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A Christmas Trip Cut Short

December 24, 2011

I was given permission from a patient and his wife to tell their story about a Christmas trip cut short. It’s a story about a cute little couple from New Orleans that started out on a train trip to Los Angeles, but ended up in Stafford, Kansas. I hope you enjoy it.

Photo courtesy of Eric Bowers

Samuel and Shirley were taking a train trip to visit a sister – a long, long train trip. It started in New Orleans and would end in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. But, it wasn’t to be.

Shirley thinks it could’ve been the constant clack, clack, clack of the railroad tracks. Samuel mentioned it as they were rolling through the Chicago area. But, Shirley thought sleep would make things better. It didn’t.

She awakened the next morning and Samuel was now more than ever not himself. Nothing he was saying was making much sense. So, Shirley alerted train officials.

The train had just passed a station in Hutchinson, Kansas. They decided the next stop would be too far. If they could get a medical team to meet them, they would stop at the very next town – a little Kansas town called Stafford, population one thousand.

The dispatcher informed the train representative that an ambulance crew could meet them. They would meet on Main Street on the north edge of town, yards away from the long ago closed train station. The dispatcher paged out the medical team – a volunteer crew.

The ambulance pulled up perpendicular to the tracks with the head lights shining through the light snow towards the faintly visible abandoned Stafford train station. Seconds later the first sign of the approaching train arrived – the bellowing blast of a horn. The conductor kept the blare going until the train itself arrived.

The engine passed the ambulance and continued onward for what seemed like about seven cars. Then, it came to an easy stop. How the conductor stopped the right car with its doorway at the right point is a mystery.

A Porter in full dress with cap stepped through the opened door and gently placed a step stool on the cold snow-packed pavement. The medics found Samuel and Shirley standing right inside the doorway.

Samuel wasn’t much aware of what was going on, but because of his condition he wasn’t interested in interacting with the medical team. With a little determination the team was still able to coax him onto their cot, but treatment was another story.

A blood pressure cuff and some limb placed electrodes. That was the extent of allowed treatment. But, that would be enough to identify the problem. The blood pressure was too high, way too high.

It was a short trip to the hospital on the other end of town – one mile straight south and a couple blocks to the east. The physician assistant came from his home, but was there about as quickly as the train had arrived.

Samuel received immediate treatment to lower his blood pressure, but he would need to be admitted. Later that day they discovered the stay would need to be longer. A total of 72 hours in the hospital is the Medicare requirement. December 23rd plus two additional days = December 25th = Christmas Day.

This could’ve been a problem for Shirley, because there’s no motel in Stafford. But, rural caregivers know how to care for people, even if they don’t have all the big city equipment. Samuel and Shirley were given a room for two.

The question now was, “How to get home?” Because of Samuel’s medical condition the doctor ruled out the train. An airplane was the choice. All that was needed was an early Christmas morning ride – a one hundred mile trip to Wichita, Kansas. A local Stafford citizen and his wife came to the rescue.

The wife made the arrangements and early Christmas morning Samuel and Shirley will take a ride to Wichita. They will arrive home in New Orleans in time for dinner with their children. It was a Christmas trip cut short, but one that will surely be a Christmas to remember.

*Like many rural hospitals, Stafford County Hospital is struggling mightily to keep its doors open. If you have any question about the importance of rural hospitals, just ask Shirley and Samuel.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    December 24, 2011 3:03 pm

    What a blessed Christmas that was! Thank you for sharing Shirley and Samuel!

  2. December 26, 2011 10:06 pm

    The following is a comment from professional photographer Eric Bowers:

    Thanks Steve for the compliments on the photography!

    Like I mentioned, I have some family in Stafford and surrounding areas. It’s interesting – in August of 2002 I was in Stafford visiting my grandma along with my mom when I had a rather severe medical emergency arise one night. It’s actually likely that having the hospital so nearby to my grandma’s where I was staying is what makes it so I’m alive today – things were pretty bad! I still make it out there from KC as often as I can to visit my elderly grandmother.

    Thanks for getting in touch!

    Best regards,

    Eric

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