|B A R E L Y B A D W E B S I T E|
Mark Emmett Manning
Unlike almost everywhere on this Web site, on this page I mean to be serious pretty much continuously. This page is about Mark Manning, someone I've known since 1995 and whom you might want to learn about.
My friend, Mark Manning, was born into quite a family, the third of eleven children, on December 6, 1950.
On May 28, 1968, when he was a rash 17-year-old, he made a life-changing mistake by diving into a too-shallow lake, injuring his spinal cord at the C5 level, and ending up in an electric wheelchair for life. After years of medical and surgical efforts, and a great exertion of will and determination over pain and desperation, Mark Manning has overcome his tragedy and transformed it into something wonderful.
This all happened long before I met him in 1995, when we lived in the same townhouse complex in Merriam, Kansas, and I happened to come to a stop next to him at the exit from the complex. We were both waiting for traffic to clear, me on my motorcycle and him in his electric wheelchair, and I said something bland like, "Hi, where'ya goin'?" and he said something like, "I'm going down to the path to look for chickadees. What about you?"
We chatted for a few moments more, and the traffic cleared, and off he went to the right and off I went to the left, and I didn't think about Mark Manning again till a couple days later when a neighbor I was chatting with saw him roll by and waved, and Mark came over, and it turned out the neighbor knew him, which for some reason surprised me. (Boy howdy, how should that ever not have surprised me.)
The three of us chatted awhile, and I started to see Mark Manning a little differently. He was still mostly some random guy in an electric wheelchair whose left arm didn't work and whose right arm barely did, but he was a little less that and a little more a pleasant human being. I learned that he spent a lot of time wandering around the neighborhood observing wildlife and trees and flowers, and birds in particular.
At a third brief chance meeting we decided to take a "walk and roll" together. We travelled along a portion of the nearby Turkey Creek nature trail for maybe an hour, and I discovered he is not only a pleasant person, he is charming and thoughtful and easy to talk to.
He is, to me and many other people, not just above average but admirably so. He doesn't try to be worthwhile, he just is.
For one thing, Mark has this way of attracting amity that's almost magical. I know it worked on me. If you're an acquaintance of Mark's you know what I mean. If you're a friend of Mark's you probably wish you'd met him sooner. Mark is sincerely charming.
I enjoy proposing a bet with a group of people when we go to places with crowds, such as ball games and malls. The deal is that everyone in the group kicks in a dollar and whoever first sees someone he or she knows wins the pot. The first time I did this with Mark Manning we had gone to a huge outdoor barbecue event. We agreed on the bet, and I lost within about two minutes. During the next three or four hours I saw exactly one person I knew. Mark Manning saw perhaps two dozen. We could hardly go more than ten minutes before someone would hail Mark and they'd get together and converse for a while (and we got a lot of free food this way). A couple times Mark was chatting with one such person or family when yet someone else would see him and wander over and more or less wait in line to talk to him.
Mark and I have taken three road trips together, me driving a fast convertible (in one case a really fast convertible thanks to Athelene's generosity) and him strapped into the passenger seat. On one such trip we were maybe a hundred miles away from Kansas City, tooling down some random back road out in farm country. Up ahead we saw a guy standing at an easel painting an old barn en plein air across the road. Yep, Mark knew him.
Mark and I have spent a lot of time together. Once or twice a month we get together, hop in his chair-lift van, and go do something, usually with lunch in there. The timing works out great in that Mark has been made ready and he's in his chair by10:00 or so, and he doesn't need to be back till 6:00 or so. Often we precede that with a walk on the Edelweiss nature trail. Although Mark is comfortable with silence, he almost always has something interesting to say.
Mark has a way of focusing on you and really listening to you and caring about what you say, no matter who you are or what you have to say. He is invariably polite and decorous. Despite his many accomplishments, he is invariably humble; unless it happens to come up or you think to ask, Mark does not brag about his successes and his talents, and I'm sure there are several even I do not know about, and might never.
The main reason Mark and I hang out is to talk to each other, or at least that's my main reason. It is inconvenient for me or anyone else who goes out with him into the world to deal with the chair lift and help him enjoy food and so on, but that is as nothing compared to his company in conversation. Mark has a way of explaining things that immediately makes you trust him. He has a way of listening that immediately makes you trust him.
Mark enjoys talking about religion with me, which suits me peachily. One reason Mark is so useful to talk to about religion is that he really knows his Bible. He has read it all many times, and he has a lot of the good parts memorized. If you ask him to tell you the story of Noah, he can do that. If you ask him to compare Christianity with Judaism, he can do that. He can quickly assemble his thoughts and his knowledge and compose the information in his head into a coherent, well-thought-out explanation that makes sense, that's easy to follow.
Not surprisingly, Mark is good at telling jokes and stories, of which he is full of many. I remember telling B, at that time my 8-year-old, that one reason it's bad to tell lies is that when you do tell the truth people might not believe you. Several times I told her what I thought was the story of the boy who cried wolf. Then I had Mark tell her the same story, just to try to get it to sink in deeper. He ad-libbed a really good version, and B sat rapt at his wheels listening. You could see her brain going into high gear for a while, and then she looked at me and said, "Johnny, next time tell it that way."
In the same way Mark gets along with adults, so does he get along with children. Indeed, the set-piece jokes he tells are always suitable for children. I've never heard him tell a dirty joke, although he has laughed at the few I've told him. I think the reason Mark's humor is G-rated has to do with his religion.
As I say, Mark and I have spent many, many hours over the years discussing religion in general and Christianity in particular. Much of our time in these conversations, these debates, is spent with my asking questions and his giving answers.
This arrangement, rather than the other way around, is lucky for me. As I see it, if two people disagree on something and they discuss and debate it till they agree that one of them was right all along and the other was wrong all along, the one who was right all along gets only the puny satisfaction of being right, whereas the loser gains much more: The "loser" learns something. The loser learns that he had been holding, and perhaps even espousing, a mistaken belief and that he should stop that.
As I say, my conversations with Mark are mostly my learning from him. I guess I am being selfish or that Mark is being selfless, which is just like both of us.
One time in the midst of a far-ranging conversation Mark asserted -- and eventually convinced me -- that mainstream reporters are more liberal and less religious than the average person. He asked me to explain the difference, and after thinking about it for a while I opined that reporters are better-educated than the average person. I was impressed when Mark not only didn't disagree, he grudgingly agreed that was kind of the reason he had in mind too. Mark is unafraid of any truth, and he has helped make me unafraid of any truth.
It so happens that for some reason I am better than average at debate, and the result is that I am all the time catching people in logical fallacies, which I know can be irritating when I do it out loud. But Mark is never irritated when I point out such problems. (The Christmas gift he gave me in 2008 was the hardcover version of a book titled CROSS-X by Joe Miller, which is about a remarkable high school debate team.) When Mark is uncertain, whether about the facts or the logic, he admits it himself, which right there makes him unusual. Indeed, he actively searches for reasons he might be wrong. Too many people when faced with a contradiction hide their heads in the sand or run away in exasperation. Mark is the opposite. Mark has a lot of what more people, certainly including me, should have more of.
Mark has intellectual courage. He is reckless and utterly vulnerable when it comes to pursuing the truth where it leads. If it looks like his argument is turning toward a dead-end alley, a contradiction, he still pursues it with me to see where it goes. The truth, to Mark, is the truth, and for someone so religious that is sometimes difficult, which is why I say Mark has intellectual courage. It takes courage to face the possibility you're wrong about something and have been for a long time, especially if you espouse it. Some people simply are intellectually incapable of imagining being that wrong for that long, but Mark is not one of those people. He can imagine it easily and freely, without fear.
By the way, I don't want to suggest Mark isn't as good at forensic debate as I am. He is very good. He remembers the facts and the logic from ten minutes or ten days ago. He rarely loses track of all the directions the discussion has taken, and he never lets me get away with anything. But our debates, our conversations trying to reach agreement on which of us is right about something such as the reliability of radiographic dating, are never heated. Mark always lets me finish my thought because he's courteous and attentive, and I always let him finish his because I want to hear everything he has to say. We've gotten very good at conversing, and I imagine many other people experience Mark the same way, or should.
The most obvious benefit of recognizing all the many logical fallacies is that you're less likely to believe that which is false, i.e., you won't be tricked into believing something you shouldn't. Another obvious benefit is that you're more likely to catch your debate opponent when he violates the laws of logic. But a less obvious benefit is that you can present your opponent with a carefully selected logical fallacy and hope he doesn't catch on. If he doesn't you can "win," although it's winning by telling a lie. I've done this many times with many people over the years, whether for good or ill, and you probably have too, but I never want to try it with Mark. And Mark never does it with me.
As an example, once we were discussing the parting of the Red Sea that allowed the Israelites to escape the pursuing Egyptian army, as in Exodus. Mark said he had read something recently that offered scientific evidence that the parting and the later un-parting could have occurred if certain tides and meteorological conditions had coalesced just right. I gently warned him that he should not pursue that strictly scientific explanation because if it turned out to be the truth then that would directly contradict the bible's assertion that the parting occurred because of a miracle directed by Moses using God's omnipotence. Mark immediately recognized the contradiction, and he had the grace to thank me. This is just Mark's way.
Mark wants to track down truth rashly and honestly, wherever it goes. Mark is just an all-round peach to converse with and to debate against.
