Livin’ in an Amish Paradise

Amish country near Arthur, Illinois“We been spending’ most our lives living in an Amish paradise…” Weird Al

It’s getting close to lunch time at my clinic, but I have no hope of wrapping things up for a break any time soon. Why not? The waiting room looks like a call back for extras for Witness. Women in sturdy blue polyester dresses and enormous black bonnets, de rigueur for every Amish lady, are shushing children in blue shirts and black overalls, their bowl haircuts shrouded with enormous black hats. Men with springy gray beards sit silently nearby, dressed in their identical Amish uniforms. Probably only one of this cast of thousands is actually scheduled for an appointment. Yet in the course of the visit, I’ll start with one and end up seeing three or four, as they think I might as well see the daughter with a “little” cold (pneumonia), the diabetic grandma (blood sugar over 400), and their cousin’s farrier, who happened to come along for the ride. And could I please hurry it up, because the neighbor who gave them all a ride has to get back in time for dinner. Yes, just another day of Amish Hell at the office, and I’m smack in the middle of it.

The Amish are a sturdy sect of traditionalists who live simply and eschew modern technology. Originally members of a church schism in Switzerland, the Amish community left to settle in the Pennsylvania area, and eventually migrated to other parts of the US, including Michigan and Indiana. The Amish community is truly off the grid, living free of silly government entanglements such as Social Security numbers, government IDs, and therefore, health insurance. So just about any day might be Amish Day at the free clinic. The Amish folk are for the most part lovely, delightful people who would do anything to help a friend or neighbor. So why do I feel like I’m in the seventh circle of hell whenever their group darkens my door?

They come in large swarms, with no concept of anyone’s time, except their own. They want everything done at once, because they came all the way to town, darn it, and they’re busy people with things to do. The women wear two-piece dresses held together

Amish clothing hanging in the bedroom at The A...

by straight pins, and more undergarments than Scarlet O’Hara. Nothing strikes fear in my heart more than to think that I might have to ask one of them to get undressed – a 20 minute ordeal at least on each side of the operation which will tie up one of my two exam rooms for the next 40 minutes. Every Amish patient expects me to solve their problem, without their giving me any information about it. “So how has your blood sugar been, Rachel,” I ask, already knowing the answer. “Oh, I can’t really say. It’s high.” Then we begin the game we play every time, which I always lose. “Is it higher than 200?” I’ll ask, hoping this time I might get an answer. “Oh it’s high. I can’t really say.” “Can’t really say” is the Amish polite way of saying “you are an English woman, an outsider and I’m not giving you any information no matter how many different ways you ask.” And so I jump in, treating a pain they won’t describe, or a cough that has been present for God knows how long, listening to lung sounds through industrial polyester,  and expected to do it in record time because, really, don’t I know they still need to get to the store and be home in time for milking?

Later, if we have to call them about test results or an appointment, a new kind of hell begins. Their emergency contact person is listed only as “Bruce,” a non-Amish neighbor who has a phone, and has somehow become trusted enough to take their messages. I always hope that we never have to contact them for anything urgent, because Bruce might be busy with the plowing and not get them the message right away. Plus, he’s handling messages for every Amish family up and down the road, and with each family boasting 8 to 18 children, that’s a lot of Amish. There’s never any point in calling them to reschedule an appointment, because they’ll just show up anyway. After all, they went to all the trouble of getting a ride, and they’re not going to redo it just for my convenience.

Yet, in many ways they are endearing. They represent an earlier time, when neighbor trusted neighbor, when it was possible to be happy and connected to one’s community without having a phone permanently attached to one’s palm. Despite my frustration, I love most all of my Amish patients. They remind me of goodness, community, and simpler times.

