So, my daughter, Brenda, had injured her knee in gym class at middle school. We lived about a mile from the school, and, once she had told the teacher about her knee injury, did that teacher, or any other official of the school, call her mother, the nurse? To quote Eddie Murphy, in his persona of The Ganga Teacher, "No, no, noooo, no!" Did they phone her father, the nurse? Again, "No, no, noooo, no!" Did they have a teacher drive her home, so that she would not have to walk home on her injured knee? As you might have anticipated at this point in my rant, "No, no, noooo, no!" Did they put her on a bus, again, to prevent her walking home on her demonstrably injured knee? If you have read this far, sing along with me: "No, no, noooo, no!" Instead, of course, they sent her home, walking, on her injured knee, around a mile from school to her home. As you may have guessed at this point, I was not favorably impressed. Nay, I was pissed. I wrapped her knee, applied ice, elevated it, after identifying no marked instability. It did hurt her with walking (which, of course, the idiots at the school had required her to do to get home, since they had NOT called her father, or her mother. But, perhaps, I had already told you that little detail) I dosed her with ibuprofen, and put her to bed. I wrote her a no physical education note, and retained a copy for myself. I signed it, "Reltney McFee, RN, BSN". In the morning she appeared improved enough to return to school. Therefore, in consultation with She Who Must Be Obeyed, we decided to send her to school. We drove her. Ourselves. To make sure that she did not have to walk. So, that afternoon I was surprised to receive a phone call from the phys ed teacher. This worthy told me that he required a note FROM A DOCTOR, in order to keep her out of class. I pointed out that he had, in his hand, a suitable note, that I had written, directing him to keep my child out of gym class until further notice. He replied that, absent a note from a physician, he would require my child to participate in gym class. I gave this a second's thought, and brought him up to speed. "So, let me see if I am understanding you. You have a note, in hard copy, in your physical possession, written by me, her father and a Registered Nurse, directing you to keep my child out of gym class due to an injury she suffered on school property, and notifying you that, should she participate in gym class she may sustain additional injury. You, in your medical judgment, have determined that you know more of this sort of thing than I, and will contravene my explicit instruction, in my capacity as her father and a registered nurse of 20 years experience. Cool story. I'm certain that the jury at your lawsuit will be very impressed. Perhaps impressed to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars." He sputtered, "You cannot sue me!" "Really? Is that what your attorney told you?" "I do not have a lawyer." "Well, what do you know? I DO have a lawyer, and you can, too! Once my lawyer serves you with the papers he will prepare to hold you personally responsible for my daughters crippling injury, suffered through your willful and wanton negligence, ignoring the specific instruction that I, her father and a registered nurse, have provided you. In writing. Right about that point, I wager you will find yourself a lawyer!" He sputtered a while longer, and noted that he would, sooner or later, require a note from a physician. I told him that I would obtain one, at my earliest convenience. And, I'd provide him a copy. The call terminated. Once I had my daughter in my vehicle, outside the school, I asked her how gym class had gone. "Fine, Dad. They sent me to study hall, and for some reason, the teacher seemed pissed about something." I smiled, and replied, "Well, it might have been something about sending you, and our attorney's kid, and his attorney's kid, as well, to a very nice college!" She looked puzzled at that, but, what the hell, I wasn't going to be able to put things over on her for very much longer, and I ought to savor the few remaining opportunities.
A couple of years ago, I was working in Vermont on a winter locum tenens contract. (that’s kind of like travel nursing, for doctors, PAs, NPs, CRNAs and such) Since Mother Stretcher Ape resided a state or two over, I finagled a long weekend, and drove off to visit her.
Now, perhaps you had realized that Vermont, and all the states around it, are northern tier states. So, in the winter they get some snow. Nay, they receive abundant snow. With my formative years spent in Michigan, snow is no big deal. Still, even we hardened northerners need to pay attention, so as to avoid turning into corpsicles.
When I was first driving up there, the administration spoke of their concern that I understand the snow situation in their neighborhood. “So, you know, here in Vermont we get a lot of snow.”
“Yeah, I had heard that was so.”
