Posts Tagged ‘ Sacrifice ’






by Boots LeBaron


     Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, even Muhammad Ali, couldn’t take the kind of punishment that Gary L. Kissel and Bruce K. Jackson have endured over their 18-year partnership in Redondo Beach.

     God knows how many times they’ve been on the ropes, or found themselves flat on the canvas, struggling to get back on their feet, trying to save a life before the ten count.

     Rolling with the punches simply doesn’t work when you’re in the business of invasive cardiology.  

     Whenever Jackson, 48, is asked what he does for a living, rather than talk about the trauma of a Code Blue, or the frantic seconds of trying to save the life of a person who’s in the midst of a massive heart attack, he prefers to tell strangers that he’s a pump mechanic.

     “We fix broken pumps and broken hearts,” he’ll say. Besides, who wants to hear about implanting pacemakers, intra-aortic balloon pumps, angioplasty or other intra-cardiac procedures at a cocktail party?  

     Jackson, a man with an outrageous sense of humor, confesses that “in this business, you’ll go nuts if you don’t have a sense of humor. Cardiology is stressful. It’s painful. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. I’d pay good money to do this. There’s absolutely nothing in life I’d rather do.


     “During my second year of practice,” said Kissel, 53, “I felt a real burnout. I wept for a couple of days. I didn’t know if I could cope with so much life and death. I still break down when my patients die. Crying is a way to relieve grief and express your own sorrow. But I feel truly blessed to be in this business.”

     “Double ditto for me,” said Jackson. “Sometimes when a patient dies, I go home; shed a tear for them; toast the ghost, and wish them off to a better place than they’ve been. I try very hard to leave the sorrows and heartaches back in the office. Sometimes that doesn’t work worth a hoot.”

     Unlike people suffering from cancer, AIDS or other fatal diseases, Jackson noted that cardiac patients “have a notorious habit of dying at very inconvenient times. Very suddenly and dramatically. It’s like god suddenly snatches them away.”

     For Kissel and Jackson, practicing cardiology is like flying through hell on angels’ wings. The view is miserable but enlightening, tragic but captivating, mystifying but miraculous.       “Almost every day of my life, I see tragedy,” said Jackson. “Tragedy is dying alone, being sick without anyone to hold your hand to comfort you. Ironically, people handle stress best under pressure. When we’re squeezed against the wall, we’re forced to be courageous.”

     Many times, says Kissel, as a patient is dying, “when they are gasping for breath or are on a respirator and are incapable of talking, they speak with their eyes.

     “Looking into their eyes, you know what they’re thinking. Their eyes tell you, ‘I know you’re trying, but I’m dying.’ Their eyes show compassion, fear, resolve and courage. They say, ‘Thanks,’ or, ‘It’s okay, I’m ready to go.’ Or, ‘To hell with all this. I give up.’

     “Eyes, soul, spirit,” said Jackson. “When people die, you can almost sense the physical departure of the soul from the body.    “In our business,” said Kissel, “you have to be blind not to recognize that there are unexplainable powers. There is a god!

     “Bruce and I sometimes joke about situations where patients, with no help from us, seem to miraculously regain their strength. After that, we say we gave them an injection of Lazarine mixed with a dose of Resurrectine,” said Kissel, referring to the biblical account of Lazarus being brought back to life by Jesus Christ.”

     “There are factors that go beyond our ability to heal,” added Jackson. “Many times, we could sure use a nice little vile of Lazerine and Resurrectine to make this experience more productive.” “We have a number patients who are walking miracles,” said Kissel. “For reasons we can’t explain, they have survived despite technology and expert opinion.”

     He recalled an elderly man who “already looked like a cadaver when Bruce and I admitted him to the hospital. We thought for sure he would die there. Next day, he was walking. Finally, he left the hospital and went on to live for a long time.”

     Jackson remembered a Code Blue when “This lady was in full cardiac arrest. She wasn’t breathing.

     “Had no heart beat for four minutes. We worked on her for about a half hour. Couldn’t bring her back. As I was telling her surgeon there was nothing we could do, she started breathing. Her heartbeat restored. She came into the office three weeks ago. Walking slower, but she’s fine now.”

     Kissel also had patients who are too busy to die. He recalled a middle aged stockbroker whom he admitted to the South Bay Hospital suffering from a heart attack. “He insisted on having a phone in his room. He acted like his heart attack was nothing more than a major inconvenience, seriously interfering with business. It was like, he simply could not afford to die.

