All posts by Doug McConnell

Houston – Two Reunions!

One goal Bonny and I created for this trip was to seek out friends now scattered across the U.S. and set up “reunions”. Unfortunately, our lives do not come with a “rewind button” so you can’t wait too long. We decided to be proactive and go see friends. We, of course, assumed they wanted to “see” us but that may just be our egos speaking. We haven’t been turned down yet!

There were two reunions in Houston. The first, was with Jim Livesay and his lovely wife, Robin. Jim and I were about two years apart in our UCLA residency days. Jim is from Texas and has that laid back, gregarious personality so common of Texans (Jim, that is a compliment!). We became friends and shared a few adventures together in our younger residency years. I am referring to an attempted flight from Santa Monica to Mammoth for a weekend of skiing. We were in a Cessna 172 and I was flying. After being tossed and pushed through the sky as we started up the long valley from Mojave we decided that the turbulence was too much for us and landed in a small town and rented a car. We enjoyed the skiing and the smoooooth flight home 2 days later. Jim and Robin were married toward the end of our residency. They moved to Houston, where Jim has established himself with Dr. Denton Cooley as a premier cardiac surgeon. He is wrestling with retirement decisions as I know only too well. It was great to share a meal with them both – Sunday we went to church together for a special morning. Good friends make good memories. Thanks, Jim and Robin.

Jim Livesay
Jim Livesay

 

The second reunion is difficult to describe so I will ask the reader to bear with me.  As a surgeon from 1971 until my “retirement” in 2014, I have operated on many patients and dealt with many, many families during difficult and anxious times.

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This is a story of one of those patients and her family. In 1971 I was a senior medical student at UCLA and taking an elective rotation in Pediatric Surgery. A beautiful, little, two year old girl named Felice Pampolina was admitted to our service at  UCLA. She had been diagnosed with a neuroblastoma with probable lung involvement.  This particular tumor is  a very aggressive childhood solid tumor of primitive neurological tissue. She was a delightful, beautiful little girl accompanied by very similar parents and grandparents. They were a strong Italian family focused on this brave, small little girl

I have NEVER, EVER forgotten Felice and her parents and all that happened so long ago. This little angel died of her tumor after two or three weeks of surgical biopsies, attempted resection and other frustrating treatment attempts. The great medical center, and the great practitioners were powerless to stop her disease or to help her. We were all humbled and frustrated. This little girl and her family became so special to the nurses, medical students and the residents that we all were devastated when the inevitable came. I knew that dreaded moment would come. In my heart I remember saying something like, “No, God not her, not now, not ever.” Her death was very hard to deal with for us all on that Pediatric service on that dark day. Her passing challenged all our faith beliefs and we all asked “Why?”

The other loss that sad day was that the wonderful family, the kind grandparents, the gentle beautiful mother, the gregarious ever present father were all gone – gone from our lives forever! It was done.

Over the many years I have always wondered –  how are they? Did they stay married after the loss of their first child? If so, did they go on to have other children? Are they happy? What has transpired over the 45 years after this devastating death so long ago?

Fast forward to December 2015. After telling her about Felice, Bonny encouraged me to try and find the Pampolina family.  With the help of Google I found Felice’s mother, Ginger, as a real estate agent in Houston Texas. I will jump past all the phone calls and emotion and excitement and say that we all agreed to meet at their home for a real Italian Sunday Family Pasta Dinner and celebrate Felice! After those phone calls, Bonny and I added Houston to our cross country trip.

Last Sunday was the day. It was a healing and wonderful day for me beyond descriptive words. I found the same special, warm, life loving family that I remembered from UCLA! YES they are married and happy, YES they had two more children who both came to dinner. It was wonderful to meet Phil, Ginger, Carla (Queen Bee), Damon (the Entertainer) and his lovely wife, Jennifer. The real entertainment for the evening was provided by Damon and Jennifer’s energetic son, Roman.

Phil Pampolina
Phil Pampolina
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Phil and Ginger Pampolina with their two children Damon and Carla. Thanks for having us to your home!

We talked about those dark days and how Phil and Ginger adjusted. We had conversations about the grandparents (now deceased). We talked about their eventual move back to their beloved home state of Texas. And we talked about Felice for a long time. Bonny and I were shown family pictures of Felice as an infant. We simply enjoyed being reunited and being in a home so filled with love. Finally, my  questions from 45 years ago have been answered – all except “Why?”.