“You *do* know how to drive in snow, don’t you?”
“You looked at my resume, right? You did notice the part about working all over Michigan, for years at a time, right? Including in the winter. My children were born in Michigan, and have grown up in Michigan. I think I know what snow looks like, and that I have driven in snow, a few times.”
(mumbling on the other end of the phone) “Oh, yeah. Right. You probably know how to drive in snow.”
So, one wintry weekend, I set off to visit The Maternal Unit. Now, I say “One wintry weekend”, but that was by the calendar only. This particular January weekend, the temperature was in the 40-s to 50-s, low overcast, drizzle filling the air. Nice. I took off across Vermont, into The Neighboring State, and then southerly toward The Maternal State.
Once I crossed over into The Maternal State, it began to flurry, with the temperature dropping below freezing. As I continued, entering into The Megalopolis, it began to snow. Big surprise, right? January, northern states, snow. Who knew?
As I stop-and-go-ed my way across The Megalopolis, on the parking lots laughingly called expressways, the snow picked up. By the time I was on my way out of The Megalopolis, with only another hour of stop and go before me, it was snowing it’s ass off (Yes, that is a northern Michigan meteorological term). While the street department of The Maternal State in general, and The Megalopolis in particular, are no slouches in snow handling (having abundant experience), this specific storm was more muscular than the norm. Indeed, snow was collecting at such a pace that both it outpaced the highway department’s ability to plow it away, as well as limiting visibility. When you consider the fact that snowy roads lengthen your stopping distance considerably, couple that with, say, 50 yards of visibility, and you really start to feel the need to slow down. Waaayyyy down. Personally, I was going around 30 mph, and feeling daring at doing so. More high spirited souls than I were passing me, and more power to ’em. I had resolved that, should they wind up in the ditch, I was gonna drive my happy fuzzy electrician ass right on past ’em.
So, driving in the snow, transformed a three hour drive into something on the order of 6 hours. When I wasn’t wondering just what sort of fiery hell would send me to my judgment, I gradually formulated the Stretcher Ape Four Stages of Snow Emergency Scale. I share it with you, now.
Level 4: wear your damn boots
Level 3: bring a coat, bring a shovel and a scraper
Level 2: do the s#!t you have to do and go the hell home
Level 1: Ermagerd! French toast by candlelight!
I figured that I was driving at that time though a “Level Three Snow Emergency”, and resolved to arrive at The Maternal Manse, and consider myself the hell home. I really was pretty happy with that insight, and strong in my resolve in accomplishing it.
Then, roughly 30 minutes (I hoped!) from my destination, I saw flashing lights ahead. I slowed down even more. Approaching the scene, I observed flashing lights as of several police cars. Several fire trucks appeared to be in the gaggle, if their lights were as I figured them to be. Closing the distance, I noticed lights as from a highway department plow truck, although they seemed strangely out of position.
I crept past the scene, and realized why the lights appeared out of position, on the plow truck.
When a plow truck is on it’s side in the ditch, that would be a clue. Almost as if it was a Sign From Ghawd. A Sign, as if Ghawd were telling me, “slow your dumb ass down, go the hell home, and set your ass in a chair and stir not from that chair, until I tell you otherwise!”
My reply? “Sir, Yes Sir!”
My car slithered into Mother Stretcher Ape’s driveway, and settled several inches once I stopped. Looked as if the driving part of Ghawd’s admonition, would be easy to comply with.
I clumped into Mom’s house, trying not to track too much snow inside. We spent a couple of pleasant days watching the snow fall, shoveling snow (well, *I* shoveled snow!), and shoveling snow, and shoveling snow, and shoveling snow yet again. On the plus side, there was the home cooked meal part of things to enjoy, and the visit with your mother part, as well.
In summary, I leave you with two insights:
Insight The First: The Stretcher Ape Four Stages of Snow Emergency Scale.
Level 4: wear your damn boots
Level 3: bring a coat, bring a shovel and a scraper
Level 2: do the s#!t you have to do and go the hell home
Level 1: Ermagerd! French toast by candlelight!
