Monthly Archives: February 2013
Barbara was a pretty high school student with a bubbly personality, honor grades and a circle of close friends. Life was good. Besides, she was dating Richard . . . sort of.
They’d started dating when Barbara was 15. She liked Richard . . . a lot . . . but after attending a Roman Catholic convent school for her ninth, 10th and 11th grades, she felt conflicted – between marriage and a religious life. She had to be sure. So, she entered a convent.
Six months later when she emerged, Richard was still waiting for her. Barbara knew. Only Richard could make her life complete. He asked her to marry him. Barbara was ecstatic.
That’s how fairytales go. Right?
Not this time.
Barbara’s parents belonged to one religion. Richard’s parents believed in another. That didn’t concern Barbara and Richard, at first. They paid no attention to such things. After all, they had each other. That was enough . . . or so, they thought.
While Richard’s parents were fine with Barbara and Richard’s plans to marry, the couple hadn’t counted on fierce opposition by Barbara’s father. It was the 1960s and religious bias still held a powerful influence over many of their parents’ generation. Ultimately, it broke their hearts . . . and broke them up, forcing Barbara and Richard to go their separate ways.
Fast-forward 50 years.
Barbara and Richard found each other, their love unaltered.
This is their story:
In the intervening decades, Barbara and Richard had married others. They’d raised families, pursued careers, and experienced the triumphs and tragedies of life. Among those tragedies, within a few years, both of their spouses died.
“I loved my husband,” Barbara said. “We had a wonderful relationship. I was blessed. But during all that time, never a day went by that I didn’t think about Richard, wanting him to be happy and well.
There were no thoughts of disloyalty. I’m not made that way. I even told my husband about Richard and he said that proved to him I knew how to love. It was a gift, he said. Wasn’t I lucky to have someone like him?”
I have to admit, just remembering the feelings that Richard and I shared all those years ago often warmed my heart and made me a more caring person, when I needed it.
Richard also freely admits that Barbara was on his mind persistently throughout those 50 years.
“I would hear her wonderful laugh in my mind, and feel buoyed by the great sense of humor I’d experienced in her,” Richard said.
Unlike many couples forced apart by religious prejudice, Richard and Barbara’s young families would encounter each other on rare occasions in parks and restaurants of their hometown. Both Barbara and Richard admitted there would be an emotional twinge, at first, but it passed, and the four parents and their children would mingle happily, leaving the past firmly in the past.
Barbara’s path took her to study accounting and ultimately become a supervisor in an accounting firm.
Richard’s route in life was decidedly unusual. He worked there while in high school, before becoming a teacher. Fifty years ago, a high school graduate could become a teacher within a few months. So, at 19, Richard not only was a teacher in a small rural town, but he also became principal of the local elementary school.
Then, tragedy struck. Richard’s wife died unexpectedly of a heart attack. In his grief, he found solace by focusing on his family, his education career, and his business interests.
Time passed. And then tragedy struck Barbara’s life. Her husband David died of cancer. She found comfort in her family and career. She had a few relationships. But they came and went, leaving her with increased wisdom and few regrets.
One day, Barbara and Richard met, quite by accident. They exchanged recent histories and decided to meet for a coffee or two. They began seeing each other more and more often.
One day, Richard told Barbara that he was going away for a few weeks on a combination business/recreation trip to the Florida Keys where he owned a condo. Barbara’s heart fell. Now that she’d found Richard again, the thought of being apart that long was more than she wanted to bear.
Then, Richard invited her to accompany him. Her heart leapt.
It won’t be hard to predict the ending! This story will continue in the Tales2Inspire
It wasn’t at birth. nope. Please don’t get me wrong – I had a wonderful and very unique childhood and my life, leading up to the present – well like everyone, I have had my share of ups and downs. But as I will tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen (and yes this does mean I talk to myself a lot) I feel that my life really did begin a few years ago. It happened something like this.
I awoke one morning, on a birthday actually, with my epiphany – I suddenly realized I had to get my late father’s book published. He had finished writing it shortly before his death in 1993. The manuscript had passed between my brothers and me since with the hope that sooner or later one of us might actually have it published and do something about it.
