Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Harps and Health Care

For years, the job of a harp technician has been a coveted position, reserved for an elite, slightly buttoned-up few. Servicing such an instrument that's so full-bodied requires a deft touch, sharp ear and an affection for the dramatic.

George Flores, 39, is a former heavy metal band singer-guitarist who used to have long hair and an eyebrow piercing. That he became a harp technician -- one of about a dozen in the country -- in 1998 after years as a hard rocker makes him unique. Even more, this lifelong Chicagoan suffered a 2004 crash that left him a paraplegic, and he continues his labor of love, servicing the 100-pound, 6-foot-tall instruments.

How he's able to do this is a story about an odyssey through a health-care system -- in some of Chicago's most prestigious hospitals -- that he said he almost didn't survive.

"Once you're in the system, you can generate more revenue," said Flores, who has had four surgeries and countless procedures over the last five years. "We're focusing too much on institutionalizing people and not focusing enough on rehabilitation and investing in things like stem-cell research."


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