Summertime…..

Here we are, on the cusp of summertime and so begins the rains.  We’ve been lucky thus far that its rained only at night so far; but I’m sure the normal afternoon monsoons will start soon.

My son & I have been looking at new places to live and we may have found one.  We shall have to wait and see if all goes well.  It’s been a tough couple of weeks with us finding, then viewing, then finding more places and viewing, in a seemingly endless cycle of disappointments.

What has made these trips worse has been the fact that my ear infections have progressed to the “worse” stage and my vertigo is strongly asserting itself into my life and causing me intense dizziness to the point of severe nausea.  Not even sea sickness bands or tablets have provided any relief at all.  It’s a nightmare.  My only hope is that next week, when the ENT places tubes in my ears, it will help.

My son passed his driving test today, so he’s finally street legal.  Finally got an appt with the advisor at the college.  Looking good for the scholarship to pay for it and we’re working toward being settled into a new place before he starts in August.

Today’s prize was that everything seemed to be going our way.  I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Ha, ha.

The places we looked at today:  first one a total bust.  Bad neighborhood, duplex, small and not a good place for the pups to live.  Not happy with it at all.  The second place was nice.  Spacious, nice flooring, good neighborhood, quaint, great fenced back yard for the pups and we both agreed we like it.

Cons:  Needs washer, dryer, microwave and  chicken wire for the fence.  The fence is a nice wooden one; but my baby, Honi, could slip right between the slats, so we’ll have to put up some chicken wire, about 2 feet from the ground up, to prevent her from escaping.  There are 6 foot privacy fences on both neighbor’s sides.  Not a bad little place.  I can see the potential of me building up the landscape in the back yard.  The yard is just big enough for us to let the pups out for their thing and for any BBQ we may want to do out their.

However, with all the things I need to do for the place, which isn’t a whole lot, I look forward to doing them.  I also need to do some more packing.  I’ve gone and reduced the number of storage tubs I’ve had in the garage and added a bunch more stuff to the donation boxes.  My craft room will be my biggest challenge; but I’m up to it.

I’ve been looking at storage solutions, room ideas, decorating ideas and more, just wanting to change things up a bit.  I look forward to the challenges.  Of course, my son has many friends who have volunteered to assist us with the move and I am grateful that they’re on board with helping us out.  I definitely couldn’t do it without them.

Last Friday, we went to see Incredibles 2 with one of my son’s friends.  Not bad for a sequel.  It’s great how they will only produce quality stories. I’ve heard that Cars 2 is crap; but since I didn’t care for Cars to begin with, I never watched the other 2 they put out.  Anyway, we laughed so hard at the humor and cheered on the supers before going home satisfied with the movie.

My partner at church will be gone for the last two weeks of July and first two weeks  of August, so I’ll be “THE” AV gal.  My son will take care of the sound portion and we’ll work as a team.

This past week, I watched as our drummer, (the man who had a stroke back in October, whom my son was subbing for) playing like his old self.  So great to see where God took him in his health care journey.  We are all so grateful that he is back in the band and my son will be his “sub” when he can’t make it in.  Such a blessing.  God is so good! ❤

Our Pastor was able to come back to church on Saturday as well.  He’s been out the last two weeks with stomach issues that seem to be resolving.  YEAH! We have an associate Pastor working with us the rest of the summer with our band in order to give our Pastor a break.  Another blessing in our lives.  God is so Good!!!

My love of this church family is so overwhelming.  I absolutely adore them and look forward to the days when we get together.  I cannot think of a better family dynamic than ours.  We pray together, we share our lives, we cry, we laugh, we love, we learn and we worship the Father, all while singing the praises of the great I AM.  We are small; but mighty.

On this journey we call life, don’t forget Who put us here and how much He loves us.

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Thank You for Your Service

So, I’m watching the movie, “Thank You for Your Service”, a movie about what happens when a soldier comes home from war.  It deals with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and the VA health care system.

I remember when I was first discharge from the Marines when I was a young woman and first went to the VA hospital closest to my home in NY.  I filled out paperwork, enrolled in the system and filed a claim.

