Episode 38: All About Robert Russell McKenna, Jr.

Nov 12, 2022

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Podcast — 51 Minutes

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Episode 38: All About Robert Russell McKenna, Jr.

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Podcast — 51 Minutes

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Episode 38: All About Robert Russell McKenna, Jr.

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Russ returns to the podcast to talk about his work, his quirks, and growing up in a time before most people knew what autism is.

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Dr. Gwynette: Hello, and welcome to the Autism News NetWORK. My name is Dr. Frampton Gwynette, and I’m joined today by our producer at the Autism News NetWORK, Mr. Russ McKenna. Hey, Russ.

Russ McKenna: Hi.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. Thanks for this.

Russ McKenna: How are you?

Dr. Gwynette: I’m doing great. Doing great. Thanks for being on the show today.

Russ McKenna: Oh, thank you for having me. But a producer, I didn’t put any money into it.

Dr. Gwynette: You haven’t put any money into it, but it’s been a lot of sweat equity. You’ve put your time in and your talent.

Russ McKenna: Oh, well, thank you.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So we’re grateful for that. And you have been a long-running member of the MUSC team and family. And how many years have you been working at MUSC now?

Russ McKenna: 23 years, 11 months, 4 weeks, 1 day, 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 3 seconds.

Dr. Gwynette: Excellent. So maybe by the time this podcast is over, we can do another calculation, because you’ll have been here longer at that point. Right?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: So you got that down to the second.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I found out when I got hired, so…

Dr. Gwynette: And then you have an app that kind of calculates that.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Awesome. Awesome. And one thing I’ve noticed about you is you always come to work armed with two green bottles of some kind of substance. What is that that fuels your energy?

Russ McKenna: One, it’s never two.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. He’s got at least three here.

Russ McKenna: I had a fourth one, but I drank it.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Okay. And what’s that drink you got there?

Russ McKenna: Mello Yello, or as I call it, orange juice.

Dr. Gwynette: Orange juice. So he calls Mello Yello, orange juice and-

Russ McKenna: Well, my doctor doesn’t want me to have anything with caffeine. He wants me to have plenty of water.

Dr. Gwynette: Yes. That’s great.

Russ McKenna: A vegetable.

Dr. Gwynette: So that’s number one ingredient, carbonated water. Carbonated water. The second ingredient, corn syrup.

Russ McKenna: Corn syrup. That’s a vegetable-

Dr. Gwynette: That’s your vegetable.

Russ McKenna: … and fruit.

Dr. Gwynette: And fruit, which is a little orange juice.

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. Maybe less than 1% juice, but there’s probably more vitamin C than actual orange juice.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s possible. So there’s no caffeine in Mello Yello?

Russ McKenna: Well, it’s maybe down in the ingredients.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: It’s not in the top three.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. But that’s what fuels you during the day?

Russ McKenna: Well, I’m naturally hyper. But, yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Awesome.

Russ McKenna: It makes me, I don’t know, an extra step. So I can tease my coworkers and get on their nerves on purpose.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. It gives you a little extra energy?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Put some spring in your step. That’s awesome.

Russ McKenna: Spring, summer, winter and fall in my step.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s great. So what is your role here at MUSC?

Russ McKenna: I’m a supply specialist.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. You’re a specialist?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Supply specialist, that’s what’s on my…

Dr. Gwynette: A supply specialist?

Russ McKenna: A supply specialist.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. Cool. You want me to show the camera that? Yeah, that’s-

Russ McKenna: I guess.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s the badge there. He’s a supply specialist at MUSC. And so your job involves moving supplies around the hospital?

Russ McKenna: Well, moving, not necessarily like a mover, but… Yeah. I bring supplies like socks, and syringes, and all the other… Toothpaste, toothbrush. I mean everything for the patient.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. No. That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: And I bring it up there.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I’m faster than my coworkers. I am more focused on it. I think of the patients as my siblings. So I try and make sure they have the supplies.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s so cool.

Russ McKenna: I don’t even let the nurses, or techs, or doctors use 1/10th of a brain cell thinking, “Do we have this?”

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: I bring it up before they even know-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … they need it. And I let them know if there’s certain items that it’s either back order, we just don’t have it at that moment.

Dr. Gwynette: Oh, that’s great.

Russ McKenna: They don’t have to call.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So you’re doing your part-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … to support the patient and the treatment team.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. So in a way I am part of their team and not necessarily central supply, because with those supplies are mainly for my unit.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And if I get there sooner than they do, well, their loss, my gain.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. So you’re taking care of your teams.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: And I believe you mentioned that it’s only required for the courier to come by maybe once a day, but you’ll make multiple trips per day to ensure.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Yeah. At least three times.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And I spot-check the Pyxis, and I let them know if they don’t push the button… And I got the busiest unit, 4 CVICU, and of course because of it, I got four Es in the Art building. They’re worried about the budget, so that’s one thing. They like the fact that I’m in there. But the nurses and techs still don’t want to push the button.

Dr. Gwynette: And the button means that we-

Russ McKenna: Well, the Pyxis, they don’t push the Take. They just take it and… If they’re not going to charge the patient, I just want them to have the amount. I took it on myself to make sure they do-

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: … by threatening them for me to be on another floor.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: So now they’re pushing the button.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And what does the button do when they push that?

Russ McKenna: Well, in the Pyxis, if you push the Take button, it… I mean, whoever the patient is, they’ll get charged for that particular item.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: And the Return button gives them credit.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay, great. So it’s documenting-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … yeah, compliance?

Russ McKenna: But if they don’t push it, there is no…

Dr. Gwynette: Record of it.

Russ McKenna: And it just gets me to… “Oh, no.” I have to go downstairs and replace it-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … which I don’t mind, because I love to walk around.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s great. How many-

Russ McKenna: But my coworkers aren’t like that.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So you love to walk. You love to move your body. How many miles a day do you typically walk when you’re working?

Russ McKenna: Nine miles.

Dr. Gwynette: Nine miles. And that’s only a portion of your work walking, that you do throughout the day. Right?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: So you walk nine miles at work, which is a lot. And then after work, what do you do?

Russ McKenna: I walk some more. So the grand total of the day is 17.

Dr. Gwynette: 17 miles per day. So you’re doing 3/4ths of a marathon every day. I guess that explains the multiple Mello Yellos. And you seem to be in great physical shape.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. My doctor does not condone it. But, yeah. He says as long as I’m walking, he can’t say anything against… And I say that to my sister, who’s a nurse, and she cannot believe that a doctor would say that. So she’s been coming in to actually hear him say-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … that I can drink as much… Well, I say I can drink as much Mello Yellos as possible.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And he did say I can only have one energy drink, so.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. And the walking seems like it balances all that out.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: What does walking do for you?

Russ McKenna: It actually makes me think. If I’m walking to my units, I’m already trying to make sure that… I’m just eager to get there, so I can make my list and spot-check the Pyxis and the bins, and come down and bring all the bed pans. I do get needles. I do get other stuff, but the patients needs all that other… But when I go down to [inaudible 00:08:32] Central, I’m thinking, “I better get this item before my coworkers do.”

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: Because-

Dr. Gwynette: You’re prioritizing.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Because I want to get my units to get it, not them.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I’m not saying I’m going to use them all, but they notice that I would actually take everything possible and make sure my units get everything, and they complain that they don’t get it. But they’re not as fast as me. They’re not focused like me.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And you’re really, in the end, advocating for the patients on the units they serve?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: And I keep saying, “Well, if you want this particular unit to have supplies, then let me have that unit.” And they think I’m overworking myself, which I’m having too much fun to call it work.

Dr. Gwynette: Is that right?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Everyone in MUSC clocks in to go to work. I clock in to go to play, and I have so much fun. With the people I talk with, or just acting the way I am.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s so great. And so it’s the relationships you have there. It’s the patients. It’s the nurses. It’s the teams.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I may never see the patients per se, but to me, I think of them as my siblings. I do see the nurses, and techs, and doctors, and they all know me by my name.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s fantastic.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And if you go to the Art building right now, go to the fourth and sixth, and fifth floor. Just ask them, “What do you think of me?” Just say, “Russ.”