This is a very brief history of Mark's sojourn from May 28, 1968, the day of his diving accident, to today.
From the accident scene Mark was taken by ambulance to Providence Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. He was transferred to KU Medical Center a few months later, where he met fellow patient Vic Cook, about whom you can read more from here. From KUMC Mark went to the Mid-America Rehabilitation Hospital, where he met orderly Lou Bartholome.
Half a year after his accident he finally returned to his home, and for many years thereafter he endured many major and minor medical interventions -- procedures and tests and surgeries and lots of rehabilitation and physical therapy.
Mark moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1985, where he earned his college degree and, not surprisingly, spent a lot more time enduring more rehab and PT and more procedures large and small, including several in-patient stints at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado.
In 1994 Mark moved back to the Kansas City area, moving into a basement apartment in his mother's townhouse in Merriam, Kansas. Needless to say, Mark has since then undergone yet more surgeries and other procedures.
Being quadriplegic is bad for one's health.
We all know people who complain about having the sniffles, and they go on and on about how terrible it is for the whole five days it lasts. Or even people who break a leg and need surgery and they never do walk quite right and can't play racquetball or even darts for the rest of their lives and they really let you know about it. And maybe that's OK.
But that is as nothing compared to being insensitive to feeling below your shoulders and paralyzed therebelow except for one arm, which is Mark's current condition. A spinal cord injury as high up as C5 (the 5th Cervical vertebra) pretty much eradicates your body below the shoulders.
Obviously if you are paralyzed from the shoulders down as Mark is, you cannot walk or stand or propel a wheelchair or get into or out of that wheelchair, or even sit up or lie down or even crawl an inch no matter how much you need to or how hard you try.
You know this will be true for the rest of
Not only can you never have sex again, you can never hug anyone ever again. Not only can you not enjoy a back rub, you can't give one. Not only can you not enjoy a bowel movement, you can't pick your nose. Not only do you not go out in the rain lest your wheelchair fail, you can't traverse a single stairstep up or down anywhere in the world in that wheelchair without help. Not only can you not get into or out of bed, you can't even roll over in bed.
Because you are always either in a bed or in a wheelchair, you have to worry about pressure sores, also known as bed sores, which are potentially serious, even fatal, lesions on the skin.
The famous San Francisco-based lawyer Melvin BELLI, known as the King of Torts, once prosecuted a civil case in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago, and I attended the closing argument because I was nearby anyway and I wanted to see him in action. Belli's client, an auto mechanic, had been crushed by a vehicle falling off a hydraulic car lift, rendering him a paraplegic (meaning that unlike Mark he had the use of his arms and hands). In the portion of the closing during which Belli was asking the jury to award a lot of money damages rather than a little, I was surprised by how little time he spent discussing the awfulness of being unable to stand or walk or kick a ball or move anywhere without a wheelchair. I thought he would describe in detail all the things his client would never again be able to do, vital things so many of us take for granted. Instead Belli spent more than half of that portion of his closing discussing just one particular aspect of why it's bad to be a paraplegic. You guessed it: Bedsores. Bedsores are a much bigger deal than I thought before I heard Belli describe all of his client's past and expected future problems because of them.
If you are developing such wounds you can't tell, as Mark never can, because you have no sensation there. And Mark's situation is significantly worse than the mechanic's, because so much more of his body is all the time resting against a surface, and because he can't move himself around, and because he can't check himself out with his hands or a mirror.
Here's another example, as if you needed more, of why being insensitive to pain is so bad. Because Mark so often feels chilled at normal temperatures, he sleeps with a small electric heater on a stand pointed at his head, except that one night in late September of 2007, unbeknownst to Mark, somehow his arm and the heater came too close together for much too long, with the result that he sustained a serious burn injury to the back of his right elbow that required a lot of professional medical attention -- wound care, it's called -- over a several weeks. I took the picture at right a few days after the injury because Mark wanted to see what it looked like.
If you're sleeping and I sneak up and hold a candle a few inches below your arm, you're going to wake up in about one second and reflexively jerk your arm away. Whether you then reflexively smack me in the face for doing that to you is another matter, but the point is that quads such as Mark can't feel that their bodies are being injured, which is almost always bad.
Mark has to spend a lot of time and effort making sure he hasn't sustained an injury or suffered some other pathological condition that he can't see or feel. For example, many times a week Mark travels a few feet forward in his chair from the inside of his chair-lift van to a platform that then lowers the chair to the ground. The opening is so narrow that if his left foot happens to be pointed outward, a condition he can't see or feel, it can get hooked behind a steel strut as the chair moves forward and fracture one or more bones in his foot or his ankle or his leg, no doubt with significant internal bleeding, which is also a condition he couldn't see or feel.
If you are stung by a honeybee -- or if you are bitten by a cottonmouth, for that matter -- you're going to know it right away. Mark has to wait for someone to examine his body, which might not be for a couple days. Imagine not knowing that a little laceration you sustained has gotten infected and is festering.
Mark lives every single day, and especially every single night, with a lot of reasonable fears of dangers that many able-bodied people never consider. Imagine how seriously you would take the outbreak -- while you're trapped in bed and all alone for hours at a time -- of a fire that able-bodied people could extinguish in a matter of seconds.
Try this experiment. First, sit or lie down. Now, for the next 60 seconds hold your body still. Keep everything from your shoulders down motionless except that you can move your right arm some, but not the wrist or fingers. Use that time to imagine all the things you can't do for the next 22 million minutes.
Mark has endured the life you tried to imagine for 42 years so far, and for the whole 15 years I've known him he has never once expressed any need for pity or even sympathy. I have never heard him complain.
This awes me.
You would think that a quadriplegic would be severely limited in what he could do, and you'd be right, but Mark is exceptional. Mark gets out of bed every day his body lets him, he is dressed, he is moved into his chair, and then he does stuff.
Quadriplegic Mark spends a considerable amount of time rolling along the nearby Streamway Parks nature trail observing the plethora of nature thereon. But he observes it with quiet intensity, and then he studies up on his observations. He's become an amateur expert on the zoological and botanical sciences applicable to that trail, which makes him a good travelling companion thereon. He can name pretty much every tree on the Edelweiss path. He can name pretty much every flower on that path. And he can name pretty much every bird anywhere near that path. He can name birds just by their songs. He can even make some of them for you. He knows about their life cycles and their myriad odd little facts and their migration patterns and exactly what colors they are.
The photo at right shows Mark playing mouth harp on the nature trail.
Quadriplegic Mark appreciates music as much as I do, which is a lot, and we talk about it easily. If you think about it, there aren't many instruments a quadriplegic can play, but you shouldn't be surprised that Mark is not only taking lessons from the renowned instructor Tulsa Reed but also giving performances on the harmonica. He can go on as long as you ask him, which I have done, about how a C harmonica differs from a G harmonica and clefs and pitches and other aspects of music theory that, frankly, baffle me. And he attends all sorts of live musical events in the Kansas City area. And Mark and I go to sports events (and I can tell you that we always get good seats).
Quadriplegic Mark has travelled to Alaska, where his brother Terry and his brother Terry's wife Teri live. And to complete the set, he has travelled to Hawaii. And he has travelled to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is apparently somewhere in or near Ireland and which apparently isn't all that easy to kiss even if you're able-bodied.
Quadriplegic Mark knows a lot about a lot of things. He's not only up on current events, he knows a lot of history. One thing I still can't figure out is how he knows so much about various places all across Kansas City. He and I travel together in his van a fair amount and we rarely go to the same place twice, and he almost always knows more than I do about those places. "Hey, Johnny, that's where Walt Disney spent part of his childhood." "Around the next bend is the eternal flame for John F. Kennedy." "Did you know there's a regular street sign in the middle of that field showing where 12th Street and Vine was?"
Quadriplegic Mark has skied down a mountain and swum in swimming pools. Quadriplegic Mark has rafted on river rapids.
And when his body occasionally won't let him get into his chair on a given day, he spends that bedridden time improving himself and taking care of business rather than, say, watching TV all day. He lives life well and fully.
One way Mark's bedridden life has been improved considerably is by computers and the Internet. Always a forward thinker, Mark foresaw how valuable such a connection could be, and through a lot of trial and error he and his handy family members and friends figured out various ways for Mark to be able to use a computer and get online.
Keep in mind that Mark can't operate the wrist or finger muscles of his good hand, which means in his case that he has to try to line up the middle knuckle of the pinkie finger of his right hand and then more or less drop it onto a key he wants to type. Imagine how often he makes mistakes, and how much time he spends correcting them compared to you or me typing an emial or a text. Imagine having to type a long and complex URL this way without a single mistake.
And in order to operate the touchpad of his laptop, he has to maneuver that cursor to some pretty small places sometimes, for example, to try to hit a tiny Close box icon without missing and hitting the tiny Minimize box. And keep in mind that not only cannot Mark operate his fingers, he can't feel anything with them either. Imagine how often he swipes or clicks in the wrong place and has to go back and try again compared to you or me. Imagine how many times you operate a keyboard with one hand and a touchpad or a mouse with the other, such as Shift-select; Mark can't do that. Imagine how much patience you'd need, and how tired the few working muscles in your upper arm and shoulder would get, just to type this one paragraph.
