Fragile, handle with care

Foster Park, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Foster Park, Fort Wayne, Indiana

When Thurgood Marshall retired as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, reporters wanted to know why he was leaving the bench.

“Well, I’m old and I’m falling apart,” he explained.

I’m always reminded of Marshall’s exchange with reporters when I develop some new ailment or health problem. Slowly but surely, at 76, I too seem to be falling apart. This time it’s Plantar Fascitis in the heel of my left foot.

The other day when I was jogging in Foster Park, the heel got to be so painful I had to call my wife Toni to come with the car to the church parking lot and take me home.

A day later, Dr. Muhler carefully examined my foot and pronounced my diagnosis. He’s probably the smartest family doctor in the city. And I’ve listened to his medically technical explanations for so many years, I’ve probably learned at least an associate’s medical degree.

This time I got an even more authoritative diagnosis than usual. Turns out, a few years ago he also developed Plantar Fascitis. He not only understood my suffering. He knew the sure-fire treatment – including the likely number of days it would take, providing I followed the Rx, before I could jog again in the park.

Dr.Muhler demonstrated exercises and printed out a 2013 four-page report on this diagnosis. The report also featured photographs of the prescribed exercises. Glancing at page one, I learned that the diagnosis occurs most commonly among runners.

I found this interesting. When non-runners advise somebody my age to give up running, they warn about the inevitable knee or hip pain. I have yet to develop either of these ailments. I don’t recall anyone warning about Plantar Fasiitis.

One good piece of news about this condition is that fixing it doesn’t require surgery. Since I was in no shape to fix dinner – Toni is away at a church conference – I invited my son, his fiancee, my daughter, her daughters, one’s boyfriend to join me for dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Nice visit.

Today, Toni’s sister Patti stopped by with homemade cookies and offered to bring dinner over this evening. Boy, do I ever feel pampered!

It gets better. Here it is late April when it’s usually chilly outdoors. But today, in northern Indiana, the temperature feels more like mid-May. So where do I park myself with my left heel resting on a bag of frozen green beans? Easy choice. I’m now sitting in a cushioned deck chair on our screened-in back porch. So I’m now looking up our half-acre hill blooming with yellow, white and amber flowers.

Still, I know that before long summer will be here in full force. Some days, say by my birthday in August, it’s likely to be too hot to sit on the back porch. After that, it will be fall. Then we’ll be carting porch furniture to the garden house at the top of the hill and storing cushions in the garage. Then comes winter and I’ll situate myself by the fireplace reading a book.

I love the change of seasons, the predictable rhythm, the variety of tasks, from raking leaves and within weeks shoveling snow. Meantime, for this older person, I know if it’s not another bout with Plantar Fascitis, another ailment will assault in due course.

In those years I taught English, I often came across poems composed by people who might have been about the same age I am now: “Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be,” and “Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Well, I usually don’t take the advice of old poets. As a rule, I suppose I handle aging the way most people do. I go to the doctor when something isn’t working right. Whatever the pain or discomfort, I try not to complain too much.

So I try not to make a big deal out of everything. But I’ll deal as best I can as things come along. To be sure, aging has its challenges. I’d have to say that for me, so far, the blessings outdistance the challenges. Yes, by quite a long way.

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I Can – With Your Help


You’re Churchill.

The Lufwaffe has been raining down bombs on London for days. For most Londoners, a stiff upper lip is no match for such terror.

But you’re the Prime Minister. You stand before the House of Commons, shake your fist, and proclaim, “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

No, you’re not Churchill. You don’t stand, either. You can’t.

You’ve been bound to a wheelchair since you were six and your dad hit a patch of ice on I-69.

And you don’t give up. Somedays, though, you can use a hand.

We’re all in this together, whether we have disabilities or not. That’s why it’s a great idea for any group that organizes a workshop or an exhibition to connect persons with disabilities with resources and inspiring stories.

April 10, my city, Fort Wayne, will host just such an event at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. It’s sponsored by Turnstone, which gives all manner of folk with a disability and their families a helping hand. The event will be a first here.

The brochure promises workshops and has more than 60 exhibitors signed up to hawk their wares or tell the story of their business or their agency.

To be sure, the primary audience will be those with physical disabilities. But agencies that serve persons with other kinds of disabilities, such as mental illness, are expected to be on hand.

That makes a lot of sense. Those who are blind, wheelchair-bound, hearing impaired and developmentally disabled often suffer from depression or other forms of mental illness.

I know the Carriage House, a rehabilitation center for those with mental illness, will have people at the expo to explain that highly effective program. NAMI, a family support group, should be there, too.

Indeed, such an event can help people make connections with all kinds of services in a community, services they may never have heard of.

You forget. You forget how many others or their families are in the same boat. Turnstone’s expo reminds you that you’re not alone. You don’t have to even think about giving up. Not when somebody offers to give you a hand.

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No coverage, no care


I don’t believe it.  Now critics of health care reform claim that the new screening recommendations for breast and cervical cancer claim these are the prelude to rationing health care.

This is too much. Here these independent panel of cancer experts issue their reports completely independent of the legislation moving through Congress. Their recommendations are advisory, not prescriptive.  This is rationing?

You want hear about rationing.  What of those with serious disabilities who don’t qualify for Medicaid. I know persons with a mental illness who get turned down or just don’t apply for the government run program. So they don’t have health insurance. Any. Even if they’re working, it’s likely at low-end wages that don’t come with health insurance.

Besides, Congress can always tell insurance companies they can’t dictate at what age they’ll pay for cancer screening.

As for rationing health care: What do the critics think is going on now?

I just ordered new hearing aids. They cost around $5,000. The aids let a person hear plays, music, TV and what your wife just asked you to do.

Thank goodness, I can afford to buy the new aids. But I won’t get a penny toward this considerable expense from Medicare or from my Medicare Advantage plan.

Yet thousands of elderly persons who have major hearing loss, and have no income beside Social Securitysimply do without. Never mind that this is a real, disabling health problem.

This group falls into that category of “under-insured.” And if you add these folk to the nearly 50 million who have no health insurance, you can tack a few more million.

Medicare rations care. Private health insurance rations care, whether you pay or your employer.

Without health insurance, millions of people don’t get health care, at least not when they need it.

Without health insurance, thousands die needlessly ever year.

This is what the debate should focus on. This is what it’s all about. And the lack of health care in a country so rich, so blessed in a thousand ways, is a national disgrace.

For my part, the issue isn’t the cost of health care reform. It’s not the public option. It’s not the deficit. (AS if Iraq didn’t.) It’s about people. It’s about people needing help. It’s about people get sick. It’s about people become disabled. It’s about everyone who doesn’t have health insurance crying out for help and no one, no one is listening.

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