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  • Writer's pictureKipper Ackerman

Superman, Reedy Herring

Have you ever met someone that you believe had the ability to be a real life “Superman?” Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive? Someone who would be able to leap from the Sumter Opera House to Sumter Cut Rate

in a single bound? Do you have an image of this superhero in your mind? I do. And, his name is Reedy Herring, and I met him in room 386 at Tuomey Healthcare System, now Palmetto Health Tuomey.

From time to time, I will stroll up to the surgical inpatient floor and ask the charge nurse, Pat Holloway, if she has any patients who might enjoy hearing me play my harp. She truly understands the healing power of music, and I am never disappointed with the time I spend with her patients. And, on this particular day, when I asked if she had some patients for me to see, she looked up at me with the biggest smile and called out one room number. Room 386. She informed me that this patient was 92 years old and was preparing for surgery the next morning to repair two broken wrists that had both snapped after a fall in his backyard. Then, she uttered these words: “you are gonna be surprised!”

Surprised? What should be so surprising about an elderly patient, lying in a hospital bed, frail and fragile, and in pain with two broken wrists? Yet, when I knocked on his door and pushed the handle down to enter in the room, I immediately understood Pat’s words. Elderly? Sure. But, he was all but lying down, as I found him sitting straight up in his bed. And, frail and fragile? I believe this man was made of steel. In pain? Why, there wasn’t the slightest grimace on his face. In fact, the only expression that covered his face was that of pure joy.

When I wheeled my small, folk harp next to my patient, the joy turned to delight and extreme curiosity. He even reached out his broken left arm to touch the woodwork with the tips of his fingers. And, with a voice filled with southern charm, he asked if I was going to play for him. I explained to him the ministry of The Sounds of Grace and how I take this harp around from room to room and share music to help patients feel at ease and maybe relieve them of their pain, if only for a minute. His response was overwhelming.

“Well, Mrs. Kipper, I really don’t feel like I’m in a lot pain, but I sure would love to hear you play. Do you play any country on that harp?”

“Country?” I pondered. “I have to be honest, I don’t think I have anything with me today that would classify as “country”, but I promise to come by and check on you tomorrow after your surgery and will bring something with me. But, for now, how about some beautiful hymns?”

“Well, if you’re playing them, they are for sure to be beautiful.”

Now you know why I keep doing what I do. I have more boyfriends over the age of 85 than I can keep up with at one time!

As I played some of the old hymns, such as Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, and In the Garden, my sweet patient rested his head on his pillow and simply followed my hands on the strings and watched my face as I sang to him. I believe that for a moment, there were no broken wrists, there was no approaching surgery, and there was no worry in the world.

Then came a knock on the door.

The patient’s surgeon was making a visit to discuss the surgery with the family, and this was my cue to visit someone else. I went up to my patient’s side, held his fingers, and told him I would be back tomorrow to check on him.

“And, what’s your name again?” he asked.

“It’s Kipper. Kipper Ackerman.”

“I’m Reedy. Reedy Herring. And, I love you, and can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”

“I promise to come back and I will bring my big harp ready to play some “country” just for you, Mr. Herring. And, I love you, too.”

“Reedy. Call me, Reedy,” he demanded. “And, how about some Tammy Wynette. I bet you would look good as a blonde.”

After leaving Mr. Reedy’s room, I learned from some of his family members, that up until then, he lived by himself, drove himself, did all of his yard work, and even assisted others with their yard work. Reedy Herring was a superman in the largest way! Super, indeed!

I couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Reedy once I got home and couldn’t stop sharing about this larger than life man that I had met. I couldn’t stop sharing how he didn’t seem to be in pain and how there didn’t seem to be any anxiety over the surgery to repair his wrists. He was already in healing mode and there was no doubt in my mind that he would heal and get right back to being Superman.

I knew that my follow up visit needed to be special. But, what could I do with country music and a harp? And, what I didn’t want to admit was that I didn’t even know what Tammy Wynette had written and performed. I know, I know. I said I didn’t want to admit it.

After a quick “google” of Tammy Wynette, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I first found the music to “Stand by Your Man”, then dug into the closet for a blue gown, and made a quick call to Sylvia Pickell at Sumter Little Theater for a blonde wig and cowboy hat, and I was set! I was beside myself with excitement for what was about to happen in room 386. The sun could not rise fast enough.

Nothing can prepare visitors and employees at a hospital when they are witness to a “five foot nothing” woman, dressed in a long, blue gown, blonde wig and cowboy hat while pushing a large, pedal harp into the front door of the hospital lobby. Word travels fast, and before you know it, the public relations department is texting you to find out what you are doing and where you are going.

With a small entourage to accompany me, I headed to room 386. How I wish I had a video camera to capture all of the different looks that came my way. The journey up to the third floor was entertaining, but not nearly as exciting as it was to see the smile erupt from Mr. Reedy’s face when he saw this large harp being wheeled into his room and to find me behind it dressed from head to toe as his beloved Tammy.

I quickly learned that the surgery was a success and that Mr. Reedy had no problems in recovery and was already feeling better, but are you surprised? There wasn’t one ounce of negative behavior in his body. When you are so filled with joy as he was, there isn’t any room for anything else.

As I sat behind my harp and pulled it back onto my shoulder, Mr. Reedy kept looking at me in disbelief. He would just smile and shake his head. What a fun time!

I strummed the first chord and began the chorus:

Stand by your man.

Give him two arms to cling to,

and something warm to come to

when nights are cold and lonely.

And, with an enormous grin that stretched from one ear to the other, he joined me:

Stand by your man,

and show the world you love him.

Keep giving all the love you can.

Stand by your man.

At that moment, he needed nothing more, and neither did I. Music does heal and we were both witnesses to that truth. Healing isn’t always about the physical makeup of our bodies. Sometimes, we are all in need of the healing of the heart and mind. And, in this moment, healing came through laughter, country music…on a harp, a blonde wig and cowboy hat, a blue gown, and just a few moments spent with a real life Superman.

Mr. Reedy will celebrate his 94thbirthday in May, and he is once again taking care of himself at his own residence, and I am sure he is taking care of many others, as well. Look out, Lex Luther. Reedy Herring is back in business.

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