Hospital staff made illness bearable


From the sixth floor of St. Elizabeth Medical Center, watching an electrical storm split the night sky was akin to a fantasy, perhaps dream. The city lights could have been anywhere in the world, the height — perhaps the peak — of a mountain.

But what in the flaming blazes was I doing there? Why was this real and not a nightmare?

It seems as though my 88-year-old heart was rebelling and refusing to beat in the proper rhythm, somewhat like a horse who is misfiring in its canter. Consequently, the proper energy wasn’t getting to other important parts, like the lungs, which then tend to take on fluid.

This is a layman’s simplified explanation of what is ailing me and what sent me gasping for breath to the emergency room that scary night. On a holiday weekend, for crying out loud.

Time of need

Because Dr. Robert G. Spratt, my heaven-sent miracle doctor, answers his own telephone, makes time to listen and personally returns his telephone calls, he knew I had to get help immediately, and made all the arrangements for me to be admitted the minute I got there.

And how did I get there? Judy, of course, who has answered every S.O.S. I’ve sent her way in the past decades, whether it was for help with a sick horse, for a shoulder when a beloved dog or kitty had to be put down or for extra muscle when I couldn’t manage my own barn work, Judy was there.

Good experience

From the minute I arrived I was greeted by kind, competent, understanding professionals who knew exactly what to do and how to make a frightened — and I was frightened — old patient feel at ease among friends.

No request was denied, and in almost a week, as my journalist’s interviewing instinct went to work, I learned many of them were horse, dog and cat people!

I learned many of them had been in other professions until at least middle age but were moved to enter nursing school, one even at age 50 after three children were grown. Others were still raising their children and juggling work and motherhood. Their hands were gentle, except with needles.

I’d love to give names but would not want to omit a single one as each and every nurse and aide was outstanding. And I was amazed: in previous hospital experience, unfamiliar doctors would pop in and pop out, probably to the tune of $500 a pop. Not this time, only my own wonderful doctor, who does not need to wear a white coat to establish his identity.


My biggest worry was not about myself, but about my four-footed family, all extremely spoiled and needing individual attention. Again, Judy to the rescue, along with Jimmie Shurtleff, who has been like a son to me since he was 12 (and is now a grandpa four times over).

They took turns staying all night — Winnie has never had to sleep by herself! — and making sure lights went off and on so no one would know I wasn’t home. All my friends offered to do anything they could to help.

With changes in medication — I’ve always hated to take pills and have really never had to until now — my rebellious heart has agreed to behave and in so doing my breath has returned so I can speak without gasping.


Winnie and Bingo were ecstatic to have me home, Bingo almost more than Winnie. Apache and Toby probably didn’t know I was gone except for a change in their feeding hours. The birds were waiting — Judy and Jimmie had enough to do without doing them too — and everything is more or less back to normal.

Apache and Toby are getting fuzzy, the catbird is taking a daily bath so she can fly clean, a small raft of ducks has found the pond and the red-tailed hawk presides in the old shagbark hickory tree, waiting for his breakfast to arrive.

No, I didn’t get to see the fair. With luck, next year …


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A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



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