Wednesday, December 31, 2008

National Lampoons Family Christmas II

Well, today is my birthday, and I am finally in the mood to write about our vacation and cruise taken in December.

We decided that as our kids were graduating from college and from high school in 2008 we would take a little trip to celebrate. Then as summer was busy, and so was the fall, December looked like a promising month to accomplish this task.

We put together this cruise through Dateline International Travel in Milwaukie, Oregon, and they helped us book reservations for nine. Another family traveled with us, and that of course made things easier and harder all at the same time.

To begin with, our first day of travel was also a work day, so we took the red eye. This was great advice from Steve, our agent, as you can never be sure the airlines won't mess up your travel plans. Our first plane was canceled I believe because something unfortunate happened to someone on the inbound flight. I still don't know what it was, but they wouldn't use that plane. That caused missed connections in Atlanta, but given our time frame, we still made it to the boat on time. We taxied from Ft. Lauderdale, to the Miami pier, which cost us $160 dollars, and was still cheaper than landing in Miami.

We were cruising on the Jewel of Norwegian Cruise Lines. I don't think that we received the level of service that Norwegian would have advertised, but I will save that for a different article. We did arrive on the ship and it is a beautiful ship. It is also fast, which allowed us to see 5 different ports on our trip. We visited Samana, Dominican Republic, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, the home of Pussers Rum. From there we went to St Johns, Antigua; which is where I ended up waking up with some kind of bug. Little did I know the best thing I could have done was not ask any questions, I found out that several people came down with something at about the same time, so I let curiosity kill the cat, and asked how long I was supposed to be sick, and was then quarantined for 24 hours, even though by the time I was asking the question I was pretty much better. That meant that in addition to missing most of St. Johns, I also missed about half the day in Barbados. On the other hand, the thong bikini is alive and well in Barbados and we should celebrate that...

The final stop was St Lucia, which is a beautiful island, we rented a taxi for the day, which ended up costing us about $200, for 6 people, and saw a lot of the island, and had lunch at Ladera Restaurant, which looks over the Pitons, and was spectacular.

I think you have to be aware and very specific with the Taxi Drivers there, the driver we had was very good, although the driving is a little crazy, with switchbacks and what not the entire way. Our driver took us through a road which ended up being a toll road for the volcano, and really mislead us about that, The folks at the Toll wanted $5 per person, and we of course wouldn't have gone through that road had we known we were not going to be allowed to pass without paying more money. The driver wasn't particularly helpful, and we got through with 20 dollars, which again kind of tainted that part of the trip.

From St. Lucia we were at sea again for a couple of days, then into Miami, to the Airport, and flying to LAX. That was great, but meanwhile back at the ranch Portland was under 16 inches of snow, and we were not able to fly in until Christmas Day.

Enter Craig, Sue, Jake, Geena and Megan, we invaded their house, and shared there Christmas Eve party with them. Three nights of unplanned for guests... 9 of us. Wow. Good thing he is my cousin. In any case that was a fun part of our diversion, and we did make it home on Christmas day, although we did not celebrate Christmas until Saturday.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

As I reflect on this past year many things come to mind. As I overlook the pain and sorrow of caring for the wounded and their families I realize that joy and peace overshadow grief. I have been richly blessed with many wonderful people who support and encourage me, who read my stories, actually like my musings and take time to write. You have helped me through a difficult year and I am grateful.

May we all have an amazing 2009, one filled with blessings, peace and happiness. My sincere wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday and a healthy, happy New Year. Be well!
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Please Stop The Snow!!!!!!!

Ever hear that song "Stuck in Lodi again"? Well this isn't a CCR song, but I am stuck in LA until Christmas Day, beauty aye?

In any case this will not be the worst Christmas I have ever had, although some might think so. I will get to spend the Eve at least with my Cousin Craig and his family, and that is cause for celebration in itself.

Merry Christmas to all of you out there, and of course be safe and have a great New Year.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Quick Note

Just a short post to say The Onion people have taken down the offensive video. While they never really came out and apologized I guess the removal of the tape is all we're gonna get. Where has the common sense and decency gone?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pitchfork Brigade

Holy Hell People! If you are not as shocked, appalled and disgusted as I am after you finish reading this and watching this video there is something seriously wrong with you! Below is an email I received from another military bud, complete with links to a spoof that was done regarding our wounded warriors. I want you to know I lasted exactly 10 seconds before I was ready to rip someone's head off Every single person who has read anything I have written clearly knows how I feel about these wounded warriors. You also know from many of my posts exactly what these folks endure.

Clara, I am not sure if you have seen or heard of this issue that the milblog
world (we now call ourselves the Pitchfork Brigade) are having with The
Onion. I am putting up a post about this today too. Since you guys have
caring heart for our American men and women who are wounded, I thought
you may want to see this.

I apologize for being sooo IT challenged and can not figure out how to get the video on this blog. Actually I really don't want to lower myself as to even place that disgraceful crap on this site. SO, please wander over to my bud, Troy's blog and he has all the info. Then after you've watched the video please join us, the Pitchfork Brigade, in expressing our utter outrage at the travesty someone decided to make of our wounded. and then click on Afghan & Military Blog

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An Introduction

I received the following letter today, and thought I would post this for people to check out.

Dear Keith,

As I travel through the internet trying to reach those who serve I found your blogspot.
We have two songs that I'm trying to get heard by those who serve, their friends, and their families. The songs are "I Believe in America" and "I'm Alive", a song about one soldier's journey to Afghanistan.
I would greatly appreciate if you would go to our website and have a look and listen and if you like what you see and hear please give us a post to help spread the support.
I deeply thank you for your time and consideration.