Insight The Second:
When a plow truck is in the ditch, that would be a clue. A clue that you do NOT belong on the damned road.
Are you ever off duty?
I had spent some time praying at The Altar of The Overtime Fairy, and with the proceeds had decided to take The Long Suffering Wife on a cruise. Now, one of her idiosyncrasies is that she is allergic–VIOLENTLY, anaphylaxis, throat swelling, red faced allergic, to tree nuts. Remember that. It will return to feature prominently in this “war story”.
The cruise line we selected had gotten our business previously. The personnel are unfailingly pleasant, professional, attentive, and on their game. The food is excellent, the accommodations are pleasant, the cabin stewards are magicians who ghost in and make the beds and change the linen without our seeing them. There are reasons that we are repeat customers.
We select the formal dining room each time. There are large tables, so we get acquainted with fellow cruisers, the food is outstanding: as good as, and generally superior to our own home cooking. On this cruise we joined two folks from Minnesota, a contractor and his girlfriend, and two other couples, the men both volunteer firefighters from a small town in Canada.
Firefighters are part storyteller, as am I (surprising, no?). It develops that our other two companions were storytellers, as well. So, mealtimes were fun, great food, round robins of telling tales, and no workaday cares.
Now, it seems that, for some reason, we had failed to make clear to the serving staff my wife’s allergy to nuts. (likely, because we had failed to, ya know, TELL THEM!, or something.) So, one evening, when my wife took her first bite of the chicken that she had ordered, she chewed it for a moment, then spat it out, turning to me with a peculiar look on her face.
I asked her what was the matter, and she told me, “I don’t know, but my mouth is burning as if I had just eaten a nut.”
From the corner of my eye, I noticed our firefighter companions in still life, forks immobile in mid air, as Mrs. Stretcher Ape and I had our conversation. I asked her how her breathing was, and she told me that was fine, but that the burning was concerning. I agreed.
She keeps an epi pen in her purse, which, of course, presently was in our cabin. She did have benadryl on her person, and I directed her to take two, right now. She did so, and we all watched her for a moment. I then directed her to give me a third capsule of benadryl, which I opened, and poured onto her palm, directing her to “lick that up, now!”
One of the firefighters shuffled his chair back a bit, as if clearing for lift off, and asked me if I needed any help. Our contractor friend, with whom we had gone on shore excursions, observed that I was an ex medic, ex ED nurse, and presently a Physician’s Assistant. I looked at the firefighter, perched on the literal edge of his seat, and his partner, similarly (not so very) relaxed, and said, “It looks like things are OK for now, but I’m anticipating the possibility of that changing. Let’s give it 20 minutes to see how things develop. Thanks for the back up.”
I turned my attention back to my wife, and pasted a fake, but encouraging, smile on my face. “How you doing, Honey?”
She thought for a second, and answered, “OK so far.”
The waiter had noticed our diorama like table, and the absence of conversation, and walked over to see if he could assist us. I briefed him on the foregoing, and our suspicion that the chicken may have been cross contaminated with some sort of nut in some manner. Alarmed, he told us he’d look into it and be right back.
He was. Along with the Maitre D’. Both assured us that there were no nuts whatsoever in the recipe for my wife’s selection, although it was possible that there were some nut oils remaining on the surface upon which the chicken had been prepared. Effusively, they both asked after my wife’s well being, and apologized for this occurrence.
By this point, she reported that the burning was receding, and no swelling nor shortness of breath, as well as no itching was present.
I noticed that everybody else at the table, finally, resumed their meals.
Once I was convinced that her symptoms were, in fact, receding, and appeared likely to continue doing so, we retired to our cabin for the night. She, and I, thanked our companions for their vigilance, and reassured everyone that it appeared that her reaction was on the way to being resolved.
So, the question: are we ever REALLY off duty?
Many years ago, I was working midnights in a small ER in northern Michigan. One night, around 0300, the phone rang. I answered it to find my wife on the other end. Her opening conversational gambit certainly caught my attention.
“Honey, it’s me. Don’t panic.”
