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Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

My heart goes out to Sen John McCain, 80, who was recently diagnosed with an extremely aggressive brain cancer. His glioblastoma was found “incidentally” in medical parlance, in that doctors were removing a blood clot that was associated with this condition when they found the culprit. It’s the same kind of tumor that killed Sen Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden’s son, Beau.

It’s the same cancer that killed my Father.

My Father was a pharmacist in Scranton, PA. He had survived the Great Depression and was raising five children with the Flapper. At first, it was only headaches, but later he lost the use of his left arm. My sister Kay had to help him actually grind medication in a mortar at the back of the drug store while her younger brothers read comic books up front. Psychology was a relatively new field at the time; a psychiatrist told my parents that they should have another child because my Father had “lost the will to live.”

I am that sixth child and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his glioblastoma. The Flapper always joked that I was the only child she had planned! My Father’s friend, an ophthalmologist, noticed his bulging retina and sent him back to the university hospital where they operated on his brain right before Christmas 1948. I was three months old. He died in April the next year, he was only 47. Our Year of Living Dangerously was just beginning.

Although I may not have agreed with Sen McCain’s policies over the years, I have always considered him a true patriot. And unlike many politicians, he didn’t couch his words in innuendo. He played it straight and tried to be fair and work across the aisle. His daughter, Meghan, Tweeted:

“It won’t surprise you to learn that in all this, the one of us who is most confident and calm is my father. He is the toughest person I know. The cruelest enemy could not break him. The aggressions of political life could not bend him. So he is meeting this challenge as he has every other. Cancer may afflict him in many ways: But it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has.”

But this type of cancer is a very cruel enemy indeed. Survival rates are devastating – only 14 months average with 5-10% alive five years after the diagnosis. Will he choose to fight with chemotherapy and radiation, or will he choose to battle Mr T on the Senate floor? Looking at his recent statements to Sen Lindsay Graham, I think he may do both!

Something happens to us when we are reminded of our mortality, when time begins to shrink. Bob said after his cervical surgery, he had less patience with hospital shenanigans and employee’s misbehavior. Before surgery he may have forgiven a surgeon’s harassment in the OR, for example. After surgery, not so much.

McCain is a war hero, and he is already criticizing Mr T’s strategy, or lack thereof, in Syria and Afghanistan. But if you recall, that other Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, was instrumental in getting President Obama’s ACA passed while he was battling this same cancer. If John McCain were to bring both parties together to salvage healthcare in this country, his legacy would be outstanding. I wish him well on this battlefield.

And check out the Google Doodle today. It’s celebrating the 106th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, who coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” He predicted the internet but I wonder what he would think of Twitter. It was a key factor in Mr T’s election, and has taken the place of greeting cards as our politicians send heartwarming thoughts to McCain in 140 “characters.”

I don’t know which brother’s arm is sticking out behind the Flapper, but this is one of the few pictures I have of my Father.    IMG_0991

 

 

 

 

 

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“What should I write this morning?” I asked Bob. He mumbled something over coffee that sounded like, “I dunno thatsatourriff.” This is what happens when you talk with your mouth full, cause I’m pretty sure he actually said, “I don’t know that’s your gift.” Or gig, or whatever. So I said,

“I know, facelifts!”

Well, actually I don’t know much about facelifts except, that every celebrity of a certain age is starting to look the same. And when you go too far under the knife, or too often, you could start to look like a lion. Beware, that image you see in the mirror may no longer be you!

But I DO recognize that schoolyard bully who might tell a young girl her lips are too big, or her hair is dirty, or (pick a body part and insert a slur). Mr T has got a huuuge problem with smart women, like Mika Brzezinski, and fast, tiny fingers that tap out his stream of putrid consciousness almost every morning. This is horrifying to the civilized world but somehow continues to delight his followers. Leaders don’t do this, they don’t intimidate, harass and belittle others into compliance. They certainly don’t talk about women bleeding…

When I opened Twitter this morning, one of my favorite authors, Joyce Carol Oates, popped up with this:

“Face-lift? Who needs a face-lift? All of US badly in need of soul-lift.” 

