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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sophomore Year: Major Change

Just after Mid-Term Exams, Joyce dropped a revolutionary idea into our dinnertime conversation; I could hear the screeching of brakes on my academic track.

“Have you ever thought about changing schools or career paths?”

“Yeah, I already did, remember? That’s what’s got me tied to chemistry labs until I feel like acid is a normal aromatic scent for any atmosphere.”

“No, I don’t mean a change in majors; I mean a major change. A new school. A whole new type of training. In fact, I mean a totally new city and State.” Hmmm, I was never that fond of change but new adventures, on the other hand… I loved adventure.

“No, I have to say, such a thing had never crossed my mind. Changing majors was a major change for me. I am just not a change kind of person, you know.”

“Well, listen to this and keep an open mind. Will you do that, at least?” I agreed that I would, at least, hear her out.

Apparently she had a friend who was training to be an ex-ray technician… officially called Radiologic Technician, R.T. I assumed that there were a lot of such programs in hospitals all over America, and likely even in one of the hospitals in this very city. Joyce didn’t mention it and I didn’t ask. The program she was so excited about was located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The training would be done in a local hospital, with classes and practical experience going on at the same time. That way the students saw the application of what the class work was teaching them. There was even the opportunity to earn an Associate of Arts Degree by taking extension courses from the University of Colorado. (We could apply whatever university credits we earned to those already accumulated at our present university.)  Should the student complete the two-year course, he would be allowed to write the licensing examination. Passing the exam would allow them to qualify for employment as a Registered R.T.(R.R.T.) in any x-ray department of any medical facility.

“This sounds like an interesting proposition here. I wouldn’t mind getting to actually do something besides sit in lectures and work on lab experiments. But, where would we live? Do you know anyone in Colorado Springs?” I don’t remember asking her why Colorado Springs; guess I figured the presence of an Army Post plus the Air Force Academy… all those guys… may have already said it all!

“That’s not a problem. They have an old nurses’ dormitory where the students can stay. We can eat our meals in the hospital cafeteria and there’s even an underground tunnel that connects the dorm with the hospital so we don’t have to go outside in bad weather.”

“Not sure we want to be living with those old nurses but, let’s check into it.” Joyce let me know that it was the building that was old, not the nurses, who, in fact, didn’t live there anymore.

We finished the Fall Quarter, packed up our little apartment so someone else could enjoy renting it, and headed for Christmas with our families. All of the necessary paperwork had been completed and our uniform aprons and cap shipped to our parents’ home.

Yes, I said cap. Back in 1969, nurses weren’t the only female hospital employees wearing those cutesy white caps. To identify the specific field of service, the white caps in the hospital had a variety of colored stripes. For example, as a general rule all over America, the nurses (RN) had a thin black stripe either around the top of the white cap or vertically along one end. Student nurses had another color, such as blue but that depended on the specific hospital; not all used blue for their students. As for the x-ray department? When the course was finished and the student licensed as an R.R.T., there was a thin golden stripe, place vertically on the end flap of the cap. Those of us just beginning had to wear the cap but had no stripe of color anywhere on it.

We didn’t have to put starch in our white buttoned blouses but the white uniform aprons were quite stiff, crackling when we walked. Now, don’t picture Mom’s pretty multi-colored kitchen apron with the tie at the back. Those in Europe may already have the right kind of apron in mind, as such aprons are commonly seen in their hospitals, but I had never seen such an apron before this experience. It had the usual bib-like front thing, but, then, all along the middle of the back, buttons joined the apron... lots of buttons. Of course, it had a number of pockets in the front. We had to wear white nylons and shoes, too.

Fortunately, my mother was an excellent seamstress because the aprons needed a bit of adjustment before being ready to wear. We had been advised to have the uniform buttons exchanged for something that could be taken off for laundering. The hospital would launder our white aprons, adding the prescribed amount of starch, but the aprons had to have the buttons removed because the heat of the laundry’s press melted them off. Never heard of that, but, okay. Off came the buttons. My mother made button holes where the buttons had been and a special connection thing was used to join the two sides of the apron. We had to remember to remove these little closures before each trip to the laundry, being careful to replace each of them in the proper button holes before walking out the door in a clean apron.

We were slated to begin just after New Years Day. I gave Curt the “Man of the year” award for his sacrificial efforts on getting me to Colorado Springs on time. In order to do this, it cost him the American man’s traditional New years day celebration… an entire day of football games. He didn’t see a single one that January 1st… and not a word of grumbling, either. While his friends were hunkered down in front of the television, with all kinds of delightful snacks and beverages, Curt was driving me hundreds of miles away on winter roads. What a trooper!

One verse from Proverbs 16 could have been printed on a banner over the first six months of my 1969.

“A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”(Proverbs 16:9)

My only reason to move to Colorado Springs was to take this x-ray technician’s course. I had no other agenda. I could have taken the same course in so many places all over the States; I had no particular reason for going to Colorado Springs. Well, it would take a few months before I knew why the Springs; but, quite simply, the answer was that God had plans for me. Those plans would be set in motion from Colorado Springs. My life would never be the same again!

****Have a terrific weekend!

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