Thursday, February 28, 2013

TING AND I, Managing Nurses

Managing nurses is like trying to herd cats, I jokingly told our nurse of greatest seniority here (six years). She agreed. They are very independent. They can be warm and purr. They seem to be listening to you, and yet….

We have had excellent nurses, judging by their behavior and by Tina’s health. I jokingly say that they are a hand-picked crew, but that the next time I have to choose, I’ll use a computer. Only kidding!


“Trust, but verify.” That may seem contradictory, but both elements are needed. You cannot supervise and observe everything, and you have chosen people who are trained to do what you need and generally want to do it right. Not keeping track is a recipe for failure, however. At the least, communications have got to be confirmed as received and understood. Beyond that, good practice needs to be acknowledged and bad practice corrected. Overly close observation breeds tension and resentment, but a lack of observation may communicate that you don’t care, or it simply may contribute to missing something significant.

Agency Woes

We started by using a nursing agency to get our round-the-clock nursing shifts covered. The agency charged IBM about twice what it paid the nurses, which may have been a fair reflection of the need for administration and profit. The nurses they supplied were highly variable in quality, however, some excellent, some poor. Getting coverage for certain shifts, such as weekend overnights, was uncertain. Sometimes I was the overnight nurse, which I could handle as long as the night was routine, the equipment functioning properly. Sleeping or resting beside Tina, I gave medicines by the gastric tube, responded to high-pressure or low-pressure alarms from the ventilator, If we had lost electrical power, it would have been difficult though not impossible to handle alone, as I touched on above.

Hiring Our Own

“Who pays the piper calls the tune.” I decided to do the hiring and paying myself. The extra trouble of doing so was offset by the improvement in quality it led to. Within six months, I was hiring our own nurses, supplementing and finally replacing the agency. I advertised in the local paper, interviewed them and made the hiring decisions. We live in the country, so finding our house was part of the intelligence/diligence test. About half made it to the interview, and about half of these were hired.

I paid them more than the agency had paid theirs, but charged IBM less than what the agency charged, using our best approximation of the actual costs, which included a variety of government surcharges.

There were no “off the books” dealings, as this is a sure-fire way to get in trouble or leave you open to blackmail by a disgruntled employee. And Uncle Sam needs our money, right?

“You get what you pay for.” I would not expect our nurses to work for nothing, and I know they don’t work here only for the money. By paying wages somewhat above average and by providing a pleasant working environment, we have been able to attract and keep an outstanding crew. The doctors have commented on Tina’s excellent condition and care. The nurses in the hospitals have commented on the high quality of our nurses when they have seen them in action. We have our nurses stay with Tina during her rare hospitalizations, even though we are not reimbursed for this.


Interviewing the candidates, I had to get a sense of not only their skills but also the reasons they wanted this job. The salary was attractive, especially for LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses), who often elsewhere would get only half the hourly pay of RNs (Registered Nurses). To eliminate RN-LPN rivalry and to acknowledge that their duties at our house were identical, we paid both the same rate, giving RNs some preference in choice of shift hours.

Home care does not provide much career advancement, does not offer the opportunity to meet a nice, eligible doctor, does involve getting along with the family, and–in our case–a seventy-pound Golden Retriever with an alpha-dog temperament. Smoking was taboo, given the oxygen in use and the difficulty there would be in evacuating Tina safely in case of a fire. Nurses were told not to come to work with a cold, as a respiratory infection was the likeliest cause of death in cases such as Tina’s.

The highly successful coach of Penn State’s football teams, Joe Paterno, recruited far more high school quarterbacks than he was going to play in that key position. They were typically outstanding athletes, and they proved their prowess when he deployed them in other positions. When I interview, I look for something like that, some outstanding strengths that will add to our team. The nurses vary in their stronger and weaker areas, but as Rocky and Adrian said, they “fill gaps.”

Monday, February 25, 2013


Posted at a site that features weekly "gutsy stories." Nicely formatted and illustrated.

Subject: The voting has started
From: Sonia Marsh <>
Date: Thu, February 28, 2013 9:44 am
To:, Anne Loney <>,
Diane Danvers-Simmons <>, Douglas Winslow Cooper

Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for submitting your "My Gutsy Story."
Please ask you friends, followers, family, etc. to come over and vote.
I made a brief podcast to explain.
Thanks again.
Here is the link.


Sonia Marsh
Author of Freeways to Flip-Flops
Blog: Gutsy Living
Facebook: GutsyLiving
Twitter: @GutsyLiving

Sunday, February 24, 2013

TING AND I, Home Medical Care



A major threat to quadriplegic patients like Tina is infection, especially respiratory infection and, secondarily, bedsores. If Tina gets the flu, certain antiviral medicines may help, but basically she is on her own—her immune system must create the antibodies that destroy the viruses.

