Herman Santala’s Passing

In the wee hours of a chilly autumn morning, our Mama (Helen Santala Pickens) woke up my brother Kenny and me, where we were sleeping together upstairs in the old farmhouse north of Flagler, Colorado. Mama told us that our Grandpa, her father Herman Santala, was very ill and that our Daddy (William Charles Pickens) and our Grandmother (Edith Headrick Santala), were getting ready to take Grandpa to the Emergency Room at the Flagler hospital (shown above). Mama said she would try to get a neighbor to care for us, but it turned out that she couldn’t find anyone that late at night, and so she drove to the hospital and left me and Kenny, the big brothers, in charge.  (We have two younger brothers, Rodney and Bruce.)  Kenny and I  resisted going back to sleep, and we begged to go to Flagler. Mama promised that if Grandpa was better we could see him the next day. 

The next day, however, Kenny and I were told we could not see Grandpa, as he had suffered a stroke and wouldn’t even know us. We asked if he was going to die, and Mama said she didn’t know, but it could be so. As that anxious day rolled on, our Aunt Alma Lee Santala came to Flagler, and we were very glad because she was a registered nurse, and she would know how sick Grandpa was after she had talked to Dr Straub.  Our Uncle Duane Santala also showed up and went to the hospital, and all the adults stayed at the hospital all day. Neighbors came by to bring food and check on us occasionally.

The next morning, Alma Lee popped into the house to get Grandma, Mama and Daddy up. She was very excited and was smiling from ear to ear. She said she had spent the night at the hospital and Grandpa was much better. He could talk and move his arms and legs. 

As soon as she had some coffee, she headed out to her brother Eldred Santala’s farm  to tell them the good news, and to tell Duane and Eldred to go to the hospital, as Grandpa was a lot better.

We asked if Grandpa was going to be all right and she said she thought so, but Dr. Straub was still very concerned, because he had said that stroke victims usually get better a day or so after the stroke, and then the brain would begin to swell up and they would get very ill or die.

Just as Doctor Straub had predicted, on the fourth day,  Grandpa Herman Santala never woke up enough to recognize people and he died in the hospital at Flagler, Colorado, at about 1:35 in the afternoon on November 4, 1958. His coffin, with his remains, was shipped back to Satanta, Kansas, for his funeral service and burial.

By Gary Pickens, in consultation with Kenneth Pickens

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