I was treated like shit.  From the first doctor on.  I was in massive pain, I waited hours to be seen by a doctor.  I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I waited to be called in.  I couldn’t take the pain.  I was miserable.  I was hurting.  I saw the doctor, who gave me nothing; but a referral to Psych.  I went to the VA Psych hospital and was taken to a room where I was patted down by two male security guards, who only used the metal detective wand on the males and was treated to a groping.  I then saw the doctor, who made the situation worse and I left there feeling 10x’s worse and assaulted.

The movie tells the characters that it will take up to 12 weeks for the claim to go through; but realistically, it’s more like 6-9 months.  For me, it took 2 years.  I filed in October 1994 and received benefits in October 1996.

The problem is and always will be that the system is broken and now that we have even more service men and women filing everyday, it’s like putting twenty pound bag of sugar on a scale that only measure up to a pound.  It’s going to break and the sad thing is these men and women NEED the help, desperately.

I hurt so much for them.  I feel their pain.  I dream their nightmares.  I struggle, still, with a system that doesn’t give a fuck about it’s patience or those that serve this country after they leave service.

I was last seen by a doctor at the VA clinic September 2016, right after losing my best friend.  You are supposed to be seen at least once a year or you are unenrolled.  My prescriptions are renewed with just an email and when I tried, several times, to get an appointment, I’ve been given the run around.  I’d love to ask them, “Who do I have to kill in order to get an appointment?”, but I don’t want to get arrested or something.  SMH

As the movie ends, they tell you that the real men, whom the story is about, did finally get help.  It’s good to hear.  It’s nice to know that they are still out there and not part of the suicide statistic that is so high in the veteran community.

Everyone has a story to tell about their VA experience.  My father goes to the one in Miami.  He loves it.  His claim was quick and he’s treated like a king there.  Of course, it is veteran run.  People who know what the military is like and how to treat their fellow veterans.  I’m happy for him.  Wouldn’t it be great if the whole system was so much better?

I remember a few years ago hearing about how one VA facility had a makeover of it’s waiting areas and how it was so needed and they asked on veteran what he thought and they were not prepared for his answer, that’s for sure.  It would have been a better use of money had they revamped care and not where we have to wait for care.  That money would have helped more people on the medical side of things, don’t you think?  Yeah, they didn’t like it at all.  I had the same feeling they did.

Shortly after my friend died, I was having a conversation with a long time friend who had the opportunity to meet with President Trump on his campaign trail, before he was president.  Trump had asked those in attendance about VA health care and my friend told him what I had spent the last year dealing with at the local clinic and how my best friend had died because of their lax medical practices and his aid took notes on it.  I hope that it will help other veterans in the future.

 

 

Women Veterans

I am a 100% service connected disabled veteran.  What does that mean?  It means that I received an injury while in military service to this country.  I’m also a woman veteran.  When I joined the USMC I was part of only 1% of the military that were women.  Now, almost 11% of our military force are women.  What an increase.

I bring this up on the eve of Memorial Day; because I am currently watching the 2018 National Memorial Day Concert on PBS.  They made a salute to women veterans and gave the history of women in military service since the Revolutionary war to the present.  They told of women disguising themselves as boys in order to fight in the Revolution from Britain right up to the present, where women are flying jets and are now even 4-star generals.

Back in the mid 90’s, I was discharged by the USMC due to my injury.  I went to the VA Hospital in NY and was in for the biggest culture shock of my life.  Not only was the VA ill equipped to help women; but they were hardly even helping men.  It was disgusting.  Things such as gowns for patients were nonexistent.

My experience and treatment was horrible and after telling a friend about what I had personally gone through, he introduced me to the Women Veteran’s Coordinator and I soon became a part of the solution.  We met monthly.  I spoke with women veterans who wouldn’t use the VA for health care due to their not being equipped to care for us.  With millions of baby steps, they just held a Baby Expo at the VA facility in St. Pete.  Things have changed and thankfully for the better.

Now, I’m not saying it is the best health care in the world; because it’s not.  Backlogs, no available appointments, shitty attitudes from staff members, etc. still prevail.  I mean, I’ve not seen a doctor their since Sept. 2016 and even though I’ve tried to get an appointment, I’ve been put on hold until they’ve hung up on me or told they’d get back to me and I’m just grateful I have Medicare or I’d be dead by now.

