'The Milkman' Was Special Part Of Our Neighborhood

Many of the comments readers send to me are woven around pleasant memories of their childhood in Decatur when the community was much different than it is now.
With all of the advances in technology to make our lives easier -- I’m not sure they’ve made the quality of our lives any better. 

A recent note came from Christie Smith of Elmhurst, Illinois, who wrote: “One of my memories from my childhood was our milk delivery from Meadow Gold.  The milk wagon was pulled by a horse.  I think we called him ‘Jonesy’.
“We looked forward to having the horse clip clop down our street.  The company used the horse long after it was necessary because people loved it.
“I grew up in the 40s and 50s in Decatur.  I always wondered if anyone had a picture of the milk wagon and horse that went down Riverview Avenue.”

I looked back into my “Scrapbook” archives and found a series that I did on “The Milkman” in 1997.
This week, the photos and article are published on pages 4 and 5 of the print edition of the Decatur Tribune and I’ll have more next week.
In answer to Christie Smith’s question, I didn’t find a specific horse named “Jonesy” but I did find several other horses which are included in the series. Maybe one of our readers has a photo of that particular horse.
AS I looked through those old Scrapbook articles and pictures, I couldn’t help but think of how simple life was back then.
Even though the dairies quit using horses in 1957, I remember them pulling the milk wagons when I was a kid.
Actually, I have more memories of when the milkman delivered from his milk truck to our home on West Packard when I attended Roosevelt Junior High School.
There was a special insulated box on our front porch where he placed the milk very early each morning.

What I found especially interesting at the time I interviewed some of the milkmen in 1997 was how trusting people were back then. 
I can remember when most people didn’t even lock their doors at night and often the milkman would go into their house early in the morning, before anyone was out of bed, and put the milk in the refrigerator!
Today, very few people leave their doors unlocked overnight and many homes have security cameras, night lights, burglar alarms and a couple of locks on each door --just in case someone tries to enter the house. 
We’re a long way from the milkman days of yesteryear -- not only in time, but in trust of others.

Long gone are the days of the milkman making his rounds in the neighborhood and being an important part of our day.
Some of the comments made by milkmen on pages 4 and 5 are probably difficult for younger readers to believe.
The milkman was like a family member and we trusted him. 
Today, any non-family member  coming into a house at 5:00 in the morning is likely to be greeted with gunfire and a 9-1-1 call!

“The Milkman” not only represented an era when horses and milk wagons made their way down the streets of our neighborhoods, but a time when people trusted each other.
I know the progress we’ve made over the years has made our lives easier, but it has also cost us some very important life qualities that we already had but never fully appreciated until they were gone.
The “clip clopping” of the milkman’s horse coming down our street has gone silent -- along with many other sights and sounds of our childhood that seem so special to us in 2014.

Posted 4/27/14

Workers clean up debris from a home destroyed in the northwest part of Decatur on April 3, 1974.

A Young Man's Anquish Following The Tornado That Ripped Through Decatur 40 Years Ago Today

TODAY,  APRIL 3, 2014, is the 40th anniversary of when a tornado ripped through our community and created some life-long impressions for those of us living in Decatur at the time.
Chris Barnett has an interesting recollection of the event in his writing about it on page 6 of this week's print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
In fact, I had forgotten about the tornado “anniversary” until Chris sent me his article and I decided to publish it.

OBVIOUSLY, I WAS a much younger editor of this newspaper at the time but I remember that day from covering the story. 
I grabbed my camera and headed for the northwest area of Decatur where the tornado had passed through.
I remember seeing a lot of debris and, where there had once been quiet neighborhoods of homes, the tornado had left a scene of destruction.

THE police and firefighters had  responded quickly to the emergency and had already taken charge of most of the area where I was standing. 
They had closed off some of the streets, making it nearly impossible for people to get very close to the destroyed and damaged houses, in case there was a gas line explosion or something else that would endanger their lives.
It was not known, at that point, if some of the people in the houses had been killed or seriously injured.

