Sunday, June 29, 2008

This is how your little brother Joe warms up for baseball. He was hitting one home run after another on the Wii and I asked him how he does it. His response:

"Because I'm amazing."

He is kind of amazing - just check out the catch he makes below. A few of the parents on his team were joking at this game that they wanted to have their pictures taken with Joe. They reasoned that one day when he is famous they can sell the photos on eBay and make a lot of money.

Joe's Last Takoma Park Game of the Season from Allen Goldberg on Vimeo.

Everyone on the team got medals. I think the smiles mean Uncle Andrew did a pretty good job of coaching.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I am writing you from one of our more familiar haunts - the emergency room at Georgetown (they have wireless Internet access now all over the hospital) Weren't we just here a few days ago for a carnival? It seems that Joe decided to head butt a dumpster behind Pearsons. The dumpster won. It made a gash in Joe's head that gushed blood all over Joe and Mom. When I got to the ER, Mom and Joe were sitting in the waiting room all covered in dried blood.

The fact that they were sitting in the waiting room was frustrating to them, but it made me feel good. It meant that Joe's cut wasn't all that bad. As you probably wouldn't ever be able to recall, you didn't have to wait when the police brought you here unconscious. They threw you right in there.

When I got here I went over to the Leavey Center and got Mom some coffee and Joe a brownie. They looked so beat up and I wanted to try to do something nice for them. It totally reminded me of how I kept busy whenever you were in the hospital. To keep Joe occupied I gave him my iPod and together we looked at some photos on the Internet. I pulled up the cool shots that my friend Lou Brutus posted on his Facebook page.

Joe actually met this guy today. Lastings Milledge, who plays for the Nats, came to Home Run Baseball Camp and visited with all the players. Joe was psyched.

We are now back in an exam room where Joe is getting his wound cleaned. He is even more psyched that he isn't getting stitches. Glue. That is what they use these days. Stitches and staples are totally old school. In fact, if you were having your heart surgery today they might even use glue to close your chest up.

I have to say that it is a shame that the ER is sooooo depressing. Of all the rooms and common spaces at the hospital, the ER is usually the most crowded and people wait there the longest. It would be nice to gussy it up a bit. Right now it could not be more sad.

One place that has been made super nice I am glad to report is the PICU. I went up there with a clown to invite kids to come down to the carnival and to give anyone who can't come down some presents. There is great lighting and flat screen TVs. It looks very modern, but still very warm.

Joe's cut is clean now. Maybe he will end up with a Harry Potter scar.

For being in the emergency room, Joe is in a very good mood. The doctor told him he needs to keep his head dry so there will be no showers and no swimming lessons for a few days. Joe just said this is the best day ever. Okay.

Big weekend. Went to the beach in Lewes and then Jack went off to camp. Jack crazy excited. Mom excited for him but also very sad.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I don't have "complicated" grief but some of this sounds familiar. I don't think I ever told you much about my job, but it has to do with looking at peoples' brains and I work with researchers at UCLA in California.

Addicted To Grief? Chronic Grief Activates Pleasure Areas Of The Brain

ScienceDaily (June 20, 2008) — Grief is universal, and most of us will probably experience the pain grief brings at some point in our lives, usually with the death of a loved one. In time, we move on, accepting the loss.

But for a substantial minority, it's impossible to let go, and even years later, any reminder of their loss -- a picture, a memory -- brings on a fresh wave of grief and yearning. The question is, why? Why do some grieve and ultimately adapt, while others can't get over the loss of someone held dear?

Reporting in the journal NeuroImage, scientists at UCLA suggest that such long-term or "complicated" grief activates neurons in the reward centers of the brain, possibly giving these memories addiction-like properties. Their research is currently available in the journal's online edition.

This study is the first to compare those with complicated and noncomplicated grief, and future research in this area may help psychologists do a better job of treating those with complicated grief, according to Mary-Frances O'Connor, UCLA assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study.

"The idea is that when our loved ones are alive, we get a rewarding cue from seeing them or things that remind us of them," O'Connor said. "After the loved one dies, those who adapt to the loss stop getting this neural reward. But those who don't adapt continue to crave it, because each time they do see a cue, they still get that neural reward.

