The Touch That Changed My Life

I rarely write personal posts but I just read about something at Kerry Dwyer’s blog site that reminded me of something that changed my life, something I wanted to share, the power of touch.

While in grad school at UCLA, I had a clinical rotation at a VA outpatient hospital, when a homeless man was brought in to the emergency room. He was filthy with a foul odor, as if he hadn’t changed his clothes in days nor took them off to go to the bathroom. I saw him come with the paramedics and the commotion that ensued with a lull before anyone started treatment, to gown and glove up, goggles over eyes, all body parts covered. The swarm of doctors and nurses began working on him as I made my way over to what looked like a great teaching experience I didn’t want to miss out on. When one of the doctors stepped back to wretch, I found my opening, right at this man’s head. His face was covered in dirt and dried blood, his hair was matted to his scalp, crusts of what looked like bacterial infection surround his nose, and his breath was loaded with ETOH (alcohol), but through all this his eyes caught my attention, powder blue, dull but an incredible color in contrast with every other dirty part of him. I looked at those eyes, into them, and saw a sadness that called me to him that said, there’s nothing left for me to live for. My ungloved hand moved up to his face and touched his cheek, to say I see you, I feel you. The doctor who had left returned with a lumbar puncture kit and told me to get out of the way. I walked outside and thought of this man, who once was someone’s baby, fought in Viet Nam, and who knows what else, and cried.

A week later, I returned to that same VA facility and was assigned to see out patients. Half way through my shift, I was paged to the front desk, where I found a nice looking thirty-something man, wearing khaki pants, a red and white stripped shirt, penny loafers, and a blue blazer. He looked like something out of Harvard and I thought he was probably a new Intern or Resident but there was something about him that looked familiar, his eyes.

“Do you remember me?” he asked. He didn’t wait for my answer, he saw I had. “Just came back to thank you. ” He then went on to tell me that my touching his cheek really got through to him, as drunk as he was he remembered that. He also remembered that I looked at him, not in disgust or revulsion but soul to soul, and in that brief encounter, he felt human again. He had lost his soul in the killing fields and was on a self destruct slow suicide mission when he arrived at the ER a week earlier but his plan, his wanting to quit it all, was interrupted, by a naive girl, who was stupid enough to not put on gloves, or cover herself from him. He remembered something I forgot, that when the doctor came back and told me to leave, it was because I wasn’t wearing that protective gear. That stuck with the patient. He felt I was there for him and not the procedure, I was the with him, and not the job or duty, he felt noticed and that someone cared. He told me he cleaned himself up to come back as a thank you to me for that. And with that, he very politely said, “I’ve taken enough of your time here. You have a good day.”

He left me speechless, standing there watching him leave, in awe, in what I can’t even find the words to express. I never saw him again, but I will never forget him.

Please feel free to share or reblog.

About The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, United States Secretary of State, expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in settling a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for "gross indecency" under Britian's recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When the news of Wilde's conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wildes' imprisonment. It is chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing. Paulette Mahurin, the author, is a Nurse Practitioner who lives in Ojai, California with her husband Terry and their two dogs--- Max and Bella. She practices women's health in a rural clinic and writes in her spare time. All profits from her book are going to animal rescue, Santa Paula Animal Shelter, the first and only no-kill shelter in Ventura County, CA, where she lives. (see links below on Ventura County Star Article & Shelter) To find out more please go the The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap on facebook or Amazon or e-mail us at the gavatar addresses. Thank you. (photos: of Paulette, her family, and a reading at The Ojai Art Center, July 2012)
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221 Responses to The Touch That Changed My Life

  1. ritaroberts says:

    What an amazing story.It certainly touched my heart to think this man was so desperate and you gave him back the will to live. Thanks so much for sharing this story which has touched everyone’s heart.

  2. rumpydog says:

    Happy New Year my friend!

  3. petit4chocolatier says:

    Beautiful post!

    I am going to reblog your link on my reblog page.

