Micah Van Dreumel was medically discharged from the Marine Corps. After a bad divorce, he was at risk for homelessness and knew he needed a job. What he didn’t expect was great friendship – and a job as a housekeeper.
While getting a COVID test at VA Sierra Nevada, Van Dreumel enrolled in VA health care for the first time. A week later, he was a VA employee in housekeeping, where he settled in quickly by speaking to the Veteran patients during his shifts at night.
“It doesn’t matter how old we are or the age difference between us, they are all family,” he said, of the patients in the Emergency Department.
Two Marines share stories from their service
“Gary” was an elderly patient in the COVID unit and fellow Marine. Van Dreumel made it a point to say hello to every patient and share words of encouragement. The two Marines quickly formed a friendship, sharing stories from their service and laughed at jokes.
When Gary mentioned that he missed green tea, Van Dreumel got permission to bring him some. “It was as if nothing was wrong,” he said. “While he sipped on that tea, he sat up straight and seemed like a new man.”
Days later, Gary’s health began to decline. He confided in Van Dreumel that he knew his time was coming to an end and that he had some requests. He didn’t want to be alone and he wanted to go on his own terms. Gary also asked Van Dreumel to tell his family that he loved them and to tell his wife that he went peacefully.
Refused to leave until Veteran was “ready to go”
Van Dreumel called home and made arrangements for his grandmother to watch his children that evening. Then he sat next to Gary’s bed, refusing to leave his side. They shared more stories and laughter until Gary was finally ready to “go,” and then he thanked his new friend one last time.
“I thanked Micah many times for his compassion for this very special patient,” said “Anita,” an RN in the COVID unit. “He would always say that Veterans look after each other. He was modest and would never take the compliment… I am just overwhelmed with gratitude that my patient had this special person in their life. I had the opportunity to see Gary’s daughters in the emergency room and they said they were very grateful as well.”
At the time, his family was not permitted to enter the COVID unit.
“Veterans are who we serve here.”
Van Dreumel went to Gary’s funeral and met with his wife and daughters, fulfilling a promise he made to his fellow Marine. That evening, he was back at work, performing housekeeper duties and giving words of encouragement to other Veterans in the COVID unit.
They were two Marines, one old and one young. They only knew each other for two weeks, yet shared a lifetime of memories.
“We are family,” Van Dreumel said. “No matter what we are going through, we are Veterans and we are family. Veterans are who we serve here and this is what they deserve. This is how I would want to be treated. This is the kind of care I would want. It’s not going above and beyond the call of duty. It’s doing what I’m supposed to be doing and what all of us should be doing.”