Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Food drive

Last week the Backus Federation of Nurses and the United Way held a food drive in Norwich. We collected 1344 pounds of food for the United Way Gemma E Moran Food Center!
The people who worked the drive did a great job. They represented our hospital, our local, our union, wonderfully. They provided a great service to those who need some extra help right now.
I'll share 2 stories that they shared with me.

As people entered the store they were given a card that listed the food items most needed. One of the items was tuna. By the end of the drive there was no tuna left in the store!

One lady who stopped on her way in told us she would like to help but was just one step from needing the food center herself. Our members thanked her and wished her the best. On the way out she dropped a can of soup in our basket. She said she realized no matter how tough things get there are always people less fortunate and wanted to help. That's sacrifice!

There is work to do but there are many of us. I couldn't be there for this drive but it sounds like a very rewarding event.
It is not hard for me to imagine a family on hard times or someone who lost their home in this storm taking some small measure of comfort and sustenance from the food we collected at the Norwich stop and shop under a big Backus Federation of Nurses banner.
Good work team! I really look forward to my chance to be more directly involved in this kind of good work.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Johnny Kelley

Johnny Kelley went for his final long run on Sunday. I knew of him more than I knew him. He was a running icon. He won the 1957 Boston Marathon, many national championships, and twice ran the Olympic Marathon. I learned of his passing in an article by Amby Burfoot, another running icon, a student of Kelley's in both running and life.
Early in my post high school days I ran a lot of road races. I would see Kelley and the other icons at the races, always encouraging to us middle of the pack runners. Much of what I know about Mr Kelley is from what I read or heard. He was a free thinker, an environmentalist, a running great, a running teacher and advisor. Thoreau and Dylan were said to be among those he admired. It seems that to him running wasn't something he "did", it was more a part of who he was. The running world will miss him. The world will miss him.
About a month ago it was my honor to care for him for a few hours. There wasn't a lot for me to do for him but I did listen, I hope it helped. At the end of my shift I handed him off to Mike. Mike recently ran his first marathon. Mike knew how I felt about Mr Kelley and he felt the same way. It felt good to be able to tell Johnny's family that he was in good hands. Mike even visited Johnny the next day. Mike didn't have to, it's not common practice, it's what Johnny Kelley meant to us.
Just as running wasn't something Johnny "did", nursing isn't something we "do".
I haven't run much in the past 2 years. When I heard of Johnny Kelley's passing there was two things I had to do. I went for a run and I wrote this.
Mr Kelley, it was an honor sir. We are all better because of you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I have struggled for a week or so on what to write for this blog. At first I thought it was writer's block, the first since starting this blog in early March. Then I realized something, I write the best when I write from the heart. When I do that it is effortless, it flows. It might not always be great in the literary sense, but it is true, it is real.
This past week my heart has been in pain. I have written about it already, but not from my heart. Today I write for my own healing, I ask you to bear with me.
My mother in law, Gloria Perreault Bessenaire, is no longer with us. I believe she is in a better place. I believe she is happy with God. I truly believe this, and I still miss her.
I have known her for 39 years, she was a saint among us. She dedicated herself to the care of others, especially her family. She gave me acceptance into the family she protected, she gave me her daughter, she gave me love. She reminded me so much of my own dad, the way she lived her life. They both passed too young. She made me a better person. I miss her smile, her laugh, I miss her.
As hard as this is on me, it is harder to watch her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren grieve. It is extremely hard to watch my wife. The tears that soak my shirt when she rests and cries against my chest seem to bleed all the way through to my heart. Having gone through this years ago with my own dad makes her pain, her sibling's pain, all the more real to me.
We will get through this together. The pain will decrease with time, memories will remain. She will live on in us because she has touched us and we are better for it.
For now though, it hurts.
This entry will be rough. I will not ask my editor to edit it. I thank you for giving me the space to heal. I thank you for your love and support.
Do me a favor?
Hug those you love.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Old photos

We've been looking through old pictures at my house this week, looking for pictures of my mother in law. Old pictures bring back so many memories. Everyone is so young, so skinny. Some of those in the pictures are no longer living. Some who were being married are no longer together, some are, after all these years. Children have grown up and now have children of their own. There are pictures of holidays and vacations. So many memories.
I guess that's why we take photos, to remember people and events. It helps to know where we've been when we're trying to figure out where we're going.
I've been at Backus 17 years. So much has changed. The ED has grown so much. When I arrived we had just expanded to 17 beds, now we have 43+ when you include convenient care. Back then when we saw 100 patients in 24 hours it was a big event, now we regularly see 200. The medical interventions we carry out now would have been science fiction back then. The nursing protocols enable RNs to carry out what doctors did back then.
The number of staff who have come and gone and in some cases returned blows me away. Many working in other departments now started in the ED, others have moved on to other hospitals or other states. I keep up on the lives of friends who have left for such far away places as Hawaii through Facebook.
Oh yes, computers! They have become a part of our work and personal lives, definitely a love/hate relationship. They cause more work but we complain when they go down.
So many memories.
So much change.
One thing that has not changed in all these years is a desire of all Backus employees, regardless of department or position, to give the best possible care to our patients and support to each other.
It is the hallmark of our hospital.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I count you twice