"Of course, all of this is outside of conscious thought, so there isn't an intention about it," she said.

The study analyzed whether those with complicated grief had greater activity occurring in either the brain's reward network or pain network than those with noncomplicated grief. The researchers looked at 23 women who had lost a mother or a sister to breast cancer. (Grief is very problematic among survivors of breast cancer patients, particularly among female family members who have increased risk based on their family history). They found that, of that number, 11 had complicated grief, and 12 had the more normal, noncomplicated grief.

Each of the study participants brought a photograph of their deceased loved one and were shown this picture while undergoing brain scanning by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Next, they were scanned while looking at a photograph of a female stranger.

The authors looked for activity in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain most commonly associated with reward and one that has also been shown to play a role in social attachment, such as sibling and maternal affiliation. They also examined activity in the pain network of the brain, including the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the insula, which has been implicated in both physical and social pain. They found that while both groups had activation in the pain network of the brain after viewing a picture of their loved one, only individuals with complicated grief showed significant nucleus accumbens activations.

Complicated grief can be debilitating, involving recurrent pangs of painful emotions, including intense yearning, longing and searching for the deceased, and a preoccupation with thoughts of the loved one. This syndrome has now been defined by an empirically derived set of criteria and is being considered for inclusion in the DSM-V, the psychiatric manual for diagnosing mental disorders.

O'Connor, who is a member of UCLA's Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, cautions that she is not suggesting that such reveries about the deceased are emotionally satisfying but rather that they may serve in some people as a type of craving for the reward response that may make adapting to the reality of the loss more difficult.

The study was funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program. Other authors included David K. Wellisch, Annette L. Stanton, Naomi I. Eisenberger, Michael R. Irwin and Matthew D. Lieberman, all of UCLA.

Friday, June 20, 2008

This is from Samantha McCarthy's Caring Page site. We had an awesome time with them. What a great family. I cannot think of a better person to send up to Capitol Hill than Sam. I bet they'll open up the U.S. Treasury to fund childrens' hospitals because of her.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18, 2008 05:37 PM, EDT
Greeting from Washington DC
Thanks for visiting the site. We are trying to set up a website but right now it is not working so I will just tell you about our trip here and continue trying to get the website up and going.

We are in DC representing Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical at the National Association of Children's Hospitals Advocacy Day.

We have all come for the trip except for baby Jack since we are doing a lot of walking and thought it would be a bit much for him but we miss him a lot!

We arrived in town yesterday (Tuesday) and last night had dinner with our friends Allen and Laurie Strongin-Goldberg and their two sons Joe and Jack (what a conincidence). They hosted us at their home which is a short cabride from our hotel. They live very near Embassy Row which was cool to see on the way. We had a nice time playing at the park and a very cool ride home in their land rover defender under a clear sky with the top totally off. The full moon was very cool next to the Washington Monument.

We slept in a little this morning and opted to walk over and see the White House instead of the planned tour. It is very cool even from way out on the street.

We met the whole group for lunch at the hotel and then had our first meeting with Congressman Steve Chabot from Cincinnati. All of our kids were so well behaved and Samantha did a beautiful job explaining her diagnosis from the beginning to her current treatment and how important the bill considering pediatric treatment is to families like ours. I don't know that I have ever been more proud of her! Well, maybe I have but it was right up there. We spent some time visiting the Air and Space Museum and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens too. Tonight they have a big dinner planned with lots of fun and entertainment for all the families. Samantha has already made friends today with other kids and we are looking forward to tonight

More to come soon so make sure to check back with us.

All our love,
Nikki, Dan Sam, Finn and Joe

What made me feel good was that many of the folks who came to the summer carnival at Georgetown wanted to know more about the kid who inspired it all - you!

Well done big man.

From's Coverage

At the end of the afternoon, each child made off with a full tummy and a beach bucket of goodies, courtesy of the Hope for Henry Foundation.

"Just for today, they are allowed to eat whatever they want," said founder and executive director Laurie Strongin, Henry Strongin Goldberg's mother, who sponsored the summer carnival. "If we can bring the fun to the hospital, then they can associate this place with fun and normalcy and it will help these kids want to come get the treatment that they need."

