TRUTH ABOUT JFK'S HEALTH
"During these years, except when his back stopped him,
he lived, between politics and athletics,
a life of marked and exuberant physical activity."
There have been many lies written about JFK's health. Books that came out last year, especially one by LBJ's biographer, Dallek, repeated and then expanded on previous lies told about JFK's health. Dallek said JFK was taking uppers, downers, painkillers and you-name-it administered by a psychiatrist named Dr Feelgood.
The details are so obviously outrageous and out of character that it's hard to believe people actually believe them but they do. Excerpts of these slanderous books are published in the likes of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the National Enquirer and the Timbuktoo Tatler and by word of mouth like gospel. If it weren't so sad it would be funny. ~ Jackie Jura
Actually, the truth about JFK's health was published in 1965 in Arthur Schlesinger's book, A Thousand Days.
Here's the pertinent excerpt from pages 95-98:
"...The shadow had never left him. The shock of the collision with the Japanese destroyer in the Solomon Islands had torn Kennedy's back, already weakened by the football injury at Harvard half a dozen years before. In his exhaustion after the rescue he came down with malaria. When he returned to the United States, he weighed 127 pounds and was in agony from sciatica. He had a lumbar disc operation at the Chelsea Naval Hospital, relieving the pressure on the nerve fibers. But his spine did not cease to torment him. 'At least one half of the days that he spent on this earth,' his brother has written, 'were days of intense physical pain.'"
"Then he was told that he had Addison's disease -- a degeneration of the adrenal glands -- and between 1946 and 1949 he went on a regimen of cortisone. One day when Joseph Alsop asked about the occasional greenness of his complexion, Kennedy replied matter-of-factly, 'The doctors say I've got a sort of slow-motion leukemia, but they tell me I'll probably last until I'm forty-five. So I seldom think about it except when I have the shots.' It developed later that he did not have Addison's disease in the classic sense -- that is, as caused by tuberculosis of the adrenal glands -- that he had not had tuberculosis in any form and that, with modern methods of treatment, his adrenal insufficiency, evidently induced by the physical strain of the long night of swimming and the subsequent malaria, presented no serious problem. He stopped the cortisone shots, though he continued to take corticosteroid tablets from time to time to assure the best possible protection against excessive physical stress or exertion. During these years, except when his back stopped him, he lived, between politics and athletics, a life of marked and exuberant physical activity."
"Still the shadow did not leave him. In 1948 his beloved sister Kathleen was killed in a plane crash. In 1951, travelling in the Far East, he came down with a fever in Japan and was rushed to the military hospital in Okinawa. His temperature rose to more than 106 degrees, and they did not think he would live. He recovered, but then his back troubled him again. Jacqueline remembers him in their courtship as on crutches more often than not. By 1954 the pain became so incessant that he decided to try another operation -- this time a lumbar fusion with a steel plate inserted in his spine. The surgeons were not sure it would help and warned it would be risky but Kennedy, drained by the unceasing torment, said, 'I don't care, I can't go on like this.' If there were a reasonable chance, he was going to take it. The winter after the surgery was torture. The steel plate led to a staphylococcus infection. His condition grew worse. Last rites were pronounced, and death brushed him again. Finally a second operation removed the plate. He continued weak and in pain, lying miserably in bed, turned by nurses at regular intervals from one side to the other. After a time, he started to walk, but, just as he was beginning, one of his crutches broke, he fell and was back in bed again."
"The operations did not help. They left his back weaker than ever, and Kennedy later concluded without recrimination that they had been unnecessary. In the spring of 1955 he heard about Janet Travell, a New York physician who treated cerain painful muscular conditions with Novacaine. He came to her deeply skeptical about doctors but more ready than ever to try anything. His infection had not healed; he now had anemia; and the pain was constant. Dr Travell decided that what was causing the pain was not the spine itself or the discs but the old weakness in the back muscles leading to chronic spasm. Now her Novocaine relaxed the cramps in his spinal muscles and brought quick relief. But, when daily mechanical strain was a factor in spasm, Novocaine might have only a temporary effect. Then Dr. Travell discovered that his left leg was three-quarters of an inch shorter than his right -- an obvious mechanical aggravation of the weakness along his spine, but, amazingly, unnoticed by doctors up to this point. Every step he had taken for years had caused a seesaw movement in his back and increased the strain on his spinal muscles. He procured shoes with a lift on the left foot and a lowered heel on the right. He also wore a small 'brace' or belt, and, finding relief in a rocking chair in Dr. Travell's office, acquired one for himself. Varous nutritional supplements ended his anemia. Dr. Travell's treatment and gentle counsel changed his life. In a surprisingly short time, he regained his old vitality and strength."
"Kennedy endured all this with total stoicism. Dr. Travell found him a model patient -- never resentful of his condition, always ready to follow any course which seemed reasonable to him. He once quoted Somerset Maugham -- 'suffering does not ennoble, it embitters' -- but, if he had been embittered, he hid it absolutely. He never liked anyone to ask how he was feeling. When he was in pain, others could tell only as his manner grew a little brusque and his face white and drawn. When the pain became intolerable, he would try to get his mind off it by having friends for dinner or going to a movie -- anything not to let himself just sit there suffering. Soon he began to distract himself with a larger project. He had been interested for some time in Edmund G. Ross, the Senator whose vote saved Andrew Johnson at the risk of his own career, and he now started an article on political courage which turned in the next few months into a book..." [end of quoting from A Thousand Days]
The following was taken from the book JOHN F. KENNEDY, A & E Biography, by Joyce Milton:
THE KENNEDY ROCKING CHAIR
Over the years, Kennedy tried many strategies to avoid back strain. He slept with a board under his mattress and wore a lift in his left shoe to compensate for a disparity in the length of his legs. In 1955 he consulted Dr. Janet Travell, who suggested that using a rocking chair might provide gentle exercise for the muscles in his lower back. Kennedy purchased a simple Appalachian oak rocker for $30 from the P & P Company, a North Carolina manufacturer. Kennedy became so attached to the chair that, as president, he took it with him when he traveled on Air Force One. He also placed copies of the chair at Camp David, at his home in Hyannis Port, and at the Kennedy house in Palm Beach, and gave still other chairs as gifts to friends. The proliferation of "authentic" Kennedy rockers would later lead to some confusion as several examples turned up on the auction block.
Makers of 'Kennedy Rocker' to close. Dec 27, 2008
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