So without further introduction, here it is: - Our homepage has our YouTube video of "I Believe in America" on it. - This page is dedicated to "I'm Alive" but can also be reached through our Music & Lyrics page.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday 9 Dec 2008

I found a couple of good links to other blogs and included them on the right side links for you. I hope that you find them interesting. Wounded Soldiers and the Oregon Military Dept blogs.

This year I keep coming back to one thing, over and over for various reasons. It is this: Do the right thing, if it is more difficult than the wrong thing, keep doing the right thing, and I have to believe that eventually it makes sense. Karma and all of that.

In any case, as I say to people I like, "Go forth and do good things well!" Enjoy your holidays to the fullest, and hug some one.



Saturday, December 06, 2008

Emotional YoYo

How many times have I said "I'm tired"? Well, I'm tired of being tired! So with that in mind I'm trying very hard to be optimistic and concentrate on the good things.

Case in point, one of my patients left for rehab today. During his recovery I discovered one day I was the first person he smiled at after he was shot in the head. Being moved to rehab was a great step forward for him. He's now closer to his family and will be able to spend Christmas with them instead of with us and that's a dang good thing! I loved it as he got better and was moved to a less acute unit and I enjoyed being able to go see him and watch his progress. Most of all I loved standing in the doorway to his room, hearing his family say "look who's here to see you" and then watching him slowly turn his head towards the door and absolutely GRIN when he saw it was me. On several occasions his wife was ready to take me out, I am quite sure but she never did, only laughed along at his reaction.

I am happy we've not received any new aerovacs. I'm glad to say the influx of wounded seems to have tapered off.

I'm trying to be optimistic but I'm still sad for all those we have lost this year especially with it being the holiday season. I come home from work to my brightly decorated house, festooned with lights on the outside, Christmas tree twinkling in the front window and my thoughts inevitably turn to the families and I wonder how they all are. And instead of being happy my heart hurts.

Ok, the puppy is demanding my attention so I will end this morose tale.

P.S. Hey Keith, I ready to talk now.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I think this is worth the time to listen to

American Businessman Rescued in Afghanistan

In Oregon we have the Oregonian, and the Oregonian uses the talents of writer Mike Francis to inform Oregonians about ongoing issues and events regarding conflicts that our fighting men are involved in, with special emphasis on Oregonians at War. I think his site is fantastic. Please check it out Oregon at War”. In his last article he highlights the story about the rescue of an American Businessman in Afghanistan, which I like and thought I would share with you as well, you will find it here written by Sean Naylor of the Army Times.

Regarding Clara’s latest post, Clara, I wish there was something to say or do that was adequate to the scope of your contribution. But I am left with a heartfelt Thank you for your continued service to our fighting men, who have come into harms way. They could not have a more compassionate caregiver and advocate.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Please Remember

We had two deaths in two days. Over the holiday weekend we lost two of our wounded. Two sets of families to comfort and console in two very long days. My heart is numb, I hadn't much to give. Please remember these men, women and their families especially now as the holidays draw near.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Can't bite my tongue today

Today I am typing this with my tongue numb, and part of it sent of to OHSU for analysis, to make sure I don't have some kind of tumor in my tongue. I believe that comes from biting my tongue too many times.

Seriously the pre-op interview took longer than the op procedure. Although I felt better as soon as I left the office the first time, and I still don't feel great right now, so we will see.

Everyone in my family with the exception of my niece who is 7 voted in the last election, and Oregonians decided to elect Jeff Merckley to Senate. I am frankly disappointed in the outcome. I listened to Mr. Merckley or observed his campaign for almost a year, and when he became overly emotional or less than rational in his campaign drumbeat on leaving Iraq he lost my vote. Mr. Smith wasn't trying to keep my vote either, but here is what I think about Mr. Smith: He was a moderate, and moderates don't make huge headlines. Moderation is good though, and I am really wondering who was better suited to work with the incoming president, a moderate Republican, or a vehement Democrat.

I also am very curious about the amount of money spent on the campaign, 40 Million dollars. Quite a sum really. There were 1.67 million votes cast in the senate race; that is about 24 dollars spent per voter. Mr. Merckley won the election by 51 thousand votes, which is certainly decisive, and Dave Brownlow took an additional 87 thousand votes from both front runners.

Given that information, and reading Dave Brownlow's position, one thing has become clear, something the now incumbent democrats should keep in mind. We as a people weren't thrilled with the job being done by our government. And frankly what Brownlow highlights is we aren't terribly thrilled with the normal choice of D vs. R. I think they might need to stop working so much on dividing our population and supporting legislation which highlights that division and focus on our common issues. Being an American means you already won one lottery. Voting means you deserve to continue to be here.

Okay, I have run out of thoughts, more later.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving and News Updates

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

I know some people will be wondering what they are giving thanks for, and I know that some people have experienced terrible losses this year.

Everyone has a time and season to enjoy life, and this time and season is yours and mine.

We live in a Country that has enough infrastructure to allow you to read this; we are as a general rule well fed, and (I know my scale thinks I am well fed.). Most of us have family that is around to talk with. So I am giving thanks for all of my family and friends, and the health of the people around me.

