Gene Wilder has died. Wilder - the man who unequivocally was the Willie Wonka (I'm not even sorry, Johnny Depp) - was 83 years-old.
It is reported he died from complications due to Alzheimer's, a condition kept private by his family until the time of his death. And, in fashion with Wilder's unassuming and quiet manner, keeping his battles from the press was for the comfort of others. In a statement yesterday, his nephew said:
“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.”
For our generation, Wilder is best remembered for the charmingly off-centre characters he portrayed in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles (1974), and as Mr. Stein during a stint on Will & Grace (2003). Gene Wilder was married several times, which to me is not a call for critique but rather a confirmation that he loved and was loved. He was most famously married to Gilda Radner from 1984 until her passing in 1989 from ovarian cancer, and his wife Karen now becomes his widow after 25 years of marriage.
We'll all grow old, if we're lucky. May we do it with the same grace and humour as did Wilder, similarly surrounded by families who take into account not only our physical comfort but the protection of our legacies.
The Rio Olympics may not go down as the best or most thrilling in history, but at least now they don't need to be remembered as "Funky Water shit-a-thon" or as the stage for Ryan Lochte's blatant fibbery about his "robbery," and it's all thanks to a Polish athlete you probably haven't heard of this side of the Atlantic.
Piotr Malachowski has received two Olympic medals, with this year seeing him take home the Silver in Discus. Being a non-athletic type means that the only disc I've thrown was the Titanic soundtrack disc, when I found it in the CD player of my then-boyfriend's truck. (One of two things had to have occurred - he was either seeing another woman, or, you know, he listens to the Titanic soundtrack. Either way, he had to go.) But even without knowing exactly what discus throw is all about, I can understand that it is an incredibly challenging sport, requiring great strength and - like all Olympic endeavours - a serious commitment to your craft. It's probably something that if you won a medal for, you'd at least keep it in your bedroom for a while.
But not Malachowski. He didn't even keep it long enough to use it for it's obvious best uses, like impressing people at pubs and wearing to the supermarket for extra free samples. Instead, he sold it, and not for a new car or kick-ass leather boots or even a bucket-list vacation.
A Polish mother, Goshia Malachowski wrote to congratulate Malachowski, but with a request: Would he be able to help her? She was looking to save the sight and possibly life of her 3-year-old son, Olek, who has a form of cancer known as retinoblastoma, or, in horrible layman's terms, "maybe-gonna-lose-your-eyeball-cancer."
The family has been fundraising but the expensive treatment was still beyond their reach. From Upworthy:
"Though the disease is treatable, Goshia wrote to Malachowski that the only way to save her son's eyesight was to take him to New York City for treatment by a top ophthalmologist. Needless to say, that would be far too expensive for her family to afford on its own."
The athlete (and all-around amazing guy, it seems) offered up his medal for auction, and through Facebook promotion and the wonders of social media and most people not being assholes, was able to secure the remainder of funding for the family to travel to the U.S. for treatment.
So while some athletes were busy vandalizing gas station bathrooms, strengthening incorrect racial stereotypes, and lying to authorities, this athlete deserves accolades for not only a winning physical performance, but a kind and generous one as well.
Parenting in the modern age presents many challenges (hello, Pokemon GO), but we often forget to think about all the great and new ways it makes our job as parents easier. People are, as a rule, generally glass half-empty thinkers, and it's hard to shake; after all, that's the thinking that kept us alive when large animals roamed the earth looking for snacks. And heaven forbid if your child lost a finger to a wooly mammoth's chomper, there was no doctor in sight, let alone one who accepted after hours email or did cave-calls.
During my first pregnancy, a routine doctor's appointment revealed very high blood pressure; like, "do not pass go and head straight for the hospital" high blood pressure. The maternity ward became my home for the following six weeks until the induced birth of my daughter. I had developed preeclampsia and while I am glad for the safe and healthy delivery, the protocol at the time was complete bed rest and if the doctors felt sassy, I was allowed to roll onto my right side for 10 minutes. You'll understand my woe when I say this was all pre-Internet. I had to read books. MADE FROM PAPER.
Another pregnancy five years later was headed in the same direction, but this time there was one marked difference: I was able to stay at home by taking advantage of technology that made an extended hospital stay unnecessary. My blood pressure was monitored from home with a portable halter heart and blood pressure unit I wore under my clothes (no paper robes!) and the results went to my doctor in real time. Both of us had access to see (and hear through alarms) if I was entering a dangerous zone necessitating a hospital visit. I was safe, but at HOME. My fellow introvert hermits types will understand how amazing this felt. I can't imagine being confined to a hospital bed with a toddler and partner at home, and I don't just mean the dishes I'd come home to. Instead, current and developing health technologies, like those I’ve recently learned are being created by TELUS Health, meant that not only was my health (and the health of my unborn baby) protected, but so was my need to be with my family. Plus, INTERNET.