Each fall, flu vaccinations are made available to combat the current version of flu, which is different every year. In 2009, a second version, H1N1, became a threat as well.

Tina and I each get vaccinated. For people in their 60s, as we are, it reduces our risk of catching the flu by roughly 50 percent. We require our nurses to get the shots as a condition of employment, made clear in the interviews we do in selecting new hires. This reduces their risk by 50 percent or a bit more, except that some of them are in contact with large populations of institutional patients who are more likely than most to catch the flu.

In 2010, there was controversy surrounding the safety of the H1N1 vaccine, which controversy seemed to me to be overblown. Regardless, we required this second flu shot, not for the benefit of the nurses, but for the benefit of Tina. Nursing means you take certain responsibilities and some added risks, for example, you drive to work when the roads are slippery. Four of our nurses strung us along several months, not indicating they would not get the H1N1 shots. When they did not get the shots after a month’s warning of our deadline, they were fired.


Your skin protects you from infection. Remove even a modest fraction of it and microbes will overwhelm your immune system and kill you. Antibiotics can wipe out some of these organisms, but some have evolved to be multiple-drug-resistant strains that we cannot yet defeat.

Lying in bed (or sitting) motionless keeps pressure on portions of the skin near the supporting bones. Blood to these areas is not supplied or removed in normal amounts, so cells begin to die. Altering the patient’s position frequently can prevent this. Urine and fecal matter can irritate the skin, making it more likely to fail. Sliding associated with being moved can exert shear forces that can tear the skin. Once such a sore, a bedsore, develops, the patient is at risk for systemic infection and death; thus, bed sores must be prevented, and treatment started at the first sign of a developing problem.

We had one such sore during Tina’s paraplegic period (1994-2004) and one during her current period of quadriplegia (post 2004). The first was due to inadequate attention by a home health aide and me. We should have changed her position more frequently and taken greater pains to keep her clean and dry. The second bed sore resulted during hospitalization, with unusual urinary and bowel incontinence as contributing factors.

At home we have taken many steps to prevent bedsores. We have an air mattress with a checkerboard pattern of air pockets: when the “black” squares are up, the “red” are down and vice-versa, thanks to the action of an air pump that every few minutes changes from inflating one air path and suctioning the other, to the reverse. We also put her on her side a total of a few hours each day. Being placed on her side is less than optimal for Tina, because she cannot rest as well or see the TV as well, but it works out, especially during daytime naps and some periods in the overnight shift.

Our staff has told me horror stories of fist-size bedsores down to the bone on nursing home patients who received inadequate care. By that stage the sores are deadly. Too many patients, too few staff, poor morale among the staff all can contribute. Once a bedsore starts to develop, it is admittedly a challenge to reverse.

Christopher Reeve was the well-known actor (Superman) rendered quadriplegic by the severing of his spinal cord in an equestrian accident in 1995, the year after Tina became bedridden. We closely followed developments in his case. Until 2004, he wrote and spoke as though he believed his spinal injury would someday be cured. That year he stated that he had lost that faith; bedsores recurred, despite presumably the best of care, and he died from the infection or from a reaction to the antibiotic given to treat it. Small, but deadly are bedsores.

We care for Tina’s skin very, very diligently.

Friday, February 22, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Cold Case Cracked



New York Daily News, Tuesday, May 1, 2001: “Bronx detectives solved a five-year-old murder case yesterday, arresting a man who allegedly shot a 13-year-old girl after she rebuffed his advances in the laundry room of their apartment building.”


As a detective, you have a wide variety of criminal cases to investigate. When a homicide occurs, the detective is taken out of the usual case-catching rotation for a two-week period, actually an eight-day period.


When I was with the NYPD, the detective work schedule was a four-day work week, consisting of two tours from 4pm to 1am, then a turnaround shift, starting at 8am and going to 4pm, for the remaining two days. The precinct detective squad was broken down by teams, A, B, C, D, Each team consisted of 4 to 8 detectives.


As cases were assigned to each team, the cases were then assigned in rotation to each individual detective. When a homicide came in, the “catching detective” was pulled from that rotation to work on that particular case. After the two-week special assignment, he would go back to catching all types of cases. This did not leave much time to pick up and continue on a homicide case. Each detective was catching anywhere from 20 to 40 cases per month. A lot of these cases involved domestic violence and violations of orders of protection, which required immediate attention in arresting the violator.


I was assigned as the homicide investigator for my squad, and I would pick up on these homicide cases and work on them for the catching detective. As new leads and developments came forth, and when an arrest was imminent, the information was then provided to the case detective for closure.


Between cases, I would go to the squad file room, where all the old cold cases were stored. I would pick up and review the case files of all the unsolved, open, homicides. All homicides would stay active, because you don’t close out a homicide unless it was a physical arrest or an arrest by “exceptional clearance.”


