Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sgt. Einar Ingman: American Hero

Sgt. Einar Ingman, Medal of Honor recipient for his extraordinary duty in the Korean War, died in Tomahawk, Wisconsin this past week. The Congressional Medal of Honor is a big deal, very few are awarded. From the Medal of Honor site: “The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the United States Congress on members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." 

This is from the commendation awarding Sgt. Ingman the Medal of Honor: “Sgt. Ingman, a member of Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. The 2 leading squads of the assault platoon of his company, while attacking a strongly fortified ridge held by the enemy, were pinned down by withering fire and both squad leaders and several men were wounded. Cpl. Ingman assumed command, reorganized and combined the 2 squads, then moved from 1 position to another, designating fields of fire and giving advice and encouragement to the men. Locating an enemy machine gun position that was raking his men with devastating fire he charged it alone, threw a grenade into the position, and killed the remaining crew with rifle fire. Another enemy machine gun opened fire approximately 15 yards away and inflicted additional casualties to the group and stopped the attack. When Cpl. Ingman charged the second position he was hit by grenade fragments and a hail of fire which seriously wounded him about the face and neck and knocked him to the ground. With incredible courage and stamina, he arose instantly and, using only his rifle, killed the entire guncrew before falling unconscious from his wounds. As a result of the singular action by Cpl. Ingman the defense of the enemy was broken, his squad secured its objective, and more than 100 hostile troops abandoned their weapons and fled in disorganized retreat. Cpl. Ingman's indomitable courage, extraordinary heroism, and superb leadership reflect the highest credit on himself and are in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the infantry and the U.S. Army.”  (He was a corporal at the time of the battle, he was made a sergeant after that battle.)

Sgt. Ingman's injuries were massive. He was unconscious for 7 days. His left eye was destroyed and he had a significant brain injury. He underwent 23 surgeries over the first 2 years after his injuries. As a former military nurse I can tell you that he had to have had a very strong will to live to survive the injuries he did. That he did survive is a testament to his resiliency.

As a veteran I wanted to attend his funeral but I knew it would be very crowded between his large family and the military dignitaries attending. The church has room for about 400 people, and that is crowded. I had driven out to Oak Hill Cemetery yesterday and saw that it is a very small cemetery on a narrow country road, with very little shoulder for parking so I knew it was going to be very challenging fitting everyone in. So I didn’t attend but did stand outside the church where his funeral was. I talked with some members of the Patriot Guard riders who were there to accompany his body to the cemetery. Instead of a hearse the family had requested the use of a military jeep to transport his body. I really liked that, and I’m quite sure the family made that request because it is what Sgt. Ingman would have wanted. I did get to salute as his coffin was carried by soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood to the truck from the church. I get goose bumps and teary eyed when I salute a fallen comrade. We all should. Sgt. Einar Ingman was an American hero.

Who knew Colonel Potter would be driving the jeep! OK, it wasn't Colonel Potter, or Harry Morgan,  but it sure looked like him.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Amnicon State Park, Pattison State Park August 27, 2015

A friend and I visited Amnicon State Park yesterday. Fortunately we picked the only good day this week, as far as the weather went, to visit. Patti had a waterfalls guide book with her and once we were at Amnicon and were looking in the book we realized that Pattison State Park was nearby so we added that to our day trip, and I'm glad we did. Both parks are very nice but the waterfalls in Pattison State Park are much more spectacular to see.

Amnicon State Park is an 825 acre park located in South Range, Wisconsin, not too far from Superior. The Amnicon River flows through the park, it has several falls and rapids within the park. You can read about the park here: Amnicon      Pattison State Park is a 1,436 acre park located south of Superior. The Black River flows through it. It is home to Big Manitou Falls, the tallest waterfall in Wisconsin. You can read about this park here: Pattison

Apparently part of the money saving policies instituted by Governor Walker includes no garbage cans at state parks, or at least at the parks we visited today. This isn't a bad idea, you just need to know to have a garbage bag with you when you visit state parks. It was nice not to see overflowing garbage containers, and there was no litter at all. There are no hand washing facilities either and while there is a Purell dispenser in the bathrooms I recommend carrying a bottle of water with you to be used for hand washing. This was true also at Pattison State Park.

We weren't looking to swim but if you are traveling with young children there is a nice beach at Pattison State Park. Kids can get pretty bored looking at waterfalls so giving them a few hours to play and swim can make like more bearable for the adults.  