Despite these limitations Mark has gotten computers and the Internet figured out. He has embraced all the utility the Internet offers, and he uses it to the full. He installed a camera outside the door to his apartment so he could see who's calling and whether to buzz them in. His room is even computerized; from his computer he can turn on and off any of the lights in his apartment, which if you think about it is pretty handy when you want to go to sleep.
Mark is not just active, he is accomplished.
I don't mean he's accomplished for a quadriplegic, I mean he's accomplished for anyone.
In 1984 he graduated from Metropolitan State College in Denver with a bachelor of arts degree in Art History. While there he participated in the world-renowned Irish Debate Series.
Mark teaches classes in various subjects, and he speaks to classrooms and at seminars. He even teaches nieces and nephews and family friends in exchange for housekeeping services. Think about that.
In 2006 he produced and wrote and almost single-handedly presented as the speaker a six-lesson class attended by many dozens of people at a nearby church, including me. (Also, this is where Mark met Vicki Lind, his assistant cum wife.)
He gives art lessons to novices, and he takes art lessons from experts such as Mark Weber and Crandall Vail.
One of Mark's most significant accomplishments is his body of art work. He began painting in 1973, five years after his accident, and he hasn't stopped. Art has been an important part of Mark's life since then. Here are just some examples.
● In the 1970's and early 80's Mark's paintings were the subject of numerous one-man shows. These shows were not only exhibits and sales of his artistic creations but also festive, annual weekend events enjoyed by hundreds of guests.
● Mark was the subject of an article in the Kansas City Star Magazine of October 15, 2000. Well, not just any old article -- the cover story.
● Speaking of covers, in 1994 Mark's portrait of the U.S. Capitol was chosen for the cover of the Very Special Arts national calendar. He later served on the board of directors for Very Special Arts Colorado, a state chapter of the national organization founded by Jean Kennedy Smith for the promotion of the arts in the lives of physically challenged children.
● Mark's exhibit at the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library drew both local and national attention resulting in a segment featuring his life and paintings on a national television program on TBS.
● One of his specialties is painting houses on commission. Working from photographs, sometimes accompanied by an on-site visit, he carefully sketches and then even more carefully paints remarkably detailed renditions of people's houses that portray them not only accurately but with feeling. People who hire Mark to do these paintings pretty much always fall in love with them. Mark has been commissioned to produce artistic works for local businesses as well as dozens of portraits of private residences in Wyandotte County and Johnson County, Kansas, as well as Grosse Point, Michigan; Beverly Farms, Massachusetts; Bay St. Louis, Mississippi; and Keller, Texas, as well as many in the Denver area. You can see one here.
Let me interrupt this list of Mark's accomplishments in the art world by explaining how difficult it is for him to paint.
Because of his extreme bodily limitations Mark can sketch and paint only by attaching a specially made device to his good hand. An example of an early version is shown at right. The elastic lanyard is so Mark can grab the knot in his teeth and tear away the Velcro to release the device from his hand, but once it's removed he can't replace it by himself. A pencil or a paint brush can be fitted into the tube at the upper right, and by dint of great effort born of dedication he can somehow manage to paint art.
No matter how many hands you have and how well they work, there're a lot
of different physical activities taking place. In order to paint a
watercolor you start by sketching lines with a pencil or something.
And you want those lines to be pretty light in case they would show in the
"The watercolor medium is great because you can add and remove paint at will, and even change color by layering over several washes of compatible colors. Watercolor paintings usually look fresher and more appealing, though, when the artist is skillful enough to get the effects he wants without many revisions. Mark's way. His paintings are not only technically well-executed but they are also appealing as realistic depictions of nature."
One of his early oils, though, has a good story behind it. Mark painted a stark and striking seascape with the sun casting distinct reflections onto a body of water through clouds, and only after he had finished and framed and hung it did someone point out to Mark that one of those reflections, the biggest one by far, looked quite a lot like Jesus walking on water. It's one of those pareidolias where, once it's pointed out to it, your brain can't help turning randomness into something you recognize, in this case Jesus wearing a hooded, full-length robe and walking from right to left on water or a sandbar or something. It's more interesting because of Mark's strong interest in Jesus. It has been titled "Son on Water."
The image shows only the crucial part of the entire painting (which also shows quite plainly, once you see them, the numeral 3 above the numeral 2 in the reflection just below Jesus below the sandbar).
You can see another pareidolia in a watercolor of Mark's titled "Creek Peek," shown at left, which I happen to own because Mark gave it to me.
Or at least I can.
Just to the right of center, all in the upper half, you can see from behind and a bit to the left a female bending over at the waist. You see her calves and the two dark popliteal areas and a shocking bit of thighs, and she's wearing a sort of cavegirl skirt that sweeps past her right buttock.
Mark's favorite subject is nature.
As I mentioned, Mark and I travel slowly together a lot. The single most frequent thing we do together is walk in nature, in the out of doors, in the woods, wherever there is a trail his chair can go on (and a few it probably shouldn't). And the most frequent nature trail we stroll is what I referred to above as "the Edelweiss path." It's the stretch of the Turkey Creek Streamway Parks Nature Trail that runs from 75th Street north to 67th Street in Merriam, Kansas, just west of the railroad tracks and I-35. It's called the Edelweiss Path by locals because some of it abuts land owned by the Edelweiss Homes Association, where Mark lives (and where I lived, two houses away, from 1992 to 2005).
The nature trail continues north past 67th to another car entrance just south of Shawnee Mission Parkway, where there's a playground. The third leg ends at Johnson Drive, and the trail continues north from there past the Merriam farmer's market.
Mark spends a lot of time on that path, particularly the Edelweiss portion north to 67th, many times setting off by himself, and it's just about perfect for him. It's close by, and it's all paved, and it really is a lovely stretch of nature, what with the adjacent creek and the bounteous variety of trees and flowers and birds and other wildlife. And although Mark might set off by himself, he is rarely without friends and acquaintances on that part of the path, because, as you now know, he makes friends so easily.
In late 1995 that selfsame Edelweiss Homes Association began debating whether to install an asphalt ramp to connect the nearest street on Edelweiss property down a considerable hill to the path. The campaign was led by long-time resident Bob Whitten, who was an all-round good guy and not just a friend but a champion of Mark's. Reasonable arguments were made that that obvious new path from public to private property would encourage trespassing and maybe even crime, especially near the upper terminus. And if members of the public thought it was OK to enter the path from Edelweiss, overcrowded parking could become a problem.
At right is a scan of what the July 1996 edition of the homes association's newsletter, The Edelweiss Echo, which I wrote, concluded on the subject:
It was known that Mark frequently rolled down to the path to observe nature and interact with people, and for many months he had to go a really long way around if the grass was the least bit slippery, even if only with the ever-enchanting but no less wet morning dew.
Imagine tipping over in your electric wheelchair. You can't brace for the impact, you can't protect your head no matter what your instincts and your reflexes tell you, and you're probably going to hit hard because your chair weighs a lot.
And even if by sheer luck you aren't injured, if you're Mark you won't know that because you can't feel most of your body, and you're going to worry that some of your special plumbing has ripped loose or that your leg is gashed open and bleeding like a fire hose and that you're minutes away from dying. You're going to worry a lot that your right arm has been so damaged that it too no longer works, which means you can't use a fork or paint or type or answer the phone or operate your wheelchair with it. Heck, even if you did somehow know you were uninjured, there'd be nothing you could do except call for help, because whether you're tipped onto your side or your back or your face, you can't right yourself. In case you're interested, Mark does wear a lap belt and another one across his chest just so he doesn't get thrown out of his chair.
The paving of this direct connection from his home to the path below makes a lot of difference to Mark and eventually to a lot of other people.
And it is on this beauteous 1.2-mile run of the Streamways trail, surrounded by lots of nature, including a creek on both sides, that Mark has held his five outdoor art shows.
Among Mark's most memorable accomplishments is his production of not one but five art shows in Merriam, Kansas. These have been extraordinary public events, attracting over 7,000 visitors.
In 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 Mark, in cooperation with the Merriam Parks and Recreation Department, put together a two-day art show, held each time on a Saturday and Sunday in early Autumn. But these aren't merely art shows, they are veritable extravaganzas, and they are held outdoors, along that 1.2-mile stretch of the Turkey Creek Path.
Although the principal contributor of art at these art shows was naturally Mark himself, he invited lots of other artists to set up displays on the path and show their works. And not just painters but artists in other media such as concrete and tile, wool and found-objects, and tactile collages.
Among the painters and other artists and artisans who've displayed their works for sale at Mark's "Nature of Art" shows:
● Crandall Vail, Mark's good friend and
Among the musicians at Mark's "Nature of Art" shows:
● Lou Bartholome, a friend of Mark's, who writes, sings and guitars some superb songs. His band Remnants made the 1998 album called Modern Times that is definitely worth trying to get a copy of, as is their 2002 album, Final for Now.
The Modern Times song "Wheelchairs in Heaven," which is very good in its own right, was written by Lou with Mark in mind, and you can download and save or listen to it for free from here (MP3, 192 kbps, 7,041 KB), with permission of the artist.
Dr. Bartholome, a psychologist by profession who also happens to have an appealing singing voice, travelled all the way from Minnesota for all five shows to see Mark and to entertain the visitors thereto. He's married to the talented Alice Medley, a nurse as well as an artist who has also exhibited her works at Mark's shows.
