The Other Hospital Stays

While I’m on the subject of sicknesses, let’s review the other times I’ve had trouble. It was while I lived in Minnesota that I had something called an umbilical hernia. An umbilical hernia is a bulge in the abdominal wall within the navel. They had to go in and do surgery on it and basically closed up my belly button. It wasn’t a big deal, but I no longer have to pick lint out of my belly button.

One winter in the 80’s (I don’t remember exactly when), I was out in the back clearing snow off the driveway. I remember coming in the back door and feeling this burn on my right ankle. I showed it to Karen and there was this bright red band that extended all the way around my right ankle. It really hurt. We thought a doctor should see it, so we went in. He said it looks like some sort of virus, but no one could tell me where it had come from. They thought I had hit my ankle with the shovel when I was shoveling snow, but I don’t remember doing that. The red band started to widen.

They put me in the hospital and put me on antibiotics. I think they tried several different antibiotics before they found one that worked. They had no idea what virus it was or why it was attacking me like this. By the time they got it stopped, my entire right leg from the knee down was bright red. It hurt, but they had me on pain medication, so it wasn’t too bad. When they found the right antibiotic, they finally got it licked and I began to get better. I spent about 5 days in the hospital.

When I got home from the hospital, I noticed that my right leg was swelling up. It didn’t hurt and my first thought was that they hadn’t gotten all the virus. So, back to the doctor we went. It turns out that they virus was gone, but while it was there, it had killed the lymph system in my right leg. The lymph system is what the body uses, basically, to fight disease. Without that, my leg is prone to all kinds of problems, number one of which is that it fills up with fluid. The lymph system keeps that from happening in a healthy body, but my leg was dead and so those who know me, know that my right leg is three times bigger than my left leg. This is called lymphedema I spend the next 2 or 3 years fighting it and trying to find ways to keep it under control. Finally, I gave up. Today, I just let it blow up and live with it. They’ve told me there is nothing that can be done. I’m looking forward to an after-life where I hope to have two legs that are the same size.

Other than minor illnesses (like the annual bronchitis), the only other time I was in the hospital in Rochester was when I had my appendix out. Now that and the umbilical hernia are both childhood problems. The hernia usually happens to babies and if you’re going to have trouble with your appendix, you usually have it when you’re a kid. But both happened to me after I was an adult and both happened in Rochester. Of course, it just may be that I’m getting older. Everyone knows that I have had my share of problems in the last few years.


Five Weeks in the Hospital

The pleurisy eventually caused to me lose about 25% of my left lung so now when I’m out of breath all the time, that’s one of the reason’s. The embolism started in my left leg and traveled up through my veins (or arteries, not sure which) and logged itself in the right side of my lungs. Since I had the infection in the left lung and all the fluid and the embolism on the right lung, my lungs suddenly shut down completely. I was laying in bed in the ICU and all of a sudden, I couldn’t breath. I was gasping for breath. I guess some kind of an alarm sounded because I was suddenly surrounded by several nurses and doctors giving me advise on how to breathe.

It didn’t last long and I got though it, but they told me later that I had total respiratory failure and was very close to dying. Needless to say, I didn’t, but I’ve had lung problems ever since.

Besides the breathing breakdown, I really only have two memories of that stay in the hospital. One was that I was able to watch the entire mini-series “Roots” on TV. My second week in the hospital, they played that series and I watched the whole thing. It was really good and I enjoyed it very much. The other memory was when Karen got to bring the kids up to see me. I think she had to wait until I got out of the ICU in order to bring the kids in so it had been 2 or 3 weeks since I had seen them. I remember Matt and David being kind of shy and standing at the foot of the bed and not really sure if this was their dad or not. They didn’t know what to make of all this fuss people were making over me. Karen was holding Kimmy, though, she was just about 15 months old. She carried her in the room and her eyes lit up and she got this big smile on her face and she reached out both arms for me to take her. It was a very precious moment for me. Kim had these huge brown eyes when she was little and to see them light up like that made me very grateful to have her as a daughter. I will never forget that day.