  4. Reblogged this on theblackandwhitedragonfly and commented:
    Beautiful story !

  5. You have showcase the lessons in suffering and compassion by providing a witness to his pain, sometimes that’s all you can do…… But that’s still a lot. Your touch changed a persons life. What a tremendous gift you gave him.

  6. beebeesworld says:

    It seems we often forget what a simple gesture may do for someone. I have had the experience of being on both ends of this moment in time. I think how many times we may affect people profoundly and never know it. It is wonderful that you got the pleasure of seeing the result-I imagine it was one of many times you have and will touch a life-if only there were more people like you…I will follow your blog and invite you to follow mine. Best wishes, beebeesworld

    • beebeesworld says:

      Although, I believe, I am already “following” your blog, my page said, simply, “follow”. It is odd how that happened, with 450 emails awaiting me and me trying to decide which ones to read-I picked yours,,It has been a tough holiday season, tough to think of going back to a world I don’t feel a part of. Your blog touched me. Perhaps I was meant to read it. beebeesworld

      • It’s so true what you wrote about touching someone profoundly and most times never receiving feedback. I feel lucky that time I did. And, I hear you on it having been a tough holiday season and not feeling a part of what you’re going back to. Holding you in my heart if that’s any comfort.

  7. beebeesworld says:

    As you sit and decide” which ones should I read, with so little time”. I thank you for your quick reply, as well as your comments. Perhaps, I didn’t get the first one because it was “reblogged?” . I am going to check and make sure I am “following: YOUR blog. I have spend a lot of time in emergency rooms, usually with a sick relative, once with my son, who perhaps you read, collapsed and could not be revived while playing ball. I have said a few kind works, to people I have met there, in a place where you feel so alone and your world is falling apart. It is good to know that some of the medical personnel who are there feel that it is more than a “job’/ My daughter works at a facility for at risk youth, and has had the pleasure of being that connection to life several times. I look forward to looking at your blog again and would love to hear from you.Brenda Lewis

    • beebeesworld says:

      Thank you, once again. I fell a bit less “alone”. beebee

    • Brenda, bless your heart for sharing this, what must be so painful. I worked the emergency room for years and I can assure you our heart breaks along with yours, of course not the same, never, but we don’t forget the loss of a child, the unthinkable for you his mother. Yes, I did read it. I read your poetry, that seared through my body, I feel the pain but only through my imagination for in truth I can’t imagine what you have lived through. I hope these few words offer you some kind of comfort. For me personally, it’s an honor, a privilege, no matter the pain, to be there with another when there is a need for someone to just be there and to convey with everything in me, I’m sorry this happened. I will be thinking of you a lot and holding you in my heart. Paulette

      • beebeesworld says:

        I believe that sometimes a chance happening comes for a reason. Reading your blog, your replies and feeling your kindness gave me hope and courage. Thank you.

  8. Pingback: 5:03 am. And, Inspired… – Lead.Learn.Live.

  9. mightwar says:

    A lovely story representing one of my favourite beliefs: sometimes, the smallest kindness makes the greatest difference. This sure put a smile in my heart. Thank you.

  10. Otrazhenie says:

    Reblogged this on Otrazhenie and commented:
    Very nice story that warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

  11. And you’ve shared this with all of us. Thank you. A reminder to everyone of the Golden Rule. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. Spread a little kindness each day with a smile, a touch, a Happy New Year. Love, Charmaine

  12. karinconway says:

    Reblogged this on Karinconway's Blog and commented:
    Definitely worth a few minutes to stop and read. Talk about making a difference in someone’s life! πŸ™‚

  13. Rad change says:

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and for the follow.

  14. Loved this post. Thanks for following. Good journey.

  15. lynnwyvill says:

    This is a beautifully written post that touched my heart. Thank you for stopping by my blog and the like.

    • My pleasure, and perhaps we can run around together, like squirrels, and catch a few nuts. I loved that post at your site. Loved the question, “Have you ever seen a squirrel with a list?” Now, that’s what I call a great question! Thank you for your lovely words here.

      • lynnwyvill says:

        I laughed when I read your suggestion about running around together. I love it. So let’s do a virtual run-around. Have a great day!