I'll be honest, sometimes coming from a large family can be difficult. This week we lost my mother in law to cancer.
It hurts when bad things happen to those we love.
Then, at the end of the week, we celebrated my family reunion in California as we did 4 years ago, and 2 years ago in Rhode Island.
We are social animals, it's part of our species,we form bonds. These are the people we share the details of our lives with, the good and the bad. We lean on each other for support. We may disagree amongst ourselves, but we defend against attacks from the outside.
Family comes in another form, we call them friends. Here again, I am truly blessed. Among my family of friends are my coworkers.
When we started meeting with others from throughout the hospital, we started caring about them. We've been through a lot together, and we know there are struggles and victories ahead of us.
As with any family it comes with both good times and bad but most importantly, it brings support. Like any family we don't always agree, but let no one attack us from outside, for we will always stand together as brothers and sisters.
There is an old Irish saying, "when I count my blessings, I count you twice". To my large family of blood relatives and friends, thank you for being there.
I truly count you twice.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You can't make this stuff up

King Solomon wrote it, Pete Segar made it a song, and in 1965 the Byrds recorded it as a number one hit.
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance."

Let's laugh a bit.

A 33 year old woman comes into the ER complaining of painful hole to the bottom of her foot.
"How long has it been bothering you?"
"2 years"
I look at the bottom of the foot,
There's a wart.

A women is held overnight in the ER because of alcohol intoxication. In the morning she explains what happened.
"The voices in my head told me to drink"
Then she adds, "they sounded familiar, I think they might have been me"

Nurse, "welcome to triage. Could I have your social security number? "
Patient, "047-52-___"

Nurse, "Sir, what's your level of pain?"
Patient, "You mean now?"
(As opposed to when????????)

Nurse, "on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?"
Patient, "12"
Nurse, "no, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you've ever had in your life, what's your level of pain?"
Nurse, "no, I mean if 10 is the worst pain you've ever experienced in your life, including right now, what's your level?"
Nurse, "just so that I understand. Your telling me that the pain you have right now is more than you've ever experienced, and that it's worse than the pain you have now?"

You can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

There is no cancer in heaven

When someone we care about is sick, life stands still. The issues that occupy our daily lives seem less important. Even those things we are passionate about are seen in a new light. It's human nature. It's not that the importance of our daily issues has changed, only our perspective.
When the Boston Celtics are in the playoffs I rise and fall with each trip up the court. The last thing I did with my brother in law, Ira, before he died of cancer, was to watch the Celtics in a playoff game, both of us passionate about the outcome.
Seems a little silly now.
The Celtics won the championship a few weeks later and Ira had the best seat, in heaven.

My mother in law, Gloria, is in hospice, it's lymphoma. So typical of her, she is accepting of her situation. When she was diagnosed she told my wife that she would place it in God's hands. In reality, she has lived her life this way.
Life's tragedies remind me of what is important, family, friends, time. Silly as it might have been, watching the Celtics with Ira was the perfect thing to do. We shared our time and our love, for the Celtics and each other.
Maybe in the grand plan our daily passions don't matter, or maybe, they're all that matter.
We love you memere.
There is no cancer in heaven.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Contract negotiations begin

On August 3, the Registered Nurses of Backus Hospital stood up, we stood together, and we stood proud. We accepted responsibility for the welfare of our patients, our hospital, our families, and our community. We sat at the table with management as equals. Forty eight nurses sat across from Mary Bylone, Theresa Buss, Ellen Crowe, Justin Sleeper, Becky Durham and the management’s attorney from JacksonLewis Tom Gibbons.
We presented and explained our proposed contact. Management will now look it over and we will meet again on August 29 to negotiate.
"Negotiate" is the key word. We have seen what happens in Washington when one side or the other refuses to negotiate. We are committed to making Backus Hospital a place we are proud of. Whenever possible we will work with management. We will negotiate, we will compromise, but we will never abandon our core belief, that RN participation in decisions is critical to good patient care.
The negotiations are off to a good start. There will be disagreements ahead, but as long as both sides focus on what is best for the patients, we will agree on a contact that benefits all.
We had a good turnout of members, but we need more. The strength of our local and our contract will be directly tied to the level of involvement of our membership.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thank You

May 11 was a historic day for Backus RNs, we voted to join together and speak with one voice.  August 3 will be an equally historic day.  The Backus Federation of Nurses will sit with management and negotiate a contract to cover our wages, benefits, and working conditions.  I know this contract will lead to a stabilization of our work force and a better hospital for our patients and for us.  We have come a long way in the past year, from coffee house meetings to meeting across a table.  It seems to me like  a good time to reflect and give thanks.

I'd like to say thank you to the Backus security union for leading the way, it  took real courage.

Thank you to the organizers, field representatives, and whole staff of AFT CT for the expert advice and to our union leadership at AFT CT for having faith in us.
Thank you to the other AFT locals for the help, encouragement, support, and words of advice.  Special thanks to our brothers and sisters in the L+M locals.
Thank you also to the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.  AFT believed in us enough to send one of their top organizers.  When I was in Washington recently I got to see how what happens in our national affiliates effects us and how we in the locals effect them.

A big thank you to all who worked on the organizing campaign and the members of the Bargaining Committee.  Your tireless hours of work are commendable, a tribute to the care you feel for your coworkers.
Thank you to all our members.  You put your faith in the organizing nurses and the committee members.  You honored all of us by doing so.
Thank you to my Higher Power for leading us on this amazing journey and placing the people to guide us along the way.

A special thank you to our families.  The greatest gift we can give one another is the gift of time.  Thank you to our families for giving us that gift so we could pursue something they know is so important.
It's good to reflect on where we've been.  It helps us remember where we were heading when we started.  We start another chapter in our local's history this week, we have clear goals and we are united in our effort.  That's all we need.