Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Music of Christmas in Atchison County

It’s Christmastime in Atchison County, which means it’s more awesome than normal. Storefronts are alight with sparkly wonder, Main Streets display red and gold and green, homes and trees are strung with lights…even without my beloved snow covering the ground, Christmas is here.

In Atchison County, the music of Christmas isn’t restricted to choirs and congregations on Sunday mornings. School children sing Silent Night and Away in a Manger and Santa Claus is coming to town. The county courthouse plays hymns and carols on the hour. I live in a place where O Holy Night and Santa, nativity scenes and reindeer, Linus telling the Christmas story and the Grinch and his heart, are all welcome and celebrated.

Take a moment to consider how blessed we are to live here, where we can raise children who honor the divine miracle of the first Christmas AND believe in the wonder of Santa and his elves.

It is my hope and prayer that your heart is full this Christmas season. In case you need some help focusing on the wonder and goodness of this most wonderful time of the year, I’ll share this song with you that has been played in my vehicle approximately 47 times this month…

The Music of Christmas
Steven Curtis Chapman

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With th’ angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

There’s a man who stands in the cold wind tonight,
And he greets everyone passing by with a smile and a ringing bell;
And the song that he’s playing, is his own way of saying:
Love is here, it’s the music of Christmas.

And there’s a lady who sits all alone with her thoughts,
And the memories of all that she’s lost, when she hears a sound at her door,
And a song comes to find her, as a gentle reminder:
Love is here, it’s the music of Christmas.

So listen, listen with your heart
And you will hear a song in the laughter of a child.
Oh won’t you listen for the sound of hope,
And you will hear the music of Christmas,
For the music of Christmas is love.

So light the fire, tell the family to gather around,
And the walls will echo the sound of memories that are and will be;
And their voices, like a chorus, will sing it so sweetly for us;
Love is here, it’s the music of Christmas.

Long ago, a baby was born in the night,
And as He let out His very first cry, the sound was bringing hope alive.
Stars were shining, angels singing; All heaven and earth was ringing:
Love is here, this is the music of Christmas.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Part 2 of 2: Band Aids, Babies and History

(Read the first post if you haven't at Part 1)

Government changes, technological additions, the coming home of physicians like Dr. Burke and the passing or moving away of other long time physicians, have defined the last 20 years at CH-F. In 2010, a new facility was built and the hospital moved away from the building that had been home to 60 years of healthcare in Atchison County.

The supporters of CH-F are a dedicated and loyal group. Just in the last five years, a capital campaign was established to support the new building. The goal was 1.5 million and donations were last reported to be nearing $2.2 million.

Despite a history of devout support, small town hospitals face many challenges. There is often the feeling that everything is better an Interstate’s drive away. Somehow, the nurses, techs and family practice physicians know more if they work in a 3 story building. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this beloved hospital called a band aid station or an ambulance stop on the way to the place where you can get “real” care.

Having spent five days a week in this building for the last 3.5 years, I can testify to the heroes that make up the team of rural healthcare providers that take care of me, my family and my community. Rural healthcare is a specialty. Not one of the techs, nurses or physicians I work with show up to work and take care of one kind of patient each day. On any given day, an RN in this building can help deliver a baby, respond to a code on a heart attack or take care of a port for a cancer patient.  Our physicians do not send our patients to the next building over for c-sections or scopes. They do not call the ER doc when an emergency arises. They respond and save lives.

Just like your local grocery store, we can’t do everything in a cost effective manner. Our goal is not to be the Mayo clinic, but instead to provide the most services we can in a safe manner. Just this month, we added a digital mammogram, scoped our first knee and added a radiological group that will bring many new procedures to Fairfax.

Beyond the services, I am often struck by the enormity of the responsibility on the shoulders of the healthcare providers in this building. I can say with certainty that I can’t imagine being the person responsible for so many lives in a completely healthcare isolated area. Thankfully, the team of healthcare providers in this hospital knows when to take care of someone and they also know when they can’t. That knowledge gives me the confidence to put my life, that of my children and family in their very capable hands knowing that they’ll do the best for me.
The best endorsement a hospital can get is from the community it serves.  I’d say that 60 years of support from a community that knows a good thing when they see it is…well that is pretty much ringing isn’t it?

So there you go. If you didn’t get enough bragging in your mailbox today, read this. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Part 1 of 2: Band Aids, Babies and History

 This week's post is split into two parts. I hope you will humor me as I recount a bit of history this week and tell the "rest of the story" next week....

I enjoy writing Christmas letters. I try not to brag too much about my perfect husband (yes he does the cooking and grocery shopping), my exceedingly good looking and talented children (yes Aaron is so good at math that he started balancing my checkbook, Lizzie is so social she can make friends with a lamppost and Josh is talking so much he nearly gave the sermon at church last Sunday), but…well, you can tell that putting a limit on my boastfulness is a bit of a challenge.

In all the letters I’ve written over the last 10 years, I usually spare a sentence or two for my job to let my friends and family who couldn’t believe I majored in Political Science know that I am gainfully employed. I doubt I will write a Christmas letter this year, but if I did I think I would write this about my job:
I work at Community Hospital-Fairfax (CH-F.) It is an 18 bed critical access hospital located in Fairfax, MO. CH-F was established in 1949 by a group of community members that sold $100 shares to their friends and neighbors to establish a hospital.