An “exceptional clearance” arrest meant that you knew the identity of the perpetrator and his location, but for some reason you were unable to prosecute. An example is when the perpetrator is known to be deceased. Another example is when the perp is incarcerated. I would pick up these files and read them. I was looking for something that jumped out at me or gave me a certain feel of the case.


There was one case in particular, in which a 13-year-old girl was murdered, shot in the head in the basement laundry room of the tenement building where she lived with her mom. The shooting happened just a week shy of her 14th birthday. This incident had occurred five years prior. I just knew I had to solve this one. As with all cases, after you have read the file, you read it again, go to every inch, every note, and try to formulate a plan.


I would always go back to the crime scene, even if it were several years later. I used to get a certain sense, a certain feeling. All crime scenes seemed to talk to me, maybe it’s creepy, but I felt I was the one who was talking with the deceased victim. My next step was to make contact with the family, to introduce myself to the case.


I would usually make contact in person on these cases. I remember that it was a Sunday morning, and my partner and I went to the parents’ residence. (They have moved since the incident.) We knocked on the door and were welcomed in. The strange thing is that when they opened the door, the parents were both crying before we even had a chance to say why we were there.


I introduced myself as the new lead investigator on their daughter’s case. They both broke down. As I started to say that I knew how very difficult this was for them, I was interrupted. The girl’s mother told us, “You know, today is her birthday, and we just returned from the cemetery, and my husband and I were praying ‘dear Lord, please show us a sign that the police didn’t forget our beautiful daughter,’ and you came knocking on our door moments after we returned home.”


I was at a loss for words. I didn’t even realize it was the girl’s birthday. From that point on, I knew I was going to solve this case.


It had been November 5, 1995, and a 13-year-old girl was helping her mom to do the laundry. “I’ll take the clothes downstairs for you,” she offered. She put on roller skates and took her basket of clothes, rode the elevator to the basement, and that was the last her mother saw her, until someone came banging on her door and told her that her daughter had been shot.


There were apparently no witnesses, certainly no explanation. Her mom lived with this mystery for five years. My job was to trace her daughter’s footsteps, not easy when you’re talking about a five-year delay.


By that point, people had moved; her friends had grown up, and not many people in the building remembered the details of the incident. How can you forget such a tragic thing?


Slowly, I began to track the close friends. There were, in fact, witnesses present, at least five or six. I found the witnesses. They were all friends of hers, a few girls and a couple of boys. They had been hanging out in the basement, rollerblading, waiting for their own laundry to be done. Our poor victim was kind of a tomboy. One of the boys had a crush on her, making sexual innuendos and backing her into a corner. She pushed him back away from her and embarrassed this young boy in front of everyone. She also berated him openly. He then left and returned a few minutes later. He started backing her into a corner again, but this time pulled out a loaded .38 caliber handgun from under his shirt. She replied, “what’s he going to do, shoot me?” Those were her last words.


From those interviews, we learned the identity of the shooter.


He was already incarcerated for drug and robbery convictions. It was time to pay him a visit in prison. Interviews with inmates in correctional facilities were rarely productive. There is the sense among the inmates that if one of them speaks to the “Po-Po” (police) for any length of time, he must be ratting someone out to save himself.


He had no idea we were coming, no chance to get a story together. We had to be careful in this interview because we didn’t want him to say, “I want to speak to a lawyer.” Once those words are spoken, our conversations must cease. We needed him to confess, to come clean.


Many years had passed; and he was now all grown up. He did have a crush on her. I believe that he had a very heavy heart over what happened. I also believed that he really didn’t intend to kill her. It was my job now to get it out of him.


At first, he denied even knowing her. Slowly and with patience, we continued to talk, at times showing him a crime scene photo or two to bring it back to that tragic day. His emotions began coming out. Eventually, he confessed, even to details about how he had disposed of the gun. He gave it to an older guy in the building he trusted. That individual broke down the gun and threw it, piece by piece, into the Hudson River.


By the end of the interview, this hardened criminal had broken down in tears and even said, “Thank you, detective, I’ve been carrying this for too many years.”


During the period of my investigation, I decided not to give too many details of the developments in the case to the parents, to keep from giving them false hopes.


Once again, we went unannounced to the parents residence. This time they opened the door and greeted us with great joy, perhaps guessing what I was about to tell them. They were relieved to know that this sad case had been solved.


In the same article with which I opened this chapter, the girl’s father was quoted as saying, “I think these guys did a fantastic job. This is certainly the beginning of giving us some closure.”


Cracking such cold cases gave me tremendous satisfaction. Sometimes, we win.


