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Authorities identify man who died in fiery crash on Interstate 29 south of Grand Forks

Fredricks: Invaluable. That's the real answer, Mr. Commissioner

No matter how you slice it, surgery is no fun. More to the point, it's no fun no matter how they need to slice you.

Painful stuff. Recovery is no walk in the park, either. After nearly eight days in recovery at Sanford, I can say this with certainty.

I also can say the people who took care of me are diamonds, immigrants from across the United States and the world, each with a dazzling smile worth millions.

Fusion, Part I

I've had daily pain from degeneration of my spine for about five years. Bulging discs, pinched spinal cord, constant pain in my hips and lightning bolts screaming down the backs of my legs. I tried everything else but, ultimately, spinal fusion surgery was the only option.

Some issues extended my stay from the expected three to five days to more than a week. That's a long stretch, but I had some great people helping me through.

I also had lots of time to think. Physical pain was on my mind, certainly, but another kind, too. Community pain

It's the pain and embarrassment I feel as immigrants and refugees are targeted with accusations that they drain resources or burden communities.

The targeters, like one Fargo commissioner, call for an accounting of costs, suggesting "others" take services away from "real Americans." Odd, though. They're never interested in the value "they" bring to our communities.

Immigrants and refugees work. Hard. They pay taxes. They start businesses. They share new customs, foods, music, art and clothing styles. They become citizens. Their children often go on to improve American society. They make us richer. Oh yeah, they save lives, too.

My experience didn't open my eyes, but made me perceive the persecution of immigrants and refugees more keenly. I use the word persecution purposely; in my mind the implication that people cost too much is just that.

Cost and value are the wrong words, anyway.

Invaluable. Now there's a word that makes the cut. Fusion, Part II My caretakers are from the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota. One is an authentic University of Arkansas Razorback, first one I've ever met. More than a third hail from around the world — eastern Europe, as well as Canada, Liberia, Nigeria and other countries.

They have melodious accents, a brilliant array of skin colors and command of many languages.

Whether they came from the U.S. or the other side of the globe, they prepped me for surgery, helped me to the bathroom, refilled daily meds, monitored pain and progress, brought me food, drained fluids and walked me up and down the halls. They also got me through some really rough patches.

Their life experiences, expertise and compassion fused into one powerful, international force committed to making me better. They did so without any need for thanks or giving a rip about my skin color, religion or political beliefs.

Capital "U"

I am not unique or special, even though everyone at Sanford made me feel that way. They're simply professionals living their lives, doing their jobs and applying their talents where they're most needed. I happened to be an Everyman who needed it most.

There was no me or they. There was only us, and we made it through those eight days together. Kind of how I'd like to see Us — yes, with a capital "U" — make it through the coming decades and centuries.

The pain I've had for years is gone. Turns out recovery really is a walk in the park, or at least around my block. Each day I feel better and go a little farther.

This, thanks to everyone who literally helped get me back on my feet, including "they" and the "others" who are just as American, and as invaluable, as I'll ever be.

Fredricks writes ivwords.blogspot.com and is an occasional contributor to The Forum’s editorial pages.

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