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Pneumonia Is NOT Our Friend

Written by Gary North on December 31, 2016

Jim Henson created the Muppets. In late 1989, he sold his company to Disney for $150 million.

In early 1990, he began experiencing flu-like symptoms. On May 15, he got really sick. Wikipedia reports:

That night, Henson’s wife Jane, from whom he was separated, came to visit for the last time. Hours later, on May 15, Henson was having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He suggested to his wife that he might be dying, but did not want to take time from his schedule to visit a hospital. Jane later stated that while Henson’s Christian Science upbringing “affect[ed] his general thinking”, it did not have any influence on his postponement of medical treatment, and still later told People magazine that his avoidance was likely due to his desire not to be a bother to anyone. . . .

Two hours later, Henson finally agreed to go to New York Hospital in New York City. By the time he was admitted shortly after 4:00 am (EST), he could no longer breathe on his own, and an X-ray revealed he had abscesses in his lungs. He was placed on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe, but his condition deteriorated rapidly despite aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics. Fewer than 24 hours later on May 16, 1990, Henson died at the age of 53.

He could have afforded the best care on earth. But on May 16, 1990, life’s inescapable trade-off between time and money ran out for Jim Henson.


My mother told me half a century ago that pneumonia is called the old man’s friend. She was correct. It still is.

Pneumonia is called the old man’s friend because, left untreated, the sufferer often lapses into a state of reduced consciousness, slipping peacefully away in their sleep, giving a dignified end to a period of often considerable suffering.

My mother died three weeks before turning 98. Her mind was gone, but she was a good breather. But she had always been skinny.

Her parents died at 81. She beat the demographic odds.

My father died at age 90. His mind was still functional. He liked to eat. He was not obese. He had never been skinny. His parents died at 81. He beat the demographic odds. He also beat the gastronomical odds.

I think they beat the demographic odds because my mother bought Adelle Davis’ Let’s Cook it Right (1947) in 1949. The physician she took me to recommended it. He was Francis Pottenger, the first well known dietary physician. I got well in 18 months. I have stayed on his diet, and I have not been sick often, my gall bladder being the one exception (2002).

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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