Category Archives: birth defects and premature births

It Is All A Matter OF Perspective

I was checking out the last three cities on my “move to list” and was headed back to Columbus when my Civic decided 250,000 miles was enough. I nursed it from Cincinnati to Columbus. Then on the following Monday I bought a truck. I had some of my friends telling me how sorry they were about that.

I’m not. You see when I move I was going to have to use a U-Haul. And if you have ever moved you know how that goes.

“Yes, I am moving 1,000 miles away and I need to rent a truck.”

“Oh. Well, I can’t rent you any of my trucks. These are only for local use. Let me give you directions to the one-way dealer.”

Two hours later when you finally arrive at that “other” U-Haul dealer you are in a section of town that makes the back side of town look not so bad after-all. And the truck you get to rent to go one-way? Yeah. It was one of the last trucks that Henry Ford himself actually turned a wrench on. Gas mileage? If you can get 10 m.p.g. you’ll be doing good. But, yeah, at least the bailing wire that is holding it together is new.

Nope, I don’t need to do any of that. I bought a nice little used truck. Didn’t cost much and my insurance will be less than what the Civic was. Now I’ll just put my stuff in the back and put Columbus in my rearview mirror. It is all a matter of perspective.

Next week is also my daughter’s birthday. Not Elizabeth, her birthday is in a month. No April 10, will be Alex’s 11th birthday. Alexandra Elizabeth Combs, my first born, Elizabeth’s older sister. There are so many things Alex taught me. Things no one else could have taught me. More than that are the gifts she gave to me and her baby sister.

What she taught me was the power of my own love for another person. No one expected her to last 30 minutes. But she lasted for more than 90 minutes. I marveled at that, she was so tiny. Where did she get the strength I asked the nurse. The nurse’s answer was just two words, “From you.” She stayed with me, in my arms, until I told her it was ok for her to go. Then within just a couple of minutes, she was gone.

The precious gift she gave to her little sister? A better dad than she would have had. Because of Alex, I know how important each minute is with Elizabeth. I am not the dad I want to be, but I am a better dad than I would have been without Alex.

The gift she gave to me? The chance to help other dads who are grieving. Like my friend Matt who just lost his little girl. I have walked in his shoes and understand like only a father who has lost a little one can understand.

You see, in life, there are many things that happen that we have no control over. But, we can control how we perceive those events and what we do afterwards.

It is, after all, a matter of perspective.

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Father’s Day 2012

Father’s Day 2012.

A special moment … frozen in time.

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Father’s Day 2012

Father’s Day 2009. Elizabeth’s first fishing trip, observation dock.

All of us have a moment in our lives. A perfect moment, a moment we remember with perfect clarity, a moment we can remember as if it just happened. If we are lucky, we realize the significance of the moment while we are living it. Just such a moment happened to me on Father’s Day 2009. However, as I always tell others, “It is the bad days that let us really appreciate just how good, the good days are.” My perfect moment was staged by an experience, which began months before; an experience that let me appreciate my perfect day to the fullest.

In 2009, I was working two jobs. I would come home from my day job for an hour, and then leave for my night job. After my night job, I would drive to my day job. I would catch a couple of hours of sleep in the parking lot and then start work. People who talk about the hubris youth should witness the presumption of a middle-aged man that does not realize he is middle-aged. After a while, my immune system began to weaken, and I came down with strep throat. I can still remember the conversation with the doctor in our plant medical department.

“Are you allergic to anything?” asked the doctor.

“Not that I know of” I quipped back.

The doctor gave me a prescription for an anti-biotic I had never heard of before. The next day I was feeling worse, but I thought it was the infection. I came back in from lunch earlier than normal. My work area is just outside the cafeteria. As lunch was ending, I collapsed on the floor and could not breathe. One of our nurses and several of our first responders were coming out of the cafeteria as I collapsed. Everyone was on the scene when I needed them.

I thought I was having problems from the infection when I heard one of my rescuers say, “get the paddles and a tracheotomy tube ready.” They thought I was having a heart attack.