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: And they might say, “Well, he’s a little weird and maybe a little funny. But when it comes to the job, we really don’t care what he acts like.”

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: “Let him have as many Mello Yellos, or get some chocolates or whatever.” No, really. We’re not supposed to have drinks or food, but I would… To 4 CVICU, I would have a hard boiled egg, and they don’t say a thing.

Dr. Gwynette: So your performance really-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … is so high that…

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s awesome.

Russ McKenna: I can actually wear my Beatle shirt to… They don’t care.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: My supervisor or my coordinator, they will. My units couldn’t care less.

Dr. Gwynette: Because you do such a good job.

Russ McKenna: Yeah, exactly. And no one can keep up with me.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: In all three shifts, no one. And I’m the oldest person there. They got these 20-year-olds, who cares more about their hair, 40 hours, or their pay. And they say, “This is hard, this.” And some of them don’t even call out, when they don’t come. I mean it’s…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: There’s no team effort there. Again, people I work with would say, “That’s not my job. That’s not my floor. I’m going to go for lunch.” I’m saying, “Well, it’s more for me.” They stay eight hours. “Hey, this shift’s done.” Whether they’re done or not, I stay between 12 and 14 hours, making sure those units that I’m signed to gets everything.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s amazing. That’s a long shift.

Russ McKenna: Well, my siblings needs their supplies.

Dr. Gwynette: Absolutely. Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Maybe that’s part of the autism. I mean I know that people will focus some, on themselves; others… But the patients is the most important thing.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And what am I going to do at home? I mean, yeah. I got my latch hook to do or I got the… I don’t know. I’m just too hyper just to stand around, so.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. I think it’s wonderful that you’re a patient-driven guy. You mentioned autism and… Can you take us back through when you first were diagnosed or told that you have autism and…

Russ McKenna: So they’re walking to Main. Whether they’re in a wheelchair, or crutches, or even bedridden. They march over. Someone may have to push their bed but they have to cross the street and they look both ways. And maybe they get run over. But they want to get to Main, so they can have their Mello Yello.

Dr. Gwynette: And that’s in the cafeteria or…

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Main has it.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: But Art doesn’t.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. And so you get your supply over at Main?

Russ McKenna: No. If I don’t get my orange juice, I get my substitute, Monster.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: That, they sell. But, no. No Mello Yello.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s definitely your rocket fuel. You had alluded to autism earlier. Do you remember how old you were when you first learned that you had autism?

Russ McKenna: Actually, I didn’t know I had autism until I joined this group. I mean the word autism. I never heard of it. We didn’t know. See, every three years, my dad would be promoted. We went from New York to Ohio.

Dr. Gwynette: This is when you were growing up?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. No. I was going in first grade. They had to set me back. Well, in New York, I was in kindergarten. They had to send me back because they didn’t understand why I’m acting the way I am. So here we moved from New York to Ohio. A speech teacher told my mom that I’m retarded, because I couldn’t pronounce my Ls and Rs right.
Now, she, who was born in New Jersey like myself, she came in with that same accent. We just moved from New York. The speech teacher was amazed. She didn’t realize that there are the other 49 States I could have came from.

Dr. Gwynette: So she didn’t realize that your accent might have been mistaken for-

Russ McKenna: Right.

Dr. Gwynette: … a speech challenge.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. She even tried to get me to use my right hand. I’m both. I’m right-handed, but she thought that was wrong to be left-handed. She wanted to use my right hand all the time. I write with my left hand and my right hand. It’s whatever’s the pen is next to, that’s the one I use.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s really interesting. So you can actually write with both hands?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I can write it forward and back. And I tend to have these stories in my head, but I could write from the very last word to the first one, because my mind’s always thinking.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. We had talked offline about how you maybe think differently, and that’s like your superpower.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I don’t do drawings. I just do it in my head.

Dr. Gwynette: For latch hook rugs?

Russ McKenna: Because when you do a drawing, you have to go in between the lines, and everyone knows what you’re doing. But, hey, if I don’t like what’s happened here, I can always pull it out, put something else.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So when you’re doing latch hook, you’ll imagine the pattern and then just kind of [inaudible 00:16:44]?

Russ McKenna: No. It just stays there. I have to bring it out.

Dr. Gwynette: So you see an image in your mind?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: You give me a color, red, blue and orange, and all of a sudden, I will have a design in my head about it. I have to cut the yarn. That’s what takes so long. But, yeah. I love it.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s awesome.

Russ McKenna: It’s the only time I actually can calm down.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. When you’re doing latch hook?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s great. I do feel like your thinking process might not be like everyone else’s. And it’s been at times, an advantage; and at times, a challenge?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. When we moved to Michigan, again, I was in fifth grade, but they thought I wasn’t doing ability. So they put me in another school and I had to go down to fourth grade. When I was still in Ohio, I actually had a reading teacher. I kid you not. A reading teacher that took us all kindergarten, because they have a TV.
So five days a week, we got to watch Sesame Street. That’s how she taught us. The teacher did the same thing, only we saw Electric Company. And I thought, “I could have done this at home.”

Dr. Gwynette: Exactly.

Russ McKenna: Why… But…

Dr. Gwynette: So you were obviously a very, very bright guy.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: What do you think it was that made people believe that you were not a bright guy, when you were growing up?

Russ McKenna: I did have trouble reading. So I guess the teachers tried to put me in a class or tried to put me in a group, thinking I guess I’m dumb or stupid. So they moved me with other people who were even worse off than me.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I’m not trying to make myself better. But it’s always seemed to be worse off, because they never seemed to put me in a group with the same…

Dr. Gwynette: Abilities?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: It’s always like those (beep) or those who…

Dr. Gwynette: We call it intellectually disabled.

Russ McKenna: Oh, they changed the name again?

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. It’s just a little bit more, I think supportive, to say it that way.

Russ McKenna: Oh, right.

Dr. Gwynette: If you don’t mind, would you be able to tell the audience how old you are now?

Russ McKenna: I always say, do you want mental, physical or spiritual?

Dr. Gwynette: All of them.

Russ McKenna: Mental, I’ve been told I act like a five year old. Except for my sister, who thinks I act like a one year old.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s emotionally?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: So I’m here. Hey, I’m young.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: So what do I care?

Dr. Gwynette: Exactly. And then chronologically, how old are you?

Russ McKenna: Well, 61.

Dr. Gwynette: 61. So when you-

Russ McKenna: I’m saying, Oh, he’s an old man.” Like I said, I don’t have any wrinkles. I don’t have any health issues. So bring it. If you want to call me old, fine.

Dr. Gwynette: But you’re doing great.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: I think being the age you are, looking back at kindergarten, elementary school,-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … middle school, high school, this was an era when awareness of autism was much lower than it is now.

Russ McKenna: Exactly.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And so you had mentioned previously that you really didn’t hear that you had autism until you joined the Autism News NetWORK.

Russ McKenna: Right. Well, again, by the time we moved to Massachusetts, then they realized I have a learning disability. It’s like what happened from childhood to now?

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: So here I am, knowing I have a learning disability till I come in here. I’ve never heard the word autism. I didn’t like that word at first because it reminds me of Altimers. You know, it has the awe.

Dr. Gwynette: Sure.

Russ McKenna: And my dad had Altimers, and I don’t necessarily like anything that’s connecting with that.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. It’s really hard.

Russ McKenna: But…

Dr. Gwynette: But Autism being a separate condition. Do you feel like you see some things in common with some of the other Autism News NetWORK members?

Russ McKenna: Now my sisters say I’m obsessive about the Beatles, about Batman, and of my iPhone. But I’m not obsessive with the video games. I never got into that.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s what’s definitely different about you versus some of the younger members.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Whether it’s Main or Art, I see the same thing. Housekeeping, laundry, the cafeteria, secretaries, nurses, doctors, techs. Everyone on their phone, texting, maybe watching a movie.