I’ve seen specialists both at the VA and the private sector; both of which have told me that with my multiple drug allergies and no cure or surgical options, I’m screwed.  It sucks; but it can’t be helped.

I remember my mother saying multiple times “Marine Wife, hardest job in the Corps.” and I got so pissed off and told her so.  “Mom, I hate to burst your bubble; but it’s not the hardest job.  Being a Woman Marine is the hardest job.  We have to work twice as hard, do twice as much, prove ourselves daily to be good enough and endure men who think the only thing a Woman Marine is good for is a turn on her back.”  She didn’t like that at all.

I was getting ready to graduate boot camp and we were at the photographers for our picture and a male platoon came into the area; because they were next.  Their drill instructor turned to his platoon and said to them, “Here they are, boys, the next platoon of Marine sluts getting ready to graduate.”  My DI never said a word.  I know my platoon was humiliated and embarrassed.  It’s something I will never forget.  It’s a shame that some men feel it is okay to speak to others that way.

I’m proud of my service and would do it again if I could.  Granted, I don’t believe that a woman should be in combat; but if a woman wants to do so, she can now.  I loved my military service.  I loved my job as an aircraft accountant.  I loved the people I worked with and the lifelong friends I’ve made and stay in touch with.

My story has been published in 3 books, shared at the Women In Military Service for America Memorial, as well as shared by myself at meetings across both NY State and Florida.

I have hope that one day the VA will provide great care to veterans.  As I reflect back on my time in service, I Thank the women who came before me that afforded me the opportunity to serve this great nation.  Without them, I could not have served this great nation of ours.  I love the USA!

School Walk Out

We do not need stronger gun control laws, what we do need is better Mental Health Care.  Laws don’t stop criminals.  Laws don’t stop gun violence.  An unarmed citizenship allows dictatorships to become a reality, just ask the Jews from WWII.

I remember while I was still in school, Bernie Goetz shot and seriously wounded four men who tried to rob him on the subway.  This was not the first time he’d faced attackers trying to rob him and when the first time ended in the attackers getting a slap on the wrist, he got angry.  This seems to me to be the start of people taking social injustices into their own hands.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, advocating for any type of vigilante justice or justifying anyone shooting anyone.  However, I should be able to carry a gun in order to protect myself and property from anyone.  I can also do a lot of damage with a knife, a bat, a crowbar, a broken glass bottle, etc.  If I am wanting to do damage, I will find a way to do it, regardless of the weapon and will get any kind of weapon, illegally or not to do it.  That’s just the way people work.

If I want to hurt you badly enough, I will find the means with which to do it.  It is that simple.

On the other side of the coin, we have a lot more mental illness springing up all over the place.  PTSD is running rapidly through our military, domestic violence sufferers, accident victims and violence survivors.  We have bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, ADHD, depression, dementia and OCD that cause our brains to act in a non-normal way.  Sometimes they are easily identified and sometimes they are not.  Sometimes they are controlled with medication, sometimes they are not.  The stigma we have placed on mental disorders has people who suffer them hiding in shame.

I remember when I was 13 years old and suffered from chronic ear infections (and still do to this day) my pediatrician told my parents it was psychosomatic (all in my mind) and my father freaked out fearing they’d stick this in my medical records, stigmatizing me for life as someone with a mental disorder.  Crazy, right?  True!

We, as a society, need to tear off the Band-Aid that hides people in a closet of shame for being sick.  We do not choose to be this way, it just happens.  Whether it is because of trauma, chemical imbalance, birth/DNA or whatever the reason, mental illnesses are no different than having cancer, influenza, Lupus, arthritis, liver disease, etc.  It is out of the person’s hands and is no more controllable than the sun rising and setting.

I suffer PTSD.  I also take Cymbalta for it.  I will never be able to come off of this drug; because of it.  Without this drug, I can’t go out in public, I suffer in anxiety in crowds, I have uncontrollable episodes of rage and violence, incredible bouts of fear, my mind likes to cycle into madness and my fight or flight response is in overdrive.  I am not ashamed of my PTSD; because it shows the world that I survived what could have destroyed me.  I have had four traumatic instances in my life that have caused me to be at this point in my life and each one could have easily destroyed a weaker person.  I think of it as a badge of honor, not a stigma of shame.  I wish others could feel the same about themselves.