A YOUNG MAN in a pick-up truck was coming down the street and he paid no attention to the roadblock or the command of the police officer to stop his vehicle.
He pushed down the accelerator, his tires squealed and he drove right through the roadblock and turned into a drive-way that led to a destroyed house about a half  block away!
I was shocked by what I saw and wasn’t surprised by the command officer’s statement: “I want that man arrested!’

THE YOUNG MAN got out of his truck and  stood in front of the house, called a woman’s name and then buried his face in his hands and began to cry. 
One of the residents of the area came up to the officer and told him the destroyed house was the man’s home where he lived with his wife and two young children.
He didn’t know what had happened to them. 
It was heart-wrenching to watch that scene and the police, realizing why the man had driven through the roadblock, took a softer, more sympatheic approach to him.  He was not arrested.

FROM what I could find out, someone from the area, who still had phone service, had called the man at work and told him his home had been hit by the tornado.
No one had cellphones back then.  I don’t know if he tried to call his home, and the line was dead, or just jumped in his truck immediately and headed home. I can only imagine the devastating thoughts that ran through the young man’s mind while he was speeding towards home, not knowing whether his family had been killed.  
Little wonder that, when he saw the rubble that had been his home, that he broke down and cried out in agony.

I LATER learned that his wife and children had not been home at the time the tornado hit.
What a reunion that must have been for the young man and his family.  He thought they were injured or dead but they were alive and safe.
When disasters hit our community, police, fire, sheriff’s deputies and disaster teams are always at the scene not only to help the injured and keep order, but to protect those who might get injured through trying to help their loved ones.
That’s not an easy job -- especially when it comes to trying to stop a man from getting to his home and family.

IT’S BEEN 40 years, but I clearly remember that man’s anquish on April 3, 1974 -- and, know I would have not acted any differently than he did, if the tornado had struck my home and I didn’t know if my family was dead or alive.
If that was the case, my actions would not be due to a lack of respect for law enforcement, but the overwhelming concern  for  what had happened to my family 
-- which, in all of us, wipes away all thoughts of decorum and restraint.

Telephone Scammers Love Income Tax Season

IT’S no secret that telephone scammers are thicker than flies at a Fourth of July picnic.
Not only that, a lot of the telephone scammers have been getting downright rude.
Following is one example that was sent to me by Karen Rivera of Decatur.

“ON Thursday, March 6, 2014, I received a voice mail from a man representing himself as an IRS agent. He stated his name as David Jones and indicated that I should not delay in returning his call to 202-506-9112.
“He said that either my attorney or I should not ignore the call and that it was time sensitive. 
“The purpose of the call was to let me know that there was a problem with the filing of my tax forms. In order to avoid legal action, I was instructed to call back immediately.

“WHEN I called the number back and asked for David Jones, the man who answered said that David Jones was his assistant. He did not give his name. He verified my name and asked for the phone number that they had called earlier. 
“His next statement to me was this:  ‘Do you have a criminal attorney?’ I said I did not and asked why I needed one. He said, ‘Then you are not aware of the charges against you?’ 

“AT THAT point, I became very suspicious. I said, ‘Your voice sounds just like the person on my voice mail. Who is this?’ 
“He said, ‘Your daddy, bitch’ and hung up.
“I called the IRS advocate number; she said I should report this to the treasury inspector general’s office. In addition, I called our local police, but they told me that there were lots of scams going around.
“SINCE I did not give them any critical information, there was no need for a police report unless I felt it was necessary. Most of the phone numbers are throw away phones and fictitious names.
“The most irritating part was the fact that the man called me a bitch. In my 44 years of teaching, none of my students have said that to me personally. These scammers are very brazen!”

KAREN’S story is not unique.
A few weeks ago, the Internal Revenue Service issued a warning to the public about such scams.
“The IRS has seen a recent increase in local phone scams across the country, with callers pretending to be from the IRS in hopes of stealing money or identities from victims.
“These phone scams include many variations, ranging from instances from where callers say the victims owe money or are entitled to a huge refund. Some calls can threaten arrest and threaten a driver’s license revocation. Sometimes these calls are paired with follow-up calls from people saying they are from the local police department or the state motor vehicle department.”

