Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Pumpernickel Prince

I first met Larry Jung in med school at the U of Utah. Larry graduated in 1961, while I graduated in 1963. I believe he was an intern the year that, on the first weekend in June, three or four of my classmates and I skipped a couple of days of class and went to Yellowstone fishing. School lasted until almost July 1, but enough is enough. We invited a couple of house officers to join us and I think Larry was one of them. Our careers stayed two years apart for awhile. Larry went in the Army for two years after internship and then came back to the U for a residency in pediatrics. He finished residency just as I got out of the Army and began my residency at the U. I saw Larry one day just after starting residency, and he was wearing a very familiar bolo tie. In fact, it was mine! I asked him where he got it. He said he found it hanging in a house staff locker when he started residency. I said that it was mine, I had apparently left it there and would like it back, please and thank you. He said “finders keepers” and I obviously didn't appreciate it since I hadn't noticed it being missing for two years. As far as I know he had it until the end.

We both worked for a professor of peds at the U, I doing basic bench research and Larry doing more clinical things as a fellow. We collaborated on a study of packaging as a means of prevention of childhood poisoning due to medications. We turned it into an exhibit and Larry got to take it to various medical/scientific meetings. I didn't get to do any of these presentations because of the work load of the residency. It was bad enough under ordinary circumstances but because of the Vietnam war the residency was short staffed. We were both interested in newborns and the department agreed to send us to a neonatology meeting in January in Miami as a reward. It was a great meeting; we stayed with some friends of mine and had a great time. We found the meeting very stimulating and we managed to get in some snorkeling and a trip to the beach.

Larry liked to hunt and fish. One time during the house staff and fellowship days we went duck hunting on the Bear River in northern Utah. We used a flat bottomed, square nosed rowboat (which probably has some official name like a dingy or something but I have no idea what that might be). We left a car down stream where we wanted to get off the river, and put the boat in upstream quite a ways. It is legal to hunt ducks from a boat as long as you don't use a motor. We piled brush in the boat so it looked like a floating brush pile, got in and floated down the river. The ducks thought we were a pile of brush, which allowed us to get right in the middle of them. Then we would rise up, causing them to fly, and we would shoot. It was a great day; Larry, who was a taxidermist, mounted a duck for me from that trip.

We both liked country and western music. In those days there was some promoter who would put together a country and western concert about once a month. They were first held at the Old Mill at the mouth of one of the canyons in Salt Lake City and later at a theater in the round in Bountiful, a suburb of SLC. They had several performers at these, usually a mix of veterans and newcomers. We saw such old hands as Roy Acuff and some just starting out, such as Waylon Jennings. These concerts were a lot of fun. The old guys loved to entertain and didn't want to leave the stage. The new ones didn't know how to work an audience or show appreciation to the audience. Waylon was particularly bad that way. I never saw him live again, but I presume he got over it and learned how to deal with a live audience. But, I digress. Sorry about that.

Larry was much more of a big game hunter than I was. I only went mule deer hunting in Utah with him once or twice, and one time I had an elk tag. I went with him on a Wyoming antelope hunt, at a friend's ranch. After I moved back to Arizona he came down once to chase white tail deer with me in Southern Az. He introduced me to a member of his hunting group and we became fast friends. As a result I met all of the friend's family, including my wife. Best thing Larry ever did.

Neonatology was very much in its infancy. When Larry and I were starting our careers, you could literally count on one hand the number of genuine neonatologists in the United States. Larry did a fellowship with Dr. Lula Lubchenko in Denver, one of the few. I think it was for about 6 months. When he finished he came back to the U of U and started the first neonatal intensive care unit and the Intermountain Neonatal Progam which eventually resulted in neonatal and maternal transport and everything that goes along with high risk perinatal care. None of the things we take for granted today were available then—no transport incubators, no neonatal or infant ventilators, etc. Larry scrounged and jury rigged equipment to make do until manufacturers caught up.

The neonatology world was very small in those days. Larry had started his unit at the U and I had some extra neonatology training(not a full fellowship) and had a special care nursery at Cottonwood Hospital, a suburb of SLC. At that time Larry couldn't do much more than I could, but he had the advantage of house staff. I called him about a baby one day and he came out and we decided to transport it to the U. I know he used an ambulance with a Gurney and oxygen but I don't remember whether he used a fish bowl or what to deliver the oxygen and keep the baby warm. He said he was going to put the baby on a ventilator, which he was jury rigging. I remember saying “That's fine, Larry, but how are you gong to get him off the ventilator?” He said he didn't know but would cross that bridge when he came to it. This was the first baby Larry ventilated. Years later Dr. Belton Meyer, the first neonatologist in Arizona and a contemporary of Larry, and I were having a conversation about Larry. Belton said that Larry had him fly up to Utah to consult on the first baby Larry had put on a ventilator. The baby had been on the ventilator for 6 months and Larry needed help in getting him off. Belton was a bit surprised when I said that baby was originally my patient.

Larry was from the Chicago area; his father owned a bakery in Morton Grove where he baked and delivered a great deal of pumpernickel bread. Hence I sometimes referred to him as the “Pumpernickel Prince”. While I was in the Army I commanded a dispensary at Arlington Heights, not far from O'Hare.
One day during this time, Larry was flying in or out of O' Hare. Looking out the window he saw the Army facility at Arlington Heights and said to his wife “I wonder who's the poor bastard that's the doc down there?”

Larry had an endowed chair at the U of U named for him as well as the NICU at the U. He was truly a pioneer in neonatology and leaves a wonderful legacy. He was also an artist, sculptor and taxidermist.The photo below is of a premie newborn's hand sculpted by Larry. The sculpture is life size.

Most importantly, he was my friend. When I get to the other side, I expect him to have the river scouted and the boat piled with brush. He'll probably be wearing my bolo tie.