Bruce and SBPD’s Finest

If you are new to this blog of the upcoming book Viking Funeral, celebrating the life of Dave Linane with booze, words, and fire, welcome.  The timeline above shows you where we are in the book. While each chapter can stand on its own if you wish to read from the beginning, click here.  More info is available, About Dave or the FAQ section explains who the book is about and the arc of the storyline. If you found me through a grief group, this page of my perspective of why we are all here in this place right now may be helpful. XO M

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When I finally had a chance to talk to Bruce at length about his experiences with Dave, I started the conversation by asking for clarification of what I learned from interviewing Barbara, that he had visited Dave every day in the hospital. I knew Dave had visitors every day, but life continued for everyone but Dave, they had work, school, LIFE. I didn’t know anyone was there every day other than our parents. Bruce nodded that it was true and was very excited to tell me how that came about.

You may recall Bruce was in Auto Shop when he saw the ambulance out on the football field back on that shitty day. He had no idea what had transpired. Later that night, Brian called him to tell him that Dave was hurt, that the ambulance at school had been there for Dave, and that it was pretty bad.

The next day after classes, Bruce went to the hospital. I have mentioned the strict visitor rules back then about who, how many, what age, what time frame anyone could visit someone in the Intensive Care Unit. Posted: I am summarizing, of course, family members, older than 16, between the hours of X-Y and for a limited number of mere minutes at a time. And by the way, there were no chairs. My mom was forced to stand for days on end next to Dave.

Bruce entered the hallway outside ICU and came upon a red STOP sign with the list of rules on a set of double doors leading into the unit. He ignored the sign with the stupid list of bullshit anyway rules, pushed them open, and found Dave in a semi-open area separated only by privacy curtains between other people receiving critical care.

My parents were there. Dave was sedated, connected to several machines that were beeping, helping him breathe, monitoring everything.  The entire surreal scene in front of him was what one would might expect to find in an intensive care unit, mostly quiet for the sound of the machines. My parents acknowledged him as he approached, Bruce asked, “How’s he doing?” “The next few days will be touch and go.” Came flatly from my dad, who looked like a ghost of his former shining self. My mom’s focus remained on Dave.

From that day forward, Bruce stopped by every day to see Dave, fuck whatever the rules were. After creating that visual of the ICU, he returned from his memories to me in the present and asked, “Do you remember officer MacDonald? He drove that three-wheeled motorcycle?”

I did know who he was talking about. Officer MacDonald had been affiliated with San Bernardino High School, worked security at the games, it may have been his official assignment, he knew all the kids. I explained how I knew Officer Mac; his wife was the Crossing Guard at the K-8 Catholic school across the street from our house, the same school that my brothers and sisters and I attended at one point or another growing up. Officer Mac would stop by to visit with his wife briefly from time to time, and he, well they, were a kind couple, friendly with everyone, friendly with children.

Back to Bruce. He had arrived at the hospital a little later than the posted visiting hours one night. Just like he ignored the rules for entering the ICU that first day he visited Dave, he wanted to be there for his buddy and was determined to find a way into the hospital, visiting hours or not. He began walking around the outside of the hospital, trying to open every door, hoping to find something unlocked.

After trying a few doors unsuccessfully, Bruce crossed paths with Officer MacDonald, who performed extra duty in the evening as security for the hospital. Officer Mac knew Bruce and could tell something was up. He asked him precisely that. Bruce responded by asking if he knew if there was an open entrance that he could use because he was there to see Dave, and the doors near ICU were closed. Bruce went on to explain to Officer Mac that he had been there to see Dave every day, and he just wanted to get in to see his buddy.

We call them school resource officers now. I don’t think they had a specific title back then. Officer Mac definitely knew Dave; besides his work affiliation with the high school during the day, football games on the weekend, it would have been impossible not to know who Dave was given the announcements of the plays of the games. Officer Mac’s children attended high school with Dave. His daughter Denise and my brother Scott were in the same grade. He knew my parents, from the Booster Club at the high school, he knew our family from the previously mentioned connection with his wife plus their family attended the same Catholic church across the street from our house.

I mentioned previously it felt like everyone knew our home, knew a family with a boatload of kids lived there, across the street from the school and church. People tend to know who you are when there are that many of you and you live that close to such a public place in a community. Officer Mac, along with so many people in our not-so-small town, were aghast with the news of Dave’s accident. There was so much local discussion about his accident; it seemed everyone knew. Especially in those early days when Dave’s every day vitals were shared through the neighborhood telephone lines if not the newspaper. Let me state for the record that it’s awful to be known for a tragedy or your proximity to a tragedy. Even though people are well-meaning, it is not fun being stuck or labeled for years as the parents of, younger brother or sister of… or the actual young man who got hurt. We all much preferred basking in the sunlight of our dad’s athletic accomplishments or our mom’s involvement or their kindness. Any one of those things were much preferred.

Officer Mac understood immeditately with empathy at Bruce’s request and had a fast plan. He asked Bruce to follow him to a door that he revealed was not used anymore. He would unlock it at the beginning of his shift and lock it before he left. That way, anyone who wanted to come and see Dave after regular visiting hours could gain access. Bruce was stoked. From that point on, he never used the main entrance.

