Notes from the North Country, by Lon and Lynn Emerick

When a person enters into protracted medical treatment, he becomes a stranger in what can be a very strange land. The vocabulary is obtuse, the procedures often invasive and alarming and the providers sometimes bland and detached. In the worst circumstances, the patient may feel like he or she is on a treadmill or an assembly line, moving along inexorably—and alone.
After Lon was diagnosed with a dread disease (we will spare you an “organ recital”), he was required to undergo checkups four times each year. With great apprehension and reluctance, he entered the waiting room of the Imaging and Surgical Unit at the Peninsula Medical Center in Marquette for the first examination. Imagine his surprise and relief when he discovered an entire new family.
A young man with a winning smile sat down at a small table and invited Lon to join him. Even though he must have done this brief intake interview hundreds of times, Martin showed genuine interest in his new patient. He personalized the task with an easy, friendly manner and low key humor. Lon liked him instantly and felt so comfortable he jokingly asked if, for a generous bribe, Martin would take the examination. He declined.
Still chuckling about the request, Martin ushered him across a corridor and into a large treatment room. In curtained alcoves, patients were lying about, recovering from various surgical procedures.
One man uttered a soft moan of discomfort and Lon quickly scanned the area for an escape route. That’s when two attractive nurses took charge. They made routine tasks—taking vital signs and demonstrating the proper garments—seem like a fun experience.
When he emerged from a dressing room, Carrie and Margie bantered about how cute he looked in the blue hospital gown.
“It’s a good show,” Carrie said. “But put on a gown in the back to cover the southern exposure.”
During a brief wait for the examination, Margie and Carrie traded jokes with Lon. “Hey,” he thought. “This is not so bad.”
The nurses in the examination room—Lydia, Sally and Tanya—showed the same seamless blend of expertise and empathy. To Lon’s amazement, Lydia even had a ready answer for one of life’s persistent questions. When the examination showed no return of malignancy, the entire staff applauded. How cool is that?
Since that initial examination, there have been fourteen checkups and, as strange as it may seem, Lon actually looks forward to visiting his medical “family.” Between scheduled appointments, he even visits the Imaging and Surgical Unit to deliver goodies, get hugs, exchange jokes and catch up on what his adopted daughters and son and their families have been doing.
When the initial diagnosis was made, several people advised us to seek treatment at a more well known venue. But we didn’t need to leave the Upper Peninsula to find these humanistic medical experts. It’s a family thing.
—Lon and Lynn Emerick

Editor’s Note: Comments are welcome by writing MM or e-mailing
Lon and Lynn Emerick’s Upper Peninsula books: The Superior Peninsula, Going Back to Central, Lumberjack—Inside an Era, Sharing the Journey, You Wouldn’t Like it Here and You STILL Wouldn’t Like it Here are available at area book and gift stores or by visiting their Web site at

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