Dr. Aziza Shad, director of pediatric hematology/oncology, said, "What Laurie Strongin and Allen have done to honor Henry's memory has brought happiness and laughter into the lives of countless children with cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders."

Monday, June 16, 2008

I need to show this to Joe. He started Home Run Baseball Camp today. This kid, Adam Bender, is incredible. Watching the video you see him just getting it done. Seems very no-nonsense and clearly not feeling sad for himself.


Baseball, football, soccer -- nothing slows him down


Adam Bender plays ball

Adam Bender slips a chest protector over his Astros jersey, buckles a shinguard to his right leg, positions a mask atop his head, grabs his catcher's mitt and hops out of the dugout.

Adam has his game face on. Or at least what passes as a game face for an 8-year-old. His eyes are serious. His freckled nose is crinkled with determination.

It is a cool, breezy Saturday morning at Veterans Park, which is already buzzing with activity. Baseball games are being played on three diamonds within a pop-up of each other. Parents are clustered in and around the stands, chatting and cheering. Players of all ages, wearing uniforms or team T-shirts, swarm the place.

Hardly anybody gives a second glance to the catcher in the Southeastern rookie league deftly playing on one leg.

Adam Bender is just another kid playing ball, which is exactly how his parents, Michelle and Chris, want it.

"I was a little hesitant when we first brought him up here for baseball," Michelle said. "I thought his spirit might be crushed if he got out every time. Then I thought, who am I to micromanage his feelings? He's going to have to learn how to deal with this stuff.

"The more I shelter him, the more he'll think, 'I'm fragile.' I don't think I'll ever tell him he can't do something."

Adam is amazing to watch. He takes his position behind the plate, resting on his right knee.

When a runner rounds third looking to score, Adam jumps up and holds his ground.

He suffered a mild concussion on one collision and missed a practice or two. But he recovered and was ready for action in the next game. At one point this season he led the rookie league in put-outs at home.

At bat, his athletic skill and balance allow him to take a full swing, and he usually makes contact. He hops to first base as quickly as he can. If he's safe, he uses crutches to run the bases. When he gets thrown out, he hops dejectedly back to the dugout.

He's a competitor, and not just in baseball.

Adam, who lost his left leg to cancer when he was 1, has played soccer for a couple of years. He uses crutches, and is a whirlwind on the field in Centenary United Methodist's "I Am Third" league.

He played YMCA flag football last fall for Bruce Rector, who has coached against Adam's baseball team.

At first, Rector wasn't sure if Adam could play football. "Then I slept on it. Having seen him play baseball, I knew he'd find a way to make it work," Rector said. "Sure enough, we put him at quarterback (using no crutches) and used a shotgun snap. He threw a lot of touchdown passes."

Adam lobbied to line up at receiver at least once so he could have a chance to score. On a conversion play, Adam hopped 5 yards down the field and made a diving catch in the end zone despite being double-covered.

"That's what I mean when I say if you turn him loose, he'll find a way," Rector said.

Adam shyly deflects question about himself. He admits that he "loves baseball" and "loves catching," but he doesn't think he's doing anything out of the ordinary.

Astros coach Dan Wyse said he went out of his way to get Adam on his team "because he's a good kid, a good catcher, and what he brings attitude-wise, he's an inspiration to everybody."

Michelle Bender appreciates the effect her son has on people young and old.

"Adam has helped other kids see that a person with a disability can be fun to hang out with, and play with, and they can still be a part of a community or part of a team. It's developed the kids' compassion.

"And if he can inspire even one family to allow their kid to try something they normally might not try, that's great."

Adam tried using a prosthesis but didn't like it because he felt it slowed him down. He is adamant about not using a wheelchair.

"He wants to play ball like everybody else," Michelle said. "He's always had that 'nobody's going to stop me' attitude."

Chris Bender thinks his son's "attitude and energy" channel naturally into sports. "He pops out of bed at 60 miles an hour and doesn't quit until he collapses at the end of the day. He's always wanted to do everything."

Doing everything that his older brother Steven and younger sister Morgan do is what pleases Adam's dad the most.

