The La Crosse Tribune from La Crosse, Wisconsin on November 7, 1974 · Page 9
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The La Crosse Tribune from La Crosse, Wisconsin · Page 9

La Crosse, Wisconsin
Issue Date:
Thursday, November 7, 1974
Page 9
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Ricky, 5, Is Dying, And He Knows It EDITOR S NOTE - In the United States, 15,000 people die from leukemia each year. Ricky Pineda will soon be one fo them. He is 5, and he knows he is dying. He talks about death with his mother, and sometimes his father, and the strain on the Pinda family has been great. This is their story. PITTSBURG, Calif. (AP) - Ricky’s goldfish died. He watched it floating, softly twined in tendrils of green. “Is it asleep?" he asked his mother. "No," she answered, pausing to reach for elusive, gentle words. "The goldfish is dead." The goldfish, a pet dog. a family friend Rachael who died of cancer, a playmate Eric who died in an auto accident. All of them, he knows, are dead and gone. “What will you do with me when I die?" Ricky inquired, solemnly. “We ll put you in the ground in a box with a little bed and pillows. You'll go to heaven, a light, bright place. God's place, and find laughter and other children, playing," she groped, hurting for the answer. “Don t bury me! Don't put me in the ground," Ricky commanded. “I don't want the bugs to get me. Can I take my cars and drums and crayons and camera with me? Will you be with me? Will you carry- me in your pocket forever and ever?" “Yes, yes. Ricky," his mother said, exhausted, helpless. Ricky Pineda is 5 and he knows he is dying of leukemia and is now hospitalized with spinal meningitis. He has suffered his fourth turbulent relapse. millions of distorted white blood cells multiplying chaotically throughout his body. Doctors expect another remission. But they give him no more than six months to live “It's so hard to tell your child about death, but children have a premonition," says his mother. Gloria, 25, an attractive, expressive clerk-typist. “But, my fear is probably greater than his. she says. “Ricky knows he will die. He understands there will be a time, probably very soon, when Ricky won t be around anymore. He accepts it in a candid, sometimes brutally open way, but he still is frightened I accept it, but I still hope for a miracle." she adds. Ricky's deepest fear is whether his mother will be with him in death. I tell him I’ll come, too, that we all will eventually be with him," Gloria says. “I don't know how much he grasps." Ricky, who lives the storms of disease, lives closer to pain and accepts dying and deformity far better than many adults who would “freak out," his mother believes. “We can talk and cry together. We grow together. It ages us." Since the diagnosis when he was 2, the trauma of his disease has permeated his young family — mother, father and younger brother — strained his parents' marriage and forced them to deal with death. Well-meaning relatives tug at them, some bearing holy oil and water and incense, some suggesting faith healing and psychic surgery, some arguing that Ricky should be allowed to die in peace and let God's will be done. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 21,000 new cases of leukemia and 15,000 deaths in 1974. About 2,150 of the new cases will be among children under 15 and about 1,650 will die of the nearly always fatal disease. Three clinical social workers at Stanford University Medical Center have studied the problems of families of leukemic children. They followed more than 40 cases from diagnosis to several months after the funeral. “From the moment of diagnosis until death of the child — usually two or three years later — the family is literally in a state of siege, says David M. Kaplan. Ph.D., director of clinical social work at Stanford. “From the beginning and throughout the illness, even when the child appears well, the family has to accept the eventual death, face medical expenses, continue to care for other children, give up future plans—all without knowing when “Can I Take My Drums With Me?” Precocious Ricky Pineda Talks About Leukemia, Death AP Wirephoto there will be an end to the siege. They literally go into a state of limbo." He concludes that only about one family in 10 is able to cope with a child’s terminal illness and that the rates of divorce, marital distress and problems with other children are extremely high among the group. Death is a daily companion to Ricky’s devoutly religious mother and his father, Richard. 28. a part-time law student and youth coordinator at a Spanish cultural center in this small industrial community on an arm of San Francisco Bay. They have a 2-year-old son, Michael “At first I was afraid I’d cry every time Ricky asked me about dying, his mother recalled as Ricky lay on the floor, curled up, worn out and listening. “But I never really had to tell him it would happen. He already knew. “He wants to know what death will be like. We have assured him that he'll not end up as the goldfish did. or a pet dog. Gloria mulls her son s questions and her answers. “You want to go near the truth, she says, but not so near that it scares him. We often talk about death, but we try not to let it dominate our lives. It’s very hard. Ricky suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia He has undergone chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and painful bone marrow tests and spinal taps. One drug makes his hair fall out, another distends his body Mothers pull their children away from him; taunting children tell him he will die. Thoughtful, precocious, Ricky carries on long conversations, often about his death and its rituals and precisely what heaven might be like — part Disneyland, part Sesame Street, part haunted house and darkness. "Ricky has wound my wife around his finger, says Ricky’s father. When he has a tantrum. I hit him. There’s no use in his being spoiled. I want my dying son to lead as normal a life as possible, with normal little pleasures and sadnesses." When he was stronger, Ricky used to play with other children. Often, now, he is withdrawn, sometimes hostile, sometimes accusing his mother: “You don't love me; everybody hates me. In