To this day, the family regularly visits a small little grave on a hillside in Rose Hills Cemetery just off the 605 freeway. There they honor their little angel with birthday flowers. Felice is still very much alive in their hearts and memories – and now ours. Thank you, Felice, for bringing us all back together in 2016. Bonny and I will be visiting Rose Hills soon – you are still very much loved and remembered. Someday, I may understand the answer to my question, “Why?”

The Kennedy Assassination – Doug’s Thoughts

It is hard to go to Dallas and not recall the Kennedy assassination. Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the sad news.

I am going to take a surgeon’s approach to the wounds as reported by the treating surgeons. There were three faculty (senior)trauma surgeons present in the ER treating Kennedy. To this day, all three have identified the small ANTERIOR neck wound (pencil diameter) as a probable ENTRY wound. In addition, these experienced trauma surgeons identified the POSTERIOR right sided skull wound as an exit wound. Importantly, these three men were the ONLY trauma experienced physicians to examine the President – ever. Their direct observations totally undermine the Warren Commission’s (desired) conclusions of a single shooter from BEHIND the president . The surgeons observations of probably two frontal entrance wounds mean there were at least TWO assassins. It also means that the Warren Commission ignored evidence of a conspiracy knowingly. The Who? and Why? thus remains unexplored and unexplained to this day.

The autopsy on President Kennedy was performed by Navy pathologists at Bethesda Naval Medical center who were NOT forensic pathologists and were not experienced in evaluating gunshot wounds. The surgeons from Parkland hospital were extremely experienced in evaluating  gun shot wounds treating several hundred a year! These three experienced surgeons have testified and presented their observations but have largely been ignored. In fact investigators went to great effort to challenge their opinions and try and bend them into compliance with the convoluted “magic bullet” theory advanced by the Commission.

Suffice it to say, if a high velocity rifle round exited the neck near the trachea there would not have been a trachea to evaluate much less operate on. Remember this is supposedly the same weapon and bullet type that destroyed Kennedy’s head but somehow left a pencil sized exit hole??? Not likely at all.  I believe the Parkland Trauma Surgeons.

Silver Falls Oregon October 25-29

Silver Falls State Park

“The Crown Jewel of the Oregon State Park System”

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Lost in the Forest

Silver Falls is known as the Crown Jewel for good reason – actually for 10 reasons. The park is nestled in a beautiful foothill rain forest just about 24 miles east of Salem, Oregon. The park features 10 waterfalls on the south fork and north fork of Silver creek as if flows out of the mountains down into the charming town of Silverton.

The falls are connected by an 8 mile hiking loop. We have visited all 10 of the falls over three days by starting from three different trail heads. We can’t move very quickly because Doug stops every 40 feet (it seems!) to set up for another photo. It is fall here and I have to be patient because the fall colors and waterfalls are beautiful. I realize that he is creating beautiful memories for us – but I like to HIKE!

South Silver Falls
South Silver Falls

The drive from I-5 to the park was through beautiful farm country. We passed many christmas tree farms. We have found the source! Rest assured they have all been shaped and are ready for your home in the next few weeks. The other crop here is grass seed which is known world wide for golf courses. Most of these rolling hills were heavy forests at one time but which were aggressively logged in the early 20th century. In fact the logging was so aggressive that they put themselves out of business!

Doug’s pictures will show you how beautiful the park itself is. You really are camping in a beautiful forest with wide beautiful campsites with privacy. Most of the park buildings were built in the early 1930’s by men working for the recession created Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The construction is magnificent – done by real craftsmen.

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The Main Lodge is constructed of local rock and wood surrounded by beautiful lawns. It is the central meeting place for hikers and families – especially around the 20 foot high rock fireplace with a roaring fire! The original handmade wooden furniture is still in daily use.

The town of Silverton is only 15 miles away and is itself  worth a visit. We explored the town and visited the Oregon Gardens – worthwhile. We then had dinner at a charming restaurant (Creekside Cafe) overlooking Silver Creek. I had a wonderful pork chop smothered in baked apples.

Behind the falls
Behind the falls

Yesterday it rained most of the day. We were quite dry and cozy in the RV – cooking spaghetti and reading. Doug is busy reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson by Jon Meacham (thanks Carl and Linda). Doug reports that the book is excellent! I am reading the second volume of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follette. This is a series of novels that follows four families from Great Britan, Germany, Russia and the United States through the lead up to WW I and continues through WW II. It has been wonderful and informative. I often remember our trips by the books I read during the quiet moments of each trip.

Dinner in Silverton
Dinner in Silverton

We are still looking to name the RV – any ideas?

Doug’s Update – We are back on the net!

