Letter to the Editor: Recalled to Life: A Fond Tribute to the Knox Center

To The Editor:

It is a decidedly spring morning and to my delight-for the first time in weeks- I am sitting next to my hospital room window. It is open and is broadcasting all the freshness that spring can offer. My vista includes a small children’s park filled with the laughter that it was designed to elicit. But best of all to an old fly fisherman like me, there appears to be a small trout stream wending its way through trees and gardens.

In all probability the stream does not hold trout. But at this moment, given my long illness, I prefer to believe that it does. I am also willing to believe, from the feelings of hope this place has been steadily giving me, that I will wade trout streams again.

I am at the Knox Center for Long Term Care at this moment, reflecting on the arduous illness I have had for the last eight weeks, the first three of which were the most difficult of my life. A year earlier, I had heart surgery that, by comparison, seemed like a cakewalk.

Yet my thoughts at the window are about the amazing care that gave me strength through this terrible experience.

When I came to this rehabilitation facility after a three-week stay at Pen Bay Medical Center, walking was far from being assured. This was, in fact, what I had been told that in the hospital when I was barely lucid. I had lost my ability to walk and was advised that I might never be able to walk again. I developed a massive staph infection, the result of a tiny self-inflicted wound from a paring knife, combined with a compromised immune system associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Through my darkest days, my sweet, wonderful and ever-present wife was with me and helped me climb out of the abyss when I began to improve. As a consequence, she has been able to tell me about the excellent and the extensive care I received. From the beginning she was impressed with the kindness and helpfulness of my physicians and the entire staff. On the physician side, she was highly impressed with the curriculum vitae she was able to review via the Internet.

Indeed, the overall impression left by the exceptional care at Pen-Bay began to suggest that this would be an excellent area for our permanent retirement residence. As it happened our vacation home in Tenants Harbor of some 10 years seemed to be a ready-made spot. We are now Mainers, although as we understand it, not the authentic kind.

Having heard my wife’s high praise for the hospital’s care, I had high expectations when I was transferred to the Knox Center. They were more than met. Based upon my hospital experiences elsewhere I was truly astonished.

It certainly wasn’t because the facility was new or posh. To the contrary, it was so old that in its former life as a hospital, many of Knox Center’s current personnel and their grandparents were born there. Instead, it is the attitude that pervades the place that is so special; it effectively greets you at the door. It is as though the entire place has had a course and earned a doctorate in pleasantness.

This was of great comfort, not only to me but to my family. All three of my adult children came to visit early during my stay at Knox Center. They were expecting something more institutional and less responsive. Their experience at-large city hospitals had not prepared them for the can-do attitude of the nurses, nurse’s aides, the building staff and administrative personnel. The patients came first, and were generally met with a broad smile and a “What can I do for you?”

At the heart of my efforts to walk again were the physical and occupational therapy staffs. I was usually assigned the same therapists who became used to my quirks and particular needs. While at times I thought I would never succeed in my goals, the encouragement of both of my therapists, their professionalism and the confidence they placed in me, bolstered my own determination and desire. I was also highly impressed with their knowledge of the Kineseo tape used with such success at the Olympics. Their willingness to use and experiment with it indicated an institution flexible enough to move in any direction required. I learned to develop total faith in the therapy these kind professionals so expertly administered, but could hardly believe how well it worked.

Slowed down by a case of gout at the end of five weeks, I was walking with the aid of a walker and was able to take care of most of my daily needs.

An important bonus was the daily instruction I received from the staff nutritionist. Clear and helpful instructions were given at the outset of my stay and every day we planned menus together. This exercise reinforced better eating habits which have proven useful to this day. And on top of everything else the food was home-cooked and wonderful.

During my stay at the Knox Center, I came to learn that the phenomenon that makes the Center such an inviting place for recuperation and its unique culture is described by the staff as “Knox Magic.” This is appropriately so. Having a name for this potion helps to ensure its continued existence.

Before learning of the staff’s nickname for its own culture, a metaphor came to my mind from my own relatively brief observations. One of my favorite comic characters invented by Charles Dickens is Jerry Cruncher, the grave robber from A Tale of Two Cities. Jerry is accustomed to calling himself “an honest tradesman.” It is a description which he proudly embellishes from time to time by saying that he is in the “resurrection business.”

So too of great meaning, taken from A Tale Of Two Cities, is the name of the first chapter and phrase. Dickens refers to Dr. Philip Manet upon his release following a lengthy imprisonment as having been “recalled to life.” For me, it was that Knox magic that recalled me to life.

This is written to express my enduring gratitude.


Kenneth A. Payment
Tenants Harbor, ME

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