As published in the White River Current - Thursday March 26, 2015. (Brenda's Birthday)
It was one of those things that you never forget. The date was March 25, 1955. The place was unit 4, apartment 18 in the base housing located on the 577 acre campus of Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado. Anita and I had been watching a program on the black-and-white 17-inch Admiral unit that we had purchased a few months earlier, when she became tired and went to bed. Drafted into the army in 1953, I was only a few weeks from being discharged after a two year enlistment. Anita and I had survived two winters, one mild and one severe, in the mile high Denver suburb and were excited about resuming civilian life in the beautiful Ozark community of Calico Rock, Arkansas. I had received a direct assignment from the army basic training camp, Camp Pickett, Virginia (now Fort Pickett). After a long train ride, interrupted by a two week delay-in-route in Calico Rock, Private Perryman reported for duty. Thinking that I would be working in the hospital pharmacy, I was instead put to work in the medical laboratory, hematology division. The sergeant in charge of my unit was from Hot Springs and he immediately nicknamed me “Arkie,” a moniker that I was stuck with for the duration. I made PFC in a few weeks and several months later was promoted to Corporal. My work in the hospital was more like a civilian job, an eight hour day, five days a week. Every morning, my partner, Hugh Glissman, and I would take our little baskets of supplies out into the various wards to collect blood specimens that we would being back to the lab and perform the tests that were requested. Pretty good duty. We enjoyed our stay in Colorado and went up into the mountains often to admire the beautiful scenery. The hospital facility was founded by the United States Army during World War I arising from the need to treat the large number of casualties from chemical weapons in Europe. Denver’s reputation as a prime location for the treatment of tuberculosis led local citizens to lobby the Army on behalf of Denver as the site for the new hospital. Army Hospital 21, as it was first called, was formally dedicated in the autumn of 1918. In July 1920, the facility was formally renamed the Fitzsimons Army Hospital after Lt. William T. Fitzsimons, the first American medical officer killed in WWI. A new main building, known as Building 500, was built in 1941. At the time, it was the largest structure in Colorado. The facility was used heavily during WWII to treat returning casualties and became one of the Army’s premier medical training centers. In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower received treatment at the facility three separate times for his heart condition while he was president. In an earlier Ramblings column, I wrote about one of his visits. I was working in the urinalysis department at the lab when an orderly came by with this container of yellow liquid. I almost did a double-take when I saw the name on the request slip but I recovered and performed the tests which were all normal. I consider this my “claim to fame.” Secretary of State John Kerry was born at Fitzsimons Hospital on December 11, 1943, while his father was receiving treatment for tuberculosis. The facility was decommissioned and closed in 1999 and has been redeveloped for civilian use as the Anschutz Medical Campus, a part of the University of Colorado. Anyway, Anita had gone to bed and, when I went to check on her, I found that she was having labor pains. Did I say earlier that she was expecting? She was, and we began to count the intervals between cramps. At about 2 AM, we decided we had better go to the hospital, only two blocks away, but it was cold, 2 degrees above zero. I warmed the car and we drove over, took the elevator up to the sixth floor where we checked into the delivery unit. After an examination, Anita’s doctor requested that we walk around the halls for a couple of hours to help the dilation process and check back later. She was admitted at 4 A.M. They wouldn’t let me stay with her so I went back to the apartment. When I called over at about 7:30, they reported that she had just delivered a little six pound baby girl. I rushed over and got to hold my little daughter for the first time. I was a father. Now, today, March 26, 2015, BRENDA IS 60.
Friday, March 13, 2015
As published in the White River Current - Thursday March 12, 2015
“Oh, the weather outside is frightful.” Throw another log onto the fire. Thank goodness spring is just around the corner, next week as a matter of fact, and on my birthday of all things. I’ll be so glad when the cold, snowy, sleety, icy weather is behind us for another year. This has been a winter that orthopedic surgeons live for. For a while, I thought that spring might come a little early this year. Then came the middle of February and everything hit the skids. Snow and ice, mainly slick, broken bone ice. I gave up early trying to shovel my driveway. I wish I had kept up with the number of times that I heard “whatever happened to Global Warming?” And, “it could always be worse; you might be living in Boston.” Remarks like that are supposed to pep you up, I guess. We have already dismissed church on two Sundays this year because of the weather . Highly unusual, but necessary to lessen the opportunity of someone slipping and breaking an arm or leg or having a car accident. When I was a boy, the unspoken rule in my family was that we went to church regardless of the weather. Sometimes it was only us and the preacher, but we did our spiritual duty. I don’t recall anyone falling and we always made it home safely. Of course, you must remember that I was brought up in the days when we walked to school five miles, barefoot through eight inches of snow, uphill both ways (actually it was only four inches) so we were well prepared for facing the elements on Sunday morning. Nowadays, with the accurate weather forecasts, phone trees, radio newscasts and internet service, out congregation can be advised well in advance about cancellations of church services or other meetings. Maybe a little unusual winter, but things could, of course, be worse, and they have been. For example, back in the winter of 1918, over three feet of snow covered North Arkansas and the White River froze over. I have heard eyewitness accounts from my parents that things got so bad during a six week period mourners were unable to dig a grave to bury a loved one who had passed away. I remember the winter of 1951 when the mercury descended to a minus 15. I read somewhere that the all-time low for Arkansas is minus 22. Sounds more like Fairbanks than Calico Rock. How about the ice storm of 2009. We were still living in Missouri, but I heard things got pretty critical for a couple of weeks. However, it has been a pretty rough winter, especially during February, which I heard was the coldest 28 days in over three decades. Every thirty years is not too bad and it does give us a little something different to talk about. I have always had a hunch that the grocery store people are behind scaring us with these predictions of huge snow amounts. Ever notice how milk and bread fly off the grocery shelves when the “s” word is mentioned? I brought this up recently to the new Harp’s manager, Nate, and he didn’t deny it, so there just may be some truth to it. The snowfall that we had last week was very beautiful and, thankfully, it was mostly gone in a few days. I am enjoying these 60 degree days. Let me transition here and go to next week and spring and my birthday. Now I must insist, NO Gifts Please. March is birthday month for several members of my family. Very often I go into a deep depression for ten days after celebrating my birthday. You see, for that ten day period, I’m as old as Harold Jeffery. Scary, isn’t it? Usually after March 30th, I recover rapidly and everything returns to normal for another year. Anyway, goodbye old man winter. You were kinda hard on us this year so remember to treat us a little kinder when you return in December. While I’m in a complaining mood, I find it very aggravating to have to get out of bed at 2 AM twice a year to reset my clocks, one hour forward in the spring and one hour back in the fall. It messes up my metabolism and takes me about six months to settle things down when I have to go through it again. We went for centuries without having to fool with changing the time and I think we can do it again. What do you readers think?