Bonny and I have arrived into the land of WiFi and thus can now create the next chapter in our travel saga. This morning I will include some random photos from our adventures.

First the Grizzly Hunt:

Bonny and I rode a ski lift at Lake Louise into the mountains to walk a couple of trails. BUT things changed… when we met Olivia!

On the way to the top
On the way to the top

On the trail was Olivia – Bear 57! I took this photo at about 40 yards handheld and it turned out just fine! We were fine too. Olivia seemed more interested in digging in the dirt than following us.

Olivia's big day!
Olivia’s big day!

Our hiking was curtailed and we of course retreated to a wonderful restaurant for dinner. Bonny still was wearing her Bear Spray canister in the restaurant! What a trooper!

Post Hotel Restaurant - Roughing It Smoothly!
Post Hotel Restaurant

July 6th, 2015 – On To Lake Louise

How delightful it is to wake up surrounded by pine trees and sunshine. Yesterday, July 5th ,we woke up to rain, wind,clouds, puddles and mud. We weren’t very motivated to get started, so we didn’t. A late start and a border crossing into Canada yielded a beautiful drive through the prairie land of Alberta…..farming and ranching for as far a your eye could see.

Calgary is one of the biggest cities I have seen in a month and has a population of 900,000. It is very clean on the periphery with lots and lots of newer looking housing tracts. My question is why they were built so close together when there is so much land? I can’t answer that because we also don’t have any wifi access. Our phones and tablets are essentially off…the expense here for cellular Internet access is enormous. Could it be that Canada does not want its people glued to a machine? The subtle differences you see here are interesting. Everything is also written in French. You can’t buy liquor at Costco or WallMart. Our debit card was not accepted at Costco and their money looks funny! We arrived July 5th in Lake Louise about 9:30 at night but it was still daylight here in the north country!

Arriving at Lake Louise 9:30 PM
Arriving at Lake Louise 9:30 PM

Today we just explored and looked into what we want to see here. We tried to go to Lake Louise Chalet twice, but the traffic was so incredibly bad, we turned around. We will go early in the morning tomorrow. We started driving up towards an ice field, but got so enthralled with taking pictures of the wildflowers, that we never made it.

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Bee Business

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After an early dinner, we attended one of the ranger led shows in the camp ground on hiking “ToThe Top” of Temple Mountain. Great history lesson, safety tips, and humor. Our camp site is one of the nicest we have ever been in despite the fact that it only provides electricity 30 amps (occasionally), no available water and no sewer connection. The sites are all pull through that will accommodate a big rig and are situated at least 20 yards from your neighbor’s site with forest and pines in between for privacy….we hope to extend here at least 3 more days…we just have to ask daily for cancellations and be willing to move.

 

July 4th Happy Fourth of July!

July 4th…..Happy 4th of July

We moved the coach again to an overflow area and now actually have the best spot in the park.  We are now dry camping without any hookups.

View Through The Window
View Through The Window

We went on a boat ride in Mary Lake early this morning and met the Chief of the Black Feet Indians for this region. He was an Army vet and The Chief (Chairman) and Doug struck up a conversation at a bridge we were hiking on.  At his invitation, we went to his house in the afternoon and met several of this 18 siblings. The family has a lovely summer home on the banks of the St. Mary river just north of where we have been staying. He is a very interesting man working hard with his Tribal Council to address the many challenges faced be the Native American Nations. He and Doug talked about healthcare, land rights, old treaties, and even the Washington Redskins name controversy. We made another new friend!

Mary Lake View
Mary Lake View
Harry, the chairman (Chief) of the Blackfeet Tribe and his wife, Jana
Interior Decorating - Montana Style
Interior Decorating – Montana Style

Tomorrow onto Canada – weather permitting. Big storm for tonight!

 

McCloud Hike and Elks Chilli Cookoff

McCloud (7 of 9) McCloud (1 of 9) McCloud (3 of 9) McCloud (9 of 9) McCloud (4 of 9) McCloud (5 of 9)June 7th Bonny and I headed off to McCloud for a few days in the mountains AND  to experience our first Redding Elks Chili Cook Off.

The weather was great, the hiking beautiful, and the Elks were entertaining and convivial. This was our first official Elk RV trip – the first of many more to come we hope!

I have included some key pictures and I am sure the images will tell you more about the week than my typed words. It was a great time and we met new friends. I also found some previous patients there as well. All had had Coronary Bypass and one valve replacement. They were in the mountains with their families enjoying life. It was great to be part of that for them.