Archive for December, 2011

All In A Day’s Work……….#262 (the 2000’s)

December 25, 2011
Colony Park

Colony Park

The on call weekend quandary for the most part were minimal, the issuing of a pager initiated much earlier by the long departed David Yarborough having been eliminated, Gary now notified by phone.   An early Saturday afternoon receiving a call from work,  his maintenance assistant Ray  explaining the stand-by Onan generator was running,  Gary assuming there was a power outage.  The generator supplying essential 110 volt electricity to the hallway lights ,  fire alarm system and other specific designated outlets with a power failure, giving notice he was on his way.    Arriving Gary was puzzled, at first glance it look like the facility had electricity and under normal circumstances the generator shouldn’t be running, but upon inspection noticed the kitchen had suffered a major loss of power.  Placing a call to MID,  the electric utility service,  asking if there was a partial outage in the area,  a responder arriving  appraising that all three legs of the 208 volts from their pole mounted transformer to Colony Park were intact, the power loss that the generator was sensing is apparently an onsite problem.   Opening the input breaker panel, the problem was apparent, one of the three 208 volt fuse holding terminals was totally destroyed, completely melted down,  the generator kicking in  because of the lost of one of the main voltage legs.

Modesto Irrigation District - Modesto's electric utility provider

Modesto Irrigation District – Modesto’s electric utility provider

The lost of the leg was serious,  the kitchen freezer,  dishwasher hot water booster heater and walk-in refrigerator, and almost all appliance that operates on 208 volts was now inoperable.   Realizing that it was an internal problem, not the responsibility of MID,  Gary making  phone call after phone call,   scurrying the yellow pages attempting to find a responsive service company  on a Saturday afternoon.  Finding lady luck smiling ,  the service  manager at Champion Industries on Tully Ave happened to be in the office and agreeing to  dispatch a service technician.  The Technician observing the problem, shaking his head stating that there was no way he would be able to find a 40-year-old fuse terminal on short notice.   Gary coming up with a solution,  suggesting he just jump it and bypass the fuse and terminal,  the technician again shaking his head, reiterating that it was a violation of code to connect a  main utility power source to a building without a fused or breaker.  Gary restating it again, this time wording it a little different,  all he wanted was for him to bypass the damaged in an inoperative panel, not one currently in use.  The younger technician hesitant at first but got the subliminal message, installing a temporary jumper.  Gary waiting for the technician to leave before pulling the panel lever restoring  electricity to the building,  the generator shutting down, deciding that it would be better if some things were left unsaid about what had just transpired..

X shaped Colony Park

X shaped Colony Park

3/4 inch Snake

3/4 inch Snake

Before Gary’s arrival Roto-Rooter was a frequent visitor to Colony Park,  an on-call maintenance person not always available in the past.   The X-shaped facility having an east and west length of the building 6 inch sewer lines, the west side the only one to every back up,  it started in the kitchen traveling south the length of the building to the city main line on E. Orangeburg Ave.   The last area before exiting was the Alzheimer’s wing where the residents attempted to flush wash cloths and sundry items, on occasion causing a backup all the way to the kitchen before being discovered.  Gary soon found a contributing factor, the building contractors failed to install a kitchen grease trap, consequently  forty years of grease had been deposited down this 6 inch line that even hydro-jetting couldn’t clear.   Armed with a  100 Ft.  3/8 inch hand cranked snake and a 75 Ft.  3/4 inch electric  he managed the weekly backups, his only concern  the power unit was not equipped with a reverse, the heavy 3/4 inch cable having to be pulled out by hand, a sweat professing experience.  Gary issued an edict for a backup, shut down all water use on the effected line including toilet flushing and all kitchen usage especially the dishwasher, not the least surprised at the dietary staff not complying without second warning.

