Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Before and After...A Beautiful Relationship...

Can you believe it?  My sister Ann just had another birthday which means that she is even older than she was already.

You know the main problem with a big sister getting older is that it follows that a little brother also is getting older. But I am not writing about being a little brother. I’m writing about Ann, my big and/or older sister. So forget the little brother aspect for now.
Ann was born in the last century. January 21, 1932, was the day Ann was born to the proud parents, Woodie and Annie Hamby. Now I will not reveal Ann’s age. When a lady reaches 78, she does not want it broadcast to the whole wide world. Thank you for understanding.

Back in those olden days, parents tended to name their children after famous successful personalities. Ann was named after my mother Annie. Ann’s middle name is Lowell after author James Russell Lowell.

By the same token I was named Winston Jennings Hamby. Winston was after Winston Churchill. Jennings, after William Jennings Brian. My dad was named Woodie Jefferson Hamby. Woodie, from Woodrow Wilson and Jefferson from Thomas Jefferson. My mother did not want me to have a strange name like Woodie Jefferson but she did want me to keep the same initials so she came up with Winston Jennings (not strange?) This theory did not work out for me as I have as yet to be a famous personality. But I digress so back to my big sister Ann.

Ann was my first baby sitter. At least I found a picture of her when she was five years old sitting with me when I was a one year old. So the proof is in the pudding or rather in the picture.

Actually while growing up I thought Ann hung the moon. However the Bible says that God made the sun, moon and stars so it is likely that Ann did not hang the moon. But I did look up to her and thought her to be a fine big sister.

I remember one time when I was selling Cokes and ice cream at the ball games at Stuart Stadium in Beaumont back in the 1940s. I had saved up about six dollars from my labors. Ann sneaked into my bedroom one day and hid the money. I knew she had hidden it but she would not tell me where it was. It seems that I had bragged a bit too much about how much money I had saved. I think that her hiding the money was her gentle way of telling me to “cool it.” But I got even. After she made her bed each morning, I would sneak into her bedroom and mess her bed up. This maneuver was designed to get Ann into trouble with our mom who wanted our beds made up every morning. However, mom was wise to my finaglings and put a stop to it. But I did get my six dollars back. Also I quit bragging about how much money I had saved.

Anyway I always used my money to buy Christmas presents for mom and dad and yes, even Ann. Ann like stuffed animals so usually I would get her one on appropriate occasions.

Ann and I have enjoyed a really great relationship over the years. I venture to say that not many siblings get along as well as Ann and I do.

Anyway Ann just turned 78 and it has occurred to me that most of our future is behind us. But allow me to say that having Ann as my big sister for all those years has prompted my fondest memories.

Ann, I love you and happy birthday.
Winston --

Winston Hamby

Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Longer New To Neuropathy...

January 1999 was a significant month for me. I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). I had never heard of PN. I could not pronounce it. I could not spell it. But I had it.

Symptoms included numbness in my feet, sometimes tingling or sometimes burning like walking barefoot on a hot sandy beach. Once in a while my calves got into the act, feeling numb, etc. Then tired feet and calves emerged. I felt like I had just walked 15 miles slightly uphill on pins and needles.

I first wrote about this on my web site in November 1999. You can find a lot of neuropathy information on the site at More than ten years since that diagnosis, I can state that the symptoms persist. However, I feel better because my medication is working.

I first began noticing numb toes in 1996. I told my wife that the 2nd and 3rd toes on each foot felt numb. I thought no more about it, figuring encroaching old age (I was 61) might be the culprit.

Then in 1998, the numbness eased from just toes to the entirety of both feet. Sometimes I could detect numbness in my fingers and even on my face, including the tip of my nose. We assumed I was experiencing pinched nerves in my back.

Off to the doctors I went, one at a time. My primary physician referred me to a neurologist who ordered a barrage of tests. I had a CAT scan, MRI and an EMG in addition to more routine tests to see if I was alive. The neurologist recommended back surgery as soon as possible even though he said my symptoms did not match his diagnosis. I went for a second opinion.