When it landed in my hands for the umpteenth time I typed it out – then on the morning of that particular birthday I knew I had to get it out – this feeling was a tad overwhelming and I couldn’t figure it out – but I am presuming that my mother’s advancing age (late 80s) might have had something to do with that feeling. Fit as a fiddle usually (but then she was also the world’s leader in hiding minor details like life threatening health issues) – or so we thought. It was then that I also recognized my stumbling block – how do you get published? Seriously – how do you? Now this itty bitty problem just might have been enough to put me off altogether but for the memory of Dad’s passion for his writing, ancestry and the outback of Australia, not kept nagging at me. Added to that the thought of Mum and her pride in Dad’s efforts but not seeing them come to fruition – that did it. Google to the rescue. I found a self-publishing business that offered precisely what I was looking for. Full steam ahead. There was no stopping this girl now.
‘The Sawers From Pitcairn’ was published exactly a week after mum died in 2010.
Damn. But – I had tried and I was reassured that Mum knew that something had finally been done about the book, that it was close to release and that, I am told, made her a happy woman at point of death. Well, as happy as anyone can be when facing the end of life.
Thus was the catalyst for my writing. It was and is now well and truly in my blood and I am following a lifelong dream of writing and publishing books. Next off the rank was one about bullying. Having been a victim of this hideous phenomenon for six nightmare years in my teens, at a boarding school in Adelaide, I endured it 24/7. No escape. As yes had suicide entered my head I would have considered it – not really thinking that it would also have been a very tragic and final ‘alternative’. Some thirty years later history repeated itself when my niece suffered at the same school (her mother had been a day girl there and holds nothing but fond memories, which is how it should be, surely). Having had ‘Bullseye’ published I was encouraged to continue and try to ‘fight’ the system on behalf of victims nationwide. So this is what I am now doing, in conjunction with another victim and Mum, who is also one of the contributors to my book. It is lovely to be able to say we are at last making headway with our advocacy too. We have several different aspects involved in this and as we achieve each goal in turn, the feeling of success is wonderful. We are doing this in an effort to try to help safeguard the safety, health and well being of the youth of Australia. It is very slowly, but surely, working.
With this advocacy well underway and my second book safely ‘out there’ I was finally able to turn my attention to combining two of my passions – writing and the outback. As mentioned earlier I did have the most wonderful childhood – I grew up on a sheep station in South Australia. My primary education was provided by the School of the Air and correspondence lessons. I have written a piece, ‘Edge of the Outback’ which loosely describes my life out there. Now – my book on stations is a work in progress. To say I am absolutely thriving on it would be the understatement of the century. It is presenting the most enormous challenge but one that I am more than up to. I am meeting the most fantastic people as I progress – new contacts being made and the information is just pouring in.
Following this one I have one for which I have already begun the research, about an Australian maritime disaster which occurred about a month before the ‘Titanic’ but due to the latter, for former was completely obliterated. I was approached earlier this year by a couple who lost several family members in this tragedy – understandably they are wanting much more exposure about it and I will be writing this book for them. All such fun and also so necessary.
After that – I am looking at a book about tradies. This one also coming from experience – while I am still working on the approach to it, it will surround the experience of working in an office, alone (all my colleagues were moved elsewhere) while having the ceilings completely replaced by a group of around twenty tradesmen. I plan this to be humorous with a lot of input coming from the tradies themselves.
Every day something new happens or I discover a fresh approach to an old idea or problem. Yes, I do meet some very negative obstacles which do halt me, very briefly. Once recovered from the initial ‘blow’ that some of them can be, I simply take a step back, look at the problem, step to one side and move forward. Generally with a fresh approach to that problem. Onward and upward.
I do also have my share of health issues. Some of which have been very nasty and have pulled me right down – but this occurred pre-epiphany. I have been a chronic migraine sufferer – spanning a period of about twenty five years. Not pleasant. Not pleasant at all. I used to be completely debilitated by these – trying to raise a young family, in a strange city with a husband who travelled for work more than not and having these pains swoop on you, rendering you virtually useless. Not good. But I am relieved to say that they have all but disappeared. I still suffer from headaches and people who have never suffered from migraines would possibly consider the severity of today’s headaches debilitating – but not me. Not any more. I was also born with a heart condition. Nothing serious – apparently – medication does keep it under control but it’s there – forever lurking and ready to pounce.
