May, 2011 Archives

Mr. Compassion

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May 24th, 2011

My family is sick. Today is my lucky day. Yes, I realize those first few sentences go together like pizza and warm tap water but for a guy who’s been taken care of all these months, it’s my turn to give back. A sniffly wife? “There, there honey, what can I fetch you?” A tired, […]

My family is sick. Today is my lucky day.

Yes, I realize those first few sentences go together like pizza and warm tap water but for a guy who’s been taken care of all these months, it’s my turn to give back.

A sniffly wife? “There, there honey, what can I fetch you?”

A tired, groaning daughter? “Hey girl, would you like some yummy Jell-O?”

It’s not like the sum total of all their pills would even come close to matching my current daily ingestion amount. Heck I take pills to counteract the other pills I take to help me consume the first ones.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcpillspillspills.jpgI’m happy being the helper. Oh sure, they’re sick, I get that. But right now it makes me feel better. I need a shrink I think.

It could be just a matter of moments before I come down with what they have. My immune system is still being kept low with all the pills from a few paragraphs ago. But in this sweet spot where I reside right now, I get to play the compassionate caregiver. Pay no attention to that sneeze I just stifled.

My ladies mean everything to me. If you read my book you’ll remember they’re even more special than frozen coffees. So turning the tables and looking on them with sympathy and benevolence is a gas. They can see the caring and nurturing in my eyes, much like they’ve had in their own eyes since about forever ago.

I’m a good person again. My joy in their illness proves it.

Following My Heart

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May 17th, 2011

Maybe there was something in my heart telling me I should return to the hospital. That’s probably why last Friday the 13th — a day that began so fun by meeting one of my favorite baseball stars — I found myself driving to the Emergency Room with chest pains. “There’s no way I’m having a […]

Maybe there was something in my heart telling me I should return to the hospital. That’s probably why last Friday the 13th — a day that began so fun by meeting one of my favorite baseball stars — I found myself driving to the Emergency Room with chest pains.

“There’s no way I’m having a heart attack,” I kept reassuring myself. But the signs were all there; difficulty breathing, pain in my chest and side, reluctance to admit it was a heart attack, blah, blah, blah.

No, I obviously shouldn’t have been driving myself but my wife and girls were at the high school for an event and since I was much closer to my destination and I didn’t want to disturb them, I hopped in the car and took off. Don’t try this at home.

I-75 was jammed so I decided on an alternate route. Thankfully it passed right by another Emergency Room in a sort of redi-med building. I swung in there.

“Hi,” I said to the receptionist, “I am a bone marrow transplant patient with a history of leukemia and blood clots who is experiencing pains in the chest and difficulty breathing.” Man, I sounded so professional. “Oh, and I’m on blood thinners too.” I was proud of my ability to succinctly give my history, like a walking/talking medic alert bracelet. But I was also supremely embarrassed.

“This is probably nothing,” I assured myself.

They got me checked in immediately and started the testing right away. Thankfully the heart monitor showed no abnormality and the blood tests indicated everything was okay. That didn’t help the look on my daughter’s faces, though, when I saw them later on. Seeing their fear, after I had been assuring them over and over again throughout the past year, made me realize yet again how my battle wasn’t just being waged for myself.

What new fresh hell was I experiencing?

After an ambulance ride downtown to Harper Hospital — in the bumpiest vehicle I’ve been in since, I don’t know, the old Ford pickup truck on the farm in North Dakota I used to visit when I was a kid — they kept prodding and poking and taking blood until a 1:00 a.m. ultrasound proved it was only pericarditis, a swelling of the sac surrounding the heart. More than likely it was brought on by my artificially low immune system or my previous bout with leukemia. The treatment? Motrin.

Seriously.

That previous sentence was longer than the amount of sleep I got that night, but I was happy to go home the next day and relieved that, at least for me, the stress was over. But I think in my family’s eyes, this opened old wounds that had only recently begun to scar over.

We’ve spoken about it individually and, bless all their hearts, they don’t want me worrying about them. But knowing I’m fine, my biggest concern is obviously with their personal states of mind.

We run the risk in the Curtis family of worrying too much about each other and not enough about ourselves, so somehow I need to shatter this. I know when I’m a year, two years, five and ten years removed from all this it will be easier for them to not live on pins and hypodermic needles. But I want that for them now, right freakin’ now.

And I’m sure what they want most, right freakin’ now, is for me to stop worrying about them.

