Pete and I have just returned from a week at Fish Camp in the White Mountains of AZ. This is our third year to attend this annual event hosted by the Apache Indian Tribe. It is held at Christmas Tree Lake. This is a nice sized lake on the reservation that is so named because a few years ago a tree was taken from the forest and became the White House Christmas Tree. Smaller pine trees dot the shore line and at this time of year there is also some snow left on the ground. The setting is gorgeous – and if, by chance, one of those native Apache Trout like the fly on the line you have been blessed.
This was the setting. Virgil, an Apache Indian, is the manager of this camp and has been for many years. On our other trips to the reservation lakes over the years we do, by chance, run in to him from time to time. He has a full time job with the Sport Shop at the Hon Dah Headquarters – but his passion is fly fishing and he gets out to perfect his art as often as possible.
Something was just a bit ‘different’ about Virgil when we arrived this year. He came out to greet us as he always does and showed us the tent we would be using as home for a few days. He is an avid Diamondbacks baseball fan and I had taken him a t-shirt and pin for his hat. As he was getting ready to leave us at our tent I dared to ask him if everything was O.K. with him.
He hesitated to begin talking but something made him ‘spill his thoughts’ and it wasn’t long before I heard he had gotten very ill and didn’t know what was the matter. He had been terribly afraid and finally his wife had taken him to the doctor. He had a blood sugar off the scale and was nearly in a diabetic coma. He had gotten the blood sugars under control and now was testing himself daily and using medication. He talked and talked about how frightened he was and he didn’t know what to do.
I put my first round of fishing on hold and he and I sat down to talk. He had not known that I am a nurse and when I shared with him that one of the hats I wore over the years was to open a Renal/Diabetic Unit at the hospital. I asked him a few questions to see how much he understood of diabetes. His answers were borderline. I did not want to frighten him but I did want to impress upon him how important it was to take care of himself. I gave him every useful hint I could think of. I surely did not want to take away his communication with his physician – but all too often in healthcare the professionals think the patient understands because they don’t ask a question, and, in fact the patient doesn’t understand.
Our session ended and out I went to catch a few ‘big ones’. But for the rest of the camp every morning and night Virgil would find me and tell me what he had tested himself at and ask if that was O.K. I had him keep a log so he could see if a pattern developed.
As I said earlier Virgil has a passion for fly fishing and he really wants the camp attendees to catch fish. In my case he also wanted me to cast a bit more smoothly. When I was on shore he insisted I show him how I cast and he offered me many tips. I caught a ‘great big one’ right from shore as he watched.
We never spoke of our conversation again until Pete and I were leaving. Then he let me know how much at ease I had put him and promised he would continue to take good care of himself and monitor the diabetes.
I suspect I was just in the right place at the right time. We had a rapport through fishing – now we could connect at another level. We just plain trusted each other to do the right thing.