Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I almost became an amputee at age six, and it was pretty much my own fault.

Jim & Paul (lower seat) take a little thrill ride.
Riding in a small Ferris wheel at a small town county fair in Central Ohio, some time in the late 1960s, my brother and I, in cute nearly matching outfits, rode a few loops on what I see now, from these old family photos, was a shoddy, poorly-built amusement park ride.

Only moments after these photos were taken (by my dad, probably), my brother and I began to mug and swing ourselves in the seat. Maybe the ride was not moving (my brother recalls that detail), but somehow my little boy leg got caught in the exposed hinge mechanism of the ride.

My sharp shriek of terror and pain halted the operator from possibly restarting the ride, and possibly cutting off or mangling my foot (or knee? It's a bit of a blur to me).

I'm told my heroic father leapt to action and got me down from the ride, where my thankfully small injuries were tended to in a tent. That we never sued the owner and the entire fair into oblivion is disappointing, in retrospect. But I survived, and had an excuse to pass on such rides for decades to come.

How different would my life be if, at a tender age, I lost a limb? Would I ever have been able to perform in all those plays, become a professional dancer, wrestled as an adult for fourteen years,  run with the San Francisco Track and Field Club, rode a bike to work, or even become a sports writer for ten years?

Perhaps, but it would have been a very different path. The amazing improvements in prosthetics and surgery these days is light years ahead of what would have been available in the late 1960s. Basically, I would probably have been fitted over the years with a series of plastic legs, like a G.I. Joe doll.

The Ferris wheel incident, which I now laugh about with my family, could have been a disaster. In fact, given the visibly shoddy construction of the ride, and the no doubt completely unregulated standards that allowed such a crappy machine to be built, and children charged money to ride on, it could have been horrible. I could even be dead.

And that's a terribly tiny thing to compare to the huge, disastrous events of the Boston Marathon, and at the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, another awful event that happened in the historically awful week of mid-April, where Hitler's birth is only one of many strangely disastrous events that have taken place at this time of year. The new disaster is the utterly cowardly Republican Senate, who cowered to the bullying lobbyists at the NRA, whose actions impeded the capture of the alleged Boston teen terrorists.

But let's not focus on that. 

Let's not focus on the utter hypocrisy of Texas governor Rick Perry (and his henchmen; see left) having touted the wonders of corporate deregulation, having threatened to secede from the Union, he and his ilk's vehement hatred of the Democratic president being that deranged. 

Yet they now plead for federal assistance– for a disaster caused by a privately-owned company. The fault of the explosion lay in the rightwing-demanded deregulation, resulting in that fertilizer plant having not been inspected since 1985.

Should we hope that the sometimes frenetically stupid corporate media got nearly every fact wrong during these crises, proving their own ineptitude? Or the censorious altering of gruesome images of injured victims?

Or do we focus on the photo ops? It's best to think that when celebrities make visits with recovering bombing victims, like actor Bradley Cooper, they're not doing it as a self-serving act. It may not be true, but it's good to think that.

Jeff Bauman, visited by celebrities
I hope we can focus on the victims' recovery, and once again bring a new visibility to disability, and the daunting expenses involved. While most of these people are middle-class white people, millions more suffer from financial problems and accessibility impediments.

As the corporate media forces our national psyche to "heal," and "find closure," will they pay attention to the day-to-day recovery of these people, and their new prosthetic limbs? Will they ever evolve beyond mawkish treacly portrayals, or will the disability media, and disabled activists, take to the forefront and redefine the representation of  this millions-strong community?

Let's focus on the ironic fact that Massachusetts bombing victims will benefit from the Romneycare that Willard Romney, during his pathetic election campaign, pretended never happened.

"When I was watching the events and hearing from my colleagues what was happening at the hospitals I said, 'Well, thank God we have near-universal coverage in Massachusetts' because those people almost certainly would be covered," said JudyAnn Bigby, who was secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services under Gov. Deval Patrick (D) from 2007 to 2012." (Huffington Post)

Let's not focus on the rightwingers who still despise Obamacare, despite the fact that it will help these victims of the Boston bombings, the very people rightwingers pretend to care about in their newly fueled teapot of jingoistic xenophobia.  

We're apparently not supposed to focus – according to the corporate media – on the fact that the same week, our military killed and injured hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan.

We can, according to the New York Times, focus on the improvements in prosthetics, thanks to the thousands of injuries and amputations brought on by war, oh, and sports injuries.

And please, please, media, and Facebook friends, make every effort to take the focus AWAY from the heinous psychopathic Phelps monsters, whose plans to protest the funeral of victims are going to be guarded by Teamsters.

Let's focus on the good. And while I cringe at the idea that such a tragedy has a silver lining, I have decided to focus on the positive outcome of these horrible events.

Mikey plays lacrosse
Among the first to raise funds and awareness for the plight of these newly disabled people are those who are already disabled, including some Boston Marathon wheelchair competitors.

Imagine the fortitude it took Jeff Bauman to not only endure losing both his lower legs, but to maintain the ability to help identify the alleged bombers.

Take a look at Mikey, a quadruple amputee (from a bacterial infection) and his older brother, Harris.

The two brothers are raising funds for the victims who do not have enough insurance, or any insurance, and need financial support. The brothers have organized a run that you should support, if you have a heart.

This may come off as a contrived connection – my shoddy Ferris wheel near-accident, my disability-themed novels, and the Boston bombings – but stick with me.

I can't help but notice a few unrelated similarities to my book, Every Time I Think of You, which includes a main character who becomes disabled. Everett plays lacrosse, and so does Mikey. Everett went to a Pennsylvania private school I fictionally named Pinecrest. Mikey's brother goes to a Florida high school named Pine Crest. Two neat coincidences; two adorable kids.

You can support Mikey's Run by donating HERE.

You can donate to Bucks for Bauman HERE.

You can also donate to the funds for other victims and their families, because even insurance won't cover all their expenses.

Wheelchair athletes in London
Losing a limb is an unthinkable life change, one that I fear, and know would change everything. I can look at that photo of me in a Ferris wheel with my brother and remember what a fun day it was, other than having nearly become an amputee. 

I can be thankful for being lucky, and hope that I, like the people facing much more serious injuries, will recover and heal, in whatever way that means. And hopefully, that also means seeing the global effect of tragedy, and how we must see the connection to such strange and awful events, and engage compassion, as eloquently stated by Enver Ramanov.

Let's hope the people dealing with their changed bodies take the advice of young Mikey, on how people can recover. 

"First, they will be sad. They are losing something they will never get back, and it's scary. I was scared. But they'll be OK. They just don't know that yet."

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