November 29, 1946 Fairfax Forum announcement on front page: local group seeking $110,000 to build a hospital in Fairfax. Shares will sell for $110 a share. Volunteers canvas city and county asking for subscribers and promising 8% return. Subscribers are asked not to consider just financial gains, but to consider it an investment in the health of the county. A meeting is held at the school on November 29 where $83,600 was raised.

By December 13, 112,530 had been raised. Article reads “so popular was the idea of building hospital in Fairfax, that many subscribers invited solicitors to call back if more money was needed. Petty differences were forgotten and all worked for the success of the drive.” By December 20, more than $115,000 was raised. By Dec. 27, an attorney was hired, articles of incorporation and bylaws were drafted.

Petty differences were put aside...pretty cool, huh?

November 7, 1949, Fairfax Forum: Fairfax Community Hospital, a 34 bed facility, opened for service November 7.  Some twenty-five persons and organizations furnished rooms with donations.  Three thousand people attended the Open House. 

The good times rolled at CH-F. 900 babies were born by the 5 year anniversary, Dr. Bare, Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Humphrey, Dr. Neidermeyer and Dr. Wanamaker were mainstays on the medical staff and in 1964 the hospital announced that it was entirely debt free despite several major additions since its opening in 1949.

In 1970, changes in the way that healthcare payments were made quickly changed the financial situation at the hospital. An emergency plea was made and residents of the local community pulled funds together to raise $123,000 in a few weeks. The January of 1971 addition of the Fairfax Forum details a community meeting:

 “President Ralph Hackett called the meeting to order. Days of strain and weeks of sleepless nights showed in his face, as he took the floor to give an account of the situation…..He frankly stated that the institution could not continue operation unless money was raised to pay outstanding bills and retire part of the indebtedness against the new addition opened in Sept. 1969…..His voice cracked as he related how one widow woman came to him following the meeting and said she wanted no pay for the month, she was willing to contributed that. Her job is her only means of support. Others have expressed similar intentions”

So strongly did the community feel about saving the hospital that the Fairfax Forum actually ran a front page article threatening to print the names of the people who owed the hospital money on the front page! The community again rose to the occasion raising the funds to keep the hospital operating and by the late 70s early 80s another addition was completed for the hospital and Dr. James Hunter joined the Medical Staff.

In the 1984 35th Anniversary Edition of the Fairfax Forum, Dr. Neidermeyer is quoted as remembering “One of my most vivid memories of an emergency situation caused by the rupture of a pregnant patient’s uterus. This rarely happens and is frequently fatal to mother and child. In this instance, we did an immediate emergency Caesarean Section, and saved both mother and child. In 35 years of serving people in Northwest Missouri, I’ve been increasingly aware of the subtle differences that can influence health or sickness and even life and death.

Stay tuned for next week.......I know you are on the edge of your seat!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Years Challenge - a little early

According to my calculations, we’re almost 6 months into this blog dedicated to sharing stories about our corner of Missouri, stories that celebrate the awesomeness of living in Atchison County.

Ann & I have enjoyed coordinating and writing so far, and we look forward to many, many more months. As rewarding and worthwhile the process is for us as regular contributors, sometimes we struggle because ideas that seem great to us feel a little clich├ęd. Small town customer service is the best, harvest is beautiful, neighbors are friends…many of the topics we’ve posted so far could be fodder for the next cheesy wonderful Hallmark movie. But while every day isn’t sunshine and puppies around here, and while we are aware of our challenges, the fact is that the positive spin on our stories isn’t spin at all – it’s the truth. There is good to be found in Atchison County, and by purposefully focusing on what’s worth celebrating, we find ourselves celebrating more.

There’s a lot of love and encouragement ‘round these parts. We get positive feedback about this blog from church ladies, family friends we bump into in the grocery store, buddies who live states away, and, of course, parents and siblings, the most biased of all readers. We appreciate every response, and we are touched when something that comes from our collective ‘pen’ resonates with you.

Recently someone said that the blog inspires her, a comment that has come to my mind numerous times as I’ve read back through our conversation. I thought about it when I read Ann’s post the other week about the women who taught her how to be a leader. I thought about it when I read comments about Doug Summa and the impact he’s had on our community and county. I thought about it when I read the posts by a couple of beloved pastors. I thought about it when I read the stories of professionals returning home to live and work and lead. I thought about it again when I read a recent post from Julie Hurst’s blog about church ladies, and her critically important question: who will replace them?

Things are good here because of the people we are surrounded by, those who lead groups and model values and actively participate in this county. I’m asking myself this question even as I am asking you: what are you doing to contribute to the good of Atchison County? How are you passing on what you learned from your grandparents, parents, Sunday School teachers and Scout leaders about integrity and leadership and kindness to the next generation?

One of the benefits of living in such a small county is that it's not difficult to find an opportunity to do good or leave a legacy. So, go enjoy everything this most wonderful time of the year has to offer, but in the meantime, spend some time considering what you love most here or what you'd like to see made better.

And in January, rather than swearing to eat celery and grapefruits the rest of your life, make a commitment that will last longer, maybe even a generation or two. Get involved. Do something. Ready, set....go!