A touch of tenderness

This is a wonderful post about the importance of touch in life and death. Please pop over and read it if you have not done so already.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

The Cathedral by Rodin.

My son gleefully squeezed harder at the knotted muscle in my shoulder, with a ‘Now I’ve got you’ as I groaned in agony. We have established and agreed that he has a slightly sadistic tendency where I am concerned. It may have something to do with my knack of getting just the right spot on the painful muscles as we got his body working again. Day after painful day, for months on end. So now it is payback… and he appears to enjoy it. He still manages to lay the blame squarely on my aching shoulders, muttering something that sounds vaguely like ‘hereditary’.

He is a little more squeamish than I. His face screws up in horror as my wrist bones crunch back into place when he applies traction. It is, however, nice to regain freedom of movement occasionally. So I make him do it…

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What’s On Your Shelf, Victo Dolore?

I am hanging out over at Every Day’s A Mystery sharing what’s on my shelf. Come check it out!

It’s time for  ‘What’s On Your Shelf?’ and today, ladies and gentlemen, we have the doctor in the house! Yes, I know what a coup, please give a very warm welcome to Victo Dolore from ‘Behind The White Coat’. Victo can be found blogging about the daily rollercoaster that  is working in the health service, interspersed with dark, witty and frankly therapeutic, fiction and poetry. If you haven’t already, you can check out Victo’s blog here and more wonderful fiction here. So, without further ado, let’s see what’s on the doc’s shelf!

‘I love books. I have spent my entire life surrounded by them. They taught, provided escape, and empowered me. Much of who I am is because of those words.

My house has hundreds of books spread out all over the place spanning hundreds of years and covering just about any genre. The oldest ones date from the 1600’s but my favorite is the Victorian period. People said and wrote crazy…

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bright uellow gerber daisy

There are exceptional people you can come across in life if you are lucky, people who make you feel like a better version of you. Smarter. Prettier. Kinder. More patient. 

Not empty flattery. No. They have a knack for finding the gem of you and making you sparkle and shine.

I have been blessed to find a few of these people in my lifetime. Paul Curran was one of those. I looked forward to his comments for that very selfish reason. He made me feel better about me.

I realize that he was a virtual friend, someone I never met, but what I feel now is a very real sense of grief and sadness. Strangely that is made worse by the fact that I can find no obituary, no mark of his passing except for the deafening silence that exists now on my blog and on many others. 

I want to fill up that emptiness. I want to shout out to the world, to his physical friends, to his family: I KNEW PAUL CURRAN. He was my friend. He existed. He was a priceless member of the human race. He touched many lives. He made a difference. He mattered.

Just as I hope someone will say about me when I am gone.

We’ve lost Paul Curran, our master guest columnist and prolific comment-leaver

Whenever I made a post, I could count on Paul to have something to say. Most of the time, his comments were better than my posts. I am going to miss him something fierce. Rest In Peace, my friend.

Mark Bialczak

Those of us who’ve grown to love the lively words that bounced from the head and fingers of Paul Curran will never be the same.

The writer from Canada has died, according to his neighbor Steve Watson.

I received this email on the contact tab from my blog:

With great sadness I have to tell you that Paul Curran has passed away. Paul passed last week.

Our guest blogger, Paul Curran. Our guest blogger, Paul Curran.

Your Barrista -- Paul Curran Your Barrista — Paul Curran

Now Your Barrista – Paul Curran Now Your Barrista – Paul

A series of the column head shots Paul sent me since 2013 to just a month ago.

I found the email this morning. I arrived yesterday. Steve Watson was listed as the photographer in the If We Were Having Coffee Sunday column Paul had me post here on Sept. 11 after his emergency operation.

I could not find an obituary through search engines.

