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“My god, she used to be so thin...”
by Don Drewniak

I was running low on money late into my sophomore year in college. Thanks to one of my professors, Dr. “Jumping Joe” Reardon, I secured a job working three nights a week (11pm-7am) at a local Catholic hospital. I chose the night shift because it paid an extra twenty-five cents an hour, bringing my earnings to $1.45/hour. That is the equivalent of $14.03/hour as of this writing. Big money back then.

The nearly two years in which I worked at the hospital as an orderly proved to be quite an education, especially since I worked in a medical ward. Upwards of a dozen people died while I was on duty ranging from a fourteen-year-old boy to a woman in her mid-90s. However, more often than not, I saw people recover and smiling as they prepared to go back to their homes.

I was always the only male on duty with a head nurse, a support nurse (sometimes two), two or three student nurses and a nurse’s aide.

The head nurse with whom I worked most often, Marie Victor, was five years older than me, about five-four in height, slender and attractive. We became good friends. Whenever things were quiet and she knew that I had classes a couple of hours after the shift ended, she let me sleep in one of the broom closets. (No, she never joined me.)

I left the job during my senior year as I had saved enough money to carry me through to graduation. Marie and I hugged as I left my shift for the final time.

The years passed. I was in my late 40s and running between forty to sixty miles per week. I ran a point-to-point 5-mile race on a Thanksgiving morning in the early 1990s. The last mile was a predominantly steep downhill and I ran it full throttle. That proved to be a mistake as the pounding took its toll.

My wife, my daughter (home from college for Thanksgiving) and I were watching an episode of Seinfeld that evening. I got up to grab a beer during a commercial. As I did so, there was an audible cracking sound and a brief sharp pain in my left knee. I iced the knee, downed a couple of aspirin and took the next day off from running.

I returned to my regular training schedule following the day off. While there was constant pain during the runs, it was minor and I tried to convince myself that it was a strain of some sort that would heal itself. Some three months later while near the end of an eight-mile run with a friend, the knee gave way. There was a loud cracking sound and a knife-stabbing pain in the left knee. Down I went.

An MRI revealed that I had a double tear in the meniscus, a cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone. It was off to surgery a week or two later. Fortunately, it was arthroscopic surgery that was done at an out-patient facility. I was given the option of having a local anesthetic or being put under.

I preferred to have the local so that I could watch the procedure on an overhead television monitor. However, a female anesthesiologist convinced me to do otherwise when she said that a local often caused males not to be able to urinate following the surgery, and that a Foley catheter might have to be inserted. I viewed several Foley catheter insertions during my time working at the hospital. With that, I told her, “Knock me out.” And so she did.

I have no remembrance of the following. My wife has told this tale innumerable times since the day of the surgery. According to her, she was standing on one side of the recovery bed and a nurse was on the other.

As I supposedly came out of anesthesia, I looked at my wife and slurred, “Hi, honey.”

I then looked at the nurse and stared at her name badge which read, “Marie.”

“Marie, Marie Victor?”

“Yes, Don, it’s me.”



From there (again, according to my wife), I babbled for a minute or two before Marie said, “You will be up and about starting tomorrow morning.” She then walked away.

In a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone in the room (again, according to my wife), I yelled, “My god, what happened to her? She used to be so thin and now she looks like an elephant.”