I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew it was not the infection. The nurse that was there, as luck would have it, was the nurse I saw the day before when I received the prescription from the doctor. She told them about the prescription, and they injected me with Benadryl. My throat started to open up. I thought I was going to be ok, even though I still didn’t feel ok. Then I heard one of the rescuers on the radio, “have you transported that other guy yet?” Followed by a pause, and then, “ok, take him out, we’re going to transport this guy first!”

At the hospital, the doctor told me I had an allergic response to the anti-biotic and went into anaphylactic shock. He said I was lucky and not to take that anti-biotic again. I wasn’t planning too. When I finally got back to work, everyone in the medical department came out to see me, and tell me they didn’t think I was going to make it to the hospital.

My rescuers restored my breathing in thirty minutes, but I was exhausted for about five days. I was surprised how much energy it takes to breathe when your throat closes shut. I do not think I would have made it, if they had not restored my breathing when they did. When I saw my personal physician he told me that I was not 27 anymore I was 47, and if I didn’t give up the second job I would be seeing a lot more of him.

I have always been proud of my first daughter, Alexandra. I just did not realize how strong she really was, before I collapsed. At twelve inches long, 16 ounces, she lasted for ninety-three minutes without being able to get oxygen into her blood. My God, thirty minutes almost killed me; me a grown man, and she went ninety-three minutes without being able to get a good breath. I had no idea someone so tiny could be so strong. I am so very proud of both my girls.

Father’s Day was just a couple months after my collapse at work. Elizabeth, my youngest daughter, was four years old; I wanted to do something special with her. I knew just what I would do. I would take Elizabeth on her first fishing trip. I knew just the place too. East of Columbus is a park that is a 19th century working farm with a picnic area, playground, and a fishing pond.

I remember my first fishing trip; I was about the same age. My brother and I, he is a couple years younger than me, drove my dad nuts. Jeff caught a bluegill and I caught a catfish. Best fishing trip I ever had.

Elizabeth was excited about the trip. As we walked down to the pond, we passed a man with his children coming back up from the pond.

“Going fishing?” he asked.

We were loaded down with fishing gear, but I decided not to be sarcastic. “Ya”, I replied.

“Go past the first dock to the second one. They are lined up waiting on you.” He said.

When we got to the second dock, he was right. You could see to the bottom of the pond, and the bluegills were in a semi-circle around the end of the dock. I had never seen that before. It looked like they were seated waiting on a concert. Elizabeth caught 15 bluegills that day. The expression on her face for the first catch was perfect, a look of pure joy and contented happiness. The kind of expression a father never forgets. The kind of expression that makes you feel warm inside. It was one of those moments when you realize just how lucky you are to be a dad.

Elizabeth’s first fish, Father’s Day 2009.

Knowing how close I came to never being able to share this experience with my daughter, made each moment, each catch, just like the first. I taught Elizabeth how to cast, and she cast her line right where I told her, each time. I was not such a quick learner, but I do enjoy fishing. Sometimes I even put bait on my hook.

Elizabeth releasing her first fish.

Eventually, I got tired of fishing and asked Elizabeth if she was hungry.

“Yes Papa”, she said. “But I want to keep fishing.”

So, we did. After Elizabeth’s 18th catch and release, she finally wanted to eat, and play at the playground. As we were walking back up to the playground, we stopped at the observation dock and asked a stranger to take our photograph. That photograph is the most valuable of all my photographs; I keep a print of it in my home office. Even today, three years later, I still find myself pausing from time to time to look at that photograph, and remember my perfect day. The day after our fishing trip, I took a print of that photograph into work, to the medical department, to show my heroes.

“See what you gave us”, I said, “Thank you.”

Elizabeth’s first fish.

We fish at a pond near our house on weekends now. But, each year on Father’s Day, we go back to that same pond, and fish at that same dock. This year Elizabeth has been asking me for three weeks if it is Father’s Day yet. Elizabeth made a fishing pole for a Father’s Day gift this year too.

The last few years have been harder than most years, for almost everyone. However, times will be good again in the future.

We have all had bad times, and lost loved ones too soon. But, all of us also have at least one perfect moment, and if we were lucky we knew it was a perfect moment while we were living in it.

When you are having a bad moment or a bad day, stop, just stop, and take a few seconds for yourself. Go back to your perfect moment, and relive your perfect moment. You deserve a little happiness; it will put a smile on your face, lighten your step, and make the rest of your day a lot better.