I got out of the hospital the end of January or the first of February. All together, I spend about 5 weeks in it. I couldn’t go back to work right away, so I spent the time at home, recuperating. It wasn’t until May that I went back to work part time and then moved up to full time in June. 6 months taken out of my life. For almost the rest of the time I lived in Minnesota, I got bronchitis two or three times a year. My lungs were weak and the disease was easy to catch. It wasn’t until I moved to Utah and a dry climate that it stopped. I’ve only had bronchitis a couple times in the 13 or so years I’ve lived here. As much as I liked living in Minnesota, I don’t think it liked me.


Welcome to Minnesota

I don’t remember much of the actual move to Eyota. That first year is a blur. I was getting used to IBM and working in a big plant. We had bought a house that had a lot and a half. Us and the old guy who lived next door (Karen, do you remember his name?) each owned half of the lot that was between our houses. That way, it took both of us to sell if someone wanted to build a house between us. This gave us lots of room. We were able to put in a really nice garden in that spot. We had good intentions, but gardening never did seem to work very well for us. In the 18 years, we lived in Eyota, the garden got smaller and smaller and finally disappeared altogether.

I won’t be able to write the next 18 years in chronological order. I’m just going to put down memories as I think of them. Then later, I’ll try to unravel everything and put it in order.

Minnesota was not good to me, health-wise. I had never been sick hardly a day in my life until I came to Minnesota. Our first Christmas, in 1976, I suddenly got what felt like the flu. I had trouble breathing and ended up spending several nights sitting up in my chair in the living room because I couldn’t sleep laying down. After several days of this and not getting better, we went to see the doctor. I don’t think he put me in the hospital right away, but the first or second week week of January, 1977, I was in the intensive care unit at Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester. I spent a week or so there and then they decided that Mayo could treat me better, so I was transported over to St Mary’s Hospital which is part of the Mayo Clinic Complex.

I eventually spent 5 weeks in the hospital. I had what I refer to as the three “P’s”, (and I have to look up each of these to get the right spelling), pneumonia, pleurisy (Pleurisy is swelling (inflammation) of the thin layers of tissue (pleura) covering the lungs and the chest wall) and a pulmonary embolism (which is a blood clot). The pneumonia caused my lungs to fill up with fluid. There was so much that they had to drive a hose through the wall of my back and into my chest cavity so that it could drain out. To this day, the spot that they drove the hose into me itches. Every day, I itch back there like it never healed properly. Weird.

The rest of the life-changing illness tomorrow.


Moving Once Again – To Eyota

We moved the Minnesota in Jan or Feb of 1976. Karen and I went down a few weeks before we actually moved and did some home hunting. We got ahold of a real estate person and told them we wanted a house.

We didn’t have a lot of trouble selling the house in New Jersey, so I think we had some equity to work with in the purchase of the house in Minnesota. Don’t remember who bought the New Jersey house (maybe the people that were living in it), but I don’t think we ever had to go back there. We didn’t have a lot of money but we did have a little to put down on the new house.

I’m not sure if we even shopped in Rochester. I do remember going out to the west of Rochester to Dodge Center. We looked at an old house there and seriously considered it for a time. We also looked in Kasson and Byron and then the real estate guy took us east to Eyota. He showed us the house on Madison Ave. Well, this house was much nicer than some of the others we had seen. The main thing that made up my mind, however, was, I knew I would be working at IBM in Rochester. I reasoned that if we bought a house on the west side of town (like Dodge Center), then I would have the sun in my eyes while both driving into work in the morning and driving home again at night. So, we decided to buy on the east side and bought the Eyota house.

