Karson’s Injury

It’s amazing how your life can change in a moment. You hear people say “things happen for a reason”. Then things happen that make you question everything.

Karson had headed into his first wrestling tournament November 18, 2018 and managed to finish in 2nd place. I watched him beaming, so happy his first season was successful. He came home and called me later that night, saying he had a headache and worried he may have a concussion. I told him I wanted to come to pick him up, but he didn’t want to leave. He said he was fine, it was probably just a headache. He continued to say he just had a headache, but didn’t show any signs of a concussion. The following week, he said he had a headache. We had him checked out by the school’s trainer. He said he didn’t think he had a concussion, but would get him in to see their sports medicine doctor.

The sports medicine doctor diagnosed him with a concussion. That diagnosis dragged out, it seemed to worsen with time. Eventually at school, he was hit in the head with a cabinet door. After that, things continued to get worse quickly. We tried physical therapy, vestibular therapy and additional doctor visits. Nothing was making him better. His left eye started to cross. I called the doctors office, concerned about his eye. The doctor was out of town, but his assistant assured me that this was normal, she wasn’t concerned. The following week, I called and insisted that he needed an appointment. They worked him in a few days later.

His doctor took one look at Karson and asked how long his eye had been turned in. He was very concerned. He told us he needed an MRI right away. He left the room to schedule an appointment that day. He got us in to KU Med West. We had to wait 2 hours. Two hours felt like 4 or 5 hours. We got Karson to his appointment, he wasn’t walking well because he wasn’t feeling well. By this time, I was a bull in a China shop. I wanted answers and I was so afraid, anticipating what our answers may be, knowing that the medical team was concerned.

I walked Karson outside to the MRI, it was a brisk day, but we couldn’t even feel the cold. Our focus was on Karson and anticipation of what we were about to learn. The staff was friendly, asking Karson about his injury. I watched them load him into the tunnel, then I was walked back to sit in the waiting room with my mom. I sat there for what seemed 5 minutes when the nurse came to the waiting room to ask me to come back into the MRI booth. The Radiologist was on the phone waiting to talk to me. I spoke with the Radiologist. He was speaking very quickly about foreign subjects that would all become very familiar, very quickly. He explained that Karson had an Arachnoid cyst rupture. He had fluid surrounding his brain, which was putting pressure and stress on his brain. He told me he was working to see which hospital they could take Karson to.

The doctor asked to talk to the nurse. They wanted to know if I was stable to drive, they were recommending that they wanted to take Karson to the hospital in an ambulance. After phone calls with 2 hospitals, it was determined we would do a direct admittance into Children’s Mercy.

On our way to Children’s Mercy, Dr. Garcia (Karson’s Neuro Surgeon) called me to make sure we were on our way, and to give me directions to get into the hospital to have Karson admitted.

When we made it to Karson’s hospital room, we met Dr. Garcia and he reviewed Karson’s brain scans. Dr. Garcia explained the more about the ruptured Arachnoid Cyst. He showed us the fluid surrounding his brain. He said he was recommending surgery. I asked when he would need to have surgery. Dr. Garcia explained that he had booked the OR for the following morning as soon as he had seen his MRI results.

Karson had a Crainiotomy the next morning, Saturday, December 16th. They wheeled him off with a baseball in his hands. He went through surgery with flying colors. The staff at the hospital couldn’t have been any better to Karson. He even managed to meet Tyreek Hill, get a signed ball from him AND get introduced on the news, showing his photo with Tyreek.

We went back home and everything was getting better. Out of nowhere, Karson’s head began to swell. We brought him to the ER, but they let us go. Karson kept getting worse and seemed disoriented. I called Dr. Garcia’s office. They asked to have him come in immediately. Karson and I went to Children’s Mercy. We had a direct admittance into the hospital, had a CAT scan and found that he had a brain bleed. Karson needed to directly into surgery again, to have a Temporary Subdural Drain installed. He needed to lie flat on his back for the next 5 days to let the blood drain out of his head.

He missed 80 days of school in his 7th grade year.

Karson is doing great. We have been told that it is a miracle he is alive. Some things really do happen for a reason, we are lucky he is here.