● Neal Manning, Mark's brother, who plays a mean guitar and sings
● Kelly Werts, who plays guitar, fiddle, penny whistle, spoons, jaw bone and cigar-box fiddle
● Lane Lambert, who plays the lovely Celtic harp
And this is not to mention the events and exhibits.
● The well-respected O'Riada Academy of Irish Dance has sent various collections of dancers over the years to Mark's biennial shows. Among them are Joseph, Jeremiah and Morgan Manning, all children of the above-mentioned Mark-sibling Neal. Joseph is among the most accomplished and highly regarded Irish dancers in the world, and Jeremiah is following closely in his footsteps. Enjoying these large and small troupes perform over the years has always been a particular treat for many visitors to Mark's shows.
● A not-for-profit organization called Accessible Arts, whose purpose is to encourage children with disabilities to appreciate and participate in the making of art, set up a booth each year, which both children and adults enjoy. This organization is special to Mark, and it does accept donations.
● Another not-for-profit organization, the Ernie Miller Nature Center, is located on 116 acres in Olathe, Kansas, and it seeks to enhance people's understanding of nature. The staff show up at Mark's biennial shows and exhibit such fun stuff as pelts and skulls for kids (and adults) to handle, not to mention exotic but locally found live birds such as owls and hawks and an eagle, which you can't handle.
When you ask a staff member, "How do you prepare your eagles?" and she starts in on how they hood them and put them in special cages and you interrupt her and say, "No, I mean do you bake them or grill them or stew them or what?" you may be sure that selfsame staff member will respond not with a smile but rather a dour, tut-tut sort of look. I know because I tried it in 2000 and again in 2002 and then gave up.
● Another not-for-profit, Operation WildLife, which rescues injured and orphaned wild animals, set up exhibits at Mark's shows that display live birds of prey
● A woodworker, Bruce Page, displaying his turned wares and who lets you use his lathe, which along with lots of other equipment he trudged to Mark's 2006 and 2008 shows
● The Stone Lion Puppets, an organization that puts on -- you guessed it -- puppet shows at Mark's shows
Well, you get the idea, and this is by no means a complete list of the musical
acts and other exhibits that Mark, as the producer of these
arranged for. Visitors to Mark's "Nature of Art" shows have learned to
look forward to a lot more than paintings.
"Of the path, on the path" But paintings are the focus of these art shows. Mark made many watercolors of scenes on this path, and although his works are rightly the focal point of the show, they have never stood front and center.
Instead, where possible each of Mark's paintings is stood on an easel or hung from a tree in such a way that as you stand there and observe it, if you just look up or off to the side you'll see the very thing Mark painted. The example at right shows a view of the Turkey Creek Trail pocket park with its distinctive stele. It's titled "Pocket Park," and it was hung, at the 2000 show, on an easel located just where the artist's point of view is.
Interestingly, this particular example shows Mark's mixing palette at the top. As you might remember, Mark paints from photographs. Here's how it has worked for me. Periodically Mark will ask me to take photos for a new painting, and usually we walk down to the Edelweiss path or sometimes we drive somewhere, to a viewpoint he's earlier spotted as a likely candidate for a painting. I take photos based on his instructions: "Move a little bit right, make sure to include the big oak on the left" and so on. I snap a pic and show him on the camera screen, and he analyzes it and refines his instructions and I shoot and show again, and in short order Mark has photographs he likes. I mail the jpg files to him, he gets them printed out, and then he uses them to paint from. I'm pleased to have been a part, however robotic, of Mark's art. One of the two paintings he gave me, "Walnuts," is one of the ones whose photographs I took.
In addition to all the artworks and the music and dance and the various displays, the Nature of Art shows have included concession stands and sometimes free lemonade and cookies. And always plenty of free water. And always free portable toilets.
And always free golf carts. From the beginning Mark has wanted to make sure those with physical disabilities making it difficult for them to walk from place to place along the 1.2 miles of the path would have a way to get around, so he arranges for there to be multiple golf carts available. The photo at left shows two sisters of Mark enjoying one. Lori is driving and Kathy is next to her, passenging. At the far left you can see the stele that is shown, from a different angle, in the painting immediately above.
The idea is that the golf carts, driven by volunteers, roam up and down the path looking for people who might need them. I can tell you that driving those golf carts is the single best task by far of any of the tasks any volunteers ever perform. Mark has asked me to drive for both days for all five shows, and it is a wonderful way, for me, anyway, to spend time. You get to experience every exhibit and every exhibitor many times, you can quickly get from one place to another, you get to listen to and ask and answer questions of many people, most of whom are extra-pleasant (because there's this kind of niceness vibe that inhabits all these art shows), and all kinds of kids who've never ridden on a golf cart think you're a pretty hep cat, and at the beginning and end of each day you feel useful transporting easels and tables and lathes from place to place.
And always free good weather. With the exception of a very light and surprisingly refreshing rain on Saturday afternoon of 2008 that lasted approximately 12 seconds, Mark has gotten lucky every year with the weather. Beautiful skies, comfortable temperatures, low humidities, just everything you could ask for. Keep in mind that the weather makes many differences to each day of each show, and for Mark to have gotten so lucky -- ten weekend days out of ten -- is just a miracle. Another explanation is called good luck. Also, because a lot of valuable and stealable gear is left on the path on Saturday nights, Mark arranges with some of his 31 nieces and nephews, of which he has a large in-town selection, to camp out on the path overnight. They conduct patrols every so often and, no doubt, have a little fun at the same time. And they too have enjoyed good weather every single night.
And always free tee-shirts. Every year Mark has provided family members and friends who volunteer with a special tee-shirt to wear during the two-day event. I am pleased to say I have all five from 2000 to 2008, and here they are.
2000 -- This version is the oldest and rarest and least valuable of the tee-shirt series. Unlike the others, this 2000 model is also printed on the back with an advertisement for the tee-shirt supplier.
2002 -- After the first two-day, outdoor extravaganza Mark switched to tee-shirts featuring one of the watercolors he painted for that year's show.
This painting is titled "Heron," and a much better version is HERE. (And yes, they face different ways.)
The text under the heron's head reads as follows:
SPONSORED BY: Aristocrat Motors • City of Merriam Park and Recreation Dept. • G.E. Consumer Finance • Georgetown Pharmacy • Keith Coldsnow's Artist Materials • HMK Concrete • Ron & Nancy Hupp • The Home Depot • Merriam Parks, Recreation & Community Center Foundation
DESIGNED BY: Harvest Graphics
2004 -- The painting on this year's shirt is titled "Flower."
The text under "with Mark Manning and Friends" reads as follows:
2006 -- This tee-shirt's painting is titled "Kingfisher," and a much better version is HERE.
The text under the painting reads as follows:
Merriam Parks and Recreation Department, Aristocrat Motors, HMK Concrete, Woodayrd Barbecue, Merriam Park, Recreation and Community Center Foundation, Harvest Graphics, Georgetown Pharmacy
2008 -- This year's tee-shirt's painting is titled "Hen and Chicks," for the type of flowering plant protruding profusely from the pot.
The text below "with Manning and friends" reads as follows:
Turkey Creek Streamway Path Outdoor Exhibit
The painting itself is unusual in that Mark painted it and only a few others not from photographs but en plein air, a term Mark taught me that means in English what it seems like it means in French, which is "in the open air." Mark, being quadriplegic, cannot just go and set up an easel and a table and a jar of water and paints and paintbrushes, even on smooth, level terrain, not to mention dealing with winds and any sudden rain showers that can bedevil even the most able-bodied of en plein air watercolorists. But in the case of this painting the subject was indeed outdoors, while Mark painted in the usual way from the studio in his apartment. How can that be? I hear you wondering.
In 2006 it was realized that the west end of the north concrete foundation wall could be breached to Mark's advantage. Some of Mark's brothers planned hard and worked harder, and they improved his basement apartment considerably. With picks and shovels -- which you know mean a lot of sweaty toil in filthy soil -- they dug out a lot of dirt to the north of that wall and, more importantly, a lot of dirt straight down. They exposed a section of foundation wall four feet wide by five feet tall, and then they called in a company to saw out that section of concrete. Twenty square feet of concrete eight inches thick is the same mass as a cube one yard on a side and weighs well over a ton.
Into this large opening into Mark's studio wall the brothers installed a gorgeous sliding window, and then they lined the quadrispherical opening to the north with interlocking retaining-wall stones. To that large space have been added a number of pleasant distractions such as the pot shown above sprouting its hen and chicks profusions, a miniature gazing ball made by Alice Medley, pretty plants, a bird feeder, a chiminea, and certain decorations that vary with the seasons.
Oh, and a full-sized leprechaun. Well, a leprechaun statue, not a real one. The interesting thing about the leprechaun is that it just appeared one day in Mark's window well and, to this day, no one claims responsibility for it.
In addition to all this loveliness for Mark and his visitors to enjoy, two additional benefits have accrued. One is that there is now a second emergency exit, and the other is that this huge opening lets in lots of cheery natural light, which is of special use to painter Mark because that's where his artist studio is.
And that's how he painted "Pot" en plein air from inside.
I could be wrong, but my guess is that the people who have received any of these tee-shirts over the years do not lightly just toss them out.
