Hey guys and dolls you have to hang in there with me as far as this “piece of work” goes because this past memorial day, I was a piece of work. I need all of you who read these words to be my therapist this week. If I appear to be discombobulated as I vent then please consider this; looks are not deceiving. This is not a column about sports, but a reflection of life with sports being interwoven as part of the fabric.
I woke up Sunday morning and my heart was extremely heavy as I thought about former Steelers defensive end Dwight White. How in the hell could anyone go to the hospital for a simple back ailment, have an operation, be cleared to go home; go home and then be readmitted for complications and then freakin’ die at age 58?
Hey, I am age 58 with serious back and spinal problems. I receive steroid injections every three months (which is the maximum allowable dosage). My health care package cannot even remotely approach the health care that Dwight had. I often wonder, that being the case, is there a day coming sooner than later that I will enter the “hospice” reasonably healthy only to be carried out of the back door by the undertaker’s assistant and loaded into the hearse?
The family of Dwight White does not appear to have been bamboozled either. According to a Feb. 2, 2010 Huffington Post article; “The family of former Pittsburgh Steeler Dwight White [filed a lawsuit against] the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and three doctors, claiming negligence contributed to his death. [According to Allegheny County court records] one of White’s doctors was out of town and another prescribed an over-the-counter medication when he weakened after being discharged from back surgery in May 2008. White’s wife took him to an emergency room when his condition worsened. A blood clot was diagnosed in his lung, and he died June 6, 2008, at UPMC Presbyterian hospital. White family attorney Art Schwarzwaelder [said]; “the athlete’s doctors missed chances to save his life.”
Can you imagine how many lives of the poor and disenfranchised have been lost because a doctor refused to cancel a golfing date? I am afraid, really afraid that the premature mortality of I, and many others like me, is just a foregone conclusion. Does poverty almost equal certain death when seeking treatment in the hospitals of America? If it happened to Dwight White, well you get the picture.
In May of 2008 a young man named Justin Jackson was shot and killed after he shot a K-9 police dog. According to police and eyewitness accounts, Jackson’s parents said their son was walking along Arlington Avenue near South 18th Street, in the Mount Oliver section adjacent to Pittsburgh when a police dog came after him. He fired at the dog and police shot at him, hitting him in the head. He died at the scene. Could I be in error or am I missing something? I was and continue to be under the impression that one can only be charged, tried, convicted sentenced and put to death after killing a human being, a human being! I am holding my own private vigil and march for peace for Dwight White and Justin Jackson. Why aren’t any parades being held for them?
What about Flo Jo; young beautiful, super fine Flo Jo? On September 21, 1998, Florence Griffith-Joyner died in her sleep at the age of 38. The unexpected death was investigated by the sheriff-coroner’s office, which announced on Oct. 22 (over a month later) that the cause of death was suffocation during a severe epileptic seizure.
Where is all of this great health care that the Tea Party has been raving about?
Millions of young American men from WWI to Afghanistan, Libya and wherever the bell of freedom has tolled, have been naïve and misguided just like the rest of us when it comes to the reasoning of war and social injustice. The beaches and gutters of the streets of Europe ran with the blood of those fighting to sanctify and maintain the ideals of freedom, all the while on the home front American citizens have been placed in and continue to be confined to social and economic dungeons hidden far away from the light of prosperity.
I cannot remove the images of some of the late great ones out of my head. My recollections and the information that I have regarding the past has morphed into pure torture. But there can be no honor without memories. All of the athletes and individuals that I now name have gone on to join the ancestors. Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Holmes, Florence Griffith Joyner, Arthur Ashe, Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, Steve Courson, Mike Webster, Joe Gilliam, Steve McNair, Chris Henry, Darrent Williams, Sean Taylor, Charles “Chuck” Tanner, Thomas Herrion, Reggie Lewis, Ernie Davis, Walter Payton, Hank Gathers, Len Bias. I know I missed many and for that I apologize but those who were not mentioned above will still be honored daily in our hearts, because memorial day is really memorial days.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)