June 23, 2003
Swans' columnist and personal friend Deck Deckert has suffered a debilitating stroke that has caused speech impairment and paralysis on the right side of his body.
In the early hours of Friday, June 20, Deck awoke his wife, Alma Hromic, unable to speak or move. Alma called the paramedics who brought him to St. Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham, Washington -- the city to which Deck and Alma had just relocated from Florida. At the time of this writing the prognosis regarding whether he has sustained permanent damage remains unclear.
A week earlier, by coincidence and out of sheer luck, Alma and Deck had met with Jacqueline and Richard Macintosh. Richard has become a regular contributor to Swans in the past few months, at a time when Alma and Deck had to take a break from filing their bi-weekly columns due to their cross-country move, selling their home in Florida and buying a new one in Washington State. Richard and Jacqueline live near Bellingham. During that gathering, which we all jokingly referred to as "Swans' socializing," Richard made mention of a mild stroke he had suffered four years ago.
In the midst of devastation and personal distress, Alma, who has yet to make new acquaintances in Washington, called Richard who rushed to the hospital and has been helping in any way he can to alleviate Alma's worst fears.
According to Richard, after two visits at the hospital, Deck does not appear to be in pain; he has moved his right leg a tiny bit; he understands people when they talk to him; and though unable to speak clearly, he kept mumbling, "sorry, sorry, sorry," as though he felt embarrassed to have created an unwarranted commotion and to be the object of such attention. Richard feels that Deck "will be able to continue with his work, although his physical movement may be curtailed a bit -- or for a time." May Richard's feelings be right!
On May 24, 2003, after months of exhausting work in the peace movement, Fran and Philip Greenspan left for a one-week cruise to New England and Canada. On the third day, Fran fell and fractured her hip. She was taken off the ship to a hospital in Ellsworth, Maine, where she underwent an operation and an eight-day stay. According to Phil, the staff at the hospital was highly competent and gave both of them a "royal treatment." They finally went back home on June 3, and for a week or so Fran was confined to bed and has been taking medication to control the acute pain. Since then, Phil said last Tuesday, "Fran has been progressing quite nicely. She is a fighter who doesn't rest -- doing exercises a few times a day to regain her strength. She has been getting around on a walker and is contemplating walking upstairs with a cane tonight to take a shower and sleep in her own bed instead of on the couch." Both of them were hoping to go out again soon to see folk singer David Rovics and reporter Amy Goodman.
While the injury suffered by Fran Greenspan does not compare to that of Deck Deckert, whose condition is very serious and alarming, it is another reminder that there are real people behind Swans, not some digitalized, "Internet-inized," cyber androids -- people with real blood and tears, joy and frustrations, full of generosity.
I've yet to meet Phil and Fran but over two years ago, in February 2001, I flew to Florida to meet Alma and Deck. Deck has always been Swans' muckraker of choice with a dry sense of humor. An affable man certainly but a no-BS straight shooter with strong opinions and emotions, Deck does not mince his words whether privately or publicly. On each occasion when Swans has confronted a crisis of some kind, I have turned to Deck for advice for I could count on his honesty, his directness and his long experience with the media, and with writers and journalists. On a couple of those occasions, we truly did not see eye to eye on the issues at hand. More often than not, a strong disagreement between people who volunteer their time will lead to the parting of company. Not with Deck. Once, I recall, on an editorial decision as to the direction into which we wanted to go, we landed on the opposite side of the fence. The tension between the two of us was quite tangible and I clearly remember thinking that Deck would cease his association in relatively short order. Instead, he sent me an e-mail offering to withdraw from Swans in order to avoid creating any potential divide between the other contributors and columnists and me. That day, Deck earned my deepest respect and gratitude....and, of course, he remained on board. As he told me once, "Alma and I want very much Swans to succeed."
The Internet has revolutionized the ways we interact. We meet through e-mail or through the Web, or again in newsgroups or various e-mail- or Web-based Lists and slowly build strong relationships rooted in solidarity and keen spirits. Some fall by the wayside eventually but others are tangible proof that a project such as Swans can be built on trust and respect.
Deck Deckert is a living testimony to this. And live he will, thanks to his fighting spirit, the competent staff of St. Joseph's Hospital, Alma's loving help and people like Richard Macintosh. Deck may not be in a position to send his bi-weekly columns for a while but he will be back.
People first! Get well Deck, please get well!
Friends and readers who wish to send a message of support to Alma and Deck, please contact Alma at firstname.lastname@example.org; and Fran can be contacted through Philip at email@example.com.
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Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
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This Week's Internal Links
The Structural Disaster in Iraq - by Michael Doliner
The Circus - by Richard Macintosh
They Impeach Presidents, Don't They? - by Deck Deckert
Perspectives And Perceptions. . . Again - by Milo Clark
Please Listen - by Scott Orlovsky
Historical Amnesia Perverts Comparisons - by Philip Greenspan
Nobody - by Phil Rockstroh
The Having of Children - by Alma Hromic
Letters to a Young Poet (Letter Five) - by Rainer Maria Rilke
Powers Of A Poet's Body - Poem by Sabina C. Becker