Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Keepsake Moment

Alix at Casa Hice gave me this precious award last week. Be sure to swing by her blog and check out some of the others on whom she bestowed this “Keepsake Moment” honor! If you haven't visited her lately you might not recognize her - she is a mere shadow of her former self and deserves a pat on her skinny little butt. Nicely, of course.

Now that I have allegedly bagged this award, I must I'm supposed to follow these rules:
  1. Post a funny or sweet keepsake that tells something about myself.
  2. Pass the award on to 10 other bloggers that I think are keepers.
I'm all about rules. Or not. I have so many blogs in my reader that many days that go unread. There. I said it. Sorry, friends - just being honest.

My charge is to write about someone or something that will forever be kept in my memory. It wasn’t hard to come up with one that totally blew me away.

Actually I came up with several ideas, but now I have some blog fodder. And boy, do I need prompts. Instead of being a Proverbs 31-type wife and writing about Ron Burgundy like I did here, or being supermom and writing something sweet about my children like I did here and here and here, or being the doting daughter and writing about my mom or dad like I did here and here, today, it's all about me.

Sort of.

It took a very long time for me to figure out what I do at my job. I mean, I know what to do, but as soon as I get good at it, things change. Since I’m in health care, the only thing that remains constant is change. Things like blood and vomit and pee are pretty constant, and fortunately, I only spent a few years dealing with that. Or rather, getting paid to deal with that.

And heck, you don’t even need to know how to make a “hospital corner” on a bed anymore. Nursing students today have no idea how bloody those fingertips can get if that quarter just doesn’t bounce high enough off that bed.

Because now they have fitted sheets. Whaaat??? (Here's where I start showing my age).

My current job landed in my life about 20 years ago by default. That’s politically correct terminology for “We’ve eliminated your position and you can take this other one or leave it, thankyouverymuch.” They didn’t want to pay that “high nurses salary” (ahem) to run a health promotion and wellness program and keep people from actually getting sick. So they put me in charge of the cardiac rehabilitation program. They apparently thought I was trainable. Or a sucker. A trainable sucker.

I leaped from teaching healthy people how to prevent heart disease by eating nuts and twigs and exercising to a 33 1/3 rpm vinyl album featuring Jane Fonda in bad legwarmers with a matching sweatband, to teaching people how to take 18 different over-priced medicines, pry themselves from the Lazy-Boy, while living with the #1 killer in the United States that was going to blindside them on a Monday morning and kill them anyway.

It felt like I was being pushed off a ledge. Or choosing to leap before I was pushed.

Did I mention I was a wife, mom of 3 elementary school kids, working part-time, and going to grad school? Details. I was kind of busy. And stressed. And feeling very inadequate.

This was a paradigm shift, to be certain. The scary part was that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. (Here’s where you pause, Reader, and say “Praise the Lord I wasn’t her patient back then…”)

I did what any good nurse does – I panicked (but on the inside only - iced saline in those veins). Then I proceeded to the local University library to research every article I could find about the clinical practice, but not reading the articles. Back then a young Al Gore was just getting started with the internet in his garage and “google” was something you did on the beach at some ridiculously immodest person in a badly crocheted bikini.

I gathered piles of research articles. I immediately went to the back of each article and perused the researchers/authors names in the reference lists. After several articles, I had compiled a list of people who were obviously in-the-know.

The Big Kahunas.

The Really Important People in the Specialty Who Were All That.

The “Published.”

And I called them. Yep. On the phone. Long distance. Land line. Five cents a minute. Zach Morris’ cell phone wasn’t even in beta then.

The first two calls got me through to assistants of assistants and I was unable to talk to the actual person, who was either a physician or an exercise physiologist. Twice I got “I’ll have him call you back.” Uh huh. Then I called the office of Dr. Pollock, one of the foremost pioneers in the field. His name was on nearly every article I'd collected. The phone rang twice, and then this lilting friendly male voice said “Hi, this is Mike.”

Wrong number? I stumbled and stuttered. I had expected “Department of Cardiology, may I help you?”

“My name is…uh.. and…uh… I… would… to talk to Dr. Pollock for a few minutes about some basic clinical cardiac rehab questions. Would you be so kind to help me arrange a brief phone conference?”

“This is Mike Pollock, Candy. What can I help you with?”


“Oh my gosh, Dr. Pollock, I didn’t expect you to answer the phone! (Talk speed, 0-60 in 3 seconds)…. You see, I have this new job in cardiac rehab and I have no idea what I’m doing but I am a nurse and I think a pretty good one and I have always loved exercise and I’m taking exercise physiology in grad school and I see you've done lots of research and written a dozen books and now I’m told I have this job in cardiac rehab and I have absolutely no clue where to start and what to do with all TWO of these patients but we’re hoping there will be more someday but….”

