badge that was setting off alarms.

I went to the nurses’ stand and told them of the unusual predicament. Herb would be leaving to go home in an ambulance and I would be leaving in the car with his badge in my purse. There would be no way for me to exit the hospital without setting off the alarms. The nurses said they would find out how I could exit the hospital quietly.

I was told there was no way Herb would be going home on July 4th. Upon arriving on the morning of July 4th, however, I found that Herb had already been released to his extended living facility and they were ready to roll him out! I said, “Have you notified the facility?” And they said yes, he has a room in long term care and they were waiting for him to arrive. I was to gather Herb’s things and follow him.

I went to the nurses’ station and said, “What are the arrangements for me to leave?” They hadn’t followed through on this and decided to call security and have me escorted through the elevators. I waited at the nurses’ stand, with Herb’s belongings in a suitcase.

Lo’ and behold, two, tall, handsome, uniformed security guards came and asked me if I was waiting for them. I said, “Yes, indeed!” As one on each side of me took me to the elevators, they explained to me that they were going to have to turn off the alarms in the elevators, put me and the badge in the elevator down to the first floor, exit the elevator and re-engage the alarm system.

As this was accomplished, they said to me, we are going to escort you all the way to the emergency room exit where I had parked. That was about the only available parking you could find at this hospital and it was a long walk. I looked up at the handsome two men on either side of me and I said, “Wow, okay.” And, I’m sure as a silhouette of me about five feet tall now, with these two tall handsome men on each side of me, I was a picture of a well-protected, soon-to-be widow.

At the beginning of this week, four years later I began to have a realization. Fast forward to December 4 of 2015 when my husband’s ashes were being interred at Arlington National Cemetery. I was not able to be there because I could not travel. My daughter, my son and a niece had created a beautiful celebration for the day of his memorial, including a dinner with 60 guests.

I realized the pain I had felt especially in missing the solemn ceremony of the folding of the American flag, the bugle taps, and the folded flag being handed to the widow. After 55 years of marriage I was not able to experience that moment and the flag was respectfully given to my daughter.

The memorial ceremony by the Rabbi even had to be interrupted because the 3 helicopters, one of which carried the President of the United States, flew directly overhead at that time. This made the memorial even more significant.

Apparently I had some unresolved grieving about missing this beautiful experience.

However four years later in the first few days in July 2019, I realized I had experienced my military escort on July 4th four years earlier when these two uniformed handsome young men escorted me to my car from Skyline Hospital. Indeed, 3 weeks later, to the day, my husband transitioned at 7:15 P.M.

I am grateful now to realize that I did have my own solemn, beautiful escort 4 years earlier on July 4th, 2015.

Read Herb Schaffer’s Memorial on the Home site. Click here.