Sounded like good advice to me. “OK, I’m not panicking. What might make me consider panicking?”
“Well, when you hear on the scanner that the sheriff is sending a car out here, I thought you’d get worried.”
Hmmm, the hospital still has coffee. Why would the sheriff send a car out to my home, populated by my wife and (presumably) sleeping children? I asked, “Why is the sheriff on the way out there?”
She responded, as if telling me about the dog getting into the trash, “There is a guy on the porch.”
Remember the guy-on-the-porch story I told y’all recently? Yeah, I certainly did. I was beginning to very much NOT like the direction this conversation was taking, so I asked her, “What gun do you have?”
This required remedy. “I’ll wait while you fix that.”
My normally clear thinking bride seemed somewhat slow this morning. “Huh?”
“Go get a gun, right now. I’ll wait.”
“What? Why would I get a gun?”
“Because I think it would be a good thing if you had something more compelling than your girlish good looks and winning personality should Mr. Porch decide that now was the time to enter, and lay hands on you and the children. Go. Now.”
Evidently Mr. Porch had decided that he did not, really, need to enter THIS house on THIS night, because this porch guy had elected to wander off before the sheriff’s deputy arrived, and before The Darling Wife felt the need for a little show-and-tell. No loud noises, nobody got hurt, Score! Score, and SCORE!
We were living in An Un-Named Bedroom Suburb of Cohoville, and discovered Road End Parks. This capitalizes upon the fact that the county/township right of way extends into the lake bed, and therefore, an area roughly 25-50 feet wide continued along the roadway into the lake, and belonged to the township/county. When you have some property that wide, you can park a couple of vehicles at “the curb”, and fence off maybe 50-75 feet of the easement, and you have a nice little parklet, which the fudgies are unlikely to know about. If your idea of summer fun does not run to drunken aquatic revelry, well, you are all set.
I was working nights at Erewhon Community Hospital (“Both Nowhere, AND Backwards!”), years and years ago. The Plaintiff, in her pre-Plaintiff days, worked days. Therefore, summer days provided an opportunity for me to Be The Dad, and bundle our brood off to the lake for fun and sun.
If you have read my tales of rollicking good times, you know that I have plenty of experience with The Prophet Murphy, and his laws. Having worked the street, I feel well prepared for minor childhood misfortunes. Before setting out on our beach trip, I had carefully checked the contents of my personal medic bag, placed a lifeguard style whistle on a lanyard around my neck, set my truck’s amateur radio to readily access the local 911 center (this was in pre-cell-phone days), and waited the usual complete hour after lunch.
Arriving at the beach, we reviewed the McFee Family Immediate Action Drills, carried picnic gear and loads of whatnot to the beach, and so began our casual, layback day of fun and sun in beautiful Northern Michigan. The big kids played in the water, keeping well within earshot, and the little boys had big fun scooping sand and splashing away.
This worked out alright, at first, as the older kids waded some distance out into the lake, and the little boys stayed within ten feet of the beach. I settled there, toes in the sand, camouflaged with a book that I really had no intention of even looking at. I even began to relax. BIG mistake.
The local lake, in Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula, is not really deep in any meaningful sense of the word for quite some distance out from the shore. I had assumed that, keeping eagle eyed watch from the beach, nothing could develop that I couldn’t handle. Two year old David, Number Three Son, was having Big Fun with his brothers and sister, navigating just fine in the knee deep (to him) water. Next thing I knew, a wavelet from a distant boat lapped at his knees, and he fell, face first, into the water.
He immediately came back up, only to go back, face first, into the lake.
Police officers who have been in exchanges of gunfire report that time slows way down in life or death situations. Boy, have they got that business right! One second, I’m fat, dumb, and happy, soaking up sun at the beach, the next second my two-year-old son is floating inert, face down in the lake. The second immediately following found me with my feet wet, almost before I became aware of Number One Son, 11 year old Adam, at arms length from David, calling “Dave? Dave? Dave?!?”