We were to learn later that Dodge Center was a really weird town. It’s the only town I know of, where when the church sent missionaries to it, they “shook the dust off of their feet” when they left the town. I think that is the expresson. It means, essentially, we are leaving this town and will not attempt to do missionary work in this town for the time being. It kind of means that the town is possessed. If you have heard of the movie “Sybil”. It’s about a woman who had 26 different personalities and ended up spending most of her life in a mental institution. Well, Sybil is based on a true story and the woman who was Sybil lived in Dodge Center, MN. I think we made the right choice moving to Eyota.


Preparing to Leave North Dakota

The PAR site was eventually sold to the Air Force who now man it and uses it to study the “Northern Lights” and also to catalog space junk that is floating around in orbit out in space. At any rate, it was time to leave. We had done our job and we were done.

IBM sent me on three separate trips to interview for another job. First, I went to Rhode Island where they were working on a small project that was supposed to last for 2 years. I ran into my old friend Ken Capolla from New Jersey. He said it was a good job and I would probably enjoy it, but it was back to the east coast (which I didn’t really want to do) and it meant we would have to move again in two years. I really wanted a more permanent location.

Next they sent me to Gaitherburg, Maryland which is just outside of Washington D.C. This was another military related job and it also was short term. I don’t remember what either of these two places really did, but I knew I didn’t want to go to another short term project. Karen and I were ready to settle down and stay in one place for awhile. After letting my manager at IBM know that, he next sent me to Rochester, MN

I interviewed with a guy named Bob Davis. He was manager over a group of programmers who were working on writing a new programing language. This language was to be used to write the operating system which would eventually run the System/38, a computer that IBM built in the 70’s and 80’s. The 38 then evolved into a computer called the AS/400 which was (and is) one of the most successful systems IBM has ever built. Rochester was exactly what I was looking for.

But, something happened which made me absolutely convinced that Rochester was the place to go. I’m superstitious that way, I guess, but I decided to take some time and check out the town. I wanted to see what kind of library they had and, in general, see what kind of place I would be moving to. I had no nowledge of Eyota at this time.

I was walking around downtown when I chanced to cross Broadway on my way to the library. I got half way across the street and there was this little old lady crossing the street coming the other way. She was having difficulty walking (as I do now). As she passed me, for some reason, she looked up at me and said, “Young man, would you mind helping me across the street?” Well, I naturally said yes. She took my arm and I walked her back the way I’d come to the other side of the street where I’d started. She said thank you and went on her way.

I felt like a Boy Scout. I had never been asked to do something like that before. It was really nothing. A small token that I could not get out of my mind. I felt that if this is the kind of people who live in Rochester, then this is where I want to live. I took it as a sign and went back to Cavalier to tell Karen we had a new home. As all of you know, we spent the next 18 years in the Rochester area.


Now We Are Five

In my opinion (and Karen’s too), the most wonderful thing to happen in North Dakota happened just before we left. On Halloween morning, Oct 31, 1975, little Kimberly Sue was born. Here is some details directly from Karen:

The most important happening in North Dakota was the birth of Kimberly Sue. I alluded to it earlier with David’s escape from being grounded so long when he and the little girl took off across the pasture in Cavalier.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune to have a sweet little girl after two big boys and yes, she was smaller than them and ate more daintily. We didn’t know she was a little girl before the birth. Ultrasound wasn’t used until Kristy Elaine came along in 1980, five years later.

She was born on Halloween morning. Dad took Matthew and David to Halloween festivities like the free movie at the downtown theater and then trick or treating. (I remember stopping by the hospital while we were trick or treating so the boys could see the baby. They were in their costumes and I guess the hospital let them in without any problem.) I remember one woman in the apartments who gave Kimmy a present but she also gave Matthew and David presents so they wouldn’t feel left out. What a thoughtful person.

I also remember asking for an apple at every meal while in the hospital becuz I knew the sooner I had a bowl movement the sooner I could go home. So I had an apple on every tray even when there was still one uneaten on my bedside stand! AND they gave it to me instead of dessert. Felt like that was rude!

