Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Lasting Impression

Lawrence told me this story. Lawrence attended university the same time I did at a diferent school.

His friend, Guillermo, was a student from Argentina who imagined himself to be quite a latin lover.

On weekends he would push studies aside and prowl the neighborhood bars picking up young women who were receptive to his accent and amorous advances.

Alas, during his stay, Argentina was grasped by a currency crisis. Sending money out of the country was forbidden. Funds soon ran dry and the few dollars his parents could smuggle to him was barely enough for a meager diet.

Guillermo was renting a room in the home of a widow. He referred to her as an older lady but as he was barely out of his teens I imagine she might have been forty.

He confided with Lawrence that he had solved the problem of keeping a roof over his head. He had shared the secrets of his adventures with the neighborhood women with his landlady and convinced her he could be her "boytoy" in lieu of rent. She could then rent his room to soone else to replace the lost income.

One night Lawrence responded to a late knocking at his door. Before him stood a haggard Guillermo books and duffel in hand.

He implored Lawrence to allow him to sleep on the floor of his dorm room. The agreement with his landlady had to stop. Her demands on his part of the bargain were so frequent and furious that he could not concentrate on his studies. In fact, he was suffering dizzy spells.

I thought about this story frequently and anytime I made a business agreement I tried to make sure there were no "open ends". Alway stipulate a limit on your obligations in a deal was my guide.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The manager of the wine drinkers Co-op

Karl was not that impressive the first time he came into the store. He had been sleeping it off at the mission but I think the stay time there was limited and he need a job so he could rent a room.

After working for a few days and drawing a paycheck, he was a new man. His wide mustache was waxed he was shaven and his clothes were washed and neat.

He soon became a straw boss. The go to guy in the crew that loaded and unloaded the trucks.

Of course he had a story. He had been a superintendent for a construction company somewhere on the east coast.

Beers with boys and cocktails with the bosses soon became a habit and then an obsession. The booze took over his life.

When the job went so did his wife and family. He became wanderer getting jobs only to lose them when the "thirst" took hold.

I am not sure what brought him to Walla Walla, an out of the way place, but there was a hobo jungle along the railroad tracks. I often found impromtu sheds made out of scrap metal at our scrap yard, large diameter pipe was a home for some.

BB&S had a very tolerant attitude. If you showed up and there was work available you were hired. There was always a job for Karl. He worked on and off for a couple of years.

He also put his organizational talents to use in another way. During a period when again drink took over his life to the point where he could not work he became the leader of a group of "winos", those addicted to the cheap jug wine that the Safeway store on our block sold in quantities that allowed it to stay open after the company had consolidated its other neighborhood stores into one large supermarket.

During the day he would sit in a back booth at the Rodeo Tavern and his cohorts would come and go doing day labor or panhandling. They would disgorge the money on the table and he would allocate it for drinks making sure that he was well covered.

That is why I referred to him as the "Chairman of the Wine Drinkers' Co-op."

One day I was having lunch in the back room of the Pastime Cafe. Karl was seated next to me at the counter drinking coffee.

I remarked that this was not his usual beverage.

He explained that this was his new drink. No more cheap wine drinking.

On a cold night he had crawled into a garbage dumpster and burrowed into the papers and trash to keep warm. He had been rudely awakened from his wine drugged sleep by the shouts of a garbage man staring at him. The garbage truck driver had hooked on to the box to flip it into the compactor mounted on his truck when the machinery stalled. He had dismounted to determine the cause and looking into the steel box saw Karl who but for the glitch in the works would have been packaged and consigned to a grave in the garbage dump.

Karl took this as a sign that his drinking days were over and was hired for a well paying job in shipping and receiving at the General Foods Plant.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Adventures at St. Mary's Hospital

Returning to Walla Walla was a mixed joy. It was great to be home. Jean immediately checked into the local hospital.

The hospital administrator had abruptly left the hospital, I think he might have been asked to leave, and the place was kind of running itself.

Nursing attention was sparse. I complained to the head floor nurse and her response was that she was working on the hospital budget and didn't have much time for supervising staff.

The tracheotomy needed frequent cleaning. I noticed that the nurse was using straight from the bottle hydrogen peroxide. I remembered reading years before a label recommending a 50% solution. I confronted the nurse and she responded that she was following stated protocol.

I spoke to Dr. McClellan, chief of medicine, he changed the orders.

The final straw occurred when Jean reported that she had been assigned a student nurse to replace her regular nurse. The "nurse" was preparing to make up her bed. She was in the process of transferring Jean to a chair when something distracted her and she instructed her to stand for a minute. Of course Jean collapsed to the floor.

I felt very guilty. I took my wife from one of the nation's top teaching hospitals to this Mickey Mouse operation.

At lunches in the cafeteria I was getting similar reports from the family members of other patients.

Uncle Dave was a member of the advisory board of the hospital. I vented all my frustrations on him and begged him to intercede. He suggested that the complaint might have more weight if it came from a non-family member. He recommended Art Griff, a fellow member of the board.

I unloaded on Art finishing up with the admonition that St. Mary was heading for a sure law suit based on what I was hearing in the cafeteria.

Apparently, Art really shook some people up. The next time I visited the hospital the acting administrator came to Jean's room and told me that things would change and experienced staff would attend my wife.

This was 1985. A new administrator was hired and the hospital has grown and prospered and returned to it's former tradition of quality care. Art was tapped to be on be on the administrative board that actually operates the hospital.

I have related a few instances from a twenty year sequence. Not wanting to offend the AMA and the American Hospital Association further I will take a hiatus from the composition of "Jean's Book".

I salute the staff doctors, residents, and nurses who busted their butts saving their patients lives and making them as comfortable as possible under the circumstances but it is hard to forget some of the foibles that took place on the way.