People We Know
Lawrence (Larry) Becker, Roanoke, Virginia, is the newest member of PHI’s Honorary Board. At its 2011 Strategic Planning Board Meeting, the PHI Board of Directors acknowledged his years of service to the organization by voting this unanimous designation.
Larry served on the PHI Board from 2001 to 2011 and served as its chair from 2006–2009. Throughout his tenure on the board, he was active in its strategic planning, fundraising and educational efforts.
His current major activity is finalizing his latest book, Habilitation, Health, and Agency, A Framework for Basic Justice, to be published this year by Oxford University Press. This is the fifth book that he has written in his chosen field of philosophy.
After completing his undergraduate degree at Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska, he received his doctorate in 1965 from the University of Chicago. He and his wife of 44 years, Charlotte Becker, co-edited two editions of The Encyclopedia of Ethics, a reference work by and for academic philosophers and their students.
He taught full-time at the university level from 1965–2001, first at Hollins College (now Hollins University), and then at the College of William & Mary. Since formally retiring in 2001, he has continued to work part-time in the graduate school at Hollins University.
Becker contracted polio in 1952 at age 13, and, except for a three-month experiment in 1955 without breathing assistance, has used nighttime ventilation ever since.
The Edouard Foundation recently acknowledged the exemplary life of Morton Freilicher by donating $5,000 in honor of his 80th birthday to support the activities of Post-Polio Health International.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Freilicher received his law degree from Columbia Law School as a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar eight years after he contracted polio at age 17, which left him with total paralysis in his right arm and partial paralysis in his left arm, neck and diaphragm.
During his professional career, specializing in trusts and estates, he was a partner in the New York-based law firm of Phillips Nizer LLP. He authored a book on estate planning and taught as an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School.
After retirement, Freilicher donated his services to the work of the Edouard Foundation, which supports disaster relief, medical care and research and aid to the impoverished throughout the world.
Due to the effects of polio, he has used nighttime ventilation for more than 25 years. He says he credits his continuing survival to “staying active, exercising my usable muscles, benefiting from the nighttime ventilator, a wonderfully loyal wife and plain old-fashioned good luck!”
Our readers will be saddened by news of the death of Dr. Tony Oppenheimer, who died of complications of multiple myeloma in November. Many of you knew Dr. Oppenheimer through his extensive email practice on respiratory matters related to neuromuscular disease, begun after he retired in 2000 as Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Southern California Kaiser Permanente Group. Others experienced Dr. Oppenheimer firsthand as their superb physician at Kaiser, while many of us knew him as a delightfully philosophical and engaging friend, colleague and mentor.
As a member of IVUN's Medical Advisory Committee, Dr. Oppenheimer provided thoughtful and comprehensive contributions to IVUN publications and careful review of its pulmonary articles. He worked diligently, but gently, to educate ventilator users and their families, to ensure that they became accepted as equal partners in the decision-making process about the use of assisted ventilation.
Dr. Oppenheimer understood the technology and the power of the Internet early on and utilized it to the fullest to educate other health professionals about assisted ventilation. His utmost concern about quality of life issues reflected his belief that users of long-term assisted ventilation at home could live the best possible life.
"Tony epitomized the patient-physician partnership through his work with people who use ventilators longterm in the home care setting. Tony was an 'R.D.' or 'real doctor,' balancing expert medical care with humor, generosity and compassion. He was also a true advocate for ventilator users," states Judith R. Fischer, who collaborated with him on several articles for respiratory care journals and for IVUN's quarterly newsletter, Ventilator-Assisted Living.
Richard Daggett, President of the Polio Survivors Association, Downey, California, whose association enjoyed Dr. Oppenheimer's talks on post-polio respiratory problems, says, "Polio survivors have lost a good friend. Dr. Oppenheimer provided us with valuable, often life-saving information about pulmonary issues. He was always accessible and generous with his time. He will be missed, both personally and professionally."
David Ronfeldt agrees. "As Dr. Oppenheimer's patient since 1979, I found Dr. Oppenheimer (I usually called him 'Chief') to be an excellent doctor, skilled at my post-polio respiratory issues, and a fine, sturdy, positive fellow to be around. He was always interested in what else was going on, and always ready with an engaging smile. He listened, he cared, he advised sensibly, he never stopped learning, and at crucial moments he took extra steps that turned out to matter."
Ismail Tsieprati, who has ALS and has used tracheostomy positive pressure since 1990, and his wife Cheryl remember "Dr. Oppenheimer's deep love for people and how he took joy and pride in the success and well-being of others. He loved to help others and never stopped giving of himself - the greatest humanitarian we have ever known. He touched our lives profoundly, and we'll always be grateful for the excellent care, the encouragement, the hope and the support he gave us throughout the years. The world has lost a great man. We have lost a dear friend."
Professionally, Dr. Oppenheimer was Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA's School of Medicine. He was also a member of the California Thoracic Society, the American Thoracic Society and a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Chest Physicians.
In March, Gertrud Weiss, Honorary Board member of Post-Polio Health International, received the German Award of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) from Federal President Johannes Rau for her service to polio survivors.
The Bundesverdienstkreuz is the sole state award of merit given by the Federal Republic of Germany.
Gertrud was very active in the Bundesverband Polio e.V in its early development and wrote two books and numerous articles about the late effects of polio to help spread the word in Germany. Regrettably, Gertrud died in April, 2004, just prior to her 84th birthday.
On March 16, 2004, Ira Holland died in his own home with his own personal assistants around him. Ira is survived by his family of friends that includes Maria A. Manrique, a person who played a significant role in his life for more than 20 years; Ed Litcher, who became more of a brother than a friend; Margo and John, friends who shared the 1960s and the years beyond; Michael, who gave good counsel, even when he didn't listen; his personal assistants - Ibeth, Susana, Tamara - and many others; each member of his family that he was close to; and all of the physicians, associates, and fellow disabled people with whom he worked. As a colleague and friend wrote upon hearing the news, "We are all a little more alone now."
Ed Litcher said, "The lessons we can draw from Ira's life will depend upon the parts we see. He was a disabled man living and loving in the community. He was an advocate who cared about the independence and empowerment of people with disabilities. He was a friend, a neighbor, and a mentor to many, but I think that the basic lesson we can all draw from his life is that life is to be lived. Find your path and attack. As Ira himself said, 'All things are possible.' "
Ira bequethed $15,000 to IVUN "solely to disseminate information about portable ventilators."