The sisters in Relief Society gave me a surprise baby shower and presented me with a quilt they pieced and tied for Kimmy. She used that as her “my-mines” for a long time. They embroidered a RS seal in the middle of it becuz I was RS prez at the time of her birth.

I regret Kimmy has never been back to her birthplace in Cavalier. She was born Oct. 31, 1975 and we moved from ND to Minnesota at the end of January, 1976 (bicentennial of the country). Maybe someday. …


The Nolans

Karen mentioned Debbie Nolan in her notes a couple days ago. She and Bob Nolan were good friends while we lived in North Dakota. I worked with Bob at the site and we were both members of the church, so we became fairly close while we lived there. There is a guy here at American Express (where I work now) who has a voice that sounds exactly like Bob Nolan and everytime I hear him speak, I think of Bob. So, he has been on my mind a lot lately.

One incident which is pretty funny happened to Bob one summer. Bob drove a little old fashioned style Volkswagen Beetle. He would prop a magazine or a book on the steering wheel and read as he drove around the back roads near Cavalier. The roads hardly ever had any traffic on them so not paying attention to the road was not too dangerous.

One day Bob was driving along at about 10 or 15 miles per hour on one of the back roads near Cavalier. He was reading a book and not watching where he was going and the car went off the road and rolled. Remember the shoulders they have in North Dakota? Well, he rolled right off the road and the car just gently turned over on it’s roof. He wasn’t hurt. I think he was able to crawl out and turn the car over by hand and go on his way. We teased him about that for months.

One Christmas, we were meeting in one of our apartments to have a Christmas Party. We were singing carols and someone was playing the piano. I remember we all sang “Silent Night”. Bob was sitting right next to me singing. For some reason I can’t explain, I had the feeling that there were other people in the room. Spirits, angels, whatever you want to call them. They were singing along with us. I might have thought it was just my imagination, except when the song was done, Bob looked over at me and said, “Wow, what was that?. That was the most beautiful I’ve ever that song.” I believe someone we couldn’t see was singing with us. A very spiritual moment.


Miscellaneous North Dakota Memories

The rest from Karen about North Dakota:

I did a lot of ceramics for lack of other things to do in Cavalier. Made Christmas trees and nativities (Dad’s note: I painted one nativity set at home after Karen cleaned and fired it) as gifts to your and my moms (I got my Mom’s back after she died and I still have it and put it out at Christmas time.)

We were meeting for mid week RS one time in the recreation building and David had to use the bathroom. So I sent him in and was going to follow. Other people used other parts of the building becuz it was rather large. A woman heard David in the stall (women’s bathroom of course) and went to help him pull up his pants. She was startled to see he was a little boy. We had let his hair grow long becuz we thought it was so cute! Not sure when we finally had his hair cut in the Cavalier barber shop.

I remember putting a church brief in the weekly paper EVERY week to advertise our church, hoping it would bring in interested people. Nope! Of course our Sunday meetings were 35 miles away. ….

Sometimes the full time missionaries came to stay with us for a few days or the week to proselyte in the Cavalier area. Their apt was in Langdon and they didn’t have a car.

I’d drive up to Canada to buy fresh brown eggs from a farmer and cheap bologna from a country store. Remember the family in Bathgate who attended our branch? They had twin girls and at least one little boy and the wife’s sister Carol Brown. Anyway, the wife went with me one time to buy brown eggs and we got stuck in snow that had banked itself ON the road one time. Thought I could drive fast through it. … Can’t remember how we got out. Think the missionaries went with me one time, too. Probably shouldn’t have crossed the border, huh? They wouldn’t be able to now!

After branch conference one time a member of the district presidency and our district president (Gough?) came to dinner at our house. I had fixed chicken curry with all the condiments. The wives were not along but I heard from the wives later saying their husbands thought I’d fixed a gourmet meal for them!

