In the Nick of Time

Celebrating the sacrament of anointing of the sick is a normal occurrence in a hospital. So much so, in fact, that Anneke and the rest of the Star Service staff have the phone numbers for all of the on-call staff at the local Catholic church on file at the service desk. Whenever a patient or their family decides it’s time to celebrate the sacrament, Anneke calls the church and makes an appointment for the priest to come to the hospital.

Sue came to the Errand Solutions desk to make arrangements for a priest to come to the hospital and offer the sacrament to her mother.

“She’d like to see a priest,” Sue said. “I don’t think it’s an emergency just yet, but her doctor doesn’t think she’s going to get any better.”

Anneke nodded and took the number of the room Sue’s mother was in, promising to call the church for Sue.

Anneke called the church office and spoke with the administrative assistant. She gave her the name of Sue’s mother, her room number, and told her about the situation. An appointment was made for the next morning, and Anneke sent a message to Sue telling her what time to expect the priest.

Late the next afternoon, Sue returned to the Errand Solutions desk. “The priest didn’t make it over last night,” she said. “I talked to my mother’s doctor this morning, and he doesn’t think she has much time left. Could you call again and see if he’s coming?”

“Absolutely,” Anneke said. “I’ll give them another call right now.” Sue still looked worried. Anneke, knowing how important it is for both patients and their family members to feel comfort, especially on a spiritual level, at times like this, tried to reassure Sue. “Something probably came up at the church last night,” she said.

“I’m sure he’ll be here soon, but I’ll give them another call. Go be with your mother, I’ll take care of this.”

Once Sue left, Anneke called the church, only to by answered by the machine. The office had closed down for the evening already. Knowing how important this was for Sue and her mother, Anneke dug through her files to find the numbers for the on-call staff at the church. After several tries, Anneke reached a member of the church staff and told her about Sue and her mother. “It wasn’t an emergency last night,” Anneke explained, “but things got worse overnight, and they’d really like to see a priest as soon as possible.”

“Okay,” the staffer said. “I’ll call Father and send him over right away.” Anneke hung up reassured and turned to her other work.

A few hours passed, and Anneke neither saw a priest walk in nor heard from Sue. Her coworkers were getting ready to go home for the evening, but she sat at the desk shuffling paperwork. She wanted to be there in case Sue came back asking about the priest. Just before seven, Anneke looked up to see a man wearing a Roman collar under a cardigan walking down the hall. Relieved, she finally packed up her bag and headed home for the night.

The next morning, Anneke looked up to see Sue coming to the desk again. She was worried for a minute – she was sure she had seen the priest walking by last night. Sue quickly relieved her fears.

“Thank you so much for finding a priest for us,” she said. She told Anneke about the celebration of the sacrament and how her mother had been able to participate.“It was beautiful,” she added. “She wouldn’t have been able to do that this morning. Her organs deteriorated so much overnight that I don’t think she would have even known a priest was in the room if he had come this morning.”

The Choking Iguana

Bobby wanted a pet—more than anything in the world. In fact, it was the only thing on his Christmas list this year. Cindy didn’t know what to do.

“He’s allergic to everything! Dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits. Everything. We tried some fish last year, but he wanted to HOLD them. That got messy real fast.”

Louise chuckled. As an Errand Solutions site manager, she thought she’d heard everything, but her customers always continued to surprise her. Thinking of the chickens and horses in her back yard at home, Louise had an idea. “Have you thought of a more unconventional pet for your son?” she asked.

Cindy laughed. “If you’re talking about one of your chickens, then no way. My husband would kill me!”

Louise laughed along with Cindy. “You can’t have one of my chickens! But I know where you could get one of your own.”

“Can you imagine a chicken running around the house? Oh Bobby would LOVE it. I can just see him chasing it all over the living room. Feathers flying. Eggs everywhere. I’d never hear the end of it!”

“Haha! But think of all the money you’d save on eggs.”

“Oh lord. That would be a great day, until I had to clean up. But if you have another idea, I’m open to suggestions.”

“Ok, so chickens are out. Let me see what else I can come up with. Come see me tomorrow.” Cindy left, still laughing at the thought of her husband’s face as he was greeted with a room full of feathers when he got home from work.

Louise had only been half serious about the chicken, but it had definitely given her some ideas. She hopped on the Internet and started to research. By the next morning, she had a great idea, and couldn’t wait for Cindy to stop into the office. By the time Cindy arrived just after lunch, Louise was about to burst.

“Have you ever thought about an iguana?” she exclaimed, forgetting to even say hello.

“An iguana?” Cindy’s expression moved from surprised to thoughtful. “I hadn’t. Aren’t they really messy?”

Louise was ready, because she had thought the same thing before she clicked on that article. “Actually, no. They’re one of the cleanest reptiles around. I have a stack of articles about what great pets they make for kids who are allergic to everything else. And best of all – they’re fairly easy to care for, so you won’t have to do all the heavy lifting.”