The news: I would like to invite you to watch me build my business website; it is my winter project and is designed to help businesses with their safety programs. The goal is to help reduce injuries, and incidents, and allow them to focus business time, energy and money on income producing activities. The website can be found here, please let me know what you think.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today I received an automated phone call from, see link at the right, which I thought was cool, and so I thought I would share it with you all. Apparently if you loose your dog or cat, you can set up a local blanket call in the area you lost the animal in, and if someone sees your pet or has secured it, wanting to keep it from harm, they then know who to call to return it to. It isn't free, but given how we are about our pets, it is probably worth the cost.

Hope you like it.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another PTSD Post

I recently received an email from someone asking me to assist them in addressing the issue of PTSD in our veterans. They included a link for a short trailer for a film they had done in attempts to tackle this issue. When watching it and then the longer 15 minute film I sat numb before my computer screen as it was one of the most sobering and wrenching films I had ever seen. This film seeks to bring to the forefront the challenges and heartbreaking experiences many of our veterans face. Click on the link below if you'd like to view the trailier.


Tall Jazz entertained in Portland or Milwaukie if you would prefer.

My wife and I had dinner and a drink with some of her co-workers last night, and the Tall Jazz trio was there to entertain. The crowd enjoyed the music and the food of course, provided courtesy of Arrivederci Wine and Gift. I do have to say, when Steve Hanneman joined in with his Sax, I truly loved life. The wine of the evening was Shooting Star Syrah, produced by Steele Wines. Our friends enjoyed a bottle of Barbera, another red wine with a great taste. Both of these go well with the Arrivederci cheese fondue that we had as an appetizer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Arrivederci, Portland's hidden Jazz Music Gem

Okay, I admit I found this place in February, and that isn't unique, many people have been there before me. This may be the best Jazz music venue in the Portland, Oregon area, and it is in my backyard.

Arrivederci Wine and Gift shop off of McGloughlin Blvd in Milwaukie has not failed to entertain with fantastic music. The last person I listened to sing was the beautiful and talented Tasha Miller, who has a beautiful clear voice, a vivacious personality, and (I think I said she was beautiful?) If you enjoy Jazz Music, every night is different and good. If you enjoy wine and food, you certainly won't be disappointed.

We have Thanks Giving coming up, and with that we will kick off what looks to be a very busy month of travel and holiday cheer. (I wonder what kind of red wine goes well with Turkey.) I am guessing most of them do.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Okay I am back

I have not been blogging in a long time, for several reasons; mostly I didn't think people wanted to know what I think about things going on here at home. That said, I enjoy writing, and I appreciate comments and feedback.

I am going to write on this blog primarily about Oregon, and Portland in particular, Politics, cause I find them interesting, the economy, and of course military matters going on in our world.

Veterans Day; you know you have gotten older when Veterans Day takes on a whole new meaning. I know people who have served for a couple years in Iraq or Afghanistan, and I have to say hats off to you all. Also RIP to those who did not come home.

The election, I love the fact that our country has a peaceful transfer of power every four years. This year I watched families vote together, taking their ballots to the collection point together; Young people with their first election, and their relatives helping them to exercise their right and duty to vote. It brought tears to my eyes, no kidding.

Okay, that is it for today, Take care.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

I want to extend my appreciation to my blog buddy, Keith, and to all veterans. I am indebted to you for your service to this country and I, for one, have never for one minute forgotten the sacrifices you and your loved ones make. Please know you are in my thoughts and in my prayers. Much happiness and best health is my greatest wish for you. Keep safe wherever you may be.
With heartfelt sincerity and deepest respect,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cracking Up?

Damn, I knew I was having issues but didn't realize how big until I cussed out the very unhelpful sales person at Nordstom's this afternoon. Guess it was a good thing I had an appointment with the shrink shortly following that little "incident".

Yep, I've been in this place before, the one I really don't want to be in. The one where I know all the things I should be doing but don't. Or better yet all the things I SHOULDN'T be doing but do.
-Yes, Mr Shrink, I know it's not a good idea to wash a benadryl down with my favorite cabernet but I needed to sleep.
-Nuh uh, I do know fritos, hoho's and a coke are not in the 4 basic food groups but it was all I had a taste for.
-Yeah, stomping up and down 2 flights of stairs in my house can't be considered exercise even though when people ask if I'm still running I respond "absolutely".
-Uh huh, I realize I'm probably going to hell for saying the "f" word to the chaplain but there wasn't any other adjective that adequately described the situation.

The shrink asked if I wanted to set up weekly appointments for a while. To which I immediately responded with a resounding "NO!" I'm not ready to talk about this stuff on a weekly basis. I'll probably get there but not right now. In the meantime I will stay away from the benadryl and the wonderful reds I have in the wine cabinet. Maybe I'll even take the puppy for a walk.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An Attempt to Vent

I can't even describe how tired I am. Tired after 4 days off. Tired because tomorrow I will get up far too early and return to hell. The days are running together and I can't remember a time when our patients weren't horrifically sick and dying left and right. I walk into work and at least one patient is mortally ill and not expected to recover. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on the Sandbox talking about one of those situations. It was truly "rip your heart out" devastating. AND the sad thing about it is that no one offered to help the staff. Nice.

I've wanted to write, to vent, but everytime I sit down to regurgitate this stuff I can't. It's too much of an effort to put words to these emotions. I feel as if I've lost one of my most valuable outlets for these work stressors. Last week I started having nightmares of disasters and dead bodies laying everywhere. This week isolation is the name of game and I don't talk to anyone. Mental health red flags waving I call the shrink and make an appointment.

