Jewish Journal

Schwarzenegger’s Kindest Un-Cut

by Ron Solomon

Posted on Jan. 1, 2004 at 7:00 pm

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't know it, but his recent gesture to reverse planned cuts for the disabled was the greatest memorial tribute to my brother, Danny. This week, we observed Danny's shloshim, the traditional 30 days after the death of a loved one.

Danny didn't have a political bone in his body. No lawyer ever represented him. He wasn't a member of any union, wasn't even able to work. He had no wife and no children to care for him. He was just one of the faceless, nameless disabled you walk by on your way to work or at the grocery store. But to us, and now to our governor, my brother was not faceless or nameless. He was a man with "special needs."

Danny didn't arrive in the City of Angels brimming with optimism like so many. He was forced here four years ago when our ailing mother in Connecticut could no longer care for him. It was an insurmountable adjustment for a 46-year-old with epilepsy, kidney cancer, malignant melanoma, some brain damage from prolonged use of anti-seizure medications and many social issues from periods of isolation. But Danny was able to live a life with dignity in our Golden State benefiting from many of the programs that escaped the guillotine recently. And we cannot settle for anything less for the thousands with special needs like Danny or worse.

Danny attended the Valley Storefront Adult Day Health Care Center in North Hollywood, a full-day care program where he received a nutritious and kosher lunch and badly needed medical attention and physical therapy.

He was a client of the North Los Angeles County Regional Center, which provided him with a devoted counselor and advocate and all the basic human services that the Lanterman Act says he has a right to.

He lived in an assisted-living facility, where he was given a private room and treated with respect. Prior to that, when he was physically able, he lived in a group home with five other men like him and a devoted caregiver.

Danny had the best medical care this city has to offer, including a top general practitioner, neurologist, nephrologist, oncologist and other specialists. And he could not pay for any of it.

He achieved a great deal of mobility with Access Paratransit, which thereby increased his contact with the outside world.

It was back in April that we received the news that Danny would finally encounter the ultimate disability, inoperable cancer of the liver. His death sentence was carried out seven months later. But, even in the process of death, he received fine medical care by the Cedars-Sinai Hospice Program, which is following up with counseling for my family to try to deal with this tragedy.

Danny Solomon died at the age of 50, with $20 in his pocket -- part of the $50 I had given him a few days earlier. That was the sum total of his estate. But the level of care that he received and the dignity that marked his final days are something every California resident should be proud of. Thank you, governor, in Danny's name and in his memory for the compassion you showed.  

Ron Solomon is executive director of the West Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

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