Wednesday, 12 March 1986

Dear Mom and Dad,

I cannot believe it has been almost a month since I last wrote. I seem to be very busy, but I do not know what I am busy with. Even the computer has been on less recently. It is no wonder I have been getting less mail recently.

I do so much appreciate your letters. They do much for my morale. I understand that we have both spent many hours writing letters over the past 3 years. But please keep them coming for a few more months.

I spoke to my detailer in Washington yesterday. He said my orders are in the mail. I should get them later this week. We will get to leave this summer sometime. We will be going to Memphis.

It is now the tornado season in Arkansas. Watch out.

It rained here so much in February that there was a big mud slide from the mountain at the corner where the street turns to go by the base. In the typical Neapolitan way, they built a wall down the middle of the street after cleaning half of it up. It blocked traffic from leaving or getting to the base nearly all day. The wall is about 800 feet long and is still in place with no signs of being removed. It really causes a problem with traffic.

About the only news around here is that I did not go to Gaeta. On Friday afternoon (21 Feb) when I left work I was planning on going to Gaeta on Monday. Saturday afternoon I was informed that the command wanted me to go to Germany for a course instead.

Let us back up a little so that you can completely understand the story. I did not have to (or was not permitted to) stand the emergency room duty for the whole month of February. My certification in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) expired in January. The C.O. decided soon after he got here (about last May) that only those doctors who are ACLS-qualified would work in his ER. Well, the command goofed and let my certification expire. They did not offer the course, in other words. I thought it expired in February, but their records indicated it expired in January. Actually, I didn't worry about it much because I figured the course would be offered when I needed it, since several others would expire at the same time. The certification is good for 2 years. As it turned out I was the only ER doctor whose certification expired.

Of course, they acted like it was a major catastrophe. They sent a message to Washington to request that I be given a waiver until they could offer the course. The request was approved and the first ER duty I was to have after this was the Friday before I was to go to Gaeta. Well, just before I left to go to the hospital for duty, they called to say stay home. They had received a new message from London.

The new message said that the ER in Naples could only be staffed by doctors who were both ACLS certified and ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support) certified. They really acted like a catastrophe had happened. Two of their six ER doctors were not ATLS certified, and only two other doctors were certified in both. I have never been ATLS certified and never really cared to be. I thought the test would be too hard, so I never desired to take it.

As part of this story, Mike Spieker had gone to Germany on Tuesday (18 Feb) that week to take the course in Wiessbaden. When he got there, he found out that the course had been rescheduled and moved to the following week in Landstuhl. He stayed in Germany (like a vacation) for over a week so that he could take the course in Landstuhl. At least his wife was with him the first week. The hospital in Naples really goofed in sending him to a course that didn't exist. This was quite a waste of government money. Of course at first they told him he would have to stay at his own expense and take leave. He was quick to point out that it was their mistake and they could take the responsibility for it.

Anyway, back to me, I did not get the book for the course until Monday. Then I ended up being the only doctor at the clinic on Monday all day. So, I had to work ten hours that day, when I didn't plan on going in to the clinic at all that morning. I considered just going in to the base that morning to start working on getting my tickets. I figured that they wouldn't have any of the paper work done that early and went to the clinic to work an hour. No other doctor showed up. I told them they shouldn't expect me to pass the course if they didn't give me some time to read the book.

I flew to Frankfurt on Wednesday (26 Feb). Then, I had to figure out for myself how to get to Landstuhl. I took the trains. I was just lucky, and smoothly made connections. It was really confusing in the airport in Frankfurt where the tickets for the train can only come from a machine. There was no one to help. The office that prepared my orders gave me no information on how to get to Landstuhl. I don't especially like trips where I am so unprepared.

Everything went just fine after I got to the hospital in Landstuhl. After getting to the BOQ I quickly found Mike Spieker there. It was much nicer to have someone to visit with while in Germany. The classroom was very cold but otherwise we both had a good time.

There was about two inches of snow on the ground that was like solid ice. It was VERY cold compared with Naples. It has seemed almost hot here ever since I got back. Indeed the weather is pretty nice here now. I noticed that fruit trees were starting to blossom yesterday.

The ATLS course in Germany was hard since they try to cram all this information into just two days. We even had a lab with live, anesthetized sheep that we used for practice. That part was the most fun. I did read the whole book and studied till 1:30 the night before the test. Mike hardly opened the book. He had taken the test before and was convinced he would pass. I was afraid I would return to Naples disgraced (though it was tempting to fail the course so I wouldn't have to work the ER any more). Anyway, I made the highest score in the class. I only missed one of the 54 questions. The certification is for 3 years, I think.

Friday night, after passing the course Mike and I went to this "wonderful" restaurant he had been to before. It was good, but turned out to be an Italian restaurant. The owner and waitress spoke Italian, so we ordered in Italian. We had been getting our meals at the officers' club and the hospital cafeteria. I didn't eat a single German meal the whole time I was there. I picked up some hamburgers at McDonald's at the airport in Frankfurt on the way home. We had them for supper Saturday night. The kids thought I must have gone to heaven and brought them a piece back.

