Denny was an orderly that I had great affection for. He was big and burly. He had a laugh that let you know when he was just around the corner. He was there to help and no task was too great or too menial. He helped the nurses turn me in my bed. He lifted me onto surgery gurneys. He helped wash my face for me.

Denny came in to my room one evening and inquired after my beauty regimens. Was I looking after my face and if not let’s get started. Women need to look after themselves, after all. Was he serious? Was he making fun of me? I took a long look at his face and decided that he was, in fact, serious. I didn’t have any cleanser. I hadn’t looked into a mirror at all while in the hospital. Well, he said, we need to fix that.

The first time I looked at a mirror a nurse held it up for me and softly asked, “Are you ready?” I carelessly said yes. What was there to be sensitive about? The worst of the damage was done to my body. I was told except for a burn near my chin my face was mostly fine. I cried anyway. I saw my reflection – my shaved head, my pale, pale skin, cheeks sucked in, the red puffy scar that ran along the right side of my chin – for the first time and cried. I didn’t look like me and I expected I would. I stared at my green eyes for a while. They were too large in my worn face, but I recognized them, the only part of my face that reminded me of myself. I broke the stare when I had enough. Enough change, enough to adapt to for today.

Denny would come into my room when it was slow and quiet in the evenings and he would help me wash my face. My mom bought cleanser, cotton pads, toner and one of those plastic pouches with a bright floral pattern you get at any drugstore to hold it all in. My right arm was especially weak. No one knew why. I had trouble using it, so Denny was my arm. He sat at the edge of my bed, wet a cloth, poured cleanser on it and washed my face. He patted my face dry and dabbed it with cotton pads wet with toner. “You see?” he would say, with a grin, “You need to feel like a girl again.”

And, slowly, as my face was wiped of each day’s routine and tears that had been left unchecked I breathed in the faint scent of mint, my face squeaky clean and I was in my bathroom at home again in front of the mirror before I tucked myself in for the night. Even though my body was ravaged by fire, even though my feet were taken, my eyes were open. I was still me, a girl that needed to take her rightful place in her own body. I was a girl and that mattered.

13 thoughts on “recaptured

  1. Kate Coveny Hood

    I loved this. I think I would feel exactly the same. I would need someone to remind me of who I was/am to reclaim that part of me that is far more important than we realize.

  2. Intense Guy

    At last, some sensitivity and humane treatment… I too, think Denny was what a human being ought to be – caring, uncomplaining, and dedicated to his fellow persons.

    Sometimes you just have to marvel at how life's odd turns brings the people that it does across your path – and if that path should run side-by-side with yours for a while, with someone like Denny, its a real blessing.

  3. Mary

    You must know who I picture "Denny" to be don't you? Funny how right at the moment that I am reading this Chasing Cars is in the background! Hmmmm. I love Denny!!!! This is absolutely amazing Heidi – your talent at telling a story brings tears to my eyes. I love you! Keep it up –

  4. FranticMommy

    Are you still in contact with Denny? I'd love to give him big hug. The world needs more Denny's. Funny story. My blog just turned TWO! Whoot! I read somewhere that two is really like TWENTY in Blog Years. Anyway, I went back..way back to those early days when my blog was a baby. I read the stories…and WOW, I was pretty green back then. Then I read the comments and there YOU were! Cool! So THANKS for supporting me "back then" and stop back by for a peek of me two years later. Thanks!

  5. Nicole

    Wow Heidi, thank you so much for sharing that. It made me cry. Denny probably doesn't know how much of an impact he makes in the lives of people he touches. It probably couldn't have come from anyone else, but him.
    I just love reading what you share, Heidi. Please keep it up.
    Love you always,

  6. bernthis

    what an amazing human being this guy is. My God. Makes me believe in humanity again. I'm sorry I'm quasi speechless b/c this just moved me to tears.

  7. Live More Now

    I loved this.

    What a journey.

    Thank you for continuing to share it with us all.

  8. Linda Sue

    Denny is the DUDE! Odd that that sort of nurturing came from a burly orderly male instead of so called caring women in the med field.It's the attention to detail that makes all the difference sometimes…Thanks for this good read, again!

  9. Suz Broughton

    This is such a great story. I love how small and big it is at the same time.
    Man, I love your mom. Every time you talk about her it reminds me of things my mom would do. I would love to hear more about her.

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