Mark's 2000 Merriam art event was accompanied by a full-fledged Web site, as was the next one two years later. As out of date as they are now, a decade later, those two sites contain a lot of information about the shows that, if you never attended one, might impress you. They also contain a lot of images of Mark's paintings that were for sale at those two shows. And if you root around you'll find they contain a lot of information about Mark.
Mark and I spent a lot of time trying to get his first Web site just right, and we spent a fair amount more adding in the second one. He wanted the sites to be simple, easy to use, friendly and, of course, informative. In 2004 or so Mark changed to a different ISP, and a couple years later his old Web host erased them. I spent at least a dozen hours in March of 2011 reconstructing them for hosting on my Web server. To see whether I wasted all that time, please go here to see the splash page for Mark's two Web sites, and do root around.
(There are no Web sites about the 2004 or 2006 events, but you can go
here to see
Merriam's page about the 2008 event.)
Vital to Mark's production of these outdoor extravaganzas has been the enthusiastic help and patient cooperation of Merriam's Parks and Recreation Department, which is in charge of that part of the path. The director, Susan Hayden, and the assistant director, Tim Murphy, have spent hundreds of hours and dollars over the years on these biennial projects, and they deserve congratulations for the high quality of their efforts. Without them and the early support of mayor Irene B. French, the city of Merriam could not have provided such a popular and attractive showcase for itself once every two years.
Mark exerts an extraordinary amount of effort as executive of these
extravaganzas that goes unseen by 99% of its patrons, and the same is true
of the parks department. Each year Mark spends many dozens of hours
coordinating a complex operation involving dozens of exhibitors and other
people and rain-dependent timetables and lots and lots of phone calls and
emails and in-person visits. Mark has help from family and friends, of
course, especially in those too-short weeks leading up to each two-year
event, but the main burden of all the work is always Mark's. And this
is in addition to being the principal contributor of the art. If these
are movies, Mark is the executive producer and the director and the star actor.
On the evening of Monday, December 7, 2009, Mark directed and co-starred in the best marriage proposal I ever personally witnessed, along with a lot of other people.
Mark has an interesting friend named Gary Seesing. Gary has been a professional pilot and flight instructor since 1971. He currently flies all over the world a Bombardier Learjet 31 and a Dassault Falcon 50 for the Russell Stover Candy Company. Just to give you some idea, that Falcon can fly over 48,000 feet at over 500 miles an hour for over 4,000 miles without refueling, it transports two pilots and nine passengers in 61 feet of luxury, and it sports not one, not two, but three jet engines. The user manuals Gary has mastered in order to fly this plane come in not one but three bindered tomes with maybe a thousand pages total of really teeny type.
But in his spare time Gary also owns his own four-seat Piper Cherokee PA-68 161 Warrior II. (In the unlikely event you own Microsoft FSX flying-simulator software and want to know more about how to fly the Warrior II, go to my page here.) Gary and his equally interesting wife, Margaret Tlapek-Seesing, an R.N. and exercise instructor, enjoy people and parties and lots of other things, and one thing they do every year or so is host a "flying party" at Wheeler Airport in downtown Kansas City, which is where the Russell Stover planes and Gary's Piper Cherokee Warrior II call home, er, nest.
A couple three dozen of us gather in a big private conference room with various drinks and appetizers and snacks, and even a pool table next door, and Gary spends almost the whole several hours flying three of us at a time for twenty minutes or so over the city in his Warrior, shown below. Gary and Margaret are very generous with the fun and the fuel.
Shortly after Gary got to know Mark, he invited him to the next flying party and the one after that, and both times we managed to get Mark into and out of the co-pilot seat with no injuries to Mark or anyone else. Mark, as most people are, was impressed with these rides.
The thing about flying with Gary in these situations is that you always feel relaxed, no matter how acrophobic or claustrophobic you are, because you know you're in the hands of a pro, not an amateur who might have passed the easiest FAA test that very morning. This is a guy who is certified IFR to fly three-engine commercial jets, so you gotta figure he can fly his own single-engine, gas-fueled Warrior II blindfolded with one wing tied behind his back. It is shown here, at home at Wheeler Airport, overlooking the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The black blob on the fuselage is not part of the plane, it's where I carelessly left my purse before I took this shot.
Also, Gary has this way with each individual passenger -- perhaps born of experience or perhaps a personality trait -- of subtly guiding you to enjoy the flight the best way you can for you. (In my case Gary always lets me take the left seat and be a pretend-pilot, and he lets me do take-offs and landing approaches and most of the parts in between.)
Ever the romantic, Mark wanted to make his wedding proposal memorable, so he arranged for Gary to fly him and the target of his betrothal over Kansas City to look at the sights and the Christmas lights, especially our dear Plaza. Beknownst to Gary but unbeknownst to Vicki Lind, dozens of Mannings and other people had gathered and were waiting for them to land and disembark and get Mark back in his chair, at which point we spilled out from the lobby onto the tarmac en masse and came to order and waited while Mark said to Vicki, "I'm on my knee. Will you marry me?"
It was a moment everyone there
In case you're wondering, she said yes.
It was at that post-proposal party at the airport that I myself last saw Lori Manning Wiedner, Mark's little sister and Reia's baby. Lori had been diagnosed with cancer just after Easter of that year.
It was that summer, on June 26, 2009, that a fundraiser was held at St. Peter's Catholic church and school in Kansas City, Kansas, for Lori's medical expenses. Mark asked whether I'd be willing to help direct traffic in the area of the church, at 409 North 15th, just a couple blocks from where Bud and Reia Manning's clan grew up at 236 North 15th. At first I thought he was kidding, but as it turned out it really did take me, and two other friends of Mark's, to help people get parked. Literally hundreds of people showed up to shmooze and commune and condole and, more importantly, to donate what turned out to be over $25,000 to help Lori.
Such is the degree of affection and loyalty enjoyed by Lori and so very many other Mannings over half a century.
Lori Ann died on Thursday, January 21, 2010, leaving grieving widower Steve Wiedner and their lovely children, Ellen, Emma and Jack. I cradled Jack in my arms when he was but an infant, as so many people cradled Lori when she was an infant.
Sweet Lori's wake was held on January 24th at St. Peter's Cathedral, and the funeral was there on the 25th.
It was at the wake and especially
the funeral the next day that so many people noticed, and later
remarked on, how ill Mark looked. Even I, who have untrustworthy color
vision, could see it. He was pale and he was lethargic, but he
About 24 hours later, as Mark's nurse aide Linda was going through the preparations necessary to moving Mark from his chair to his bed, she concluded that his medical condition had just gotten too much worse, and she called 911, and an ambulance took him from his apartment in his mother's house to the emergency room of Shawnee Mission Medical Center (SMMC).
He went straight to surgery to try to clear an ileus, which is a potentially fatal blockage of the bowels. (During that procedure Mark's gall bladder was also removed. Oh, and he was infected with MRSA.) He was then transferred to the ICU to recover from this major surgery.
And thus started a long, roller-coaster ride of medical problems and
recoveries and more problems and more recoveries.
Because Mark's ever-worsening, ever-improving health mattered so much to so many people, by February 13th, less than three weeks after he was admitted to SMMC, Vicki, with help from some of Mark's sisters, started and religiously maintained a mass text-message journal of events. This service was invaluable to dozens of people, so many of us who wanted to know the good news, and the bad news, about Mark's constantly changing condition.
Mark underwent a lot of other serious medical problems and procedures from January 26th of
through February 13th. We pick up the story from then, based on the
SMS messages from Vicki and Mark's sister Diane.
February 13, 2010 (SMMC) -- Dialysis treatment. Low blood pressure. Stomach healing from surgery.
February 14 -- "Fluid accumulates around lungs," hence more difficulty breathing. Dialysis treatment.
February 15 -- Mark has been unable to sleep "for days now," which is difficult for healthy, able-bodied people at home. For distressingly long periods of time in the last several days Mark -- always, always hooked up to many machines and always, always being woken up, and always, always under the influence of an ever-changing variety of serious pain-killers that don't do the job -- has lost full-time contact with reality, including recognizing loved ones or speaking coherently.
This is all bad news to all of us.
February 17 -- Mark recovers from many problems.
This is all good news to all of us.
February 20 -- Mark is still infected. He has had a ventilator tube
down his mouth and into his trachea for weeks now, and it is
indisputably and almost continuously painful.
It also means he cannot speak.
February 22 -- Mark learns about and decides he very much wants to have a tracheostomy performed, which is surgery to create a hole in the throat so the ventilator tube -- the source of air when Mark can't generate enough by his lung power alone -- can be placed in that hole. In the absence of a vent tube to assist him in breathing at this point, Mark will almost certainly perish. Oh, and Mark also has an NG (nasogastric) tube, which enters his nose and also goes down his throat, to his esophagus and thence his stomach. Two significant tubes in your throat -- the trachea and the esophagus -- and both of Mark's are being bypassed by plastic.
February 25 -- Mark successfully undergoes the tracheostomy surgery. The vent tube that now goes into the hole in his throat should result in less pain, but Mark still won't be able to speak.
February 27 -- By now Mark has managed to endure yet another surgery, this one to implant what's called a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) tube, which means there's a sort of port from the outside of the body to the stomach. A typical PEG tube is shown at right. Mark will be fed a liquid diet through this tube, and medicines can also be injected through it.