"TAXPAYERS should be on the lookout for tax scams using the IRS name,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “These schemes jump every year at tax time. Scams can be sophisticated and take many different forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues.”

IF YOU get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:
• If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
• If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
• You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.

IT’S well to remember, that if the IRS has a problem with your tax return you will be notified FIRST by mail, not telephone.
Plus, even though it is scary to receive a letter from the IRS, the words in the letter will not be offensive -- unless, of course, you are the president of a tea party or other conservative group seeking non-profit status.
Then you might be called the “D-word” as in “dangerous” -- but not over the telephone.

Posted 3/15/14

Some Musings From A Winter Weary Mind

HERE ARE some musings from this editor who has experienced a hard winter, so take that into consideration when you read them.

• WHY IS IT that, when you fall down on the ice, the first thing you do is look to see if anybody saw you fall?  

•  SOMEONE sent our newspaper an out-of-state obituary the other day and a note with it that stated:  “If there is a charge for running this obituary, run it free.” 

• I SAW A stoplight on a pole stretched out on the ground near an intersection on Southside Drive last week.  A driver had apparently hit it with his/her vehicle and knocked it over. I don’t know if anyone was hurt, but the stoplight certainly had no “signal” of life. (tee-hee)

• I’VE COME to the conclusion that supermarkets are in cohoots with television weather forecasters.  Every time a weatherman warns of a big snow headed our way, people turn up in droves to buy enough groceries to last a month!  Maybe it is just Mother Nature’s “stimulus plan” to help the economy.

• LAST WEEKEND’S weather forecast was for up to ten inches of snow for Decatur.  Was that prediction in vertical or horizontal inches?

• I THINK some drivers believe, if they act like they don’t see a pedestrian, they won’t be charged if they run over him.

• NO MATTER how many times people see the word “subscription”, some still call or come in to the newspaper office to order a one-year “prescription” to the Tribune.  
That’s okay.  Maybe they think a Decatur Tribune “prescription” is good “medicine” for what ails them. 

• I  WONDER if pharmacies have people come in to pick up their “subscriptions”?  

•  IF A car owner is going to use the word “JESUS” on his license plate, he should drive like the Lord and not like the devil! 

•  WHEN people write “Letters to the Editor” about the danger of judging other people and indicate that only hypocrites judge other people -- aren’t they also judging other people when they call them hypocrites?

•  HOW CAN I trust the word of someone when they say, in defense of President Obama, “everybody lies”?  If that’s true, maybe they are lying about everybody lying.
• SOME shoppers think they get a better deal with “1/2 Price” instead of “50% OFF”!

• THE OLDER I get, the more I appreciate seeing people who knew me when I was a kid.  That’s because they are getting harder to find. 

• IF THE Wounded Warriors television commercials don’t touch your heart, you don’t have a heart.  
• I WONDER how many people go crazy trying to open “child proof” bottles of medicine -- especially if it is nerve medicine?

• REMEMBER when bread was baked fresh in Decatur and the slices were so soft? When the bread we buy today is called fresh, it feels as hard as the loaves used to feel stale!

• I REALLY like Campbell’s Chunky soup in a bowl.  The part I don’t like is getting the flat round metal covering torn off so I can micro-wave it.  That’s messy and a little dangerous.  I have a cut thumb as evidence.  Hmmm. Hmmm. Ouch!

• PEOPLE WHO call this newspaper and angrily start the conversation with, “I’m a good Christian...”, usually don’t act like it.  

• HOW do you know when Parmesan cheese goes bad?  Does it begin to smell better?

• WITH Spring, sanity returns -- at least that’s what I’ve told myself.

