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Observations from a hospital bed


These words were written Sunday from a hospital bed at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, the medical facility selected Friday by my wife after she decided my bronchitis had morphed into pneumonia. If I refused, she suggested, it was the emergency room at JRMC — or the hospital’s psychiatric unit.

Martha Kaye was right. A full dose of drugs, including steroids, and breathing treatments helped me turn the corner. A nurse with a sense of humor helped, telling me I had to name my favorite Major League Baseball team before receiving the first steroid treatment.

I have evaluated various periods of my life from hospital beds.

The worst periods in the day come after reading the newspaper from front to back and being forced to turn to television for news and entertainment. The TV news is not balanced, but sometimes offers more entertainment that the sitcoms.

Saturday television means lots of car and truck ads from the Little Rock area dealers who have obviously not checked their brands lately.

One dealer of Dodge pickup trucks claims trucks are Dodge’s only products. The dealer’s lot in the background displayed hundreds of Dodge cars. Do they just assume the viewers are stupid?

Ford’s national TV spots claim the brand is America’s favorite work truck. I am a Ford truck fan since high school, but have owned Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet pickups over the years with only one lemon among them.

The GMC pickup ads, like Dodge, claim their pickup is GMC’s only product. And for years I thought General Motors Corp., also manufactured Buicks, Chevrolets and Cadillacs.

This is not my first visit to JRMC. The first time occurred the evening of May 20, 1966, when the car I was driving was hit by a Cotton Belt freight train engine on West 13th Avenue. Newspaper police reporters do not trump freight trains.

My longest hospital tour involved more than a month in late 1989 and early 1990 in Memphis, after I collapsed at our Jonesboro home. I was diagnosed with a previously undetected heart birth defect.

Fortunately, the only hospital in the country licensed at the time to perform the necessary surgical procedure was in Memphis. Two days of medicine injections, one day of tests; one day of flushing the medicine from my system, then two days of pumping in a new type of medicine; repeat tests. For one month.

Memphis television has nothing on the Little Rock stations. However, they did offer the best magic shows.

One soap opera on CBS had a young character named “Bob” entering medical school about the time I was admitted to the hospital. “Bob” had graduated from med school and was a practicing surgeon a month or so later.

That’s a neat trick in any magician’s book.

ABC had a popular soap called “All My Children” and the lead “bad girl” was a character known as “Erica Kane.” I lost track of how many times Erica was married and divorced between the time I was admitted to the hospital in December 1989 and discharged to return to work in February 1990.

I’ll learn later today if I’ll be discharged Sunday or Monday. If my name does not appear in the obituary column, the JRMC treatment was successful.

But most important, I picked up a tip for a news story at JRMC. That’s the best medicine for an old news hound.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of the Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by email at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at(870) 329-7010.