Wednesday, July 28, 2004

And soon enough Ivan was leading me down to the hospital so I could see Smith Center's Wellness Center.

Starr Jacobs, who was at the front desk, showed me around the facility. They've got exercise equipment available for use by hospital patients and members from the general public alike. There's a Nu-Step machine that provides low impact cardio-vascular workout and is useful in knee rehabilitation and with back problems. There's a stationary bicycle. Weight equipment. The Wellness Center has a personal trainer on staff.

"Lots of people from the community come in here to work out," Starr told me. "In fact, we have to schedule use of the therapy pool because it is so popular." The bottom of the therapy pool can be adjusted to make the pool deeper. People can swim, walk, or jog in the water against the current. You can use a tether to help you hold your place.

"When people become members, we show them what the machines are used for," Starr said.

"This machine," she said, "people either love or hate. She climbed on it to show how it operated. "You like it a little better if you set it to make you work a little harder. It feels more stable then. I know, it doesn't look like this is hard work. When I started, I couldn't do five minutes on it. Now I'm up to fifteen minutes."

Membership in the Wellness Center is a benefit offered to hospital employees.

Starr showed me the cardiac rehab unit, off in a room of its own. The "Tri-Fit" tests a person's flexibility, heart, and fat. It can be used to do an extensive health examination, to assess what your risks are, to compare your "body age" against your chronological age.

A fellow was set up in the unit for the cardiovascular test. A computer in the hospital was sending an image of the fellow's heart patterns to an expert off-site. A technician in the room was speaking with the far-off expert while the heart pattern continued to transmit. When I sign my memoir, Curlew:Home, I often make note that "Curlew is everywhere." The reverse is also more and more true these days - Everywhere is Curlew. Everywhere is Smith Center. When we wish to be freed from the confines of place, modern technology can free us. The world's experts are now available real time, on-line. The patient in Smith Center can benefit from the same expertise that the patient in Kansas City or Denver has available.

Then I met Arloa Barnes, who is, it turns out, Physical Therapy at Smith Center Hospital - the one and only Arloa, Physical Therapist. The Physical Therapy Department of the hospital used to be confined to a room about 20' by 12'.

"We started getting more and more patients," Arloa said. "We got the assistance of a grant to build this facility. The hospital board agreed to match half the cost. We included a cardiac rehab unit in the plans because that was something people were going out of town for. And we added aquatic therapy."

"Plans got approved," she said. "Work went forward. The project came in under budget."

Under budget? How did that happen?

"I spent a lot of weekends making sure that everything was right - that we had as many outlets planned for as we would need, that the space was big enough, that it allowed the privacy we would need," she said. "Change orders are what kill you."

"Half-way through the planning, a family from the community approached us and wanted to fund a Wellness Center as well. They provided $108,000 to outfit the center - equipment, tables, mirrors, etc. This gift allowed the center to be opened up to the public."

The PT Department brought three pieces of equipment to the new facility, and a table. The family's donation brought the total equipment up to ten pieces and added the weights that are available."

"When did we move in here?" Arloa asked another staff member. They chewed on the question for a bit and decided it must have been on April 1.

"We were moving and working," the other woman explained. "I've lost a month."

Arloa is married to Dr. Joe Barnes, a Smith Center family practice physician. "We moved here in 1985," Arloa said. "I've worked here off and on. I grew up in Norton, an hour west of here. So I'm a western Kansas girl." They moved here because they wanted to raise their family in a small town.
So how did the girl from western Kansas meet her doctor-husband, I wondered.

"I stalked him," Arloa said. "At the KU Medical School. I knew he had dated the student body president at Wichita State. He thought I was my sister. He was so predictable. He'd park in the same place every day, use the same door, ride the same elevator. He didn't have a chance."

Before I left the Wellness Center, Starr Jacobs and I arranged to meet at 6:00 p.m. at Smith Center's Jiffy Burger. She would be taking supper out to the field for her husband Brent, and for Brent's partner and cousin, Dan Jacobs, and she invited me to eat with them, and maybe ride for a while in the combine while the men continued their wheat harvest after supper.
To be continued....
JULY 28, 1998

The morning light has changed, distinctly. Bird song comes later. When I rise at 5:00 a.m. now, the world is quiet (briefly) where before the birds would be chatting already. Darkness will become a morning companion once again - on into another turn of the Great Wheel. Even as the summer pushes to fullness, to ripeness, you can feel the year winding down, the circle of light diminishing, the sun heading out for new parts, to touch another place. Let me enjoy what morning light remains, then let me, too, with equal vigor embrace the darkness. This is life, this is the turn of the world in this place. This is our day and night, us.

Since about noon yesterday planes have been coming over in constant supply, all of them on their way to the EAA convention in Oshkosh. Even this far away - twenty-five miles - they will be lined up three and four in a row sometimes. A community of interest, the fly-in at Oshkosh; the place has made something its very own. It's Experimental Aircraft 'R Us for a week and a half at the beginning of August each year. Travellers cannot find accommodations within ninety miles of Oshkosh as a result.

A smooth sky, a still pond, morning in the village - lovely.

Tom, if you have to ask why there is a roll of toilet paper unfurled on Washington Street, obviously you don't have a clue. Call me Clueless in Fairwater.

I'm downtown. A little girl drives her pick-up past the post office. Well - she looks like a little girl. Damn, I am getting old.

North along Highway E, the fields of sweet corn are at various stages of maturity. Some of it must be ready to harvest.

A brown lawn south of Five Corners reminds us that we need some rain. The world here is green, sure, but this is not an eternal green.

Overhead, as I write this in the parking lot at work, airplanes continue lining up for the approach to Oshkosh. The sky is rumbling full of them.

The Vagabond's big "Thank-You" goes to the following for their recent generous contribution to the Expedition:
#92 Bob & Mary Lane, Wisconsin.

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