Gary Coleman died today, and if you haven't said, "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" at least once in his honor, you just don't care.
It was an "intracranial hemorrhage" that ultimately claimed him at the tender age of 42, but if you can believe all the tabloid reports and your own eyes, life hadn't been a painless experience for Coleman in quite some time. I met him, briefly, many years ago; he was pleasant and seemed gracious enough, but you couldn't escape noticing the incredible sadness in his eyes.
You may also know that Gary Coleman fought a lifelong battle with kidney disease. He suffered from a condition known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, the illness that ultimately stunted his growth at 4-feet-8 and resulted in two kidney transplants during his life. At one point, it is said he needed four dialysis treatments a day in order to survive.
I guess I'm feeling particularly close to him today because of that. And I'm so very thankful that kidney care and dialysis technology has advanced so far in such a short time. I'm sure Coleman endured pain and misery that I can't possibly imagine because the science wasn't in existence to treat him better just a few decades ago.
This could be why some friends who haven't seen me in a while find it difficult to suppress their shock when they discover that I still look relatively healthy. Mentally, they may be using Gary Coleman as their template. I have a tremendous support network, from my wife, Karen, and my family, to the doctors at Carle Clinic and my amazing nurses at DaVita, all working to keep me looking and feeling this well.
We're not all that different, Mr. Coleman and me: both African American, both adopted, precocious kids born in the Midwest. I'm older, but we're of a generation. But life's a funny ol' dog, ain't it? I realize that Coleman's lot in life could just as easily have been mine. Diff'rent strokes, you know?
Rest well, Gary.