Here are a few things we can do for our souls, instead of trying to dissect the Presidential Twitter feed – which is simply vindictive nonsense.

  1.  Do something good for our planet. Plant a tree, pick up garbage on your street, bring tote bags to the grocery store if you’re not already. Donate to an environmental agency like The Sierra Club, or pick a non-profit: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2006/03/guide-environmental-non-profits/  We only have THREE years to get right with the world, so what are you waiting for? http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/06/29/we-have-3-years-to-act-on-climate-change-before-its-too-late-s_a_23007680/
  2. Become someone your grandchildren will admire. Pick a cause (and not cyber-bullying, FLOTUS has that covered y’all) and throw your body and soul into it. Is gun violence driving you mad? Guns kill nearly 1,300 children each year in our country. Join “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” and help them #disarmhate https://momsdemandaction.org. If you think women’s rights are human rights, see what your local Planned Parenthood is up to, that is if they are still open?
  3. Go Deep. Turn off all those devices and listen to the world. First of all, your inner peace is depending on you. Meditate, even if it’s just for ten minutes while you’re watering the garden. Did you know walking the dog could be a meditation? You don’t have to sit in a lotus position and chant things. Great Grandma Ada said she would have to get up and dust if she ever tried meditating. But once we make peace with ourselves, we have a ripple effect on the rest of our lives. Acceptance is a form of grace, and it doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning.

Wasn’t it Lady Gaga or the Dalai Lama who wrote about self-acceptance? Everybody has a body part they don’t like, and we women are notorious for being critical. Her nose is too long, her hands betray her age, if only I could just lose that last ten pounds…The Flapper didn’t like her freckled, ski jump nose. She told me she would rub lemon juice on her nose to try and bleach out the freckles. For me, I was a tomboy just as flat-chested as the Flapper, and there were some boys who liked to remind me of this fact.

Lucky for me, I never succumbed to the ridicule by placing sacks of saline in my chest.

Stay Woke people. Get out there and enjoy this glorious weather and remember you don’t need to eat and breathe politics. When I was young, we had one half hour at night to watch Walter Cronkite and complain about the news…as a family, around one TV set. Daddy Jim read the newspaper, you remember those, in peace and quiet. It wasn’t all consuming all the time. Mr T’s Tweets are bad for our collective health. Here’s the latest Dalai Lama’s Tweet:

“We experience happiness on a sensory level that is relatively short-lived. But lasting happiness is related to our state of mind.” 

Enjoying a frozen hot chocolate with cupcake bear can also be soul-lifting.

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Today is just another day. The hazy hot and humid days of mid-summer are upon us. While I had to live without AC for a week, I thought about my childhood. I know, make fun of me now; but my purpose here isn’t to tell you how much harder it was for us. It is simply an observation. We went to the movies because at least they had AC, and we slowed down. We opened windows and used fans. The ice cream truck would come every day and we couldn’t wait to hear its music on the street. My Foster Daddy Jim would come home from Picatinny Arsenal and scoop me up to Brown’s Pond for a dip in the cold water.

Nobody complained about the heat, because what could you do? We were in it together.

Today isn’t just another day in Nashville. It’s The Groom’s birthday, and lately he’s been very busy. He started a new job, a first position as an attending at Vandy. As Bob knows only too well, the buck will stop at his desk. No matter what goes right or wrong, he will have to answer for it. He is an excellent teacher, herding new and seasoned residents around those sacred halls, taking night call in the MICU for weeks at a time. He credits his team when they win a battle. And he is the one who will talk to a family member when sepsis or cancer wins the almighty struggle. Not everyone is suited for such sacrifice, but he is supremely good at what he does.

He is 6’6″ tall. His voice, his mere presence is enough. The Groom can command a room, but chooses to listen to every opinion before embarking on a treatment plan.

The Bride and Groom just moved into their new house. He’s been hanging curtains and moving furniture around. He rushed home when a smoke alarm went off and his Bride fell off a chair trying to fix it. It made me think of that day when they were living in Cville, and one of their friends thought a smoke alarm was going off. It turned out to be a new medical student’s beeper in the pocket of his white coat! They had left the hospital for some time in class, and the white coats were abandoned in a hall closet; the battery singing its last tune.

