Further thoughts on Portland, Oregon’s most recent Health Care Rally…
Why was I there? Who was I there for? What did I hope to accomplish?
(photo cred: reddit.com)
I was there at the Health Care rally holding some people in my heart.
Knowing each of them guided my development as a nurse, and as a human being.
A veteran of the Persian Gulf War.
RJ was living in Idaho when I met him. The VA Administration was responsible for RJ’s healthcare. He needed treatment for cancer, and the type of treatment he needed required a temporary move to Portland, Oregon.
One of my goals as his Cancer Care Nurse Coordinator was to inform and educate him about the treatments he would be receiving. Another goal, was to encourage him to tap into his inner strengths, and stay as active as possible in the downtime between daily treatments.
RJ had never been to Portland before. I asked him what he might enjoy seeing and doing while he was here. He thought for a minute, then he told me that he would love to see a Portland Blazers game.
It took a few phone calls, but I managed to get someone on the phone from the Blazer’s Communications & Public Engagement office.
I explained that I had a visiting Veteran in town for several months who really wanted to see a game. I asked if they hook me up with a couple tickets.
A couple? How about four? That was the gracious reply.
I was thrilled, and tremendously grateful.
The tickets were for a home game against the Houston Rockets. A winter game, on a snowy February evening.
RJ had many, many, loving family and friends. That particular month, they were all located in Idaho, and his home state, Ohio. None were able to travel to Portland to take him to the game.
I’m really not a sports fan, not at all. I wanted RJ to have an amazing time, and to attend the game with people who would genuinely enjoy it with him.
I asked my husband, Mr. Blitch, to round up two other basketball fans to go.
I was the driver. We picked RJ up at the VA Hospital; the four men, who had never met each other, all went to the game.
The tickets were at the will call window, along with a Blazer’s hat and shirt that had been left specially for RJ by the Blazers’ management.
He finished treatment in the early spring. He was able to return to his home in Idaho for a while. He had to fly back frequently for follow-up appointments with his Portland Oncologists.
The last time I saw RJ, he was wearing his Blazers shirt from the game.
It was my honor to know him.
Franklin Pierre King
My beloved Uncle Frank. Born March 18, 1932, died March 31, 2015.
Eldest of 3 children born to George Pierre and Helen Bebout King during the The Great Depression. They grew up desperately poor. He didn’t talk to me much about his childhood until the last nights of his life.
Frank served in a US Army Unit during the Korean War. He retired in 1995, after 30+ years of work as a Right of Way agent for the State of Oregon.
Frank loved to dance. Ballroom, waltz, swing. Anything involving music and feet moving across a dance floor.
When my son, HH, was a freshman in High School, Frank had a little talk with him about dancing.
You don’t ever leave a lady standing by herself against a wall in need of a dance partner, he told HH.
Frank died from complications of bladder cancer. He died 9 days after my Aunt Donna died. Donna had lung cancer.
Both of their deaths, especially being so near in time to one another, were tremendously difficult on our family. As an Oncology nurse with a background in Hospice care, it was not my duty, but my sweet honor to participate in the End Of Life care for both of them.
And, I must note: due to retired government employees benefits, and Hospice services covered by Medicare, both Aunt Donna and Uncle Frank had access to excellent Oncology and Hospice care.
Esther Matthews Applegate
My maternal grandmother. Born October 10, 1910, in Calgary, Canada.
Esther had poliomyelitis (polio) as a child. Fortunately she and her family had access to Health Care. She survived. And despite suffering debilitating paralysis, with the aid physical therapy, she was able to walk again, and live a full life.
Esther was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in her 50s, colon cancer when she was in her 70s. She had multiple layers of health insurance and retirement benefits, from her role as a US Army wife during WWII and the Korean War, and from her own work. She was a retired language teacher, fluent in French and Spanish.
Colon cancer treatment included surgery to permanently remove her colon, followed by Radiation Therapy. She suffered a stroke when she was in her early 80s, and lived until 1999. She died on my elder brother’s birthday. She was not quite 89 years of age.
And again, she had full and unhindered access to Health Care, at every stage and phase of her life. Both as a Canadian citizen, and here in the US.