Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Heliotrope - Boston, Massachusetts (February 2007)

Last week brought an end to my second of three internships I must pass through before graduating this June. This one went much better than expected, and I found out I could actually tolerate doing physical therapy in an acute hospital setting. Every day is a new adventure, and some remarkably interesting people have to spend time in a hospital bed.

I had one patient who broke down crying when I introduced myself to him for the first time. I know PT stands for "pain and torture" to some people, but I still hadn't been prepared for that sort of reaction.

This guy was an elderly gent with a German accent. He spent the next several minutes telling me his unsolicited life story. I'll relay it here, as it's worth repeating and not likely to be publicized anywhere else.

He had just finished medical school in Germany, specializing in electrophysical medicine, when WWII broke out. He was never affilliated with the Nazi party, but being German, he was forced to enlist in the army and was shipped off to fight on the Russian front. He was injured 3 times, and each time sent back to fight again. After a 4th injury, he couldn't make himself go back. So he quit and refused to return to the front.

Well, the Nazis didn't take well to that idea, so he was shipped off to Italy where some sort of prison camp was located. He was put in this camp as punishment. Meanwhile, he was still recovering from his wounds, so he had an Italian nurse taking care of him. Being a handsome young soldier, he hit it off well with the nurse, and they ended up in a relationship after a while. He knew he needed to get out of German custody, and once he had recovered sufficiently, his Italian girlfriend was able to help him escape from the prison camp and get across enemy lines to the British army.

Apparently, there were a number of German deserters who switched sides and ended up fighting with the Allied forces. He was able to join one of these units and spent the rest of the war fighting the Germans with the Brits. When the war was over, he went back home to Berlin, but everything he had once known had been bombed into oblivion.

So, he was able to hop on a ship for Canada. He ended up in Vancouver, where he studied to become an engineer, and ended up doing that as a profession for the rest of his working life. I was unclear about when he moved to the United States, but obviously that had to happen at some point in his story.

Anyway, he was feeling very emotional and nostalgic due to his then present condition, and he needed to share his story with someone. As I said, some remarkably interesting people have to spend time in a hospital bed.


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