Excerpted from memoir, THE SHIELD OF GOLD, by former NYPD detective Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published by Outskirts Press in 2012, available from OP or, and others in paperback or ebook formats..

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TING AND I: Medical Insurance Experience


During my IBM employment, the John Hancock Insurance Company got IBM to allow them to offer a special deal for the IBM employees to obtain long-term care insurance. The options had fixed total payouts, with the middle option that we chose being a total of $210,000, several times my annual salary at that time. They could not deny participation due to prior medical conditions, and we were open about Tina’s multiple sclerosis, the symptoms of which were mild back then.

Five or ten years later, when we met the disability requirements to qualify for weekly supplementation of our home health aide’s salary, Hancock started paying about $250 per week to reimburse us. This went on for fourteen years, paying about half to two-thirds of the cost of our aides, who typically worked a thirty-hour to forty-hour week.

Thank you, John Hancock.





During the 100-days’ war against Tina’s aspiration-caused pneumonia, from February to June 2004, we ran up roughly a half-million dollars in hospital expenses, covered by IBM’s policy with Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New York State. When she returned home, round-the-clock skilled nursing was similarly covered, without a problem by Empire BC/BS, whether the billing came from the nursing agency or from me.

Thank you, Empire Blue Cross / Blue Shield.


One must sometimes fight one’s insurers.

At the start of 2005 we were moved by IBM from Empire to MVP. The early section on Tina’s choice to live has already described some of the 100-day struggle that was fought mainly in the Critical Care Unit. More details in Terry Bush’s piece in the Tributes section below.

MVP wanted more documentation than Empire had required. We sent them reams.

MVP wanted to stop paying for the skilled nursing at home, labeling Tina’s need as “custodial care” rather than “skilled nursing care.” Custodial care is roughly equivalent to babysitting, which would include giving bottles and making diaper changes. Tina was on a ventilator, fed through a gastric tube, quadriplegic, and in pain if morphine were not given in proper amounts at proper times. There were about a half-dozen prescription medications to be given at various times during the day and night. The gastric tube needed daily care. The tracheostomy needed daily care.

All activities needed to be documented, to assure they were done, to provide continuity of care from shift to shift. We had hospital orders for all this, along with a doctor’s orders as well. Still, MVP carped. They planned to stop paying for daytime skilled nursing care. They refused to pay for overnight care.

From 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., through all of 2005, I was the overnight nurse, resting beside Tina, getting up for the administration of medicines, answering overpressure or underpressure alarms from the ventilator, suctioning secretions from her trachea, changing her disposable diapers by rolling her carefully on the bed while keeping from hurting her tender wrist joints.

I do believe “work is love made real,” and this was a labor of love. The loss of sleep was less a problem than was the fear that I would be alone when we lost electrical power, as we do several times each year here, or when she had an emergency condition requiring my immediate attention and my calling for help simultaneously. Evacuating her from a fire would be terribly difficult alone, too. Walking the dog briefly or checking some questionable condition outside meant abandoning her. Not good, not good.

We appealed the proposed removal of MVP financial support for the daytime nurses, and we pushed for overnight skilled nursing as well. Two levels of MVP reviewers turned us down. Two levels of IBM reviewers turned us down. An independent outside medical review, our last hope, vindicated our position entirely. Yes, one must sometimes fight.

We had started replacing some of the agency nurses as early as August 2004. By January 2005, I believe, we no longer used the agency. We started hiring overnight nurses in January 2006. MVP was slow to pay, getting behind a month or two for much of the year. At $25,000 per month, this created a significant cash-flow problem.


Next, we were switched by IBM to United Healthcare (UHC), the group we are with now. They were less demanding than MVP, and more helpful; but the transition delayed our reimbursements (we pay the nurses, weekly, ourselves) for two or even three months, amounting to $50,000 to $75,000 in arrears. I fear that few other couples would have had the savings we had that let us cover this shortfall. Eventually, UHC caught up, to our relief.

Thank you, United Healthcare.


In seven years, IBM has paid more than two million dollars for Tina’s care. My decisions to work for IBM and, ten years later, to take their early-retirement buy-out, paid off for us. We are greatly appreciative. The ten years I worked for IBM proved to be the best working situation I ever had.

We lost one round of the lottery of life by Tina’s being stricken with MS, but we won another round by having IBM’s help, and we won the big jackpot by getting to be married to each other, having been in love since 1963, but apart for nineteen years.

We are, indeed, fortunate.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Ch. 15 Murderous Mom

In the year 2011, Florida mother Casey Anthony, widely believed to have killed her two-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony, was acquitted by a Florida jury of murdering her child. The accusation had been that, in order to free herself for more dating, Casey Anthony had done away with the child, who had proven to be inconvenient. The case described next has similar elements, with a different outcome.