I’m Such A Dork

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May 13th, 2011

When I was a legitimate, professional, sanctioned journalist, running into famous people was no big deal. George Burns was the first star I encountered and he was followed by presidents, politicians, Rob Lowe, Snoop Dogg, the guy who played Norm on Cheers and it was definitely cool rubbing elbows with Bill Clinton and Al Gore […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcMags_and_Me.jpgWhen I was a legitimate, professional, sanctioned journalist, running into famous people was no big deal. George Burns was the first star I encountered and he was followed by presidents, politicians, Rob Lowe, Snoop Dogg, the guy who played Norm on Cheers and it was definitely cool rubbing elbows with Bill Clinton and Al Gore all those times in New Hampshire, back when they were (almost) nobodies.

So why did I get such a thrill today eating breakfast next to Magglio Ordonez? I think part of it was because I’m no longer technically in the business and I’m a huge Tiger fan. When Marci and I saw Max Scherzer at the mall a few weeks ago I couldn’t really be scherzer it was him. But there was, Mags, eating his eggs right next to us. I noticed him, out of the corner of my eye, looking right at me, (probably because I was wearing my faded Tiger cap), and when I made eye contact he gave me a big smile and a thumbs up.

I actually own a shirt with his name on back but wasn’t wearing it this morning. I waited til he was finished and getting up to leave when I told him he was my favorite player and would he mind if my wife took a quick snap with my camera phone. The dude smiled, put his arm around me and waited while my wife, the professional photog, took a picture of the table first by mistake, then us.

Our waiter Rusty, who has served Gordie Howe and Justin Bieber among others, didn’t recognize him. “I can’t believe I was just treating him like everyone else,” he said. No, I’m sure he was happy about that. How many yahoos like me approach him every single dang day? Besides, he’s in a batting slump; maybe he appreciated a solid fan telling him he rocks. Magglio, not our waiter. Although to be fair, long after Mags had left the building, Rusty sat down at our table and told me he liked my vibe. We started chatting and I found out he was musician who loved working in the mornings, then going off to play the piano all afternoon and evening long.

We talked about my shirt and I told him the story about the Life Is Good people. He scribbled down the address of Cafe Press when I told him he could go there and make his own T-shirts. And I realized something profound and totally normal at the same time. I met two people today who were living their dreams. One was an All-Star baseball player making millions and the other was a pancake server making music.

Rusty has my business card and may even see himself on this blog. Magglio probably won’t. But both guys were great to run into; I can’t tell you offhand which was a more fulfilling experience. But I was honored to meet both.

Giving Back

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May 11th, 2011

For what seemed like forever, I was in the care of a battalian of wonderful nurses last year. Three different hospitals housed me and made me better. I hugged, cried, laughed and simply chatted with so many dynamic and incredible women and men that I almost felt it impossible to return their selfless giving. Then […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcNursesmain.jpgFor what seemed like forever, I was in the care of a battalian of wonderful nurses last year. Three different hospitals housed me and made me better. I hugged, cried, laughed and simply chatted with so many dynamic and incredible women and men that I almost felt it impossible to return their selfless giving.

Then Reverend Rik, from Beaumont Hospital in Troy, approached me with an idea. He explained that National Nurses Week, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday, is coming up, and asked, “Rodney, how would you like to feature some of our finest in a photo display?”

Bingo. I could wander around the joint, no longer connected to tubes or wires, and document what nurses do. And even though hospitals make money, I would do it for free as my small way of thanking a few, just a few, of the whole cadre that meant so much to my recovery.

My wife Marci, who toured the gallery they put together in the main entrance lobby, remarked, “We were very lucky to have Beaumont, (and Karmanos and Muskegon Mercy), I could leave you there and not worry that you were getting enough attention.” She continued, “I always knew they’d take care of you and stroke your ego much better than I could.”

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It takes a rare breed of caregiver to enjoy and look forward to coming to work where there are sick and dying people all around. As we were looking at the exhibit they expertly put together, we ran into Lucy, one of my favorite of favorite nurses.

She explained that the ward she works on is like her family. She should know, it was her husband’s illness and death from lymphoma 20 years ago that spurred her into becoming a krankenschwester, my favorite German word meaning literally, “sick sister.”

I shouldn’t use that term around Elli though. He’s my guy friend who, when photojournalism pulled the rug out from underneath his family, decided to go back to school and become a nurse. “Sick sister” doesn’t describe him. He’s closer to being a sick puppy. I’m just messing with you man; your patients will be lucky to have you when you finish your training.

For those nurses I wasn’t able to photograph during my tours, please don’t feel left out. I’ve always felt bad, even as a news photographer, when I’d show up at a classroom and only focus on a few of the kids. Nurses, I’m told, aren’t like fifth graders who beg to have their pictures in the paper. As a matter of fact, most of my subjects were reticent at first. And that, perhaps, is their greatest trait. They’d rather do their jobs with no fanfare or fame. Just knowing that they’ve been able to help out appears to be enough for them.

We could all learn a lesson from that, couldn’t we?

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