Dave’s first room after the ICU, that crossroads of hallways corner directly across from the nurses’ station, was very near the middle of the one-story section of the hospital. Bruce would magically appear from nowhere in the middle of the hospital and be able to sneak in to hang out with Dave. In time everyone used the secret entrance to Dave’s room if they arrived after formal visiting hours. Hospital personnel never questioned where he or they came from. This magical portal became the access point for the most important aspect of enduring an extended stay in the hospital besides friends, booze! Something I never knew they accomplished until talking to Bruce. Those guys could really keep a secret.

Bruce described what became his routine in short order. He arrived at the hospital “I don’t know how many times, wait, how long was Dave in the hospital?” “More than a year, roughly.” “Ok, then, way more than 350 times, I entered using the secret door. I’d wave warmly at the nurses in their station, ‘How you doin’?’ I would grab an empty wheelchair and a sheet from the supply closet, we knew where everything was stored including sheets and stuff. I would head back toward the secret door. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes one of the nurses would ask, ‘Hey, where are you going with that?’ ‘I’ll bring it right back, I promise!’”

He always brought it back, after going to his car, or any one of a number of peoples’ cars, stacking several cases of beer on the wheelchair now beer transport device, cover it with the sheet, and deliver the beer to Dave’s room. They stored it on ice in the shower in the bathroom in Dave’s room, and people arrived every night for booze and to hang out with Dave.

I could not stop laughing the entire time Bruce was talking. He is very entertaining the way he tells a story; it’s very funny to listen to him. He asked if I remembered certain hospital personnel. They were brothers, orderlies, basically strong guys who help lift people. These awesome guys shall not be named for obvious reasons to follow. He continued to say, “Oh my God, they partied down with us ALL THE TIME! They made sure we had ice for the beer! We always gave them beer!” I knew exactly who he was talking about and loved them. They were always so kind to me and were both really cute. When Dave moved home, they came to visit and remained connected to Dave over the years. I loved them even more after hearing that they participated and helped facilitate the illegal on so many levels of fun that was being had in Dave’s room.

Dave got to know the schedule of who was going to be on duty when. Most of the staff in very short order looked the other way. There were some people who would be not be cool with any shenanigans at all. Dave knew to make sure the guys took all the evidence of beer cans with them when they left. Other nights Dave would ask them to leave a few cans in the middle of the floor just to taunt members of the staff whom he enjoyed teasing. Dave would feign complete innocence, “Beer cans? No idea how those got there. None.”

Dave was moved to a different room in the same wing, his last move before changing facilities altogether. I remember hearing my mom tell someone that the staff had decided to move his room closer to the entrance of the wing because so many people came to visit him. They made it generally known to his friends that they could come anytime to visit, that if the doors were locked to just knock, they would come and let them in. I asked Bruce if her remembered that. “I remember him moving to that room right next to the entrance but I have no idea about the staff opening the doors after hours.” He half-laughed at the thought of having to use the normal entrance, “I just always used the secret door. But that makes sense, I mean honestly, there were always A LOT of people there.”

I hate stupid rules. I love that Bruce didn’t follow any bullshit rules and paved the path for everyone to follow. Limited visiting hours don’t make sense when everyone lives life on different time parallels. Having visitors can make an unbearable time survivable. That should be taken into consideration as part of patient recovery. Allowing access to their favorite people. Hospitals have changed quite a bit with regard to visitor rules since then.

I knew from overhearing the nurses talking way back then that they loved how Dave’s friends were always there. We saw so few other visitors with the other patients in that ward. There was so much sadness in this section of the hospital, all head and neck injuries. A few patients could talk, some were in a vegetative state, most had some form of severe paralysis, absolutely no one could walk. This was a place where time passed slowly, of sad hushed conversations, heavy hearts barely treading above their drowning sorrow. This was a place with horridly ugly brown mustard walls, definitely not a place full of joy.

Dave would not acquiesce to what could have been wretched sadness, and his friends were right there to bring laughter and outrageous silliness to wing 700 of San Bernardino Community Hospital and eventually back to our lives too. There were fake turds, vomit, or tipped beer cans with realistic looking beer spilled out that were randomly placed all over Dave’s room. Bruce laughed at the memory of wheelchair or gurney races, pushing each other up and down the halls of the otherwise silent hospital wing at night, while someone stood watch. They cranked up the music system set up in Dave’s room to Spinal Tap 11 in his fairly sound-proof room, they sang along at the top of their lungs, dressed up at Halloween,  covered each other with silly string, hooted and hollered at games on T.V. and yes, they enjoyed cases upon cases of beer all while the staff chose to look the other way. I theorized the real reason Dave didn’t want to write this book was he didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. Pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out, and those people no longer work there.

The most important aspect I wanted to convey in this story is that breaking stupid rules is sometimes the most important thing to do. I am thankful to Bruce for feeling compelled to be there every day and not stopping at the first sign that said STOP. I am grateful for Officer Mac, for helping Bruce break into the hospital for all the right reasons every day to see Dave. I am thankful for his many other friends who used that secret entrance into the hospital to be there every day possible. These were mere kids, 18-year-old kids making a huge difference breaking all the right rules for their friend.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020

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