The next stage for the Holy Father’s wrist


Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 21, 2009 / 10:20 am (CNA).- The Holy See’s Press Office has issued a statement today announcing that the Pope Benedict XVI’s personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, has removed the cast from the Holy Father’s right wrist.

After wearing the cast for just over a month, Dr. Polisca removed the cast at Castel Gandolfo and took an X-ray of the Pope’s wrist, which he fractured on July 16 while on vacation in northern Italy.

The X-ray showed that the fractured to the Pope’s right wrist is healing as expected.
“The final results can be defined as optimum,” the doctor said.
Pope Benedict will now begin physical therapy to recover the full use of his right hand, Dr. Polisca explained.


Ah yes… the therapy.  

As one who has been there and done that, I can attest that it is very important.

But the Holy Father is very disciplined in doing what his doctors have directed.  For example, he was told he had to walk every day, and walk he did!  And still does.

So, I imagine that the Holy Father will be set to, for example, squeezing a rubble ball and all that good stuff… probably while dictating.

I wonder…

Under the Obama Adminstration, what sort of health care might be envisioned for an octogenarian who broke his wrist?  Given the cost v age criteria, would he have been able to get therapy after the cast in the emergency room?  Would he have been admitted to the emergency room?

Yes… I suppose at least that much.


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  1. Tim Ferguson says:

    …practicing his blessings, with Msgr. Ganswein counting cadence “Up, down, left, right; Up, down, left, right…”

    I wonder if Cafe Press would be able to produce a squeezable rubber ball with “Say the black, do the red” on it?

  2. r.j.sciurus says:

    Given how much sports teams make selling “game-worn” jerseys…. imagine the money that could be raised for missions or the poor if several hundred rubber balls with the Papal Crest were made, blessed and then auctioned after each series of reps. Much the same way that the President uses 20 pens to sign his name one time. Only these would actually be worth something.

  3. TF and RJS: Excellent ideas both!

  4. The Digital MC says:

    Thank goodness that the results are good!

  5. Hidden One says:

    The US President uses 20 pens to sign his name once? Yikes.

    I’d much rather have a fragment from Papa Benedetto’s cast.

  6. It was so disconcerting to find myself so weak and need so much therapy. I’d be thinking I was doing pretty well, considering my arm was broken. Then when I finally got out of the immobilizer for good, I realized that I was weak, weak, weak, outside of my tiny little comfort zone.

    Ah, the opportunities of therapy…. Offering up pain and exhaustion! Growing in holiness! Vowing never to break a bone again! :)

  7. Childermass says:

    Well, if the Holy Father were otherwise uninsured, I’m sure he would be glad to be on the already existing public plan (Medicare).

    I fell from a fire escape and fractured my feet in between changing jobs —without insurance, I had to volunteer to be a guinea pig for medical studies to help pay for it (I still owe money).

    Unfortunately because I was “self-pay,” I was not given an MRI (ironically, the med studies I signed up for involved MRIs on my brain).

    When my foot was still hobbling me two years later, I went to a new doctor (now that I had insurance), and they (of course) ordered an MRI. It was then that I discovered that I had incurred additional fractures and a torn ligament.

    Of course, my case is minor compared to some others’—my grandmother died prematurely because she could not afford regular cancer screenings.

    So, yes, I’m sure the Holy Father, were he under 65 and a working poor US citizen, would have appreciated public health insurance.

  8. jennywren says:

    I wish I could be the Holy Father’s physical therapist. I am a PT and I learn so much from my “normal joe” patients that I could only imagine what it would be like to be in his presence for that amount of time and in such a medium as physical therapy. Lucky PT…whoever you are….
    Long live Pope Benedict!

  9. Tewkes says:

    As an octogenarian under what in the future may be called the American Healthcare Plan he would probably be admitted to an emergency room to be stablized but to have his wrist set and a cast put on, as well as subsequent therapy……it may be touch and go. After all, a much younger person with the same injury could make use of repaired broken bones for a much longer period of time. Compare a 25 year old to a 75 year old. For the same amount of money, you’ll get three times as much productivity from the younger one, and the older one has already had his time to use his hand, what more could he use it for? (I am thoroughly disgusted with the healthcare snafu going on, in case you can’t tell).

  10. Paulus says:

    Medicare would cover it, as it would today.

  11. reflector says:

    Living in a country with a comprehensive social insurance scheme, I have some problems to understand your doubts concerning the treatment of older people under a national health care system. The former archbishop of Vienna suffered a femoral neck fracture in his nineties, and he received the necessary care (including an operation and rehabilitation) to be able to celebrate pontifical masses again six months later. The same (except the pontifical masses) was true for an old lady from my neighbourhood who, due to her small income, could never have paid the costs of the treatment herself. I do see the risks of age v. cost criteria, but what happens in a country without a comprehensive social insurance (or national health) system, if someone – regardless or his age – cannot pay the costs of a necessary therapy? Isn’t it then a mere cost criterium which decides whether the person receives medical care or not? And even if there should be age criteria for same types of a not strictly necessary treatment (like the implantation of a hip joint endoprosthesis) it would be nevertheless possible to cover such risks with an additional private health insurance. So it might be worth to have a look into the practical realisation of already existing social insurance schemes before condemning them for more of less ideological reasons. Of course, such systems have their problems as well, but at least they ensure a reasonable standard of health care for everyone, regardless of his income or the existence of an additional private health insurance (which would cover extra benefits like the free choice of the doctor in a hospital).