And today is just another day. The Groom will return home and scoop up their two babies, placing them in a red wagon, and walk to the park. He will play with them, and talk to them about all the bits of nature around them. He will invent new games, he will stare up at the clouds with them and imagine animal shapes. And he will most likely bring the dog along for some exercise. He doesn’t complain about his fatherly duties, because this generation of men know they are in it together with their wives. And he knows instinctively if it’s a day to bring home dinner, to hunt and gather, or to go out for a meal.

But today isn’t just another day. My daughter will cook his favorite food and bake a three-layer birthday cake, letting the Love Bug help peel carrots and lick the frosting bowl. With all the stress of the past few weeks, I hope he gets to kick off his shoes and dance a little bit tonight – pick up his guitar and unwind, put the Baby on the keyboard and give the Bug a harmonica.

Because today we are all thankful you were born. Much love on your birthday, and thank you for being an outstanding husband and father, for joining our “outlier” family of giraffe lovers.We couldn’t have asked for a better son-in-law! Remember today to slow down just a little, this time with young children will fly by, in Joni’s immortal words:

We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game      10320486_10203678944316165_691215505164009992_n

 

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“What’s that term honey, the one you use when somebody tries to sue a doctor for no good reason and it gets thrown out of court?”

I was reading a local news article about a woman in the next county who was suing her ObGyn doctor for “coercing and threatening” her if she didn’t deliver her baby by Csection. The Mother had diabetes, and for one reason or another her doctor actually had her sign the consent form five years ago, and now she’s crying foul. Bad doctor, oh and BTW good baby and mommy were just fine after the surgery, so I wasn’t quite sure what this was all about, besides the 2 Million dollars.

“Frivolous, are you talking about a frivolous law suit?” Bob said. Indeed I was.

I usually never jump into the fray of a public forum, since I neither have the time or the energy to fight with true believers. But I was home sick, teetering on the edge of adding a snarky comment to the long list of online comments either praising said doctor or lambasting our entire health system by internet thugs who use pseudonyms for names so they can’t be traced. The lurid underbelly of social media, trolls living under an online bridge of anonymity. I wrote, I deleted,, I worried. Finally, I said:

“We live in litigious times. Certainly we deliver more babies by Csection than any other country in the world, but at the end of the day I believe most docs are recommending what is best for their patient.”

I only hooked one smirky, smiley comment.

“So American women just generally need Csections more than the rest of the population?”

I smiled. Should I tell her about Brazil? But before I had time to pick up the bait, the news posted that the jury had decided in the doctors favor, Not Guilty, after 20 minutes of deliberation. My faith in our justice system was temporarily restored as I put fingers to keyboard:

No we need to train American Doctors differently, transfer well patients to nurse midwives, and institute a board of docs and citizens to review lawsuits and throw out frivolous ones like they do in MA

Ps, my daughter was breech and a section was MY decision – as much as I wanted a natural birth, I didn’t want to risk the health of my baby

This lawsuit disturbed me because it assumed the woman could be coerced, was not in her right mind because she was in labor or something and all of MY feminist peeps, the type of women who believe we have the right to make our our own decisions about our own bodies were lining up behind her defense. Like HE MADE HER DO IT…She was of sound mind and maybe her body was trying to expel an alien at the time, still she could have put on the brakes and said, “NO, WAIT, I want another opinion.”

Childbirth is messy, it is a risk/benefit analysis. Some women go through days of labor only to have an emergency section to save their child, or even their own life. This was the Bride’s biggest nightmare last year, she was determined to have her baby boy VBAC, and she knew everything that could go wrong. My husband has seen women come into his hospital’s ER with a dead baby from a homebirth with a midwife who didn’t transfer them fast enough.

