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Shel Silverstein and the Circle of Life - Monday's Blog by Dr. Williams

Greetings. Happy Monday!

I hope some of you were able to partake in Charleston's Restaurant week which ended yesterday. We are fortunate to live in a great "foodie" town. I also hope everyone survived the inclement weather on Friday!

Maybe you stayed home and watched season two of The Righteous Gemstones, a comedy which is filmed right here in Charleston!

In last week's blog, I expressed my gratitude for everyone who contributed to me ALS fundraiser. A few days later, I was speaking with one of Russell's dearest and oldest friends, who told me about a Bloomberg article he read in which someone who had ALS described it as a real life version of a children's song about being eaten by a snake.

I immediately realized that my friend was referring to Shel Silverstein's popular poem/children's song called, "Boa Constrictor." For those of you who are unfamiliar, it goes like this...

I'm being eaten by a Boa Constrictor A Boa Constrictor A Boa Constrictor I'm being eaten by a Boa Constrictor And I don't like it one bit Whadaya know, it's nibblin' my toe Oh gee, it's up to my knee Oh fiddle, it's up to my middle Oh heck, it's up to my neck Oh dread, it's mm-mm-mm-mm I immediately recognized the poem, as it was one of the many poems in the collection, Where the Sidewalk Ends.

While Mr. Silverstein is probably best known for his children's works, I bet many of you never knew that he was formerly a writer and cartoonist for Playboy! And as an aside, I bet many of you don't realize that Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, a Dartmouth class of '25, also was a cartoonist for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post before becoming popular for his children's books.

Anyway, back to I re-read the poem, I agreed how it aptly and succinctly described ALS. At the same time, remembering the other poems in the book reminded me of happy childhood memories. And then, this weekend, while shopping for a baby shower gift, I saw copies of the book, The Giving Tree, displayed on a table with other children's classics.

I couldn't help but pick it up and read it. Now this one always touched my heart for the selfless giving of the tree to the little boy, who at the end was still happy when her nubby trunk could afford relief to the weary old man the boy had become. Who would have imagined that my life would be summarized by the works of a Playboy writer turned children's author! I have watched my husband be eaten by the Boa Constrictor over the last 3 years, which has turned me into a caregiver both at home and at work. No matter how challenging things may be at times, the tree is my inspiration to never tire of giving back


Covid has made the demands on caregivers, particularly nurses and doctors, even more demanding. Over the weekend we posted a news story from CNN where a nurse gave up her position to become a truck driver. While it's great that this woman is helping the supply chain crisis, it is sad that this is where we have come.

I heard a very worrisome stat on Friday while at the hospital. It appears that despite the recent and massive Covid surge due to Omicron, we are seeing a higher percentage of mental health ICU admissions lately relative to Covid admissions when compared to prior surges /Covid outbreaks.

The toll on the mental health of American is mounting. I am hearing of more and more stories of suicide attempts and drug overdoses, of all ages. On Thursday of last week, I learned of the death of an 18 year old tennis player, someone we knew of peripherally (the tennis circle is small!). She was beautiful (before the drug addiction) and talented, but sadly succumbed to her demons.

I am hoping that we can re-focus our energies from the Covid crisis to the mounting mental health crisis that is affecting our country, our friends, and our loved ones. I fear that the true impact of Covid on the education, social development, and mental health of our youth will prove to be profound.

In honor of anyone who has lost someone recently, whether to mental illness or another condition, maybe you can take solace in some comforting words from songwriter, Sarah Maclachlan: The song was feature in a 1998 movie, City of Angels.

I hope everyone has a great week and is able to stay warm. If you need a laugh, watch The Righteous Gemstones. And your week gets hectic, and you need a little inspiration, check out this link on mindfulness. One of the original advocates, of mindfulnesss, Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and peace activist, dies at 95

Until next time.

Dr. Heidi Williams

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