Posted 3/7/14

* * * *

Heading For Shore On The Other Side 

As publisher of this newspaper and a small businessman in Decatur for nearly a half-century, I’ve had the priviledge of having my life touched by so many people, in so many ways.
I suppose it is bound to happen as I get older, but it seems that, whenever I look over the obituaries each week, I find familiar names and think about how I came to know them.
It seems that has been especially true recently.
Life is often referred to as a voyage on the sea of life, ending when our life lands on the “other shore”.
The voyage is filled with calm seas, raging storms and plenty of danger. 
Everyone, who lives for many years,  will find life’s sea both beautiful and terrifying and will feel, at times, life is about to be dashed to pieces. 
I Won't begin to comment on all of the people I know who ended their voyage recently, but each played a role, both small and large, as our ships sailed together on the sea of life.
Most of the time, it wasn’t something that they thought much about at the time, but some of what I saw in their lives made me think of them in positive ways -- in some cases decades after they sailed on over the horizon and out of view.

LAST WEEK, B. J. Baum called to tell me that his wife, Jean, had just passed away.
I’ve known both of them most of my life and they were best friends with my brother and his wife when they lived in Decatur years ago.
Their son, Michael, was killed in Vietnam in 1970 and Michael E. Baum Elementary School in Decatur was named in his honor.
Needless to point out the death of one of your children is the worst storm you can encounter in life, yet they remained positive about life.
I can’t think of Jean without remembering all of the times she would come up to me before church started and ask how my family and I were doing.  She never complained about anything that was happening or had happened to her.
It seemed like such a small thing at the time, but we often remember with fondness the “small things” that people say and do to show us they care.

COMMUNITY leader Nick Striglos died recently.  I was not a close friend of Nick’s, but I remember when he was getting started in business in the little storefront in the 200 block of West Prairie in the early 1960s and I entered his new business to buy my first electric typewriter as part of getting my business started.  I used that typewriter for at least 25 years and only quit using it when we switched to computers here at the newspaper.
It seems like only yesterday, but  my first encounter with him over 50 years ago, and his youthful enthusiasm for his business and Decatur, is what first entered my mind when I heard he had passed away. 
Our paths crossed countless times over the years through his business interests and city council service.
The last time I saw him was in the elevator of our building about a year ago. I couldn’t help but think of all that happened in both of our lives since we met for the first time in that storefront. 

WHEN I read of Robert Browning’s death recently, I thought of the time, when I was very young, and he was one of my bosses at Illinois Power Co.
Some of the graphic ideas that I use in this newspaper today, I know because Bob took the time to show me.
I hadn’t seen Bob since I left IP, which was over a half century ago, but, when I read he had died, I immediately remembered his kindness to me.
I could fill many pages of this newspaper with what I immediately remember about people when I read or hear they’ve passed away -- and it usually revolves around their “small acts” of kindness or pleasant interaction. 

EVEN if contact has been lost over the years I can still honor them by remembering how and why they impacted my life -- and that my life is richer  from having known them.
I believe, we should mean more than “ships that pass in the night” because all of us are headed for another shore.
When I read that a life I know has ended on earth, I feel that person has reached his or her destination. 
I don’t know when my voyage will end.  It may be many years from now or much sooner, but I have great assurance that the Captain I have chosen will get me where I want to go safely regardless of the storms I encounter.
That’s why I confidently sail on, like so many before me, heading towards that other shore. 