I don’t want to see another school shooting.  I don’t want to see another Oklahoma City bombing.  I don’t want to see another Washington Sniper or Las Vegas Shooter.  I want to see mental health care given a priority.  I want the stigma removed from it.  I want us to live in a better, more caring world.

Taking our guns away will not stop the violence.  Those who wish to do harm will find a way.  We need to wake up and help our fellow humans to be better humans.  Wake up, people!!!  We are turning into our own worse nightmare and if we’re not careful, we may wake up imprisoned by the very people who want to use violence against us.

Walking out for gun violence is not going to solve anything and most who walk out will only do it to get out of class.  Addressing the underlying issue will go a lot further than unarming our citizens.

Whatever you decide to do, be safe while doing it.

God Bless!

 

Amazing Day!!

So, my breathing machine had a message on it “Attention, motor has exceeded limit.” So, I call the VA Sleep Clinic when they open at 8 am.   They get me in TODAY and I get a new machine and a tiny mask to fit my little nose.  OMG it is the smallest one they have for a child and is perfect for me and doesn’t really bother my Trigeminal Nerve like the other ones do.  YEAH!!!  God is good!

I get up at 6:30 am and let the dogs out and wait for the clinic to open.  Well, I log onto FB to post on my church FB page the daily scripture and prayer and after 8 months of praying for my guy to get a better job or at least one where he isn’t traveling as much and LOW & BEHOLD, HE DID!  I freaked out!!

HALLELUJAH!!!!  First step in God’s master plan.  Oh how sweet it is.  I have been on cloud nine ever since.  I tell you, Our God is faithful to those who are faithful and true to him.

Each night, I include in my prayers that God put a protective hedge around my guy, keeping him safe from any harm while traveling to and from work.  I ask God to heal his body, mind, spirit, soul and heart.  I ask God to keep his family safe so that he has no worries for them while he is traveling.  I ask that he meet with Godly people who will keep his eyes focused on the Lord.  I ask God to protect his job or get him one that doesn’t require him to travel and work so many hours.  To let him get enough sleep and rest.  And lastly, I ask God to write our love story so that it is truly beautiful. 

I’m actually giddy to see what He has in store for us!!!!!  I can’t even imagine.  All I know is that God let me know that it will involve a phone call from him to me.  When?  No clue.  How?  No clue.  All I know is that I will at some time in the future.

Knowing, beyond a doubt, that he is going to be mine is a thrill in itself.  I will continue to pray for him, for us and as usual for anyone who is in need.  Pray Until Something Happens.

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And the day came….

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The above quote has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  It is a quote that captured my soul from the first time I heard it.  I do not know why; but it has always given me strength when debating a risk in life.

I have suffered debilitating shyness, anxiety and depression over things I have had no control over and at one time, I let it rule my entire life.  NO MORE!  I’ve needed and used this quote to get me through so many things that come naturally to some people.

Suffering through PTSD is hard.  Coming to terms with it was a challenge.  The first time I was in counseling, my therapist worked with me on being raped in the Marine Corp.   Shortly after I had surgery and was on large amounts of narcotics for the pain, my roommate got a phone call in the lounge and left me, asleep, in our room with some guy.  He proceeded to assault me and left before she got back.  Despite the fact that I was heavily medicated, I was able to get up, stumble to the duty officer and report the incident.  I was taken to the clinic and things moved forward.

What I didn’t expect was that the SgtMaj would blame me for the whole thing.  Standing in front of his desk, he proceeded to tell me that had I not been asleep, on drugs and let a man in my room, I would not have been assaulted at all.  He didn’t care that my roommate was the one responsible for creating the situation, he blamed me for not being in my right mind at the time of the incident.

The Court Martial was a joke.  The SgtMaj tainted those who were there and I was basically further humiliated by a man who thought women in the military were only there to slake the lust of the men.  So glad he retired shortly there after.  He was not a man, he was a coward.

For years, I carried this around in my heart, letting it make me sick.  It nearly destroyed me; but I was finally able to overcome it all when I completed 2 years of therapy.  I was able to forgive them all.  My roommate, the SgtMaj & the rapist, not for them; but for me.