But (and I know the rule is not to start sentences and never a paragraph with a ‘but’) – ‘but’ none of this stops me – nor does that rule. Might slow me down occasionally but life as it is is just far too good to let it keep me down.
LIFE IS GREAT. THE SKY REALLY IS THE LIMIT.
It was Christmas Eve, 1987 and I was not where I wanted to be. I walked into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) of the local hospital and inhaled deeply at the misery before me. Children hung on perilously to a life that appeared to rest tenuously on a cliff to nowhere.
I was escorted to Garret’s room. I entered and immediately held back a gasp, bit my lower lip and looked at the floor. I had never before seen such human devastation.
The tiny child in the bed asked me, “Why are you looking at the floor.”
He was a charming child with tubes attached to him and a ventilator that made a noise that seemed to challenge death itself. I said to the child, “Garret, I’m Dr. Pirnot. Dr. Mark wanted me to meet you. I’m not sure what to do but I want to help make things better.”
He looked at me in such a direct manner that I instantly knew this child had aged a lifetime in the eight months since the accident which left him quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent for life. He said simply, “I have a really bad tummy ache.”
My heart fluttered and my eyes danced. Unknowingly, Garret had provided a clue to the healing of his soul. He had told me his tummy hurt and I knew that he could feel nothing below his neck. The hurt was in his brain and I knew just enough about that to begin to think I might play a part in his healing.
Being a Clinical Psychologist, I was also trained in hypnosis. I immediately asked Garret to close his eyes and go to a place of comfort. He chose the beach. I described all the sounds of the beach as well as the olfactory sensations. Garret began to feel the warmth of the sun on his face and he asked to go into the warm Gulf waters of Florida. He asked to hold his mother’s hand as he walked into the waters. He stayed until he was satiated with warmth and love.
When the relaxation imagery was ended, the stomach ache was gone and Garret was amazed. He asked how I did that and I told him I did nothing. I told him I only spoke words and that his mind did the healing. For the first time since his devastating injuries, he had a sense that his life was not totally out of his control.
Garret told me he wished he could hug me and I immediately thought about therapeutic boundaries. I leaned down and placed my head on his left shoulder. I told Garret he could hug me by turning his head and making contact with my head. He did just that and, at that moment in time, we began our seven year adventure together.
Garret in his sip-and-puff wheelchair
Garret with his mom on graduation day
Yes, there was a turning point; there is one in every real story. Ours came when Garret was eight years old and again, back in the PICU with pneumonia. He was dejected and unmotivated. It was a bitter Iowa winter and Garret’s soul was frozen solid.
THIS STORY CONTINUE IN THE Tales2Inspire™
Winner – 2013
When my parents brought him home from the hospital, everyone loved our little baby brother. Even I, who upon learning that Mami was pregnant had thought to myself “another unnecessary complication.” Actually, I loved him immensely from the moment that I saw him.
Before my brother José and I had a chance to ask “What’re we going to call him?” as if referring to a puppy that we had just bought, Papi proudly announced, Muchachos, this is Dionisio!
José and I knew that the baby had been named for our paternal grandfather who died before we were born. And, we also knew that the name would not go over terribly well in English-speaking New York City. But, we both knew how to handle that. I knew what my brother José was thinking when we heard the baby’s name for the first time. And he knew that I knew. So, it was only a matter of time before one of us verbalized it. Mom, can I hold… Dionny? José blurted out.
José with Dionny
My parents very willingly cradled our baby brother in José’s arms, while hovering close by and ready to intervene to avoid any mishaps. I, too, then held him in my arms. Such a sweet, angelic face! The name Dionny fit him to a tee. From that moment on, he was Dionny to everyone, including to my parents.
For the next couple of weeks, we enjoyed our baby, we stared lovingly at him, and we observed how he grew even handsomer with each passing day. Our first sibling born in the continental U.S. had very light skin, comparable, perhaps, only to my father’s, but even lighter. And he had big, light chestnut-colored eyes. No one in our living family had that color eyes.
Most interesting of all, our baby had blond hair! We knew, of course, that given the racial mixture possessed by most Puerto Ricans, that was always a distinct possibility, but still, it added to the mystique of this most beautiful baby. I looked up the name “Dionysus” at the school library, and I learned that the Greek god of wine and song was always portrayed as a beautiful young man with delicate features. It also occurred to me that our baby’s name might also have been based on that of the god Adonis. Either one, Dionysus or Adonis, was befitting: our new baby with the name of a Greek god was just as beautiful.