Posted 3/1/14

* * * *

We've Gone From 'Cabin Fever' To SAD

This winter has been especially brutal for Central Illinois and most of the nation.  We’ve had snow and ice and sub-zero temperatures.
Retailers and restaurants have experienced tremendous losses in business because of winter storms.
It’s been one of the most difficult winters in publishing and distributing this newspaper in a long time.
It seems like every Wednesday has been a headache in getting it from the press to you.
A lot of people I’ve talked with during the past few months are grouchy, depressed and fed up in coping with winter’s blast.
A few have the same disposition both summer and winter!
For those of you who headed to Florida before all of the bad weather hit, it’s probably not the best idea to call family and friends in Decatur and tell them you are heading for the beach in a few minutes under sunny skies and warm temperatures.
That’s just a suggestion.
It seems like kids have been out of school so much this winter they may have to attend school until the middle of July to make up the days. (Okay, kids, I’m joking.)
Meetings have been cancelled, people can’t get out to perform routine tasks and a high percentage of the people I know have fallen on the ice at least once this winter.  (Make that twice for me.)
It’s little wonder that some people walking and sliding around appear to be stressed, on edge, depressed and ready to maul someone!  
FOR MOST of my life that condition was called “cabin fever” as in “that’s what happens to people when they are cooped up in the winter” because of snowstorms and freezing temperatures.
I never lived in a cabin (honest) but I can see how some people could have experienced “cabin fever” back in the old days since they were trapped inside during the winter along with the rest of the family (which usually had quite-a-few members in those days).
People today get depressed being trapped inside their house with all kinds of electronic entertainment and plenty of snacks to eat.
For those of us living today, we have the good fortune of having depression and a degree of incoherence being called something other than “cabin fever”.
That should cheer us up!
It’s no longer called “cabin fever” but Seasonal Affective Disorder, or (SAD).  
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is considered a mood disorder that occurs at a specific time of the year and then fully remits.  (I think the treatment is called “spring”.)
SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health, but we’re just hearing more about it this year.
Apparently, people who have “normal mental health” throughout most of the year experience SAD symptoms during this time of year.
I’m not sure what “normal mental health” status means, especially in 2014. 
The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that "some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up."  
I’m not a doctor, but that could also be a definition of what happens to most of us during an election year. 
Abraham Lincoln spent one winter in a cabin (west of Decatur) and that was the “Winter of the Big Snow”.
As soon as he could get out, he left the cabin and Macon County and didn’t spend another winter here.
True, it was a terrible winter Lincoln experienced, but we’ve experienced a bad winter and a political campaign at the same time this year.
As you know, there really isn’t much difference between the winter of the “Big Snow” and the winter of a political campaign with its “Big Snow Job” on the voters. 
That’s why a shovel is needed for both!
Sorry, I know that last sentence was harsh but it must have been SAD that caused me to write it.

America Changed A Lot In The 1960s

This week’s “Scrapbook” (Pages 4, 5 in print edition) is about “The Day The Music Died” -- Feb. 3, 1959.
The phrase comes from singer/songwriter Don McLean who  recorded and released his “American Pie” album in 1971. The single was a number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972. 
Although there’s been controversy over the years about the true meaning of the song, it has become clear "The Day The Music Died" (a term taken from the song) is about the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.) and what happened in the decade following. 
As I mentioned in the “Scrapbook” article I was a teenager in high school “The Day The Music Died” and had 45 r.p.m. records of Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. 
I remember seeing a newspaper story, along with a photo of the wreckage, about the plane crash and the deaths of the three stars and their pilot.
While I was shocked at reading of their deaths, I don’t remember ever thinking about that day as “The Day The Music Died”.
Apparently, no one else thought to describe Feb. 3, 1959, as “The Day” until Don McLean coined the phrase a dozen years later in his song.
I find it interesting that, exactly five years and six days later, “The Beatles” made their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. 
A lot of coverage has been given in  about all of the media about the 50th anniversary of “Beatlemania” during the past week -- and that is understandable.
Sunday night, CBS aired a Beatles special commemorating the 50th anniversary of their appearance on the Sullivan show.
CBS called it “The Night That Changed America”.
I don’t believe that Feb. 3, 1959 was actually “The Day The Music Died” or that Feb. 9, 1964 was “The Night That Changed America. I do believe that between those two dates America changed a lot, but what caused the ch
ange had a lot more to do with our life and times in the late 50s and early 60s and music was its reflection. 
Those of us in high school in 1959 were small children when World War II ended and were still too young to be a part of the Korean War. 
Although there was the “Cold War” we enjoyed a war-free time as teenagers.   Dwight Eisenhower was the President of the United States and most of what was written about him seemed to be about his golf game, not war. It was a time of tranquility, as far as we were concerned.  
We had the privilege to grow up in the “Happy Days” era of America. If we wanted to hear the latest hits we played them on our own record players, listened to AM stations like WLS in Chicago, or went to Kintner Gym where the teen music stars would perform as part of packaged tours to sell their records.  (That’s what Holly, Vallen and Richardson were doing in Iowa, when their plane crashed taking them to another one-night performance.)
Although a few students would drink beer, drug abuse was something that happened in big cities, not Central Illinois.
Then came the 1960s with national highs and unthinkable lows.  It started with a young, dynamic John F. Kennedy being elected President of the United States, but he would be assassinated in 1963.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were also assassinated in the 1960s.

