• Karl Thunemann

The Pudding is in the Reproof

Deep into my exploration of comorbidities, I was entertaining my friend Adrienne with the trivium that hemiplegia is one of 22 conditions used in one major system to determine how extensive a patient’s plight might be.  I warmed to the subject, pointing out that my cerebral palsy affects the entire left side of my body. This makes me a hemiplegic, I added, thinking that it would help me place a foot (left, of course) in the great comorbidity arena.


When a doctor first diagnosed me with Trendelenburg gait, I was struck by a visual fantasy, imagining a modest entry to the great city of Berlin much less imposing than the Brandenburg.

Adrienne didn’t interrupt me, but simply waited until I paused for breath. Karl, I think you’ll find that they are talking about hemiplegia caused by stroke or other post-natal trauma., She went on to explain, gently, that while hemiplegia that arrives as a birth defect is indeed traumatic, people who are so afflicted  have a whole lifetime to adapt. We may discover and unwittingly embrace the Trendelenburg gait, the lurching step named after the German physician who first chronicled it. It is just a strategy for getting around.







Adrienne being a Feldenkrais teacher, she is attuned to how people adapt to their conditions. It is in effect a creative process, for as a rule as we do not learn to walk by copying adults who have similar disabilities.


When a doctor first diagnosed me with Trendelenburg gait, I was struck by a visual fantasy, imagining a modest entry to the great city of Berlin much less imposing than the Brandenburg. In a novel I never finished, a young man with Trendelenburg gait yearned to make a pilgrimage to Trendelenburg, New Mexico, where he could study solo performance. Few people had heard of Trendelenburg, and its demise seemed assured after the smallish air force base bearing its name was decommissioned. But a dedicated group of citizen activists launched a campaign to establish the town as a mecca for performers with disabilities. They could sign up to perform in the town plaza, where the traffic lights could be adjusted to a 5-minute all-way stop cycle. Too bad for my character. He never made it to Trendelenburg, and never fulfilled his dream of becoming its mayor.


And perhaps I too must be resigned to languish in the comorbidity minor leagues. At first glance, I seem to meet criteria for the major leagues—my list is notably long—but the severity of my individual C-Ms is decidedly unimpressive.

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