Paul lived in Ottawa, Ontario…

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Guest Post: C. S. Boyack 

Mr. Boyack was one of the first bloggers I ran across on WordPress. Over the years I have come to appreciate his pithy wisdom, timely encouragement, AND most of all…  his Entertaining Stories

Thanks for inviting me to your blog again. I’m back with a second collection of short stories and micro-fiction, cleverly named The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II.

 image1This is a collection of speculative fiction that includes aliens, monsters, ghosts and more. This time I leaned a bit more toward science fiction and paranormal, but there is one that might qualify as fantasy.
I wracked my brain trying to find a medical tie in, because Victo loves those. It’s kind of loose, but I may have found one. There is one story that involves a kind of poisoning, but it’s not something anyone would be looking for.
In an age of factory medicine, where someone sees a different specialist every time their condition worsens, what would be the odds that someone would test for something so far fetched?
This poison causes cancer, so there is no foaming at the mouth or immediate collapse to scrutinize. There is no emergency room visit. You can’t buy it at the corner store, and have to harvest it yourself, if you know where to find it.
There isn’t one person in a thousand that even knows what it is. Anyone who may have built a career in this field of study likely retired in the 1970s.
This is one of the only non-speculative stories in the collection, and it’s one of my favorites. Watch for the one called Practical Geology.
The whole collection is yours for 99¢. You get fifteen individual stories that can fill your lunch breaks and commuter train rides for a week or two. There is also a free sample of my latest novel The Playground.
To purchase, please head over here.

Today is the day

I have read Mr. Boyack’s first Experimental Notebook, a collection of short stories, and it was incredibly entertaining. I have already purchased my advanced copy of the second installment!

Entertaining Stories

Well, it’s one of the days. My newest book The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II is now available for purchase on Amazon. It’s a pre-sale, and the books will deliver on August 31st. That is the other day.

I wanted to do a short pre-sale, but Lisa my robotic assistant must have messed up. Let’s talk about the actual book.

This is similar to the first Experimental Notebook, in that it’s a collection of short stories and micro-fiction. It’s also similar in that it’s priced at 99¢.

I decided to make the alchemy wheels into a kind of theme. The first Notebook has one, this book has two, and should there be a third volume it will have three wheels. That way the covers are similar, but also unique.

This book has some science fiction, some paranormal, and one that barely qualifies as fantasy. I love fantasy, but…

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Meet A Blogger: Victo Dolore

Today I am over at Anxious Mom’s blog. Check it out!

That's What Anxious Mom Said

I’ve been doing the Meet A Blogger interviews since early on in the year, and my final question always asks the blogger to show some love and recommend a few other bloggers they’re really into. One of the names that has come up a lot is Victo Dolore, who blogs at Behind the White Coat.

As both a family physician and a mom, Victo covers many topics on her blogs. Meet A BloggerWhile many of her posts have a humorous side to them, you’ll often be left thinking. On top of that, stunning pictures always accompany her posts.

What’s your blog about and how did you get started blogging?

I started blogging, actually, as a way to force me to work a novel I had been dragging my feet on for years, Victo Dolore. It is about women, morality, and medicine and was set in Victorian times. My first post there…

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“Just Because You’re British”


Gibber of former Gibber Jabberin’ fame (you can see where she *used* to blog here) commented on my post Carried Away that she had a scary alcohol story. Since you can see that her blog is now defunct, I asked her to do a guest post. Please feel free to tell you how much you miss her and beg her to return to blogging. Maybe she’ll listen to you good people because she sure as hell won’t listen to me…

It was a Saturday night and the girls had all gathered to get ready for our night out on the town. There was excitement in the air. We were doing what girls do before they go out for a night on the town.  Curling irons flipped on, make up all over the bathroom counter. Our clothes were spread out on the bed so we could all decide what looked best on us.  

British accents were all over the place. You see, I was one of only 2 Canadians amongst a group of British nannies that had come over to Canada to work. I really didn’t hear their accents anymore since I spent a lot of time with them. I may have even had a bit of one myself.

This Saturday night while it seems at first glance like any other Saturday night on the town, it wasn’t.  We knew it wasn’t, but we didn’t know just how different it would turn out.

We were all in our 20’s so it took us a while to get ready. I don’t know why it mattered so much since bars are dark anyway, but it did. We all hopped into a car where my Canadian friend’s boyfriend sat behind the steering wheel. The only guy with us. Poor guy!

We hit the road, the road to Buffalo, New York. We were crossing the border from Ontario to party. 

Harmless right?!

I don’t remember how long the drive was, but eventually we arrived with no glitches at our bar of choice. We parked and headed in to dance our crazy butts off!

Now there’s something you should know about me. I was 19. I hadn’t yet done any drinking. I just didn’t. In Canada, I was of age to do so. In the US you had to be 21.