I was to the point in my life that I was living in fear.  If I got separated from someone I was out with and could not find them, I’d have a panic attack.  I went from zero to 100 in rage in less than 10 seconds.  My life was out of control.  I needed help.  I am grateful that I found someone who knew how to help me and was able to do so.

My second time in counseling was after my husband tried to kill me.  I am grateful for the therapist who helped me get through the horrible domestic violence, which was close to bringing me back to the darkness.  I was also lucky that my son also received help at the same time, as he was a witness to the events.

June will mark 8 years since I broke free of a 14 year lie.  From October 2009, I spent 2 years in therapy for all that he did to me and I was able to breath again.  This may sound cold and callus; but when my ex died in October 2016, it was such a relief for me and my son.

I was not allowed in session with my son as he went through his own trial with domestic violence; but I was given a report of the abuses he suffered.  I am so glad he was also able to overcome what he experienced.  I never once influenced him.  He began by telling me about what was going on behind my back and I knew if I needed therapy, so did he.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this wonderful quote.  It keeps me going, it reminds me that life is a risk worth taking.  It brings a smile to my face and pushes me to be brave.

Goodbye’s the saddest word…..

On Saturday, September 3, 2016, @ 8:15 am, I said goodbye to my best friend.

The call came in at 6:06 am; but I slept right through it.  I’d spent the last few days going back and forth to Hospice House and taking Ian to and from CCHS for school and band.  I was just so tired; but knew I’d not sleep.

I woke up at 7:20 am to my dogs telling me to get up and let them out.  No rest for the wicked.  As it happens, I looked at the answering machine after they came inside and saw that glowing green #1 and knew.  I listened to the message and called back right away.  It was then I was told he was going fast.  I hurriedly dressed and drove there.

The nurse hung up with me and went to Leif’s room and told him to hang on, I was on the way.  I arrived at 7:50 am.  I caressed his head and held his hand.  I kissed him and sang to him.  I prayed with him and I told him it was okay to let go and be with our Heavenly Father.  I told him I loved him and I felt his hand spasm and then he was gone.  I continue to sit with him, not wanting to let go.  The nurse came in at 8:27 and I told her he was gone.  She retrieved the doctor and it was official at 8:30.

The social worker came.  She had a blue vase with gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers (my favorites) with her, a sign, I am sure, that he was telling me it was okay.  He was okay.  I shared some funny and sweet stories with the social worker, nurses and staff members.  They came in to make him “presentable” and I wandered off to the chapel to pray.

I told our Father to take care of him.  To hold him close and show him the “ropes”.  I told him I’d be there to meet him and to enjoy the time he’ll spent with his two daughters.  His life here was so hard, so unfair, so tragic; but now, he’s in heaven and has his new body and can be with those who will only show him love.

Arrangement had to be made and decisions I wasn’t ready for; but had to make.  Pastor Larry at Hope prayed with me, spoke with me and reminded me that God is my strength and my comfort.

He was so cold.

My comfort also comes from knowing Leif is finally at peace.  He is no longer hurting.  His soul is renewed in love and that one day we will meet again.  I will miss this great, big, gentle giant who loved me more than anything in the world.  I will see you again, my Cota Bear.

On Sunday, I went to make and finalize arrangements for his cremation.  I ordered his urn.  Papers signed, notifications made, tears flowed.

Leif was my hero.  My knight in tarnished armor.  The one who kept me grounded to this earth and the one who helped me soar.  He would catch me every time I fell. We fought as fiercely as we loved and laughed even harder than that.  He was my best friend, my fiercest competitor and my champion.

Cota Bear, I will miss you and love you until my dying day, when we will meet again.

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Two Months

Two Months

It’s been two months since my friend entered went to the ER and nearly died. Hope Hospice has been a great assist in caring for him at home. It’s been a hard two months; but we’re making it. Officially sober since May 11th and out of the woods from withdrawal. There is hope.

End stage Liver disease is a horrible way to die. I have to sit by and watch the breakdown of a life. As he drifts off to sleep, he mumbles and his hands flail about animatedly. He has no idea. He calls out, he sometimes knocks things over.

He hallucinates all the time. Don’t get me wrong, he has times of lucidity; but he still sees things and gets confused. Sometimes I have to “poke” the images he sees to show him that he is seeing things. He was convinced a man had broken into our home. I had to fake calling the police in order to calm him down. It wasn’t until several days later that I was able to convince him it wasn’t real. Now, he’s told me, when he’s not sure if something is real, he will poke at the image or he’ll close his eyes to see if it will disappear.