September 1972, Ricky’s parents became worried because their sturdy, active child was always catching colds and flu and running fevers. He bruised easily; his bones ached. He was tired and wanted to sleep all the time. He never awoke refreshed. Doctors diagnosed it as leukemia. “The big question at first was Why him0 “Why us0' ” Ricky’s father said. "My wife is more religious than I am and these questions are preying. I just don’t know ... I think we re coping pretty well. We can talk about our fears and needs, our feelings of rejection, our needs for attention," says Ricky's father, who often takes him to the hospital for treatment. After the diagnosis, Gloria carried her son to San Francisco, to the gray, cathedral-like shrine of St Jude, patron of difficult and desperate causes lhe lather, a Vietnam veteran, explains: "I had these guilt feelings. It’s hard to say to your wife. “Take some time from a son who is very ill and give me some time.' You feel kind of guilty." Slants brings you the extra-cushioned vinyl flooring. AIR EASE sheet vinyl floors New Topiary Pattern GAF's new Air Ease is the no-wax sheet vinyl with an extra layer of deep foam cushioning. Delightful to walk on Warm and quiet too. And a snap to care for Air Ease cleans easily with a damp sponge No wax necessary 9.00 sq yd. 1 2 ' widths. 2 Blocks East of Exchange Bank 1301 Avon Stoats Cwni|»anY PHONE 784-3000 La Crosse Tribune, Thursday, November 7, 1974—9 Dr. Ricardo Alvarez On The Move (Above) And In His Office (Right) Galesville's Dr. Alvarez 48 Years After An Uncertain Start By PAT MOORE Tribune Staff Writer GALESVILLE, Wis. - The snow was knee high on that blustery day in March 1926 when Dr. Ricardo Alvarez arrived in Galesville. The odds were that the young, soft-spoken doctor, who was born in the Philippines, would not stay long. The small, picturesque village, nestled around Lake Marinuka, was a far cry from the practive in a big city that he had envisioned for himself. Two days before he came to the village, Alvarez had never heard of Galesville. He had almost completed a one-year residency at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison when a classmate from medical school came to see him. The classmate had agreed to go to Galesville and help the ailing Dr. Powell with his practice. But he begged Alvarez to take his place. The doctor he had been working with in Prairie du Sac had died and he wished to remain there instead. “He begged me, from 6 p.m. until 1 or 2 a.m., to take his place. I finally got sick of listening an agreed to leave for Galesville the next night," says Alvarez. When he got to Galesville the office was full of waiting patients. “They told me I had to leave right away because a 10- year-old boy in Ettrick was near Dr. Ricardo Alvarez death with pneumonia,” Alvarez said. “I didn’t even know where Ettrick was. but they got me a driver and I went. When I got back it was 3 in the afternoon. It was 8 or 9 by the time I finished up with the patients in the office. I had no place to stay, no supper and already I wanted to leave.’’ He stuck it out until just before Christmas. Then he returned to Peoria, 111., where he had interned. He had his appendix removed, and while recuperating received two or three phone calls a day from friends in Galesville telling him that Dr. Powell had died and asking him to consider returning. In March of 1927. he went back. “I was busy, busy, busy,” he recalls, shaking his head. “In those days, you delivered the babies at home.” Still the young doctor was not ready to make Galesville his permanent home. In 1928 he left for a trip around the world that included three months of study in Vienna. He returned to Galesville. “When I came back, I bought a car and started in practicing again. After that I stayed right here.” In 1929, he formed the Galesville Clinic with Dr. Jegi and Dr. Christianson. Dr. Jegi died in 1932. When Dr. Christianson died in 1954, Alvarez was alone again. The general practitioner estimates that 400 or 500 babies were delivered in the building which still houses his offices. And, over the years, he has delivered close to 1,500 babies, about a dozen while en route to an hospital in La Crosse. He says the most unusual birth were the twin son and daughter born to Mr. and Mrs. Orville Mahlum of Ettrick three days apart. Mrs. Ruth Eng Receptionist 24 Years One advantage in a small town is that you can usually see the doctor on the same day you stop in. The old building on Gale Street is not the kind of doctor’s office with an antiseptic atmosphere. As you walk in the front door, you’re in the waiting room. At the window, in one corner, you visit with Mrs. Ruth Eng, receptionist-bookkeeper, who started in 1940; then you wait your turn in one of several straight backed chairs. A sign posted on the wall lists the doctor’s hours. “Emergencies Anytime,” it reads. Forty-four years ago he met and later married, the former Hazel Wanless of Sparta, a graduate of St. Francis School of Nursing. They were married at 5 in the morning in a little church on a hill in Galesville, by a priest who left right after the ceremony for a funeral in Mineral Point. He and his wife have eight grown children, four sons and four daughters, including 21- year-old twins, Mark and Marcia, and 25 grandchildren. On a Saturday night in October, nearly 1,000 persons jammed the Gale-Ettrick High School Auditorium to honor Dr. Alvarez for his nearly 50 years of practice in the area. “I saw people there from Arcadia, Holmen, Onalaska, Blair, Ettrick, Winona and Austin,” he beams. During prohibition, he remembers pumping the stomachs of a few of the local young men after they had indulged in bad liquor. “Some of Chief Photographer Ken Wesely that stuff was toxic,” she said. He’ll be 74 in December and country doctor, whose speech “But I never bawled them out says, “The last 10 years I’ve been still carries a trace of Spanish and I didn’t want to get them slowing down.” that appealed to the villagers. “I into trouble. I guess that’s why don’t pretend to know some of them still remember Perhaps it is the mild and everything,” he says. “I do the me.” modest manner of the gentle best I can."

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