Thursday, February 9, 2012

Death, Death and more Death

There are a lot of ways to die.  In the land of Neelsdom, you've got your gastroenteritis, your hemorrhage, old age/neglect, sudden heart attacks, stroke, falling out of apartment buildings because a mom is ghetto enough to leave a toddler unattended, auto collision...

It's like The Great Neels knew something about death or something.

I've been pretty busy this month.  In my ward (congregation) I had the brilliant idea (aided and abetted by the ward Family History consultant--yes, Mormons are that OCD about genealogy) to challenge the men of the ward to an Index-off.  And it's all in the nature of a friendly little wager.  Whichever auxiliary (the women or the men) Index more names this month wins (WINS!) an ice-cream social and glorious bragging rights forever and ever!!  My sacred honor rests on crushing them.  (Yes, I have not been above some ecclesiastical smack-talk.)
Indexing is simply an organized way to drive rational people insane.

Indexing is pretty simple.  You download a digital scan of a historic document--census records, draft registrations, death certificates, etc.--and simply (simple if you can read the writing) type into designated fields the information you see.  It makes the document search-able for those that are looking for their family history records.

Yes.  In Utah, they can even index in prison.

And it's been engrossing.  But last week I stumbled onto a batch of un-Indexed Texas Death Certificates.  It's actually been a bit sobering.  My findings:
  • There are a LOT of ways to die and though these records are pretty old Texas was not shy about recording the details.  ("Repeated blunt force trauma while working on an oil rig", "Auto accident and subsequent fire" and worse ones.)
  • Betty Neels had a pretty normal range of methods that seemed to mirror what I was reading--lots and lots of myocardial infarction, gastroenteritis and auto collisions.
  • When people get old, sometimes people stop caring about them.  If only some thin-young woman in need of an occupation could have been spared to sit with them and read semi-trashy romance novels...
  • The babies are the hardest to Index.  Lots of deaths after just hours.  There was a toddler who had passed away by drinking kerosene and I thought of all those babies in Neeldom who have to be treated in the Burn Units by heroic RDDs because of overturned kerosene heaters.  Clearly, this was something that The Great Betty had seen in her nursing life and just hated.
Anyway, my next-door-neighbor is an hard core emergency room nurse (a must if you have three boys) and just this week I trotted my third pledge over with a non-urgent medical question (she is happily willing to be used in this way) because it's always skin-conditions with that one.  And sometimes I forget, because I've only used her for the little things that she's seen things that would curl your toes.  The Great Betty is a bit like that for me.  I read her convenient medical plot points pretty casually and sometimes forget that she saw each and every one probably and, though I imagine you find ways to cope with it, also had to struggle with all that.
Betty the Awesome

Anyway, I don't really have another point just props to La Neels.

P.S. So far we're beating the men but not crushing them.  Cross your fingers!


  1. With you and Betty Kylene involved, you're crushing the men on style points.

    Several years ago, my local paper did a feature article on the theme of 'jobs that are worse than yours.' One of them was a sewer worker, one was a fry-o-later cleaner, but the one that really got me was a woman who investigated child-abuse cases. Nurses at least get their share of recoveries (unless they're doing hospice care, which is unimaginably grim to me), but that police officer knew the best she could hope was that the kid would, eventually, come to understand that it wasn't his or her fault, and that the perpetrator would go to jail. Whoopee. In Visiting Consultant, Sophy and Max work on a girl whose stepbrother stabbed her for throwing away his drugs, and nurse and surgeon bond over their anger and distress. Scenes like that really help the novels live, I think.

    Now I must switch to thinking about ice-cream socials, or I'll crawl back into bed and refuse to get out.

  2. I'll keep my fingers crossed. I hope you'll win.
    Otherwise -what a gruesome topic. I am certain, though, that the Great Betty doesn't have a single patient in her œuvre who died of gastroenteritis. Not. A. One.
    Betty Anonymous

  3. That's funny because I would have bet dollars to donuts that we have Gastroenterologists as RDDs (which sort of implies a certain amount of death, I suppose)...not having a handy spread sheet at a time like this really puts a crimp in my post-writing authority. I wonder if Betty van den Betsy could give a sister a hand.

    Still, the breadth of maladies La Neels could come up with is staggering when you think about it. Hope I didn't upset any constitutions, delicate or otherwise! (But trust me when I say that I left off the really colorful stuff. Old time typists must have had nerves of iron.--and that's another thing. These were probably typed up by the sort of woman who would sing show tunes in the basement of her ramshackle Victorian hospital and capture the heart of an RDD by being saucy about his handwriting.)

    1. Paul van Beijen Doelsma seems to have specialized in stomach ailments (A Match for Sister Maggy). Rolf van Duyren was a consultant in stomachs (Tangled Autumn). Dominic van Wijkelen was a surgeon, I believe specializing in GI issues (Saturday's Child). Everard van Tijlen was not a monk, but a professor of intestinal medicine and surgery (The Gemel Ring). Marnix van Hessel, Radmer van Teule and Haso ter Brons Huizinga all focus on abdominal surgery (Henrietta's Own Castle, Off with the Old Love, Paradise for Two). So we're heavy on the GI in the early years, then lighter in the late 70s and 80s, and the 90s through 2001 tilts toward bones and hearts.

    2. I wonder if we could start using your name as a verb--such as I Googled it. I Betty van den Bestyed it... You're a very Betty treasure!

    3. Betty Keira, you're so funny. Gastroenterologists!!!
      Betty Anonymous

    4. (curtsy) Come back for our matinee at three. Enjoy the fish!

  4. Love that pic of the Betty!

    never saw it before.

    She actually looks pretty!!!! in that pic.

    Hmmmm...An Araminta anyone?

    Betty Francesca