Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Much more than tiddlywinks

My brothers and I would listen with great expectation for the familiar creak of the hinges on the old wooden screen door on the back porch of our family farmhouse.

The sound heralded the arrival of our favorite guy in the whole world � our dad � into the house, safe and sound, following another hard day of work in the fields and the barn.

When I was 10 years old, however, as I was preparing to run to the door to greet Dad, I was horrified to see him crawling over the threshold in a pool of blood.

He had been working alone on a piece of farm equipment, trying to tune up a small gasoline engine. A chain on the engine snapped, and became a near-lethal weapon.

It struck my dad just below his left eye.

It's a wonder that he made it back to the house all by himself. I never talked with him about it, but I would have to imagine that he had to be knocked cold by such a blow, and that once he came to, he realized he could easily bleed to death if he didn't get back to the house.

My mom called the ambulance. My aunt, who just happened to be visiting that afternoon, cleaned up the blood on the kitchen floor.

My dad lost his left eye in the accident, but never expressed any regrets. He knew the alternative could have been much worse. Doctors told him that if the blow from the chain had been just an inch or so higher on his skull, it would have killed him.

Another reason to feel fortunate was the fact that my dad survived such a serious accident at a time when medical services, compared to today's standards, were somewhat primitive in South Dakota.

That's why it's hard to understand why former state Rep. Jim Kesling, who now farms near Timber Lake, seems to think we're pouring our money away by supporting a four-year medical school in South Dakota.

"South Dakota can ill-afford to offer courses in Tiddlywinks IV," he said in a recent Associated Press report.

Kesling contends that medical care in rural South Dakota has improved over the years, not because of our four-year medical school program that's been in place since 1974, but because of the increasing number of physician assistants in the state.

Physician assistants provide a valuable, supplemental form of medical care to South Dakotans. But thanks to the four-year medical school, the number of physicians in South Dakota has grown astronomically in the state in the past 25 years.

Anyone who lives in South Dakota soon learns it is a place of limited funding resources. It's hard to imagine, however, that investing money in a program that ultimately can help save lives and improves South Dakota's health care services is a waste of those resources.

That's not tiddlywinks. The investment is a true benefit.

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