Dr. Gwynette: Social media?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: You don’t have that?

Russ McKenna: Well, comparing the autism group and everyone else in MUSC, you couldn’t tell the difference.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. I do have some games, and I’ve just watched my favorite TV shows, but…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And you mentioned technology, iPhones. I believe the first time we met, which was several years ago, you were carrying five iPhones on your person?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And I still have them at home.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: But I can’t hold them all with my orange juice.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. With the Mello Yello orange juice. Yeah. So you had-

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I have five iPhones at home and I still love them. I still play with them. Well, I still call them by the names I gave them. Well, to tell you how obsessive I am with the Beatles… I should have brought them. My 3GS, I named John.

Dr. Gwynette: And that’s a really old iPhone. Right?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: You named it John.

Russ McKenna: My iPhone 4 is Paul. I think we know who I’m talking about.

Dr. Gwynette: Sure.

Russ McKenna: My iPhone 5C, his name is Stu. No. The third, actually.

Dr. Gwynette: The third?

Russ McKenna: Stu Sutcliffe. That was John’s Lennon’s friend. But he was the only one that quit on his own. And it had nothing to do with it, but he had a tumor and died.

Dr. Gwynette: [inaudible 00:24:53].

Russ McKenna: But John Lennon encouraged him to join because he thought, well maybe if he… Because he was an art student. Stu was. But John thought, “Well, with the money that he sold, because of his painting, he can use that to buy a bass,” and he could pretend, because he didn’t know how to play. Stu liked it because it had that image that he wanted. But he did what John Lennon said and just hold the guitar, on the bass guitar within the back, just so no one knew how he played.

Dr. Gwynette: Amazing. Did you have any iPhones named Pete?

Russ McKenna: Yes.

Dr. Gwynette: For? What’s that one named after?

Russ McKenna: Well, again, George Harrison came next. That was my iPhone 6 Plus. I had a 3 Mini. His name was Pete.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. For Pete Best?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: He was actually the first drummer before Ringo. And so technically he was the fifth Beatle, whereas Ringo was the sixth. So Ringo got my iPod.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. So some of these maybe people would call obsessive possessions. You started thinking, “Hey, maybe I could have autism based on what my family’s telling me about how I get occupied with things”?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I didn’t know I had the word autism. Just like I didn’t know stupid.

Dr. Gwynette: Was there a long time in your life where-

Russ McKenna: I’ve been called everything in the book.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And yet I’m not any of it.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. Was there a period of your life where you didn’t have friends?

Russ McKenna: Mainly my classmates, mainly. Like I said, I was called a retard. No, excuse me. I was called a (beep) and I thought, “Now, that’s kind of funny.” But you know, you tend to believe what people say. So I’m thinking, “Am I?” They’re the ones that like sports. I didn’t care for sports. That’s what they thought. But, yeah. I have a high IQ.

Dr. Gwynette: You do?

Russ McKenna: Every time someone says something about me, it’s the opposite, and I think that’s weird. They like to judge me. They like to point fingers, make them look good. But since I became a born again Christian, nothing. I laugh at that. I make jokes about it. I even tease everyone, and the smart ones know not to tease me back. The dumb ones try to, and I just do it worse. It’s-

Dr. Gwynette: Good natured teasing.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. You mentioned your spiritual age. Do you want to talk about that?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. About what? 40 years.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: And it actually started… I mean the process, after John Lennon was murdered, or as I say assassinated. Yeah. When I read that article, two women in New York and one man in Florida committed suicide because they couldn’t live without John Lennon.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: I got to thinking, “One, I wouldn’t be able to listen to him in the afterlife. Two, who cares what people think?” If the people around me think one way. I mean, everyone at that time knew I loved the Beatles and John Lennon. Why should I have people in different States, or who I never met and they never met me, think the same way?

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: Those three people, I don’t know their names. I just know that what they did. Who knows what they had in their life? Maybe there was something that wasn’t fulfilled. I don’t know. I had to separate myself, more or less. I then listened to the Rolling Stones, something which my brother listened to. And I would always say, “Oh, no. The Beatles are better. The Beatles, better this. Beatles. Beatles. Beatles.”
I’m sure he got sick of the Beatles because that’s all I played. But, yeah. I listened to the Beatles than I listened to the Who. And when I listened, I have their albums. So I have all the Rolling Stones. All the Who in vinyl, by the way. The Kinks. The Monkees. I got all the British rock. The Monkees is considered British, because of Davy Jones, and bubble gum and a regular group. But I can get into bubble gum another time. That’s like a whole week of…

Dr. Gwynette: Of discussion?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. That’s a totally different bunch of…

Dr. Gwynette: You mentioned when you came to the Autism News NetWORK that you finally found some friends.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Can you talk about that?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Well, I didn’t mention the Christianity. That was coming up. But, yeah. I came to autism group because you helped me with… Well, anyone that knows who she is, I always say is the witch. The Wicked Witch of the West. And if I ever see her again, I have said this. “If I ever see you again, I hope I have a bucket of water,” because I want to see her melt. Really.
She was awful. Everyone hated her. If I had that bucket of water, I may lose my job. Well, but everyone around would be applauding and I don’t care if I get fired. I’ll have a smile on my face knowing I put that bucket of water on her. I would take my iPhone and take a picture of her being all wet.

Dr. Gwynette: So you and I-

Russ McKenna: I would have it framed.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I would put it on the…

Dr. Gwynette: So you and I connected in the last year or so-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … in the office. And we talked about the-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … Autism News NetWORK. What made you interested?

Russ McKenna: Well, like I said, you helped me with that. And I thought nothing, more or less. I thank you for the letter that you were going to do, but nothing. I mean, I just thought it’s… The trouble with her was wasn’t major anymore. She tried, continually trying, but… Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: But something inside of you-

Russ McKenna: But, yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … made you think.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. Somehow my sister found out about this group that you had, autism. I said, “Sue, I don’t know about this autism. I have a learning disability. How can I have autism?” I’m still thinking Altimers and how it… But, no. She said, “That’s what they call it now.” I don’t know what the word autism means, the actual word.
I like to look up stuff. But then she’d tell me about this email you had, the website. I’ve gotten interested, so I got in your group. I’m amazed. Usually I would assume maybe we would have a circle and talk about ourselves, kind of like a psychiatrist type thing. No. It was group activity. Everyone was moving around.
Now I only could see you every other. On Thursday. And I know you could say you can write up something and you may have to because…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. We want more. We want more Russ.

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. But there’s also new people coming in. And this one guy thought it’s best to have everyone come in Monday through Friday, and have another group come in on the weekends, which means I may not be here every other Monday. I may not be here every other Thursday. So you may have to write that letter.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: But I like the every other Monday, and every other Thursday, and I love to work on the weekends. They’re going to have a problem, especially since I have more seniority than everyone-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … and the units love me.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: So I got that going.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. But you’ve made some connections at the ANN?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Talk about that.

Russ McKenna: Like I said, you weren’t there.

Dr. Gwynette: Can you tell us about it? Can you tell us about it? Oh, go ahead.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. You weren’t there the second time. It would it be all right for me to say that I think of them as babysitters, because they were just standing there.

Dr. Gwynette: We had some students there who were maybe not interacting as much as-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … me and Lisa.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. So I thought it was odd. Okay. She had the blue and black Magic Markers put on her forehead and we were supposed to get up and describe it so that the other can guess.

Dr. Gwynette: As kind of a game?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I don’t want to put him on the spot, but I like to think of it as a family. So I hear David is the loud voice going from one person to another saying, “You looked like you have a black hole.” Now colors are either black or blue. And black hole, black hole. Is that blue color? No. No. I think that is a black. But again, I only seen him say something. So at least he was interacting.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: But everyone else was just walking about and saying nothing.

Dr. Gwynette: So you’re new there. You don’t know anybody. People aren’t necessarily-

Russ McKenna: Right.

