A bit of explanation

By Bill and Douglas Taylor

It seems to me that for most of the past two decades, one of the greatest pleasures of my father, Bill Taylor’s, life was writing his “It Seems To Me” columns. (Readers, I hope you’ll forgive my borrowing his stock phrase this one time.)

I couldn’t tell you how many conversations he and I have had over the years that started with the words “Did you read my latest column?” or “I have a neat subject for another column.” He was constantly on the lookout for new topics to write about and new ways to treat old ideas. He covered current trends, his “puzzlements,” the military, local politics, national politics, memories of times past, and of course, gardening. And he often mentioned his Sweetheart for Life, my mother, Barbara Taylor, or “Beebe,” as he always called her.

In going through his personal effects after his death last December, I came across an unpublished column entitled “A bit of an explanation,” apparently written sometime in fall 2021. In it he speaks frankly of his medical struggles over the last year of his life. He expresses hope that he would be able to produce occasional columns in the future, but sadly, his health never recovered enough to permit him to resume writing.

I know that one of my father’s few unfulfilled “bucket list” items was to publish a newspaper column at the age of 90. Since he turned 90 years old four days before his death, I hope that by presenting this column today, I will be helping to grant that particular wish.

One of dad’s greatest talents was his ability to write things that other people like to read, and I truly believe that producing a weekly column here in the Xenia Daily Gazette and Fairborn Daily Herald brought no small measure of joy and meaning to his life. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

So here is the last column from Bill Taylor …

It seems to me that I owe readers an explanation for my hiatus. That’s a four dollar word meaning “a break in an ongoing sequence of activities,” which in this case meant an unbroken string of over 19 years in which this column has appeared in this newspaper. The short answer is that over the past six months or so I have suffered multiple, separate, major medical conditions that have resulted in surgeries, hospitalizations, and long-term home care. I am now partially recovered to the point that I hope to resume writing occasional columns.

One of these conditions I somehow acquired is a very rare disease, an autoimmune disorder called “pemphigoid,” that occurs in only about 20,000 cases yearly in our country’s population of some 340,000,000 people and most often affects the elderly. I don’t know what the odds are of getting this illness, but it’s mighty small so physicians hardly ever encounter it. In my case, identification required several weeks. In addition, this disease, although not contagious, is not curable although it may be treatable if identified early enough.

Adding to the peculiarity of this ailment are the symptoms. These consist of blisters that pop up anywhere on the body such as legs, arms, buttocks, and even in the mouth. These blisters may occur singly or in clusters and range in size from a fraction of an inch to an inch in diameter. Regardless, these blisters fill with fluid and then break open leaving open, painful sores that take considerable time to heal and leave scars. I have been under treatment for this debilitating disease for some months now and have lost 30 pounds. The prognosis is favorable although I will never be “cured.”

This, however, is not the whole story. During the early stages of pemphigoid I developed a bladder condition that required my going to the local hospital emergency room. Unfortunately, this facility was not equipped to handle the problem and I was transported to another hospital where I underwent a supra-pubic catheter procedure. This amounts to inserting a hollow flexible tube into the bladder through a cut in the abdomen, a few inches below the belly button to drain urine from the bladder. The urine drains into a plastic bag that is fastened to the leg or another external container. I now have such a catheter which will require my continuous use from now on.

So at this point I was facing two medical conditions which by themselves were quite enough for this old guy to handle, but that turned out not to be the case. One of the procedures in identifying and determining the treatment for the pemphigoid disease required a process at a third hospital. During this procedure my esophagus was punctured. Having it functional is critical and requires immediate corrective measures. In my case a “feeding tube,” which is still in place, was inserted through my abdomen wall and into my stomach and provides a means for getting nourishment and liquid into my body. I spent 10 days recovering in that hospital before being discharged to home care — which is being provided by my son, Brian, who did the same 24/7 care for his mother, my Sweetheart for Life, during her final days.

Well, there you have it — a brief summary of why I have been unable to write my columns for the past few months. There are two reasons I have written this. First, a surprising number of readers have urged me to write this little tale as an explanation of my sudden departure after nearly 20 unbroken years of my little essays. The second is as an alert to seniors about pemphigoid which, although rare, may strike the elderly with strange symptoms that may be overlooked or misinterpreted. I figure either reason is sufficient for this effort.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill and Douglas Taylor

Bill Taylor was a long-time columnist for Greene County News in Ohio.

Bill Taylor was a long-time columnist for Greene County News in Ohio.