Police were called to an apartment in our Bronx precinct with a report that the daughter of a young single mother was “not breathing.” In fact, when the officers arrived on the scene, they found the seven-year-old girl dead. She was lying on the bathroom floor, on her back in a resting position with her hands folded in front of her, as though she had been placed in a casket instead of on a bathroom floor. Although she was wet, she had on panties that were dry. It was a strange situation, quite possibly a crime scene.


As a homicide detective, I was called in to evaluate the scene. Although there was water in the bathtub, it was at most a foot deep, and it was hard to see how a healthy seven-year-old girl could possibly have drowned in it. We interviewed the mother, who stated that the daughter did not have any significant medical conditions that could have caused her to become unconscious or fall asleep in the tub.


This single mother’s story initially was that she herself had fallen asleep during the period in which her daughter was taking a bath. The mother claimed that she had taken pills for sleep and had not been awake for several hours. We looked for signs of forced entry into the apartment and found none. The mother claimed that no one else had a key to the apartment. She said, at first, that she had no boyfriends, although we soon found out that this was a lie.


The mother’s story did not make sense. How could a daughter this age drown in a foot of bathwater? Closer examination of the body revealed slight bruises on the upper chest area of the girl’s body. We quickly realized this was not the scene of an accident, but the scene of a crime.


Investigation revealed that the mother indeed did have a boyfriend, a disc jockey, a DJ at a local radio station, and her friends revealed that she was really somewhat of a party girl.


When we interviewed the DJ, he quickly requested a lawyer, and became wholly uncooperative.


We investigated her telephone calls during the period in question on this weekend and found a prolonged call to her mother and numerous other calls during this time when she had initially claimed she was asleep.


I flew to Chicago to interview the dead girl’s grandmother, the mother’s mother. She revealed that her daughter had not wanted to have this child, finding that the little girl inconvenienced her, especially on the weekends when she liked to party. When I asked the grandmother whether she could say for sure that her daughter would never have killed her granddaughter, the grandmother was unwilling to be that strong in that opinion.


We typically did not make an arrest in a murder case until we had gotten an indictment from a grand jury, a so-called “true bill.” In this case the grand jury indicted.


Between indictment and trial, there are often several pretrial hearings. While the mother was being held in the Riker’s Island detention facility, she made several comments to her cellmate, revealing– at the least– a feeling of guilt about what had happened to the child. The cellmate offered to help the District Attorney with the case by testifying to the mother’s comments, but wanted, unsurprisingly, something in return for this.


The D.A. Agreed to a deal with this informant, on the condition that she would wear a wire, so that a further conversation with the mother in the cell could be recorded, and that occurred. While the mother did not explicitly admit killing the child during those conversations, her comments as recorded, along with the forensic evidence, were enough for the jury to convict her of murder.


The mother’s defense attorney attempted to reduce the mothers responsibility for what happened to the daughter by noting that she was being medicated for bipolar disorder, what we used to call “manic-depressive,” but the jury did not think that this was sufficient to exonerate her.


Is there a lesson here? Perhaps it is that if you’re in jail, keep quiet. As we will see in the next case, of one who got away, silence can be golden.


Excerpted from THE SHIELD OF GOLD by Lenny Golino, former NYPD
detective, and Douglas Winslow Cooper. Published in 2012 by Outskirts Perss and available in paperback and ebook formats from,, and

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Our nurse Kate Murphy said about Tina that some people are put on this Earth to bring out the best in others. Tina does that.

Below are several excerpts on this subject, taken from the tributes section at the end of the book.

Our first nurse, Terry Bush, writes:

Tina received compassion from all around her –- staff, friends, family –- but she gave back so much more. Tina demonstrated her compassion for each person in her smiles, her listening ear, and in her obvious enjoyment of one’s company.
My getting to know Tina is one of the greatest blessings of my life. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity given to me to be part of Tina and Doug’s lives and to have them be part of mine.

From our younger son, Phil:

A day spent in my mother’s shoes would teach me to live life graciously and without bitterness. In the face of tremendous personal losses, she remains thankful for what she has: a loving husband and sons, a dog that keeps her husband in shape, and a new flat-screen HDTV. Rarely feeling sorry for herself or seeking sympathy from others, she treats those around her with kindness. She politely thanks the nurses for every task they do, whether it is administering her afternoon medication or changing the channel to Oprah promptly at 4:00. Asking after the nurses’ families, she treats their problems like her own.

Our friend Wendy Garfein:

She lives a daily life today which I know of no other person could easily bear, but which brings her happiness and love, knowing she can still share in her husband’s and children’s lives. For her husband and children, her choice to live today has given them as much or more. Her daily courage has been an inspiration to me, her compassion even now for others’ suffering always amazes me, and I continue to find her a woman of great integrity and abounding love for others.

