Greg Koelker


Friday morning after I made coffee, I ventured out at 5 a.m. to head off the dog alarm; the air was fresh, cool and damp. In fact, there was little air moving. I could hear doves cooing to each other, I guess. Our many wrens were tweeting — since I don’t tweet I’m not sure what their agenda was — maybe looking for love or keeping tabs on Gypsy. Regardless, this is my favorite time of day. I sip steaming coffee and rub Bo’s ears and Gypsy’s back and just let my sluggish senses take it all in — while the caffeine does its magic.

This morning my reverie was interrupted by sirens — ambulance, police, or maybe fire trucks, most likely on Hwy. 35 down along the river some 3 miles away. Too bad for someone, for some family most likely as well, but thank goodness for those volunteers and professionals who take it upon themselves to be there to help, first responders, police, firefighters, ambulance drivers and attendants, emergency rooms, and nurses and doctors and orderlies and CNAs and on and on. Good people where what they do is not just a job.

Last week, my family experienced a similar incident. When my 88-year-old mother didn’t pick up her phone after several calls, my baby sister Carolyn, a registered nurse, went down to check and found Mom on the bedroom floor. Carolyn called my brother, Del, and together they helped Mom, and called the rescue squad. Carolyn called me from her car as she followed the ambulance to Lancaster Grant Regional. Mom had a stroke, she thought. As it turned out, she didn’t break anything at least. There was plenty of diagnosis and speculation, tests and treatment, and we feared the worst. She didn’t speak on Saturday or Sunday, but on Memorial Day morning, I said, “Good morning, Mom.” She replied, “I guess it is” — a huge step. On Wednesday, we visited again and Mom was almost herself. She did well in PT and wants to go home. Not sure how that will go yet, but without all that support — starting with my sister and brother — who knows what.

Occasionally I hear disparaging comments about places like Grant Regional Health Center or other small city facilities. I don’t know what those peoples’ experiences have been at those smaller facilities, but I have to ask them, what would you have done without them to meet your ambulance, diagnose you, stitch you up and/or bind your wounds and help with your pain, clean you, help you do your business, etc. They do all that and care for patients’ basic needs day to day. If one needs something they can’t provide, they are prepared to send you off by ambulance or even helicopter if need be. Those neighborhood clinics and regional health hospitals are the front lines for the great many who don’t live in or near a big city. Their doctors can stop the bleeding, diagnose the problem, recommend treatment, and then go and deliver a baby if need be. The Grant Regional Health Center is recently remodeled, completely modern facility — quite beautiful, actually. While we want my mom to go home as soon as she can, I have confidence that she is in good hands.

Until next time, get out — in the middle of all this to-do with Mom, Ellen had a birthday — her 29th, again. Friends dropped by, her family — including her brother Tom from Arizona — came to visit and have lunch and there was cake. That was a good day. El was able to blow out all the candles on her cake, so I hope she gets whatever she wished for. Enjoy.

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Greg and his wife Ellen Koelker are retired and live on Grouse Hollow Farm near Stoddard. He is chairman of the Vernon County Chapter of Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

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