So I danced, and danced. I like dancing if you haven’t figured that out already. Could you guess, that doing all that dancing might lead one to get thirsty? I’ll bet you could.

Drinks were 2 for 1. Someone offered me one of their drinks. It was a long island ice tea. I thought it was only iced tea since we were all under age. It was a huge drink, and I downed it because of the aforementioned thirst. It was loaded with whatever alcohol they add to long island ice teas.

Guess what I did next? 

I danced and I danced some more, until the end of the night was upon us.

Our gang regrouped and we headed outside in the cold crisp air. That’s when that long island ice tea hit me, and hit me hard. I was so drunk I could hardly stand up. Well I really couldn’t. I think a couple of my friends were holding me up.

Just outside the bar was a hot dog stand. The only guy with us decided he was hungry. How perfect since there was a hotdog stand right there. He bought his hot dog turned around and a stranger out of nowhere said to him and I quote, “Give me your hotdog.” He and we were all a little stunned. He said, “What?” The guy didn’t ask again he just punched our friend hard in the face twice and I if I remember correctly took his hotdog. 

Our friend’s girlfriend jumped in front of her boyfriend to confront the attacker. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but you never know how you’re going to react when in a serious situation, and you have shock and adrenaline running through your system.

I’ll get back to my friend in a minute. Here’s where I need to tell you where I was at. I was so drunk I was laughing my head off. I knew the situation was serious but I wasn’t able to get serious because as I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t drank before. The alcohol possessed me. My friends were trying to get me to shut up and act “normal.” I could only keep laughing. I still couldn’t stand on my own. Part of me now, is glad I was drunk. Not the part that caused me to make the situation more dangerous than it was, but the part of me that would have been terrified had I been sober.

Okay back to the girlfriend. I left her standing in front of her boyfriend confronting the attacker. The attacker was gearing up to beat her up. He was ready to throw a punch. It was crazy scary. All of a sudden the attacker and his gang turned around and ran away. I was told that a police car had driven up.

You can bet we high tailed it to our car and got on the road out of there. Our friend was hurting but okay. He drove home. The others were just in pure shock and fear. 

I was still drunk.

We were very lucky. As bad as the whole situation was, if that cop hadn’t of come it would have been much worse. We likely would have been killed. I know this because we found out a week later, that 4 girls were killed in that same area by some similar appearing men that matched the description of our attacker and his friends that left notes on their bodies saying, “Just because you’re British.”

I won’t say I never made any other stupid choices over the years after that, but I will say I never again crossed the border to party.

A Doc-ument

A few weeks ago I met an intriguing physician, an oncologist with an unusual story. She had told that story to Craig S. Boyack and his newest novel, The Playground, was born. I invited her here while I am traveling to let you all get to know her…

Thanks for having me over Victo. My name is Dr. Gina Greybill. At the beginning of this story, I really am a broken person. Who expects an oncologist to get cancer herself? It hit me hard, and took a family member from me too. So I left oncology. My heart was just not in it any longer. 

Instead, I started working in end-of-life care at a wage somewhat lower than I was used to. These people need someone who understands, and I understand more than most. I travelled from one place to the next living with and helping hospice patients as they died. My next assignment took me into a world I never knew existed.

There are some interesting medical issues in this story, not the least of which is my encounter with a parasite. This parasite enhances my abilities and let’s me see into a world nobody else has access too. Angels, Devils, fairies, and monsters are all out there. This is a big part of my journey.

I even have a struggle with my medical oath, but desperate times do call for desperate measures…

As far as other interesting tidbits, your readers might be interested in the old medical cane. Nearly everyone knows what a sword cane is, but very few know that canes were made for other uses too. In the days of house-calls, a doctor might travel with a hollowed out cane that contained a few professional items. There might be a tincture or two, some paper envelopes of powders, maybe even a lancet depending on the era.

There is a very special ear trumpet in the story. It looks so absurd that everyone would post pictures of me on Twitter. We found an interesting way of using it that keeps it from being a magnet to the social media crowd.

A deadly infection makes an appearance. It’s marks a major turning point for one character. There is also a brutal thug who has an alternate use for tampons. Another interesting situation uses the topical application of opium as a pain killer.

If this sounds like an intriguing story, your fans might like to pick up a copy of The Playground here.

