The elderly black woman’s blood pressure had been dangerously elevated. While I was checking her vitals for one of many times that shift, she looked up at me hesitantly. “If I tell you something, will you do it for me?” she asked. “What is it?” I replied. “Go out yonder,” she said, pointing at the midnight sky outside her fifth floor hospital room window, “and get some leaves offa dem apple trees. Make a poultice of ’em, and sprinkle on some salt to pull da juice outta da leaves. Put dat poultice on my fo’ehead, an’ dat will take it right down.”
“It’s da simple things,” she went on reflectively, sighing a bit as she gazed out the window. “But nobody listens. If people would jus’ listen, it’s da simple things dat work.”
I would have done it for her, just to show her someone was listening; just to see if it might really work. I would have, if only there had been apple trees out there. Unfortunately, there was only the night air, and five floors down, the asphalt of the Emergency Room parking lot.
I considered explaining the lack of apple trees, but knew it would only confuse and frustrate her. Besides, she seemed to be really enjoying the view, and I didn’t have the heart to spoil it. The best I could do was get a cool damp cloth for her forehead.
She smiled at me gratefully, wordlessly forgiving me with the gentle grace of one who has grown accustomed to not being taken seriously, and lay back to sleep. I turned and left her room, closing the door softly behind me, moving on to my next patient with an odd sense of helpless guilt.