Off to Grandma’s House I Go

From December 1997 to July 2000 I was the police and court reporter for The Manhattan Mercury — the daily newspaper in Manhattan, Kansas (aka the Little Apple). Besides covering crime, I also had to submit a column for the paper’s “Off the Beat” section on a regular basis.

I captured some great memories about my grandmother Loy Cornelison (my dad’s mom) in one column. Grandma passed away on July 7, 2007 — I always say my Grandpa who passed away years earlier and was a big gambler won with lucky 7s when he was reunited with his sweetheart on 7-7-07. As my aunts, uncles, cousins and parents were going through Grandma’s belongings after her death we came across this column as well as several other articles I wrote over the years. Talk about a trip down memory lane. Below is the column as published in The Manhattan Mercury in December 1999:

Lately, I’ve been spending more time with my grandmother.

She lives about an hour north of Manhattan in a little country town in Marshall County called Vermillion. She lives in the same white two-story home that I used to go to when I visited her and my Grandpa as a child during the summer.

Growing up in the Kansas City area, I was always mesmerized with the small town atmosphere. While the town doesn’t have much in the way of business – mostly a cafe – I always thought, and still do, that it has much more to offer than big cities.

There’s the local cafe where Timmy Lee always had a cold soda waiting, and on up the street banker Harold McClary would give out gum shaped like a treasure coin.

There’s the old rusted-out wagon in which my cousins and I used to take turns pushing each other along the cracked sidewalks out in front Grandma and Grandpa’s home. Of course, no grandchild could forget the junk drawer in Grandma’s kitchen filled with everything imaginable – from Yo-Yo’s and coloring books to play soldiers and bouncy balls.

I still periodically look through the junk drawer when visiting Grandma just to see if anything has changed. It’s funny to look through old coloring books and find pages that I scribbled on as a child.

There were evenings Grandpa, Grandma and I would load up into the car to play bingo in a nearby town, or Grandma would teach me how to crochet or sew.

Sometimes we’d watch a parade stroll down Main Street. And other times Grandma would dig out a play tea set and dolls, and my cousin and I would have a tea party.

When there wasn’t anything else to do, I’d pull out Grandma’s stuffed monkey George. The stuffed monkey was a favorite among the grandchildren.

While some things have changed over the years in Vermillion, it’s pretty much the same town I visited as a child – although Grandpa is no longer there. He passed away several years ago.

Nowadays on my visit to Grandma’s house, Grandma tells me stories about when she was growing up, or about the early years of her and Grandpa’s marriage. We sometimes go to lunch together at a little country diner not too far away, or stay at home and nibble on homemade goodies.

We’ve searched through the family Bible where she keeps her important records, such as birth dates, marriages and deaths.

She’s dug through the filing cabinet sharing with me copies of letters my father and uncle sent while they served in Vietnam. Also in the files are poems that she wrote that depict her feelings about the war.

Grandma recently helped me sew a couple of baby blankets that I plan on giving a friend of ours who is expecting next month. She sure has a way with a needle and thread.

And she’s always eager to show me her new craft projects. Grandma has made everything from blankets, quilts and pillows to dolls, doll clothes and pot holders. The sky is the limit on crafting.

I’m especially proud of Grandma for starting a new hobby of painting. She began taking an art class this summer as a way to pass time. While Grandma has always been artistically inclines, she’s never really received any formal training.

But the art classes gave her the tools to learn the fundamentals of painting. And she has truly uncovered a special talent with her new hobby.

Grandma mostly paints wildlife scenes – they clearly show her appreciation for life and nature. Among my favorite of her works are that of a winding country stream, an old red barn, an elk and a depiction of a Native American camp.

Needless to say, I think my Grandma is pretty special and I cherish the moments we get to spend together.

While most of us will scurry off to the mall and area stores in upcoming days in search of the best gift this holiday season for friends and family members, we should stop and remember the greatest gift this holiday season isn’t sold at a store. The gift is family.