     “When I visited him the next morning, he was on the phone chewing on a cigar. The bed was cluttered with papers. He actually waved me off, telling me to come back later. What a character.” Kissel laughed. “I’m sure he did just fine. Never came back.”

     Kissel believes that “people have a right to die. And under certain circumstances, withdrawing all treatment is not only logical but compassionate. If our culture reaches a point where it’s considered okay for a physician — like Dr. Jack Kevorkian — to assist a patient in dying, I’d find that extremely difficult.” The most neurotic patients, observes Jackson, are physicians themselves. “You run across one in the hall and he’ll say, ‘Got a minute? I got this pain in my chest. Make it go away, will you? “You have to grab him by the wrist and put him on a treadmill. “Believe me,” he went on, “doctors are more neurotic than regular patients who have no medical smarts. Of all people, they should know that denial will kill when you have heart disease.”

     Do the partners ever feel that since they literally hold the fate of their patients in their hands, they possess god-like powers?

     “Every day we are reminded that we are all in the same boat,” said Kissel. “We are no more invincible than our patients. We share the same feelings, we get just as sick as they do, and there’s no doubt that, inevitably, all of us will die.

     “I can only hope that what I do as a physician,” he continued, “will enhance the quality of someone else’s life and will give them a few extra years of happiness.”

     Although Jackson says that his wife, Susan, is his best friend, Kissel is more than a pal. “At 2:15 in the morning, when you’re double teaming, trying to bail a patient out of a deadly tailspin, and you look over and see your partner in action, that’s another view of the soul. No doubt about it, Gary is also my best friend.”  

     Some physicians, says Jackson, believe that the MD after their names stands for Minor Deity. “Luckily, Gary and I have made a clean getaway” from the god syndrome that plagues some physicians.

    “When I get up in the morning, I put my trousers on one leg at a time. I don’t know about Gary, but I’m getting old with as many twinges in the hinges as anyone else.

     “I can testify that I’m just as mortal as the next guy. Maybe even more so.”

     With partners Howard Abrams, Eric Castleman and Steven Weinstein — all cardiologists — Kissel and Jackson operate Cardiology Associates of the South Bay with offices in Redondo Beach, California.

     It wasn’t until Kissel was attending the University of Washington on a football scholarship that he decided on pursuing a career in medicine. He began his medical career working in a M*A*S*H rescue unit as an Air Force flight surgeon in Vietnam. The only thing he found tougher than his two-year stint in Nam, which included flying into combat zones, is practicing cardiology in the South Bay.

     Vietnam, he admits, wasn’t easy. “But private practice is a different world. We are part of the community. We make lasting friendship with our patients. Unlike Vietnam, they are not strangers when they die.” Kissel is the father of two grown children.

     Jackson, also an Air Force surgeon, and his wife, Susan, an accountant, are both working on second marriages. Between them, they have five children and six grandchildren. “The reason we’re so young and have so many grandchildren is we started mating in grammar school,” he joked.  

     “I never realized it would require such personal sacrifice,” he said. “Yet, I feel blessed. I believe that what I’m doing is very important. It seems like you spend half of your life learning to become a doctor.”

     What he’s learned about life facing death is: “Whatever you do in life, whatever livelihood you pursue, it should make you happy. Don’t go strictly for the money, fame, power. None of those can buy happiness! I’ve seen too many people who realized that too late.’

     “Life is very fragile,” agrees his partner. “Very short. Very precious. It should be treated accordingly.”

     On Friday, May 6, both Kissel and Jackson, Associate Clinical Professors at the UCLA School of Medicine, will be honored by the American Heart Association at a fund-raising banquet at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza.

     Unless their beepers go off over the weekend, on Monday Kissel and Jackson will be back in the ring, dancing on the canvas soaked with their own tears, jabbing, weaving, bobbing and punching; hoping for a miracle and trying their damndest to knock their ominous opponents on the ropes one more time.


Boots LeBaron is a freelance writer who lives in Manhattan Beach.



The Human Race by Boots LeBaron is available on Amazon




     Not long after Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world, obliterate Judaism, slaughter millions of Jews, invade Poland, Czechoslovakia, occupy Austria, bomb the hell out of Britain using der Furor’s powerful Luftwaffe air force, the Japanese launched its December 7, 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

     They struck with carrier-based planes sinking or damaging 19 ships, killing or injuring 2,200 American servicemen, and destroying 188 planes with negligible losses to the Japanese.

