As she was getting dressed with the help of her nurse for physical therapy, a physical therapist walked into her room and with a cheerful excitement asked, “Hey Yassmina, are you ready for an interesting day?”
Not sure of what she meant by the remark she asked, “What do we have planned?”
In a conspiratorial voice she replied, “I can’t tell you yet, it’s a surprise.”
Eager to find out what the surprise was she tried to hurry and finish getting ready. Once she was in her wheelchair, the therapist rolled her to the hallway where she heard many voices talking. She turned her head slightly sideways and asked, “Is everyone going to rehab today?”
With a smile in her voice the therapist replied, “Yes they are, like I said it’s a surprise!”
The small crowd started making their way to the physical therapy gym. She was grinning with anticipation to find out what surprise was waiting for them. As they entered the gym one by one she could hear the gasps and awes coming from the other patients. Once she entered the room she tilted her head up and asked, “What is going on?”
“Today our therapy for everyone is to wrap presents for the nurses.”
Overcome with pleasure and excitement she excitedly said, “Really? I love to wrap presents, that is one of my favorite things to do during Christmas.”
With surprise mixed with enjoyment the therapist replied, “Well that’s great! You’ll definitely have a great time then.”
She was wheeled to a table and the therapist adjusted the table so that she could slide underneath it without bumping or hurting her legs and the therapist said, “The therapist you’re working with will be over in a minute or two and you both are going to wrap presents, ok?”
Smiling she replied, “Ok, thank you!”
As she waited for someone to come she contemplated on how she was going to manage wrapping but discarded the thought immediately not wanting her mind to ruin this wonderful gift. Instead her thoughts drifted to the past 5 months she had been in the hospital. All of the fear, pain, agony, and anger that her and her family had gone through were finally behind them. The coma and locked-in-syndrome she had been in had terrified them all. Not knowing whether she was going to recover from those horrible situations took a major toll on all of them.
She remembered the first Christmas she had in the hospital; it was as vivid as if it happened yesterday.
She stared at the tiny Christmas tree adorned with miniature presents and bulb ornaments sitting on the counter. She did not know who gave it to her; it was just magically there when she woke up one morning. Her face crumpled up once again and she felt the stinging in her eyes where the tears were trying to escape. She did not want to be in the hospital and the remnants of her earlier crying spell were still visible with her red and puffy eyes and damp hospital gown. It was Christmas Eve and she longed to be at home with her family. It was tradition for her and her family to open their presents at the stroke of midnight. Also, Christmas Eve was her parents' anniversary and even though they had come earlier that day she felt like she was missing all of the fun and celebration. The thought of the cookies she usually made with her uncle, wrapping the presents with her mom, who had taught her how to wrap properly the year before, the decorating of the house and tree and her duty she had as the person who passed out the presents, had her feeling as if she was drowning in a dark lonely abyss. She pulled the covers of the hospital bed up close to her face and tried to cocoon herself from the world.
Breaking through the blanket of sadness, a soft, sweet voice asked, “Are you ok?” She looked over at the curtain that surrounded the bed and she saw an elderly voluptuous woman with soft gray hair wearing a fitted red dress with white trimming, a large black belt and a matching Santa cap on top of her head. The beautiful stranger took her off guard and she managed a weak smile. She said in a croaky voice, “Yes, thank you.” “Would you mind some company?” Not wanting to be rude she said, “Sure.”
She watched as the woman pulled up a chair placing it next to her bed. The woman then introduced herself, “I’m Mrs. Claus and your name?” Even though she was old enough to not believe in Santa anymore she smiled at Mrs. Claus and said, “My name is Yassmina, it’s nice to meet you.”
Mrs. Claus asked, “Why are you so sad, it is Christmas Eve.” Looking down at the covers on the bed she said, “I want to go home. I’ve never spent Christmas away from my family.”
Mrs. Claus lightly placed her hand over her own and gently patted it and softly said, “Things are going to be alright.” Her smoothing words managed to ease the ache that was surrounding her heart. Mrs. Claus said, “Tell me about your family. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
She explained about her parents, her uncle that lived with them and all about her brothers and sister. After a while she was smiling as she told a story about her baby sister to Mrs. Claus. She didn’t know how long Mrs. Claus stayed with her but by the time she got up to go darkness was upon them. Mrs. Claus gave her a big hug and produced out of nowhere a long string of wrapped candy canes that she gave to her. Mrs. Claus said, “You have a very Merry Christmas. You know if you go to sleep now Christmas will be here along with your family.”
A voice called her name, piercing through the flood of memories flowing through her head, and she recognized it right away, it was one of her regular therapists.
“Are you ready to get down and wrap some presents?” the therapist asked enthusiastically.
Feeling giddy about the task she replied, “Yes I am!”