Living with ALS with baseball legend’s Yogi Berra’s point of view
CHARLOTTE, NC, July 21, 2019 – In the twilight of his life, former New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra was one of the best-loved characters in baseball. Amazing in that baseball is a game that is known for its off-the-wall, fun-loving personalities. Yogi’s particular quirk was his uncanny ability to say something that was completely absurd that made absolute sense to everyone around him.
Some of the more popular and familiar “Yogi-isms have become part of our everyday jargon:
“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
“When you come to a fork in the road take it.”
“It’s deja vu all over again.”
After he became known for his uniquely charming, homespun expressions everyone would ask Berra where his special way of communicating came from? Yogi would reply in typical style,
“You know I just don’t know, because I really didn’t say everything I said.”
The world needs more Yogi Berra’s these days.
One of the lesser-known facts about the Hall of Fame catcher that often gets lost in his lovable folkloric image is that he served in the Navy during World War II where he participated in the D-Day landings.
As a former professional baseball player myself, though far, far removed from the major league level, the spirit and camaraderie of teamwork are still the same.
In that sense, team sports prepared me well for the ordeals of dealing with ALS. In many ways, my new “teammates” are invisible except when we all come together every three months at the ALS clinic.
The real value of ALS Clinics
ALS clinics take place four times a year where patients from around the region come to meet all the medical personnel in the various disciplines involved with ALS. The sessions are long, tedious and tiring, but the system is a win-win for everyone.
It eliminates an endless parade of visits to ten or twelve different specialists during that three-month span.
It’s during the downtime at the clinic when we are able to visit. In visiting with other ALS patients, and caregivers, we learn how others are adapting to changes they have encountered since the last gathering. It’s this sharing of information that becomes so valuable. Because it comes from those who have the same points of reference to which non-sufferers are unable to relate.
Considering the “terminal” prognosis that is inevitable with ALS, one of the most surprising and encouraging aspects of those people dealing with the malady is the overall positive outlook of most of my new “teammates.”
As one of my ALS colleagues recently expressed,
“I am constantly in awe of the courage, persistence, resilience, and compassion of the patients who populate the ALS community. The communal ‘all for one, one for all’ attitude is pervasive and palpable. The free exchange of information, conveyance of empathy, and unsolicited guardianship are Utopian.”
The Dance of Athletes
Years ago someone produced a stunningly beautiful documentary called Dance of the Athletes. The film was shot in super slow-motion with athletes from several different sports performing their individual areas of skill.
For example, a figure skater might do a difficult axel maneuver, or a diver might perform a high degree of difficulty leap filled with multiple twists and turns or a shortstop and second baseman would recreate a pivot on the front end of a double play.
Of course, everything was staged in front of a black backdrop so that all the attention was focused on the athletic skills of the “dancers.” It was all edited to a score of classical music rather like an athletic version of Walt Disney’s Fantasia. The end result was an amazing piece of cinematic artistry.
I only viewed the film once, but it spoke to me.
Sometimes I reflect upon that little documentary and think to myself that in many ways, everyday living is also a ballet.
Sometimes I watch young children and marvel at their ability to run and jump, throw a ball or do something as simple as eating an ice cream cone. I suppose I am in awe, and even a bit jealous, because they are things I once took for granted which I can no longer do, and will never do again, at least on my own.
That is why this new “team” is so valuable because we are able to understand the loss of independence we once enjoyed.
It may sound like a “misery loves company” idea, but honestly, it’s more of a support group situation. It allows us, for a few short hours every three months to gather. Giving me the opportunity to realize that I am not fighting this war in isolation.
My friends overlook my shortcomings and brighten my days.
Their prayers, affection and frequent contact help me feel alive regardless of how tedious any given day may become. They are an infinite source of energy and renewal with encouragement and inspiration.
When it comes to ALS, in the words of Yogi Berra, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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