Dr. Gwynette: … talking to you, except for David.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Then what happened?

Russ McKenna: Well, like I said, we then get in the chair. We have the blue team and the red team, and we’re supposed to guess the letter for Hangman.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I know how to play it better than… Don’t get me wrong. It’s an easy game. But I know the letter E is the most used letter in the alphabet. So I can say in order, what it could be. S being the next. T is the next. M and… Q, X and Z are not. That would be the last on the bottom. But I know-

Dr. Gwynette: So you guys were playing some kind of icebreaker exercises or game?

Russ McKenna: Maybe, but I thought it wasn’t… We could have done something else. At least, maybe get to know each other better or something. Talk about whatever. One woman had a shoebox. The same woman wanted me to put my iPhone… A $150 phone into a box. Now I have it in my pocket, and I had my latch hook in my bag, but I’m not going to put my own iPhone, mine, in a shoebox.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And do you know why we do that? Ask everyone to put their phones in the box?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Because everyone else wants to get on it.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. During the group. Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I can understand that. But like I said, you would have to take my latch hook and put it in the shoebox. I

Dr. Gwynette: I see. Yeah. But you’ve made some interactions there? You’ve made some friends with at the end?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. As I would continue. Maybe I talk too much, but… At the end of the group, I thought, “Well, I’m just going to go home, like I did the last one,” because there was no one contacting me. Everyone was talking about the State Fair. No one came to me, and I thought, “How friendly can this place be?”

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: I figured, “Eh.” I enjoyed my days off. I could sleep in. And the night before, I could stay up. So who needs to sit here and do Hangman, when I got techs, nurses, secretaries, doctors, I mean actually come to me and ask, “Do we have this or do we”… Or just to say hi. To come down, play Hangman and just be as though I’m really, what’s the word, valuable, or not really doing anything. It’s like everyone ignores me.

Dr. Gwynette: Not included and not part of it.

Russ McKenna: No. So I was thinking, “Nah.”

Dr. Gwynette: You never came back.

Russ McKenna: I tried it twice. Maybe if you were there, maybe I would stay, but it was just nothing for me. Which means I would go, and you might have to contact my sister. Maybe my sister would contact me. But I just would tell her that it’s just not for me, and then go. I would’ve done that. However, one person got out of their chair and walked towards me and asked me to have lunch in the cafeteria. I said, “Great.” Well, now I have somewhat of maybe a friend.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Maybe I could contact or maybe we get to know each other better.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I mean, who knows what the possibilities of the future could be.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. And that’s something new for you at that point.

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. To have someone just walk up to me. I haven’t had necessarily a actual friend for quite some time, just to hang out with.

Dr. Gwynette: How long would you say it’s been for that?

Russ McKenna: And maybe it’s because of my fault too, but probably 25 years.

Dr. Gwynette: 25 years.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. When my parents and I lived in Seabrook, no. I had a friend, and he might be interested in this too, because he has… But, yeah. We got to talking and I’m sure he was trying to keep up with me. Well, with looking at MUSC and in this, maybe I don’t have necessarily that drive to continue, but it just… I could call him right now. We can hang out, whatever, but it’s not necessarily the same. I mean, he’s in Seabrook. I’m here.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So after 25 years, you’ve started to make a few friends at the Autism News NetWORK.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Again, one, at that one time.

Dr. Gwynette: That was the start of it?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: And now you’ve got several?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. So Melissa, who I thought, “Great!” But she was on the phone in the cafeteria, and Melissa was playing My Talking Angela. I have that on my iPhone.

Dr. Gwynette: Do you? Okay.

Russ McKenna: And she was saying, “Do you think this is childish?” I said, “No. I have all the Talking Tom’s friends, and I have Angela. That’s pretty much for a woman. So I don’t see anything wrong with it. I like it. I like the fact that you can talk and it answers back, or you can hit them and they fall down or some…

Dr. Gwynette: Right. So you’re finding common interest with some of the other placements?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Yeah. Talking Angela. Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Little Shop of Horrors. It’s like whatever she talks about, I love.

Dr. Gwynette: And that’s-

Russ McKenna: And vice-versa.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And that’s how friends are made. Finding those common interests.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: But everything.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Not just some, here, there, but everything.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And then two weeks later, we had another. It was great because, again, I had at least Melissa there. But then I got to know David and Val. I may not have known them, if Melissa didn’t come to me.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: And…

Dr. Gwynette: That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And Melissa puts her phone number in my iPhone. Now to let you know, this iPhone or any of my iPhones, no one’s other than myself touched. But I had it open, because she wanted to put her phone number. She wanted me to give her phone number to me. And here I am-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. You’re exchanging contact information. That’s normal. That’s great.

Russ McKenna: So here I’m opening up. She just grabs it. Not only puts her name in it, but her address, her birthday. It’s like, Wow!” I know more about her. But, yeah. Rarely. And she might be the only one. If there is someone else’s fingerprints on it, it is Melissa’s.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: That says a lot about her.

Dr. Gwynette: For sure.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And my coworkers who I tease daily… No, hourly, secondly, started teasing me, saying I got a girlfriend. And saying, oh, they’re going to contact the girlfriend of mine in the Philippines. And she’s always afraid that I’m going to leave her for a 20-year-old. And my coworkers would really hurt her, and I would have to listen to it, trying and convince her, “No. This is not happening,” but…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Now you’ve mentioned that for a good while, the Autism News NetWORK, you were an observer. Actually the first time you came in, it was right in this room. You showed up and we had to record a voiceover that we were working on. So you literally knew nobody. I sat you down in front of a mic and you recorded a voiceover.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That was the first one. But after that, you had a period where you were really sitting back kind of observing, and you mentioned to me that you wanted to start doing stuff. Right?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. I wanted to be part of the team.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: The group. And just to sit there every other Thursday and do nothing, when I’m so used to doing stuff.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I don’t care what it is.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: If it’s just something. It would be great to do a podcast. I’ve never been on a podcast, but I’m glad that you asked.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And here we are.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. But I can’t really edit anything because that’s on Tuesday. I work on Tuesday, so that’s…

Dr. Gwynette: Well, we’ll get there. We’ll get there. I think you’re going to be really great at editing.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. Now I’m on this ANN group thing and…

Dr. Gwynette: Group chat?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Now I love my name, Robert Russell McKenna, Jr.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: There was a history of that name. Well, my dad’s mom had a friend. Her friend named her son, Russell Robert, but he died. She asked her, can she use the name but call it Robert Russell. So she named my dad, Robert Russell McKenna. And like any dad would do, named his first son after him. Then I was a Junior. So there was a history in there. And I love the full name.
My email, I put my full name. As I was on this group meeting, some of the things that I have said, I sound like I was joking. People took it seriously. It’s hard when you text something-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … to make people think that I’m one way, when they probably are used to a serious conversation.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So the Autism News NetWORK has a group meet chat and we go back and forth on that. So you changed your name on that?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Your alias.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Because…

Dr. Gwynette: Tell us.

Russ McKenna: Well, it would be nice to have some sort of nickname, because it’s Sub Zero.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And I’m tempted to call him Add Zero-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … because… I don’t know anything about these video games and…

Dr. Gwynette: So a lot of the people in the chat have aliases that they use?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Godfather.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Broadway Girl.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. What’s yours?

Russ McKenna: Seriously Silly.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: I got the Serious and Silly together-

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: … because I’m both, but I’d like to say Silly or… Because life is short. Why be serious?

Dr. Gwynette: Right. Totally.

Russ McKenna: My emails, when my general manager who promised to have Mello Yello juice, doesn’t. Keeps talking to someone in cafeteria, but apparently it’s not being delivered here, so…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Well, we’re going to go ahead and wrap up. I want to thank you for being here today, and thank the audience for listening. This has been the Autism News NetWORK podcast. I’m Dr. Frampton Gwynette. I’ve been joined by Robert Russell McKenna, Jr. aka Russ, who is a producer here at the Autism News NetWORK. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

Russ McKenna: I can’t wait.

