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A Most Unusual Eagle Project

By Rod Moser, PA, PhD

Skeleton

It is important for every medical provider to take the time to get to know their patients. Most of us work on a very tight schedule, but it only takes a few minutes to get better acquainted. Knowing what makes a person “tick” can go a long way in fixing a broken clock some day.  Of course, Kevin wasn’t broken. He was seeing me to get medical clearance for Scout camp.

I have always had a warm place in my heart for the Scouts. Sadly, I wasn’t able to be one when I was a child since my mother wouldn’t give me the thirty-five cents a week for dues or buy me a uniform. I was able to attend scout meetings for a few weeks gratis, but being the only child in the town parade who was not wearing a uniform was just too embarrassing for me. I quit.  To this day, I wonder how my life would have evolved had stuck it out anyway, even without that most-important uniform. I think I would have been a good Scout, but now I live my lost youth vicariously though some of my scouting patients.

During a brief get-to-know you conversation, Kevin mentioned that he was going to be pursing the highest rank achievable in the Boy Scouts of America – the prestigious Eagle Scout. In order to do this, Kevin must earn at least 21 merit badges and complete an extensive service project in the community that he plans, organizes, leads, and manages. He did not have a project in mind, so I was only too happy to help.

When I am not caring for patients, I volunteer as the Curator of the Gold Country Medical History Museum in Northern California – the place where I have donated most of my lifelong collection of rare medical antiques. One item in particular desperately needed a new home. Sitting lonely in the corner, in a wicker wheelchair as an irresistible curiosity for little hands, was Anna, the museum’s fragile human skeleton. Medical people have been learning from human skeletons since those dark days when physicians had to buy them from grave robbers.  Anna was a well-used donation from a medical school, replaced by a newer and more complete plastic replica.  The fact that she once led a real life meant that she deserved a bit more dignity for her contribution to our museum.

I suggested that building a glass case for Anna would be a wonderful Eagle Project.  Kevin thought so as well, so the very next weekend, I introduced Kevin to Anna.

Kevin was provided with a variety of vintage oak pieces salvaged from an old San Francisco Pharmacy; one that survived the 1906 Earthquake. I left the rest up to the scout’s ingenuity and resourcefulness.  Kevin received glass donations from some local merchants, and a few things donated from our hardware store. The main task was sanding, cutting, refinishing, and pure sweat equity. Because Kevin ended up with some back problems (not from the project), it took him a bit longer (two years), but the end justified the wait.

Last weekend, Kevin and his mother (along with a few other helpers) managed to move Anna’s new case into the museum. The skeleton fit perfectly and the hand-rubbed oak cabinet perfectly matched the other antique display cases.  A small, dignified plaque adorns the side of the case, forever commemorating Kevin’s Eagle Project and the beautiful addition to our museum. If Anna could move, she would kiss him. They did share a moment when he hugged her. Kevin will soon join the ranks of former Eagle Scouts, which includes Gerald Ford, Steven Spielberg, and Neil Armstrong. I bet those words, “The Eagle has landed” meant a bit more to Neil than most people realized.

Eagles really do soar.

Photo: iStockphoto
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