Monday, March 10, 2008

We've got it good...

It's so easy to throw a pity-party when you're sick. After all, I'm sequestered in a far-off bedroom and the isolation is killing me. Carole is having to care for Maddie and Macie today - both are sick as well. Were it not for the fever I had at 10PM last night, I'd be in there doing what I could to help. But here I sit, feeling (and probably looking) gray.

However...I read a book in its entirety Saturday while on that long field trip. It was written by Dr. Paul Lanier, a Dallas anesthesiologist who passed away recently. He had contracted ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1998. Most ALS patients don't make it six years. He hung on for nearly ten.

Extra years for an ALS patient isn't necessarily good. Dr. Lanier described the pain of lying "lifeless" on his bed, unable to turn yet still feeling all the pain from sore joints. Of being totally dependent upon others, even to the point having them clean up after you, if you know what I mean. Of having every muscle totally atrophied. ALS robbed him of his voice. He wrote the book with the aid of a device where basically a cursor could be aimed at a letter with the focusing mechanism of his eyes. Meaning he "wrote" it one letter at a time.

He could no longer hug his wife and three daughters or even speak to them. And he knew that death, when it came, would be brutal. Most ALS patients die of pneumonia, which occurs because the muscles that control swallowing become weak and uncoordinated. Then when they swallow food, drink, or saliva, they aspirate (meaning that substances go down the trachea into the lungs instead of the stomach). They also get pneumonia because they can't cough or take a deep breath.

So the point of today's little essay is that most of us, especially me, have it good if not great. If Dr. Lanier withstood a decade of ALS, I better be able to handle a couple of days of inconvenience. By the way, the name of his book is A Change in the Flight Plan. He was also a private pilot and flying was one of the countless things he had to give up. Here is his obituary: <>

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