      • That’s so funny, really. I can’t tell you how much laughter has been generated in our homestead watching our dogs chasing squirrels up in trees, high wires, etc. Endless entertainment…how could I not hook up with you after that? πŸ™‚

  16. ritaroberts says:

    Hello. I kept your post, ” The touch that changed my life ” in my favourites because I want to reblog it,if thats O.K. with you. Such a beautiful touching story. Have a wonderful new year 2013.

    • Hello, ritaroberts. Absolutely it’s okay. It’s yours to do with as you please. What’s important is to spread good news, goodwill, put more love into this world that really seems to need it. It was my blessing to experience, your story to share. Wishing you a wonderful 2013.

  17. I also,reblogged this and shared on my Facebook page. This is just beautiful and touching. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Feeling Joy says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Beneath darkness there is light. I’m grateful that my friend posted your blog on Facebook!

  19. gita4elamats says:

    Such a touching story!

  20. Hanna says:

    Reblogged this on Hanna Wilbur's and commented:
    Just in time… After a reblog saying “…Do not consider even the smallest good deed as insignificant…” I come across this. What a touching experience.
    Have you ever had a simple yet changing experience like this? Tell me :,).

  21. I’ve seen the same many times working in the health profession. We all need love. Touch is magic. Maggie agrees. WOOF WOOF πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • So true. Magic is a great word. There are so many simple miracles to pay attention to and touch is right up there. Also, high up there is how I feel looking at, petting, sitting with my dogs. It instantly changes everything. I could go on and on. I’m so happy to connect with you, Maggie’s mamma and my new wise friend, Maggie. Big cyber hugs and rubbies to Maggie. WOOF WOOF. πŸ™‚

      • Thank you so much! Would you please tell your friends about us? That’s how we pass on the MaggieMoose love! We’re still looking for people from Antarctica to follow us-that will make us reached on 7 continents? Any chill folks out there? WOOF WOOF πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      • PS. I forgot to tell you that Maggie & I are writing a Children’s book series all about Moose Size Pawsabilities. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      • You bet I’ll tell others about you MaggieMoose. Feel free to also stop by and post here any time.

        Love it on the books! I’d love to hear more. Please feel free to e-mail me or give me your e-mail addy to connect if you’d like to. Never any pressure or obligation from moi, just a hand held out. BTW, my nickname is Paw-wet. My hubby’s partner’s young daughter couldn’t pronounce my name, out came Paw-wet, shortened down to Paw for a lotta friends. All my cyber friends are welcome to call me that. It’s a label I can live with. πŸ™‚ I’m so excited for you Maggiemoose! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  22. Touch: the most dangerous interaction we can have, and therefore, when it’s truly kind and innocent, also the most healing and powerfully good. Well done.

  23. It’s a beautiful story, thanks forr sharing.

  24. That was such a beautiful and moving story. Tears formed in my eyes. It reminded me of similar incidents with “homeless people.” They were so overwhelmed that I’d stop to help them with what I could or give a homeless lady a ride. All she had was a hooded sweatshirt and it was cold out.
    It moves me with humbleness to see the heart, mind and spirit of someone, who especially is often a throw away by society.

  25. fgassette says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you took to stop by. May your day be filled with joy and peace.

  26. When God can’t send an angel fast enough, He uses us. What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing with us.

  27. shreejacob says:

    Thank you for dropping by my blog and liking the post..and I’m really glad that I decided to check this particular post out (It appeared in the email notification from WP). I’ve learned that the I may have been fearing is not to open my heart…but to actually use it. For some reason this post has made me see thanks again! πŸ™‚

    • Oh my, what an absolutely marvelous thing you’ve shared here. I saw something also while reading your comment, that I’ll never know how something will be until I step into the doing of it and then I may discover I don’t fear doing it at all. What a great chain reaction. Thank you so much!

  28. natuurfreak says:

    What a wonderful story of beeing human.I think you never forgot this meeting with that men.

  29. malctg says:

    Hi The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap. Your post was amazing Thank you. Very uplifting. Also thank you for calling by again and liking my poem ‘Dark Secrets’. The Foureyed Poet.

