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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Doctors of Tomorrow

In what has become an annual tradition, I addressed the second-year medical students at the University of Pennsylvania today. After sharing my medical history, with a particular focus on the nutritional and pulmonary issues that arose while I was in college, I answered questions from the students.

Interestingly enough, most of the questions I received did not pertain not to the specifics of my disease. I was asked, for example, whether I had any siblings (yes, two younger sisters) and how my disease has impacted them. Another interesting question was about my relationship with my friends.

My favorite question was about the technology I use on a daily basis. I nearly brought the house down when I described the arguments I have with my voice-activated environmental control system (see my entry from 10/12/06). Cursing under my breath, I explained, is the only way to blow off steam at the system without eliciting a response from it.

For me, the most touching moment occurred when all of students in one of the classrooms (I addressed three separate groups) got out of their seats and gathered around my wheelchair as my pulmonologist explained the settings on my ventilator.

It was obvious that they truly cared. Translate that into a hospital setting and you have some pretty good doctors.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just Hangin' Around

This post is part of a Winheld's World series on the equipment on which I depend on a daily basis.

No, that's not a medieval torture device pictured above. It's the Hoyer lift I use to transfer me between my bed and my wheelchair and between my wheelchair and the toilet. The lift is a major back-saver for my caregivers, but it is also the safest and most comfortable way for me to be moved.

As you can see above, the lift's metal chains connect at four points to the nylon sling on which I sit. The sling, pictured below, has a cut-out for toileting purposes. Thus, it is of the utmost importance that the white sling be properly centered under me!

Funny story: When the hydraulic pump on the lift started to wear out a few years ago, using the toilet proved to be quite the adventure. Every two minutes, my attendant had to come in and raise me.

"That's fastest you've ever gone to the bathroom," she remarked afterward.

Damn right!

Anyway, several companies beside Hoyer make patient lifts. There are various styles, including some whose slings can be removed once the person is sitting in his or her wheelchair. My style of lift, actually called the Hoyer Classic, is considered a dinosaur by many in the healthcare field.

Forgive me, but they aren't the ones whose asses are hanging in the air. Call me old-fashioned, but I'll stick with what's familiar when I'm the one up there!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back to School

It was my privilege to speak to Professor Ruth Ost's Honors American Lives class about my newly completed manuscript today at my beloved alma mater, Temple University (Journalism, 2000).

Afterwards I traveled across campus, visiting with a former professor and several friends. I also made sure to stop for a cheesesteak at Ernie's lunch truck (the red one on 13th St., between Cecil B. Moore and Montgomery). It's the best on campus!

I had a wonderful time today, but I still had some mixed emotions about my visit to Temple. My time as a college student was the greatest period of independence in my life. Since then, I've become much weaker and far more dependent. On the other hand, at least I'm still here and able to relive those great times.

Though I fondly recall my college days, it sure was nice to be delivering today's lecture as opposed to listening to it!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I'm pleased to announce that after just over a year, I have finally completed the first draft of my memoir.

It has been an interesting ride, to say the least, and one which has challenged me intellectually, emotionally and even physically. I have learned more about myself and about others and their perceptions of me than I had ever imagined. I've revisited countless memories, both good and bad. And I have reconnected with so many friends with whom I had lost touch over the years.

Many thanks go out to all of my family, friends, doctors, and nurses (and anyone else I have forgotten) for your patience, support, and assistance. I could not have reached this point without you!

As I move forward in my quest to get this thing published, I will post any exciting developments right here, at Winheld's World...