Our longest-serving staff member, Barbara George, whose care for her handicapped son is an inspiration to us, writes:

I admire her strength, concern for others, and love and gratitude to her devoted husband, Doug, ‘the absolute love of her life,’ who took on the challenge of her disease with lots of love and a level head, as to how to care for Tina and create a world for her within her home. I have much admiration and respect for each of them, as they love and care for each other, each worrying more about the other than about himself.

Our longest-serving nurse, first among equals, Diane Beggin:

I still find it remarkable, as I did long ago, that Tina remains so psychologically and emotionally vital and strong despite everything she cannot do or cannot experience. Through her I believe she taught me how to deal with my personal inabilities and disabilities… to accept myself. And I thought I was the strong one–her nurse. In retrospect, my patient has become my healer.

Nurse Audrey Pottinger:

It’s such a pleasure to witness the ongoing loving relationship between her and her spouse. For them every day is Valentine’s Day. Upon meeting the Coopers, my older son remarked that he hopes to find someone with whom he could share such a loving relationship. I pray he does.
Instead of being bitter, Tina chooses to love, to care and to enjoy the life she has. It’s a choice all should emulate. It’s a choice I am learning to make.

Tina is not only the light of my life, she shines on others’ lives, too, as nurse Mary Wilkinson writes:

... it is always wonderful to see Tina smile. She smiles in the face of tragedy. And it can make anyone forget just how tragic the situation really is. I am deeply sorry for what MS has done to her physically. But it has never damaged her amazing spirit. Tina is truly an amazing, wonderful person and I am grateful and honored to be a part of her life. God keep her safe and warm. She is a living angel.

Angel? She has some of her mother’s independence. At about the same age, five or six, when Tina refused to smile for the camera, she was told by her mother sternly, not to touch the baby’s (Gene’s) bottles, especially the nipples, which had just been sterilized. Humph! She gave several of them good, hard squeezes. Her mother caught her in the act. I maintain that this is the last time she did anything bad. At Cornell, I called her “Angel,” but she asked me not to, as she felt she did not deserve the title. Here we disagree.

Angel or not, she is a blessing to the lives of those who know her.

Frost wrote, about Eve,

Never again would birds’ song be the same.

And to do that to birds was why she came.

Tina has changed our worlds, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Ch. 13 Traffic Stops

When you turn your patrol car’s lights on and pull someone’s car over for a traffic violation, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you don’t know what you’re going to get until you bite into it.


In one instance, we were chasing down a speeding car. We had our flashing lights on. Instead of slowing down, the car sped up. This led to a high-speed chase, and then a sudden stop. The driver jumped out of the car and raced to a nearby woods. We gave chase, but weighed down with our equipment, we couldn’t keep up.


We went back to the car. Before inspecting it more fully, we radioed in the license plate number. It was a stolen car. We approached it with caution.


There was nothing in the front seat, but in the back seat was a man lying down, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Apparently, we had come upon a situation where one criminal was racing to bring a wounded partner to get medical care. As we prepared to get the victim to a hospital, we asked him who did it to him. His response, “Go f---- yourselves.” You are welcome, sir.


We are trained to stop our patrol car part-way out on the side of the roadway, so that when we approach the driver, we are somewhat shielded from the passing traffic. If our car is hit, we may well be hit, too, but at least it makes us more conspicuous. You would be surprised at how oblivious some drivers are. Then again, if you have driven much in the City, this won’t surprise you at all.


We are also trained to tell the driver to stay in the car, while we come to him. Not everybody listens, and when a driver emerges from his vehicle, we have no idea what to expect.


On one such traffic stop, the driver --- dressed a bit unconventionally --- ran back to our police car, knelt by our driver’s side and said in accented English, “Please grant me amnesty, sir. Please grant me amnesty, sir.”

We told him to get back into his car. We “ran the plates” and found no prior violations. My partner and I conferred, and I marched up to the foreign gentleman’s window and said, “You are granted amnesty.” He thanked me vigorously in almost-English and drove away a free man. You, too, are welcome, sir.





Excerpted from the memoir THE SHIELD OF GOLD, by former NYPD detective Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published by Outskirts Press in 2012, available in paperback and ebook formats from Outskirts, and others.

Friday, February 8, 2013

TING AND I, New Year's Eves, Music


At Ledgewood Commons, Millwood, NY, we often celebrated New Year’s Eve with best friends Wendy and Zane, Ruth and Mal. Smart, compassionate, loyal, they have been treasures. Twenty-five years later, they still stay in touch and visit when they can.

Wendy Garfein’s write-up, in the Tributes section below, mentions these New Year’s Eve get-togethers. Without these four special friends now, Tina and I wrap up New Year’s Eve an hour early, celebrating on Atlantic Standard Time, synchronized with our Canadian “cousins” in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We sing “Auld Lang Syne” with the nurse on duty and thank God for another year.