When you hire a dola, a midwife, or a doctor to assist you in delivering your child, you are entering into a sacred trust. When we won the right to vote in the early 20th Century, when science gave us birth control in the later part of that century, we women willingly gave up our status as arm candy and fertility goddess. We got tired standing up there on that pedestal for so long, all those corsets binding us into place. And now we have a woman in a pantsuit running for President. We should never be willing to be coerced or threatened by a man, boyfriend, husband, doctor, or lawyer ever again.

And the mom/plaintiff reduced her amount from 2M to $200,000 yesterday afternoon before having her case dismissed. Ask me again why our health system is so crazy. http://www.nbc29.com/story/30455784/update-augusta-co-jury-rules-in-favor-of-doctor-in-c-section-case

Here is our friendly little ghost, delivered by section three years ago because she was breech, just like her Mama!

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Over the weekend we had a friend come for dinner. While sitting on the deck at twilight, sipping VA wine and gazing out at the mountains, she noted the lack of bugs. Which of course led to my narrative on life at the Jersey Shore, how Monmouth County was the epicenter of tick/thug life, and eventually my experience as a West Nile survivor.

It was the summer we were packing up the Rocker for college. We lived in a tony swamp, on an estuary of a river. I’d have to swat mosquitoes off my hands in the middle of the day while hanging laundry outside on my clothesline. Let it be said, I love hanging towels, sheets and everything else in the sun and wind for that smell. It’s become a meditation of sorts.

For a full week I suffered with a blinding headache and a fever. But I carried on, never seeing a doctor because why bother, I lived with one.

Not until my eyes had turned as bright red as stop lights, and I could no longer read. That’s when I went to the first eye doctor. The one who told me to go home and wash my hands, I had conjunctivitis…

Then Bob took me to the “good” eye doctor, my savior, the one who realized right away what was going on. I remember distinctly his feeling of – what? Pity, sympathy – no doctor has ever looked at me like that before or since – and I was off to Bob’s old ER on the river for tests. Dropping steroid drops in my eyes every hour, swallowing steroid pills while packing up my son for his next great adventure. And eventually, I was an empty-nester who had lost my right-mid and lower-quadrant visual field; the peripheral vision of both eyes. My daughter’s favorite medical term, I think just because she liked the sound of it on her tongue, became my final diagnosis; Homonymous Hemianopsia. Say that five times fast!    

When i think about it, that’s most likely the reason I fell to the right in the bounce house. It’s the reason I jump when someone approaches me from the right. Most likely I abhor crowds because of my brain injury and it’s why I turn my head to the right so much while driving. All because of a little bug.

Which is why this recent headline caught my eye, “Orange horse is first West Nile equine victim of the year.” 

Orange is not the color of the mare, it’s a county one field away as the mosquito flies. “In 2014, there were seven cases of West Nile virus in humans in Virginia and three equine cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The human cases occurred in August and September and the equine cases occurred in September and October.” http://m.dailyprogress.com/news/local/orange-horse-is-first-west-nile-equine-victim-of-the/article

So even though we live in the mountains now, in a relative bug-free zone, I guess these are the months to spray bug repellant and light citronella candles. Makes me long for the Berkshires.  IMG_3030

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When you see an obese child, what do you think? Do you immediately blame the parents, and/or poverty? There is no fresh produce to be found in their neighborhood, or maybe you think the parents are just lazy…What if we make school lunches more nutritious. Let’s get Jamie Oliver into every school cafeteria and teach those lunch ladies how to steam vegetables! Get a communal garden going outside the gym!

I find it fascinating that the GOP is all about getting government out of our way for free enterprise. They start yelling “fascist” whenever Mrs Obama wants to see kids get off the couch and move, or a school system tries to change what a school lunch may look like – don’t tell us parents what to do with our kids! Get government out of our lunch boxes!! We know what’s best for them, and if a parent wants to leave a gun lying around well…and then I picture a two year old yelling I WANT TO!!

