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Angels on Earth

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Question: What do you get if you add together one research paper on early education, a handful of mixed nuts, and not following your mom’s advice?

Answer: A seven-day stay in one of Nashville’s finest hospitals, a room full of angels, and two weeks being unable to write a newspaper column.

Confused? Yep, so was I. Never saw it coming. So climb aboard, fasten your seatbelt, and hang on, Dear Reader. This is gonna be one crazy ride, and how it all ended surprised even me because the ending of this story was supplied by none other than The Boy.

Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, Mom and Dad were always giving us advice. Like most kids from back in the day, we listened and did exactly what our parents told us to do. At least when they were around, that is. Still, looking back, some of their expert advice doesn’t pass the test of time. Here are just a few examples.

“Don’t make a funny face or it’ll freeze like that.” To this day, I still make funny faces, mostly when I wake up in the morning and get out of bed, but that’s beside the point. My face has never frozen.

Another one of their gems: “Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll get stuck.” Okay, haven’t tried crossing my eyes since we left Flamingo Street, but I’m pretty sure they won’t get stuck if I did.

My all-time favorites from around the dinner table? “Don’t talk with your mouth full,” and “Chew your food ten times before swallowing.” Who knew that last one would, 45 years later, land yours truly in a hospital fighting for his life?

For all you kids out there, take it from this old guy. I can truthfully say not doing what your parents tell you can really be dangerous to your health.

This story actually has its beginning over four years ago when The Wife decided to start her Ph.D. and went back to school. Now finished with classes, she had to do research for her final paper. Being a writer, I offered my services. She said no. The information she needed could only be found in a library at Fisk University.

That’s how, three weeks ago, we found ourselves traveling to Nashville for a few days of research and writing. The Wife was going do all the research. I was going to hang out by the heated hotel pool and enjoy writing. Neither one happened.

During the six-hour trip, I ate a handful of mixed nuts — this by itself wasn’t a mistake. Not chewing ten times was.

I always thought Mom’s rule from long ago was just to cut down on all the talking during dinner time. Five kids sure can make a lot of racket, even while their mouths are full of food. Boy, was I ever wrong.

By midnight I was rushed to the local hospital. And there The Wife and I stayed. Stretching out below our eighth-floor windows were the twinkling lights of downtown Nashville. To the left, a majestic mountain range stood. And to the right, just off in the distance, was our hotel room — which stayed vacant, except for our suitcases, for the next seven days.

Each sunrise brought with it the possibility of an emergency operation. Thankfully, it never came. If not for the care of our doctor and the nurses of Baptist Hospital, my outcome surely would’ve been very different.

For almost 55 years, I’ve never spent a night in the hospital. It’s one scary place full of sick people and strange noises.

Except for the almost dying thing (and an allergic reaction to pain medication) my stay couldn’t have been better.

The nurses checked on us every four hours. They sat and spent time talking to The Wife and me. They explained all the tests and challenges we would face in coming days. Their care lessened our stress, something I’ll forever be grateful for.

Nurses are truly angels on Earth. They’ve answered a higher calling to care for others, but that’s not the end of this story. It’s just the beginning.

When we finally got back home to the land of red clay and sweet tea, The Boy came over to check on us, and for something else. He had life-changing news of his own. He announced his engagement.

And what has been the occupation of the nice young lady for the last 12 years? She’s been one of those angels on Earth.

In our local hospital you can find her, but not always. This angel actually can fly. Two days a week, she’s in a helicopter performing critical care medical transports.

Welcome to the family, Crystal. If you take care of him the way you take care of your patients, The Boy will be very happy.

And who knows, maybe one day soon, I’ll be able to write stories about The Grand Boy or The Grand Girl.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]


What a great post. I really appreciate your good work…
<a href="">zara</a>

For sharing! Great to read this in the morning!

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