Lesson Learned (July 14)


Since the mass shooting of 21 killed at a public school in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, I have been unsettled and restless. My 12 years invested as an elected member of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education came to closure June 30, 2022. However, my heart strings have been uncommonly plucked and my grief continues for what I figure will be a long time.

The newspaper articles remind me that there have been at least 188 school shootings since 1970. This time by June 24, 2022, Congress has passed a new gun safety bill that addresses our nation’s common concerns for school safety. This includes toughening background checks, helping put red flag laws in place and funding local programs. President Biden signs the new law.

I have asked Matthew Sisk, our Upshur County Schools Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness, to share his concerns in an upcoming Lesson Learned column. He welcomes the opportunity. I am more restful but still perturbed.

Then I recall that my father, Dr. Harold David Almond, addressed the school safety issue in his inimitable way on my local TV program “Tender Loving Care” during my 39 years of weekly broadcasting. Always wise and definitely entertaining, I reprint a chapter from my book, “Tender Loving Care: Stories of a West Virginia Doctor Volume Two,” in which I recounted many of my father’s stories told on my program.

TRIGGER FINGER

From the very first appearance of Harold Almond, MD, on the local access channel, many in the community tuned in to hear his stories. Nobody was ever disappointed. One evening the following story made my day, as the host and as his son.

Doc recalled a young spunky “school ma’am” from Hacker Valley who was short of stature and soft-spoken but knew she must keep control of her class. This was her first teaching assignment. Two previous teachers gave up, frustrated by the tough older hillbilly bullies making classroom discipline nearly impossible. Ever so determined, she’d come to class with a loaded revolver which she laid up on her desk. “The boys were quiet,” she reported to Doc.

In her later years she retired to Helvetia where Doc made house calls. Usually he could help her, but one day she presented a puzzling symptom. Her trigger finger would spontaneously flex and spasm. She wrote and shot left-handed. As she would write her name, Louise, coming to “o” her fingers would turn white and spasm. Quickly this spread to her hand and to her wrist. She could function by writing with her right hand or by typing. Clearly, though, something was wrong with her proprioception. Doc studied his neurology textbooks and consulted with colleagues at West Virginia University School of Medicine but could never solve the mystery.

Often as Doc drove by her little white frame house at the edge of Helvetia, he would see her working in her garden. When she’d see him coming she would raise her left arm and index finger toward the passing Jeep, pleading for help. He’d shake his head sadly and drive on up the hill.

Eventually she passed away, taking her malady to her grave. Years later Doc came across an article in his Northwestern University Alumni Journal addressing this diagnosis and treatment effectively. The simple treatment would be splinting. Just as primary grade school children use a pencil expander to improve grasp, so patients suffering from this spasmodic disorder benefit from using a pencil expander as a splint.

When making house calls back on Turkey Bone Mountain where his school ma’am patient was buried, he’d drive past the graveyard in his Jeep. Doc would roll down his window, raise his trigger finger, wave it and shout, “I know how to treat you now!”

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