Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year to all: friends and acquaintances alike; bloggers, lurkers, commenters and browsers. I wish for each of you a 2009 calender of pages with more good things than bad. May you accomplish most, if not all, of your goals, both short and long term for the coming turn on the wheel-of-time.

Appropriate to begin a new year, I think, is to turn one's head, look back and reflect on the year just ended.

A year, like a life, has a beginning and an end. This theme has been the seed of many a song, essay, movie, and play. Perhaps one of the most eloquent presentations was put forth in Ecclesiastes: "To every thing there is a season....... "

On New Year's eve, we were watching one of the news channels and they showed a video of the famous and recognizable individuals who got off the wheel in 2008: Ertha Kitt, Paul Newman, Charleton Heston and so on. And I was reminded again, as I am every time a death of someone I know or knew of exits this plane, of the impermanence of an individual life.

The Ogdensburg Journal's back page, yesterday, carried a snippet of an obit that evoked more emotion from me than any other in the past year. It read:
Bernadette Sovie
Funeral arrangements for Bernadette Sovie, 89, formerly of Ogdensburg, are incomplete with the Frary Funeral Home, Ogdensburg.
She died Tuesday (Dec. 30, 2008) at Fairport Baptist Nursing Home, Rochester.
A complete obituary will appear in Friday's edition of The Journal.

Three sentences, forty words that lept off the page blaring at me: A candle which burned for 89 turns of the wheel, has been extinguished.

Fourteen years old, laying on the operating room table in OR #7, I was about to go to sleep and have my "nearly ruptured" appendix removed by Dr. Robert Longren. As the nurse anesthetist, at the head of the table, was injecting sodium pentothol into a vein in my left arm, she talked to me soothingly and reassured me that she would stay with me and keep me safe through the operation. The last thing I remember before unconsciousness consumed me was the anesthetist asking me about my newspaper route.

That nurse anesthetist's name was Bernadette Sovie. The year was 1959. Bernadette was forty years old.

Ten years later I was hired by this same hospital as an operating room registered nurse.

I worked with Bernadette for one year, observing and assisting her as, with unsurpassed skill, compassion and TLC, she guided thousands of patients through the dark hours of their surgeries. She allayed their fears and brought them safely to the recovery room. This was at a time when the administering of anesthesia was much more dangerous than it is today, when the only monitoring devices were a finger on the pulse and a manual B/P cuff.

When I expressed to her a desire to follow in her footsteps, Bernadette took me under her wing and mentored me, providing me with anesthesia literature and copies of her anesthesia association's journals. She was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career as a nurse anesthetist.

In March of 1975, after anesthesia school and U. S. Army pay-back, I returned to A.Barton Hepburn Hospital as a CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist), and joined their anesthesia department: Dr. Paul Campanella, Bernadette, and Van LaVigne.

Over the next ten years I came to know Bernadette as only a friend and co-worker can know a person. As a woman, she exhibited kindness and love, giving generously of both time and money to her community, her church, and her hospital's yearly appeals for donations. She spoiled her nieces and nephews as only an aunt is allowed to do. Everyone knew Bernadette Sovie. She administered her craft in her home town, so that it's easy to say that her patients were most often her friends, parents of her friends, friends of her parents, children of her friends, children of her friend's children, neighbors, and occasionally a visitor from out of town.

Bernadette was Hepburn Hospital's premiere nurse anesthetist. She set a standard for anesthesia excellence that has yet, to this day, to be exceeded. She was at the top of her game to the day that she retired. All who have come after her can only hope to equal her skill and commitment to the safe and caring administration of anesthesia.

L-R: Van LaVigne CRNA, Jeff Doyle MD, Bernadette Sovie CRNA, Steve Cole CRNA, rel CRNA
circa 1985, at Bernadette's retirement party. (At the Woodlands)

I said at her retirement party and on many occasions since, "I hope that when I'm Bernadette's age I can say that I've maintained my excellence to a degree equal to her."

I'm at that age today, and while I hesitate to say that I've attained equality with the standard that Bernadette set, I am confident that she'd be pleased with my exercise of her craft.


Some years after her retirement, probably ten or so years ago, I had the opportunity to administer an anesthesia to Bernadette. During her pre-op interview with me we reminisced about old times and shared friends and co-workers. Although I'd been forewarned by Gerry Montroy RN, I'd yet to meet the fellow who had begun to accompany Bernadette every where she went. That day of the interview I met him. He was right there with her but she barely noticed him. It didn't take me long to recognise him. His name is Al. His full name is Al Z. Heimer. He is a despicable character; a thief, a stealer of memories. And without our memories, who are we?

A short time after this, Bernadette went to live near those same nieces and nephews upon whom she'd showered all that love and affection throughout her life.

Bernadette stepped off the wheel after 89 turns, to go to her reward in the heaven she believed in. She left a legacy of love, compassion, caring and excellence in a job well done.
That any of us can do so well!

Ecclesiastes 3-22:
Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

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14 Comments:

Blogger JP/deb said...

What a beautiful tribute to a life lived well. May the blessings of heaven surround you dear Bernadette. And may the blessings of this life continue to surround you dear Rel as you move forward in 2009! Much peace & love, JP/deb

2:11 PM  
Blogger willow said...

Lovely tribute to Bernadette, Rel.

Hope you and yours enjoyed the day.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Angel Feathers Tickle Me said...

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HAPPY NEW YEAR

1:20 AM  
Blogger Catch said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:42 AM  
Blogger Catch said...

what a beautiful story rel....she had a long and happy life and what more can any of us ask for??

ps..thanks for the card!! I enjoyed it!

1:43 AM  
Blogger bonniew said...

Your memories of Bernadette touched me. Better than todays obit. She was a wonderful lady. PS I like your white hair and stash better!

9:55 AM  
Blogger jason evans said...

Thank you for introducing me to Bernadette.

Happy New Year to you and yours, Rel.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Churlita said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post. What a way to start the year.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Puss-in-Boots said...

What a beautifully written memory about a remarkable woman, Rel. Bloody Alzheimer's, I wish something could be done about it. That's my one fear about getting older...so far, so good...no signs yet, well not that I'm aware of, anyway.

It's so sad to hear of someone so compassionate, intelligent and caring being afflicted by this awful disability...yet it happens so often now.

All the best for 2009, Rel and may we all learn to live in peace and harmony.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Angel Feathers Tickle Me said...

I took the time to read your post today. It was a wonderful tribute.

1:59 AM  
Anonymous JML said...

I read your tribute to my Mother who is 88 and knew Bernadette. She said it should be in Chuckie's Journal. So nice and a wonderful tribute. Beats any of the usual items we read in the paper. Keep up the good work. I enjoy your blog.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Tammy said...

What a beautiful woman who touched so many. I wish that obit could have said more.

Did you take that picture? WOW

May 2009 bring you much joy and love. XXOO

3:45 PM  
Blogger bonniew said...

Are you going to moonlight now for the OJ?

9:43 AM  
Blogger Remiman said...

Bonnie,
Do you think I have any future in journalism? ;-)
REL

9:50 AM  

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