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Dr. Gwynette: Hello, and welcome to the Autism News NetWORK. My name is Dr. Frampton Gwynette, and I’m joined today by our producer at the Autism News NetWORK, Mr. Russ McKenna. Hey, Russ.

Russ McKenna: Hi.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. Thanks for this.

Russ McKenna: How are you?

Dr. Gwynette: I’m doing great. Doing great. Thanks for being on the show today.

Russ McKenna: Oh, thank you for having me. But a producer, I didn’t put any money into it.

Dr. Gwynette: You haven’t put any money into it, but it’s been a lot of sweat equity. You’ve put your time in and your talent.

Russ McKenna: Oh, well, thank you.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So we’re grateful for that. And you have been a long-running member of the MUSC team and family. And how many years have you been working at MUSC now?

Russ McKenna: 23 years, 11 months, 4 weeks, 1 day, 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 3 seconds.

Dr. Gwynette: Excellent. So maybe by the time this podcast is over, we can do another calculation, because you’ll have been here longer at that point. Right?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: So you got that down to the second.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I found out when I got hired, so…

Dr. Gwynette: And then you have an app that kind of calculates that.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Awesome. Awesome. And one thing I’ve noticed about you is you always come to work armed with two green bottles of some kind of substance. What is that that fuels your energy?

Russ McKenna: One, it’s never two.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. He’s got at least three here.

Russ McKenna: I had a fourth one, but I drank it.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Okay. And what’s that drink you got there?

Russ McKenna: Mello Yello, or as I call it, orange juice.

Dr. Gwynette: Orange juice. So he calls Mello Yello, orange juice and-

Russ McKenna: Well, my doctor doesn’t want me to have anything with caffeine. He wants me to have plenty of water.

Dr. Gwynette: Yes. That’s great.

Russ McKenna: A vegetable.

Dr. Gwynette: So that’s number one ingredient, carbonated water. Carbonated water. The second ingredient, corn syrup.

Russ McKenna: Corn syrup. That’s a vegetable-

Dr. Gwynette: That’s your vegetable.

Russ McKenna: … and fruit.

Dr. Gwynette: And fruit, which is a little orange juice.

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. Maybe less than 1% juice, but there’s probably more vitamin C than actual orange juice.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s possible. So there’s no caffeine in Mello Yello?

Russ McKenna: Well, it’s maybe down in the ingredients.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: It’s not in the top three.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. But that’s what fuels you during the day?

Russ McKenna: Well, I’m naturally hyper. But, yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Awesome.

Russ McKenna: It makes me, I don’t know, an extra step. So I can tease my coworkers and get on their nerves on purpose.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. It gives you a little extra energy?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Put some spring in your step. That’s awesome.

Russ McKenna: Spring, summer, winter and fall in my step.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s great. So what is your role here at MUSC?

Russ McKenna: I’m a supply specialist.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. You’re a specialist?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Supply specialist, that’s what’s on my…

Dr. Gwynette: A supply specialist?

Russ McKenna: A supply specialist.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. Cool. You want me to show the camera that? Yeah, that’s-

Russ McKenna: I guess.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s the badge there. He’s a supply specialist at MUSC. And so your job involves moving supplies around the hospital?

Russ McKenna: Well, moving, not necessarily like a mover, but… Yeah. I bring supplies like socks, and syringes, and all the other… Toothpaste, toothbrush. I mean everything for the patient.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. No. That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: And I bring it up there.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I’m faster than my coworkers. I am more focused on it. I think of the patients as my siblings. So I try and make sure they have the supplies.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s so cool.

Russ McKenna: I don’t even let the nurses, or techs, or doctors use 1/10th of a brain cell thinking, “Do we have this?”

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: I bring it up before they even know-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … they need it. And I let them know if there’s certain items that it’s either back order, we just don’t have it at that moment.

Dr. Gwynette: Oh, that’s great.

Russ McKenna: They don’t have to call.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So you’re doing your part-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … to support the patient and the treatment team.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. So in a way I am part of their team and not necessarily central supply, because with those supplies are mainly for my unit.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And if I get there sooner than they do, well, their loss, my gain.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. So you’re taking care of your teams.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: And I believe you mentioned that it’s only required for the courier to come by maybe once a day, but you’ll make multiple trips per day to ensure.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Yeah. At least three times.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And I spot-check the Pyxis, and I let them know if they don’t push the button… And I got the busiest unit, 4 CVICU, and of course because of it, I got four Es in the Art building. They’re worried about the budget, so that’s one thing. They like the fact that I’m in there. But the nurses and techs still don’t want to push the button.

Dr. Gwynette: And the button means that we-

Russ McKenna: Well, the Pyxis, they don’t push the Take. They just take it and… If they’re not going to charge the patient, I just want them to have the amount. I took it on myself to make sure they do-

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: … by threatening them for me to be on another floor.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: So now they’re pushing the button.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And what does the button do when they push that?

Russ McKenna: Well, in the Pyxis, if you push the Take button, it… I mean, whoever the patient is, they’ll get charged for that particular item.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: And the Return button gives them credit.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay, great. So it’s documenting-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … yeah, compliance?

Russ McKenna: But if they don’t push it, there is no…

Dr. Gwynette: Record of it.

Russ McKenna: And it just gets me to… “Oh, no.” I have to go downstairs and replace it-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … which I don’t mind, because I love to walk around.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s great. How many-

Russ McKenna: But my coworkers aren’t like that.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So you love to walk. You love to move your body. How many miles a day do you typically walk when you’re working?

Russ McKenna: Nine miles.

Dr. Gwynette: Nine miles. And that’s only a portion of your work walking, that you do throughout the day. Right?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: So you walk nine miles at work, which is a lot. And then after work, what do you do?

Russ McKenna: I walk some more. So the grand total of the day is 17.

Dr. Gwynette: 17 miles per day. So you’re doing 3/4ths of a marathon every day. I guess that explains the multiple Mello Yellos. And you seem to be in great physical shape.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. My doctor does not condone it. But, yeah. He says as long as I’m walking, he can’t say anything against… And I say that to my sister, who’s a nurse, and she cannot believe that a doctor would say that. So she’s been coming in to actually hear him say-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … that I can drink as much… Well, I say I can drink as much Mello Yellos as possible.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And he did say I can only have one energy drink, so.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. And the walking seems like it balances all that out.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: What does walking do for you?

Russ McKenna: It actually makes me think. If I’m walking to my units, I’m already trying to make sure that… I’m just eager to get there, so I can make my list and spot-check the Pyxis and the bins, and come down and bring all the bed pans. I do get needles. I do get other stuff, but the patients needs all that other… But when I go down to [inaudible 00:08:32] Central, I’m thinking, “I better get this item before my coworkers do.”

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: Because-

Dr. Gwynette: You’re prioritizing.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Because I want to get my units to get it, not them.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I’m not saying I’m going to use them all, but they notice that I would actually take everything possible and make sure my units get everything, and they complain that they don’t get it. But they’re not as fast as me. They’re not focused like me.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And you’re really, in the end, advocating for the patients on the units they serve?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: And I keep saying, “Well, if you want this particular unit to have supplies, then let me have that unit.” And they think I’m overworking myself, which I’m having too much fun to call it work.

Dr. Gwynette: Is that right?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Everyone in MUSC clocks in to go to work. I clock in to go to play, and I have so much fun. With the people I talk with, or just acting the way I am.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s so great. And so it’s the relationships you have there. It’s the patients. It’s the nurses. It’s the teams.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I may never see the patients per se, but to me, I think of them as my siblings. I do see the nurses, and techs, and doctors, and they all know me by my name.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s fantastic.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And if you go to the Art building right now, go to the fourth and sixth, and fifth floor. Just ask them, “What do you think of me?” Just say, “Russ.”

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: And they might say, “Well, he’s a little weird and maybe a little funny. But when it comes to the job, we really don’t care what he acts like.”

