Friday, April 18, 2014


When It’s Time

My grandfather would tell us tales of working in the coal mines in Southwestern Pennsylvania. One of the several stories that he shared was brought to mind while he was watching the news. The news story was about an airliner that had a door pop open during flight and a stewardess was sucked out and killed. At that time he said, “When it’s your time, it’s your time.” Then went on to tell, “We had just started a new mine and were still close to the surface. We were so often underground; we went outside when we could. It was lunch time and we went out to eat our food in the fresh air. We had just sat down and began to eat, when one of the miners cocked his head as if someone had called his name. The man laid aside his sandwich and walked back into the entrance of the mine. He had barely stepped inside, when the ceiling of the mine collapsed and buried him. It was as though God had called his name and told him to come into the mine.
Granddad always chewed Cutty Pipe tobacco, one of the cheapest shredded tobacco that the stores sold. Granddad picked up the habit in the coal mines. There were no such things as masks or respirators and to keep him from swallowing the coal dust that would collect in his mouth, he chewed the tobacco and would spit the juice out. If he swallowed the tobacco juice, it would make him sick. It became a habit and he chewed Cutty Pipe even after he’d retired from the mines.
The veins of coal were low and even though my granddad was a short man, he either had to stoop or crawl to swing a pick and shovel it out for the mine carts to haul to the surface. He worked the night shift with my uncle. What I didn’t know until after the death of my granddad and my uncle was that my uncle was lazy and slept during the night and my granddad would have to do double duty, shoveling and loading the coal for two. My granddad worked a farm during the day. I doubt if my uncle helped on the farm either.
My granddad died at the age of seventy-six, diagnosed with  hardening of the arteries, but I think that much of the problem was he was worn out from burning the candle at both ends. Although my grandfather was short in stature and quiet, he stood tall in my eyes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


In Times of Dreams

When I hold you in my dreams, only my dreams seem real.

Memories of you, are the reality, I feel.

Today’s pain, into the past pleasantries disappear

Realities pale, while memories grow strong and clear.
 

When I retreat to the past, I seek comfort and more.

The present fades. I’m drawn by the past’s strengthening lure.

With freedom found in my dreams, I find you still please me.

Present times wane when to the past, thoughts of you tease me.
 

Hold me in your arms where I feel sheltered from life’s storm.

Dreams of you press close, where I am comforted and warm.

Wipe away my tears, my love, where they’ve coursed down my face.

Let me escape each day when past memories I chose.
 

Grief grasps and strangles. Thoughts of you, loosens those fingers

Allowing me to breathe, memories of you linger.

The sweetness of your eyes still draw me into the past.

How can I move forward when my eyes are backward cast?
 
Going through my old notes and papers, I found this poem I had written sometime
after the passing of my wife. I typed it in, saving it and decided to share it.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Passing It Forward
 
Several truths I learned over the years, I tried to pass along to anyone who oriented to the supervising position. One of the first and foremost was “to never let someone see that they have upset you. Excuse yourself and go somewhere private. (Like our office, it was separate from most of the hospital.)
“Go inside and close the door. Then you can scream, cry, or kick the furniture, but do it in private. If they see what buttons to push to upset you, they will repeatedly do it just to frustrate and anger you.” I explained.
The other was not to get comfortable either at lunch, on break, or with the job of supervising in general.
It never seemed to fail; I would no sooner get my lunch heated and sit down ready to eat, than I would get a page or a telephone call. Many of the times it would mean leaving my food and going somewhere to handle a problem or situation.
I would return later to cold, dried out food or because the situation took so much time, putting it away to take home. (Have you ever tried to eat Tater Tots after they had been reheated three times?)
Another time, I was distracted when I planned to reheat the food I'd brought. I had to do something. When I came back, I stuck a bowl in the microwave to reheat. I started to smell onion. The item that I wanted to reheat didn't have onion. Have you ever tried to eat a wilted, hot salad.
The other part about getting comfortable is thinking you knew all there is to being a supervisor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every day the supervisor is called upon to do something new. They can involve complaints, staffing, bed assignments, or those things that fall outside of the normal policies and procedures.
Believe me, after twenty-eight years supervising and dealing with complaints, call offs, and unusual happenings, I was happy to hang up my spurs before I poked a hole in the water bed.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Sausage and Buckwheat Cakes