Beach at Pattison State Park

Big Manitou Falls, Pattison State Park

Little Manitou Falls, Pattison State Park

Amnicon State Park

Now and Then Falls, Amnicon State Park

Just in case you were thinking of jumping or diving

Snake Pit Falls

Upper Falls, Amnicon State Park

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Black River Harbor, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

On August 1st I took a day road trip to Black River Harbor in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was a gorgeous day and it was exactly 98 miles from my driveway to Black River Harbor. I stopped at the information booth in Wakefield, MI and picked up a map.  The best part of visiting Black River Harbor was actually stopping at the several waterfalls located along the route between Bessemer and Black River Harbor. The falls are located along County Road 513, also known as the Black River Scenic Byway. None of the falls involve a very long walk from the parking lot to the falls. A few did involve a long walk down to the falls however, which always means a long walk back up. But if I could handle it at 70 you know it isn't too much of a walk. The water level is down this summer so there wasn't a lot of water flowing over any of the falls. I plan to revisit in the spring. I met a very nice couple at the first falls I stopped at, Potawatami Falls, and we ended up following each other the rest of the day and have stayed in touch. I was wearing one of my ocular melanoma awareness tee shirts which is how they started a conversation with me as he is a melanoma survivor.

Here is a link to a friend's photos taken in the spring, showing more water. She advised me to be aware that when you visit in the spring it is black fly season.  Black River in spring

If you go down you must of course come back up, and this is only part of the stairs!

As you can see the river bed is largely dried up. I can only imagine what it looks like in the spring.


Black River on its way to Lake Superior

The beach at Black River Harbor

Friday, January 16, 2015

Brain Surgery 1903

I had forgotten that I had a short lived blog several years ago. I came across it tonight while searching for something else via google. This entry was very interesting so I'm reposting it here.

I have been busy going through some old family letters and making copies for a cousin. My paternal grandfather, DeForest Olmstead, was a very good letter writer. He started out his career as a teacher, then became a bookkeeper for the Erie Railroad, and finally became a coffee broker, his longest career. I want to share one of his letters here. It was written in October 1903, before my Dad was born, and relates the story of his son Francis having brain surgery. That’s right, brain surgery in 1903. It really surprised me that they were doing such surgery then. And in the irony department the doctor was a Dr. Carroll. My former husband is also a Dr. Carroll, and Carroll was my surname for 32 years.

Dear Blanche 

I suppose you heard that Francis was operated on last Monday. I wrote home and thought that letter would suffice for you all. Francis has gotten along remarkably well. We brought him home today, less than six days since he underwent the operation. The wound is all healed over and the doctor took out the stitches yesterday. He takes more notice than he used to of everything and has not had a convulsion since he came home (seven hours), and prior to the operation he would have had a half dozen or more in that length of time. Of course it is going to take considerable time for him to learn and pick up knowledge for the past has been far worse than lost time to him mentally but his condition is now so encouraging. We feel we have good reason to hope that in time he will be all right in every way. It is of course uncertain. Since reaching home he has been running around most of the time and while somewhat compared to when he went away, yet considering what he has been through he certainly is in much better condition than would be expected.

The doctor says the difficulty was a depressed fracture of the skull, probably caused by a fall, and an inflamed condition of the membrane which had become firmly adhered to the skull. This constant pressure on the brain caused the convulsions and the whole trouble.

I am going to get from Dr. Carroll a technical report of the details of the case and the operation and will send you a copy which I presume will be of interest to Morris.

Blanche was DeForest's sister, and her husband Morris Cowden was a M.D. Francis, the patient, was born 6 December 1900, making him not quite 3 years old when he had this surgery. In the one photo I have of him, which unfortunately I haven’t scanned yet, he has that special needs look about him. He died on 31 December 1903, 2 months after surgery. At this point I haven’t yet learned what he died of. He could have had a seizure and died from that. I know several of my Dad’s siblings died of diphtheria so it could be that too. My Dad was born 6 weeks after his brother’s death. It must have been so difficult for my grandparents, especially in a day where there were no grief support groups.

If DeForest got the more technical report from Dr. Carroll it is no longer among the family. I have tried getting medical records from several Passaic, NJ area hospitals but no luck so far. I would really like to know, in the words of Paul Harvey, the rest of the story.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


When I was not quite six years old we moved to a small town in Western New York called Cassadaga. It was in Chautauqua County. Chautauqua was frequently mistaken for Chappaqua, which was no where near Western New York. Chautauqua County was next to Cattaraugus County. There was a Canandaigua not too far away, in the Finger Lakes area. My nursing school roommate was from there. There were other strange, difficult to spell town names beginning with C in New York, but I learned early to spell them correctly. I can do pretty well with strange sounding words that start with the letter c.