It often seems when I am ready to talk there's no one to listen. When I need a shoulder to cry on or a hug everyone is busy doing other things. I'm tired and I wish every once in awhile someone was there for me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Today my former life intrudes and memories of a different kind surface. There was a crash last night, a crash of a medevac helicopter with fatalities. This particular helicopter belonged to a program for which several of my friends fly for and I, myself had flown with part time. I spent several anxious moments making phone calls, sending out text messages and emails all hoping to learn the identity of the dead. In the end I found out my friends were safe and I'm ashamed to admit I'm glad it was no one I knew.

Somehow though even that knowledge didn't stop old sorrow from resurfacing as the deja vu overwhelmed me. Years past when I was a full time medevac helicopter flight nurse the program for which I worked had a fatal crash. It took the life of a Marine pilot who was my friend. He chose to fly EMS missions when he left the Marine Corps and he was good at it. He cared about those of us who made up his flight crew and he could always make us laugh during the most trying of flights.

When you are touched by a fatality of this kind you are brought to the stark realization that the job you do can kill you. In the weeks that past I felt as if I had joined an unwanted club. The club of the flight programs that had a fatal crash. The club that brings with it questions and speculations that will most likely never be answered. The club of those greiving for coworkers who were as close as family. For days after our crash each time I climbed into the aircarft I wondered if I would climb back out; whole, intact and safe.

We used to joke that a "good landing" was any landing you walked away from, no matter how bad. My Marine buddy didn't walk away and now neither did the crew who devoted their lives to helping others.

May God bless their families and friends and give them peace. May He strenghten and comfort them today and in the days ahead.

Godspeed crew of Trooper 2.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September 2008

The seven year anniversary of 9/11 is a day I believe I will always remember as the day the world changed, the day that I knew our 11 and 14 year old children would grow up in a much different world than I had and is a day where much is made of the heroism and tragedy that was experienced or exhibited in our country. I try not to dwell on the tragedy, and I have succeeded in not hating the people who wrought such a change in our world. However, neither do I forgive them, and I believe they should get the opportunity to meet their maker sooner rather than later. That said, September has other meanings and I am going to share a couple of them.

My Grandmother, Mother and Wife all have birthdays in September, one right after the other three days in a row. Go figure that out, Stephanie's boy friend, was born on 9/11, and September is the month that my wife and I decided to celebrate our 10 year anniversary, which took place while I was again gone from the family supporting the National Guard, a chore which I volunteer for, and which has had its costs as well as its rewards.

So... .Let me tell you about Hawaii, Lahiana to be specific on the lovely island of Maui. The surf constantly works the beach, not in a damaging way, but clearly in a way that does not allow you to forget it is there. My folks have a time share.... I like it. Taff and I stopped an purchased some food and wine, and have been having a grand time in Kahana. Snorkeling with turtles, watching dolphins race the boat, and generally fully enjoying our time together celebrating our tenth anniversary. We still have planned a Luau, and a Circ de Solei show shown on the island. The time change is humorous, we are ready for bed at 8 pm and I wakey wakey sometime approaching 4 am. Still and all a fantastic time.

Next time I will post some of the pictures if I can or maybe just what the ocean sounds like here.. Trust me it is relaxing.

Okay.. All my best to those that read this.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today's Goal

I have one goal today; to make it through this day. I slept until 0905 then the puppy forced me up and out of my slumber. After the required potty break I loaded her in the car and headed off for pancakes. I promised myself if I woke early enough I would go out for breakfast especially since I know that's the only way I'll eat today.

That accomplished I sat down to check my email and the tears started flowing. Emails from friends with me this day 7 years ago, all of us connected by tragedy, disaster and loss. The newspaper assails me with saddness. The web pages prey on my emotions. As hard as I try, avoidance mode in full throttle I can not escape. It will hit me suddenly and I'll shatter. Tears welling up in my eyes.

Hair in a ponytail, cosmetics nonexistent I will spend this day quietly, more than likely alone as to be with anyone would take more energy than I have.

It's 1045 and I'm left wondering how to make it through the remaining hours of this day known at September 11th.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Lighthearted Moments

Somehow, not exactly sure how but I have managed 5 whole days in a row OFF! What a luxury! 5 whole days and time to actually rest, relax and rejuvinate. Oh wait. . . .there were those moments of extreme stress when I realized my puppy had seriously evicerated my sunglasses. I carried the managled parts into the optometrist and said "please, I need new ones". Damn dog. . . .

I've spent part of my free time training for the Army 10 miler to be held on Oct 5th. I'll be running with one of my former amputee patients. This will make my 4th year in a row running with a former patient. I want everyone to realize there is no way in hell I would do this on my own. Nah uh, no way jose, forget about it! But. . . . . the guys ask and I can never say "no" so once June comes around I put my 40 something body back into training mode. . . .ugh! Maybe next year I won't have to run. . . . .

Other spare moments have been occupied with planning my vacation. Acquiring airline reservations, car rentals and lodging has me anxiously awaiting the day I can vamoose! Anyone in Boston or Maine? Want to meet up? ;-)

Ok, the puppy has gotten far too quiet so I need to go investigate. I still have one more day left before returning to work. . . . I think I'll head to the beach. . . unless the puppy has now consumed my car keys!

Hey blog buddy Keith! Answer your email. I gotta know if you're going to the box again. See what extreme measures I take to "talk" to you??? I mean, I gotta plan, care packages take time! :-D

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

News bits and thoughts

The Oregon Army National Guard has been tapped to go to Iraq some time in the next 12 months. For most on this deployment it will be the second or third deployment. Oregonians can be proud of their soldiers, they exemplify many good qualities that we value.