© Huffygirl 2013


Denver to import oxygen from Canada

Roxborough State Park near Denver (© Huffygirl 2012)

Denver, the mile-high capital of Colorado, is known for its sunshine, microbreweries, and picturesque snow-capped mountains. Now, it will also be known for its oxygen. Mayor Michael Hancock announced today that Denver will begin importing oxygen from Canada. “While Denver denizens are used to our oxygen-poor atmosphere, it can have a deterrent effect on visitors when selecting their vacation destination. Now, with the importation of oxygen from Canada, visitors from all altitudes will want to choose Denver as their vacation spot.” Mayor Hancock announced today that the oxygen importation system, Canadian Over-road Oxygen (CO2) should be up and running in time for Denver’s huge annual July 4th celebration. “Denver residents will notice little change, but our visitors will discover they can run, climb and engage in endurance sports, without experiencing headaches or breathlessness. Higher oxygen levels will boost tourism, and in turn, the Denver economy. In contrast, Canada has many sparsely populated areas, where oxygen hangs in the air unused. By buying oxygen from Canada’s under-utilized areas, it’s a win-win situation for all: Denver gets higher oxygen and more tourism, and Canada earns money for exporting a resource they’re not using anyway”

Huffygirl at Tiny Town, near Morrison, CO (© Huffygirl 2012)

Some Denver citizens expressed displeasure over the news. “We Denverites pride ourselves on the fitness we’ve achieved by living with less oxygen than others,” says concerned citizen Chris B. of suburban Denver. But Denver visitors welcome the change. “I get headaches every time I visit the mile-high city,” says recent visitor Donna Barry, author of Huffygirl’s Blog. “For once I’d like to visit my grandchildren without worrying if Denver has reserved enough oxygen for me.”

© Huffygirl 2012

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I’m being tortured. A strong man is pulling on my arm. Now he’s pushing on my shoulder. He’s leaning in, pushing down while holding my arm against him. I can’t get away. I can’t make him stop. In desperation, I try  to get off the table. Despite being inured to the pain he’s causing, he senses my struggle. “Where do you think you’re GOING?” he queries. “I’m trying to get away from you so you’ll stop hurting me,” I reply. He breaks into a grin and lets up for a nanosecond from reefing on my arm. Welcome to boot camp physical therapy.

Yes, I’m actually paying for this. My physical therapist, who studied at Mr. T’s school of physical therapy, has the hands of a mob boss. For the last few weeks, he’s been singularly determined to beat the tendonitis out of my shoulder if it’s the last thing he ever does. He’s exercised it, stretched it, iced it, heated it, ultrasounded it, taped it, and now he’s massaging it. Although it’s more like the kind of massage one might expect to get at Gitmo. In an earlier time, Mr. T. was a trainer for a Big Ten college football team. This explains a lot. A 300-pound linebacker probably would be saying right now “So when are you going to start?”

It’s not just physical therapy. In my efforts to keep biking despite the tendonitis, I’m accumulating a large collection of accoutrements. I have pages of exercise instructions scattered across my desk. The thought is that when I see these papers, it will remind me to do them. I have a foam roller for stretching the myofascia, leaned up against the piano. Yes, so I’ll remember to use it. I have a large red exercise ball in my living room, again, to remind me ….  I have a small exercise ball too, also red.  And a yellow stretching band. And a blue one. The Tony Horton “Ten minute trainer” series is sitting out on the table to remind me that if I give Tony ten minutes, he’ll give me the body I want, so I won’t have these problems in the first place. Right.

Then, there’s the Yoga stuff. I gave up Yoga when I started having trouble with my shoulder. But my massage therapist, the other torture guy, keeps giving me Yoga accessories to use for stretching. So, now I have a Yoga bolster, which is like a long narrow couch cushion, and a Yoga belt, which for the life of me, I can’t imagine, and really don’t want to know, what they do with this thing in Yoga class.

But back to Mr. T. He’s done “massaging” my shoulder and now he’s getting ready to tape it. The same man who minutes ago was pushing my arm in directions it doesn’t normally go, is stretching and smoothing out tape as gently as if he’s taping up a butterfly’s wing. He’s the same guy who softly wraps a wonderfully warm heating pad around my neck every time I arrive. He gives me all sorts of sage advice to help me balance my cycling habit with a shoulder that doesn’t want to behave, all the while making me laugh. When I’m not crying that is. He’s cajoled me into agreeing to have my bike refitted, and even recommended I hire a housecleaner, so I can give my arms a rest, and save them for biking. What’s not to like about a man like that? Turns out he’s more Mr. Rogers than Mr. T. And as I leave the office, I notice my shoulder feels, well if feels good. He’s managed to turn aiieeeeehhhhh into ah. Thanks Mr. T.

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 © Huffygirl