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Bernie Kuntz: Surviving the hospital

Twelve days in the hospital with doctors trying various infusions and other drugs to combat some sort of lung infection...it was a long twelve days. I'd prefer not to do it again. I was so sick I feared I'd die; then when doctors infused an antibiotic that affected my kidney function, I was so miserable that I was scared that I wouldn't die!

Nurses are wonderful, but sometimes I wonder about the common sense of a lot of doctors. For example, today I had a phone call from a respiratory clinic at the Bozeman hospital that has been breathing down my neck since the first week I was hospitalized.

"OK, what do you want?" I asked, thinking they would send someone over to the house to check my breathing. Imagine my surprise when the lady told me the "respiratory clinic' involved 36 visits to the hospital to "exercise and breath" and was recommended by one of my doctors who should know better. I started shouting, telling her I was so weak I could barely walk across the room, and no, I was not making 36 trips to the hospital! "So you are not interested?"

"Hell, no, I am not interested."

One young nurse who sympathized with my "imprisonment" for twelve days asked me how I got through it mentally.

"I think about old times," I said. "I think back to 1970 when my recon platoon was living for 15 days in bunkers on Hill 250 above "The Arizona" in South Vietnam. We'd call in artillery on VC and NVA that we spotted out on the flats, and endure the 15 days until we'd be shipped off somewhere to do something else."

I could have added that I thought about fishing too. I remembered a time back in the 1950s when I hooked a good pike on the face of the dam at Jamestown Reservoir, fought the fish to a standstill in the shallows. My father, Jake, waded in the water to his knees, tried to chase the fish up onto the beach, or maybe he tried to grab it, or both. All I remember is the fish went berserk, thrashed about and broke my line. Jake was wearing those tan pants that most men wore in those days, and he was wet to above his knees.

Fifty years later Jake and I were fishing near an inlet in Saskatchewan. We had hiked into the spot and hadn't bothered bringing a landing net. "Now, if you get one," I said, "Just keep it coming and slide it up onto this sloping boulder." Trouble was Jake brought the fish up to the edge of the water and stopped. So I foolishly grabbed the line, tried to ease the fish up onto the sloping granite. Ping!

The line broke.

"Hey, you lost my fish!" he said.

Stay out of hospitals and use a landing net when fishing pike from shore. Best advice I can give this week...

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