This next doctor was a neurosurgeon. I wasn't sure what a "neuro" was but I knew this doctor could remove it if I elected to go that route. I went through another series of tests including "iodine in the spine." This is my affectionate term for another "more distinct" MRI.

These doctors could find nothing wrong with my back. So I started over. I went to a brand new neurologist, but one that my family had known in years past.

This doctor did his own nerve conduction test (EMG) and told me that I had peripheral neuropathy. I told him that my first and only language was English. He explained about nerve damage due to numerous causes. Several additional tests ruled out diabetes and other common causes for PN. This left me diagnosed as having idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. Idiopathic means, “cause unknown.”

This doctor put me on a medication called Neurontin. I worked up to 800 mg four times per day. Dosages vary from case to case so PN patients should check with their doctors as to medication and dosage.

I located a great Neuropathy Support Group in Houston. We met every other month. We had speakers who were experts in areas of neuropathy. Then I joined the National Neuropathy Association. You can learn more about this organization at

I also found a great book on PN written by John A. Senneff. The title of his book is “Numb Toes and Aching Soles: Coping With Peripheral Neuropathy,” published by Medpress. I learned a great deal about PN from this book. See

I want to add that spouse support is vital. My wife has been by my side all the while. She has been a great help in so many ways.

In the past ten years I have learned a lot about peripheral neuropathy. And yes, I can spell it and pronounce it. And yes, I still have it.

Winston Hamby

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Chuggin' Right Along...

Here’s a bit of advice to the younger generations from this rather old man. I am only 74 and refer to that as “rather old” although I do not feel a day older than 73.

If you own a car that is in good shape, try keeping it for the next fifty years. Of course it does not need to be your basic vehicle. However, if you will keep it for half of a century, you should be able to sell it for a really good price. How do I know? Read on…

When I was a teenager living in Beaumont during the 1950s, there were old good-running Model A Fords for sale all over town. The going price averaged $75.00. I could have bought several. If I had kept them, I could sell them today for $25,000 to $50,000. In fact I could sell them for enough to retire.

One day in 1951, I saw a Model A pickup truck on sale for $75.00. It was located at a small business located on Railroad Avenue. That’s the street that had a train track running right down the middle.

I pulled into the parking area driving my dad’s old 1936 Dodge. You had to hold that Dodge’s floor gear shift in third gear with your hand. Some cogs were missing from third gear so if you did not hold it in place, it would jump into neutral.

Anyway, the owner of the Model-A said that I could drive it home to show my dad. You see, I was 15 years old and had a driver’s license but my dad would have to purchase the car as I was too young to transact the purchase of an automobile.

The windshield was cracked but when I started it up, the motor sounded good like an old Ford should. I pulled out to enter Railroad Avenue. There were some cars coming so I applied the brakes. Guess what? No brakes. I rolled right out into traffic with no hope of stopping that old car.

Actually the car had mechanical brakes but they were out of adjustment. Mechanical brakes were small cables that slowed the rear axle when you applied the brake pedal. The cables could be adjusted to work properly. However, if they were out of adjustment then it was like driving with no brakes at all. This incident is when I learned about mechanical brakes.

When I rolled out into the street, traffic stopped for me. I breathed a sigh of relief but was fearful of driving all the way to my house. I lived at 1375 Pipkin Street in South Park which was more than two miles away with lots of intersections and stop signs. So, carefully I made the block and returned to that parking area. I told the owner that I did not want to drive the old car home with no brakes. He said, “Well, for $75.00, what do you expect? It’s not a new car.” I climbed into my dad’s old 1936 Dodge and backfired out of there.

But recently I saw an ad on the internet. It read something like, “Model A Ford pickup truck for sale, $55,000. Runs like a top. Needs windshield.”

Could that have been the old Ford I tried to test drive? Probably not. Most of those old cars had cracked windshields because they did not have adequate shock absorbers. If you hit a well-defined pothole, the windshield would crack. In many instances you would have a flat tire as an added bonus.

So again, to the younger generations: Keep your cars. Someday you may be able sell them for in excess of $100,000.

I know because I did not do that.

Winston Hamby