There are some interesting medical bits in this book, but Craig wants me to tell everyone that he’s an author, not a doctor. His job is to do enough research to make it believable within the context of the story. I think he’s done a good job of that, but the readers will be the ultimate judge.

Victo, thank you for having me over today.

Truthfully, I don’t know what genre to classify this book. There are historical fiction elements, the paranormal, good bits of violence, medicine, technology, horror, suspense, and plenty of death. I guarantee it will make you think.


Going, Going, Gone by Paul Curran


Paul head shot 2

“Hi, my name is Paul.”

“Hey Paul, I’m Bernard.”

“I’ve never seen you here before Bernard, are you new?”

“This is my first time. I came in through Emergency. They did some tests and found my kidneys had shut down so they sent me here to dialysis.”

“Well welcome. I’ve been a patient here for 8 years now. You’re safe here. They are excellent.”

I was lying in the dialysis unit in bed #17. Bernard had just arrived by stretcher and was in bed #18 – at the end of the bay of 6 and the closest position to the nursing station – a statement of their concern. 

This large room with smaller open ended rooms called bays attached was not originally designed for dialysis. As a result the positions – each one with a machine hooked into the water supply, the data lines, generator protected electrical supply – were jammed close together, the patients about 36 inches apart. In the center of the large room sat the nursing station – actually 5 computers for nurses, the Lead Nurse position, and two administrative positions with the attending electronics and supplies.

Bernard had just come from Interventional Radiology (IR) where they had spent ½ hour installing a plastic catheter high on his chest that accessed his jugular. This gave them the ability to remove, clean and return large quantities of blood as it had a high flow returning to the heart from the cranium. That access to the circulatory system is one of the key aspects of dialysis.

The nurses flocked around him as they hooked him up to the machine and gave him the short explanation of what they were doing. Typically patient training was a year long process involving modules of learning that were covered by different specialists. But when a patient came in through Emerg it was just a talk as you go process – if the patient was aware and alert, and Bernard was. He seemed to be an otherwise healthy 40 year old. A new patient got a lot of attention.

The dialysis machines are designed to be ultra sensitive to any changes in pressure or conditions of any sort and they alarm with each issue. Typically I get about 10-15 alarms through a regular treatment. Doing a treatment without an alarm was a rare occurrence. The first time his machine began to beep, I explained this to Bernard – trying to alleviate his concerns. 

After about 15 minutes, Bernard’s family arrived – his father, his younger brother, and his wife with their two children, a girl about 13 and a boy about 11. They surrounded his bed and it was evident that they had arrived from a rural Quebec community, speaking in French about the long trip to the hospital. After some discussion, the family announced that they would go down to the cafeteria to get some supper and would come back when they were done – the treatment being 4 hours of normally boring duration.

With the position lights out so we could sleep, we settled in. Bernard’s machine alarmed a few times when he rolled over or coughed but the nurses were watching closely and dealt with it immediately. 

About 30 minutes later I was watching TV and Bernard was lying unmoving with his eyes closed when his machine alarmed. A nurse was there quickly and she felt his neck for his pulse. The machines would sometimes give incorrect readings and I couldn’t see his control screen from my station – I assume it indicated a low heart rate. After a few seconds of immobility the nurse bellowed:

“Help! Help! I need help over here!”

About six nurses came running as the original nurse explained:

“He has no pulse. I’m starting CPR!” and she jumped on the bed and straddled Bernard, starting chest compressions. Another nurse arrived with a ventilator bag and placing it over his face began to simulate breathing.

In a few seconds, with some trigger I didn’t catch, the original nurse yelled:

“Call a Code!”

A few seconds later the hospital PA system echoed with


Then in French:


And then repeated :



At this point, one nurse pulled the privacy drapes around the bed and I heard the Lead Nurse, who had arrived after the CPR had started, say,”Bruno. You’re the timekeeper –get the book.” 

Bruno ran to the nursing station and returned with a ledger and a pen. He started and through-out the process, he could be heard announcing each entry accompanied by a time, documenting every step they took, who took it, and what happened.

Portable equipment, including the defibrillator, was rolled to the bedside and within a few minutes, the Code Team ran into the Unit. There were six team members – all doctors and residents of different specialties.

I could hear the lead doctor take charge as he spat orders, injecting stimulant into Bernard’s heart, continuing CPR, debating an open heart massage. An abdominal probe discerned that it was distended and hard. 