Here is a link to an update of what is going on in Afghanistan.

Mike Francis of the Oregonian continues to try and keep us informed of what our soldiers are doing a world away, and I think that that is a service that is vitally important to our country and our soldiers. Even when it upsets some people.

Before I forget, if you believe the war in Iraq was fueled by fuel (Come on that there is funny), then you need to listen to T Boone Pickens and his PickensPlan.

This gives Americans a great way to combat the need for oil, and reduce it to manageable levels, plus when he says Texas is full of wind, I get a kick out of it.

In any case, appreciate what you have, cause there are lots who have less.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sorry About the Rant

I don't know how to even start this without it sounding like a rant. I can't even be diplomatic about it. When it comes to patient care some nurses simply should just NOT be nurses. I hate to say it but some of my so called professional colleagues disgust me with their haphazard "I really don't care" attitudes. Some of them are strictly there to collect a pay check and do the least amount of work possible and it is painfully obvious!

Case in point, I recently was given report by one of "those" nurses. Not only did she not even know how old the patient was (she gave me the wrong age by 7 years) but she left out extremely important details of his medical condition. When it was brought to her attention I got nothing but crossed arms, cold looks and "why don't you just get out of my face?" attitude. Patient care clearly was not important to her. Knowing your patient and where their medical journey has taken them obviously is a nursing school skill she has either forgotten or never even learned. To make matters worse this was a patient WIA! There is absolutely no fucking excuse to treat those patients with such callous disregard.

I may not be the best or smartest nurse in this country but I care about my patients and I take care of them and their families to the best of my abilites!

So if you're one of "those" nurses mentioned above, do us all a favor and get the fuck out of nursing. Those of us who care don't need you, the patients don't need you and their families don't need you. Not only do you make us Real Nurses look bad, you're a disgrace to the nursing profession.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


I feel as if I’ve been dragged into an abyss I cannot get out of. Ever since the heavy influx of casualties 4 weeks ago I haven’t been able to regain my equilibrium. Between incredibly sick and dying patients at work and friends deploying or moving away at home I edge farther and farther into darkness. Some nights I come home after a long shift and simply want to sleep, to forget. To turn off the brain that remains alert, imaginary monitor alarms shrieking inside my head and not think about one more thing.

I’ve never done well with “good byes”; it’s probably the most single thing I abhor about having friends in the military. Unless they retire and stay in the area, they’re always leaving. To them “good byes” are a way of life, but to me. . . well, it’s just painful and sad. Last week I said farewell to a friend heading to Afghanistan. This week I said adios to a friend moving to the opposite coast. Next week it is yet another going to Europe. I even hate to say au revior to some of my patients! Gawd, what a sap I am. Sentimental female.

Combine that with my professional challenges and it’s a fast track into depression.

Today as I passed through the doors into the unit I saw family members standing in the hallway. Moving fast I only briefly glanced at them, recognizing the wife and son of man I took care of several weeks running but no longer in need of critical care. “Something must have happened” was the thought that ran through my head, and as I moved along corridor I saw frenzied activity in one of the rooms. My former patient was being coded, staff working feverishly to no avail. The doctor went out to speak with the wife and brought her back with him, decisions to be made, as he would not recover. In a quiet, sympathetic voice the physician explained to the wife the dire outcome. As she listened to him she looked up and saw me, tightly grabbing my hand she said, “Clara, what do I do?”

“Oh god”, I thought, “Please don’t put me in this position, please don’t ask me that.”

My coworkers and I knew our efforts were futile. My patient’s wife knew he was terminally ill but still she asked. Begging, my hand grasped in hers, she pleaded, “please Clara, is there nothing you can do?” “Please, please, are you sure there is nothing more?” “What do I do, Clara?” “What do I do?”

Her pleas broke my heart and the tears that had weld up in my eyes began to pour down my face. A coworker and friend looked at me with understanding and sympathy for the position I was being placed in. I laid my arm across the wife’s shoulder, placed my cheek on the top of her head and softly said, “it’s time to stop. If there were something we could do we would but we can’t.”

Her son appeared at the bedside and said “Mom, this isn’t what he would have wanted. Please Mom, it’s time to stop, let them stop.”

The wife gazed at me, grief filling her face, “Clara?” she asked me once more.

I slowly shook my head “no”.

Reaching down she grasped her husband’s hand in hers, kissed his cheek and turned away, moving slowly out of the room. As we walked down the hallway to the waiting room sobs filled her body. It was one of those sobs that starts in the pit of your stomach and crawls its way up, gaining force until there’s nothing you can do but fall to your knees and howl in overwhelming sorrow.

I delivered her into the arms of her waiting family and slowly walked back into the unit. When I was alone I bowed my head and asked for divine strength to make it through the remainder of my workday. It was only 0730.

Prayers heard, I survived the day and now am home. I’m home and I’m alone, very alone. Sadness and exhaustion weigh me down and I revert back to familiar patterns. I simply want to sleep. I simply want to crawl into bed, pull the covers up and fall into amnesic slumber. I don’t want to think anymore and I don’t want to be alone.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sandbox Post

I posted an important story titled "The Monster" on the website The Sandbox. If you'd like to read the story you can find it at:

Friday, July 04, 2008

On the Fourth

It's July 4th and I could hardly crawl out from under the covers. My body exhausted and my mind numb, it's been a long, long time since I had a week as horrific as the one that ends tomorrow.