Not only did that devastating attack on Pearl get the U.S. into World War II, it revealed a dormant spirit within the men and women of our nation. It was a wake-up call that made us realize that now was the time for all courageous women to radically alter the course

they’ve been living a comfortable existence as housewives, mothers, daughters, administrators, clerks and community leaders to come to the aid of their country. It was a time for great sacrifice; a time to fight an enemy that’s threatening the freedom of what we continue to call the land of the free and the home of the brave.

     And for those reasons, I’d like you to meet Ruth Channon who was one thousands of American women to abruptly change their lifestyles to support their nation which must go to

war against a well-trained, goose-stepping enemy known as the Axis.

     At that time, hundreds of thousands of men left the workplace and joined the U.S. armed forces to combat a mortal enemy. That’s

when thousands of women from all walks of life and levels of

society, forfeited personal and professional comforts to take over the jobs

men had vacated..

     So Ruth Channon, an ambitious young woman, gave up her dreams to become what she whimsically and proudly called herself, “Ruthie the Riveter.” What makes Ruthie unique, is her positive attitude,

her sense of being a woman, and the fact that the mother of my late childhood friend, Richard (I called him Bumbo, he called me Boots) turned 100 years old on April 1, 2015.

     For at least two years, Ruthie worked as a riveter at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Culver City, Calif. During the war, her mother would baby-sit with Bumbo and his sister Sheila while riveted away helping build fighter planes and bombers to battle a powerful enemy that would make Darth Vader look like a kindergartner.

     When I asked Ruthie if by chance she worked on a bomber that actor Clark Gable served on as a tail gunner, she had no idea. As the story went, when German field marshal Hermann Goering learned that Gable, a well-known motion picture star has enlisted in the American Air Corps and was a tail gunner, the notorious field marshal had offered $5,000 to kill him.

     When Gable learned of the price that was put on his head, he was quoted as saying, “Tell Goering that, ‘Frankly, I don’t give a damn!'” Of course, that line was taken from the 1939 Civil War epic, “Gone With the Wind” when Gable as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn!” “Gone With the Wind,” is considered one of the most famous films in Hollywood history.

     Back to Ruth Channon and reality: In their own way, close to 19,000,000 women went to war replacing their male counterparts who became U.S. warriors. In 1942, the original Rosie the Riveter was discovered. Her name was Rosie Ronavita. She was a welder building planes for Convair in San Diego. To land such a riveting job, the government would explain to female applicants, “If you can use an electric mixer, you surely can operate a drill.”

     Working for less money than the men they replaced, women were proud to become active members of the war effort. When posters showing a sturdy female with the slogan, “We Can Do It!” became quite popular. The significance of Rosie the Riveter became as popular as the Uncle Sam recruiting poster pointing under the slogan, “We Want You!”

     When I asked Ruthie about her going to work, leaving her two young children at home, she explained that as a single parent, her mother would baby sit with her young son, my childhood pal Richard (I always called him Bumbo), and her daughter, Sheila.

     Was doing a man’s job difficult? “Not really,” she said. “I was young and strong.” Ruthie was also one of the best looking mothers residing on Crescent Heights Boulevard. She was a young mom, with raven hair, dark brown eyes and Pocahontas cheekbones.

     Was working as a riveter on fighter planes and bombers exhausting? “Only when I got home at night. But my kids made everything alright.”

     Near the end of the war, Ruthie married an ex-GI named Saul Channon. Lucky for Bumbo and Sheila, he adopted them.

     Saul Channon looked like an husky leprechaun. Actually, he was a Russian Jew and the son of a rabbi. I can’t remember him without a cigar sticking out the side of his mouth.

     Mr. Channon never talked about the hell he went through as an infantryman with the 45th Armored Division; never mentioned the wounds he suffered during a firefight in Messina, Italy, in 1944. They were severe enough to buy him a ticket home. I loved the guy.

     For a long time after his return to civilian life, he remained traumatized like the combat infantrymen who return from the Middle East today. Ruthie told me, a thump in the night would send the former sergeant diving under the bed. Even action scenes in a movie, like “Return to Bataan” would cause Saul to hit the deck in a movie theater, taking cover behind rows of seats.

     To get the trembling ex-GI back onto his seat, Ruthie said she would have to remind him that it was only a movie they were watching in a darkened theater.

     “Most of the time it worked,” she said. “What Saul went through, made me realize how important it was for me and all those other women, to do our duty. Although Saul is dead, I still talk to him. He was a great father and husband. I’ll never stop loving him.”

     As I always told her, “You were the best looking mother in our

neighborhood.” She loved that compliment. It was the truth.

