Chapter Twelve / BURNNIE Goes to the Hospital


 “Faith, what if I quit teaching and made a video about BURNNIE getting his tonsils out? Kids could learn about the hospital in a fun way and maybe not have as much anxiety about their first visit.”


“But we really need both incomes,” she insisted. “How are we going to pay the bills? Are you sure this is something you really want to do?”


“Hey,” was my come back working stressfully to keep my tone conversational without the revelation of frustration. “When I began college my major was theater. It wasn’t ever in my plan to be a teacher. You convinced me to make elementary education my major and theater my minor just in case ‘Hollywood’ didn’t work out.”


“I sure did,” she smiled back. “That was a good idea wasn’t it? Hasn’t it all worked out? Can’t you see how God has used you in the classroom helping those kids with your unique way of teaching? And, haven’t we been able to travel every summer with Christy and Mandy doing the Vacation Bible School and camp shows? Hasn’t it been great?”


“I don’t regret anything,” I said maybe regretting a few of my decisions but knowing this was not the time to say everything I was thinking. “I just feel this is a good time to try and do the “BURNNIE” thing full time. I like the teaching, minus the stuff that’s not great about it, but I’ve always wanted to put all my effort into the performing.”


“What about the radio shows? That’s been awesome. Lots of people have loved those shows. You were able to get KNWC to air it every week and you got a distributer to air it on short wave radio all over South America. And you did that while you were still teaching!”


“Right, the radio show was great. It was fun to make all those episodes. But teaching all day and then writing the script and the songs every night got to be too much. And Mandy and Christy suffered for that. I was always telling them to leave the office and go upstairs so I could work on the shows. I just want to put my full concentration into this project. I have a “pulling” in this direction to be full time in ministry for kids through television or video or some type of media. Why can’t that just happen?”


Faith’s caution regularly gave me a reality check. “It’s a financial thing. Where’s the money going to come from on your side of the income? We need both incomes.”


I was prepared. “I spoke with a video company,” I said. “It would cost $15,000 for them to do the 15 minute video. If I can get a grant it wouldn’t be money out of our pocket. We can sell the video to libraries and hospitals for $60 with an open license which means they can show it for public viewing. If it’s as good as I think it can be, we might be able to get a video company to produce more videos. I even have the series title, ‘BURNNIE, the Hare on Health.’ I mean, if we would have to, don’t I have money in my retirement? Can I get some of that out early? Only if we would really have to.”


Faith sympathized, “I know you really want to go into ministry full time. If you can get the grant maybe that’s God’s way of getting you started full time. And we do have the retirement, but there’s a big price for taking any of that money out early. See if you can get a grant. That’s all I would know to say for now.”


To fleece or not to fleece. Gideon laid a fleece, or a wool blanket, on the ground. He told God if the blanket was wet with dew, but the ground was dry, he would know that the word was true. That’s exactly the way he found it in the morning. Was the grant a “fleece.” Throwing out a “fleece” to God demonstrates a lack of faith, not a display of faith. But maybe the criteria of the grant was more of an answer to Faith than a verification from God. It was exciting to think of giving all my effort to the ministry. But I also did not want to wake up nights in a cold sweat, worrying about my family’s future. I didn’t want to be a husband or father who wasn’t doing what he was supposed to do. I remained teaching and applied for a grant. Waiting for an answer put me in a state of prolonged pulse-pounding tension about whether I would keep teaching or follow a quiet whisper to run my own ministry. The day came. I received a call from the Sioux Falls Children’s Miracle Network Foundation. The grant was awarded.


My last day of teaching involved moving from a desk in a classroom to a desk in a downtown office. It was exciting to feel fully independent. The script for “BURNNIE Goes To The Hospital” was written and submitted to the committee at Sioux Valley Hospital for review and approval. Several changes were requested and the script was submitted again. A member of the original committee was no longer able to participate and the replacement found areas that needed revision. A new script was written and submitted again. Another member was replaced by a new member. That person felt it necessary to find something that needed to be changed. It seemed as though each new committee member found it their responsibility to find something wrong in order to validate their position in the group. Another script was written and submitted to the committee. Thankfully no one had left and there wasn’t a new member who felt pressured to find something wrong. The script was approved.


Filming with a professional video team was exciting. Our volunteer actors were doing an amazing job. Faith and I received great encouragement from those who heard about the project. The video began with BURNNIE having a sore throat. The next scene was in the doctor’s office where the nurse gave BURNNIE a few checks with the stethoscope, blood pressure, and then the blood test. Not sure of how much of the needle to show when drawing the blood from BURNNIE’S arm, the camera pulled back and focused on BURNNIE’S expression of anxiety. The dailies were viewed by the committee. “We don’t even see the needle,” said one. The instructions were to get back on set and show more of the needle. The scene was filmed with a closer view of the needle approaching BURNNIE’S arm and back to the committee it went. “I think we’re seeing too much of the needle,” said a new member of the team. They wanted to see the needle, but not so much of the needle. A scene was finally shot which received the approval of all.


There had been a miscommunication with the president of Sioux Valley Hospital who had not been informed of our traveling through the halls of the hospital with our cameras. It then became necessary for an administrator of some sort to be on set every time we filmed. Filming in the lobby included a firm eye and a clipboard with much writing activity and never a word to myself or any of the crew. When filming in the waiting room our “clipboard authority” continued to write, stare, touch the equipment, write some more, and question the parents regarding their children who were in the scene. This was a “new normal” we all grew accustomed to until the day of filming in the surgical suite.


Unknown to our “clipboard authority” Dr. Curkman agreed to not only advise throughout the writing of the script, but also volunteered to perform BURNNIE’S surgery. With everyone in scrubs and all equipment sanitized for occupancy of the surgical room, we began to film. “Hello, BURNNIE,” Dr. Curman said with her kind and peaceful voice. “We’re going to begin,” she explained. Dr. Curkman brought her hand toward the red button to initiate the equipment, but “No” is what everyone heard. Miss “clipboard” was not going to allow it.


“None of the equipment in here may be touched,” she said again writing something on her clipboard with more emphasis than usual.


“I’m a physician,” Dr. Curkman said emphatically. “For many years I have touched everything in this room and today will be no different.”


“Oh, I’m sorry,” and the clipboard went down. “I had no idea you were a Dr. here.”


“You can also take your clipboard and yourself out of here. Your input is not needed,” stated Dr. Curkman with a polite gesture to the door. “And now, let’s get on with BURNNIE’S surgery without further interruption.


The crew gave a slight applause, but not too loud as to be disrespectful. And the scene was shot. We never saw “Miss Clipboard” for the remaining several scenes which were needed to complete the video.


Unfortunately, the person in charge of media would not use the video after it’s completion, since she stated her input was never requested. Had it been requested, the video would have never seen completion because her decision would have been to toss our BURNNIE and place a male actor in the role. We explained that BURNNIE, being a puppet, would have more of a multi-gender appeal, but this did not meet her concept of what was needed and stated the video would never be seen. However, many libraries and hospitals across the nation loved and purchased the video. It would be outdated now, but thousands of children felt more at ease when going to the hospital resulting from viewing BURNNIE’S experience and explanation of what to expect. Faith and I received letters of thanks and personal accounts of how children were calmed after watching, “BURNNIE Goes to the Hospital.” Helping people was our successful end result.


Chapter Thirteen / Opal

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