Bob tells me he rarely mentions weight to one of his patients, after all he is not a family practitioner. But when he sees a severely obese child, he may say something to the parent in the ER. Because this is such a serious health risk, he risks that patient’s dismal satisfaction score. Not all doctors have the courage to tell a parent they are endangering their child’s health. Luckily, the rate of childhood obesity in this country is finally leveling off:

After a steady rise for many years, the number of calories American children take in each day is going down. Childhood obesity rates, though still too high, have now leveled off, and are starting to go down in some populations. The 5 billion school lunches served each year are more nutritious than they were a decade ago. Children are eating less processed food and drinking less sugar-sweetened beverages and full-fat milk.  http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/30/opinions/clinton-brown-healthy-kids/index.html

So yes, we can put juice in vending machines and model a healthier diet for our youngest children: by including them in food prep and offering fresh, real food; by sitting down to dinner as a family (an almost insurmountable task these days); by going to farmer’s markets or even helping them plant their own little tomato plant in a pot. I’ve mentioned my neighbor Kath the food blogger before. I love the way she has introduced real food to her toddler, he http://www.katheats.com/ways-motherhood-has-changed-me

Still, I think about how my Foster Mother Nell really didn’t cook, she would jokingly say she could open a can. Women in the 50s were sold that bill of goods – TV dinners on a tray, canned vegetables with marshmallows. Life was supposed to be “easy” for the 50s housefrau. They grew up watching their mothers actually grind meat on the dining room table, and wash clothes by churning them through a semi-automated washing machine, or maybe they were hauling clothes down to the creek? Why shouldn’t they get to vacuum in high heels!

And all I ever ate for lunch in high school was tuna sandwiches and potato chips, followed by a cheeseburger at White’s Drug Store immediately after school, with fries dipped in gravy… SO, canned food, semi-fast food, and I was never fat, in fact I made spaghetti for myself at night cause I thought I was too skinny! Those were the days, before babies, before menopause packed on the pounds.

We can all teach ourselves to prepare a healthier diet, we don’t need an RD to work up a meal plan. If there are no markets with fresh veggies in our neighborhood, we could plant some in pots. What we cannot and should not do for our kids is model complacency. What my generation had was the ability to walk to school, to go out on our bikes after school and not come home till twilight. We had the freedom to move, which this next generation may lack.

Kudos to the city planners and engineers who are redesigning parks and playgrounds all over the country. And bravo to the police who are walking beats and making neighborhoods safer and crime-free – not by stopping and frisking but by stopping and talking.

And maybe we could have a course at the police academy on nutrition?

Basil is ready for Pesto

Basil is ready for Pesto

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Summer’s here and it’s time for singing in a horse barn! And dancing in the street too, but I just had to drop a quick note about the Groom. Some doctors play golf in their free time, some fly planes or collect trains. And then there is that rare one, that cerebral brainiac that can also play a guitar like nobody’s business, and write his own lyrics too, and sing…oh, and did I mention he can sing! It’s our Groom. J&M  0975

He’s been in a band since high school, and indeed created a band during his residency at Vanderbilt. With a few other talented, young doctors they were known as The Bourbon Family, and they played roots Americana music all over the state. They’ve played at weddings, bars, and private parties. They even produced a record! https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-bourbon-family/id445461482 And more importantly, almost every night, he would play and sing to his new baby girl.

Then the doctor/musicians finished their residencies and went off to pursue fellowships all over the country. The band broke up and you might have thought the music died. Except the Groom didn’t move, he was still playing his guitar and singing to his family in the Music City where he continued to be a Chief Resident and continue his education in Public Health. Until one night at a Full Moon Pickin Party in Nashville, this happened – here is his Facebook post:

So, at last week’s Full Moon Picking Party, a bunch of recording engineers from Dark Horse Institute (of Faith Hill, Tim McGraw…Megadeath) set up a makeshift recording studio in one of the horse stalls. They grabbed people walking by and recorded videos of them playing. Whoever’s YouTube video gets the most ‘Likes’ wins $15,000 worth for free recording time at Dark Horse…which for me would mean an official reunion for The Bourbon Family.
I don’t think I have ever asked Facebook for anything before (partly because I lost my password for about a year and had to reset it for this post)…but this would be pretty cool. Please consider using the mouse on your personal computer to place a ‘Like’ on the YouTube video attached by hyperlink.

And here is the YouTube link! Please consider “Liking” this post on your computer, the link won’t work on your cell phone

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