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: “Let him have as many Mello Yellos, or get some chocolates or whatever.” No, really. We’re not supposed to have drinks or food, but I would… To 4 CVICU, I would have a hard boiled egg, and they don’t say a thing.

Dr. Gwynette: So your performance really-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … is so high that…

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s awesome.

Russ McKenna: I can actually wear my Beatle shirt to… They don’t care.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: My supervisor or my coordinator, they will. My units couldn’t care less.

Dr. Gwynette: Because you do such a good job.

Russ McKenna: Yeah, exactly. And no one can keep up with me.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: In all three shifts, no one. And I’m the oldest person there. They got these 20-year-olds, who cares more about their hair, 40 hours, or their pay. And they say, “This is hard, this.” And some of them don’t even call out, when they don’t come. I mean it’s…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: There’s no team effort there. Again, people I work with would say, “That’s not my job. That’s not my floor. I’m going to go for lunch.” I’m saying, “Well, it’s more for me.” They stay eight hours. “Hey, this shift’s done.” Whether they’re done or not, I stay between 12 and 14 hours, making sure those units that I’m signed to gets everything.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s amazing. That’s a long shift.

Russ McKenna: Well, my siblings needs their supplies.

Dr. Gwynette: Absolutely. Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Maybe that’s part of the autism. I mean I know that people will focus some, on themselves; others… But the patients is the most important thing.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And what am I going to do at home? I mean, yeah. I got my latch hook to do or I got the… I don’t know. I’m just too hyper just to stand around, so.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. I think it’s wonderful that you’re a patient-driven guy. You mentioned autism and… Can you take us back through when you first were diagnosed or told that you have autism and…

Russ McKenna: So they’re walking to Main. Whether they’re in a wheelchair, or crutches, or even bedridden. They march over. Someone may have to push their bed but they have to cross the street and they look both ways. And maybe they get run over. But they want to get to Main, so they can have their Mello Yello.

Dr. Gwynette: And that’s in the cafeteria or…

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Main has it.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: But Art doesn’t.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. And so you get your supply over at Main?

Russ McKenna: No. If I don’t get my orange juice, I get my substitute, Monster.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: That, they sell. But, no. No Mello Yello.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s definitely your rocket fuel. You had alluded to autism earlier. Do you remember how old you were when you first learned that you had autism?

Russ McKenna: Actually, I didn’t know I had autism until I joined this group. I mean the word autism. I never heard of it. We didn’t know. See, every three years, my dad would be promoted. We went from New York to Ohio.

Dr. Gwynette: This is when you were growing up?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. No. I was going in first grade. They had to set me back. Well, in New York, I was in kindergarten. They had to send me back because they didn’t understand why I’m acting the way I am. So here we moved from New York to Ohio. A speech teacher told my mom that I’m retarded, because I couldn’t pronounce my Ls and Rs right.
Now, she, who was born in New Jersey like myself, she came in with that same accent. We just moved from New York. The speech teacher was amazed. She didn’t realize that there are the other 49 States I could have came from.

Dr. Gwynette: So she didn’t realize that your accent might have been mistaken for-

Russ McKenna: Right.

Dr. Gwynette: … a speech challenge.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. She even tried to get me to use my right hand. I’m both. I’m right-handed, but she thought that was wrong to be left-handed. She wanted to use my right hand all the time. I write with my left hand and my right hand. It’s whatever’s the pen is next to, that’s the one I use.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s really interesting. So you can actually write with both hands?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I can write it forward and back. And I tend to have these stories in my head, but I could write from the very last word to the first one, because my mind’s always thinking.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. We had talked offline about how you maybe think differently, and that’s like your superpower.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I don’t do drawings. I just do it in my head.

Dr. Gwynette: For latch hook rugs?

Russ McKenna: Because when you do a drawing, you have to go in between the lines, and everyone knows what you’re doing. But, hey, if I don’t like what’s happened here, I can always pull it out, put something else.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So when you’re doing latch hook, you’ll imagine the pattern and then just kind of [inaudible 00:16:44]?

Russ McKenna: No. It just stays there. I have to bring it out.

Dr. Gwynette: So you see an image in your mind?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: You give me a color, red, blue and orange, and all of a sudden, I will have a design in my head about it. I have to cut the yarn. That’s what takes so long. But, yeah. I love it.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s awesome.

Russ McKenna: It’s the only time I actually can calm down.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. When you’re doing latch hook?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s great. I do feel like your thinking process might not be like everyone else’s. And it’s been at times, an advantage; and at times, a challenge?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. When we moved to Michigan, again, I was in fifth grade, but they thought I wasn’t doing ability. So they put me in another school and I had to go down to fourth grade. When I was still in Ohio, I actually had a reading teacher. I kid you not. A reading teacher that took us all kindergarten, because they have a TV.
So five days a week, we got to watch Sesame Street. That’s how she taught us. The teacher did the same thing, only we saw Electric Company. And I thought, “I could have done this at home.”

Dr. Gwynette: Exactly.

Russ McKenna: Why… But…

Dr. Gwynette: So you were obviously a very, very bright guy.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: What do you think it was that made people believe that you were not a bright guy, when you were growing up?

Russ McKenna: I did have trouble reading. So I guess the teachers tried to put me in a class or tried to put me in a group, thinking I guess I’m dumb or stupid. So they moved me with other people who were even worse off than me.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I’m not trying to make myself better. But it’s always seemed to be worse off, because they never seemed to put me in a group with the same…

Dr. Gwynette: Abilities?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: It’s always like those (beep) or those who…

Dr. Gwynette: We call it intellectually disabled.

Russ McKenna: Oh, they changed the name again?

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. It’s just a little bit more, I think supportive, to say it that way.

Russ McKenna: Oh, right.

Dr. Gwynette: If you don’t mind, would you be able to tell the audience how old you are now?

Russ McKenna: I always say, do you want mental, physical or spiritual?

Dr. Gwynette: All of them.

Russ McKenna: Mental, I’ve been told I act like a five year old. Except for my sister, who thinks I act like a one year old.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s emotionally?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: So I’m here. Hey, I’m young.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: So what do I care?

Dr. Gwynette: Exactly. And then chronologically, how old are you?

Russ McKenna: Well, 61.

Dr. Gwynette: 61. So when you-

Russ McKenna: I’m saying, Oh, he’s an old man.” Like I said, I don’t have any wrinkles. I don’t have any health issues. So bring it. If you want to call me old, fine.

Dr. Gwynette: But you’re doing great.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: I think being the age you are, looking back at kindergarten, elementary school,-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … middle school, high school, this was an era when awareness of autism was much lower than it is now.

Russ McKenna: Exactly.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And so you had mentioned previously that you really didn’t hear that you had autism until you joined the Autism News NetWORK.

Russ McKenna: Right. Well, again, by the time we moved to Massachusetts, then they realized I have a learning disability. It’s like what happened from childhood to now?

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: So here I am, knowing I have a learning disability till I come in here. I’ve never heard the word autism. I didn’t like that word at first because it reminds me of Altimers. You know, it has the awe.

Dr. Gwynette: Sure.

Russ McKenna: And my dad had Altimers, and I don’t necessarily like anything that’s connecting with that.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. It’s really hard.

Russ McKenna: But…

Dr. Gwynette: But Autism being a separate condition. Do you feel like you see some things in common with some of the other Autism News NetWORK members?

Russ McKenna: Now my sisters say I’m obsessive about the Beatles, about Batman, and of my iPhone. But I’m not obsessive with the video games. I never got into that.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. That’s what’s definitely different about you versus some of the younger members.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Whether it’s Main or Art, I see the same thing. Housekeeping, laundry, the cafeteria, secretaries, nurses, doctors, techs. Everyone on their phone, texting, maybe watching a movie.

Dr. Gwynette: Social media?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: You don’t have that?

