Monday, July 27, 2009

I saw something yesterday ...

that has left a profound impact on me. I want to share a quick encounter I had with a man who broke his neck at C2, which is the second cervical vertebra; and is actually located in the skull. C1 and C2 are the vertebrae which your head swivels on, and the first bump out of your skull, is C3. You can feel C3 by touching the first bump, or spinous process on your spine, just outside your skull. C1, or the Atlas (the first cervical vertebra, which supports the head) and C2, or the Axis, are just above that.

That was my quick Anatomy lesson for this post.

Back to my story: Sunday afternoon, I went up my alley about 1:30 to pick-up a few prescriptions at my pharmacy. On the way home, I turned down the alley and dropped the bag carrying my precious cargo. So, I looked around to see if there was anyone who could help me get my bag of drugs.

That was when I saw a man going through my neighbor's trash dumpster looking for food. The thing was — he was wearing a halo, which for those of you who don't know, is the devise they use to stabilize the cervical spine when someone breaks his or her neck by drilling four screws into your skull to hold it in place. It looks like this:

As I approached him, I didn't think he was capable of bending down to the ground to pick up my prescriptions, so as I passed behind him, I said, "Hi," and came in the house to get Tim, my attendant, to come and help me.

When I called Tim, I told him he wasn't going to believe what was going on outside! After picking up my goodies, we came up the alley and got to where Jim was, when the shy, quiet, wallflower that I am, politely asked him, "What happened to you?"

Without breaking stride in his quest for food by looking up, he said, "I broke my neck!"

Guess what I said? Yup, "So did I!"

got his attention and brought his head out of the dumpster. So, we shared our accident stories for a few minutes and I asked him, "How are you getting your medical care?"

That was when Jim chuckled a bit and said, "Right now, my General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) is taking care of me, but at the end of the year, Pawlenty (Minnesota's Governor) is cutting my benefits and I don't know what I'll do."

Now, mind you, Jim wasn't very clean, the lamb's wool on his halo was filthy, he didn't look like he had bathed or gotten clean clothes for a significant amount of time, and he told me he was having a good day because he had found some food and a half bottle of wine in my neighbor's dumpster! He said, "I found a half bottle of wine, and I'm drinking that."

Then Tim asked him if he was sure it was wine. Jim assured him it was. He was quite confident about it, and was obviously looking forward to drinking it! I can only imagine where he was when he drank his half bottle of wine!

That was when Tim left. When I got inside, Tim asked, "What the hell is going on? Why is this guy in a halo going through dumpsters digging for food, when he should be adequately taken care of considering his medical condition? I wonder if he's a vet?" (Tim served in the Army for six years, so he's sensitive to the plight of veterans.) He told me later he couldn't watch Jim; he had a hard time being there.

I know this is a much longer post than I usually put up, but I just had to write about it. There is so much more I want to tell you about my encounter with Jim, the state of health care, budget cuts in the government, homelessness, the lucky ones who break their neck or back and walk away, how Jim broke his neck, and so on ... but, I think I may turn it into a chapter for the book. After all, that's the whole purpose of this blog! Remember, I'm not done yet!

I look forward to your comments.




Olive Tree Guitar Ensemble said...

Hi, it's a very great blog.
I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
Keep doing!

Earl Hipp said...

Mike... use your intelligence and wit to be an advocate and polical activist for people like this man. If not you who?

Jenni said...

Great story! Can't wait to read the chapter in your book.

Mark said...


It makes me think where ARE our nation's/government's priorities when it comes to really helping those who truly need help.

Nice job, Mike!

Rick Jauert said...

Rick JauertMike: I wish you would write more. That is a fascinating story and not because it is the first I've heard -- sadly I hear (and living in DC get to see) them daily. How did Jim get to be where he is and how does one go from point A to dumpsterr diving much scar tissue must you have to get through life like that. I could write a book and ... Read Morewere it not 4 a.m. and I can't sleep (so I get up for my mid-night computer check and Dr. Pepper run) but can't afford to stay up writing right now -- I'll beg off till later - Rick

Rick Jauert said...

To paraphrase the late great patron saint of Minnesota's DFL, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, 'The moral test of a government is by how it treats those in the dawn of life - the children; those in the shadows of life - the physically challenged; and those in the twilight of life - the aged.' By all accounts the richest nation on earth is failing that test miserably. Each day, I try to make a difference and proudly my boss, Congressman Keith Ellison, fights tirelessly to do so as well. We're making progress -- but we must move faster.

I'm Not Done Yet said...

You're right, Rick. I actually got a letter from HHH just after I got hurt wishing me well. I mentioned him in the post because he was absolutely correct in that statement. I collect quotes of all kinds and his actual quote was:

Using the language of his day, Senator Hubert Humphrey stated:

"The moral test of government is how it treats
those who are in the dawn of life, the children;
those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; ...
and those who are in the shadows of life,
the sick, the needy, and the handicapped."

I have a pdf file I'll send you via email.