The 1960s brought the Vietnam War, the battle for civil rights, with its own casualties, rioting and a new level of violence on our streets and in our neighborhoods.
Drugs became a serious problem, filtering down to our schools.    
By the time the Beatles hit the Ed Sullivan Show, I was no longer a teenager.  I had finished my education, married and moved on with my life. 
America had changed and so had the teenagers of 1959.
We had moved into young adulthood in that five year period and became a generation that brought out the best -- and the worst of a significant era. 
Between Feb. 3, 1959, and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan on Feb. 9, 1964, our nation lost its innocence but we also looked deeper into our national soul to what were as Americans -- and what we wanted to be as a nation.
For many of us from that era, the work to build a better community and nation continues 50 years later.

Posted 2/12/14

* * * *

The ‘Unthinkable’ Can Happen To Any Of Us

Last Wednesday morning, Linda K. Pultz, 70, left her home in Jasper Mobile Home Park a little before 7:00 and started walking to Jasper Street to catch a morning bus.
She never dreamed when she closed the door behind her that morning that she wouldn’t be coming home.
Suddenly, she was struck and passed over by a garbage truck traveling its routine pickup route!
She suffered massive destructive head trauma along with severe extremity injury -- and was pronounced dead. 
I did not know Linda Pultz, but from all I’ve heard about her, she was a good person and brought sunshine into the lives of others. 
The tragedy of her death has been on my mind since I received the notification informing this newspaper the accident had happened.
Usually, such notifications that I receive, either from Coroner Mike Day’s office or the Decatur Police Department, do not contain a name because family members need to be contacted before members of the news media release the victim’s identity.
The name comes a little later.
Over the decades I’ve been editor I’ve received a lot of notifications regarding fatal accidents.
It’s always somewhat of a relief when I don’t recognize the name -- but I also feel sympathy for the victim and her, or his, family and friends. 
Maybe, it was because of the circumstances of this woman’s death that I’ve thought more about what happened to her than I usually do when names of people I don’t know are contained in follow-up police or coroner’s reports.
I’ve tried to imagine what her thoughts were as she left her home that morning and walked towards Jasper Street to catch a bus.
I’m sure the thought never crossed her mind that she was taking her last steps. 
My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends -- and also to the person driving the garbage truck.  I cannot imagine how that person feels.
I think the older I get the more I’m aware of the uncertainty of life.
Our bodies are so durable in many ways -- yet so fragile.  
We can live for many decades, yet die in the space of a few seconds.
I don’t dwell on death because I don’t think that’s healthy, but there are plenty of reminders that death is a reality of life. It can snatch any one of us away from our loved ones, or take any loved one away from us.
People have the free will to believe, or not believe, in God and Jesus, and if there is life after death.
That’s a choice each person makes in his or her life.
For me, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God.  I’ve found great strength and comfort over the years through knowing that God loves me and cares about what happens to me -- and to others.
The “unthinkable” can happen to any of us at any time.  I could not deal with that without faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ.
Many years ago, when our young daughter, Kimberly Kay died, I sat down with our oldest son, Kevin, who was seven at the time, and tried as best I could to explain what had happened. 
Her sudden death was “unthinkable” and overwhelming but I never blamed God for what happened. 
I explained to Kevin that Kim had gone to be with Jesus, but we could be thankful that God sent her to us so we could have some time with her.
Kevin nodded his head, and replied: “I just wish she could have stayed longer.”
I’ve often thought about Kevin’s response when the “unthinkable” happens to family members and friends that we miss so much -- and how we should be thankful for the time we had to spend with them.
That’s why the sudden death of someone, whether I know that person or not, is a reminder that when I open the door to leave in the morning, I may not be returning in the evening.
I can assure you that, as I step into the unknown that each day brings, it is “unthinkable” for me to do so without God in my life.