I hope you have a great day today. Thank you.

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USS Scorpion SSN-589 Part One

US Navy 110315-N-3442D-059 Religious Program S...

This flag at half-mast is presented here in honor of the 99 men still on patrol on the USS Scorpion. US Navy 110315-N-3442D-059 Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Calvin Do, left, Yeoman 1st Class Leviticus McNeal, center, and Mass Communicatio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scorpion Launch


All of the information in this article comes from unclassified sources. In those instances where the I know more accurate information due to my security clearance and service in the United States Navy submarine force I have used the published unclassified information instead. I do this to protect the lives and missions of those men and women currently serving in the United States submarine force.


On Memorial Day 27 May 1968 the USS Scorpion was scheduled to arrive at its home port of Norfolk, Virginia. The families of the crew of the USS Scorpion waited in the storm at pier 22, but the USS Scorpion never arrived. The families were told to go home. Only then, through news outlets, did the families learn that the USS Scorpion was missing. The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, declared the USS Scorpion presumed lost with all hands on 5 June 1968. The Scorpion was stricken from the register of United States Naval ships on 30 June 1968. The reason for the loss of the USS Scorpion has never been conclusively determined. There are many theories for the loss; this article will examine those theories and the actions of the navy that concern the loss of the ship and the investigation into the loss of the ship.

The USS Scorpion was the third of six Skipjack class submarines built from 1956 to 1961. The Scorpion construction began with the laying down of the keel on 20 August 1958. The ship first became water borne with its launching on 29 December 1959. The Scorpion became an official part of the United States Navy with its commissioning on 29 July 1960.

Skipjack class submarines were 252 feet long, 31 feet wide. They used a S5W nuclear reactor for propulsion and electrical power, creating 15,000 shaft horsepower on one shaft. Skipjack class submarines displace 3,000 tons on the surface and 3,500 tons submerged. Surfaced speed was 15 knots and submerged speed was 33 knots. Normal crew was 80 to 90 men with 8 to 10 of these being officers (the Scorpion had 99 men onboard at the time of her loss). These ships had 6 torpedo tubes in the bow and could carry a variety of torpedoes. At the time of the loss of the of the USS Scorpion she was carrying, MK 14 torpedoes, MK 37 electric torpedoes, and two MK 45 nuclear torpedoes, all three torpedoes are no longer used in the United States Navy. The MK 45 torpedo, if used, would destroy both the target and the ship launching it; the blast radius was greater than the range of the torpedo itself.

USS Scorpion

USS Scorpion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In June 1963, the Scorpion entered the shipyard for a routine eleven-month overhaul in Charleston, South Carolina. From February to July 1967, the Scorpion went through a second abbreviated overhaul (at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard) instead of the full overhaul it was scheduled for. These were the only two overhauls the Scorpion had. The Charleston, South Carolina shipyard performed the first overhaul. It was the first time the shipyard had overhauled a nuclear powered submarine. There were many problems found with the Scorpion, of particular concern were the many bad welds found in the piping systems on board.

Bad welds and pipes that were brazed instead of welded, are believed to be the cause for the loss of the USS Thresher on 10 April 1963. After the loss of the Thresher, a change to submarine construction dictated that any pipe subjected to sea pressure could no longer be brazed and was required to be welded.

David L. McDonald, 17th Chief of Naval Operations

David L. McDonald, 17th Chief of Naval Operations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Admiral David Lamar McDonald (the Chief of Naval Operations in 1966) on 17 June 1966 approved a reduced overhaul for the USS Scorpion (from 36 months to 6 months). Admiral McDonald also approved the postponement of the SUBSAFE improvements on the Scorpion which had been scheduled for this overhaul. The SUBSAFE program came from the loss of the USS Thresher, and improved the safety of the Navy’s submarines to prevent a similar loss; in 1963, these improvements were declared essential. At the time of the loss of the Scorpion 4 of the 60 submarines in the Navy had been given waivers to allow them to continue to operate without these SUBSAFE changes. USS Scorpion was one of those four submarines.

