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Category Archives: Health Care
Text by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2018
In 1998, I was getting migraines and excruciating jaw pain almost daily. In and out of the emergency room every other night with my mother not knowing what was happening to me. I felt like I was getting stabbed in the face. The doctor prescribed me Dilaudid pills three times a day and a muscle relaxer until they could figure out what was wrong with me.
After months of this back and forth the doctors finally determined it was a severe case of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. TMJ causes pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. It’s almost like having a herniated Jaw. The discs that separate the bone, muscle, and nerves so you can chew get pushed out of place. My mouth would get locked open and closed. I was to have surgery to re-align my bite. I also needed braces to shift my teeth into that position. At that time I was 15 in high school, Participated in tournament softball/ cheerleading, had friends, and a caring family.
Taking those pills I could not participate in sports or concentrate in class. I had fallen asleep so hard in class the one time, I woke up and there was no one left in the room. Teachers knew I was having surgery, was on all this medication, and left me there.
I dropped out of every sport after having the surgery. They had inserted a mouth piece which made it difficult to talk. I ate through a straw for about 6 months in 10th grade. A Liquid/soft diet, opiates, and muscle relaxers. I was 5’7 and 110 lbs then. I was tired, hungry and high. Sounds like an amazing combination for High school success right?
Being so young and in that kind of a fog was a really confusing time. I’d get myself into Saturday detentions, just to get suspended, so I could be at home and do the work there. The days did not count against me that way. I was tired from being high at school from my own prescription the doctor said I “needed” to take.
I was not alone in this though, I asked questions. My friends all had similar medications for things that did not require the strength of morphine or oxycontin to treat, all of us walking the halls of Upper Darby High School like zombies. Some of them ending up with way worse addiction problems and not finishing high school. I did manage to complete all of the work and get into Drexel University. Going to college saved my life. I went to school full time and I worked full time.
I have lost a 1/4 of my high school class to opiate/ heroin overdoses, jail time, or death .Raising your kids to believe marijuana was a gateway drug in the 90s was the most false accusation. It was your own medicine cabinet. Pharmaceutical companies writing long term opiate prescriptions addicting your children. In school districts that have 9-17$k school taxes, you’d think they’d have better drug education not abstinence programs. Fast forward16 years, their children are now being left behind. It’s truly heartbreaking.
Most recently, my little cousin was admitted to a rehab for a lot of the same substances. I can only hope that she will find it in herself to want to feel life again as well. Ask your friends questions if you think they are using. It will be uncomfortable, they may get mad, but at least you cared enough to let them know you are there. Feeling alone and isolated within your own family, friend circle, and co dependent relationships are just a few of the reasons they will continue to use.
Marijuana is legal in many states including Pennsylvania for medical use. I have a marijuana card for PTSD and chronic pain from an accident. As I stated in my first blog post, throwing all the pills away and feeling again was the realest statement of my life. I will happily use something natural that has no addictive qualities. Well, perhaps to the fridge. My friends know I can cook and they are happily around for my foodie adventures.
About The Author:
Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #25
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018
OLD AGE AND TAXES
Taxes: we all hate ’em, but we all pay ’em. Right? I’ve recently read an article about Sweden, where they’re getting rid of property taxes. They’ve reasoned that as long as the state can force you to pay property taxes, and take your property if you don’t pay them, no one can really own property. I’ve always felt that way. Once I buy and pay for something, it should be mine, period! Well, now it’s darned nice to find a country’s government agreeing with me.
I’ve watched too many poor rural people forced to sell homes and farms that have been in families for generations because of “yuppification” of rural areas and great increases in property taxes. And cities and towns are the same. Taxes on the house I bought in the early 90s are now more than five times what they were when I bought the place. To me, that’s just unreasonable. Of course, as long as I’m in prison I pay no taxes on property, but when I get out I’ll get a whopping bill for back taxes! A bill I sure won’t be able to pay.
The state, by prosecuting me, destroyed my thriving photography and writing business. I lost my studio and other things too numerous to count. When I get out I’ll have no business, no income. Sure, I’ll get Social Security, but that won’t be much, since I’ve been removed from the workforce for ten years. I don’t know how I’ll live, much less pay taxes. I hate to play the age card, but I’m 71 now. Maybe after a certain age people should be exempt from paying taxes. Or at least old people who are forced to try to live on Social Security and other government benefits. Is that unreasonable?
Unfortunately, the article I read didn’t say how Sweden plans to make this work. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more details.
When you think about it, property taxes are a throwback to the old feudal system where the king or lord owned everything and the serf paid dearly for the right to scrabble a living from a little plot of land. So long as the local government can take your property for nonpayment of taxes, you don’t own that property, they do!
I saw a more honest version of all this when I was in Malaysia. I asked one of our hosts how expensive it would be to buy property there, because I’d noticed that a lot of British retirees lived there (it used to be a British colony). She looked at me like I’d asked an incredibly stupid question, and explained that it is impossible to buy land there, because all belongs to the King. When she saw my puzzlement, she explained that you get a 99 year lease from the government or buy out an existing lease. Sounded very strange until I thought about it and realized that their system really isn’t that different, just more honest.
I loved Malaysia, and had considered retiring there before my legal nightmare began. Unless things have changed a lot since I was there, you can live well very cheaply.
In fact, I’d looked into several countries for inexpensive retirement locations. I bought two books: Living Abroad in Belize and Living Abroad in Costa Rica, and studied both. Belize has the advantage of having English as its official language, and a very English culture (it, too, used to be a British colony, British Honduras). But Costa Rica is home to a large expat American population, so both have their appeals. It would seem that I could live comfortably in either on my Social Security and the occasional writing or photography gig. If I ever get out of here, I’ll look into these options more seriously.
But back to taxes. In the years when I was running a portrait and wedding studio combined with a camera shop I was forced to collect sales tax. I hated that, because I had no desire to be a tax collector and considered being forced to a violation of the constitutional protection against involuntary servitude. One year, sick and tired of doing the state’s work for them at far below minimum wage, I sent them a bill for my services as a tax collector. Man, that got them upset! They sent me threatening letters, one after another. I just ignored them, and in time they stopped bothering me.
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348. Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonyward.com/bob-shell-car-reviews-in-a-photo-magazine/