I just looked Grafton up on the map. It was 40 miles south of us, on the way to Grand Forks. Anyway Grafton was the “big” city to us. I remember our family traveling there to do some shopping (probably for Christmas) after Kimmy was born. For some reason she cried and cried and cried after we got there. Think I tried to nurse her but she was NOT happy. Think we just ended up going home! Her noise was frustrating for us and for the stores we went into!

There was a state park nearby that we had some picnics at (Icelandic State Park). Didn’t Blackburns (I worked with Blackburn – don’t remember his first name) invite us to one when we first arrived in Cavalier? I remember feeling embarrassed becuz it was impromptu and I didn’t have anything to bring. Your boss was present there and you asked him for an advance. He wouldn’t write a check (evidence I guess) but gave you cash.


More from Karen

Karen continues…

Forgot about the pilot training and the “buying” of a church bldg. Just getting the recreation centers at both sites (Cavalier and Langdon) to use for meetings (Sacrament and Relief Society) was quite a coup, I thought. Big step up from the cigarette laden other place!

I think Matt started playing the piano in Cavalier. I think it was offered through the elementary school. Not sure if we had to pay extra or not. His piano training ended when we left ND for Minnesota becuz we didn’t have a piano right away. Always felt bad about that but then he took up the trombone becuz his friend Aaron Anderson wanted to be in the Dover-Eyota HS band!

Matt was in first through third grades in Cavalier. Some of that time was spent in temporary buildings put up on the school grounds — probably to accommodate the influx of the government project on Bjornson street. Those apts were eventually torn down, hauled to Rochester and put back up. The Brinkmans lived in one. Thought that was pretty funny that our old apartment house had followed us to Minn.

Matt was baptized in Fargo. Trying to remember why. Why wouldn’t they have a font in Grand Forks? We stayed overnite in a motel and made a big deal of it for Matthew. Think we stayed overnite when we went to District Conference in Grand Forks, too, becuz they had meetings on Saturday as well as Sunday.

Continuing David’s little episode with the little Day girl, I grounded him from playing with her and Debbie Nowlin’s little girl for a certain amount of time. But then Kimmy was born on Oct. 31 and Debbie watched Matt and David while I was in the hospital. So David didn’t suffer very long. He must have been 5 that year becuz he could have gone to kindergarten. Think we even sent him. Not sure if it was the crowded conditions of the school or what but they didn’t keep him in kindergarten. Said he’d be more prepared if we waited a year to send him. They did that with several children if I remember right so it may have been the numbers more than anything.

More from Karen tomorrow….


Notes from Karen

After some arm-twisting, I talked Karen into writing some of her memories of North Dakota. I wish I could remember it all, but I can’t. It’s good to have some help. So, we’ll hear from Karen for the next couple days.

David and the little girl (he might remember her name. (He doesn’t.) Think her mom’s name was Carla, not hers) were picked up by a policeman and brought home when they walked across the field in Cavalier toward the hotel building. Think that was pretty exciting for them, to have a ride in a police car!

Jerry Stroup’s wife name is spelled Nga. We visited them 2 times in Salt Lake City suburb. (Actually Brigham City). Have a cute photo of his son Jerry (or Jeremy) with Kimmy on our first visit. They are holding up a water hose that has a hole or two in it so they are drinking water that’s spurting thru the holes. Waaay cute. We went to Lagoon with them; remember the picnic lunch there? Think you and Jerry and he boys went climbing a mountain behind their home that first visit.

The second time is when Nga had a restaurant. Jerry went off with the kids on a trip so we’d have room to stay in their bedrooms so we didn’t see him that visit. Sounded like a lame excuse to me but it was good to at least see Nga. That might have been the year we brought Matt out to go to BYU his first year.

Back to ND, a moose was spotted in downtown (I think it was Mountain, ND) where Nga and Jerry Stroup had a trailer home. So one Sunday we decided to go moose/goose hunting. We all piled into one car I think: Matthew, David, you, me and the two Stroups. We had the best time telling the driver to go up this road or that road to find a moose. Never did spot one (moose or goose) but we had a lotta fun doing it!