Posted 2/6/14

Childhood Chicken Pox Virus ‘Shingled’ Me Out

A reader of Dr. Donohue’s column, printed in last week’s edition, asked about shingles, and he didn’t mean the kind a homeowner puts on the roof of his house.  
“I have gone through 12 weeks of the nastiest, worst illness possible,” wrote the reader and indicated that he wanted more information about the disease.
Dr. Donohue wrote (in part): “Shingles is the work of the reawakened chickenpox virus that has been asleep in nerve cells ever since a person was infected, usually in childhood. It’s a safe bet to say you were infected even if you don’t recall it; more than 95 percent of adults were.
“The rash of shingles usually disappears in two to four weeks. Pain, however, can stay with you. The pain is now called postherpetic neuralgia. In making the trip to the skin, the virus damaged the nerve roots that it crawled down to reach the skin. Pain is a consequence of the nerve injury.”

I can sympathize with the reader because, last fall, I started experiencing some pain at about belt level and in my lower back.
Then, suddenly, I broke out in a rash in those two areas!  Maybe I should have paid more attention to those shingles commercials on television where people express the severe pain they experienced when they had a case of the shingles.
I wasn’t sure what the rash was, but I headed to the doctor’s office the next day.  He took one look at the rash and said, “You have shingles.”
I almost responded, “On the roof of my house?” but quickly decided that his diagnosis was no laughing matter.

Fortunately, I had gone to the doctor within 48 hours (that’s the window of treatment opportunity) from the time I discovered the shingles and he was able to prescribe some medicine to treat the problem before the pain and rash escalated.
Although shingles is not very contagious, unlike chicken pox which I had when I was a kid, I isolated myself from everybody else until the rash disappeared.  
Also, members of the office staff had already had chicken pox, so there was very little danger of infecting them since there has to be direct contact with the blistering substance to pass it along.
I didn’t miss a day of work (the owner of this newspaper doesn’t allow me to miss work, except in the case of my death) but I did become a hermit in my office so that I wouldn’t have any contact with the public.

I was also fortunate that the shingles broke out where they did, instead of on my face, or in my eyes or other places on my head -- as some shingle sufferers have experienced.  (That would have been harder to endure.)
My case of shingles was always covered by my shirt so only a few people even knew I had the rash.
I think the fact that I went to the doctor so quickly and was able to take a drug for them, caused the rash not to be as severe.  Although there was some blistering, that part of having the shingles disappeared after several days.

Even though the early treatment dealt effectively with the rash, the pain was quite severe -- and it continued after all of the rash had disappeared.
As Dr. Donahue indicated in his column, “pain is a consequence of the nerve injury,” and some of the pain (although greatly diminished) is still with me four months later.
I guess it could be said that shingles can really get on your nerves!

I’m not sure what caused the shingles to suddenly break out.   Some people believe a case of the shingles is caused by stress. 
I’m a little skeptical of that belief because, if stress causes shingles, I would have broken out from head to toe during the years that I was mayor and chaired all of those council meetings.
Just joking! (See, I haven’t lost my sense of humor.)

I don’t know if I will ever have another case of shingles but I would just as soon pass and mark that experience off the bucket list -- not that it was ever on my list of fun things to do.
Maybe I will be okay for the rest of my life when it comes to not having another case of shingles.
After all, once they are put down most shingles come with a guarantee to not need replacing for 25 years -- at least that’s what I heard in a commercial for a roofing company.

Paul Osborne
Editor & Publisher

Columns Are Printed With The Most Recent Displayed First

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The photo across the top of the page shows the northeast corner of downtown's Lincoln Square and the statue of Abraham Lincoln marks where he gave his first political speech.

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