I recently saw a post from a friend on Facebook talking about chikungunya and I thought come again. Chickabunga?  Oh no, it’s cowabunga. Chick - A Fil? No, isn’t that a chicken place? So chicka...what? Chikungunya is the word. I did what any reasonable person does upon seeing a new word, I went to google. Google is nice because if you’ve misspelled the word it gives you the correct spelling. I put “chickungunya” in the search box and was directed to many references for chikungunya starting with the Center for Disease Control, the CDC. I learned that Chikungunya (pronunciation: \chik-en-gun-ye) is a virus transmitted to people by mosquitoes. “The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.” Now that doesn’t sound too bad. My son had Dengue Fever once and it sounded kind of similar. He was pretty sick but within a week or so was better.

Well, a clinical description of a disease on a web site really doesn’t convey what it’s like to have the disease. My friend had a fever of 107 degrees, her daughter’s was 106. The joint and muscle pain made you wish for death. A doctor came to see them and prescribed belladonna, which I haven’t seen prescribed in at least 25 years. One of the other names for belladonna is deadly nightshade. It was prescribed for the severe pain my friend had. I’m happy to report she’s back in Hawaii and mostly recovered.

Where do you get this disease? In paradise. My friend, who lives in Hawaii travels to French Polynesia when she really wants to be in paradise. It was her birthday trip. There were many people ill with chikungunya during her visit. Lindsay Lohan was one of them. Sick Lindsay

So, that was the new word and disease I learned recently. I’m probably not at risk for getting it any time soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Time to Return

Yesterday I turned 70 years old. I’m not sure as a child or young adult I had any idea of what 70 would look like or what I would look like, what life would be like. A person was either young or old. I did always think I’d live to be in my 90’s, perhaps just wishful thinking, but here I am at least at 70. Twenty years ago I was 50, that doesn’t seem that long ago so if I do live to be 90 it’s coming quicker than I realize. The weeks leading up to my birthday have been difficult, to say the least. I really did not do Christmas this year, just could not. I slept.....a lot. Winters are always hard on me, SAD seems to get worse with age. I don’t need a calendar to know when the winter solstice is here, my body tells me. My birthday is in January naturally, my worst time of year. Then I deal with cancer, not one, but several. I’ve been on the journey since I was 57 and it continues. It takes a toll on your mood. I have developed early COPD which, as a lifetime non-smoker, pisses me off. But I have decided since I am still alive and I am 70 I would like the decade of my 70’s to be the best one yet. My 20’s and 30’s were great so it will be a challenge. But no decade could be worse than my 40’s so forward and onward.

I am returning to blogging, both this one and my photo blog. I have neglected them. I’m not changing the title of this one. I considered it but I still live in a small town in Wisconsin so the title remains. The focus will change somewhat, but there will still be some road trips, I hope, and stories about life in a small town. Often the town will be spelled Cassadaga, not Tomahawk, because Cassadaga is where the majority of my growing up years were spent and where I learned so much of what I know today. I will write about my nursing school and the hospital that made me the nurse I am today. It breaks my heart that the dorms, classrooms, and hospital will soon be demolished. I don’t take change well. When I visit Buffalo, New York I expect the buildings of 3 Gates Circle to still be there, the dorms still to be at 636 Linwood Avenue. And they won’t be. I hate it. I will write some about cancer but not a lot. My main interest is raising awareness of some of the rare orphan cancers that get very little attention but have a high mortality and need research dollars and publicity. I want to keep entries shorter, rather than longer. So, enough for tonight.

My next entry in a few days will be on a subject I learned about just this week. I cannot spell the word and have no clue how to say it but it is timely and, for us public health geeks, interesting. My parents both taught us you never stop learning just because you complete your formal education. There is something new always waiting to be learned.

PS: There will always be occasional cat photos.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Cat on a Leash

When was the last time you saw a cat on a leash? It's a pretty rare thing although if you live in St. Paul, MN there is a house where I often see up to 3 cats at a leash. It is on the corner of Jackson Street and E Jenks (I think), across from Oakland Cemetery.  How they ever got 3 cats OK with being on leashes I'll never know. 

Two weeks ago I drove over to St. Paul to say good-bye to my son, who was moving later that week to Colombia. I stopped at the rest area on I-94 outside Menomonie, WI. The car parked next to me had a cat on a leash that the owner was trying to get out of the car. You could tell the cat hated being on the leash. She was slinking as low to the ground as she could. Eventually she went to the grassy area. The young couple with her were traveling from Chicago to Minneapolis for a visit. They said the cat was fine in the car. She hadn't been on a leash before but they didn't want to risk her dashing out of the car when they stopped for breaks.  Smart idea.