Lackland Air Force Base – Texas

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas

The first of March, 1955 I boarded the “Doodle Bug” which was a railroad engine and one passenger car that traveled from El Dorado, Kansas to Kansas City. There were five of us traveling to KC to join the Air Force, we were all from Butler County. Jerry Hayes of El Dorado, Gene Mauck from Douglass who I new from high school days, Wesley I can’t remember his last name from Augusta and a guy whose last name was George also from Augusta. My girlfriend Pat was there to send me off to Uncle Sam, I think she was the only one there as I did not see the other recruits have anyone there.

We arrived in KC and was taken to where we would be getting our medical exams and chow hall. They had two big rooms with cots for us.  There were about two hundred plus recruits, and I was assigned to one room and the rest of my group was in the other room. After the exams, they were making three groups of 75 to 80 in each group and my Butler County group came and got me and the officer allowed me to be in their group, I sure was glad. We were then loaded in sleeper rail cars and shipped to San Antonio, Texas. That was the best sleep I have had, it was a steady rocking and rolling.

The next morning, we unloaded into Air Force buses and were driven to Lackland Air Force base, and unloaded at our home for the next eleven weeks. We were greeted by our Technical Instructor (TI), lined up into four lines, then marched (what a mesh) to our barracks. The barracks were two story.  The bottom story had the showers/sinks and stools for the whole building, also the TI had his private room there. Then one big room with army steel cots stacked two high for about forty airmen. The top floor had a day room with tables for writing and studying.  The top floor had a big room for forty cots like the bottom floor. We were assigned cots I was lucky to get a top bunk and we were each given a foot locker to keep our personal stuff and our socks and underwear. We had shaving and shower stuff as well as writing material and shoe polish. I was on the bottom floor and the other four Butler County guys was on the second floor but I didn’t mind as I made friends fairly easily. All seventy six of us were now called a flight.

Over the next few weeks, we learned how to march together, but there were a few guys that had to carry a rock in their left hand to remember left from right, thankfully not me. We marched to everything, pictures, barbershop for a buzz cut, clothes, classes and the firing range. The TI wanted to know if anyone could drive a truck while we were at the range and several hands went up and they left and I thought, SUCKERS. They came back in fifteen minutes pushing three wheel barrows full of ammo, never volunteer in basic training.

After being in basic for a few weeks, the weather started getting hot and not much shade was available. At times while we were standing at ease on the street waiting for an empty class room, some one would pass out and they would carry them to the shade and put some water on their head, they would come to and be okay.

There were three movie theaters on base and we could go on the last four weekends of basic. We also could get passes on these weekends to leave the base. I never had the desire to leave the base and a few of the others also stayed on base. Since I stayed on base, I didn’t spend much money and there were a few that spent their money and would come to me to borrow five bucks telling me they would pay me back double on pay day. Every one I loaned money to always paid me back. I would not loan over five dollars and would not loan to everyone.

We sure looked forward to mail call. The first ten days, the TI would have everyone stand around him and he would yell the name on the letter then pass it back to you.  There was no mail for me for several days, what a downer — I thought Pat had moved on. Then, the next mail call, the TI called out Woodall, Woodall, Woodall, Woodall, damn Woodall you made out today (love you Pat).
We completed basic training — two of us from the 76 people of our flight are being sent to Kessler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi for radar training but first we can go home for a week.

Kessler AFB Biloxi, Mississippi
I arrived at Kessler in June of 1955 and started radar operator school. All air traffic that was with in 300 miles of the radar site would show on the radar screen.  We were trained to write backwards and read what was on the radar screen then to plot this info onto a 8 ft x 8 ft clear plastic vertical board. This board had circles, mileage markers and lines like a compass. There were recorders putting the info from the board onto paper so if there was a need this info could be saved.
While at Kessler when we were not in class, a friend and I would go to the swimming pool or go to the Airman’s club and had hamburgers and beer. The club was not large and would hold about seventy people. Sometimes they would have singers booked in as there was a small stage for the entertainers. One evening my friend and I went there and some guy was singing and playing a guitar and shaking.  There were about twenty people there and I asked “Who is that?” It was Elvis Presley and he was not well known yet but was getting popular, this was July, 1955.
One weekend four of us took the bus to New Orleans and down to Bourbon Street. Good music but crazy and odd people.
From Kessler AFB ten of us were sent by train to a radar site in northern New Mexico, this took place in August, 1955.