Adam knew this was not right, but had not yet sufficiently organized himself to act upon this insight. I directed him to “PICK DAVE UP!” all the while reviewing these sort of videotapes running in my head. First Edition, I would pick David from Adam’s hands, race to my truck, call the Paramedics (“Paramedics? I want a Freaking Helicopter!”) on my Ham radio, while beginning resuscitation of my youngest son there on my truck’s front seat. Second Edition, I would snatch David from Adam’s hands, begin resuscitation right there on the beach, call EMS from my handheld radio (“Where are the goddam first responders?”), while directing Adam to collect the other children, and send eight year old Beverly to retrieve my medic bag from my truck LIKE RIGHT FREAKING NOW!
That day, Adam excelled in Listening To and Following Directions (Thank you, Adam!). The “light bulb” went on over his head: he picked his little brother out of the water, and handed him to me after a few steps. The “videos” went on playing in my head, as I weighed the efficiency of each action alternative, and quickly evaluated improvements to each generation of The Plan. I sat Dave down next to me, back on the beach, and began to ask him “Dave, are you alright? Dave? Dave?…”
Once Adam had picked him up, Dave began to look around with this sort of “Whoa! Way Cool!” look on his face. After I had asked him if he was alright for the hundredth (well, okay: maybe only the seventh) time, he looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and said those magic words: “Yeah, Dad. I okay.”
Tapes stop. Breathe again. Tremble. Call in other children. Closer look at Dave. Realize that I will, never in life, require therapy for constipation. Acknowledge the Attentions of a Merciful God. Request no lapses, again, in His attention like unto that just completed.
Nearly fifteen years ago, we lived four miles outside of a small town in the northern reaches of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It got really dark at night, and there were only 3 or 4 neighbors in the mile on either side of us along our curving country road. It is there one night that my family and I met a strange soul.
It was middling late at night, after the children had gone to bed, and my wife and I were watching television and talking quietly. The home we had at that time was a raised ranch, with the living room approximately 6 feet higher than the entry hallway. We heard a knocking at our door, and, being the reasonable and prudent ex Da City street medic that I am (read: untrusting), I dressed appropriately prior to answering the middle-of-the-night knock. I placed my Browning High Power into my belt holster on my strong side, and secured a .357 revolver in a crossdraw holster on my weak side. Both were hidden beneath the sweater I was wearing that chilly autumn evening. I placed a 12 ga pump shotgun at the top of the stairs, and handed my wife the AR 15, and my second revolver, with the direction to wait by the telephone, also at the top of the stairs. Then, I went to greet our guest.
Through the closed (and still locked) door, I asked what I could do to help him. In the course of my greeting, it struck me as peculiar that, chilly as it was outside, he was barefooted and shirtless. He asked to come in to use my telephone, which I was not about to allow him to do. I offered to call somebody for him. That was not, it seemed, satisfactory. He repeated his (now) demand that I let him inside, and I again declined. He began to catalog my character flaws and personality shortcomings, and at about that point my wife determined that the time had come for a Law Enforcement Consult. She called 911, and began to explain to the nice dispatcher how much we would enjoy the presence of a deputy.
Our visitor was escalating, and growing more creative with his appraisal of my social skills deficits, and at last announced that he would simply kick in my door, lay hands on me, and then use my phone. I noted that that was a strategy not calculated to enhance his long term, high level wellness (that’s just the nurse in me, coming out…). He looked at me, surprised, for a moment, and repeated his threat to violently enter and assault me. Changing tack, I told him that I would kill him, if he should act on this plan.
Perhaps I ought to note that I am not any sort of physically imposing specimen of burly manhood. In fact, I’m more of the Walter Mitty with bad eyesight type. Ok, heavily armed Walter Mitty with bad eyesight. Our guest seemed to doubt that I could indeed stop him, and asked me how, possibly, I thought I could do so.
Sensing a Teaching Moment, I told him “I kind of think that this Browning here on my belt will stop you”, to which he replied, “You don’t think a puny 9 mm will hurt me, do you?”
Reasonable thought. I responded reasonably: “I don’t know about that, but I’m pretty sure that it will distract you, while my wife empties the 30 round magazine from that AR into your soon to be dead ass. It seems to me that if you play your cards wrong, the nice deputy will never hear your side of things. You probably ought to simply wait on the porch, and tell him all about what an asshole I am, once he arrives”.