Ohiopyle Pennsylvania has a buckwheat and sausage festival every autumn. It is the second full Friday and Saturday October. The volunteer fire department gets much of its needed funds for operations for the year. They serve all the buckwheat and pancakes that you can eat for one price. They give two sausage patties, apple sauce, fried potatoes, and a drink.
I started out there while dating my wife, Cindy. I hand washed dishes for several years, then got recruited frying sausage since. The sausage is whole hog and that includes the hams. It is very meaty and tasty as well.
The sausage used to be fried in iron skillets over gas burners, but as the years passed the department has graduated to large gas fired grills. They’re approximately eighteen inches by thirty inches and get really hot for the fryers.
The cakes are baked in two locations. The first is in the top of the firehouse and the other is in the next door old school house. The cakes are fresh and hot, served shortly after they’re removed from the griddles.
Recently they have started a second festival in the spring. I was conned into helping for this one in 2014. People aren’t shy asking for help when you’re retired. So I am going today and give it a try.
People come from Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. We’ve had politicians, and why not. They’re always looking to be in the public eye, shaking hands. There is a television star that makes the pilgrimage every fall. I’m hoping to see him this year.
WQED made a T.V. program based on volunteerism and the fire department is on it.
The friendships made are the reason many help, even though they aren’t a member of the fire department. Many have been there longer than my almost forty years of helping.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Manicure Anyone?
 
An elderly man came to the emergency room complaining of abdominal cramping, pain, and constipation. The man’s complaints were confirmed by the doctor. The man was definitely constipated. Dr. Vandyk decided that it was time for someone to digitally manipulate and dislodge the impacted fecal blockage.
He came out from behind the cubicle’s curtain and walked into the nursing station saying, “Hand check.”
We looked at each other with a puzzled look in our eyes, but we held out our hands for him to inspect.
“You!” Dr. Vandyk called out, pointing with his pen. “You with the long fingernails, there’s an old man who needs assistance with his impaction.”
The nurse he picked out was a very prim and neat person. She had nails that were almost three quarter of an inch long. They were buffed and coated with several layers of clear fingernail polish. She was a nurse that dressed neatly and her make-up always perfect. With a sigh and a disgusted look, she disappeared behind the curtain to do her duty.
Later, she revealed she had doubled her exam gloves. She was afraid her nails might push through just one pair and that “just wouldn’t be good.” The patient left the emergency room happy, leaving behind several pounds of feces and one disgruntled nurse.
When she arrived at the hospital the next day, her nails were again impeccable, but they were only a quarter of an inch long. She had trimmed them.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Compassion to Last a Lifetime
 
We had an older gentleman admitted overnight. When I came on in the morning as a supervisor, the nurses in the unit told me that he was to have a fiftieth wedding anniversary party with his family that night. He wasn’t well and we knew he wouldn’t be able to attend. As a matter of fact, his condition was poor and he would be blessed if he left the hospital alive.
The wheels started to churn in my creative brain. I asked the staff to call the dietary department and ask for plastic martini looking glasses and a cake usually reserved for birthdays. I thought that we could have some celebration ready for the family when they came in to visit.
Making a “Happy 50th Anniversary” banner from computer paper and markers, we hung it above his bed. We borrowed a Polaroid camera from the security department and waited. When the family came in, we waived the two visitor rule and the family gathered around the bed. They were impressed that we’d taken the time to make a banner, but could hardly hold back the tears when we brought the cake and ginger ale in glasses for their impromptu party. Snapping a few pictures of the family around their father and husband finished out gesture of compassion and good will. The family had celebrated the anniversary and had photos of that moment in time.
I wish I could say the man recovered and was able to rejoin his family, but it was not to be. He died several days later, but the family had the memories and the pictures to keep.

Friday, April 4, 2014


While working as a corpsman in the emergency department in Orlando, Florida, we had a slightly past middle aged woman who was brought by ambulance for a drug overdose. She had taken an overdose of Darvocet. The bottle the ambulance crew brought in was empty and the date on the label showed that she had refilled it only a few days before.
We managed to start an intravenous access line and push fluids into her. We inserted a naso-gastric tube through her nose and down into her stomach. We continued to push massive amounts of fluids in through the tube and suction them back out in an attempt to remove any remaining pills.
The doctor told me to give an ampoule of Narcan I. V. push. “It can’t hurt.” he said.  “Let’s see what it does.”
We kept lavaging her by pushing the water in and pulling it back out and waited to see if the Narcan had any effect. It seemed to stabilize her blood pressure and her color seemed to improve. The doctor said, “Go ahead and give a second dose of Narcan to her.”
After pushing the medication intravenously, I turned to discard the syringe, I heard a noise behind me as the mattress on the bed squeaked. I turned and saw the woman as she sat up in the bed. It was an “all in one motion” and she quivered as she reached the sitting position. She seemed to vibrate just like the cartoon character of the road runner does when he stops and says, "Beep. Beep."
She said, “My, that coffee was good.” and she lay back down. She was admitted to the intensive care unit pending her stabilization and then to be transferred to the psychiatric unit to finish her care.