Resolutions are few, if any. Making it through another year will be success enough.


As noted elsewhere here, Tina was an accomplished pianist, good enough to have debuted on stage with the Rochester Civic Orchestra in 1962. She found the courage to play, despite the stage-fright and natural shyness that made this a tense proposition. She had studied for twelve years at the Eastman School of Music, one of the nation’s finest. She continued that interest for decades. Even now, unable to move arms or fingers, she will ask to be brought to the piano or to our small electronic keyboard to play. We have to tell her that this awaits a breakthrough in the treatment of her MS. She accepts this, reluctantly. It makes me very, very sad.

Once Tina became bedridden, paraplegic, a principal source of entertainment for her was the television set in her room. We bought lots of tapes, CDs, and DVDs for her to enjoy. Before becoming quadriplegic, she could use a remote control, use a call button to summon help and pick up the phone to make or take a call. She lost all those sources of her limited independence in February 2004. We have tried to be alert to her needs, but she often has to wait patiently while something else is being attended to. “Tina comes first, but everybody counts” is our motto, to set priorities and maintain perspective.

Today, Tina often chooses to watch one of the digital music channels, Light Classical, Classical Masterpieces, or Easy Listening. Her favorite CD is Leonard Bernstein’s conducting of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Tina and I enjoy the same kind of music and have spent some happy times side by side in her bed listening to or watching an orchestral performance.

While of elementary school age, I was given the opportunity to take piano lessons from the wife of a professional musician who lived near us on Riverside Drive. She taught me the basics, but my unwillingness to practice killed this endeavor after six months or so. I gave up piano to have greater proficiency at stick-ball, played on the street by the corner of Riverside Drive and 181st Street. I should have stayed with piano. My mother would play some of Grieg’s Piano Concerto on the upright piano in our living room, and I really liked that dramatic work. She kept playing into her 80s, with popular tunes and Christmas carols replacing classical pieces.

In high school, I became competent on a much simpler instrument, the tuba. The tuba is the lowest of the brass section of the orchestra, analogous to the double bass in the string section. In concert, it sits on your lap. Wrapped around you, for marching, it is a sousaphone, named after that Sousa. Woody Allen claimed he had always wanted to play the cello in a marching band. The sousaphone was only slightly more portable.

Recently, Tina offered to have us buy a tuba for me, if I’d like. I declined, but it was a typically sweet offer from her.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TING AND I, Our Friends

Tina has made friendships that have lasted for decades. From high school there are Nancy, Mary, and Jan, who still write. From Cornell, Deanne and Judy and Elaine. Some from the period of her first marriage write at Christmas, but divorce puts a strain on friendships, as the affection for one or both members of a couple raises questions of loyalty once the couple breaks up. No friends remain from our Bedford Mews years. Wendy and Zane, Ruth and Mal, friends from Ledgewood Commons, still frequently call or write, with occasional visits. Erica Shapiro from those days would still do so, but she died a few years ago, a friend to the end. No one from the seven years in Ramsey, NJ (1993– 2000) is still in touch, though Dolores Daley was good to Tina before she, too, died.

Interesting to me are those seeming friendships that did not last. From grade school, Polly was Tina’s close friend. Wealthy and pretty, she went through several marriages. She visited us when Tina was paraplegic. The visit seemed to have gone well. We never heard from her again. She is now a California girl. I mean, woman.

Pasha and Nilo in Bedford Mews had two children, one being roughly Phil’s age. We enjoyed their company, and they seemed to enjoy ours. He was an MD, and both were of middle-Eastern origins. After we moved, we corresponded a bit, but it became clear their attention was elsewhere. Other MDs or Middle-Easterners?

Tina was still ambulatory then; and Harry and Amy, parents of Phil’s friend Scott, were friends of ours while we were there in Millwood, and the boys were buddies. But when we moved away, our relationship ended. The same thing happened with Grant and Amy, a marriage of a Japanese-American editor and an American “princess.”

We made fewer friendships in Ramsey, during most of which time Tina was paraplegic. The mixed-race nature of our family could have been a factor, but I think it was more that people are made uncomfortable being in the presence of those with evident disabilities. Also, the focus of our lives on handling the special circumstances attending her disabilities gives us a different set of interests and priorities and leaves relatively little time or energy to engage in exchanging favors and doing things with others outside the home.

