Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nucular puhlifferation

I remember my mom working when I was very young. She was a nurse, and old-school nurse who had been trained to do everything in a specialized (not unlike conservatory) school. It's not done that way now, and when a new nurse appears on staff somebody has to precept them for a long while, teaching them what to actually do with patients.

These were the days of the white behatted uniform, and my mom looked so spunky done up in perfect red pincurls and cat-eye glasses. I love pictures of her from back then, with her capris out riding motorcycles in the desert with a bad boy who became my dad. I imagine it must have been so freeing to leave Opportunity, Montana for Opportunity, real world.

From my earliest memories I knew my mom had worked hard and amassed tons of medical info to get where she was. She amazed me, and I assumed she was in charge everywhere she went. She probably was.

There are so many excellent stories confirming this sass coming to life in her time on the job. In her fifties she returned to nursing after a long hiatus. A few weeks into that job she accidentally socked her friend- an ex-Philly Eagle linebacker turned doctor- in the balls while unwrapping a patient's leg. All he could manage to squeek was, I'm okay Karen- please don't hit me again. Bet the other Minor Dieties thought twice before hassling her after that.

My first knowledge of mom having any role outside of our house came when she took me to visit a man I thought must be magical since he lived in a building made special just for him and had groups of people on his staff. He's the Hanford "accident" I was talking about yesterday.

I knew him as Mac and loved to visit him to color and have him read to me in the facility where my mom was his nurse. The story goes that he was on duty at the nuclear plant, the second shift of men back to work at cleaning Americium after a strike there. He couldn’t have known that the first shift had failed to change out the chemical bath. Things began to overheat and react as the second batch of radiation was initiated, sending up a small cloud of green steam. I wonder why claxons didn't sound like they do in the movies.

His biggest mistake was removing his mask to better determine whether he was really seeing fumes rise up behind the several panes of leaded glass. I imagine it was like that second of disbelief before a car wreck, where you can't grasp how things could possibly go that wrong. The glass did nothing more than embed Mac's body with a million radioactive shards, emanating that foreign energy within him the rest of his life.

What stuns me about the story is that fellow workers came running, past fear toward the noise. Mac's friend Marvin seared his own lungs pulling him out, saving him.

In the aftermath, Hanford seemed to want to will the whole episode away, to expunge it from history. I remember Mom had to fight to get new sheets every day- they were soaked with blood and alpha radiation daily. She also had to fight for checks of her own body before heading home to her young family each night. She threatened them with media leaks, and they conceded. I'm telling you, she's tough.

One night she heard an odd clanging sound, and sent the security guard to check it out. Some dumbass members of the media were trying to break in through the concrete block walls, to gain entry into an air locked building. Had they succeded, my mom would have only had more patients. (My dad likes to add that they were already contaminated… with LIBERALism.)

Mac lived to a good old age, leaving the hospital and carrying his geiger counter wherever he went. Pieces of glass continued to work themselves out, though he dealt with it all as more of a curiousity than a burden.

I suppose most women idolize their moms. I realized I should have included her in my post a while back about women who made it to my own personal covet-this list. She fits right in- when we had a CB radio her handle was Raquel (RACK-el). See,you know why.

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