"The best thing about it is the normalcy," Chris said. "There will come a day when Adam will no longer be able to keep up. But he's had some measure of childhood where he's just like everybody else.

"He doesn't have to sit and watch his brother and sister play. He's out there playing with them."

And teaching a life lesson to everybody who's watching.

Rector does motivational speaking and leadership training, and he regularly relates Adam's inspirational story to adults.

"The lesson he teaches is that you need to let talented people with great heart get out there and do their thing," Rector said. "There's no such thing as an insurmountable obstacle for Adam. He's a winner."

See video of Adam hitting and playing catcher in a baseball game.

Sam and her family are coming over for dinner tomorrow. She is doing very important work. It takes something very special to think of and work on behalf of others when your plate is pretty full with serious stuff like FA.

Uncle Dan and Cousin Hannah just made it to their 50th state and 39th state capitol. This is a picture of them after landing in Helena, Montana. Way to go!

Macomb Daily : Afflicted children get support 06/16/08

Fabrizio DiMercurio, 9, is afflicted with a rare disease called Fanconi anemia. He annually attends a camp for seriously ill children called Camp Sunshine in Maine. On June 21, Hattie and Bart Rowe will host a fundraiser at their Clinton Township Tropical Smoothie Cafe to benefit Camp Sunshine.

Afflicted children get support

By Frank DeFrank
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Antonio and Marie DiMercurio of Macomb Township have two families.

Their immediate family includes daughters Alessandra, 10, and Adriana, 2, and son Fabrizio, 9.

Their second family includes the children, men, women and volunteers they visit every year at a place called Camp Sunshine in Maine. At the camp, children, like Fabrizio, who suffer from serious illnesses gather to forget their troubles and be kids for a few days.

If the respite from doctors and treatments is good for kids, it might be even better for the adults.

"We talk to each other," said Antonio. "We get to express our feelings with one another. It's like a big family."

At birth, Fabrizio was diagnosed with an affliction called Fanconi anemia, a rare, inherited blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure. Because of the affliction, Fabrizo was born without thumbs and with incomplete bone structure in his arms.

But you wouldn't know it. He bounces around like other 9-year-olds at Shawnee Elementary School, and at Camp Sunshine he plays golf, takes boat rides and enjoys his favorite part: "Swimming in the lake."

Fanconi anemia is so rare, only about 3,000 people worldwide are afflicted. Fabrizio's life includes regular blood tests and trips to Cincinnati at least once a year, sometimes more, for treatments.

And for the past six years, the family has traveled to Maine for a few days at Camp Sunshine, where the kids play and the parents learn the latest medical information about their children's afflictions.

"When the children are out doing their activities, we're in with the doctors," said Marie.

But spending time with other families is the best part.

"We get to socialize with the other families and we're all in the same boat," Marie said. "You can't put worth on that."

Camp Sunshine is free to families with ill children, though they must pay their own transportation costs. This year, the DiMercurios are one of five families in southeastern Michigan whose trips to Camp Sunshine are sponsored by Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

"I'm just amazed by their strength and their hope," said Dianne Lemieux, area developer for Tropical Smoothie Cafe. "I can see the difference (the camp) has made in their lives."

Because Fanconi anemia is rare, few even know about it. The DiMercurio family has taken on the responsibility of raising awareness about the affliction as well as participating in fundraisers.

"You take a negative and try to make it a positive," Maria said.

Bart and Hattie Rowe own the only Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Macomb County. Located at 40777 Garfield, just south of 18 Mile Road, in Clinton Township, the Rowes and their store will participate June 21 in a fund-raiser for Camp Sunshine called National Flip Flop Day.

The first 500 customers wearing flip flops will receive a free Jetty Punch smoothie. But the Rowes hope those and many more customers that day will offer financial support for Camp Sunshine.

"Take up donations and bring them to us," Bart said.

For more information about the fundraiser, call the Rowes Tropical Smoothie Cafe at (586) 477-2777 or visit the Web site For more information about Camp Sunshine, visit

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our own Stoddert makes it to the big screen. This is an excerpt from a documentary called, Ready to Play.