My friendships were not as many, nor generally as enduring, as Tina’s. Phil from high school (see “Tributes”) has written often and visited when he and Ginny come north, annually. Male friends from Cornell, Penn State, and Harvard have all gone their separate ways, with only George Nash from Harvard graduate school still in contact. Co-worker John from Penn State died a few years ago, but had remained in touch. Good man to the end. For a decade, four of us from my last employer have lunched monthly near Ramsey. John, Kathy, and Howard have been my faithful friends. At lunch, three of us try to show Howard the errors of his political views. Several of the women from my past have contacted me through the Internet, which was flattering. Thanks, but no thanks. Were our roles reversed, I would not want Tina on too-friendly terms with other men.

Here at Lake Osiris, we have friendly acquaintanceships. Would any persist if we moved?

Even familial relationships are tenuous. Careers lead to separations. Misunderstandings, slights and problematic in-laws can hurt feelings. Preserving communication and affection proves to be difficult.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Let’s talk about “the system,” a term used to describe our judicial system. Supposedly, it’s the best this country has to offer. Supposedly, our country’s system is better than that of any other country. At least that’s what experts say.


Ask any law enforcement officer. When you first join the force, you really believe you can make a difference. As time goes on, you realize that the system fails the victims, all the victims. I’ve seen it time and time again.


You try not to get overwhelmed by these cases, how criminals walk when they should be jailed. You make the arrests and prepare the cases as best you can, and whatever happens, happens. It’s not a good attitude to have. You cannot focus on the courtroom antics in the kangaroo court system. It’s so easy to lose a case on technicalities.


A defense attorney once told me that a defense attorney will get all the police paperwork and carefully review it, because likely somewhere in there is something that will allow him to get his client off on a technicality. Police are hastily completing paperwork because the supervisors are trying hard to limit overtime. Otherwise, the supervisors will be scrutinized and criticized for improper supervision. This rush causes mistakes, and mistakes enable defense attorneys to get their clients off on “reasonable doubt.” Let’s talk about reasonable doubt. [See Chapter 12.]


Excerpt from THE SHIELD OF GOLD, by Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published by Outskirts Press, December 2012, and available from Outskirts , and Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

TING AND I, Patriotism, Gifts, Birthday Girl


Tina loves America. Her mother’s family, almost all of them stuck in China, has seen terrible times. The opportunities here for Tina’s parents, their children and grandchildren have been great, and Tina is appreciative. She’s an American woman, with a Chinese flavor.

She loves the Fourth of July celebration and the songs of patriotism.

She votes at each election, now, though getting there is a challenge. Fortunately, she votes Republican, so I help her get to the polls. I sign in for her and advise her on her selection, but on a rare occasion, we’ll split our votes. She is more traditionalist and I more libertarian. She might vote for a Democrat, if he were Chinese. I won’t.

A former Asian Studies major, and originally a daughter of the Central Kingdom, she follows events there avidly. The closest she’s been to the mainland of China were her nine months with her first set of in-laws, teaching English on Taiwan. Now, she catches nightly news on CCTV, Chinese Cable TV, which originates from Beijing, is done in English, and is not obviously biased or following the Communist Party line. Its interviews tend to be more intelligent than those I see on U.S. TV. More factual, analytical, thoughtful. Some of our Public Broadcasting System’s interviews are comparable, but their biases I spot more readily.

One of her favorite Teddy bears is a jade-green baby bear, Ty, which was made in China. Just like you, I tease. She smiles and agrees.


The handsome Seiko quartz crystal watch I am wearing Tina gave to me 26 years ago, a wedding gift that replaced the less elegant watch I’d had for a decade, given to me by my first wife. The messages were clear: Tina loves me, wants me to have a better watch, wants traces of that other woman removed when possible.

Gifts that are well suited to the recipient are hard to select. Your heart needs to be in the right place and you need to know what the recipient needs, wants, likes, or at least can use. Someone in Tina’s situation, so limited in mobility, cannot use many of the conventional gifts. Much that she could use, she already has. Even so, gifts that miss the mark are welcome when they signal love or affection from the giver.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and to be loved in return.”
—From Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy,”
--- sung by Nat “King” Cole



It surprises us how well Tina keeps track of the birthdays of friends and family. I’ve got to have them written down to have a hope of remembering most of them.


My sister’s birthday is August 6, the same day of the year we bombed Hiroshima with an atomic bomb. I’m not saying that my sister reminds me of that explosive event, but it is a memorable date. It is not surprising that Tina remembers that one, but she does surprise with some of the others. She likes to keep track of them because she likes to order cards, sometimes gifts, well ahead of time.


In mid-May this year, Tina told me she wanted me to order my sister Diana’s present, a very nice perfume. She knew the birthday was three months away, but she wanted us to be ready. She even plans Christmas presents way ahead, when I’m looking forward to the Fourth of July.


“Birthday girl” reminds me: When I enter the Tingdom while she is being given a bath in bed, I’ll sometimes compliment her on her outfit, her birthday suit. My birthday girl.

Dressed, she is a present wrapped for me.