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Walking and Working with the Extenders

Posted By Al Martinez On January 29, 2014 @ 2:48 pm In Notebook | Comments Disabled

Wheelchair with Al [1]

Wheelchair with Al

The first time I ever heard the term “extenders” applied to human effort and not necessarily to equipment utilized by the handicapped was in the office of a doctor who actually had disabilities.

He redefined the word to mean that you never give up.

Burdened by the ever-increasing impact of COPD [2] (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) on my body, I had requested a wheelchair from Medicare and was told to make an appointment in Los Angeles with one Dr. Thomas Hedge, who would evaluate the request.

Who I met was a man in his mid-60s who was confined to a wheelchair [3] and suffering, I learned later, from a malady called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a disorder of the nervous system that causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

An articulate and good-natured man, it was Hedge who first applied the term “extender” as it relates to the 54 million Americans with physical disabilities [4]. It was once primarily employed to categorize the equipment they used to help them make it through life; implements like wheelchairs, crutches, canes and walkers. But I realized that that was probably not Hedge’s meaning as he referred to both of us as “extenders.”

>> Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter [5]

Because he continued to practice medicine  in the widespread San Fernando Valley, and did it all from a wheelchair, and I continued to write despite having COPD [6], we were extending the active elements of our lives and not wrapping ourselves in cloaks of self-pity.  I needed the wheelchair not as a permanent platform of transportation but as a means to get somewhere when a temporary inability to breathe was inhibiting my ability to walk.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hedge and I are not alone. Sixty-four percent of those between ages 21-64 and with disabilities are continuing to work; 31 percent of those disabilities are considered severe.

In many ways, by extending themselves, those who continue at least a semi-active life despite burdens imposed upon them by wounded physiologies set examples for others who once saw themselves as America’s “shut-ins.” People like Hedge and actor Michael J. Fox [7], who suffers from Parkinson’s disease [8], prove that there is life beyond personal disaster.

Thanks to Hedge’s efforts, the wheelchair was approved. And thanks to my own grit as one of America’s more visible extenders, I continue to write.

>> Get discounts on health services with your AARP Member Advantages. [9]


Also of Interest


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Article printed from AARP: http://blog.aarp.org

URL to article: http://blog.aarp.org/2014/01/29/walking-and-working-with-the-extenders/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.aarp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/WheelchairWITHAl.jpg

[2] impact of COPD: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/11/06/trouble-along-the-way/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[3] wheelchair: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/08/14/seeing-life-from-a-rolling-chair-2/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[4] disabilities: http://www.aarp.org/health/health-insurance/info-08-2012/disability-insurance-do-you-need-it.html?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG

[5] >> Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter: http://www.aarp.org/online-community/people/subscribeFromEmail.action?id=19061&intcmp=ILC-EMAIL-SUB-HLTH

[6] COPD: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/11/27/copd-whats-that-you-ask-at-50-are-you-at-risk/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[7] Michael J. Fox: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/03/28/michael-j-fox-and-his-foundation-spark-a-revolution-in-parkinsons-research/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[8] Parkinson’s disease: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/05/01/brain-research-and-the-search-for-parkinsons-cure/?intcmp=AE-BLIL-BL

[9] >> Get discounts on health services with your AARP Member Advantages.: http://discounts.aarp.org/savings/discounts/health-andamp;-wellness/uSource/HCTN/categoryId/724/subCategoryId/726?intcmp=AE-BL-HEA-DISC

[10] Dealing with COPD and Dating: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/09/02/pepper-schwartz-suggests-ways-to-date-despite-copd/?intcmp=AE-ENDART1-BL-REL

[11] Valerie Harper: Fearless, Funny and Footloose: http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/style-trends/info-10-2013/valerie-harper-aarp-magazine.html?intcmp=AE-ENDART2-BL-BOS

[12] Get free assistance with tax-return preparation from Tax-Aide: http://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/?intcmp=AE-ENDART3-BL-ADV

[13] Join AARP: https://appsec.aarp.org/MSS/join/application?keycode=U9ZTPH9&intcmp=AE-ENDART3-BL-MEM

[14] AARP home page: http://www.aarp.org/?intcmp=AE-ENDART3-BL-HP

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