M. Santos & Sons

M. Santos & Sons

An afternoon call for a backup originating in dietary, Gary snaking the familiar clean-out but the 3/8 inch auger coming to a halt,  the electric 3/4 inch blade too big to make the 90 degree turn into the 4 inch kitchen accessory line opening.    A call to Roto Rooter, they too unable to clear the line deciding to inspect with a camera.   The camera revealing the entire embedded pipe network beneath the concrete floor showed signs of  collapse followed by another casualty,  the camera got stuck and a growing concern, unable to run any water the kitchen may have to shut down.  Placing a call to Brad, the administrator, then continued to scour the valley yellow pages in search of a plumbing source who would respond.  It was soon apparent after explaining the situation on the phone, the only response was to schedule a later date walk-through appraisal .  During a conversation with a non receptive spokesperson they suggested calling M. Santos & Sons an industrial plumbing contractor.  Gary following through finding Santos son Tony in the office, agreeing to stop-by and appraise the situation later that afternoon.  With Santos and Brad’s arrival  Tony pointing out what would be involved with a cement floor, the time element, the noise of  a jack hammer, replacing the pipes and the removed concrete, Brad expressing the possibility for the kitchen to remain open,  Gary adding the facility was also in code violation, not having a grease trap.  The good news was the crew could work at night and  lay down a plywood covering so the kitchen could still function during the day and his crew could start in the morning with an excavator  for the installation of the below ground grease trap and pipes,  saying the only acceptable location for the grease trap would be in the blacktop alley behind the kitchen.     Sashi Singh the dietary supervisor remained calm and collected taking the event in stride, her staff  utilizing paper plates, cups and disposable utensils for resident food service, the outside hot water outlet provided for cleaning the delivery carts was put in use to clean the cooking accoutrements.    Much to Gary’s surprise the project was completed in four days  including the installation of the  grease,  the project costing over $23,000.

Administrator Brad Kikuta

Administrator Brad Kikuta

 As Administrator Brad Kikuta never hesitated in displaying his appreciation to the 120 employees of  Colony Park.   During the spring, summer and fall Gary would wheel the two barbecue grills outside and he and Brad would grill hamburgers, hot dogs or tri-tips and chicken for the facility staff.  Sashi, the dietary supervisor would provide the salad, sides, drink and condiments, the night shift able to partake of left over’s, but also receiving delivered pizzas.  Gary and Brad volunteering to grill when social services provided outdoor lunch events for residences and attending family members.  Brad a reflection of accomplishment, a graduate of Fresno State, his Japanese family having their property confiscated,  interned for the duration of second world war.  Gary having experienced the stewardship of authority during his past years of employment but never had witnessed the leadership quality that Brad possessed.     Included beside management was Brad’s interest in the outward appearance of Colony Park, personally making trips to Home Depot to purchase flowers and roses bushes to acclaim the area beneath the windows of the residence room.  Gary bringing an idea to the attention of the administrator proposing a large gazebos for the grass center area of the circular drive in front of the building.  Brad concurring with the idea,  Gary starting a cost-effective search but unable to find a ready-made suitable gazebo putting forth a plan to build the structure himself.  With the purchase of the material he enabled his project,  Brad taking time to assist in the pouring of a concrete slab and the laying of a 24 inch wide stone  pathway  giving  access to the gazebos.  Gary wasn’t surprised when receiving a request for three more similar structures in the fenced-in resident patio area including the same stone presentations.

Sashi, Gary and Brenda

Sashi, Gary and Brenda

With the department supervisors involved in a diversified number of ongoing projects, quality assurance headed the list,  each department given a cover investigating assignment.  The supervisor would draw the name of a skilled nursing facility in Modesto,  visiting and introducing themselves as a friend or family member of a prospective resident,  inquiring and asking about a tour of the facility.   Upon completing the visit they file a written record of their assignment and during a meeting verbally critique the physical appearance, room cleanliness, kitchen and dining areas and social activities.  Other more interesting work related sessions included a 70 mile retreat to Jackson and the Jackson Rancheria Casino, the group caravaning by car for the lunch endowed meeting.  On another occasion a retreat to Columbia and the state park, Gary inviting Sashi Singh the dietary supervisor and Brenda Miller, medical records to travel with him,  the three stopping on their return, his workplace friends being introduced to his 87-year-old mother who lived a short distance from the park.   Gary’s ongoing responsibility at Colony Park although sometimes trying was never without challenge.