With a major influx of wounded warriors with life changing injuries I was quickly overwhelmed within two days. On the third work day I learned my WIA patient had catastrophic brain damage and would not recover. I spent my entire shift completing the tests necessary to determine brain death and assisting the grieving family any way I could. Toward the end of the shift decisions had been made and my patient was taken off all life supporting measures and died with family at the bedside. Their grief tore at my heart and I cried with and for them.

The fourth and final day wasn't much better and I am grateful now to have time off. Today I had no plans on this special holiday of our independence. I had several offers but in the end couldn't bring myself to leave the quiet comfort of my home. Sometimes the sorrow that arises from doing this job can be devastating; even if you're only on the sidelines.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Defending Clara

I received this this morning through my email, and thought again, It is germane, and I think appropriate to post. That said, this is going to be the last post on this subject. I hope Clara writes more as I enjoy her insights, and we all have both detractors and supporters in this thing we call life.

So Happy Fathers Day to those of you who are one, and for the rest of you go forth and do no harm..... Read on...

Defending Clara

After reading some of the malicious comments written about my dear friend Clara, I felt the need to step in and respond. I have known Clara Hart since 2002 when she was introduced to a friend of mine. Clara was asked by her pastor to help a young woman with two small boys attend church and Clara being Clara agreed, sight unseen. This woman had lost her husband in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Six months later this widowed mother of two was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

Clara befriended this woman and her children at great expense to herself. Clara planned her life around this small family and was always ready and willing to help whenever needed. I remember the times Clara called me crying, “I don’t think I can do this, it’s too hard, it hurts too much.” I told her “If this is where God wants you to be He will give you the strength to get through”. Clara survived on that strength. How many people would enter into a friendship with a dying woman? Clara did and she did it wholeheartedly and while she did her heart was broken.

When this woman died and her children moved away Clara grieved. She grieved not only for this young mother who had become her friend but also for the boys who had stolen her heart and now were lost by distance and time. Clara lost far more than friends; Clara lost a piece of her heart that I am not sure she has ever regained.

When Clara does something she does it oftentimes at great expense to herself. See, Clara is the type of person who thinks more of others and their needs than of herself and her own. When Clara does something she is motivated by the need to help, this need to make things right. She does not do it for recognition, she does it to try and make someone’s life a little easier simply because she can.

In many ways Clara has touched our lives. For those of you who’ve had the privilege of meeting her can you honestly say, with all the things she has said and done, your life would be better off if she had not entered it? My life would not, see, I inherited a gift from a dying woman, a woman who left me a wonderful, caring friend to fill the empty space left by death.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

General housekeeping comments for the folks that read this

Hello all, I would like to say from the sunny state of Oregon, but that ain't quite the truth, it is not so sunny here.

I have had the pleasure of allowing Clara Hart to post blogs on here for the last several months, and have enjoyed reading what she wrote. So have other people based upon what I have seen.

Some of you may have different opinions, and being Americans we of course feel that if we have them we must share them. That is fine, I think that makes discourse and discourse is what allows democracy to survive. However, just so you know I reserve the right to post comments as I see fit.
If you are mean spirited, I might post your comment just to allow other people to see how mean spirited you are. If you are friendly then I will post as well. I am the person who receives the notification of a comment. It doesn't go straight to the board, if it did, I would end up having 900 numbers posted on the comments and I have already been there and done that, so, again, I receive an email, and publish those comments that are available as long as they are germane to the topic and don't cause me concern over safety.

So, Mrs. Soldierswife1984, your comments have been reviewed today and published today. Great. Fantastic in fact. I published your comments because the first one while fairly negative, is certainly your opinion. Of course in the second comment you resorted to essentially attack language. Here is my thought for you, you are registered for gmail, go ahead and post a blog, let's see what you think and how you think. If you are a fair minded, intelligent person, that will come through, if you are reactionary and caustic, that will come through as well. I say that knowing that you have been to the Fisher House for a reason, which means that you must have a loved one, who has gone forward into harms way, and been injured in a significant manner. My sympathies for your husbands injuries and I hope that he is doing as well as he can be.

Understand though, that you don't have any more valid point of view on Clara Hart than I do, and neither of us have met her, so before you go throwing stones in a personal manner, I would suggest you figure out how to identify what things bothered you, and if possible post a different point of view, devoid of personal attacks.

Okay, I normally don't write on this much anymore, because I don't have a great deal of very interesting things to talk about, and so I will stop for now, let me know what you would like written about.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Purple Heart

In caring for many soldiers from a variety of units I have been the recipient of unit pins. Proudly worn on whichever scrub jacket I happen to have on that day many people have commented or questioned how I came to be the owner of them. Today as I explained I thought about the soldiers from the 82nd,the 101st and the 1st Cav just to name a few. One of my patients upon hearing this said "Clara, come here, you don't have one of these". As I watched he pulled out a flat cardboard box and proceeded to remove a navy blue case. As he opened it and began to pull things apart I started to shake my head. "No! I'm not taking that" I strigently exclaimed. He ignored me continuing his work until he had a lapel pin lose. "I want you to have this", he said. "Nope! I didn't earn it and there is no way in hell I am accepting that" was my immediate response.

It was his purple heart we were arguing over. The wounded are presented with 3 different purple hearts, the medal itself, the ribbon worn on their uniforms and then the lapel pin. It was his lapel pin he was trying to give me.

He looked at me, hand still holding the pin out and said "Clara, you get hurt too, it's just your hurt doesn't end you up here". I silently stared at him at a loss for words.