Also today, though, his stomach is again distended, and an MRI was done to find a source of infection. The large intestine is blocked. "Fluid" has accumulated between the lung and the spleen, which must be drained and the reason for its presence diagnosed. An obstruction in Mark's ileostomy is identified and must be investigated.
This is all bad news to all of us.
March 1, 2010 -- Only two days later Mark is undergoing respiratory therapy to help him to be able to breathe on his own. He "did well with his breathing trial" and the therapist is "very pleased with his progress." The infection is getting better. According to the urologist Mark's ileostomy isn't a problem after all, and Mark's kidney is working OK.
This is all good news to all of us.
Later that day we learn that Mark still has not been sleeping well and that his stomach is still a concern and that he must continue to fast till it gets better. He's still experiencing pain in his throat where the trach tube enters. His stomach isn't working as expected, and more fluid is suctioned off in yet another procedure, which means the bowels aren't working right.
This is bad news to all of us.
Sometimes the roller coaster takes a long time to rise or fall, sometimes it flails you up and down a lot in a short stretch.
March 3, 2010 -- Mark is doing remarkably well, but his stomach and kidney and bowels aren't functioning fully.
March 4 -- According to one doctor, Mark is getting all kinds of better and should keep getting more so. She likes what she hears when she listens to his stomach.
This is good news to all of us.
March 7 -- According to a doctor Mark's kidney is improving and he will need less dialysis. His breathing is improving. The stomach, while not all right, is giving good sounds.
This is good news to all of us.
March 8 -- Dr. Williams performs a procedure to drain fluid from the left lung. Dr. Katz has the sutures removed from the trach tube in Mark's throat, which required that Mark be sedated yet again. Upon awakening Mark is weak and in pain and unable to sleep and can't breathe as well on his own, and his stomach hurts and his neck wound hurts.
March 10 -- Two doctors express their hope and expectation that Mark can be moved to a different facility. (Keep in mind that since he was admitted January 26th Mark has continuously been resident at SMMC. And not just as an in-patient but as an in-patient in the intensive care unit.)
This is good news to all of us.
March 13 -- Mark still has a low-grade fever, which also means low blood pressure, so he is back on blood-pressure medicine. Also, the infectious disease doctor is referred back to Mark.
March 15 -- MRSA is still active, Mark needs more anitbiotics, and he will not leave the ICU as hoped after all.
This is bad news to all of us.
March 17 -- Mark finished a dialysis session and his breathing has greatly improved. He is on antibiotics. His PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line and his dialysis line will be pulled temporarily. Everything is going well.
March 24 (Northland) -- The antibiotics have worked, and Mark has been moved, by ambulance, of course, from SMMC's ICU to a long-term care facility called Northland LTC to continue recovering, which means he doesn't need the full-on, high-tech, and nearly constant intervention of a major hospital's intensive care unit.
This is good news to all of us.
April 1 -- Mark's progress has not been as rapid as expected. He is tired and his stomach hurts and requires x-rays.
Starting weeks ago Mark has chosen not to receive non-family visitors, and he still hasn't seen any for the eight days since he moved to Northland. But he did make one exception: Today he asked Vicki to ask me to come see him, which flattered me.
April 2, afternoon -- I visit Mark. He's still hooked up to lots of machines, and he's tired, and he still can't speak. You have to read his lips, which is difficult for me and therefore no doubt frustrating for Mark. Still, I'm so glad to finally get to see him again.
April 2, evening (St. Luke's ER) -- Mark is taken by ambulance to the St. Luke's Northland emergency room, where he is diagnosed with a bowel obstruction, which was the original problem way back on January 26th, over nine weeks ago now.
He's also diagnosed at St. Luke's with fluid around the heart.
He's also diagnosed there with renewed infection.
Imagine how frightening and disheartening this is to all of us receiving these texted updates. Now imagine you're Mark.
April 2, late evening (SMMC) Mark is returned by ambulance to the Intensive Care Unit of Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
This is bad news for all of us.
April 7 -- By now, five days later, a large amount of fluid around Mark's heart has been drained, which has made him feel much better and stronger, and he's able to breathe better.
Mark's stomach still won't work right, and it is still bloated.
April 7 -- I will quote from part of Vicki's texts to all of us today at 12:11 PM:
"Continue to pray that his stomach fully recovers.
"I was visiting Mark this morning and the CEO of the hospital stopped in. He heard there was someone in ICU whom the staff members all loved, and he wanted to meet him. Mark told him he had a wonderful hospital -- that it reflected good administration from the top down and that as a Christian hospital, it reflected the Lord. It was interesting to hear them visit."
Keep in mind that Mark can still communicate only in two slow ways. One is through the use of what's called simply a letter-board, which is a panel about 1 foot by 2 with the letters of the alphabet and certain common words such as Yes and No and I on it. If you ask Mark, for example, "What hurts?," you start pointing at letters till he indicates that you've chosen the correct first letter, then you point at letters again till Mark indicates you've hit the correct second letter. You do this for as long as it takes for you to fill in the answer.
The more common way Mark communicates verbally is through mouthing words. Remember, air Mark exhales bypasses his vocal cords and goes into the ventilator tube, which means he cannot generate any voiced sounds. Learning to read Mark's lips is an interesting intellectual experience, at least for me. You want, of course, to guess right the first time, but it's difficult no matter how good Mark is at his half of the conversation. So many of the visible positions of the lips and tongue look alike. D and T, oh and ooh, and P and B are examples, so dope looks exactly like tube. which have no sounds in common and which, more importantly, are not the same words at all. You take a guess at the word, and Mark nods or shakes his head. As you get deeper into the sentence the context becomes clearer, which makes guessing easier. Sometimes it goes pretty fast, and sometimes not. For some reason I am particularly bad at reading Mark's lips, which he eventually admitted was true, but he is always patient with me, which is just like him.
April 10 -- Since the April 7th draining procedure, fluid is again accumulating around Mark's heart, which as you now know presses his diaphragm down and makes it more difficult for him to breathe out on his own.
And his stomach is still not working, i.e., it is still not physically grinding and chemically breaking down food and passing it on to the small intestine. Instead it is distended and thus, as you also now know, it presses his diaphragm up and makes it more difficult for him to breathe in on his own.
Through Vicki I ask Mark whether I may visit him, and he agrees, and I see him this afternoon.
Later today a CT scan of the stomach is ordered to try to figure out the problem. It is explained that the problem will be either the infection or another blockage. If it is infection the treatment will be antibiotics; if it is a blockage the treatment will be more surgery. Mark strenuously and repeatedly balks at yet another surgical procedure, because they are so risky and because they take so much out of his reserve of strength, which by this point some two and a half months later is in need of more recharging.
April 12 -- The surgery takes place to relieve another ileus, and Mark improves.
April 21 -- Over the last nine days Mark has been recovering slowly but surely, and he is deemed able to be removed from SMMC's ICU to a less intense facility -- Kindred Hospital at 87th and Troost in Kansas City, Missouri.
This is good news to all of us.
Also, Vicki and Mark's sisters have had a painting of Mark's framed and a plaque added, and the hospital CEO and other administrators this afternoon attend the bestowal therof to the hospital in general and the ICU in particular, in what was apparently quite a pleasant and festive ceremony.
You can see the painting, shown at right, by taking the elevator to the 4th floor of the ICU at SMMC in Merriam, Kansas, and heading towards the east wing. The plaque, which I now see I took a bad photo of, reads as follows:
Shawnee Mission Medical Center
This is good news to all of us.
Also today, Mark asks me to visit him, which again flatters me, but before I can get to him I am told that a nurse restricts visitors to family only.
April 30 -- I get to visiit Mark anyway. And yes, I lied, and no, not for the first time, about being a Manning relative.
May 6 -- Vicki texts, in response to my impatient pestering after a week, a summary as follows:
May 6 at 10:19 AM: "No changes. Running tests. It has been very up and down. Things change every day, sometimes several times a day."
At this point Mark is deemed free enough of MRSA that gloves and gowns are not required.
MRSA. You'll remember Mark was infected with MRSA (methycillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, in case you want to look it up) during his initial surgery the evening he was first admitted to Shawnee Mission Medical Center back on January 26th. MRSA, pronounced "mər-sə," is the acronym for a bacterium that can cause mild to fatal infection in humans. According to the CDC, "MRSA in healthcare settings usually causes more severe and potentially life-threatening infections, such as bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, or pneumonia." Mark had iatrogenic MRSA in a "healthcare setting."
MRSA is particularly bad because it is resistant to the most common antibiotics such as penicillin and methycillin, which means beating it requires even more powerful antibiotics, which means even more bacteria will evolve to be even more resistant to ever more powerful antibiotics. It appears the bacteria are winning in that MRSA used to be found almost exclusively in hospitals and other health care facilities, prisons, old folks' homes, locker rooms, and dormitories, whereas more and more MRSA is now moving from these confined spaces with lots of people out into "the community," as they say, meaning you can get it from a lot more places than you used to could.
Another reason MRSA is a particularly bad bacterium is that it is so easily transmitted. You can get severely infected if it gets into your surgical wound in a hospital. You can get it if an object contaminated with the bacteria touches you through, say, a small cut. You can get it if you put your contaminated hand into your eye or your nose or your mouth. And the bacteria can easily contaminate your clothing (and pretty much every other surface), whence they can be transmitted later into your body or the body of someone who touches your clothing. Or your hands.
