Weighing in a hefty 12 pounds at birth Darren Fenice's right shoulder was damaged by forceps during delivery. Erb's palsy resulted from the injury that stunted his arm and significantly impairs his range of motion. In school, he lashed out at the kids who were tormenting him him and was once expelled. When he grew up he began to practice martial arts as a means of self-defense, focusing on American Kenpo. A back injury sustained in competition has now sidelined him. Based on his experience being picked on growing up, he remains a strong advocate against any form of bullying. He is currently pursuing a career in science education and he pursues another of his passions - cooking dishes from his Austro-Italian heritage. Watch video interview here.
Students in an advanced American Sign Language (ASL) class offered by the Deaf-Hearing Communication Center based in Swarthmore, PA took turns acting out and signing the short and apparently humorous scenarios they chanced to pick out of a paper bag held by their teacher. Chestnut Hill branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Watch video here.
Marjorie Shoemaker brings her "Paws of the Spirit," to nursing homes and other venues. Her passel of animals include an easygoing white Labrador retriever service dog named Archie who, she says cost $50,000 to train, two rabbits and about a dozen guinea pigs. Shoemaker demonstrated how Archie can retrieve things and assist someone who might be disabled by, for example, gently taking off a person's socks without taking off any toes! Watch video here.
The nursing home residents coo ooh and ahh as they hold and pet the rabbits and the guinea pigs. The guineas, adept vocalizers, "wheek," purr, and chut in return in this video.
Minister Betty Jones Alston was paralyzed from the waist down this January due to multiple sclerosis which she was diagnosed with in 1990. She had begun dropping things and attributed it to being very busy and worn down directing a food ministry and prison ministry, but it was not so.
But she is walking again and on a recent chilly spring day, she was methodically making her way down the steep entrance steps of the J.S. Jenks School after a meeting about her grandson, a student. She placed her three-footed aluminum cane on the step below her before taking each step.
Also afflicted with lupus, Minister Alston credits her faith, positive attitude and taking control of her body for enabling her to continue to lead an active life. She also sings gospel but due to a recent illness, was not able to sing in the accompanying video.
Driving my daughter from Chestnut Hill to her job in Roxborough Saturday morning, we passed a man making his way on foot down the steep and treacherously narrow, icy shoulder of Bells Mill Road. When I again passed him on my return trip twenty minutes later, now on his ascent from Forbidden Drive, I had to offer him a lift. Robert Mongeluzzi’s car tire had been flattened by a pothole the day before and, after spending the night in Chestnut Hill, he was hoping to somehow connect with a bus and make it to his home in Merion Station. He offered to top off my gas tank as thanks but I settled for the story of his work as a trial attorney representing victims and families of the Market Street Salvation Army building collapse and other, similarly notorious and catastrophic incidents.
The majority of patients who visit Chestnut Hill Hospital’s physical therapy center at the Top of the Hill come in with spine pain- neck or lower back- according to therapist Bethany Nolan. Lots of tall windows at the facility behind the Children of America building allow natural light to brighten up the large open multi-station workroom area where a few therapists are busy tending to patients.
Nolan says the cause of back pain, often, is not a traumatic injury but maintaining prolonged positions like being sedentary too long. With a model of the spine, Nolan demonstrates how pressure can build up in the spine’s discs. Imaging like X-rays is not necessary to begin therapy. An initial evaluation is done and a plan of exercises that can be done at home to reverse the pressure buildup is devised. At therapy sessions she demonstrates the exercises, has patients practice and adjust the exercises and notes the patient’s progress. Exercises may first include just press-ups to ease the pain. Later in the process, core-strengthening exercises like holding the plank position or balancing one’s legs on an exercise ball may be introduced. Nolan stresses the importance of consulting a physician and then working with the therapist to develop a plan of exercises tailored to the patient’s individual needs.
“Back pain doesn’t need to be a reason to stop living your life!” Nolan cheerily declaims.
“WHERE IS YOUR KIDNEY?”
“Well, one of my kidneys is in North Carolina right now.”
Hillary Rettig had been reading and thinking about donating a kidney for a few years. Why not, she thought, if she had two working ones and one to spare and could save someone’s life? When she reached a tipping point, she went ahead with the laparoscopic surgery. As a vegetarian and animal lover, she was thrilled to find a match in a man who had founded a no-kill animal shelter. On a matchmaking website, among the many heart-braking posts of people pleading for a donated kidney, the man had written, “ I have spent the last twenty years giving animals a second chance at life; won’t you consider giving me a second chance?” Afterwards, the donee’s wife told Retting that Rettig had saved not just her husband, but their family as well. Rettig recommends donating a kidney to everyone. “ It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling… If I had a few extra kidneys, I would donate them all.” Watch video interview here. Read Rettig's account of her donation here.
Personable "Flower" accosts passersby for money to get something to eat while sitting on the bench at the bus stop on Evergreen near Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. She lives alone in nearby Mount Airy, has a mental illness, has some social supports and gets some income. Flower would be able to do filing, stock work or security work. She says she would rather not be panhandling. "I gotta do what I gotta do," she says, to not be hungry and stay alive. Watch video interview here.
