Roy Exum: My Fellow Strugglers

Monday, January 13, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I continue to be convinced that while things may be tough at times for all of us, it has been estimated that 85 percent of those you meet are struggling with life in a way worse than you are. Last month the infection problems that have, through a bone-blood disease known as osteomyelitis, necessitated the amputation of my right leg and, as I adjust to my newest predicament more and more with each new day, the encouragement countless well-wishers have shared has been a huge Godsend and each a gift I hardly deserve.

A special one reads, “Good morning, dear friend! My heartfelt prayers and deep concerns go out to you today and in the days to come as you face innumerable challenges! ‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to You I trust my life.” – Psalm 143:8.

This one was special because I know that the great girl who wrote it has a special hook on the wall of her home. It has been placed there with her unflappable faith that when the day comes that she is cured of a crippling disease that for many years has been the foil of her life, she will hang her trusty cane on the hook. And what if she dies before the cure is found? “My family will hang the cane before my funeral because I will be in heaven … and I’ll be completely cured!” (Oh yes, when I read this one I openly wept because, despite her unflinching grind to get through each day, she put me above self.)

I have gotten hundreds of similar notes that each mean so much. Over the weekend I got another special missive from a guy I grew up with and I had no idea his son came within “a gnat’s hair” of being killed in a motorcycle accident. As I share it, please know my prayer list has grown extensively in the last 30 days with new miracles, triumphs, and the human spirit I so adore:

* * *


I saw you from a distance at Erlanger Hospital in late November/early December. I guess that was before your surgery - you were on crutches, headed to the Chick-fil-A bar. I didn't bother you because I was pre-occupied and, besides, you don't want to mess with a boy on his way to a box of other worldly mini bites! Oh, my Lord, they are good!

I want to say, though, that your wheelchair article is right on the mark. Bulls' eye.

I say that because I (we) have recently had some wheelchair acquisition experience. My son t-boned an "older" lady who cut him off while he was headed east on 3rd Street. He was on one of my motorcycles (yes, I'm stupid)) and the collision split his pelvis apart, requiring 9 pins and his left hand/wrist/arm was pulverized. Really. The CT scan of his arm looked like a bunch of broken glass. More abdominal surgery to come. I don't see how he'll ever play guitar again or hike the AT. Daddies don't like it when that happens to their son.

However, (my son) Riggs doesn't know this but God is the CEO of the board of directors within his soul. The wreck occurred at the corner of 3rd Street and O’Neal, in front of the McDonald's to the north and Engel Stadium to the south – both just a gnats' (hair) away from Erlanger Trauma. God is also running things at Erlanger as well for I have never witnessed a more cohesive, courteous, well-oiled healing machine in my life. The crash happened at 2:45 and my boy was admitted at 3. Everybody there said that 80 percent of these injuries are fatal due to internal blood loss and Riggs was furiously bleeding until they very literally squeezed him back together.

The arm? The one that was a bloody noodle with broken bones sticking out? They filed off the sharp ends and pulled and cobbled until it was somewhat stable and could be dealt with later. All the while they let me be there and see and, to a very small degree, help. When it was over and he was stabilized, alive and full of Dilaudid (pain medicine), one of the pretty women with an IQ of about 700 looked at me and asked me if I was okay. I just couldn’t help it … through a burst of tears, I told her that I was the luckiest man in the world to have her and her friends and that facility in my hometown. You know? Erlanger Hospital is truly incredible.

Siskin is, too. The people are wonderful, helpful, patient and kind and they absolutely know what the heck they are doing. I could not possibly have been more impressed, and it makes me wonder how other Americans cope without such great healthcare facilities.

The other good (great) news? Last Wednesday, Dr. Gardner removed all the external rods and in-the-bone screws from Riggs's arm and said his hip looked more than healthy enough to bear weight. "You mean walk?" Yes. If it doesn't hurt and you remember how to do it -- you know, it takes most healthy people about six months just to walk again after that kind of injury. At that, Riggs stood up and kicked the ProBasic (wheelchair) away and hasn't sat it in since. Or used a walker. Or crutches. Or a cane. Or anything. The only way you can tell he ain't right is the arm splint which he covers with a sleeve. I think he'll be back to work a couple of weeks! In the doc's own words "I can't believe what I'm seeing! This is unprecedented!"

Yep, tell me they ain't no God!

Now for the bad. The lady driver involved was under-insured but operating her vehicle quite legally in this bone-headed State of Tennessee. The State requirement, if you can believe this, is that your liability insurance must cover a minimum of $25,000 for each body that you smear all over the pavement. $25,000!  Cigna (our insurer- also from Heaven) is looking at over half a million in medical bills!  What in the hell??!!

Our "old lady" driver has no assets. I put quotes on "old lady" because she went mute at the wreck, which was her fault, saying she was old and didn't really understand what was going on. I'm 60 and she's a month older than me. Not old. Not confused. She lives with her brother and was legally driving her mother's car which she totaled that had the minimum insurance requirement.

Our lawyer said, "Too bad it wasn't a soccer mom." What if she was? We're going to file suit and take her house away? Make her kids homeless? The Tennessee legal requirement of a minimum of $25,000 for bodily injury is preposterous. If you can't afford decent insurance, you shouldn't be able to drive! Get your fat, worthless butt off the road. Dammit! Right?

That was my mindset when I just read your wheelchair article. It dawned on me that the reason people can't afford $500,000 liability insurance is because of (expletive) who charge insurers 700 or 800 percent for a wheelchair that costs $150. Take a look at a Quickie power wheelchair. They are the ‘cat daddy’ and thousands of indigent and pitifully innocent kids who really need one can't have one because they cost $60,000 or so. Seriously, when you get mobile, go look at a Quickie at Food City or wherever and tell me you see $60,000 dollars! It's criminal.

How about let's be generous and say Quickies look more like $2,500? $2,500 bicycles have fit and finish and tech that makes a Quickie look like a well-used Yugo. I saw on Jay Leno's Garage that you can get a brand-new mid-engine bad-ass Corvette for $60 grand!

So how much of the $500,000 in Riggs's bills went to these kinds of, what, brokers? And is it not logical that if this sort of fraud were eliminated from every direction, the zillions of goofy people who drive cars could actually afford liability insurance that would cover more than a bad toothache? My boy has been messed up for life! Why can't the insurers see this and figure it out so those at no fault can be made at least a little whole?  

Ahhh. There you go. I rant.

Applause from this side of town to you, Roy, who doesn't mind telling things damn well the way they are. Keep it up brutha! Maybe someone who counts will get ticked enough and something good could happen. Meanwhile, please sleep a lot, convalesce, heal up and get pain free. As you know, I'm a fan.

* * *

* -- “The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.” – Sir Winston Churchill

* -- “Confidence is half of victory.” -- Yiddish Proverb

* -- “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” -- Dr. Seuss

* -- “When It's Darkest, Men See the Stars.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

* -- “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” -- Mother Teresa

* -- “Oh, come on, Shrek, wake up and smell the pheromones!” -- from the movie Shrek (2001)

* -- “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” -- Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

* -- “Victory belongs to the most persevering.” -- Napoleon Bonaparte (who it is rumored also had osteomyelitis)

* -- “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory or defeat.” --Theodore Roosevelt

* -- “The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.” – Unknown

* -- “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” -- Helen Keller

* -- “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” -- The Buddha

* -- “People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first." -- David H. Comins

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