The doctor had CPR stopped when he detected a heart beat and for a few seconds Bernard’s heart was on its own, beating once more – then it faded to silence and CPR was restarted. This happened three times and each time everyone held their breath waiting to see what his heart would do –and each time his heart faded again. Then it no longer started any more. After about 15 minutes the Lead Doctor said loudly:

« Stop ! »

And all activity ceased. He continued, “We are going to stop all treatment for two minutes. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions ? I have run out of options to try.”

There was silence except for Bruno, the scribe. “Treatment stopped by Dr. Goshen. Suggestions requested Time : 20 :34.”

Then total silence for another minute and a half.

Once again the lead Doctor spoke, “I’m calling it. Time of death 20 :36. Everyone please stand back from the body. Leave everything exactly as it is, even the garbage on the floor. Just pickup any unused medication for removal. The Medical Examiner will want to see everything along with the record.”

And Bruno’s last entry : “Time of death 20 :36. All materials except unused medication left in place for the Medical Examiner. Code Team exits.Time : 20 :37.”

With the privacy drapes pulled a nurse was put on guard to prevent anyone entering until the Medical Examiner arrived.

Bernard was gone – just his body left surrounded by idle equipment , discarded packaging and the evidence of an heroic attempt to save his life.

I could hear the Code Lead Doctor talking to the Lead Nurse and replying to her question as to what had happened. He thought that the distended abdomen indicated internal bleeding – likely an anurysm that ruptured with the dialysis pressure. The autopsy would tell the story. 

He could not have gotten treatment any better, faster or more efficiently – the cause of death was one that could not be stopped once started. 

No one was to blame.

At that point I heard the guard nurse speaking, “I’m sorry, you can’t go in there.”

“My husband is in there I demand to know what is happening !”

Oh My God, the family. They had returned from supper and in all the urgency, no one had gone to tell them in the cafeteria.

The Lead Nurse hurried over. “Can we talk over here please.”

“No, I want to know what is happening to my husband, I’m going in there.”

“I’m sorry you can’t.”

“Get out of her way,” I heard the father say.

They pushed through the curtains followed by the Lead Nurse.

“Please, let me explain…”

Then the screams « BERNARD ! BERNARD ! OH GOD, BERNARD ! »

With everyone’s confusion, the children were forgotten and they followed the adults through the curtain to where their dead father lay.

Now the father and brother’s voices could be heard.

“He was alive when he came in here.” 

“He was fine until you started treating him.”

“He’d still be alive if we hadn’t come here.”

“We’re suing you and the hospital for killing him.”

And then, with a sob, “We only went for supper and now he’s dead.” More sobbing in multiple voices…

And then the children’s voices – not accepting it : 

“Dad ? Dad ? Say something please Dad . You’re scaring us. Please say something Dad.” Now begging. 

I felt the tears start to roll down my cheeks at the sound of their small pleading voices. Jesus, the kids shouldn’t have to find out this way.

A grief counselor appeared and between her and the nurses, they convinced the family to go to the board room to talk. They disappeared and all was quiet – just the occasional beeping of the dialysis machines and the silent presence of the Bernard’s body just 36 inches away – a man who I had chatted with just a short time ago ; a man who came for treatment and now was leaving in a body bag ; a man who I had told he was safe ; a man with a young family ; a man who had left this world 40 years sooner than most, in the prime of his life.

The thing about this experience that struck me was that the patient got immediate attention, perfect treatment, the full resources of a huge acute care hospital with bedside x-rays, ultrasound, ECG, etc. , and a list of specialists that can only be had at a large hospital. Absolutely no stone was left unturned and all delivered within minutes – treatment started in seconds. The system worked absolutely perfectly – the result of centuries of medical experience and training and betterment. And yet he died. There was no one to blame, no what ifs, no maybe’s, no hindsight – it was all done perfect the first time and in record time.

Even so, the attending nurse who was assigned to the patient had a breakdown and was out for 3 months on psych leave. She believed that something she had done must have caused his demise and she wouldn’t listen to those who told her she had been perfect…

Paul does not really have a blog, or I would direct you to it. He does, however, guest post all over the place including at Willow Dot, Mark Bialczak, and Cordelia’s Mom. He is often seen commenting around here and you should know that typically his comments are often better than my posts…. 😉