Cindy looked skeptical. “My husband suggested a snake, but I refused to even think about that. There’s no way I could imagine buying mice to feed to another animal. What do iguanas eat anyway?”

Louise had also asked herself the same question the day before, and she was confident that her answer would be just what Cindy was looking for: “Vegetables. They don’t eat meat at all.”


“Really?” Cindy was surprised. “And they’re not hostile or anything?”

“Nope. They’re very gentle. Perfect for kids. I kind of want to get one for my granddaughter now.”

Cindy nodded her head. “All right then. An iguana it is. Now I just have to figure out where to get one.”

Louise smiled and produced a stack of papers. It was already done. She was so sure that Cindy would go for the iguana plan, she’d gone ahead and contacted the local pet stores and even an iguana society to get all the information Cindy would need.

“There are two iguanas waiting to meet you and Bobby at the pet store down on 51. I told them you’d probably be in this weekend.”

Cindy laughed again. “It’s like you can read my mind. Thanks so much for all your hard work.”

“Happy to do it. You be sure and take pictures on Christmas morning. I want to see Bobby’s face when he opens his presents!”

Cindy promised she would and left the office. Louise smiled to herself, happy with another satisfied customer, and turned back to the computer to email her son about the present for her granddaughter.

* *  *  *  *  *

After receiving the emailed photo of Cindy’s son, proudly holding Henry the Iguana on Christmas Day, Louise taped it to the front of the large purple folder of cards and thank you notes from her other customers. His smile would be the first thing she saw whenever she pulled out the folder to file something away—which she did at least twice a week. Her customers were all so wonderful.

Then the phone rang.

Louise had barely lifted the phone when the voice on the other line starting speaking in rapid Spanish.

“I’m sorry, I can’t understand you. Can you speak English?” she asked.

“No! No anglais!” the voice exclaimed.

Louise exhaled. “Ok, hold on. I’ll try to find someone to help,” she said, knowing that the caller probably couldn’t understand her at all.

Luckily, a nurse who had been into Louise’s office many times to buy movie tickets was just down the hall. Louise knew that Marta spoke Spanish, because they’d talked about how important it was to Marta that her children start learning their family’s native language early on.

“Marta! Can you help translate a phone call for me? It sounds like an emergency!”

Marta quickly followed Louise back to the office and picked up the phone. She started speaking to the caller. Louise watched as Marta’s eyes widened.

With a confused look on her face, Marta looked at Louise. “Do you know anything about an iguana?”

Louise looked startled. “Maybe?”

“This woman said she called the number on the fridge for the Iguana Lady. She’s a nanny. The child’s name is Bobby something?”

“Oh my. Yes, I know that iguana. What’s wrong?”

Marta turned back to the phone and continued to speak.

“He’s choking on a Lego?” Marta looked back at Louise, not sure what to do. “She says she tried calling a veterinarian but they said they didn’t do that. I don’t know what that means!”

Thinking fast, Louise sat down at her desk and started flipping through the phonebook.

“Can you tell her not to worry and that we’ll send help right away?”

Marta relayed the message, and hung up the phone. “How on earth are you going to help her?” she asked Louise.

Louise knew from her time on the farm that there were special vets for horses and pigs and cows. She assumed there were also special vets for iguanas. No sooner had Marta asked her the question, did Louise have the answer.

“A reptile vet. We’ll make something happen in a hurry.”

Marta sat down; she now wanted to see what would happen.

Louise pulled up Cindy’s home address from her profile and prepared to give it to the vet. But after speaking with the vet, she had a few more calls to make. They could take care of the animal, but they didn’t do house calls, even in an emergency situation, because of liabilities.

Louise had heard of another situation like this, years ago. She hopped online and googled “pet ambulance”. There was one in the area and she made another call.

After everything was set in motion, Louise called Cindy at her desk to let her know what was going on. “Oh no!” Cindy cried. “What am I going to do?”

“Just go meet them at the vet’s office. He’s already on his way. And please keep me posted. I’m here if you need anything else.”

Marta and Louise sat in the office, still a bit stunned at the quick flurry of activity. “I guess there’s nothing else we can do right now,” Marta said. “I’ll check back later to see what happened.” And she left the office.

Louise couldn’t just sit there, she was too anxious. She pulled up her files from the previous December and called up the pet store and the iguana society to see if there was anything else that needed to be done. Before long, she was compiling a list of resources for Cindy that would help with her pet’s recovery or, god forbid, help her to find a new iguana.

She was putting everything into a folder, when the phone rang. It was Cindy.

“He’s fine. They got the Lego out and he’s expected to make a full recovery.”

Louise breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh I’m so glad! I’ve been thinking about him all afternoon.”

“There’s no way he would have made it without your help. I know I’ve called you a lifesaver before, but now it’s really true. Thanks so much for everything!” Cindy exclaimed.

Louise looked at her photo of Cindy’s son Bobby and Henry the Iguana and smiled. It was time to go find Marta and tell her the good news.