Moments in time: Part one

  • Published
  • By Col. Kathleen Dunn-Cane
  • 509th Medical Group commander
Editor's note: The following commentary is the first of a two-part series. The second part is scheduled to be featured in the next edition of the Warrior. For the complete series, visit

Have you ever thought about events in your life and how one moment in time changed it drastically? The older I get the more reflective I am about moments in time during my lifetime and how they've affected me. This month I am going to focus on things that could have been changed if only we had the ability to look back and see the consequences.

When I was a child, I lived at the base pool during summer vacation. From Memorial Day on, I was either at swimming lessons or begging my parents to let me spend the days at the pool. Our swimming lessons were always busy and filled with friends. I remember my mother receiving a phone call one afternoon and how upset she was. She had just been notified my best friend's little sister drowned at the pool during swim lessons. The class had taken a quick break from the pool and the little girl got back into the water and went into the deep end. Nobody noticed until it was too late. Everyone we knew was devastated. She had been a decent swimmer and had never done anything like this in the past. Her mother was at the pool talking to friends when it happened and felt to blame. So did the swim instructor and every child who was in the class. What could they have done to prevent it? If only we had done this, or that? We could all go crazy thinking of what ifs. I have often wondered how the family got over the loss and devastation.

A few years later, after a couple more moves, I learned of a death of a boy who was a good friend at our previous base. He had been sitting on a motorcycle just hanging out with friends when it tipped over. He sustained a deadly head injury in the fall, he was 14 years old. No one in the family rode motorcycles or even had one. He was just visiting with friends and decided to sit on it. Can you imagine the call to the parents saying your son has just been killed in a motorcycle accident? How could that be, he doesn't even ride. In a moment their lives changed.

Fast forward about fifteen years to a base where I was an active-duty nurse. It was a quiet day, just routine patient appointments when we got the call. A television just fell on a little girl at the BX and she is being transported to the clinic. Okay, a TV fell, couldn't be that bad. Well, they brought in the 2-year-old girl. She had been at the BX watching a movie in the TV section, climbed on the cart to change the channel and the 21-inch TV fell, landing directly on her chest. She came in to us in critical condition and did not survive. The TV had lacerated her aorta when it fell on her. She didn't have a chance, although we worked a long time trying to save her. We didn't think of risks like TV's unsecured to a stand at home or in stores that many years ago and who would have? Most of our lessons in life have been learned the hard or memorable way.

Okay, one more moment in time. It's a couple of years later. I am at work and receive the call a boy riding his bike was just hit by a car. He was riding his bike on base with his helmet on his head, but not strapped. He was thrown from the bike, lost his helmet and landed about 15 feet from his bike. His injuries included a concussion, broken collar bone and numerous bumps and scrapes. We responded with the ambulance and discovered he was the son of one of our nurses. She was on the scene very quickly, stunned it was her son who was injured. She said he always rode with his helmet secured and was a good bike rider. Who knows what happened that day, was it the norm to ride like he did unless his parents were in sight to observe him or was it a fluke he didn't strap the helmet? I guess only he knows. Luckily, he survived and didn't have any long-term effects of the injury.
When my kids started riding bikes, we always had the rule of safety-gear in place or no bike. When my oldest son was 13 years old, he decided he couldn't wear the bike helmet anymore because it messed up his hair. He lost his bike riding privileges and has not ridden since. It's a little harsh I know, but he is still with us today (and his hair still looks good).

As I think of moments in time of significant events that happened to others that affected me I am humbled. How can lives be changed in a split moment and how can we prevent devastating results of everyday events?

Some might say I hovered over my children worrying about everything that could happen to them. I would have to beg to differ. When they went to swimming lessons, times had changed and parents were actually in the pool with the kids. I have to admit; I worried incessantly about motorcycles and said no for years when my husband said he wanted to get a motorcycle. After much thought, I decided to give the motorcycle a try. If we took the classes, had the protective equipment and knew safety techniques, we could do it. We have been riding a couple of years now and really enjoy it. The kids know all the things required to ride. One rides the other doesn't. I bet you can guess who doesn't ride; it's the helmet thing all over again. Not really, he doesn't have the desire. In fact, now he worries incessantly about his brother riding. Now we have another watchful eye making sure his brother is following the safety rules.

Unforeseen safety risks scare me. I walk through facilities and look for risks like an unsecured TV. We all need to look past what we see on a daily basis and analyze the risk. I almost have to go with the intent of looking for hazards as opposed to just walking around. My mind and eyes work differently based on my intention for the walk around.

Not following basic safety guidelines really bother me. There is not a day that goes by without me seeing children with helmets on the handlebars or unstrapped. I can't tell you why they do this, it could be a hair thing, or they may think it is not cool to wear a helmet. This is something we can all fix. In my house, the rule was simple; you ride the safe way or not at all. No discussion on this. Walking is just as easy and you will still get there, although it may be a little slower.

I don't want my moments in time to be spent regretting the times I didn't enforce standards or set the rules. I would much rather spend the moments enjoying time with family than in regret. How will you all spend your moments in time? We can't turn the clock back, so treasure the moments you have.