It comes to all of us in time but old age finally does us in. I won't be able to attend Popasmoke 2006. I've been hoping that some miracle would allow me to cast off my crutches and walk but in spite of being one of the luckiest guys around, it isn't going to happen, not in time anyway. I've been checking the airfairs on my computer and I even took the decision not to charge for registering late as an omen, but no dice.
The problem is that after 60 years or so with perfect health, the only doctor I knew was the doc who gave me my flight physical, I came down with Parkinsons and shortly afterwards, Spinal Arthritis. The Parkinsons is reasonably under control, at first with drugs and recently helped by Deep Brain Surgury which I underwent June 2005. By the way, in spite of the scary thought of someone messing about in your head, it was the easiest procedure I've ever had. I was conscious the whole time and only knew the surgeon was doing something was when he told me. The worst problem was boredom. The surgeon was an airplane nut so I had a very good relationship with him.
The major problem was the spinal arthritis. Through this year I have had three surguries in 4 years on my spine, each of which put me out for 6 months. But this year I ended up with the same problem, progressive paralysis of my legs. This time it wasn't arthritis but a blood clot that had developed in one of the spinal cavities and was pressing on the spinal cord.
Easy, whip him into hospital, open up the spine, clean it out and sew him up again. Right. Within 2 days another blood clot had developed and the pain was indesribable. Emergency surgery. I woke up but guess what, I was still hurting and another blood clot was developing. This time they hauled my ass down to surgery without any ceremony. It turned out that my own surgeon, Paul Marcotte, had essentially exeeded his duty time and asked me if I would allow Gordon Baltuck to operate. Since he had been my brain surgeon I had no objection.
The one difference this time was I was a hell of a long time coming round after the anasthetic. I was semi-conscious, somewhat aware of my surroundings and could hear someone calling my name but I couldn't answer. I wondered whether I was going to come round at all, scary moment. But I did. But with three surgeries in 5 days, my system was so full of pain killers it was no wonder I came around so slowly.
I found out later that Gordon is a full Professor at University of Pennsylvania Medical School, (he is 43), Paul Marcotte is only an Assistant Prof., so I really had the brass taking care of me. Later, in intensive care, Gordon swept in, coat-tails flying, surrounded by his cloud of accolytes. "John", he said, "The administration has asked me to tell you the they consider the use of a full operating team and theatre, 3 times in 5 days to be too much, could you limit yourself to no more than once a week." I thought for a minute (I'd been waiting for Gordon to say something like this and I had my answer ready.) "Well Gordon, if you've done your job right, I won't need their services again." "I knew it" Gordon said to his assembled flock, "I knew he'd have the perfect comeback." The look on their faces was priceless. I probably knew Gordon better than they did and I knew he had a very droll sense of humor. To them Gordon wasn't God but he spoke to him regularily.
My hospital stay at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was 6 weeks. I was plotting the date of the popasmoke convention on my calander and bugging the therapists to get me ready to be able to attend. They worked me hard, at the end I was putting in three-quarter hour sessions, 7 times a day. But to no avail. I'm not fit to travel. Even when I told them I attended HMM-165 meeting last year, 6 weeks after brain surgury, they said "No deal, this was much more severe than brain surgury"
The program looks great, let's make it even better in 2 years when with any luck and hard work, I'll be there.
John Dullighan Tech Rep, Boeing Vertol, HMM-165, MMAF, 1969