A young woman who realized in college that, without a doubt she wanted to become a chef, grabbed the offer to start as the dishwasher in a famous Boston restaurant and she loved it, covered in butter, chicken fat, sweat. One morning, on a morning jog before work, she was hit by a car and among other bad injuries, had shattered her skull. Two weeks later, making a recovery at her father's house, she made a bad discovery - her sense of smell was gone. Heat was all she sensed of the cinammon-laced apple crisp, a favorite dish, when it was just drawn from the oven and held under her nose.
Birnbaum went on to study the sense of smell and her experiences with its loss(a condition called "anosmia") and wrote about in her 2011 book,"Season to Taste." Along her journey she spent much time with the olfactory scientists the Monell Chemical Senses Center with whom she presented "Forgotten Sense: Exploring a World Without Smell" as part of the Philadlephia Science Festival.
Also attending the event is a doctoral student in information sciences at Drexel University, (shown below) who speaks about her own experience with anosmia.
At the National Mechanics Bar and Restaurant in Old City, Philadelphia.
Michael Gieschen, who lost his vision due to retinitis pigmentosa, sports a tee-shirt emblazoned with a group of walkers under the words “Blinds to Go” the name of his team (blind art students from Allens Lane Art Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The team walked in the Foundation Fighting Blindness Vision Walk to raise funds to research and combat retinal diseases. Shown here in the Allens Lane Vision through Art class, is Gischen with the parrot fish he sculpted, poised above coral. The family has become enamored of the parrot through vacations in the Caribbean. Shown with him is daughter Kara who is helping out with the final stage of his work, applying brilliant colors, which Gischen is very particular about, naturally, as he worked as a graphic designer before losing his sight. Watch video here.
Carol Konopinski teaches the Vision Through Art class at the Allens Lane Art Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. The class which is open only to those who are legally blind has been going on for 25 years and the artists work mainly in clay but are branching out into mixed media. ---------------
This is the best day of the whole week. I live for Wednesday mornings … Hi, welcome to Vision Through Art. We’re a sculpture class for the blind and visually impaired. We have artists here who have a range of vision to no vision. And You have to be legally blind to be in here. Even though the teacher and the assistants are not, that’s OK. Someone’s got to have vision- stupid sighted people! We have a great time. It’s a super family. We’ve been going for almost twenty-five years now. We have a great group of artists and they do anything from small to large pieces. We work mainly in clay but we’re moving out into mixed-media pieces. So we’re doing a lot of really fantastic work here- working on the wheel, sculpture , papier-mâché, you name it we do it they’re game for anything…It looks like we’re going to have another day of mass chaos as usual but hey, you go with the flow and enjoy it. Chaos is good! It’s all about the creativity and the chaos… Frank’s going to be working on wedging and getting back on the wheel… Betsy’s got a piece to finish up, a little girl and a dog and then Plato is working on a piece that he’s going to make a mold of but he’s still finessing and getting the shape right so he’s being the master sculptor right now. Carol Kopinski, Teacher, Allens Lane Art Center Vision Through Art class. Watch video interview here.
Betsy Clayton sculpts very realistic human and also imaginary creatures despite being legally blind for many years at the Vision Through Art program at the Allens Lane Art Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia.
Wait a minute, maybe I can turn the table over and maybe it’s white on the other side. YES, IT HAS YOUR NAME ON IT. This is my piece that I think of as an undersea creature. I don’t know what I’m going to call it. I was thinking “Riders Under the Sea” or “Undersea Riders”… I used gold, red and green. At first I painted it all green and then I dabbed on colors to make it look fantastical. WHAT CAN YOU SEE OF IT? It’s a blur to me. I mean I can see that there’s color on here but I don’t know what the colors actually are or where they are. When I painted them I knew where I wanted certain colors. THEY’RE PRETTY BRILLIANT DO YOU SEE ANY OF THE COLORS? Are they brilliant? Not to me, they’re just dull. DO THEY HAVE A SHADE, THE COLORS? Green I can see. But everything looks green to me. . . The back of him is supposed to be like an octopus thing, tentacles. WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE? They have no arms you see. Because they’re really not people. They’re things that live under the sea. Creatures. I don’t know what they do under the sea. But, they like to ride the monster or whoever he is… I see leaves on the trees all winter. I do. If I look at a tree, it has leaves. HOW IS THAT, WHY? I don’t know. EVEN IF THEY’RE NOT THERE? It’s not in full leaf like it would be in summer but I see green all around the trees because I see green. That’s probably why. Betsy Clayton, Vision through Art, Allens Lane Art Center, Philadelphia.
November 28, 2012
In this video, Cara Gieschen demonstrates to a class of blind sculpture students applications on the iPad that may be useful to the vision impaired. One app speaks aloud the color the iPad's camera is focused upon. The app identifies solid colors well but hilariously identified the hair color of some grayheads in the class as greenish and purplish. Gieschen demonstrated another app, VisionSim which, upon clicking on one of several eye disease in a list, simulates what a person with that disease actually sees.