Russ McKenna: Well, comparing the autism group and everyone else in MUSC, you couldn’t tell the difference.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. I do have some games, and I’ve just watched my favorite TV shows, but…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And you mentioned technology, iPhones. I believe the first time we met, which was several years ago, you were carrying five iPhones on your person?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And I still have them at home.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: But I can’t hold them all with my orange juice.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. With the Mello Yello orange juice. Yeah. So you had-

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I have five iPhones at home and I still love them. I still play with them. Well, I still call them by the names I gave them. Well, to tell you how obsessive I am with the Beatles… I should have brought them. My 3GS, I named John.

Dr. Gwynette: And that’s a really old iPhone. Right?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: You named it John.

Russ McKenna: My iPhone 4 is Paul. I think we know who I’m talking about.

Dr. Gwynette: Sure.

Russ McKenna: My iPhone 5C, his name is Stu. No. The third, actually.

Dr. Gwynette: The third?

Russ McKenna: Stu Sutcliffe. That was John’s Lennon’s friend. But he was the only one that quit on his own. And it had nothing to do with it, but he had a tumor and died.

Dr. Gwynette: [inaudible 00:24:53].

Russ McKenna: But John Lennon encouraged him to join because he thought, well maybe if he… Because he was an art student. Stu was. But John thought, “Well, with the money that he sold, because of his painting, he can use that to buy a bass,” and he could pretend, because he didn’t know how to play. Stu liked it because it had that image that he wanted. But he did what John Lennon said and just hold the guitar, on the bass guitar within the back, just so no one knew how he played.

Dr. Gwynette: Amazing. Did you have any iPhones named Pete?

Russ McKenna: Yes.

Dr. Gwynette: For? What’s that one named after?

Russ McKenna: Well, again, George Harrison came next. That was my iPhone 6 Plus. I had a 3 Mini. His name was Pete.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. For Pete Best?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: He was actually the first drummer before Ringo. And so technically he was the fifth Beatle, whereas Ringo was the sixth. So Ringo got my iPod.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay. So some of these maybe people would call obsessive possessions. You started thinking, “Hey, maybe I could have autism based on what my family’s telling me about how I get occupied with things”?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I didn’t know I had the word autism. Just like I didn’t know stupid.

Dr. Gwynette: Was there a long time in your life where-

Russ McKenna: I’ve been called everything in the book.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And yet I’m not any of it.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. Was there a period of your life where you didn’t have friends?

Russ McKenna: Mainly my classmates, mainly. Like I said, I was called a retard. No, excuse me. I was called a (beep) and I thought, “Now, that’s kind of funny.” But you know, you tend to believe what people say. So I’m thinking, “Am I?” They’re the ones that like sports. I didn’t care for sports. That’s what they thought. But, yeah. I have a high IQ.

Dr. Gwynette: You do?

Russ McKenna: Every time someone says something about me, it’s the opposite, and I think that’s weird. They like to judge me. They like to point fingers, make them look good. But since I became a born again Christian, nothing. I laugh at that. I make jokes about it. I even tease everyone, and the smart ones know not to tease me back. The dumb ones try to, and I just do it worse. It’s-

Dr. Gwynette: Good natured teasing.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. You mentioned your spiritual age. Do you want to talk about that?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. About what? 40 years.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: And it actually started… I mean the process, after John Lennon was murdered, or as I say assassinated. Yeah. When I read that article, two women in New York and one man in Florida committed suicide because they couldn’t live without John Lennon.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: I got to thinking, “One, I wouldn’t be able to listen to him in the afterlife. Two, who cares what people think?” If the people around me think one way. I mean, everyone at that time knew I loved the Beatles and John Lennon. Why should I have people in different States, or who I never met and they never met me, think the same way?

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: Those three people, I don’t know their names. I just know that what they did. Who knows what they had in their life? Maybe there was something that wasn’t fulfilled. I don’t know. I had to separate myself, more or less. I then listened to the Rolling Stones, something which my brother listened to. And I would always say, “Oh, no. The Beatles are better. The Beatles, better this. Beatles. Beatles. Beatles.”
I’m sure he got sick of the Beatles because that’s all I played. But, yeah. I listened to the Beatles than I listened to the Who. And when I listened, I have their albums. So I have all the Rolling Stones. All the Who in vinyl, by the way. The Kinks. The Monkees. I got all the British rock. The Monkees is considered British, because of Davy Jones, and bubble gum and a regular group. But I can get into bubble gum another time. That’s like a whole week of…

Dr. Gwynette: Of discussion?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. That’s a totally different bunch of…

Dr. Gwynette: You mentioned when you came to the Autism News NetWORK that you finally found some friends.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Can you talk about that?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Well, I didn’t mention the Christianity. That was coming up. But, yeah. I came to autism group because you helped me with… Well, anyone that knows who she is, I always say is the witch. The Wicked Witch of the West. And if I ever see her again, I have said this. “If I ever see you again, I hope I have a bucket of water,” because I want to see her melt. Really.
She was awful. Everyone hated her. If I had that bucket of water, I may lose my job. Well, but everyone around would be applauding and I don’t care if I get fired. I’ll have a smile on my face knowing I put that bucket of water on her. I would take my iPhone and take a picture of her being all wet.

Dr. Gwynette: So you and I-

Russ McKenna: I would have it framed.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I would put it on the…

Dr. Gwynette: So you and I connected in the last year or so-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … in the office. And we talked about the-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … Autism News NetWORK. What made you interested?

Russ McKenna: Well, like I said, you helped me with that. And I thought nothing, more or less. I thank you for the letter that you were going to do, but nothing. I mean, I just thought it’s… The trouble with her was wasn’t major anymore. She tried, continually trying, but… Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: But something inside of you-

Russ McKenna: But, yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … made you think.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. Somehow my sister found out about this group that you had, autism. I said, “Sue, I don’t know about this autism. I have a learning disability. How can I have autism?” I’m still thinking Altimers and how it… But, no. She said, “That’s what they call it now.” I don’t know what the word autism means, the actual word.
I like to look up stuff. But then she’d tell me about this email you had, the website. I’ve gotten interested, so I got in your group. I’m amazed. Usually I would assume maybe we would have a circle and talk about ourselves, kind of like a psychiatrist type thing. No. It was group activity. Everyone was moving around.
Now I only could see you every other. On Thursday. And I know you could say you can write up something and you may have to because…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. We want more. We want more Russ.

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. But there’s also new people coming in. And this one guy thought it’s best to have everyone come in Monday through Friday, and have another group come in on the weekends, which means I may not be here every other Monday. I may not be here every other Thursday. So you may have to write that letter.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: But I like the every other Monday, and every other Thursday, and I love to work on the weekends. They’re going to have a problem, especially since I have more seniority than everyone-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … and the units love me.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: So I got that going.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. But you’ve made some connections at the ANN?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Talk about that.

Russ McKenna: Like I said, you weren’t there.

Dr. Gwynette: Can you tell us about it? Can you tell us about it? Oh, go ahead.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. You weren’t there the second time. It would it be all right for me to say that I think of them as babysitters, because they were just standing there.

Dr. Gwynette: We had some students there who were maybe not interacting as much as-

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: … me and Lisa.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. So I thought it was odd. Okay. She had the blue and black Magic Markers put on her forehead and we were supposed to get up and describe it so that the other can guess.

Dr. Gwynette: As kind of a game?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I don’t want to put him on the spot, but I like to think of it as a family. So I hear David is the loud voice going from one person to another saying, “You looked like you have a black hole.” Now colors are either black or blue. And black hole, black hole. Is that blue color? No. No. I think that is a black. But again, I only seen him say something. So at least he was interacting.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: But everyone else was just walking about and saying nothing.

Dr. Gwynette: So you’re new there. You don’t know anybody. People aren’t necessarily-

Russ McKenna: Right.

Dr. Gwynette: … talking to you, except for David.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Then what happened?

Russ McKenna: Well, like I said, we then get in the chair. We have the blue team and the red team, and we’re supposed to guess the letter for Hangman.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I know how to play it better than… Don’t get me wrong. It’s an easy game. But I know the letter E is the most used letter in the alphabet. So I can say in order, what it could be. S being the next. T is the next. M and… Q, X and Z are not. That would be the last on the bottom. But I know-

Dr. Gwynette: So you guys were playing some kind of icebreaker exercises or game?