     I once told her, “Ruthie, you come with a button on your shoulder. I could press it any time and you’d register joy.

     “One day,” I went on, “that darned button stuck. There was no turning off your joy button. You’re such a loving and joyous person.”

     Ruthie died on Friday Oct. 30, 2015. Lucky for St. Peter,

although he’s not Jewish, she’ll greet him with a smile as he opens those

pearly gates. No matter who she met, she always had a constant abundance

of love and joy to give. And she was so easy to make laugh.

     I’ll love her forever. Ruthie the Riveter truly was the best looking mom on

Crescent Heights Boulevard. And that’s the truth.

     — Boots LeBaron





A broken promise can scar the

soul of every individual who’s convinced

that trust is humanity’s cornerstone.

It’s capable of shattering the

confidence of any trusting person

whose confidence in another

has been desecrated.

In any court of

dignity where the indignant

act is exposed, the culprit

will either be exonerated,

mentally shackled with feelings

of guilt and anxiety for life,

stuck with a misdemeanor thanks

to the power of forgiveness,

labeled as a liar and a cheat,

or, depending on the severity

of the mental or financial anguish

inflicted on another. Of course, those

suffering from life’s broken-promise

syndrome, especially those whose lives

have been wrecked in the midst of a

lovey-dovey relationship, has every

philosophical right to reward that partner

with a seat on the electric chair.

Humanity consists of so many ridiculous

men and women in search of peace of mind

and a perfect life, which is never perfect.

No matter how benign or devious, a broken

promise can cause humiliation, hyperventilation

acute anxiety or psychotic short circuitry

despite the admirable intentions that kick off

any kind of human relationship. Yet, no matter

how intolerable the plight, a broken promise

should rightfully be labeled guilty as charged

on every victim’s shit list. Forever!

Boots LeBaron




     With the grace a ballet dancer, Linda Marie Lauckhardt, balancing heavy plates of food on one arm, glided across the floor side stepping customers, and snake-hipped her way around a maze of tables to deliver her cumbersome cargo.  

     It was a performance that the statuesque green-eyed waitress repeated literally thousands of times during a career that spanned 37 years. It ended rather abruptly after thirteen years of toting culinary freight at The Kettle, a popular 24-hour restaurant/coffee shop in Manhattan Beach, Calif.  

     Linda told me that she had quit the serving profession because she couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of “being the best I can be.

     “I’m the kind of person who runs, not walks,” she said. “My body just couldn’t take the beating.” In many restaurants, she noted, “the attitude of management toward waiters and waitresses seems to be apathetic. The truth is, good waitresses are NOT easy to find.

     “I’ve never been the kind of person who’d just as soon pick up their money and run. When I clear off a table, the last thing I think about is the tip. If they don’t leave a tip, I figure they can’t afford it. When they come back, they get the same care as anyone else. When they run across an exceptional waitress, customers know.”

     Linda, in her late 40s when I interviewed her, had been serving people most of her life. When she was a 4th grader in San Pedro, she dropped out of elementary school to help support her family which included 11 brothers and sisters.

     At the age of ten, her brothers and sisters, many of them parented by different fathers, were split up and Linda began living in a series of foster homes. At 12 years old, she lied about her age to get a job working 10-hour shifts as a “steamer” in a Chinese laundry. When the owner learned she was under age, she was fired.

     From the day she was born to a waitress in a Sweetwater, Texas hotel, adversity was her nemesis. “My mother,” she said, “wasn’t the kind of mommy who’d sit you on her lap and hug you.” So when most little girls were playing house, Linda “was playing mother” in real life trying to keep her family together.

     When other little girls were playing with dolls, Linda made her doll out of a Coca Cola bottle. “We had a lot of mouths to feed and for a time we couldn’t afford the luxury of toys.”

     Perhaps that’s why for more than two decades, her advocation has been making dolls. During that time, she has made and sold more than 150 antique Jumeau French doll replicas and 400 Teddy Bears. Her home in Big Bear, Calif. where she lived with her husband, Rich, who was an avionics technician, was filled with dolls, cats, stray dogs and neighborhood children.

     She and Rich were married when she was 14 and he was 16. They had no children. When she retired, Linda was about turning her avocation into a full-time profession. Authentic Jumeau antique originals at the time, she said, sold for more than $6,000. Her replicas which she made from scratch, took three months to create. She’d pour her own porcelain molds and sew the clothes by hand. Her replicas were selling for as much as $475. Her handmade Teddy Bears were going for $50 to $75.  