  12. Tim Ferguson says:

    reflector, one of the things that many non-Americans have a difficulty understanding is the strong tradition here of community support and generosity. If the person in your scenario cannot pay the costs of necessary therapy there are countless local charities – not the least of which is the large number of Catholic hospitals – that have traditionally assisted with those costs.

    Americans tend to have an odd admixture of proud self-sufficiency and community support. That’s why the concept of nationalized health care strikes so many of us as odious. Take care of ourselves is our business, not the governments, and if we can’t do it ourselves, we’ve got our families, friends and neighbors to rely on. Obviously, there are flaws and deficiencies in this approach – and that should be the locus of government reform – covering those who fall in the gap, not completely overhauling the system and installing one that runs so contrary to the traditional American approach and is contrary to the American Constitution with its principle of reserved powers.

  13. reflector says:

    Tim, I am not sure if we are so far away from each other. You spoke about the “tradition” of generosity and community support. Similar traditions existed in my country as well (in particular in the rural area). However, for various reasons, such traditions do not work any longer, at least for a large number of people who are not embedded in a social network with enough time and/or money to assist each other in the case of accidents or illness. So there is a need for solidarity on a higher level, which – other than family or neighbourhood support – requires legal fundaments. Where subsidiarity does not work, State intervention cannot always be avoided, even from the perspective of catholic social teaching. I wonder whether this is so much different in the US.

    There are different types of social insurance schemes in Europe. In some countries (like mine), there is a compulsory health insurance in public (mostly self governed) insurance institutions, where the contributions depend on the income (which means solidarity with the poor). Elsewhere, only an obligation to be insured (in which way ever) exists, with the State providing for public insurance institutions (or health services) for those who cannot afford private insurance where contributions depend on the individual health risks. The latter system might come rather near to the “gap filling” you have mentioned. However, the problem is how to fund social insurance (or State run health services) for those who cannot afford insurance contributions depending on their individual risks (which become higher when they get older). Either you do it with taxes, or you have to broaden the insurance community.

  14. Eric says:

    At risk of turning the thread away from insurance.

    The evening of Father Z’s post the other day with a picture of the pope’s swollen hand I added “and his wrist” to the end of “For the intentions of the holy father” at the end of our family rosary, after which we said a Memorare. (was that a run on sentence?)

    My smart alick 13 year old wanted to know how a wrist could have intentions.
    I told him that I was sure his wrist intended to heal.

    Anyway, I’ll chalk his recovery up to the prayers of my children.

  15. Eric says:

    Childermass said

    Unfortunately because I was “self-pay,” I was not given an MRI

    I believe that is against the law.

    No one can be denied medical treatment because of ability to pay.

  16. Tom Ryan says:

    The Holy Father always walked a lot around Rome before his election (though he seldom wore red)

  17. Greg Smisek says:

    Tim Ferguson wrote: I wonder if Cafe Press would be able to produce a squeezable rubber ball with “Say the black, do the red” on it?

    A great stress reliever for clergy and laity alike!

    For the priest who says the black and does the red but regularly gets flack for it, whether pinings for the days of Father-Fun-and-Relevant or complaints from the back-pew rubricist.

    For the long-suffering lay folk who long for Mass where the black is said and the red is done. (“What were you squeezing in your hand during Mass?” “Oh, er, nothing…”)

    It could be paired with the Hail Mary kind of like the breathing exercise that some pair with the Jesus prayer: [Squeeze] Hail, Mary, full of grace… [Squeeze] Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…

  18. Sacristymaiden says:

    r.j.sciurus: “Given how much sports teams make selling “game-worn” jerseys…. imagine the money that could be raised for missions or the poor if several hundred rubber balls with the Papal Crest were made, blessed and then auctioned after each series of reps.”

    I LOVE IT! What an idea!

  19. Viva il Papa!!!!!!!!

  20. Cathomommy says:

    For the past number of weeks, my 3-year-old has been steadfastly mentioning at each night’s prayers….”and for Pope Benedict, cause he fell down and bwoke his wist.” I’ll tell him of the good progress…now he’ll have to come up with something new for which to pray!

  21. robtbrown says:

    Medicare would cover it, as it would today.
    Comment by Paulus

    Currently, there are about 40,000,000 covered by Medicare. When the (us) baby boomers are all enrolled, the number covered will increase from about to 78,000,000–with fewer to pay into the system. A lot of the push for health care reform is an effort to find new revenue for Medicare.

  22. robtbrown says:


    The present problem, which is increasing, is found in all Western nations. It is that the new technologies have produced so many new diagnostic and treatment procedures that are very expensive. And these procedures keep people alive longer to use more medical resources. One small example: There will be $20 billion spent this year on knee replacements–25 years ago that sum was all but zero.

    In a certain sense the practice of medicine has changed from healing the sick to keeping the sick alive. As a physician friend told me a few weeks ago, “We’ve got people walking around who 20 years ago would have already been dead.”

    This problem is not going to be solved by national health insurance or private health insurance. The only possible solution can come from the pharmaceutical revolution (which has barely begun)–the hope is that new drugs will be produced that will replace various surgeries and hospitalization.

    BTW, I know of at least one cancer drug that is not being given in England because of the expense.

  23. irishgirl says:

    Cathomommy-oh, how cute! What a sweetie your little one is!

    TF and RJS-I echo Fr. Z’s words! You are both very creative!

    Thank God, all is going well with our Papa’s wrist!

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