It seems that our new friend not only knew my mother, but the deputy’s mother as well. (at least to hear him talk, he seemed to think so). Fortunately, he seemed so focused upon reviewing my mother’s poor life choices, that he failed to implement one of his own, remaining on my porch for this little lecture series. After several chapters of this analysis, he finally felt the time had come to move along, and so he wandered off into the night.
Maintaining a vigilant posture, we waited for the officer to arrive. Mr Congeniality did not make another appearance, and, as I saw the patrol car enter our driveway, we secured the firearms, and greeted the officer. The officer asked, reasonably enough, where we thought our guest had gone. I pointed out the edge of the pool of illumination our yard light provided, and stated “Right about there”. The officer said he’d look around the area for our late, unlamented guest, and see if anything was up. We never heard anything more, but I was glad I had something more compelling than my boyish good looks and sunny personality to greet Mr. Happy when he demanded to be let in our door.
While I’m regaling one and all (well, you, yeah, YOU! Over there! I see you!) with tales of the school “system”, there is the tale of Allen, Number One Son, and his transition into North Schools and their second grade.
So, in his first grade year, we had lived in another small town, several counties away. I had heard of an opening for an ICU nurse at this hospital, and had applied for, and been accepted for that position. We moved, and the children moved schools, unsurprisingly.
In the previous school, Allen had been in first grade in a Catholic school. He had brought home homework, and his mother and I had worked with him thereon. Therefore, foolishly, once we had moved and he had started second grade, I assumed that there would be homework, again.
He came home each day, and I asked him about his homework. “No homework, Dad.”
Was he certain? “Yep, no homework, Dad.”
Did the teacher send anything home with him? “Nope.”
Had there been anything written on the board, such as, oh, I don’t know, HOMEWORK?
This little bonding moment repeated itself day after day, until, a couple of weeks into the school year, there was parent-teacher conferences. Aha! Now was my opportunity to resolve the no-homework dilemma!
So, I arrived at the appointed hour, and introduced myself to the teacher. “I’m Allen’s father. He tells me that he is not getting any homework assigned.”
Cute, young, blond, she smiled, and nodded. “Um-hmm!”
I paused, and, no additional verbal reply forthcoming, I plowed on. “Now, Allen did get homework in first grade, at his previous school.”
Another smile, another “Um-hmm!”
I paused, again. No verbal riposte was forthcoming, and again I plowed forward. “And, I had been of the understanding that homework was important to the teaching process. It seems to me that it provides feedback to the teacher regarding how well the students in general, and each student in particular, is grasping the material.”
Another head nod, another smile, another “Um-hmm!”
I continued. “In addition, I had thought that homework also had the benefit of helping the student generalize the material away from the classroom, promoting retention as well as helping the student incorporate the material into his or her daily life.”
Another nod, another smile, another “Um-hmmm!” I was beginning to suspect that this college graduate teacher was suffering from a poverty of conversational themes. (Sigh!). I wound up my presentation, and went for my closer.
“Therefore, I’m puzzled. Allen is telling me that he is not getting homework assignments, and you appear to be confirming that. I have to confess that I’m puzzled. Can you explain the pedagogical principles that led to this particular plan of instruction, omitting homework?”
Her blonde grin widened, and she tossed her head as if she was still in the sorority house back at Wherever State Teacher’s College. “(giggle) That’s just the way we do it here!”
I imagined myself, back in Nursing school, answering my clinical instructor, Dr. Smith’s, inquiry, “So, Mr. Stretcher Ape, why did you administer lasix to this patient?”, with the following:
“(giggle!) The Doctor ordered it! (giggle)”
Yeah, about that. Had THAT been my answer, and not revelations about optimizing fluid balance, and the salutary effects of diuresis upon the patient with heart failure, well, I’d still be repeating my FAVORITE! greeting in The Whole World!, which is “(knock, knock, knock!) Fire Department!”
All night long.