    • Hello The Foureyed Poet! Thank you for your very kind words. It’s my pleasure to visit your site and read your great poetry. I’m always amazed by a poets ability to say so much with so few words. Not one of my better talents I’m afraid. I learn from you. πŸ™‚

  30. Reblogged this on waywardspirit and commented:
    How can I monitize thins?
    This is the only vald question right?

  31. How often has such sweet experience happened since? Or to what degree of miracle?

    • What a great question, Waywardspirit. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything to that extent since. I am a touchy feely type of NP (nurse practitioner) and did work in a very busy ER for years with lovely responses from scared patients when I’d touch them (on their cheek, hold a hand, etc.). I would see appreciative smiles, perhaps relaxation or less anxiety in their body language and “thank you honey” etc., but never anything as dramatic as this experience. I have often felt it was my this lifetime moment when the clouds parted and the light shone on gratitude for me to witness. It changed my heart.

      • Feels like the energy of whatever is called Christ flowing softly every day through you…
        Mother Teresa tells of seeing and feeling like you described.
        “How do I monitize?”
        Seems to be the only valid popular question….
        Applying it to a miracle is appropriate. : )
        Cuz first you would have to well, expect miracles and then experience them. ; )
        Thank you for this miracle!
        Michele O’Donnell a nurse healer practices what you did consciously. Guess it’s how “Christ” healed by seeing. Seeing the truth. It’s the basis of her practice now at Living Beyond Disease.
        I don’t figure that one has to be a Christian to see this way, and empower even if it is described in those stories.
        What do you think?

      • Beautifully put. What do I think? Thought can never touch on what you speak of and so I say that the heart knows what the mind can never conceive, of all that is possible. This is the place where inspiration leaves me at a loss for words but allow me to say thank you for your inspirational words.

  32. Pingback: Friday Favorites Februrary 8th | livingsimplyfree

  33. Thank you, livingsimplyfree, for the pingback. πŸ™‚

  34. jmsabbagh says:

    Emotional yet mesmerizing post.How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it.In every beautiful word we say in every kind act we do there is God.Thank you for liking my recent post ( Authentic Responsibility…) Warm regards.jalal

  35. Seyi sandra says:

    I had tears in my eyes reading this, that was a great story, ‘soul to soul.’ Thank you for posting this!!

  36. Beautiful. And what a powerful lesson and reminder: we never know the good we may do by taking the time to reach out to another human being. Thanks.

    • Hi Mark. That’s so true. The impact of this that would have been completely forgotten had he not come back to let me know. It was monumental, life changing certainly for me. As my memory fades about so many things this is pretty vivid. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Just had a look at your great cartoon work which I really enjoyed. πŸ™‚

  37. chatou11 says:

    What a beautiful story, I have tears in my eyes.. thanks for sharing!
    have a nice week and thank you for your visits

  38. TBM says:

    Wow. It really is the simple acts of kindness that leave a lasting impression.

  39. FlaHam says:

    Paulette, I knew something drew me to you, your a warm and kind lady, thank you for sharing this. Take care, Bill

  40. 1annecasey says:


  41. redneckdixiewarrior says:

    Hi there!

    What a heart warming story! Just a touch of human kindness can do so much! So happy that you and the gentleman were able to have this experience together. I pray he never forgets and pays it forward.

    I also wanted to say thank you for stopping by Jericho777’s blog and reblogging/ likeing my article on Lavender. Hope to see you there often! πŸ™‚

  42. Pingback: ~The Touch That Changed My Life ~ | Jericho777's Blog

  43. Bob Lee says:

    What a touching moment you’ve shared. It’s nice to hear about the human side of life that heals that technology will never be able to come close to. Thank you for sharing such an amazing story

  44. poetjena says:

    ” ‘I’ was with him, not the job or duty, ” – these words resonate with me deeply.

    And what an important reminder.
    How quickly we can lose “touch” with that which is really important in life.

    Less fear, more soul.

    in love&light

  45. Paulette….this gave me chills in the best of ways. You should write MORE about your touching moments. Surely, this man is not the only one you have touched and changed.

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