Mom at Columbia State Park

Mom at Columbia State Park

The 9:00 a.m. morning department supervisors meeting concluded,  all were to return at 11:00  for an in service presentation concerning the  alzheimer’s unit.  It wasn’t unusual to have a ‘all department’ in service, Gary having attended and logged hundreds of healthcare related contact hours from in services in the past 2o years.  The group assembled, the speaker introduced and as expected was a doctor,  but not a geriatric or psychiatric physician but a psychologist.  Gary’s interest coming to attention, the presentation was on the environmental shell that accompanies dementia and the onset of alzheimer’s.  He provided insight to actions that the caregivers can take and changes to the physical environment of their area,  giving example of a more home like atmosphere in the day room and  another example,  providing a cabinet beside each residents room entrance door,  the occupants having a shelf for some type of family memorabilia or pictures.  Gary mentioning his interest in the project, Brad suggesting he look into the cost and feasibility.  A search for a reasonable facsimile was nil,  everything even close was either too big or enclosed in glass which was an absolute no in the alzheimer’s wing. but  Gary wasn’t without a plan B,  when all else fails, build it yourself.   The project wasn’t that complex, traveling to Home Depot for the wood, Don’s Mobile Glass honing the 1/2 inch clear plastic for the front.  Nine 2 ft. x 3 ft. x 8in. boxes with a sliding plastic front cover plate, a shelf each for three residences, the cabinets finished with clear coat decorative trim.  Gary mounted the finished products with welcoming results and cataloguing it as all in day’s work.

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An Indelible Inscription……….#261 The 2000’s

December 9, 2011

Mr. & Mrs. – Sandra & Jeremy Birzer

A precipitous  surprise, Dad’s Princess, Gary’s daughter Sandra disclosing that she and Jeremy Birzer would soon be joined in  matrimony.   Gary was unaware of the seriousness of Sandra and Jeremy’s relationship, the lack of communication between father in California and daughter in Kansas  was always exigent, something to be improved on.   Jeremy,  a family amicus and Sandi’s brother Robert’s best friend through his proclaiming years of junior and senior high in Anthony Kansas.   Although living in Harper,  Jeremy was deemed special, the Willson’s on many occasions stopping in Harper so he could accompanying them on ventures to Wichita.    On one occasion Gary inviting the youth to join Robert and Sandra, introducing the three to the Wichita Symphony Orchestra at the Century II Concert Hall.  Gary was uninsured of their impression  but perceptive the orchestrated classical music was a ruminative experience for the youths.  On other occasions, finding Jeremy and Robert accompanying him to Wichita  making a juncture to stop at a certain specialty skateboard shop,  the two boys able to satisfy their selective aspirations to garnish their skateboard enthusiasm.

Jeremy Birzer

Jeremy Birzer

Sandra and Dad in front of the White House

Sandra and Dad in front of an illustrated White House

The elder Willson having acquainted Jeremy’s parents Joe and Marilyn Birzer,  finding them a very congeal couple and appreciative of his advocacy for the boy’s interest.    It wasn’t surprising the family found out after the fact,  Jeremy and Sandra abstaining from a formal announcement of the wedding,  the two affirming a small private service.  Jamie Johnson,  Sandra’s Cousin standing with her and Jeremy’s sister Corrine standing with her brother, the service conducted by the Rev. Jack Pilgrim on Sunday August 5, 2001,  the couple pronounced husband and wife.

Colony Park - a home away from home

Colony Park – a home away from home

Gary acknowledging Colony Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center Gary’s was an integral part of his life 24/7,  the environmental service & maintenance supervisor having to respond when called upon at all hours.   Gary found the least burdening element of his job was the scheduling of his 13 employees work days,  the challenging aspect was finding replacements when they would call in,  especially if given less than eight hours notice to fulfill their shift.   The most difficult position on short notice was in laundry, the morning person’s shift beginning at 5:00 a.m.,  Gary not appreciative of  receiving a late evening call,  the morning person saying that they would be unable to work.   He found from experience that calling a laundry employee at 10:00 p.m. and asking them to come in at 5:00 a.m. on their day off wasn’t too successful, the early morning would  find him in laundry at 5:00 a.m.   Donning the required gown and gloves,  sorting the diapers,  soiled linen and towels and personal clothing in individual barrel containers was first on the agenda.   Once accomplished he loaded the two 60 lb.capacity Unimac Washer Extractor, taking 50 minutes to complete their operation cycle.   Transferring the washed items to the three commercial dryers for completion, the folding process would  begin, transferred to a delivery cart..  The clean linen distributed to each of the four  hallways closet,  a non stop continuous cycle all this  done by a singular laundry person.  Gary was fortunate on these early morning call dates,  being the supervisor his 5:00 a.m. laundry duty most generally lasting till 8:00, the custodial and housekeeping staff arriving, volunteering to  help in laundry until he could convince someone to come in or the afternoon person arrived, but there were many times he had to pull the full shift.