Mark was indisputably infected with MRSA at SMMC, which means protection needed to be put in place. That protection was in the form of what all of us frequent visitors to Mark's various ICU rooms quickly learned to call "gown and gloves." This meant you couldn't enter Mark's room or wherever else he was unless you were gowned and gloved.
The purpose was not to protect Mark, it was to protect the rest of the world from Mark, because Mark had that nasty MRSA. You had to gown and glove before entering his room, and you had to remove and discard the gown and gloves in a special container just as you departed. If you wanted to just step out for a moment to talk to someone down the hall, you had to go through it all again. I don't know how many sets of gowns and gloves I myself went through, but they were always free in the sense that I never paid cash for any. Just outside all of Mark's several rooms, if you looked around a bit you would find a drawer or a cabinet or a cart full of yellow paper gowns and three sizes of gloves.
The idea is that most of the MRSA bacteria will land on the gown and gloves and that they will then be kept away from the world outside that room by disposing of them upon walking outside it. I scrupulously avoid touching any more objects than I have to when I'm in hospitals, which I've been in a lot since January 26th, and even then I don't touch them with my hands if I don't have to, and always when I leave I scrub my hands with that antibacterial foam they have dispensers of everywhere. You should do all that too.
I admit to being surprised -- and a lot disappointed and even a little angry once I thought about it -- to see this one doctor enter Mark's room at SMMC, talk to and do some stuff to Mark, and then leave without donning and doffing gown and gloves. That's much worse than if I had done the same thing, because I wasn't going to be spending the rest of my workday wandering about the hospital, walking around from room to room and visiting sick patients with surgical wounds and other openings into their bodies exposed, whereas he was.
How would you like to be this guy's next patient? You're in the ICU recovering quite nicely from surgery, but then you contract MRSA because of his negligent medical malpractice and now you've got pneumonia. Forget about the extra mental grief and the extra physical discomfort and the extra inconvenience you suffer, the fact remains that somebody has to pay cash money for all that extra attention you didn't deserve because of that physician's recklessness.
Martians. That people entering Mark's room as of May 6th no longer need to wear gown and gloves means Mark's MRSA is finally getting under control. And there's another benefit, one I hadn't thought of till a sibling of Mark's pointed it out to me. For almost the whole time in the last four months, everyone who's been into Mark's various rooms has been wearing gown and gloves, which would be disconcerting even after a few weeks. I think the quote was, "Now everybody Mark sees won't be a yellow Martian." Yet a third benefit is that we visitors to Mark's room at Kindred no longer have to gown and glove.
So, the post of May 6th at 10:19 AM is good news to all of us. But the day isn't quite over yet.
Later that day Vicki says, "Stomach is still a problem. Ileus is continuing to cause his bowels to be sluggish." Later she says, "The approach has changed. Yesterday, the plan was to restrict all food for five days." Mark is, not unreasonably, disappointed and discouraged but is "amazingly patient."
May 6, 4:13 PM: Mark tells Vicki he doesn't want to see me.
May 6, 7:31 PM -- It is decided Mark needs to be transported from Kindred back to the Intensive Care Unit of SMMC. He is scheduled tomorrow for another colonoscopy there because of a problem with the transverse colon. Vicki's very last text message to us ends with, "Stomach just not working."
This is not good news for all of us.
From Vicki's first text message on February 13th till today she and others have sent over 150 such messages to all of us on the distribution list. It was realized a week earlier that a better way of informing Mark's fans was needed, and the record of Mark's progress was shifted to a forum Web site called CaringBridge, which allows the administratrix to edit her posts more easily and go past 140 characters per message. Also, there's a guestbook, which is better for her and the guests.
You can read Mark's CaringBridge GUESTBOOK, which is sometimes interesting.
And you can READ THE ENTIRE JOURNAL of posts to members of the list.
My abridged and edited version of that entire journal follows.
May 7, 2010, at 9:38 AM (first post) -- "Mark rested well after being transferred back to [the ICU of] Shawnee Mission Medical Center. This morning Dr. Patel is doing a colonoscopy hoping to deflate the colon. Pray that the doctor is able to relieve the pressure and that the colon is able to work normally."
May 7, 2010, at 4: 15 PM -- A colonoscopy is performed to deflate Mark's colon. Mark's stomach is still distended. He is on a liquid diet.
May 8 -- Mark's lungs look great, and once the stomach deflates he can do well weaning himself off the ventilator that's partly breathing for him, which is is an important goal.
May 9 -- MRSA is found in Mark's sputum.
May 10 -- X-rays reveal Mark's stomach is such a problem that surgery might be required.
May 11 -- It is confirmed that another colonoscopy is necessary for Mark's stomach.
May 13 -- The colonoscopy procedure takes place.
May 16 -- Here I quote directly from the post: "Mark is feeling better, still not ready to sit in his chair but close (probably tomorrow). Dave and Kelli are in town. The Manning boys got together last night (there were eight men in here) and the hospital is still standing. I know Mark enjoyed the time with his family. Thank you for your prayers; he asks that you continue to pray for his breathing."
May 18 -- "Mark did not sleep very well last night and had kind of an off day. He's a little congested and tired. Vent weaning was harder today, not as much progress as yesterday."
May 19 -- "Mark had a very tiring day today. He was in radiology from 10:30 until after 2:00, then had the wound care nurse here with a specialist working until 6:45. She is being very careful and is working to insure Mark's surgery site heals properly. He is exhausted."
May 23 -- "Mark had a good night's sleep but is feeling weak. He asks that you pray for his lungs; he lost ground between surgeries and is having to work his way back."
May 25 at 4:30 PM -- "Marks body just isn't responding as the doctors had hoped. Still in a wait and see situation but the hospital has set up a meeting with a social worker and the family. I'm not clear on the details; Mark said it is because of the level of care that would be needed at home."
May 25 at 7:30 PM -- The surgeon and one of Mark's primary doctors were in this evening. They want to run one more test tomorrow to see whether his small intestine is compromised. Mark will go to radiology tomorrow for another test.
Wednesday, May 26, at 11:11 PM -- X-rays were taken today and the results are
expected tomorrow. A meeting to decide "what the next step is" is
scheduled for tomorrow.
Let me interrupt Mark's journal to recap the circumstances to date, exactly four months after this roller-coaster ride started.
Thursday, May 27, at 8:07 AM -- Mark's white blood cell count is going up, a sign of
worsening infection. Cultures are being run to determine the source. The
results of yesterday's X-ray of Mark's plumbing are expected this afternoon.
Thursday, May 27 at 4:50 PM -- (from Mark himself): "We had the meeting with the doctor, surgeon, and social worker in preparation for going home (perhaps in about a week?). The social worker is working to set up 24-hour nursing and comfort care."
On Saturday, May 29, 2010, Mark's brother Chris gently informs me by phone that Mark has decided to end the suffering, to end his life, on the following day.
I rush to the hospital in a kind of daze and, as I am donning gown and gloves, Chris quickly informs me Mark is getting married this very evening. He points down the hall and I watch as all sorts of Mannings and hospital personnel are scampering into and out of the conference room where the ceremony is to be held in just a few hours.
I enter Mark's room, knowing this will be the last time I ever will ever get to enjoy him, and he is still, of course, hooked up to many machines doing many things, including breathing his last days' of breaths for him. He is still, of course, unable to speak, and he is quite weak. I congratulate him on his upcoming nuptials.
Any person who can make a wonderful life under such limiting circumstances without complaint is special. That's why I told Mark that he's my hero. If I am ever afflicted for just a month with even a tenth of the problems he lived the last 42 years of his 59 years with, I will think of Mark as a role model, as proof it can be done. If you are so afflicted, you can too, even if you never met Mark or some other hero like him.
When I told him he was my hero he looked sincerely surprised, as though he didn't qualify. Pure
Mark. Mark's way.
And then I turned away from him and sobbed at the thought that we would never again drive somewhere together and do something, that we would never again walk together on the path, that we would never again converse. My feelings as I sobbed were about my loss, not Mark's. The thing is, I'm sure Mark's were too. He loved me better than I loved him.
Mark affected a lot of people powerfully, not just me.
A few hours after I last saw Mark he got married to his beloved, Vicki Lind, in the big hospital conference room, with 75 or so family members and others as witnesses, all of them knowing Mark would die soon, yet it was an occasion of love and joy.
His breathing tube was turned off at noon today, and my friend, the heroic and beloved Mark Manning, died
21 minutes later.
Below is the post of Tuesday, June 1, 2010, at 6:36 PM in the CaringBridge journal:
Mark Manning's Funeral will be at 1:00 p.m. Friday at Cross Points Church, 6824 Lackman Road, Shawnee, KS 66217. Visitation will be Thursday from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. Friends are invited to share memories during a time for reflections 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Accessible Arts, Inc. (http://accessiblearts.org) or Empowering Lives International (http://empoweringlives.org). See the following obituary for information about Mark and Family.
Mark Emmett Manning
Mark was born December 6, 1950, in Kansas City, Kansas. Mark lived 42 of his 59 years as a quadriplegic, the result of a diving accident in 1968. He was an amazing man whose faith in God was reflected in his life and his art. Mark leaves behind the love of his life, Vicki Lind, and his mother, Maria Manning.