"No, I appreciate you thinking of me but I WILL NOT take that" and in an effort to end our discussion I fled the room, knowing since he was bed bound he could not follow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Another patient died this morning. He arrived on this weekend's aerovac.

I'm tired.

I have spent the last two evenings escaping into sleep because I did not want to deal with anything and didn't want to think about anything. I have such rage inside me. I drove home from work today too fast for rainy day conditions. As I drove I alternated between being pissed off at the person in front of me for driving too slow and pissed off at the person behind me for following too close. Arriving home I slipped on my running gear and headed out but not even 45 minutes of a good, hard run followed by an hour long pilates class could dampen this rage burning inside me.

I have so many things to do at work and no one to share the load. Tonight I find myself not wanting to go back tomorrow, to call out sick, not show up, disappear for a day, anything but go back. But in the end I will crawl out of bed and return because there are too many who depend on me.

I want to talk but there is no one to listen. I walked down the hall with one of my former patients who asked me what was wrong and in telling him I was having a bad day I learned so was he. I learned his prothesis didn't fit right and his leg was hurting him. It's hard to complain about your bad day to a guy like that. But still I wanted to. I want to talk with someone who understands what it's like to take care of these guys and gals but I can't seem to find anyone. I want to scream "will someone just listen to ME? Will someone just help ME?"

I'm so tired.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And Still They Die

I don't even know where to begin; I think the "denial" stage of grief has a tight hold on me. Thursday as I was talking with one of my patients he died. This young, handsome, intelligent man with a kind and gentle heart looked at me and said, "my chest hurts" and died. I stood there talking with him, laughing one moment and the next yelling for help, grabbing the ambu bag and mask and fitting it over his nose and mouth. Frantically checking for a pulse, squeezing the bag to force air into his lungs, I ordered the nursing staff to bring the code cart and call a code blue.

It was a comedy of errors watching these nurses who rarely work on patients in cardiac arrest. Ordering one of them to oxygenate my patient, another to begin CPR I hurriedly hooked him up to the heart monitor and wanted to kick, scream and sob when I read it's tracings. Shoving my emotions down deep I worked, clearing staff from the bedside, laying pads on his chest I shocked him, I pushed emergency drugs and prayed my team members would soon arrive.

People began to flood into the room, as I relayed what had occurred my team moved into place. Someone secured a better airway, another took over administering medications, we shocked him, compressed his chest all of us knowing it was in vain. The tracings on the heart monitor gave us no hope but still we worked. As group of people dedicated to our wounded warriors we looked in each other’s eyes and saw helplessness.

How can we, those trained for this, fail this soldier? We didn't want to fail, our pace feverish we compressed and shocked and medicated for almost 2 hours. Two hours we tried every medical technique we knew to save him. Two hours when we knew from the very beginning nothing we did would make any difference.

I sit here now and the "woulda, coulda, shoulda's" run through my mind. Even the knowledge my patient had a massive pulmonary embolism doesn't make it any easier. See, I've grown accustomed to watching these guys and gals get better and move on with their lives. I've grown accustomed to watching them go home not to the morgue.

Once again my heart breaks and I am helpless.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Days Like This

It's days like today that make me wonder if anyone cares about the staff. The VIP's come and shower gifts and wonderful words upon the wounded troops but ignore the staff who care for them. Mangagement will call you into the office and you hear nothing but what is bad and how your staff aren't doing their jobs. When does anyone say "you did a GOOD job"?? When do the VIP's recognize our hearts break along with the families and the amputees whose lives are forever changed? Does anyone give a hoot that many of my collegues have Combat Stress and/or PTSD? Do people understand OUR lives are forever changed with what we see and deal with?

And while I'm on my very "non Clara like" rant let me tell you about this! I've been trying to do a good thing. There are a couple of awesome books on combat stress and PTSD that I've been buying to give out to wounded troops and families who I feel may benefit from them. Well, it gets a little expensive even with the discount, not that I'm complaining I'm really happy to do it. So anyway, I called the publisher to see if they would help me, they never called me back. Then I get called on the carpet and had my ass chewed for handing out the books in the first place. Some days make absolutely no sense! Try and do a good thing and look where it gets ya! Yep, days like this make me shake my head in disgust!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Quit Kicking Me!

"Will you PLEASE stop kicking me!!" I harped at the soldier standing next to me. "I'm going to report you for nurse abuse if you don't!" I sharply chided him. He simply stood there and with a look of "who me?" on his face responded, "they'd never believe you, they'd take one look at me and cart YOU off". "Yeah, you're right" I said, “but, really now, QUIT KICKING ME!” then giving up, shared a laugh with this particular man. A bilateral leg amputee, he was kicking me with his prosthetic legs and having quite a jolly time. In frustration I kicked him back, which only served to make him laugh harder and tell me "that didn't hurt a bit".

The sad part is that he does hurt. He and other veterans like him suffer daily with phantom pain, suffer daily with nerve pain and pain that takes over their lives. It becomes all consuming and never-ending, life as they knew it ceases to exist. They suffer from pain you cannot take enough medications to make go away. Marriages suffer, families are torn apart, and the mental anguish is inexplicable.

I recently sat in a meeting and listened to an OEF veteran talk about dealing with his pain. For 3 years after many, many surgeries, an amputation and ongoing physical therapy his pain persists. He often wonders if the pain will ever go away and he admits to fleeting thoughts of suicide. And he is not alone! I sit here right now and at least dozen of my former patients come to mind.