“Whoa, Candy. Slow down! Let’s start from the beginning!”

I always wondered what he really thought. After all, I wasn't the ditzy college co-ed I was acting like. I was a mature non-traditional student with a family, having a panic attack. On the phone. With a renown researcher and professor.

He was so calm and patient. He recommended several “How To” resources and told me where to get them cheap. He gave me a list of the things I needed to know about now and things I need to research eventually, like diagnosis codes and reimbursement and Medicare regulations and involvement in professional organizations that support my impending career and on and on... It was a clean, neat list of where my professional life would be headed for the next 20 years.

I just didn’t know it at the time.

I was writing fast and furiously, my questions became more sensible and hopefully I sounded less panicky as the conversation went on. Wow, I had a good start. A plan. Some goals. And a mentor. Several mentors, actually. He dropped some names for me and said to “tell them I gave you their name.”

As our conversation was coming to a close, he asked “Would it be helpful if I came to Iowa to speak with the physicians in your hospital to help you support this?” Long story short, he came to Iowa from Florida in the middle of winter. And he charged for his expenses only.

As he hung up he said “Call me anytime - you’re going to love this job!”

I had my doubts. I felt like an old dog and this trick was horribly new.

Over the years, I studied, practiced on my patients (did I really say that?), graduated (again), took additional certification exams and clawed my way up the cardiac rehab food chain. There really is no top, no end to the learning process, never an end to the advancements in the treatment for heart disease. I know so much less than most of my colleagues, but the important thing is that I now know them, have fostered some incredible personal and professional relationships, and I know they are merely a phone call away. Some of them are pretty darned snarky (as in blog-like snark), have no idea I dabble in blogging, and have threatened to publish my emails. I really should be more careful.

All because a brilliant, famous, but mostly humble and gentle man with a big heart said “What can I help you with?”

And he never forgot my name.

It was a "Keepsake Moment" to learn that you should never be afraid to ask questions that you think may make you look ignorant or foolish. There just might be a brilliant scientist on the other end of the phone who would love to answer and even come to visit you in Iowa in the middle of winter.

Mike died unexpectedly about four years after I met him as he was preparing to give one of his infamous lectures. Rest in Peace, Mike. You were the best.

And you were right, I love my job.

This post will be continued one day with “Iowa Girl Goes to Arizona and Turns into a Fellow.” It will be a fun one, but Ron Burgundy has some serious video editing to do in order to appreciate it fully.

Who am I passing this on to? Rules, I hate rules! I have a terrible sense of obligating people! Look at my followers list and if you're there, I like you, too! As well as a heckuva lot more of you that I follow.

If you've stopped by on a whim and would like to share a "Keepsake Moment" kindly lift this award for your blog and don't forget to leave a comment! I'll stop and visit!

Tea tonight: Young hyson


Helen said...

Candy, you are always the sweetest. No wonder your momma named you Candy.
Dr. Pollock sound like a wonderful man. Think of how many people he affected by helping you become a better cardiac nurse! Long after he is gone, the time he spent with you is paying off. I bet he is looking down from Heaven, reading this, and saying "You, girl, have no idea how glad I am to be the one who was there to answer your question, and how awesome it is to still be affecting people on earth in a positive way after I have been away so long!" That's what I imagine this man whom I have never actually met saying.
I couldn't possibly lift this award after reading your awesome post. Well, maybe...I'll let the idea cook in my brain a little...

katdish said...

Well, color me impressed, Candy!

I find that you should always just speak your mind without pretense, regardless of who you are talking to. Anyone who enjoys being sucked up to isn't worthy of being sucked up to. In my experience, anyway.

What an awesome story. And goody for you - more crap on your sidebar. Starting to look like the smartypants blog around here, without the monkey butts.

Jo@Mylestones said...

Candy- this is a fantastic story! It's so rare to come across people like Mike--so accomplished but down to earth. And good for you for going for it, putting yourself out there to try to learn. Sounds like the career change worked out far better than you imagined, huh?

Elaine at Matters of the Heart) said...

I am so glad I came over tonight to see what I have missed. I loved learning about such a wonderful moment in your life. What an amazing turn of events, and wow, way to go get what you need. I am so glad it turned out so well. I am sure you have impacted so many lives just because you picked up the phone to find out more... said...

I am so happy that this post was around when i came by to say thank you for your kind words and thoughts! I am doing much better!

This is such a cool post. Right in a nutshell. I love reading the blogs of other nurses. Especially nurses who truly love nursing. Which clearly you do.

Love your sense of humor. Looking forward to more :)

Thanks again,

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