David Bruce: Illnesses and Injuries Anecdotes

Country musician Roy Clark sometimes visits the Children’s Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where in 1983 he saw a little girl named Davi Sallee who had been paralyzed in a car accident. She was frail and in a wheelchair, and she seemed very close to being a vegetable. Mr. Clark talked to her, although he knew that she could not respond, and as he talked to her, one of her feet slipped off a footrest. Mr. Clark lifted her leg and put her foot back on the footrest, and then he said to her, “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. It’s not proper for boys to pick up girls’ legs like that.” On an impulse, he added, “Besides, you could have done it yourself if you wanted to.” The little girl then raised her foot up and down, exciting the nurses, who had never seen the little girl make a voluntary movement since she had been admitted to the medical center. Mr. Clark and the nurses stayed in touch, with the nurses informing him of the little girl’s progress, and eventually the little girl began writing him letters. The following year, he returned to Tulsa, and he went to the Children’s Medical Center to present the facility with a check for the money that his Tulsa charity golf tournament had raised. The nurses had a surprise for him: The little girl walked down the hallway to him, and she hugged him.

Pitcher Sandy Koufax, who played his entire career with the Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and in Los Angeles, is one athlete who went out at the top of his game. In 1966, his final season, his win-loss record was 27-9. He retired from baseball because of his elbow—doctors told him that if he continued to pitch, his arm could become crippled. In retirement, he golfed. A golf pro once advised him to straighten his arm while he was swinging the golf club. Mr. Koufax replied, “If I could straighten it out, I’d be pitching at Dodger Stadium tonight.” If the modern medicine we have these days had been available back then, the elbow problem that ended his career could have been fixed. Mr. Koufax said, “I had a bunch of spurs in there, but they didn’t want to operate. … I don’t know how much longer I could have pitched, but today I could have had surgery over the winter and been back the next season.”

On 12 December 1983, science and science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov had a heart bypass operation. His greatest fear was he would suffer brain damage if his brain did not get enough oxygen during the operation, so he asked his physician to make sure that his brain was well supplied with oxygen. After the operation, his physician tested Mr. Asimov’s brain for damage by saying, “Make me up a limerick, Isaac. Mr. Asimov replied, “There once was an old doctor named Paul / With a penis exceedingly small ….” His physician interrupted, “That’s enough, Isaac. You pass.” By the way, Mr. Asimov once received a compliment from a librarian who said that Mr. Asimov’s books were the ones most often stolen from the library.

Registered nurse Kathleen Poole and a young doctor were checking on an unresponsive, elderly patient, when the doctor asked her out on a date that evening. She replied, “No, thanks. I’m so tired. I’m just going to go home and go to bed.” He replied, “Alone? You wouldn’t have to go to bed alone if I was there.” This conversation continued for a while, with Ms. Poole resisting the doctor’s advances, and the patient who had been unresponsive opened her eyes and snapped, “Oh, for crying out loud, say ‘yes’ so I can get some sleep.”

When Barbara Brooks, wife of country singer Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn fame, fell from a horse, she ended up in a hospital. One of the things she noticed was that a different person would appear each time she had to give a blood sample. The head of the department eventually apologized to her for this. The workers in the department were taking turns drawing her blood because they wanted to see the wife of a famous country and western singer.

Polly, the young niece of Alexander Woollcott, had to see a doctor because of a sore leg. Polly was convinced that she was going to die, and she accepted her fate, but her mother was terribly upset, especially when Polly talked about dying. When they arrived at the doctor’s office, the doctor looked at Polly, who was serene, and he looked at Polly’s mother, who was distraught. Then he stuck a thermometer into the mother’s mouth.

When George Plimpton attended Cambridge, he got sick and the housekeeper talked to him for a very long time. Growing tired, he wanted her to leave, and trying to be polite, he said to her, “I must ask you to leave now. My favorite radio program is just coming on.” As she was leaving, George turned on the radio, only to hear the announcer say, “Come now, children, clap your hands!”

Comedian Joe E. Lewis once entertained the troops in a jungle. The approximately 60 troops were on a platform at the rear of a truck, and although Mr. Lewis told his funniest jokes for over an hour, he heard no laughter from the troops. Later, he found out why. Although they had enjoyed the show, all of the troops had mumps and could not laugh out loud.

Comedian Bill Hicks sometimes went out with mentally disturbed women, one of whom tried to stab him with a fork, then told him that she loved him. Mr. Hicks replied, “If you really loved me, you would have used a spoon.”

Psychiatrists used to think that homosexuality was a mental disease that could be cured by such treatments as electric shock therapy, internment in mental hospitals — and lobotomies.

Russian conductor Vasily Safonov got very seasick while crossing the Atlantic. Violinist Fritz Kreisler’s wife was on board, and she tried to comfort him by singing the Russian national anthem to him, but he begged her, “Please don’t do that, or I shall have to get on my feet.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Edgar Lee Masters: Elijah Browning (Spoon River Anthology)

I WAS among multitudes of children
Dancing at the foot of a mountain.
A breeze blew out of the east and swept them as leaves,
Driving some up the slopes. … All was changed.
Here were flying lights, and mystic moons, and dream-music.
A cloud fell upon us. When it lifted all was changed.
I was now amid multitudes who were wrangling.
Then a figure in shimmering gold, and one with a trumpet,
And one with a sceptre stood before me.
They mocked me and danced a rigadoon and vanished. …
All was changed again. Out of a bower of poppies
A woman bared her breasts and lifted her open mouth to mine.
I kissed her. The taste of her lips was like salt.
She left blood on my lips. I fell exhausted.
I arose and ascended higher, but a mist as from an iceberg
Clouded my steps. I was cold and in pain.
Then the sun streamed on me again,
And I saw the mists below me hiding all below them.
And I, bent over my staff, knew myself
Silhouetted against the snow. And above me
Was the soundless air, pierced by a cone of ice,
Over which hung a solitary star!
A shudder of ecstasy, a shudder of fear
Ran through me. But I could not return to the slopes—
Nay, I wished not to return.
For the spent waves of the symphony of freedom
Lapped the ethereal cliffs about me.
Therefore I climbed to the pinnacle.
I flung away my staff.
I touched that star
With my outstretched hand.
I vanished utterly.
For the mountain delivers to Infinite Truth
Whosoever touches the star.