Russ McKenna: Maybe, but I thought it wasn’t… We could have done something else. At least, maybe get to know each other better or something. Talk about whatever. One woman had a shoebox. The same woman wanted me to put my iPhone… A $150 phone into a box. Now I have it in my pocket, and I had my latch hook in my bag, but I’m not going to put my own iPhone, mine, in a shoebox.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And do you know why we do that? Ask everyone to put their phones in the box?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Because everyone else wants to get on it.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. During the group. Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. I can understand that. But like I said, you would have to take my latch hook and put it in the shoebox. I

Dr. Gwynette: I see. Yeah. But you’ve made some interactions there? You’ve made some friends with at the end?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. As I would continue. Maybe I talk too much, but… At the end of the group, I thought, “Well, I’m just going to go home, like I did the last one,” because there was no one contacting me. Everyone was talking about the State Fair. No one came to me, and I thought, “How friendly can this place be?”

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: I figured, “Eh.” I enjoyed my days off. I could sleep in. And the night before, I could stay up. So who needs to sit here and do Hangman, when I got techs, nurses, secretaries, doctors, I mean actually come to me and ask, “Do we have this or do we”… Or just to say hi. To come down, play Hangman and just be as though I’m really, what’s the word, valuable, or not really doing anything. It’s like everyone ignores me.

Dr. Gwynette: Not included and not part of it.

Russ McKenna: No. So I was thinking, “Nah.”

Dr. Gwynette: You never came back.

Russ McKenna: I tried it twice. Maybe if you were there, maybe I would stay, but it was just nothing for me. Which means I would go, and you might have to contact my sister. Maybe my sister would contact me. But I just would tell her that it’s just not for me, and then go. I would’ve done that. However, one person got out of their chair and walked towards me and asked me to have lunch in the cafeteria. I said, “Great.” Well, now I have somewhat of maybe a friend.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Maybe I could contact or maybe we get to know each other better.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I mean, who knows what the possibilities of the future could be.

Dr. Gwynette: Right. And that’s something new for you at that point.

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. To have someone just walk up to me. I haven’t had necessarily a actual friend for quite some time, just to hang out with.

Dr. Gwynette: How long would you say it’s been for that?

Russ McKenna: And maybe it’s because of my fault too, but probably 25 years.

Dr. Gwynette: 25 years.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. When my parents and I lived in Seabrook, no. I had a friend, and he might be interested in this too, because he has… But, yeah. We got to talking and I’m sure he was trying to keep up with me. Well, with looking at MUSC and in this, maybe I don’t have necessarily that drive to continue, but it just… I could call him right now. We can hang out, whatever, but it’s not necessarily the same. I mean, he’s in Seabrook. I’m here.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So after 25 years, you’ve started to make a few friends at the Autism News NetWORK.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Again, one, at that one time.

Dr. Gwynette: That was the start of it?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: And now you’ve got several?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. So Melissa, who I thought, “Great!” But she was on the phone in the cafeteria, and Melissa was playing My Talking Angela. I have that on my iPhone.

Dr. Gwynette: Do you? Okay.

Russ McKenna: And she was saying, “Do you think this is childish?” I said, “No. I have all the Talking Tom’s friends, and I have Angela. That’s pretty much for a woman. So I don’t see anything wrong with it. I like it. I like the fact that you can talk and it answers back, or you can hit them and they fall down or some…

Dr. Gwynette: Right. So you’re finding common interest with some of the other placements?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Yeah. Talking Angela. Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Little Shop of Horrors. It’s like whatever she talks about, I love.

Dr. Gwynette: And that’s-

Russ McKenna: And vice-versa.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And that’s how friends are made. Finding those common interests.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: But everything.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Not just some, here, there, but everything.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And then two weeks later, we had another. It was great because, again, I had at least Melissa there. But then I got to know David and Val. I may not have known them, if Melissa didn’t come to me.

Dr. Gwynette: Right.

Russ McKenna: And…

Dr. Gwynette: That’s wonderful.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And Melissa puts her phone number in my iPhone. Now to let you know, this iPhone or any of my iPhones, no one’s other than myself touched. But I had it open, because she wanted to put her phone number. She wanted me to give her phone number to me. And here I am-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. You’re exchanging contact information. That’s normal. That’s great.

Russ McKenna: So here I’m opening up. She just grabs it. Not only puts her name in it, but her address, her birthday. It’s like, Wow!” I know more about her. But, yeah. Rarely. And she might be the only one. If there is someone else’s fingerprints on it, it is Melissa’s.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: That says a lot about her.

Dr. Gwynette: For sure.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. And my coworkers who I tease daily… No, hourly, secondly, started teasing me, saying I got a girlfriend. And saying, oh, they’re going to contact the girlfriend of mine in the Philippines. And she’s always afraid that I’m going to leave her for a 20-year-old. And my coworkers would really hurt her, and I would have to listen to it, trying and convince her, “No. This is not happening,” but…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Now you’ve mentioned that for a good while, the Autism News NetWORK, you were an observer. Actually the first time you came in, it was right in this room. You showed up and we had to record a voiceover that we were working on. So you literally knew nobody. I sat you down in front of a mic and you recorded a voiceover.

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: That was the first one. But after that, you had a period where you were really sitting back kind of observing, and you mentioned to me that you wanted to start doing stuff. Right?

Russ McKenna: Well, yeah. I wanted to be part of the team.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: The group. And just to sit there every other Thursday and do nothing, when I’m so used to doing stuff.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: I don’t care what it is.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: If it’s just something. It would be great to do a podcast. I’ve never been on a podcast, but I’m glad that you asked.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. And here we are.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. But I can’t really edit anything because that’s on Tuesday. I work on Tuesday, so that’s…

Dr. Gwynette: Well, we’ll get there. We’ll get there. I think you’re going to be really great at editing.

Russ McKenna: But, yeah. Now I’m on this ANN group thing and…

Dr. Gwynette: Group chat?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Now I love my name, Robert Russell McKenna, Jr.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: There was a history of that name. Well, my dad’s mom had a friend. Her friend named her son, Russell Robert, but he died. She asked her, can she use the name but call it Robert Russell. So she named my dad, Robert Russell McKenna. And like any dad would do, named his first son after him. Then I was a Junior. So there was a history in there. And I love the full name.
My email, I put my full name. As I was on this group meeting, some of the things that I have said, I sound like I was joking. People took it seriously. It’s hard when you text something-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … to make people think that I’m one way, when they probably are used to a serious conversation.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. So the Autism News NetWORK has a group meet chat and we go back and forth on that. So you changed your name on that?

Russ McKenna: Yeah.

Dr. Gwynette: Your alias.

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Because…

Dr. Gwynette: Tell us.

Russ McKenna: Well, it would be nice to have some sort of nickname, because it’s Sub Zero.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: And I’m tempted to call him Add Zero-

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: … because… I don’t know anything about these video games and…

Dr. Gwynette: So a lot of the people in the chat have aliases that they use?

Russ McKenna: Yeah. Godfather.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Russ McKenna: Broadway Girl.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. What’s yours?

Russ McKenna: Seriously Silly.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: I got the Serious and Silly together-

Dr. Gwynette: Okay.

Russ McKenna: … because I’m both, but I’d like to say Silly or… Because life is short. Why be serious?

Dr. Gwynette: Right. Totally.

Russ McKenna: My emails, when my general manager who promised to have Mello Yello juice, doesn’t. Keeps talking to someone in cafeteria, but apparently it’s not being delivered here, so…

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Well, we’re going to go ahead and wrap up. I want to thank you for being here today, and thank the audience for listening. This has been the Autism News NetWORK podcast. I’m Dr. Frampton Gwynette. I’ve been joined by Robert Russell McKenna, Jr. aka Russ, who is a producer here at the Autism News NetWORK. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

Russ McKenna: I can’t wait.

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