Backup – A Tough Issue


Cows need feed no matter what the weather.

Among the hats I wear is that of a nursing consultant. I experienced an interesting intersection today between my life as a ranch wife and my life as a nurse. I think it’s important, because it speaks to the aging of American farmers and ranchers and their problems finding backup when they have health issues. It’s also important because many medical professionals have no idea why their patients are resistant to some medical recommendations.

Ranch kids know about feeding time.

One of the nurse practitioners has an older patient who has quite severe back pain. We’re talking walking-bent-over-most-of-the-time pain. The rancher has no hired hands and no children. He has cows to feed daily. The NP has been trying to convince the patient he needs surgery. The patient refuses – “I have cows to feed.” The NP is frustrated, the patient is in pain. There is no meeting of the minds, partly because the NP doesn’t know what the patient and I know.

That hay doesn’t spread itself.

It’s not too hard to find someone who will bring in the mail, feed your cat or dog or water your plants if you need to have surgery. It’s downright tough – if not impossible – to find someone who can feed your cows, knows how to tell if they are healthy or pull a calf (many ranchers in this area are calving right now.) Someone who knows how to get bales out of a haystack without getting hurt or making the stack unstable. You need someone who can shoot a coyote or feral dog that’s attacking a calf. Someone who knows how to fix a fence if necessary. Someone who can drive a tractor in a muddy field and not get stuck. Someone who knows enough to pick up all the baling strings so the cows won’t eat them right along with the hay.

Brand new baby, just on her feet for the first time.

Taking time off for a back surgery means three to five days in the hospital and several months of recovery time, during which you can’t feed your cows. So your relief person is tied down doing those chores – that’s a sizable commitment. No to mention, that for many ranchers, it’s not just feeding the cows – there may also be horses, pigs, chickens or a milk cow on the place. When hubby had his back surgeries, I was able to take over all those tasks. If I hadn’t been able to the cow would probably have gone dry – darn few people know how to milk cows any more.
A rancher needs a lot more than a warm body to cover him or her for a health problem. Our ranchers are aging and few people have the necessary skills to help. I understand how the rancher feels – and I guess I need to spend a little time explaining things to the NP.

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1 Response to Backup – A Tough Issue

  1. Karen says:

    It’s unfortunate. Good, honest, hard-working people are hard to find. We live in a world of convenience. And so many so our current health problems can be traced back to that fact alone. “Sitting is the new smoking” is what my physical therapist said. People want to take a pill for what ails them or simply push a button to get a desired result. Now groceries can be delivered to your doorstep. So why grow your own? Why get your hands dirty? Why bother?
    Keep preaching Bee. Even the choir needs to hear it.

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