• Liz Hartel was a much-loved Olympic athlete in Denmark. Her story is remarkable because at the age of 2, in 1944, while pregnant, she contracted polio, which almost completely paalyzed her. She started rehabilitation by learning to raise her arms again, then learning to use her thigh muscles again. Eventually, she learned to crawl and then to walk with crutches. She never again regained complete use of her legs; however, she still wished to compete in dressage, so she told doubters, “Why can’t my horse be my legs?” She started to compete, was successful, and qualified for the Olympics. Despite having to be helped onto and off her horse, she won the silver in dressage at both the 1952 and the 1956 Olympic Games. Each time she finished second to Sweden’s Henry St. Cyr, and each time he helped her climb up to the second-place platform when the Olympic medals for dressage were handed out. Ms. Hartel lived this Danish proverb: “Life is not holding a good hand. Life is playing a poor hand well.”
• Joel Siegel, film critic for Good Morning, America, died of colon cancer at age 63 in June of 2007. Ten years previously, at age 53, he had a colonoscopy, which revealed that he had cancer. He fought the cancer for 10 years, and once he asked his oncologist what might have happened if he had had a colonoscopy at age 50 instead of at age 53. Mr. Siegel wrote, “He said there was a 75 percent to 80 percent chance they would have nipped it in the bud, and I never would have had to deal with any of them.” Mr. Siegel’s friend, film critic Roger Ebert, writes, “It was because of Joel that I got my own colonoscopy.”
• An Englishwoman named Sarah learned that she was HIV-positive, and she decided to tell her parents. She says, “They were just wonderful. So supportive. They were cuddling me and holding me — when you’re HIV you don’t get touched — it was what I needed, to have somebody. I needed to talk and talk.” Her family supported her in other ways, too. Her brother even bought a bigger house so that he could take care of her living children — a baby daughter died of AIDS — should the time come when that was necessary. He told her about the bigger house, “There’s always those rooms for anybody.”
• At a hospital in England, nurses lent small children teddy bears for as long as they were in the hospital. However, the teddy bears tended to leave the hospital along with the children, although the teddy bears were supposed to stay behind so they could cheer up other ill children. The nurses found a creative way to keep the children from taking the teddy bears. They put a bandage on each teddy bear and convinced the children that the teddy bears had to stay in the hospital so they could get well.
• Frank DeCaro’s mother did very poorly at school. She used to say that the one time she knew the answer to a teacher’s question was when she was ill with laryngitis. The teacher saw her raise her arm to answer the question, then told her, “Put your arm down — you can’t talk anyway.”
• On the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the characters played by Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) and David Boreanaz (Angel) had an on-screen romance. The two, who are friends in real life, often played jokes on each other before their characters’ romantic moments onscreen. For example, before a kissing scene, they would eat such things as tuna fish and pickles. And if Angel was supposed to unbutton Buffy’s blouse, Sarah would pin it or sew it to make the unbuttoning as difficult for David as possible.
• As a young teenager, Cassius Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali, was shy. When he first kissed a girl (Areatha Swint), he fainted, shocking the girl, who thought he was joking. However, eventually she ran to get him a cold cloth to put on his forehead. (Mr. Ali got over his shyness; he married several times and had several children.)
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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IN MEMORY: JD HUTCHISON