     The only fantasy she rememberd as a teenager was wanting to be a singer like Ella Fitzgerald or Kaye Starr. But when there’s “mouths to feed, clothes to buy, and diapers to change, a young girl’s dreams can somehow get lost in reality.”

     Despite the difficult early years of her childhood, the girl from Sweetwater found love rather than bitterness, pride rather than self-effacement, compassion rather than anger with the human race she waited on throughout the years.

     “I loved being a waitress,” she said, then confessed, “I’ve run across my share of hateful customers. They’ve managed to slither out from under a rock somewhere determined to ruin my day. You learn to handle the bad apples. But I’ve been fortunate to have served too many caring people in life to worry about the stinkers.”

     When she approached one “stinker” while working at The Kettle, he snarled, “Get away from here; I’ll let you know when I want you!”   Early in her career as a server, working a graveyard shift at Norm’s, a long established restaurant chain in Los Angeles County, a customer screamed profanities at Linda causing her to break down crying. Then, she recalled, “He predicted: ‘You’ll never make it as a waitress because you can’t take it!'”   

     Of course, the other side of the coin is much brighter. After serving a two-dollar breakfast to a “regular” at Norm’s restaurant in Torrance, Calif., he tipped her with a jar containing $100 worth of Mercury-head dimes.

     At The Kettle, one satisfied woman customer gave her a gold-antique cameo that belonged to her dead mother. A bank president would bring her roses regularly.

     “I believe that every day, if you do something for somebody — on the job or in the streets — you’re doing something for yourself. You can never be too giving or too kind-hearted.”

     — Boots LeBaron




     It wasn’t God who had women hanged or burned at the stake for witchcraft in the American colonies. It was Man.

     Decades before the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials, Mary Sanford, a 39-year-old mother of five, was condemned to death by colonists in Hartford, Connecticut. Her male prosecutors said she “deserved to die.” Their charge: “Consorting with Satan and using supernatural powers against unnamed others.”

     Unable to argue against God, the Devil and the holy scriptures, the free-spirited Mary was hung for celebrating her individuality as a human being. She was guilty of dancing around the flames of a bonfire and drinking wine. Whoop-de-do!

     Did she waltz with the Devil? Fly on a broomstick? Cast wicked spells on others? Cuss? Refuse to cater to the whims of her spineless hubby? Hell no!

     More than three centuries have past since the American Colonies version of Ye Good Ol’ Boys Club used the name of God laced with hysteria and based on dogmatic biblical babble to squelch the inherent rights of women fighting for their identity in a suppressive society.

     Today’s Mary Sanfords have found courage through independence, strength through sacrifice, wisdom through anguish, and the bond of sisterhood through freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to do what they damn well please.

     Yet women are still seeking equal rights in a world where man dominates in many instances with chauvinistic assertiveness.

                        — Boots LeBaron






Holiday turkey,

you’re such

a culinary delight.

With your meat

so tender,

we shall

gobble you tonight.


And when our tummies

are stuffed with you,

you might wind up

as a tasty stew.


If  by chance you

turn greenish-blue,

we’ll have to trash

what’s left of you.


Boots LeBaron






      There’s such an abundance of glorious things to mutilate, decimate and pillage on Earth, is it any wonder why greed, violence and corruption flourish here like flowers in the sun?  

     Since humankind’s monetary system plays such an integral role in civilization’s scheme of things, and since life (human and other animal species) has come to be regarded as expendable, the Homo sapient has quickly learned how to kill without conscience, without regret, without cause — even without hate.

     Sometimes we kill for profit. Sometimes for retribution. Oh, yes, we are Earth’s wondrous two-legged creatures with superior intellects that are proving to be so inferior. For centuries we have been swarming across the globe, spitting in the eye of Mother Nature, multiplying like beatles, tearing down forests, building and firing murderous weapons, constantly developing new technology, polluting rivers, streams and oceans as well as the air we breath, and in myriad ways suffocating our own brothers and sisters.

     Wow! We are such brilliant opportunists. By the time we make Planet Earth uninhabitable, perhaps we will have found another virgin planet to destroy. Or, maybe, because of the catastrophe we wrought upon ourselves and the others we share this sphere with, we will by then have learned to care. And even to sacrifice our creature comforts.

     Hopefully, it won’t be too late.


              — Boots LeBaron

(THE HUMAN RACE written by Boots is a self-help book

containing humor as well asinspirational interviews,

light poetry and essays about life, love, showbiz, art,

 courage, death and the workplace. It’s for sale on

Kindle and on Amazon in paperback)


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