José, Leo and Jaime
As the months wore on, my little brothers and I noticed an uncommon sadness come over both of our parents. Somehow, we knew that their sadness had something to do with Dionny. Before drifting off to sleep, on several occasions, I had heard worried, hushed, night-time whispering coming from my parents’ room, and on more than one occasion, I had heard my mother crying.
One day, I went into the baby’s room and I stared down at him just lying there, in his crib. I looked at him lovingly for a long time. He had grown physically quite a bit. His long spindly limbs were active, and he was even more beautiful than before. I don’t know why, but that disturbed me profoundly. Something wasn’t right.
My hunch, which I’m sure my brother José shared, gained further support when, seven or eight months after coming home from the hospital, Dionny still did not crawl or sit up in his crib. He just lay there, looking more beautiful and more innocent all the time. José and I both also definitely noticed that our baby brother constantly flailed his arms and his legs in the air. And he turned his head to one side and then to the other, uncontrollably.
No one ever sat Leo, José or myself down and explained to us what had happened. We found out indirectly, by putting together bits and pieces of conversations that we overheard, and through comments by my paternal grandmother or my aunts —comments not meant for the little ears of Dionny’s brothers. No one ever told us that German measles during the early months of a woman’s pregnancy could lead to birth defects. That when the doctors first suspected something of the sort, they did tests on Mami. That in a mother and father conference with the obstetricians and gynecologists at the hospital, the physicians informed our parents that if the pregnancy was allowed to continue to term, it was almost one hundred per cent certain that the baby would be born with severe retardation and other possible birth defects.
No; no one told us that my parents had refused to have an abortion, knowing full-well what to expect. And, of course, what the doctors warned our parents about did, indeed, occur.
The baby’s first birthday came and went, and little Dionny grew physically… but in no other way. He had never crawled, he had never tried to sit up in his crib, and he had never uttered a single word. We all knew that he would never do any of those things; that he would be a baby for the rest of his life.
I did some more research at the school library, and I learned that severely retarded children often had the same angelic beauty that everyone saw on Dionny’s face.
For some reason, I remembered what must have been a very old saying that my none-too-religious father often quoted to his equally irreligious sons. Roughly translated it meant “God doesn’t give anyone a load they can’t bear.” I knew exactly what that saying meant, but for some reason, I always automatically also identified it with the phrase “The Lord Giveth, and The Lord Taketh.” However, I always transposed the clauses in that saying, and I substituted the conjunction “but” for “and.” I understood my father’s saying to mean that whenever God took something away from you, he always felt sorry and gave you more of something else. That would explain my little brother’s extraordinary beauty. It didn’t make his condition any better, but it showed some pity on God’s part.
God’s feeling sorry for visiting terrible illnesses on innocent children and giving them more of something else also applied to me. My intelligence, my artistic talent and my tenacity were all consolation prizes for all the children’s games that I never played, for all the years of feeling somehow inferior to other children, and for having to go about feeling ashamed of my withered, match-stick legs. It sort of explained what had happened to my little brother and to me —but not really. In a way, I only felt somewhat vindicated with destiny much later on, in 1963, when at the college library, I picked up Robert Frost’s most recent book of poems and I read the book’s dedication. I was shocked that a sensitive poet capable of writing beautiful poems about walks in the winter woods and about taking the road less traveled could preface his book In The Clearing with the words: Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great big joke on me. I knew exactly how he must have felt when he wrote those words.
Try as I might I couldn’t memorize the names of all those nerves, arteries and veins, and whether they passed above or below their neighboring structures. I studied every minute which wasn’t already occupied with attending lectures, eating, or sleeping. I made two compromises: I would go to sleep no later than 11:30 each night, and I would “let go” from 5:00 PM Saturday until 2:00 PM Sunday, the time the medical library re-opened.
Arnie Katz – First day in whites
Some subjects came naturally to me such as statistics and clinical diagnosis. It was not hard for me to remember that there were only a few real medical emergencies, including establishment of an airway and assuring that enough oxygen and glucose were delivered to the brain. Once brain tissue was lost, it was gone forever.I was filled with fear of failure. It surprised me that some of my classmates were also terrified, but their concern was that they might not be elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the Medical Honor Society. This society was usually the province of those with the highest academic rankings. After discovering that students rarely flunked out of medical school; but rather, were required to repeat a year or a subject, I tried to relax and just learn as much as I could.
