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THE ELK

Story ID:1157
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Butte MT. USA
Year:2003
Person:Ken Campbell
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THE ELK

THE ELK

THE ELK
by Kathe Campbell

When we promised, 'in sickness and in health,' little did we anticipate the vow 50 years later. I wonder how many newlyweds do? But lately, living on the edge seems to be a way of life for we old fossils. We had been blessed with excellent health until the boom was lowered a few years back and every year has brought about a major crisis.

Oh, I've lost an arm, am hunkered over with spinal stenosis and rheumatoid arthritis, but it seems unremarkable compared to these past years of utter chaos for my husband, Ken. He's conquered prostate cancer, joint replacements, an upper intestine resection, five heart by-passes, diabetes, is working hard on rheumatoid arthritis, and a list of multifarious lesser complaints, all handled with that ever-present big smile. And, at age 77 he still runs our business like a well oiled machine, and . . . he really didn't need what I'm about to tell you.

Last fall a tempest of Montana troubles beset Ken late one evening when a bull elk crashed through his windshield peeling the roof of the car back like a can of sardines. He drove another eight miles in a state of shock before realizing he felt cold. After retrieving his cell phone from beneath shards of windshield on the front seat, he called me to say he may have hit an animal, that I should inform the highway patrol. Always thinking of other drivers, that was my guy. Oh yes, and that he might have a small cut on his face. In our family that meant only one thing. Pops totaled his car and he had a gusher.

By the time family and neighbors descended on our very familiar St. James Emergency Room, Ken's face was unrecognizable and he was suffering a concussion. Miraculously there were no broken bones, just a face full of glass and elk hair that still emerges on occasion, and again, that irrepressible grin.

Shortly thereafter, an episode of faulty speech and dizzy spells frightened me so badly, I immediately trotted out my redheaded temper and ordered Ken into the car against his wishes. After a CT scan, he was rolled into surgery where a neuro surgeon opened up a major portion of skull to reveal an enormous subdural hematoma. Head surgery was something new in pop's repertoire, and the idea of brain surgery left me more apprehensive than usual.

I've never been one to go to the Lord in prayer for miniscule reasons. My biggest prayers seem to abound in hospital chapels for the safe return of my darlin', more times than I like to recall. This time I brazenly summoned the sweet angels who had brought me back to life, and prayed for them to shed their glorious healing light. They responded so quickly, I just knew God had sent them to our pop's side in intensive care that very night.

As I stood watching the surgeon inspecting his work the following afternoon, pops asked if he could view the damage. He was delighted to note that he now resembled Telle Sevalas and could add another 15 inches of scar to his existing 207. Just another case of our pop's demented wit we've all learned to ignore.

Ken recovered well and we returned to our regular work schedule until vision problems interfered with his driving. Gratefully, this time he let me drive him to the hospital. He knew he was in trouble again. A return to surgery, and once more, my soul was on it's knees. An abscess was found causing pressure behind optic nerves. Because four doctors were taking no chances that a deadly staph infection could strike the brain, he reported to Outpatient Services at the hospital every morning for another six weeks to ingest the hottest antibiotics available.

And this brings me to the crack of dawn, the eve of our 50th wedding anniversary when I joined Ken for our regular IV's of the latest rheumatoid arthritis miracle. After the usual blood drawings and vitals, we were hooked up side by side to ingest pain-saving fluids and partake in a hearty anniversary breakfast so beautifully served by the hospital staff. What a lovely surprise! The grapevine was obviously abuzz as familiar nurses from various floors appeared to savor the scene. They took pictures and congratulated this pair of wedded bliss spectacles in their golden togetherness.

Between we two walking drug stores, I'm amazed we haven't passed this way in unison before, downloading bags of miracles and uploading photos in every department. We two like to think of ourselves as gratitude poster kids for the hard working nurses who lovingly tend their patients. And, when all is said and done, being regular fixtures hasn't been all that bad. There's a lot of mighty fine folks who really care, and we remain truly blessed. I wonder how we'll be spending our 51st?


Taken from the St. James Hospital monthly news letter, March 2003.

Remembering a great guy, 1-29-26 * 5-18-05