On July 3rd, I was in my law office on the 37th floor looking across the city thinking about my pending trip to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to celebrate the Fourth of July with close friends when the phone rang. It was my secretary announcing that my friend and doctor, Joe Tenenbaum, was on the line. I picked up the phone and said, "Hi, Joe, what's up?" He replied, "Good morning, Ed. I'm calling to tell you that your coumadin (a blood thinner) level is right on target; continue with it for a month and we'll test it again." He went on, "Nine years ago, (1999) on July 4th you were in the hospital [I had had a heart attack a few days before and was recovering from an angioplasty to open two blocked arteries]. And here you are, a healthy man. Have a good holiday."
Dr. Tenenbaum's call made me reflect on the fact that I am indeed relatively healthy, lucky and appreciative to the Almighty for having protected me over the years. I am 83 years old and, like many at my age, I read the obituaries in The New York Times, which I first started to do about ten years ago. It appears to me that as many people are dying in their 70s as in their 80s. I've noticed that many of my conversations with friends - most of them are in their 70s - are about ailments from which we are suffering. Looking back, I think to myself that my medical incidents have been few and far between.
My scariest major medical event took place in 1987 when I suffered a stroke. My overwhelming fear was that I would be paralyzed. God was good, and I walked out of the hospital four days later without any motor impairment. I recall the following weekend going for a walk, being recognized by a New Yorker who clearly had had a stroke and was being assisted while walking. He came over to me and said, "Mayor, can I have the name of your doctor?" Of course, I gave him Joe Tenenbaum's name and silently wished him well. I hasten to add that Dr. Jay Mohr, neurologist, was actually in charge of my treatment.
In 2000, I had surgery to deal with an enlarged non-cancerous prostate. That condition, while the least dangerous, was the most bothersome. It affected the frequency of urination and required the insertion of a catheter. It was relatively easy to remedy with what many refer to as a rotor-rooter operation to reduce the size of the prostate.
For the last year and a half, I have had a painful back condition. Millions of American men and women suffer low back pain. My condition is called stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that impinges on nerves and causes pain. In my case, the pain appeared in my left thigh. It was, on occasion, very intense. On a scale of one to ten, the latter being the worst, it was an 8 at times. I finally concluded there was no alternative but to have an operation, and I announced to the readers of my weekly commentary that I would not be writing for a couple of weeks.
I received a note from an old friend to the effect, "Don't have an operation. Wendy [his wife] had a similar condition and received total relief from a chiropractor using a stretching machine called the DRX9000. Try it before you are operated on."
My friend provided the name and phone number of the chiropractor, Dr. Alex Eingorn. I called, and ultimately scheduled 20 visits. The DRX9000 is a table attached to a machine that with pulleys, I think, places a weight of 110 lbs. (measured for my condition) on my spine and over a 35-minute period, stretches it. There is absolutely no pain in the stretching. There is a moment of pain when the stretching stops and, I assume, the spine collapses to its original position. When I first saw the device and was strapped to it, I told the doctor, "The last time I saw this machine was in 1492. You've improved it." Twenty visits later, I felt a lessening of the pain and a gain in walking ability of about five to ten percent. I said, let's continue. After the 23rd visit, I was literally shocked on awakening that day to find the pain gone. It came back the next day. It now comes and goes, but I have no doubt I am getting better.
During the Fourth of July weekend, I enjoyed walks with friends. I don't know whether my apparent change in condition is real or due to a placebo effect, which in different settings including the taking of prescription pills for other conditions, can exceed 30 percent. But who cares, certainly not me, whether real or placebo. Since the stretchings, I am walking more and more without pain, even though the pain returns. G-d is good.
As the song in "Follies" by Stephen Sondheim goes, "I'm still here."