He’s up and around now using his walker. He’s lost the water weight (ascites) in his legs and stomach thanks to water pills prescribed by the doctor. He has fallen several times and gotten scraped up; but we’ve gotten him off the ground without additional assistance. Walking around does, however, make his feet and legs sore. We’re hoping that he’ll start physical therapy soon to help.

His appetite has increased at times; but then he will go with only one to two bites of food. He’s taking extra fiber and MoM to help him have BMs. He is, for the most part, in good spirits. I have even been able to take him out to the eye doctor after he broke his glasses and needed a new pair.

He LOVES his CNA. She comes three times a week and gives him a bed bath, puts lotion on him and makes him feel better. He adores her. She’s a great person and I think the world of her, too. He has a nurse who comes once a week and a Social Worker every two weeks.

All things considered, he’s doing very well.

My son went to Jazz Camp at FSU in June and I had to drive him. This left us having to get someone in to stay with my patient. Thankfully, there is a lady from my church who is a retire PA who came over and stayed the two days. She then stayed two days when I went to pick my son up.

My son LOVED the camp, learned new techniques to take back to Jazz band at CCHS and made several new friends. He had a great solo at the Friday evening concert combos (4 songs) and played in two pieces on Saturday afternoon. He did a great job and I am so proud of him.

This coming weekend, we’re heading down to Hollywood Hills HS for an Indoor Drumline workshop with Stryker, a semi-professional Drumline. It’s only one day and he is so looking forward to the opportunity to sharpen his drumming skills.

This summer has been so good for him. The last week of July is band camp and I know he is looking forward to that as well. My son impresses the heck out of me. He’s so dedicated to his music and I am so proud of his dedication and skill. I love the stuffing out of that kid.

Between the two of these guys, I am have seen such incredible progress and couldn’t be prouder of them. What a great summer so far.

The Fallen

I just finished watching an episode of NCIS: LA about a man who was under investigation for “espionage”. He was accessing classified documents and in the end, we found out that what he was really doing was making a tribute to all the brave men & women who died in service to their country in Secret Operations. A tribute to those who gave their lives for me and you!

This brought up memories of another story I know. A true story about an Air Force woman during the Korean War. She was a very good friend of mine for the first 10 years after I left the USMC. Together, we stormed the VA for better treatment, respect for women and better services for all.

JP enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War. She worked in communication and was on the line each day reading all the communication messages that came in listing those who were wounded, missing or killed. JP, being the sensitive and caring person she is, cried for each and every man and woman listed. She later was diagnosed with an ulcer over her worry and strife.

She later married her USAF sweetheart, had three children and became a crusader for veterans with the American Legion. What an honor and privilege to have known her. I carry her in my heart, like the other women veteran’s I have known and love. She’s a wonderful, wonderful person.

Together, we were lucky enough to have gone to the dedication of the Women In Military Service for America (WIMSA) in Washington, D.C. in 2007. We put together a charter bus with 3 buses to go of Women Vets and their loved ones. What a beautiful adventure that was.

JP & I traveled the state of NY, meeting other Women Vets and championing our cause. Twenty plus years ago, Women did not have the kind of care necessary within the system. I remember my first time at the VAMC where the doctor, after spending more than 5 hours to see him, decided that my pain was secondary to my mental health. My pain was (on a scale of 1 – 10) at a 20 and I was on verge of vomiting, when he decided I was depressed and needed to see a shrink. It was a hard start for me. I went to their mental facility only to be given a “pat down” by two male guards and put into a state of distress. To say the VA was women friendly was a joke. I did later report the incident to the head of the hospital; but the lasting effects were hard on me.

Anyway, we had a number of women who met together and made plans, implemented changes and helped to make the VA more women friendly than it ever was. At the time I entered, you couldn’t get much in the way of women’s services. Mammograms, Paps, etc. were not the standard. Oh and we also made sure that men and women were given gowns to wear during exams, which at our hospital was unheard of. Anyway, I am grateful to my dear friend, who has a heart of gold and a beauty that is rare. Still great love for her and her family. ❤