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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Ernie Banks #14: Tribute to a Healer – 02/02/2015
Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov
Regards to all our listeners!
I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff U.S. National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
In spring 1958 (at age 10), I experienced two complex, serious, and unexpected surgeries within 10 days. The attending physicians (at a suburban Chicago hospital) were worried I might go into shock a few hours after the second surgery and they wanted to motivate me to stay alert through most of the post-surgical afternoon.
My pediatrician (and his clever, capable nurse) knew I was a Chicago Cubs fan and generated a shrewd solution. Around 8:30 in the morning before the second surgery I received a phone call in my hospital room.
“Are you Robbie,” a somewhat familiar voice asked me. “I’m Ernie Banks,” the caller said.
I was so excited I could barely speak. Suddenly, I was on the phone with my favorite baseball player and the celebrity I admired most.
Mr. Banks (as I addressed him) immediately said, “I hear you are a brave young man and face a tough day.”
“Now, I want you to do me a big favor,’ Banks said. ‘Watch the Cubs-Dodger game this afternoon. When I bat in the 7th or 8th innin’ (he often dropped the ‘g’ in speech), if I get on base, I will call time, take my hat off, and wipe my brow. This means I’m thinking about you.”
“Promise me you will watch; I wouldn’t want you to miss it,” Banks said. I was so excited to talk to Mr. Banks that I immediately thought about nothing else except the game. The surgery and the follow up pain immediately became minor inconveniences.
And sure enough, Ernie doubled to right center in the eighth. After he reached second base, he went through the entire promised drill.
Not only was this the thrill of a kid’s lifetime, I did not go into shock, and quickly recovered without lingering difficulties.
While I thanked my pediatrician as a teen (and my brother and I still look forward to taking his savvy nurse to the ball park), it was more than 30 years before I had a chance to greet Mr. Banks. We reunited on a brilliant 1990s March morning at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, AZ. After exchanging pleasantries, he discovered I had a Ph.D. and was a university professor.
As I began to praise him for his 1958 phone call, he smiled and interrupted with laughter, “I only have one question…. are you sure your students are happy I helped you back then?”
I later asked how many kids he called daily during his 19 -year career. “Well, you know me,’ he said, ‘I tried to call at least two.” (Mr. Banks was famous for saying ‘let’s play two’ before most day games).
Overall, this means Ernie probably lifted the spirits of more than 2,900 boys and girls during his major league career. I’m not counting road games and his frequent hospital visits on off days and during the post-season. I doubt he ever sought anything in return.
These unselfish actions aside, Ernie Banks was the first African American ball player on the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Banks was elected on the first ballot to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977 and in 2013 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony from a grateful President and Chicago resident (whom of all things is a White Sox fan).
During the White House ceremony, the President noted Mr. Banks was revered for his enthusiastic demeanor and the ability to see the silver lining in any cloud.
Although I did not realize it until recent years, I now know that clinically all of us need role models and exemplars to get well and remain healthy. We need inspiring examples to strive for wellness and fight off everyday sadness, melancholy, inertia, inaction, depression, and despair. We need memories of persons with sunny dispositions to be parked inside our heads.
Throughout my life and more recently as a federal official, I have been fortunate to have excellent mentors and family support, a love of recorded music, sparkling memories of Yosemite, and Ernie Banks’ exuberance to rebound from life’s challenges and setbacks.
While I’m deeply sad to report ‘Mr. Cub’ (as millions called him) died on January 23 - a week before his 84th birthday - for me Ernie Banks remains more than a baseball star with a cheerful personality. Mr. Banks’ memory is what I hope everyone enjoys in their life – a walking inspiration, a source of pride, and a healer – a personified pathfinder to get well.
Meanwhile, while MedlinePlus.gov does not feature health topic pages devoted to baseball stars, it certainly provides excellent information about health prevention and wellness. Some of the health topic pages devoted to health and wellness include: teen health, men’s health, women’s health, seniors’ health, Native American health, African American health, Hispanic American health, and Asian American health.
Within all of these health topic pages you will find information about disease prevention, treatment, symptoms/diagnosis, coping, and care. Most of the aforementioned sites include links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area often are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about each topic area as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
For example, to find MedlinePlus.gov’s senior health health topic page, just type ‘senior health’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘Seniors’ health (National Library of Medicine).’ Please follow a similar process to access all the other health topic pages I mentioned.
I also recommend healthfinder.gov, a comprehensive resource and gateway of information about prevention and wellness from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.
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