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It was another time all right...

There's a very interesting article in the December 2002 Atlantic magazine about how bad JFK's medical condition really was. Until he started practicing some physical therapy once he became president, his medical history from childhood on is a virtually unbroken and overlapping series of ailments, hospital stays, surgery, and complications from the various interactions among them. Here's a typical sequence:
By 1950 Kennedy was suffering almost constant lower-back aches and spasms. X-rays in the Travell records, which I examined with the help of a physician, show that the fourth lumbar vertebra had narrowed from 1.5 cm to 1.1 cm, indicating collapse in the bones supporting his spinal column. By March of 1951 there were clear compression fractures in his lower spine. He needed crutches to get up a flight of stairs. Later that year, during a trip to Japan, he had a severe crisis related to Addison's when he apparently neglected to take his steroid medications. He ran a temperature of 106°, and his doctors feared for his life. The episode convinced him to be more rigorous about taking his medicine, and over the next two years back problems became his principal complaint.
You've got to marvel at the strength of JFK's will just to get through all this; it worked well enough that a bullet killed him before his body ever did.

And on top of all that, he still served in the Navy, even with his conditions. Compare that with the way our recent presidents and vice-presidents approached service in the military, and it seems like JFK came from another world.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(no subject) - all_askew - Mar. 13th, 2003 11:35 am (UTC) - Expand
brigid
Mar. 13th, 2003 12:36 pm (UTC)
now we're stuck with trust fund babies and professional politicians..
brigid
Mar. 13th, 2003 12:36 pm (UTC)
(or, less admirable trust fund babies and professional politicians)
rpkrajewski
Mar. 13th, 2003 12:48 pm (UTC)
Less admirable is the key
After all, Kennedy was a womanizer, we all know now, and his family made its biggest money off Prohibition. And yet he was at the very least a very good president (if not a saint). Presidents have tended to come from the US equivalent of the aristocracy but I don't think it was particular anti-democratic of that to happen.

The difference now is that the implicit obligation to certain kinds of public service is gone now. That's why Kennedy felt obligated to actually serve while despite his health, while many of today's politicians are looking for the least committed way to make themselves look public-spirited.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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into battle
rpkrajewski
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