I am pretty sure we spend more time at Stoddert than inside our house. You definitely ruled the soccer field when you were on the Dolphins. Joe is also good at soccer but refuses to play. He is very focused on baseball.

Your littlest brother also insists on watching all of the Glover Park softball league games. I seem to remember that you were the same way. Mom thinks it is strange that I've never played in the league. One of Joe's coaches is on a team and has asked if I can come over if they are ever short of players. That will be fun.

The filmmaker, Jennifer Crescenzo, was kind enough to let me post this.


I am the happiest, most fortunate, saddest dad around. You and your brothers make being a dad the easiest, most wonderful thing anyone could wish for.

Here are the cards that Joe made for me and the one Jack did on his computer.

Your little brother strokes a double!

Luckily, baseball allows Joe to pursue his love affair with dirt. I think he is only in it for the acrobatic dives and stops. Gravity has a strong pull on him. By the end of the game he looks like he auditioned for a detergent commercial. For Joe, winning isn't any way as important as getting dirty.

I've gently explained that over time he'll learn that all of the rolling around isn't the most efficient or effective way to play defense. Interestingly, we were listening to XM's baseball channel and heard Tommy John, the former Yankee pitcher, say that he never saw Joe DiMaggio dive for a ball. DiMaggio was so fast he'd get to the ball hit to the outfield without any SportsCenter worthy dives.

I can remember another time when I was listening to stories about Joe DiMaggio on the radio. I was driving from the UPS place east of Minneapolis after shipping boxes of all of our stuff home. The author of a book about Joltin' Joe was being interviewed about the Yankee great and it sounded like his life was not a very happy one.

Maybe he needed to get his uniform dirtier.


It is sometimes easy to forget that he is a 6 year-old playing with 9 year-olds.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Today was wall-to-wall sad. In the morning we went to JPDS to watch your class graduate. I felt incredible pride watching Ari graduate. He is so handsome. Each person in the class got up and said something. They pretty much thanked their parents and talked about how much fun they had on their 6th grade trip to New York. Kerren Segal, in her remarks, said:

"If I could wish for one thing to change about my years at JPDS, it would be that Henry Goldberg could have shared in more of our wonderful memories."

That was sweet. When it got to the presentation of the gift from the class, they showed slides of you and last week's dedication ceremony. Here's a shocker. I cried. So did Mom.

After graduation I saw a friend of mine, someone who I don't see very often, in the hallway as I was getting Joe so we could go home. She asked me if I went to graduation - if I had anyone graduating. I said "no."

Later in the day we heard that this guy named Tim Russert died. He is in this picture of Mom, me and your brothers at the Nat's game. His seats were right behind the XM seats. His son, Luke, had a show on XM and is a really sweet guy. I'd say hello to Luke at XM and when I saw him at Nat's games. I never knew his dad.

This picture - which was taken by my very versatile and talented friend Lou from XM - is the screen saver on my computer. Has been since last year.

This is all very sad. Sunday is Father's Day and Tim Russert was the unofficial patron saint of the holiday. He wrote two books about fathers and sons. He really loved and respected his father. In his first book he wrote about what he learned from his father, Big Russ.

I remember a story that Tim Russert would tell about how Luke came home one day with a tattoo. Tim was pretty furious about it. Then Luke showed his dad what he had tattooed and it was his dad's initials. He did that so his dad would always be with him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Baseball comes easy. Swimming and being in the water not so much. This is what Joe is mighty, mighty proud of.

Here is what is amazing about your little brother.

Today he had "Water Day" at school, which means he basically ran around getting soaked all day. After school let out he went to his swimming lesson at the JCC.

Then when he got home he went to go play tennis at Volta with Meg, our babysitter for the summer - she is a nursing student at Georgetown.

Then when he got back he asked if I would go to Stoddert to play catch with him. This is at 7:30 pm and he'd been in motion all day with very little food in his belly. When we got to Stoddert, he ditched me to play soccer with another family who we see there from time to time. After that family left at a little after 8 pm he got around to fielding grounders and hitting balls with me.

We finally got back in the house at 8:40 pm and he wasn't tired or ready to stop. He is a human perpetual motion machine. I am thankful for him getting me outside to do physical things. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up with him for some years to come.