Public Comment

Bulldozed in Berkeley

By Kim Fogel
Thursday July 10, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

I sent this letter about to the American Pain Foundation, a national pain patients’ advocacy group ( 


Please tell everyone you can what is happening here in Berkeley. With all the political fracas over narcotic pain meds, now they want to take away a life-saving natural treatment. Warm Pool Therapy (exercise in pool heated to 91 degrees, not too hot for exercise and not too cold for already stiff muscles) has kept pain from crippling and killing scores of Bay Area residents for 25 years. But the school board wants to bulldoze the condemned high school gymnasium to make way for construction. 

The city just decided not to put a new pool on the November ballot, but the citizens we hear from at many public meetings think seniors and disabled people are a “small interest group,” and that we keep draining them of their tax dollars and give nothing in return. I don’t know who makes up that tiny group. Whenever I’m there I meet senior and disabled people who work part to full time, volunteer, raise children or grandchildren, keep their independence, or are too disabled to do any of that but are making the most they can out of life. 

You can’t save money by ignoring pain. We pay billions a year in lost work, joblessness (55 percent of chronic pain patients are unemployed), homelessness (people who lost successful careers and everything else to pain ask you for money every time you pass the downtown BART station), and broken families. The pool often brings multiple generations and diverse groups of families together. 

The councilmembers keep saying they plan to build a replacement pool, but can’t come up with a concrete plan. They have just voted not to include a bond measure for the city’s pools including the warm pool on the ballot. Tonight, we won’t be too proud to beg to keep our pool open until a new one opens its doors. 

My ability to raise my child and support my family depends on the pool. It took seven years to win the battle for the type and dosage of medication that would provide any relief, only to find the victory short-lived as crippling pain broke through. The UCSF Pain Management center recommended warm pool therapy for me, but there are few such pools around, and most are in expensive health clubs open only during business hours, when many of us work. 

Even more encouraging are the seniors who joined around age 50 for the exercise and companionship, and 20 years later still look and feel 50. An ounce of prevention is worth even more than effective treatment. 

Isn’t it astonishing that with all the flag waving around a new recruitment center, no one has enough consideration for the troops to consider the pain treatment alternatives they will need when they return? 

I never thought that a 46-year-old Jewish woman who has never encountered discrimination would start feeling vulnerable for having neck pain. But then came the fascist-style vandalism that included throwing wheelchairs into the pool—a random crime that just happened to occur the night of a key City Council vote. If the perpetrators were young, I can’t entirely blame them given the comments made by some teachers, politiicians, and other supposedly respectable community members. 

The temptation I find hardest to resist: Asking the ACPA newsletter to run a cover story entitled, “Why They Hate us.” 

More seriously, it’s time to confront the nationwide epidemic of chronic pain that is inexplicably accompanied by an epidemic of ignorance, and to let millions of pain patients and doctors find out about this effective but little-known treatment. 


Kim Fogel is a Richmond resident.