Ask 100 parents what their single biggest concern about raising their families is, and you know health is coming in top three, well ahead of getting toddlers to eat their carrots or being late to soccer practice for the 7th time this seven game season. That's because without decent health, what have we got? Life cannot be enjoyed fully when you're worried about health management. But modern advances are improving our lives and I'm not even talking about actual medical procedures. (You're on your own getting to soccer practice on time.)
There are many modern ways to take back the reins when it comes to managing your family's health:
I still take blood pressure medication 2x daily and during allergy season, almost everyone in my house is a mist-inhaling, pill popper. We use digital timers on our cell phones to coordinate the "down the hatch" schedule for pills, sprays, and tablets. I can set a reminder for me to call my teenager to check that she's taken her medication when she's away at camp or the cottage for a few days, but for the most part, digital health strategies are helping her take control of her health as she heads towards adulthood. And if you use a TELUS Health solution like a PHR (Personalized Health Record) it's super easy to set medication reminders, and have your local pharmacy refill your prescriptions automatically when they're approaching empty. Having all your info in one place - secure and safe in encrypted data centres, no less - is a time (and stress) saver.
I figured this one out after taking double my blood pressure dose accidentally. I don't remember much about that day, but the kids assure me I had a great time and my neighbours no longer maintain eye contact.
Our family doctor's office has a great e-newsletter. It has options to include as many or as few topics of interest as possible, and while I'm still firmly in my youth (if I say it, it's true, no?) I still receive notes and workshop messages about geriatric care that I pass along to my 92 year-old grandmother. Many doctors also have email set up for patients, so sending in questions and concerns before an appointment will help prepare your medical team to work in tandem with you to create an individualized digital health footprint.
I hate waiting - whether for coffee in a drive thru or for results of blood work and medical tests. Because my blood pressure issue became chronic and I continue to be medicated, I have frequent tests. My medication can change based on my blood work, and I like to know ASAP when something is going to enact a dosing. Most larger medical testing labs now have online portals to see your medical test results in practically real-time. Ask you doctor if any of the labs they use have this ability. It also speeds up delivery time to your doctor meaning you get their advice faster. Digital info travelling over the internet makes my (and your) life easier. I can't "see" it, but I know it's there. It's like the Santa Claus of health care.
This is a quick tip I use for managing health at home: I use my camera for reading a lot of things, especially when a magnifying glass isn't available. For teeny tiny writing on over-the-counter products, I take a snapshot of the label and then stretch out the photo so the text is a size I can actually read. This is also a great way to show your doctor, pharmacist, or dentist all the medications your family takes without travelling around with a duffel bag. You can create a private photo file just for family medications, so your privacy is protected. Your camera is also great for tracking the progress of rashes and injuries you may have questions about but are unsure of.
My purse is a cavern. I carried around a 1/2 lb clam for weeks after a camping trip when my son had no room for it in his backpack and I only noticed when the smell started. What I'm saying is, things get lost. It could take me upwards of half an hour to find an eczema prescription refill and by that time, my son has scratched his arm into a stump up to the elbow. Our local pharmacy has several digital options for refills, including one where THEY call your doctor for a refill on thing you may need in a pinch but have no refills left on. They have saved our ass (almost quite literally) several times, including the time their system flagged a possible contradiction between two prescriptions from two different medical professionals. Without this electronic technology to intervene, I would have been in serious trouble with a drug interaction.
Another service I can perform digitally is to call and request a specific pick up time for prescriptions to be ready. The team handles all the insurance billing through their internal system so all you need to do is show up and teach a tenacious 12 year-old to swallow pills.
My family is blessed - haha - I mean cursed - with teeth made from something resembling sponge toffee. This means I have countless fillings, root canals, and extractions. (I am a mess, friends.) Our dental insurance doesn't cover everything, but all the medical professionals we've dealt with for oral issues have been able to check our insurance coverage electronically and instantly to plan next steps. I remember once when an infection from a root canal became serious fast, I was able to speak with my medical team via laptop in order to demonstrate how was badly swollen it was. You have no idea how reassuring it was to be able to speak "face to face" with my doctor.
I can't imagine the stress involved in not being able to speak to a medical professional simply because you live in a rural area. Even 10 years ago many of these online services were unavailable, but now doctors can Skype and use other digital programs to check in on patients, monitor progress, and send medications regardless of distance or divide.
Taking control of your family's health - and YOURS, too! - is essential for a happy life. I see family healthcare as a partnership between companies like TELUS Health, your medical team and the pharmacy, who are there to serve us. This mom gig is tiring; we've earned it.