Ken Kuzenski: A Legend That Will Last a Lunchtime

Here’s the TLDR version of my most recent 40 years, to catch people up.

I met Nan at the very end of 1981; I was still in Baton Rouge and she was visiting. We wound up thinking marriage but she was starting a degree program in Nebraska, Ph.D. in theatre and history. So we didn’t get married right away.

Yes, that’s what I look like these days. I don’t like it any more than you do.

I was bouncing around Baton Rouge in those years, working at the LSU College of Engineering and then at LSU Public Relations, as a publication producer–editing, design, copy, and so on. I had a nights & weekends job at Claitor’s Bookstore (Perkins @ Acadian) for a couple of years, and I was the DJ at a BTR bar/restaurant for a couple of years, again, some nights, all weekends, some special events. I had a lot of fun.

In 1988 Nan and I got married, and we moved to Raleigh NC, where she had a teaching job at Meredith College. I took a temp job at Duke University School of Medicine. The office I was in dealt with a lot of statistics for the medical interns and residents, and the data was all collected and compiled by hand. I had done some computer database and statistics work for a rich lawyer in BTR, doing jury selection stuff, and some database and COBOL at engineering, so I asked the head, “Why not computerize this? It’ll save a lot of work.” I was offered a permanent job doing that.

Another year or so later, a friend from Duke finished his fellowship and became an ass’t professor. He had some big plans for research: pulmonary response to high-dose chemo (followed by bone-marrow transplant), primarily. We had prospective studies (IRB approved) with live patients, retrospective (chart review) studies of previous patients, and some molecular studies involving gene sequences–which I never understood but I didn’t have to understand it to build the databases and create the functions. 🙂 Oh, and around a dozen IND studies, where I saw patients and did lung testing on them.

Me and my dad in Florida 2018

OK,TLDR. I loved those years. Rod went to U of Louisville (KY) to be division chief and I went along for 1.5 years to help get things set up. I loved the city, and I had fun all over, doing demographics/disease data for researchers, and setting up new PFT labs and exercise physiology labs for the outpatient clinics. Had a great time but had to come back to Raleigh because Nan couldn’t come to Louisville.

I needed a job back in Raleigh and I wanted to stay on Duke health insurance; I found a nice at Duke’s Division of Cellular Therapies. This is stem cell transplants for high-dose chemo, from bone marrow, blood, or umbilical cords. My job there was astonishingly boring, and it involved a 40% pay cut from UofL, but I really liked the people.

The health insurance turned out to be a big deal; in late 2014 my leg pains turned out to be big aneurysms in both popliteal arteries, just above my knees. Bad mojo. A wonderful surgeon saved my left leg with an arterial graft. But my right leg never worked. The doc put in two stents that failed, and an artificial artery, that also failed. They took blood vessels out of both arms and my (now working) left leg, trying to get blood going to my lower right leg.

I was in the hospital or in bed at home for most of the next 18 months; luckily I had been saving money all along, which replaced my lost pay. And the Duke health insurance meant that all the MRIs and CT scans and surgeries and hyperbaric treatments and inpatient stays and ER runs–all that wound up costing just a couple of thousand in co-pays. Otherwise we would have lost the house and gone bankrupt. I had at least 15 separate surgical procedures with full general anesthesia. This had a definite effect on my memory. 🙁 Nothing the docs did worked, so they finally amputated. [I call my artificial leg “Peggy.”] 🙂 I was in a wheelchair for most of a year after the amputation Now I have a mechanical right leg, and my left leg is whole but it’s weak from all the used-parts shopping the doctor did. 🙂 I can walk, but not very well or for very long. Losing the leg was irksome, but that handicapped parking is SWEEEEET. 🙂

The on-campus magazine/website for employees did a story on the health insurance, and used me as an example. That IS what I looked like at work a lot of the time. 😉

I had planned to keep working until age 65, but was stressing out. So I retired a couple of months ago, shortly after my 63rd birthday. The department gave me a cherry and maple chair with the Duke logo and an engraved plaque on the back. They said “… after 29.7 years of devoted service.” I WANTED the plaque to read “… after 29.7 years of *moderately* devoted service,” but they wouldn’t do it. 🙂 (Yes, I was there 31+ years total but that subtracts the time at U of L.)

I took up fishing, I’m still playing (very badly) guitar, I have lots more time to work in my garden and play with the dog, and I’m able to read pretty much all I want. Nan retired earlier, to take care of me. So now life is pretty relaxed.

Raleigh is a lousy place to visit but a great place to live. The weather is pretty good, and we live in an older part of town; big yards (mine is 0.66, which is huge compared to the new subdivisions) and lots of big trees for shade. It’s a delight.

No kids. We’ve had four dogs in our 32 years together; two Scotties, one half Scottie half poodle (a delightful guy who loved to eat oysters–probably because we named him Boudreaux.) 🙂 And the fourth is a little Silky Terrier we found at a shelter about 3 hours away by car. She’s tiny and skittish compared to Scotties, but she’s very nice. “Cricket,” our 11-pound attack dog.

Eleven pounds of fury!

That’s about it for my life so far. Old friends and well-wishers are more than welcome to ping me at Others can use (That’s a working address; I intended for that one to be a throwaway for companies I had to give an address to, but I find it funny. (I actually have 10 working email addresses but some of them are just for junk email.) There’s more to say but this is already “Too Long, Didn’t Read” territory. 🙂