The Unstoppable Judy B
By Bill Stork, DVM
She could have been admitted through emergency at San Diego General. Dean Care would have covered without question. Her niece, Hannah, would ensure she received the best of care, and her discomfort would never pass the little yellow face with the creased brow.
She could have caught a cab from Whiskey Pete’s Truck Stop to Mountain View Medical Center in Las Vegas.
She could have rolled straight through security and onto the first class seat her daughter had booked out of Salt Lake City International.
But there were 40,000 pounds of fruit behind an ‘02 Peterbilt. Woodman’s expected delivery by Friday noon, and it wasn’t going to drive itself home. Her husband, Butch, had been truckin’ for 38 years, but there wasn’t enough caffeine in California to keep his eyes open another mile.
1400 miles and 20 hours from home, the Jake brake growled full-throat as the 53-foot reefer leaned gently onto the shoulder of I-80 eastbound.
Knowing he may as well be talking to President Lincoln, “Judy, give me 150 miles and I’ll be back at it,” Butch croaked as he crawled into the sleeper.
The next thing he’d see that didn’t look like the backside of his eyelids would be the “Come Again” sign, as she put Cheyenne in their rearview, 489 miles later, bound for Omaha.
Half a continent later, and nearly two days after her first attack, they’d dock the produce at Sun Prairie Woodman’s. An hour after that, she would be in room 402 at St. Mary’s Hospital. A constant-rate infusion pump delivered intravenous fluids through a catheter in her right arm to correct her dehydration. Antibiotics and morphine were piggy-backed to fight the pain and infection. A CT scan found a raging case of diverticulitis. Surgery would be scheduled, but not until she was stronger.
Judy Barnes is just past 70 and 5’4”, with her hair in curls. She walks softly, speaks softly and carries no stick. Yet, on the 120 acres near the intersection of County C and G known by one of the most cohesive families and inclusive circle of friends I have ever witnessed as “the farm”; if there is ever need for a final word, it will be hers.
Her left foot is as comfortable at the pedal of a Singer mending overalls as on the clutch of a Peterbilt hauling freight. No one has ever left her kitchen a stranger, or pushed back from her Christmas table empty-handed, heavy-hearted or hungry. At a time when compassion, common sense and accountability are endangered, look no further than her two sons and daughters.
Simply put, Judy B is a bastion of core values, strength and family. That being said, it is neither the topic of this piece, nor her identity. For those who know her best, Judy’s defining attribute is her gas.
Cleaning up after Thanksgiving dinner she can be simple, prolific and sustained. Marching through Kohls scouting pre-Christmas door-buster deals, in synchrony with every step she can be staccato and musical.
Andante or Allegro, Judy B is a virtuoso, having rendered flatulence a fine art.
Others, by virtue of genetics, medical conditions or PEDs may come close, but it is in the presentation where Judy stands alone. Each movement is delivered humbly, and void of apology or bravado. The surgery would prove successful, but only after weeks of antibiotics and fluid diet. Judy lay in her hospital bed, surrounded by machines going "ping," fluid pumps, and family.
The surgeon, in a highly medical fashion, deadpanned, "The first step is for her to pass gas.”
Her daughters and husband were precariously balanced between too stunned to speak and “be careful what you wish for.” Like ducks in the desert, waiting and wishing for Judy to produce was uncharted waters.
It was in those waiting hours that I had opportunity to think.
From royalty to the rank and file, devout to agnostic, newborn to geriatric, not one of us is spared. Imagine, if you will, how history may have been altered by the mere fear of an uncontrolled expulsion. Let alone the physical act, how many first impressions have been flubbed with no second chance? We will never know the commencement addresses, sermons and speeches that may have inspired us to action, were it not for an orator's poor choice of side dishes and fear of a hypersensitive sound system.
By way of full disclosure, one too many clumps of cauliflower and a small animal veterinarian soon finds himself praying for three loud children and a cocker spaniel with an ear infection, or else he find himself wishing for a creaking door through which to excuse himself to examine a slide under the microscope. Apropos, unless the patient is presented for a heart murmur or behavior problem.
The Krebs cycle is the bane of every college student, and the chemical pathway by which all fuel – from free-range bison burgers to fresh arugula – is converted to mechanical motion, meaningful thought and productivity. Methane is an obligate product of digestion.
Yet decorum dictates that, when faced with an excess, we refrain or apologize.
It is no less physiologic than a sneeze, yet when someone forcefully exhales, we say “Gesundheit,” or “bless you.” There was once a time when we thought a sneeze was an opportunity for evil spirits to enter the body. It seems abundantly clear how they escape.
So in honor of Judy, and for the better of us all, I propose that we simply and quietly decommission the fart. Place it alongside sneezing, coughing, snoring, and post-nasal drip. Not to be celebrated, or apologized; a privilege not to be abused. One can only dream of the efficiency and productivity to be gained the day when, once and for all, we no longer live in fear.