The other things that have happened around here are just routine.

Jeannie went to a course on an opera this past weekend. We are both going to the opera "The Merry Widow" on Friday, 21 March. The tickets are $30 each. This had better be really good. I didn't want to let Jeannie go without me and the seats are supposed to be so much better than what we had here before.

I am supposed to take the ACLS course in Naples the last week of this month.

Last Saturday night I asked Steven if he wanted to say the prayer before we ate and he said, "No, I said it last year." Even Angelique got a big chuckle from that.

Angelique seems to be doing a lot better in school. I don't know what has motivated her. She actually got a note from Miss Angelo that said she was pleased that the work was being done and done well. Without doubt, Angelique is the best reader in the first grade (but "not the best worker," as Angelique puts it). She talks like she is the best student in her math class.

This morning I couldn't get my car started. It is still at the base. I left the key and instructions with someone at the hospital. It should be fixed by tomorrow. Jeannie had to come in and get me. She barely got home in time for her ladies' Bible class.

I very much would like a copy of the book On the Road with Charles Kuralt, published by G. P. Putnam. I read a review about it and it sounds really good. Let me know if you can find it and how much it cost or send it for my birthday. 22 cent stamp of Arkansas State House - 1986

Thank you for the Arkansas stamps. Please let me know if you do not find a check for $22 enclosed.

I am also sending the pictures of the kids. Angelique's picture was taken a few months ago. We had great problems with Steven's picture. He had a good picture made at Pony Palace, but the sizes and shapes were weird and we said we would not accept them. The 5 x 7's and the 8 x 10 were turned the wrong way. The photographer said that the lab refused to correct this even at the photographer's expense. So Jeannie finally got Steven down to the base to get a picture made there.

Girl Scout Cookies - March 1986
'mmm ... mint.'
Everyone looks pleased with the first official Girl Scout cookie tasting of the season. Brownie Scouts Angelique Cole and Katie Sullivan (right) brought hospital patient ACC Jack Lutsch some chocolate mints, and soon the whole box was gone. U.S. Naval Hospital Commanding Officer Capt. R. B. Halder and his wife Marilyn (standing) wanted to sample some cookies, too. Local Girl Scouts began their cookie sale Monday. (Photo by JO1 Melanie Morrell)

The newspaper photo is from the last Panorama (the base newspaper) [7 Mar 1986]. It was taken while I was in Germany. Angelique got out of school to do it. She was really excited about it. Katie Sullivan is one of her best friends and only lives two blocks from us.

Angelique sold all 51 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in less than 24 hours. There are many still begging her to get some more.

On 21 February, I went with the ambulance, a P.A., and 2 corpsmen to an apartment above the clinic where a woman and her 11-year-old daughter had just been found dead. We just looked and left. I thought the police needed to examine the place before moving the bodies. It looked most like the mother had killed the daughter and then committed suicide. The autopsies have not given any idea how either of them died. It looked a little like they had died from a gas leak, but that was ruled out as well. It was a scene that I will long remember.

John Sigle called us later the same Saturday that you did. His mother died about 15 Feb. He was taking it very well. His father had come to their house for a couple of weeks.

The circuses in Europe are performed like they were started here in Europe. They are longer and more varied than in the States.

If you can't find the book for my birthday, or can't think of anything else, I would like a computer program called "States and Traits" by DesignWare (I think). I cannot find it here. It is by the same company who wrote "The Body Transparent" which is a really good program.

I can't believe Northside needs a full-time, paid educational director.

I still have not received the forms from the Library of Congress to copyright my Bible programs. It has been nearly two months since I wrote. John has had no success finding anyone to market the diskettes yet. I wrote to Herald of Truth and asked their assistance. I told them they could have all the profits.

Diane's baby is due in mid-April. Her name is Melissa Ann. Jeannie keeps buying every baby thing she sees it seems. Diane is doing fine.

I should write more often so I wouldn't have to spend so long writing such long letters. I have little else to tell. I need to write John and Faye a letter now. (I will just edit this one.)

John sent 30 diskettes and asked for some programs. I copied 32 for him in return. I need to get them ready to mail.

I still need to get my income tax done. I got a program to do it just last week. The program does not work very well because it still is not done. I guess I will have to put some information into the computer to get it to work. Too bad it won't do ALL the work.

I bought Jeannie's mother a cuckoo clock while in Germany. We have finally given up all hope that her folks will come.

We are still planning to go to Holland the end of next month to visit some missionary friends that we went to college with.

Last week Jeannie and I watched Phil Donahue where he had the woman on that had sued the church in Collins, OK. The show was a bit depressing. The audience never did understand what the church's reason was for it. They had a very good minister on from Getwell church of Christ in Memphis.

I took a break from writing and went upstairs to watch "Pinocchio" with the kids. Jeannie brought the tape home today from the tape club. She wrote Faye a letter while it was on.

Take care. Watch out for tornadoes and thunderstorms. Right now we are eager to return to that danger. See you this summer!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lots of love,

Michael, Jeannie,
Angelique, and Steven

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