March 5, 2006, 10:46 pm

They Called Him “Mac”

Today’s post is a long one, but it’s a story I have to tell.

My sense of humor is on the back burner this time, but not for long. You may even get an idea of where it comes from

I did want to include this photo of a fan that is actually an advertisement for Tums!


My blog-friend Kenju over at JustaskJudy has a huge collection of these and I knew she would appreciate seeing it here!

It was cold and overcast in Modesto that day that Mac presented through the ED doors via paramedic transport. February 20, 2000. He was a big man. Six feet tall and about two-hundred and forty pounds. Retired CHP lieutenant. Active in his local Masonic lodge. Married his high school sweetheart at 18. Had three grown kids and a slew of grandkids. Sixty-two years old. An artist. His name was Kendall Hall McAllister, but everyone who knew him called him Mac.


Mac’s wife thought they were putting him there to die.


Mac’s trip to the ED had actually begun the night before as he was working on his Windows desktop. It was his turn to edit the fraternal organization’s newsletter and it was nowhere on the computer. His wife said he became angry, almost to the point of being in a rage. Very odd behavior that did not stop.

Exasperated with this demonstration of frustration, she told him, “Mac, you have a stroke and I am shooting your computer!”


The next morning, Mac sat up and stretched, got out of bed, took about five steps to the bathroom and fell to the floor. He had no feeling or movement on his left side. None. As his wife ran to his side she heard one, muffled sentence:

“Don’t shoot the computer.”


Now Mac truly lived out in the “boonies”, about an hour out of Yosemite, so the closest facility to him was in Merced. The medics proceeded there “Code Three”. Most of Mac’s family lived within an hour’s drive and were at his beside when I came on the scene. All the hustle and bustle of lab work and CTs were done. I mean, what else are you going to do once a stroke has hit? Couldn’t even consider TPA because it was hemorrhagic.

I saw your typical stroke victim. For all intents and purposes, Mac’s left side was dead. Facial droop. No reflexes. Not one. Speech slurred because of the left sided facial paralysis but no expressive or receptive aphasia. And a surprisingly upbeat affect. When his wife said, quite seriously, “Mac, you’ve had a huge stroke and you can’t move half of your body. Aren’t you upset by that?” His answer: “Yeah, I didn’t get my coffee this morning!”


The closest facility that specialized in neurology was in Modesto, and that is where Mac was transferred. Where they tried to put him in the hallway.

But let me give you some background about Mac’s family. Three nurses: one trauma nurse, one ED nurse and one L&D nurse you would not want to meet in a dark hallway if things weren’t perfect. The kind of family member the nurses all hate. She spoke to the nurse manager.

Mac had a room within five minutes. A private room.

Oh, and did I mention that prior to transport Mac had regained the use of his left side? All of it. A slight weakness remaining. That was all.

Doctor’s Hospital in Modesto was such a bastion of neurological services that they had no beds on the neurology floor. So Mac was admitted to the oncology unit. A pretty, home-like unit where Mac developed severe headaches that were not medicated. And persistent vomiting. But he was alert and oriented. And not a neurologist in sight.

A neurologist had not even been consulted.

It seemed as if they were writing off this vibrant, active man.

This time it was the ED nurse family member who professionally, assertively and ever so extremely politely demanded a neurology consult. STAT.

A neurologist came, seemingly reluctantly, and examined Mac. He then looked at the CT of the head taken in Merced. His exact words were:

“If I had seen the x-ray before I had examined him I would have expected to see essentially a vegetable. The entire right side of his brain is essentially gone. The level of recovery I see is nothing short of a miracle.”

Miracle. Not a word I hear neurologists throw around very often.

The family did the usual grilling. Question after question. It was pretty obvious that Mac’s wife was not comprehending a single thing. Good thing the family was with her.

Especially when the “Social Worker” came up to her after Mac had been at the facility 48 hours and told her he was being transferred to a convalescent home. She lost it. Mac’s brother called the ED nurse family member and repeated what was said.

In the world of hospitals there are two phrases that will chill the soul of a hospital administrator. One is “Standard of Care” and the other is “you are dumping this patient”. The ED nurse ever so extremely politely advised the administrator of nurses that transfer to lesser care 48 hours after an acute brain infarct was not the standard of care in the state of California and that it appeared Mac was being dumped due to a lack of beds.

It seems that the “Social Worker” had spoken to the wrong family.



Mac did so well he was in rehab for only a week or so before going home. The first thing he did when he got home was find the newsletter on the computer that bedeviled him just a couple of weeks before! Then he wrote thank you letters to everyone who had sent cards and flowers. He drew some editorial cartoons and voted in a local election. He scooped cat litter and carried in wood. About the only thing the stroke left him with was a rather mellow affect and the need to talk. A lot. Especially on the phone to his kids. He had beaten the CVA.


On March 10, 2000, Mac’s wife found him writhing on the bed, clutching his chest and complaining of being unable to breathe. He was pale and diaphoretic.

The medics came. There was no way in hell the family was going to allow him to be taken to Modesto. They requested Fresno.

He told his wife “I love you” at the door.

The ambulance drove the half-mile to meet the LifeFlight craft that would take him to the largest hospital in Fresno. Mac was lifted into the craft as one of his son in laws watched. Mac then removed his oxygen mask, crossed his legs, put his hands behind his head …..

……and coded.


They were still pumping on his chest when the family members from Fresno saw him taken off the LifeFlight. They worked at that facility.


Kendall Hall McAllister died of a massive pulmonary embolism.

He lived from January 31, 1938 to March 10, 2000.

They called him “Mac”.

But I just called him “Dad”.

And there isn’t a day that goes by that I wouldn’t give my life to have him back.

