Saturday, October 22, 2011

That elderly couple who died holding hands and the story we don't hear about

Surely you've heard about the couple who was married for 72 years and died holding hands within an hour of each other.  The story's been all over the Internet.  Here's the article that appeared in The Huffington Post:
For one Iowa couple, true love lasted until the very end. Married 72 years, Norma, 90, and Gordon Yeager, 94, died in the hospital holding hands last week, one hour apart. The couple was hospitalized after a car accident just outside of Marshalltown, Iowa. They were given a shared room in the ICU where they held hands in adjacent beds.

At 3:38 pm last Wednesday, Gordon's breathing stopped. Though he was no longer alive, his heart monitor continued to register a beat. The nurse told Gordon and Norma's son, Dennis Yeager, that the monitor was beeping "because they're holding hands, and [Norma's heart beat] is going through them," Dennis recalled in an interview with Des Moines' KCCI news station. "Her heart was beating through him."

Norma died at 4:38 pm, exactly one hour later.

Gordon and Norma's children say they're glad the couple passed this way. "They just loved being together," says Dennis. "He always said, 'I can't go until she does because I gotta stay here for her.' And she would say the same thing."
Sweet story, huh?  Okay, not to be a bummer wet blanket, but there's a part of this tale that hasn't gotten the publicity.  If you dig a little deeper, you'll find this article, with the following information.
The accident that claimed Gordon, 94, and Norma Yeager, 90, happened Oct. 12, when the couple left their State Center home for a drive shortly after 8 a.m. At the intersection of Highway 30 and Jessup Avenue, just west of Marshalltown, Gordon pulled "away from the stop sign and failed to yield to a westbound vehicle," according to Sgt. Joel Ehler of the Iowa State Patrol.

The driver of the other car, Charles Clapsaddle, 64, of Marshalltown, was unable to stop to avoid a collision, Ehler said.

Clapsaddle was treated and released from Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center, but his wife, Barbara, was reportedly transferred to Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. A man who identified himself as their son, John, said in a comment published on a story on the Times-Republican website that his mother suffered internal bleeding and a broken neck.

“She is currently stable but remains in the critical care unit,” he wrote. “There will be a long road ahead for her recovery. 
Ehler said Yeager was facing pending action by the Iowa Department of Transportation to have his license removed, but citing privacy concerns, said he could release no additional details on what prompted that action.
So the story behind the story is that old Mr. Yeager probably should never have been behind the wheel and now a woman has a broken neck (doesn't that mean paralysis of some kind?) and a long, long recovery ahead of her. One can only imagine the financial devastation this will cause to her as well.

I say shame on the news media for focusing solely on the touching details--the wife's heartbeat on the monitor is quite powerful--and not taking the opportunity to educate the public on the dangers of elderly drivers.  As one commenter on this site put it:
"My prayers are for Barbara Clapsaddle & her family. Mr. Yeager should never have been behind the wheel of that car. I lost my husband to an elderly driver, and I am disappointed in this article--a missed opportunity to bring to attention the horrible ramifications of some elderly drivers who selfishly refuse to give up driving and their children who cannot be bothered to take responsibility."
What say you?

11 comments:

JeannetteLS said...

I'm afraid I am with you in this. The woman with the broken neck may or may not face permanent paralysis, but she clearly has a struggle ahead--one of someone else's doing.

It is a tragedy. And the media turned it into something romantic. The Clapsaddles may get money from the insurance company, but that is not the point.

You hit it--this should be a cautionary tale for people to have to REpass license exams as we age. Do I want to have to parallel park again EVER? NO. But if I have to take a driver's test that includes that, I'll find a parking lot and relearn.

We are ALL slowing way down after fifty. I don't want to be a Yeager. OR a Clapsaddle. I want to KNOW if I should not be driving--I would like to HAVE to revisit the laws of the road and be tested so I do not hurt myself or others.

THought-provoking entry, Linda

R. Jacob said...

As they used to say. "Now you know the rest of the story". Good job.

Yes, they did leave out the important stuff, wow!

FleaStiff said...

AARP wants individualized, case by case treatment of older drivers. So too do virtually all politicians in very "grey" states such as Florida.

We license someone at 18 after a drive around the block at 30mph and then let them get on the freeway. Pay a few renewal fees and perhaps a very occasional vision and hearing test and that's it for life.

Of course the economic cost of loss of mobility is high, so is the psychological cost of isolation.

Jay said...

Over-analysis in my opinion. To have someone blame the children for not taking responsibility, etc., isn't that reaching without knowing all of the facts? We, the reader, simply do not have enough information to draw conclusions - again, in my opinion (and yes, everyone has one).

Vegas Linda Lou said...

I totally understand the psychological cost of isolation and how important it is for the elderly to remain active and socially stimulated. Seems like a good idea to offer free rides for our old folks. It's the least we can do.

JeannetteLS said...

We are a country that MAYBE should finally do something about mass transit, better bus systems, more options besides driving cars. Oh. Wait. We get back to being willing to pay for it.

Nothing is simple, is it. This is such an interesting situation you've brought up.

Mellodee said...

It is a true issue. As we age our judgement, sight, and hearing deteriorate, which means we lose the ability to correctly drive a car.

One of the saddest things I ever witnessed took place at the DMV years ago. A man of about 45 was trying to explain to his elderly father that he had not passed the road test and was not being granted a renewal of his driver's license. It was heartbreaking to witness. "What do you mean I can't drive? Of course, I can. I've been driving for 65 years. Why did that man take my license? What right did they have to take my license? What do you mean?? I don't understand."

I wanted to cry.

Personally I am terrified of having that day come to me sooner rather than later. Driving gives me mobility and independence. Losing that is the beginning of the end.

I understand the need to make the roads safe(er) by making sure no one is driving when they shouldn't be. It's just that it's like a slap in the face that says "You're worthless, used up, and old. Go somewhere and die!"

Despite the circumstances and result of the accident....there is still a sweetness to the story of these two elderly people who had been married for 72 years and died within an hour of one another ....holding hands to the end. I'm sure there was no malicious harm intended. It was an accident. Even people under 30 have accidents when they are in the best of health. Things happen at every age.

The fact that those two souls were together to the very end and seemed unable to go on without each other is the story and the accident was just that...an accident.

Julie said...

Aw, that's so sad, because I posted that story on FB, it touched me so much.

Damn.

Barbara said...

I say: Leave it to the media to twist, eliminate or add whatever makes the story more appealing or intriguing to the masses.

Its very sweet that they died together but I agree with you, at what expense? This other woman has very serious injuries and her life has just been thrown into turmoil.

Dangerous Linda said...

Thanks for the update. Must be painful for the husband of the woman with the broken neck to see the other couple glorified all over the place ...

The Vegas Flea said...

As I was reading the original story, I immediately was wondering in anger, "Why were they driving!?"

I have real issues with this. Just a few days ago here in Las Vegas, an elderly woman took out three little girls (one 5 yr old and two 6 yr olds) at a crosswalk!! One of the 6 yr olds died. They were walking home from the park with two older girls, crossing the street where they should have been, etc.

I firmly believe that after the age of 65, a mandatory driving test be issued every three years.