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Help defray Boston Jazz Hero Arni Cheatham's medical costs

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Arni Cheatham, one of the most respected and beloved professional musicians and educators in the Boston jazz community, is in need of immediate financial assistance to help pay for medical bills.

For almost two years, Arni has been living with debilitating back pain. Recently, his disability has progressed alarmingly, despite ongoing and wide- ranging efforts with an extensive network of top medical professionals. On August 8, unable to walk, Arni was rushed to the emergency room. An MRI revealed three acutely herniated discs. With an intensive regimen of pain management and physical therapy, he has begun to regain mobility. He hopes to avoid surgery, which would be complex and very risky.

Medical insurance covers only a portion of the expenses that Arni is incurring for medical transport, emergency room visits, hospital services, outpatient treatment, doctors and specialists, high-tech imaging, laboratory tests, physical therapy, home aid support, medical equipment and prescription drugs. The bills that Arni must pay are mounting and will continue to grow.

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Many of us know Arni as a creative colleague who has led his own small bands (Thing, Smoke, and others), and has graced large ensembles such as the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra (for more than 40 years!), the Makanda Project, and the John Coltrane Memorial Ensemble, among others. Arni is a devoted educator in the JazzBoston Riffs & Raps community outreach program. He is a dedicated jazz activist, having been a founding member of the Jazz Coalition and the creator of the Coalition's JazzEd program that played an important role during the desegregation of the Boston Public Schools. In 2013, he was honored with the Boston Jazz Hero Award, given by the national Jazz Journalists Association and presented by JazzBoston. In addition to all of this, Arni is a professional photographer and an important presence on the South End arts scene.

Arni has given an enormous amount of his time, energy, and talent to our community. Now is the time for his friends, colleagues, fans, and admirers old and new, to step up to the plate on his behalf. I've known Arni for nearly a half-century, and I'll be making one of the very first contributions to this fund. I encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Jazz is always a collective effort, and together, we can send some love and much-needed financial assistance to our friend Arni so that he can return to the bandstand!

Thank you for your concern and support,
Mark Harvey

September 8, 2017 Update

Warmest thanks to all who have responded to the YouCaring page. Dotty thought of this idea and I am lucky to have her by my side through this tough time. I am humbled and honored by the quick response of the community of friends and jazz fans. I have been at home and out of the rehab facility since last Friday. (Hurrah!) I’m receiving PT home visits twice weekly, and a visiting nurse several times a week, along with various doctor’s appointments. Physically I’ve graduated from a wheelchair to a walker, and this week I’ve been using a cane to get around. My daily exercise regimen takes about 30 to 40 minutes in the morning and more in the afternoon.

We are still combating daily back pain, and I’m operating at a reduced capacity but adding things a bit at a time. Yesterday I ran some errands and was zonked by the evening, but that is progress. Endurance is an important goal.

Interestingly, with about six doctors in the loop, no one seems to know definitively what the source is for the pain. This is a mystery which still needs to unravel. Meanwhile I’ve put off foot surgery, which was originally scheduled for August 30th. It’ll need to wait until the back is more stable.

I’m looking forward to gradually getting stronger and returning to music, photography, and life! Once again, thanks so very much for your support. I love you all!

Arni

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