I feel a need to speak up about Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
    In recent weeks, reporters have hovered over Cumberland County’s flagship hospital like a pack of lawyers sniffing out a malpractice suit (paging John Edwards, paging John Edwards). The negative articles and editorials that have appeared in the county’s other newspaper continue to build, tsunami-like, threatening to burst the dam of respectability that the hospital has worked so hard to rebuild following the failings of past administrations.
    I cannot speak to those past or present foibles or the reported long lines in the emergency room.
The only reference point I can call upon in rating the hospital is my recent stay on the third floor of that facility, where, in the seemingly extinct journalism style of cutting to the chase, I’ll tell you I was treated like a prince.
It was my first extended hospital stay for an illness, and let me confess, I was more than a little scared. As I lay in the hospital bed while doctors and nurses probed and pricked me in search of a cause for a sudden case of anemia brought on by internal bleeding, I felt the black dog of mortality licking and nipping at my 44-year-old heels.
    The false bravado of my outward patina of masculinity was pierced like a a carnival balloon as my secret fear of needles came to light; I would make a truly sorry junkie, as the mere sight of a hypodermic sends me rocking and rolling on the wildest roller coaster in Nausealand, afflicting me with a cold sweat that even James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, couldn’t imagine.
    {mosimage}Fortunately, that’s when the nurses and nurses aides came to my rescue like a cavalry of angels in hospital scrubs, reassuring me and consoling me, telling me everything would be just fine. Time after time, they apologized for sticking needles into my notoriously shy veins, applying cool hands and cooler compresses to my suddenly fish-belly white countenance.
    Their mea culpas extended into the wee morning hours when they would awaken me for the requisite checking of my vital signs. They were gentle and caring and incredibly competent, and out of the round robin of Florence Nightingales who cared for me during my stay, three really stood out: Charnise, Meliss and Sabrina — a trinity of caring and compassion that made a miserable situation bearable; and, I say this as someone who has an insider’s view into how pressure-packed your chosen vocation can be — my grandmother toiled for 26 years as a nurse’s aide at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton and my sister is a respiratory therapist in Richmond, Va. I know all about those pain-in-the-ass patients who press the call button like an accountant manipulating a calculator; I know the dignity you maintain as you carry out the indignity of cleaning up the secretions and excretions of your sickly citizens; I know the hours you labor for ladies in labor and men with meningitis.
    Whatever these women (and men) are paid, it’s not nearly enough — though surely, the care they gave me during my visit was priceless.
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