Although it is almost impossible, try and place yourself in his position. Can you even begin to imagine how living with pain every minute of every hour of every day would affect you? What kind of life you would have?

People always make comments "I wish there were something I could do". If you are truly serious in wanting to help I have this suggestion. Currently there is legislation proposed to give our OIF/OEF veterans better resources, benefits and assistance when it comes to pain and it's impact on their lives. You can learn about them by going to the American Pain Foundation's website and clicking on Military/Veterans and Pain. I urge you to go to this site and review everything on these pages. Here you will find plenty of ways to assist our wounded warriors. Only when we understand better and take the initiative to make our voices heard will change come about. They need your help and here is your way! We challenge you, don't let us down!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Faces

Asked to see and evaluate an OEF patient in the trauma ICU, I wandered into the bay only to stop short at the sight before me. The wounded patient lay motionless with wires and tubes, dressings and splints all entangling each other. Ventilator high-pressure alarms shrieked off-cadence with the beeps of the heart monitor. Intubated on a vent, multiple IV lines and specialty dressings all around, this patient lay in drug-induced slumber.

Keeping a bedside vigil was his wife, not an uncommon site on any of the nursing units temporarily housing our wounded warriors. What caught me off guard and stopped me stock-still were the small bodies occupying the chairs that flanked her. Two beautiful young children sat beside her, alternating between coloring pictures with dry erase markers given to them by the nurses and staring silently at their father.

As I introduced myself to Sarah, I also introduced myself to the children. Victoria, who is seven, and Jacob, who is five, shook my hand gravely as I held it out to them. I learned Victoria had been eating blue candy, as evidenced by her blue tongue, lips and teeth. I learned Jacob loved the Transformers and wanted his dad to teach him how to ride an ATV, “when he gets better." I learned Sarah had arrived on Saturday, the day after her husband had been flown in, and alone at the hospital had no one to watch the children. She told me, with tears in her eyes, that they came with her every day and sat in the ICU room, coloring pictures, playing games, and watching their dad.

As we talked I looked at the children. I could see the fear and uncertainty crowding their small faces. I asked if I could bring in a DVD player so they could watch movies. Eyes filling once again with tears, Sarah thanked me, telling me over and over how much she appreciated the help. I asked her to forget it, as it was such an easy thing for me to do. It’s not hard to take a portable DVD player off the closet shelf where it is gathering dust and loan it to two children so they could forget where they are if only for a couple of hours.

That was four days ago, and this patient has been extubated. Yesterday I watched joy instead of sorrow fill this family’s faces. I watched a wife and mother hold her children up to the bed so a little boy and girl could say, “Hi Daddy!” I smiled in delight at the looks of pure happiness as their father opened his eyes and smiled at them. I choked back tears as Sarah laid her head on his chest and sobbed, “Welcome home, Baby.”

Today as I walked down the hall I heard a tiny voice call out, “Ms. Clara!” Turning, I saw Jacob and Victoria dragging their mom toward me. “Ms. Clara!” they eagerly exclaimed. “We watched the Transformers in the hotel room last night!" And so they rumbled on, anxious to tell me about their day. While listening I felt a little hand encircle mine and tug. “Ms. Clara, want to come see our daddy with us?” Victoria asked. “I’d love to come see your daddy with you." And off we went, off to exchange smiles and laughter with a soldier on the long road to recovery.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writers Block

I've been trying to write something, anything, for the past week and a half but too many things clamor about in my head. Too many thoughts needing to be shifted and put in their proper places. Too many mental photographs appear everytime I try and write. Maybe if I list them they will release their hold on me. My fingers type frantically trying to get it all down only to later highlight the entire text and hit the delete button. The words are right there but yet I can't get them out. They don't flow in the way I want them to, they pop into my head with high def pictures and the emotions attached to those pics quickly follows.

I see things I don't want to see and feel things I don't want to feel. And yet, I continue to love my job and the people I work with and for. How do I keep from drowning under the ocean of responsibility leveled on me? Where's the happy meduim? What do I do to keep my sanity when even my most powerful means of venting, my writing, seems lost?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Don't we all make New Year's resolutions? I certainly do. I decided 2008 was
going to be the year I took care of Clara instead of Clara taking care of everyone else. I decided I wasn't going to give so much of myself, decided I would hold back something for me. I decided I needed to close my heart off just a little, so it wouldn't hurt so often.

It's funny how things happen, how patients and their families work themselves into my life. How they begin to share my ups and downs and celebrate my victories as much as I do theirs. Sometimes their totally off handed comments completely catch me by surprise and put a smile on my face.

Wandering down the hallway I came across one of my former patients. A man who lost both legs to an IED walked toward me with the aid of 2 prosthetics and a cane. As I drew near I could see he was in pain so looping my arm through his I asked if he needed any help. His response "nah, I'm ok but I don't mind the eye candy hanging off my arm". Completely at a loss for words I simply threw my head back and laughed. How fun to share in their moments.

Yesterday I stopped into the physical therapy gym to talk with one of the therapists. As I stood there talking with him about a race we're running I was slowly surrounded by my former patients. Some of them wanting to say hello, get a hug or hang out and
chat. At one point another of the other therapists yelled out "Hey Clara, you're likethe Pied Piper over there" and as I looked around I realized they were right. My patients had wrapped themselves around me and lightened my heart. They had stolen into that little place I decided to keep strictly for Clara.

Ah well. . . .who keeps New Year's resolutions anyway?