He also leaves his brothers, sisters and their spouses, Terry Manning (and wife Teri) of Wasilla, AK, Neal Manning (and wife Bonny) of Kansas City, KS, Rita Manning Cigich of Kansas City, KS, Chris Manning (and wife Suzy) of Shawnee, KS, Kathy Tearney (and husband Dick) of Shawnee, KS, Brian Manning (and wife Mimi) of Kansas City, KS, Diane Metcalf (and husband Rob) of Lenexa, KS, David Manning (and wife Kelli) of Campbellsville, KY, and Jeff Manning (and Judy Gifford) of Shawnee, KS, brother-in-law Stevie Wiedner of Kansas City, KS. Mark was preceded in death by his brother, Rick Manning ('79), his father, Joseph Manning ('87), and his sister Lori Wiedner (‘10).
Mark loved and will be missed by his many nieces and nephews, friends, and family. Arrangements: Joseph A. Butler & Son Funeral Home, 19th and Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS.
As impressive as Mark was in life, he continues to impress.
As yet another example of Mark's natural influence on so many people, in August of 2010 the city council of Merriam proposed to dedicate a 1.2-mile stretch of the Streamway Parks trail as the Mark Manning Mile, and they were required to invite "public comment." Here's the announcement in the August 13, 2010, edition of an online publication called E-Merriam Updates, or you can go there yourself.
Parks and Recreation Advisory Board
recommendation to name a section of Streamway Trail
Here's the letter I wrote when Susan informed me of the proposal and invited my public comment.
August 3, 2010
Not surprisingly (and no doubt almost entirely because of my comment in favor of the resolution:), the city decided to proceed. Below is the obverse side of the snail-mailed invitation to the dedication.
And here's the reverse side.
On Saturday, October 23, 2010, Merriam's mayor, Ken Sissom, Merriam's former mayor Irene B. French, and Parks Director, Susan Hayden, and about 175 other people attended the ceremony on October 23, 2010, in posthumous honor of Mark.
The ceremony was held on the portion of the Streamway Parks trail where Mark held his five biennial art shows, described above, and the purpose was to dedicate that 1.2-mile stretch as the Mark Manning Mile. There's a permanent steel sign at both ends of that stretch, and I can promise you many people who walk and bike that path know who Mark Manning was, and that some of them miss him.
Chris Manning, speaking for the whole family, delivered a beautifully written speech -- at once mournful and inspirational, at once moving and clever -- about his brother Mark. You can and should read the text of that informative address as well as see a listing of the other program events, in a Word doc file, by clicking here.
In addition to the Mark Manning Mile Mark has made another posthumous public impression on the world less than three months later.
In honor of Mark Manning and, of course, for the pleasure of art patrons, an exhibition devoted to his works took place from January 13 through February 19, 2011, at the Irene B. French Community Center in Merriam, Kansas, thanks in large part to the efforts of Susan Hayden and Tim Murphy of that city's Parks and Recreation department, not to mention a lot of legwork performed by Diane Manning Metcalf, one of Mark's sisters. Not surprisingly, almost all of the pieces that made the cut for the exhibition were out there in the world, in people's homes on their walls, and they had to be tracked down and tagged and studied and . . . well, it's a lot of work.
The exhibit was lovingly curated by Merriam's Tim "Timothy" Murphy, who also came up with the name of the show. Remembering that Mark's five biannual outdoor shows in Merriam were called "The Nature of Art," which is pretty clever to begin with if you remember, now notice how perfect the name "The Nature of Mark" for this exhibit is. It kind of rhymes.
I was there on the opening night, and I can tell you that it was really well-attended. You could not take two steps in a straight line the whole time, which ran well past the designated closing hour, throughout the whole gallery space, without bumping into someone. There were people wall-to-wall, all of them happy to remember or learn about Mark, many of them Mannings or patrons of Mark, and all of us friends. (If it isn't February 19th of 2011 yet, you can see the art show by using the Google Map here.)
The Merriam Parks page about Mark's show is here, and it shows photos of all the works on display.
Below are reproductions of the front and back of the handout available to visitors to Mark's memorial exhibit, telling about him and about his paintings on display.
Here's the other side of that program handout, listing information about the 72 pieces that made the cut.
Mark Manning was a lot more than his art, but art was a lot of Mark Manning. He learned about it, he thought about it, he taught it, and he created a lot of it for the world. His paintings are the tangible evidence of a zeal for the true life of the inquisitive and selfless mind, and to that this 2011 exhibition is a temporary testament.
Worthwhile art is a
noble calling that inspires the finer, more spiritual sympathies in all of
us. Mark heeded that call and permanently served us well.
You'll remember at the top I said Mark has quite a family. For one thing it's huge. His mother, Maria Grace née McClafferty "Reia" Manning, and her husband, Joseph Edward "Bud" Manning, who died in 1987, spawned eleven children over a period of 20 years, listed here in birth order.
Terry Manning (wife Teri) of Wasilla, Alaska
Mark's family consists of not just his mom and all those siblings but also, as of this writing, some 31 nieces and nephews and all sorts of grand-nieces and grand-nephews and in-laws and outliers than you can shake a shillelagh at. Here's a partial family tree from 2004.
Although there's the usual variation you would expect, on average the dozens of people in this Manning clan are demonstrably proud of their Irish heritage. Furthermore, they have a right to be proud of themselves.
Among them, for example, are a three-year reign of consecutive sisters who were elected prom queens at their high school. It can confidently be said that the ugliest offshoot from the Maria and Bud tree, whichever person that is, is almost certainly better-looking than average. Heck, most of their in-laws are prettier than average.
Also amongst the Manning clan you've got a doctor of education, two world-class Irish dancers, an accomplished folk singer and guitarist, a big union leader,
a highly regarded tennis instructor, and not one but two much-in-demand
public speakers. This is by no means a complete list, but it gives you
What it doesn't give you an idea of is how dedicated Mark's loved ones were to what turned out to be the last months of his life. With the exception of a few daylight hours, for over four months -- from January 26th, 2010, to May 31st -- Mark was attended by at least one family member, including his love, Vicki, and often several.
Let me say that again. One or more of Mark's loved ones, mostly in-town siblings
but also ones from out of town, were at his various hospital bedsides
throughout his final, four-month ordeal. Not just before and
after the many surgeries, not just during the scary times, but also during
the boring times, the times when nothing was going on except that Mark was,
thankfully, getting some sleep. Mark never slept or suffered alone,
and he certainly didn't die alone.
About a week before Mark died I learned from one of his many surgeons that quadriplegics rarely live 42 years after such an injury, that it's more like one tenth that. Most quads die much sooner of various complex, persistent problems caused by traumatic damage to the spinal cord that high up in the body. I wish I had known that when I met Mark, because I'd have sucked more life out of him.
Mark inspired many people. There's a straight-line correlation between
how well you knew him and how glad you were to have known him, and I hope
this page and its links have helped you to know him a little bit
If you wish to add an anecdote or some interesting biographical
information or some photos about Mark Manning to the section below, please
All submissions are welcome.
● Here, I'll get you started. First, Mark had this way of attracting pretty women, and while I'm sure part of that was his personality, at least one other part of it was that he was, by all accounts, a handsome man, and he was only two years older than me. So we both found it odd when, at a Mexican restaurant on Southwest Boulevard, a man ambled up to us, briefly introduced himself, and asked in all sincerity whether I was Mark's grandson.
● Here's another. You'll remember I mentioned that Mark and I took three road trips together, all three in borrowed convertibles on days with beautiful weather and fun things to do and places to see and people to watch. The first car was his brother Brian's red 1999 Miata, and the third one was Vicki's 2003 BMW. Fun, fast cars both, but nothing like the middle one, Athelene's Nissan 350 ZX, which is the third-fastest car I've even driven. (I used to own a 1968 Pontiac GTO, and I once did ten laps, very quickly, on a banked oval track in a non-street-legal Winston Cup class car.) Here's the e-mail I sent to Athelene and a couple other people, with a cc to Mark, the day after.
September 10, 2007
Several hours later, on the way back to
Kansas City, after he'd come to appreciate your
machine's abilities (no doubt because of the expert driving:),
we came up behind a car on a two-lane state highway, looking for an
opportunity to pass. I caught Mark saying under his breath, a little
louder each time, "Get him,
get him, get him," meaning "Pass that car now." I sped up and overtook the car
easily, and then I informed him that, at the time he started urging me to pass,
we were already doing a hundred.
You can see a photograph I took on this trip, among the Amish, here.
● You'll remember from here above that one of the many people Mark touched was musician and now psychologist Lou Bartholome. Below is an email I received from him on May 25, 2011.
I met Mark in 1970, when he was a patient at
Mid-America Rehab in KC after his accident. I was working as an
orderly there after I had gotten out of the Army. We became friends
and began to hang around together after he got out.
Music was always a big part of our friendship. He loved music, as you know,
and I would be a human jukebox for him. He would ask if I could sing a
certain song, and since I know lot of songs I often would know it and sing
it for him. We spent many hours talking about life in general.
● Mark could whistle. I don't mean whistle a tune -- although maybe he could do that too -- I mean one of those whistles that turns your head from two blocks away. He didn't do this often, but when he did do it it was impressive.
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