The shortened overhaul has been a frequent topic, most often attributed to the cost. Due to the loss of the Thresher and the new SUBSAFE program, overhauls had gone from 11months to 36 months. This was an incredible increase in costs. However, the real concern of the commander of the Atlantic force submarines was the offline time (in the late 1960’s this was 40% of the total available duty time). This was the second decade of the Cold War and the Vietnam War was in its third year. Due to the Vietnam War effort, defense department budgets were centered around the Army. The submarine force took a backseat to the war effort in Asia, and yet still had to meet the Soviet threat while also conducting intelligence operations for the United States. SUBLANT (the most senior admiral in the Atlantic submarine force) and the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations, the most senior admiral in the United States Navy) were looking for ways to decrease nuclear submarine offline time (overhaul, repairs and upkeep), and increase the on duty time (time on patrol and available for patrol). After the loss of the Scorpion the longer overhauls were re-instituted, and the SUBSAFE improvements were completed on the remaining three submarines.

The Scorpion had chronic problems with its hydraulic system throughout its career, beginning when it was turned over to the Navy in 1960. The hydraulic system operates the rudder, stern planes (wing like, near the rudder for control depth), and fairwater planes (wing like, on the sail or conning tower to control depth), as well as other vital pieces of equipment on board. When the Scorpion left Norfolk on patrol on 15 February 1968, it had a hydraulic leak in the area of the sail, of 50 gallons an hour (yes that’s right fifty gallons an hour). Mysteriously, during its transit across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean the leak stopped. The crew was uncertain as to the cause, but they believed the leak was from the fairwater planes.

The USS Scorpion had a number of material problems after its second overhaul when it left the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in July 1967. The nuclear reactor and its systems were given excellent attention by the shipyard, but work on the rest of the ships systems, which would normally be done by the shipyard, fell to the ship’s crew and a submarine tender (a submarine maintenance ship). The USS Scorpion crew was working 12 hours a day while the ship was in the shipyard, often manufacturing parts they could not get through normal channels. One crewman said that the crew called the USS Scorpion the USS Scrap-Iron, he went on to say that the crew would work all day on a piece of equipment and it was still in bad shape at the end of the day. This same crewman said they (the crew not the shipyard workers) were giving the Scorpion an overhaul without spare parts.

The first post-overhaul problem was a seawater leak through the shaft seals (a seal that keeps out seawater while allowing the propeller shaft to rotate). Next, in November 1967, the USS Scorpion was on a high-speed run when it began to corkscrew through the water so bad that equipment began swaying on the rubber mounts. Scorpion was put into drydock, but the cause of the severe corkscrew effect was never determined. This problem was mentioned during the investigation into the loss of the Scorpion with conflicting explanations and has never been fully explained.

USS Scorpion sail

USS Scorpion sail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During Scorpion’s deployment to the Mediterranean, many of the ship’s crew wrote, in their letters home, of numerous problems with equipment on the Scorpion. In one letter, a crewman wrote that they had repaired, replaced or jury-rigged every piece of equipment on board the ship. When Scorpion’s new radio chief arrived at the ship in Rota, Spain, he wrote home that on his arrival every piece of communications equipment was broken and the radiomen were attempting repairs. On 23 March 1968, five weeks after leaving Norfolk for the Mediterranean, the commanding officer wrote a request for emergency repairs, to his senior officers. He went on to say that a delay in the repairs would seriously jeopardize the Scorpion’s material readiness.

Another of the problems plaguing the ship was a freon leak in the ship’s refrigeration system. The Scorpion also had a fire in an escape trunk cause by a seawater leak that sprayed seawater on shore power connections. The Scorpion, at the time of its loss, has so many leaks its maximum safe operating depth was restricted to 300 feet, even though it was originally designed to go more than 2000 feet deep safely.

Of the many items the Commanding Officer, Francis Slattery, wanted replaced was the propeller, the drain valves on the torpedo tubes, and several valves connected with the ship’s drain system. The ship’s drain system allowed water to be pumped out of the ship to sea. Several of these valves leaked water at sea pressure, and sprayed the drain pump with seawater creating a fire hazard as well possibly disabling the drain pump. During flooding this pump is used to pump the floodwaters out of the ship.