I love you, Dad.


  • Jilly

    March 6, 2006 at 2:50 am

    Thanks for that. It was beautiful and brought a tear to my eye.

  • Emma

    March 6, 2006 at 5:18 am

    That was so well-written and so touching. It’s more than a little belated, but I am so sorry for your loss.

  • moof

    March 6, 2006 at 6:39 am

    Kim … that was very deeply touching. You never ever get over the death of a parent, I don’t think. My own dad died in 1987 … it will be 19 years on October 10 … and it’s like it was yesterday.

    My heart goes out to you …

  • Robin

    March 6, 2006 at 6:40 am

    There are so many emotions that come from reading this post… let me just say, thanks for sharing.

  • Rita Schwab - MSSPNexus

    March 6, 2006 at 7:12 am

    Kim –

    Your dad and mine would have gotten along just fine.

    My father died nearly six years ago after a series of strokes.

    Upon admission to the ICU after his first major CVA, Dad asked if we couldn’t change the channel on the television to something less boring. He was looking at the heart monitor…

    A few days later we visited him and he gleefully said “Look what I figured out how to do!” He began thumping on his chest and grinning as he watched the monitor jump around. The fact that no nurses appeared to investigate lead us to the belief that they were on to his game.

    He was transferred out of the ICU later that day and stuck around with us for several more years.

    We never stop missing them, do we?


  • Jenn

    March 6, 2006 at 7:28 am

    I’m sorry for your loss. You told this part of his story beautifully.

  • kenju

    March 6, 2006 at 8:21 am

    Kim, first let me say thanks for posting the fan. It is a great looking one and I would be proud to have it in my collection.

    I am sorry about your dad and what happened. Thanks for telling us about it.

  • Mama Mia

    March 6, 2006 at 9:18 am

    OMG, Kim – i have no words. The story is amazing and heartwrenching both, and then to find that it was so personal… Wow. Thank you for sharing. I’d sure love to have you in my corner if things were going wrong.

  • Nikita

    March 6, 2006 at 9:24 am

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Bob

    March 6, 2006 at 10:29 am

    I finally figured out where this was going when I got to the “On March 10, 2000, …” part. Sounds like a helluva guy. You and he are/were blessed to have had each other. And yeah, I think I can see where your sense of humor comes from.

  • Jeffrey

    March 6, 2006 at 12:16 pm


    Beautifully told, as usual. And my heart goes out to you.

    My own father was born just about 6 months after yours. He has atherosclerotic blockage in his carotid artery right now (the latest in a long series of cardiovascular problems since I was a junior or senior in high school, 1988). He rescheduled his surgery so that he didn’t have to put off his vacation with my mother, even though they’re on vacation all the time now since retirement. Seems to see the medical intervention as an inconvenience. And, typically, he doesn’t talk about it much. They should be back home soon, and we’ll see how it goes.

    So your post really resonated with me. Thank you.

  • Domesticator

    March 6, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    Beautifully written and heartfelt.Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  • MichelleL.

    March 6, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    You have such a wonderful gift for storytelling. I am sure your Dad is and was so very proud of his family. Your story touched me in so many ways. I really enjoy reading your blog and look foward to each new entry.

  • John Cowart

    March 6, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Hi Kim,
    This is so touching and meaningful. You write about a sad experience beautifully.

  • TC

    March 6, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    What a guy. I’m so sorry Kim.

  • Jodi

    March 6, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    From your description, I can tell I would’ve gotten along really well with your Dad. What a great tribute.
    (You should’ve gotten medival on that Modesto)

  • geena

    March 6, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Brilliant post, Kim. I’m sorry about the loss of your father.

  • Anonymous

    March 6, 2006 at 11:46 pm

    Beautifully recounted.

    Thanks for letting us feel that.


  • difficult patient

    March 7, 2006 at 12:13 am

    Oh, Kim . . .I’m so sorry for your loss . . .Thank you for sharing your story with us.


    March 7, 2006 at 12:14 am

    What an amazing story, and beautifully written.

    I wish that every patient had such a loving, caring family who were such powerful advocates for them. I think any kids can kiss their sick parents on the forehead and leave a card by the bedside … the children who really care about their elders fight to make sure they recieve the best care possible.

  • Karen

    March 7, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    You have written so beautifully about your and your family’s experience. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you.

  • Janae

    March 8, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Thank you for sharing your family’s experience. Your father sounds like quite the man, and I feel privileged to have been able to read about him thru is daughter’s eyes.

  • Anonymous

    March 8, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    We caregivers break our backs to give good care, then we meet what happened to Kim in the healthcare system. I have seen the same type things happen with my family members. I was astounded. Is that how we look to non medical familys? It comes home when it happens to you and thanks for sharing Kim, its like reading your own mail, your blogs, and I feel blessed to have been sent to your blogs by medscape nursing website.

  • Susan

    March 11, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    Oh Kim. What a beautiful post. I am so sorry your dad died. Something tells me he’d show up a lot in your entries. And by the way he was working on that newsletter, I can see where you get your blogging OCD!

    Sounds like he was very lucky to have such an attentive, knowledgeable family. Your advocacy obviously got him the attention he deserved from the flawed health care system.

    If you keep writing like this, I’m gonna have to keep tissues by the laptop.

  • D Bunny

    March 14, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Heart-wrenching story. But one thing is clear. I would have loved your dad!

    I’m sorry your family lost him.

  • […] #11 – Being the closeted rock groupie that I am, what’s a Grand Rounds without a Spinal Tap moment? So I’m emulating Sir Nigel Tufnel and taking it to “eleven” with a post of my own entitled They Called Him “Mac”. […]

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About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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