The calls from the night shift nursing staff were frequent,  a suspicious person in the parking lot,  a smoke alarm going off  which almost always was a malfunction.    The alarm system would trigger ADT and the fire department, it was ADT’s responsibility to call the facility to determine if it was a real alarm event and to notify the fire department.  The problem being the night shift staff adhering to protocol, the procedure of inspection and the closing of all room doors and with the continuous sound of the alarm blaring most often neglecting to answer the phone,  the unanswered phone preventing ADT from notifying the Fire Department and halting their response to a false alarm.  Gary’s home phone would ring being listed as the contact person and was never ceased to be amazed at the ADT person in Phoenix Arizona calling and asking if this was a real alarm event at Colony Park.  Even if everything went according to protocol he still had respond,  no matter how many inservices he had given the charge nurses could never retain how to reset the alarm panel.

The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers

The Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001 was like most mornings for Gary,  a wake up shower and shave at 6:15 a.m.,  a cup of coffee and a piece of toast,  then the phone rang.   Gary’s wife Fran having spent the night at Columbia to start a dog sitting presence as his mother and sister were about to venture on a vacation later that day.   Gary’s mother on the phone,  exclaiming “they’re bombing New York City,  turn on the TV”.   Gary reassuring his mother that in all probability that was not so,  but would turn on his television.   The television projecting an unreal scene of devastation,  something unimaginable,  two planes having targeted the preeminent twin towers of the World Trade Center,  both upper stories of the two towers in flames.   Gary somewhat awe-struck making a phone call to the nursing facility,  giving notice that he would late for work and would not be available for the 9:00 o’clock department head meeting.

The aftermath of the Twin Towers

The aftermath of the Twin Towers

Seated before the television  watching in consternation the events unfolding before his eyes,  absorbing what had happened.   The first hijacked plane,  American Airlines flight 11 departing from Logan International in Boston to Los Angles having struck the north tower at 8:46 a.m. east coast time.   American Airlines Flight 175 from Logan International,  its destination also Los Angeles  plummeting into the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m..  Another shocking announcement,  American Airlines flight 77 from Washington Dulles Airport to Los Angles having  targeted and crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m..

Gary finding the televised live events unbelievable, watching the destruction of  the 110 storied monolithic buildings,  the World Trade Center,    its contents of  human life disappearing  before his eyes as the south tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m.   Then came word that a fourth plane had been hijacked,  flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco,  the plane coming down in Somerset County Pennsylvania,  the passengers apparently attempting to regain control from the hijackers.   At 10.28 a.m. the final affliction, the north tower of the World Trade Center falling to earth with the contents of the remaining  trapped inhabitants.  Viewing these live events were not without consequence,  Gary’s inward response was one solicitude,  the realization that a new era of terrorism having prevailed,  the once impervious America which he grew up in was now vulnerable to those who espoused enmity.   The events unfolding that morning coming to a conclusion,  Gary recognizing his workplace duties remained,  proceeded as most Americans,  to fulfilled their workplace obligations,  nevertheless the events of September 11, 2001 would remain an indelible inscription forever.

Mom and Tom Fleming

Mom and Tom Fleming

The May 11, 2002 phone call was not totally unexpected,  but the passing of someone special always has a meaningful impact,  especially when the someone is special to one’s mother.  Tom Fleming was special, a salt of the earth a man of perfection in every respect, Gary’s mother and Tom a unique couple that complimented each other, Tom having accomplished all of his life’s goals and Gary’s mother challenging him to new ones.   It was later that Tom developed a serious diabetic related illness which was a beckoning for Gary’s mother to take up residence in Manteca caring for her friend.  Gary and Fran no strangers having earlier visited Tom and mom in Manteca,  the couple and canine Sammi invited to spend the night, Tom generously taking them out to one if not the most premier supper clubs in Manteca.   With Tom’s passing a farewell service was held on May 16, Tom’s family and many friends assembling at the United Lutheran Church in Manteca.   Gary and Fran joining his Mother and sister Nancy  for Tom’s remembrance service, declining to subscribe to the 55 mile journey to Tom’s final resting at San Joaquin National Cemetery in Gustine,  Tom like Gary’s father having serviced in the Army during WWII .   Gary when seated at the service,  listened intently to the many eulogy accolades describing Thomas Fleming and when all was said he noted a most fitting descriptive word that was inadvertently overlooked, one that was right to the point in its depiction and that should have been shared,  “unselfish”.