After I performed very poorly on a rotation under Dr Gerald Perkoff at St Louis City Hospital, questions were raised as to whether or not I should be allowed to continue in medical school. Dr Carl V. Moore, the most highly respected professor in the school, requested that I be given the opportunity to prove myself on his service, Ward Medicine at Barnes Hospital. He had been told that I worked tirelessly and cared deeply about my patients. The hours were long, the St. Louis heat stifling, the work never ending; but I was prepared to do whatever it took to become a physician.
Arnie Katz in medical school
Hey, Katz. There’s a black guy just admitted through the ER. His wife says he became weak on his right side this morning and then went into coma. His breathing is pretty irregular, and he probably won’t make through the night. Do the H and P now; I’ll give you credit for it. You’ll have one less patient to follow.
We were required to perform extensive history and physicals (H and P’s) on three new patients a week, and then be responsible for all the scut work on those patients, as well as others we had previously been assigned by the intern. One afternoon, near the close of the day, my intern yelled out my name:
I raced down to the emergency room and spoke to Mrs. Smith. As soon as she told me her husband, Frank, was diabetic, I remembered that low blood sugar could cause coma; but there really wasn’t any time to waste. I immediately sent a blood sample to the laboratory to measure his glucose level. Without waiting for the results, I ran to the nurses’ cart, grabbed a 50 cc glass vial of 50% dextrose, snapped off the top, drew up the sugar solution into a 50 cc syringe, and injected it into a vein in his left arm. Nothing happened. I repeated the procedure, again with no results. I really should have known it wouldn’t work because before Mr. Smith had lost consciousness, he demonstrated weakness on one side of his body, a very common sign of impending stroke, not a typical sign of low blood sugar.
I told Mrs. Smith that I was required to attend the afternoon conference; and even though the intern would be in charge, I would return as soon as possible. As I approached Mr. Smith’s bed after the conference, the intern told me that the laboratory reported that Mr. Smith’s blood sugar level was dangerously low. I stood transfixed when I saw Mr. Smith sitting on the side of his bed joking with another patient. I actually had saved a life. I really did save Mr. Smith’s life. I couldn’t wait to be praised by Dr. Moore on professor’s rounds.
It was only after Mr. Smith was out of danger that his wife told me that the night before he was admitted to the hospital, she had discovered a half eaten box of candy bars hidden under his bed. She confiscated the candy bars, but injected her husband with his normal dose of insulin, with disastrous results.
On Friday morning on professor’s rounds, my intern presented Mr. Smith to Dr. Moore. He explained that even though the most likely diagnosis was terminal stroke, he had instructed me to draw the blood and inject the sugar solution. I heard those words in disbelief. I wanted to cry out that the intern was lying. It was I who had prevented Mr. Smith’s unnecessary death. In the 1960’s medical students were commonly the object of intimidation, harassment, and even retaliation by interns. Besides, who could possibly believe the word of a medical student, who was barely passing, against the word of an intern, who had been awarded a position in one of the most prestigious training programs in the country, and who probably was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha?
Dr Moore explained that the reason Mr. Smith initially showed signs of weakness on the right side, was because he had narrowing of the blood vessels to that part of the brain; and therefore, the symptoms of hypoglycemia developed first on the side with the narrowest blood vessels. Dr. Moore never learned that the intern had robbed me of my opportunity to please the only professor who had stood by me.
Arnie (center) on Graduation day – Made it at last
Dr Moore was also unaware that on March 19, 2004 (forty years later) I was to receive the following letter: e (center) Graduation day – Made it at last
Dear Dr Katz:
It is our pleasure to inform you that you have been selected for membership in the Medical Honor Society, Alpha Omega Alpha. This selection is recognition for your contribution to medical students’ education and is a testament of their high regard for you. You now join a most select group of physicians, scientists, and educators whose performance places them in the highest category of excellence. We join the students and other faculty members in offering our most sincere congratulations upon your selection for this honor.”
Dr. Moore died many years ago, but I only wish that he had known that his faith in me had not been misplaced. Maybe he did.
Whoever saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world.(Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5)