One other ship system I wish to comment on, is the ship’s EMBT (Emergency Main Ballast Tank blow system). This is the system that when operated is supposed to blow all water out of the main ballast tanks in an emergency, causing the submarine to surface. The system can be operated from one location. The EMBT did not work on the Thresher, water vapor in the air caused the ice to form in the valve blocking air from the main ballast tanks. The Charleston shipyard and SUBLANT argued about this system on the Scorpion. The shipyard claimed the system worked as advertised and the Navy claimed it did not. As a result, the system was tagged out at the time of Scorpion’s loss, just one more system that was scheduled for a SUBSAFE upgrade that never happened.

During the Court of Inquiry into the loss of the USS Scorpion, the officers on the investigation board were never given information on the true physical condition of the ship. The board wrote in its conclusions that USS Scorpion was in “excellent” condition at the time of its loss. Through no fault of the board, this was not an accurate statement.


LAST PHOTO OF MISSING SUBMARINE 1968. Did a battle between the American sub and a Soviet sub take place? (Photo credit: roberthuffstutter)


The USS Scorpion was not originally scheduled for a Mediterranean patrol in 1968, the USS Seawolf (SSN-575) was. The USS Seawolf  was unable to make its deployment due to damage in an accident, and the assignment was given to the USS Scorpion. This is not the navy’s new USS Seawolf SSN-21. This is the only submarine the United States Navy built with a liquid metal cooled (sodium) nuclear reactor, the same type of reactor that the Soviet Union would use thirty years later for its Alfa class submarines. From 12 December 1958 until 30 September 1960 the Seawolf was in the shipyard having her liquid metal cooled reactor replaced with a more conventional reactor.

On 30 January 1968, two weeks before she was supposed to leave for a Mediterranean patrol, the Seawolf ran aground off the coast of Maine. The Seawolf was towed back to the shipyard for repairs and did not go to sea again until 30 March 1969.

Meanwhile, the USS Scorpion, in place of the disabled USS Seawolf, departed Norfolk on schedule on 15 February 1968. While on this last patrol the USS Scorpion made port visits to Rota, Spain; Taranto, Italy; Augusta Bay, Sicily; Naples, Italy; and again to Rota, Spain. While in the Mediterranean the USS Scorpion performed numerous NATO operations as well as other classified operations for the United States. When the Scorpion left Rota the second time on 16 May to come back to the United States, they left two crewmembers behind to fly back to the United States; one for personal health reasons and the other for a family emergency. These men were among the families waiting for the Scorpion to return to pier 22 in Norfolk on 27 May 1968.

Two other crewmen managed to get transferred from the Scorpion permanently just before the ship left for the Mediterranean. One, electrician’s mate Dan Rogers was on the submarine USS Lapon at sea on 27 May 1968 when the USS Scorpion was declared overdue. The USS Lapon was part of the massive search effort to find the USS Scorpion.

On entering the Atlantic Ocean the USS Scorpion supposedly was being trailed by a Soviet Echo II class submarine. Supposedly, the Scorpion sent a radio message that it could not break away from the trailing submarine.

During the USS Scorpion’s transit back to Norfolk, and after picking up a trailing Soviet submarine, she was sent on a highly classified mission to investigate a task force of Soviet warships near the Canary Islands, close to the US Navy’s SOSUS underwater listening hydrophones.

After completing this mission, the Scorpion resumed its transit home. The Scorpion then attempted to get into radio contact with SUBLANT, but unable to establish communications. The Scorpion then radioed the Naval Station in Greece, which forwarded the message. This was the last message received from the USS Scorpion.

Next Sunday this article will continued with: the discovery that the USS Scorpion is missing, the search for the USS Scorpion, the official inquiry into the loss of the USS Scorpion, and some of the many theories on the loss of the USS Scorpion.

Insignia of USS Scorpion

Insignia of USS Scorpion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To read part two click here:


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Update On Smile Photos for Avery

Susan Garren just got back with me with this information. If you want to send a smile to Avery go to PO BOX ON BLOG.

Let’s send Avery some smiles and some support for mom and dad.

The hardest thing I have gone through is losing a daughter. Avery’s mom and dad are giving her the best life they can and trying to make sure other parents do not have to go through this. Let’s help them out.

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