Laughter is the best medicine

The old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” is certainly true.

There have been amusing moments in my dealing with ALS, when laughter has erupted over the predicaments in which I have found myself.

We live in a rural area where electrical failures are frequent. It seems there is a tendancy for any tree limb within a hundred miles of our power lines to fall on them with impunity!

One night I could not sleep so I made my way with my walker to our recliner chair. My wife, Ruth, said, “I’ll take my cell phone to bed and put it under my pillow. Just call me if you need anything. I’ll feel the vibration if you call.” Now that’s an important part of the story, because she is totally deaf without her hearing devices. After about 30 minutes of TV I decided to lay out flat on the recliner and try to sleep. Within minutes all the lights went out, the TV screen went black, and I was laying prone on my back in a recliner controlled by an electric remote! I didn’t have the strength to sit up or to reach the manual lever to lift me into an upright position. I knew that a false move could land me on the floor. After 4-5 attempts to awaken Ruth with a phone call, I decided to try and slide down out of the chair. Then I could crawl to the closed bedroom door. And it worked! However, just then Ruth got up to get a drink, simultaneously electric power was restored, and  when she opened the door, Ruth asked incredulously , “What are you doing on the floor?!”

On another occasion I was exiting the bathroom with my walker. I had placed a trash can on the seat of the walker in order to empty it. I tripped on my way out and fell on my knees. When I did so my face landed in the trash can! I yelled for Ruth to come. “Lift my head out of the trash can,” I yelled. Being hearing deficient she thought she heard, “Pull the walker away.” She pulled—and I pulled in the opposite direction to keep from falling face down on the floor. The harder she pulled, the further down into the trash can my face went. Fortunately, our daughter who had come to visit for several days. ran to see what the commotion was.  She was able to lift me to a standing position, and we all had a laughable moment! I still can’t fathom how “Lift my head out of the trash can” can sound like ““Pull the walker away,” but, I’ve never had a hearing deficit.

When I first got the electric wheelchair I would steer it to my walker and allow it to stand me up vertically enough to grab the handles of the walker, and then use the walker to sit down in the infamous recliner. It was again late at night, Ruth had gone to bed, and we had the same ill-fated  agreement to call her iPhone if I needed her assistance. However, being a newbie with the electric chair, I didn’t realize how sensitive the steering joystick was. As I exited the wheelchair my arm inadvertently hit the joystick—the chair jumped forward, knocked me down, trapped one my feet under the chair, and the iPhone in my hand hit the tile floor and slid out of sight. Fortunately, I had the medical alert necklace around my neck and I was able to make a distress call. The volume of the medical response operator’s voice woke Ruth up.

There was a quilt on the recliner. I told Ruth to help me lay on the quilt and then drag me into the bedroom (why I thought that was necessary, I don’t know!). Once into the bedroom Ruth couldn’t get me up onto my knees. But just then someone began knocking on our bedroom window. It was a sheriff’s deputy who was responding to the medical alert. Both he and Ruth together lifted me up onto the bed. Within several minutes the EMS arrived. (The quick responses are amazing since our house is nine miles from the closest town.)

The EMS persons had pulled their vehicle right next to a metal sign in our driveway containing a replica rifle with the message, “WE DON’T CALL 911.”

13 Replies to “Laughter is the best medicine”

  1. Dr. Wackes, I was first graced with your humor, probably the first month of 5th grade at WA. I was a new student, sliding down the stair rails on my way back from orchestra. You were walking up, I saw you and tried (unsuccessfully) to hop off before you “caught me…and yet, my gracious headmaster just remarked, “You cleaning those for us?” To which I replied, “Yep!” And we both went along our way. (Mine, a bit more careful, I’m sure!) It stuck with me the rest of my career as a Lion.
    Your faithfulness was such a blessing for all us students to see day-in and day-out, and continues to be an example we can all learn from today.
    – Ashley (Morgan) Burton c/o ’02.


    1. Greetings, Ashley! Thanks for your comments. I suppose I made that quip from a heart and mind that believed there was not much difference between me and you, other than having lived in mmy body longer. Thanks for your encouragement!

      Ken Wackes


  2. Hillarious! Except it reads like an episode from Reader’s Digest, Real Life Drama: “The can that ate the man.”

    I’ll see if Boeing can develop an ejection-seat-recliner, so you can just point & shoot yourself all over the house.

    Ruth… she can’t hear, but at least she’s quiet in the kitchen.


  3. Ok, I think Alan and I are responsible for the 911 sign! I never dreamed it would be so hilarious! I know you have a lot of funny tales to tell, Big Brother, but you inherited I-Love-Lucy gene from your parents! I am amazed at your joyful spirit and thank our Heavenly Father for giving you that “gene” because of His faithful presence with you. Keep recording your happy memories! You make us all smile!


  4. Thanks for sharing these stories with us, Dr. Wackes! I’m tickled and inspired by your ability to find joy in the midst of difficulty. And I love the irony of the EMS parking by the gun sign! It caused me to recall a little medical incident I had recently. My fiance (Autumn) had bought me a shirt listing the atomic symbols Ge, Ni, U, & S left to right to spell out “genius.” It always made me a touch uncomfortable when I was aware of it, but that being said, I’m not very self aware at all and it was a veeery comfortable shirt. Anyway, one morning when everyone seemed to be sick but me, I tried to bolster my immune system with vitamin C and zinc–only, a few extra tablets fell into my hand and in my hurry I simply ingested all of them, thinking little of it. Well, it turns out that zinc poisoning is an actual thing, and man did I pay for that slip up; intestinal cramping, diarrhea, and explosive vomiting were the beginning of it. Anywhooo, it took me a while to figure out why the ER nurse thought my case of zinc poisoning was so comical. “That’s very insensitive of her,” I thought to myself. Shortly after I noticed my vomit-stained T-shirt, and i laughed too.

    With Thanks and Fondness,


  5. So glad to hear that you have not lost your sense of humor. I will never forget the day when I confided to you that someone shared with me how much she enjoyed your sermon that Sunday. She also shared that you really needed to get your dentures fixed because she had trouble understanding you. Well, I thought that was pretty funny until you told me that you had lost all your teeth due to beri-beri in New Guinea. Then this huge grin broke out on your face and I knew I had taken the bait, hook, line and sinker! Remembering that just put a big smile on my face and I hope on your face too! 🙂


  6. Haha! I love that last bit, “We don’t call 911.” You are so right, laughter is great medicine. I have found myself in funny situations and predicaments. I also can totally relate to your wife. Sometimes I hear weird things, or so I thought I heard, come out of people’s mouths. Thanks for sharing 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s