Sunday, November 29, 2009
John Brodniak of Yamhill County, OR. - A Victim of Our Health Care System
Nicholas Kristof's column in NY Times 11-28-09:
Are We Going to Let John Die?
If Joe Lieberman or other senators came across John Brodniak writhing in pain on the sidewalk, they presumably would jump to help him and rush him to a hospital.
Unfortunately, an emergency room won’t help — indeed, the closest E.R. has told him not to come back, he says. So, for those members of Congress who are wavering on health reform, listen to John’s story.
John is a sawmill worker from Yamhill County, Ore., where I grew up. He was a foreman at a mill, he felt strong and healthy, and he had very basic insurance coverage through his job. On April 18, he was married, at age 23, and life was looking up.
Ten days after the wedding, he was walking in his backyard carrying a neighbor’s dog — and he suddenly blacked out. That led, after rounds of CAT scans, M.R.I.’s and other tests, to the discovery that the left parietal lobe of his brain has a cavernous hemangioma. That’s an abnormal growth of blood vessels, and in John’s case it is chronically leaking blood into his brain.
John began to have trouble walking and would sometimes collapse. He developed spasms and restless leg syndrome, he began to use a cane, and his mind suffered.
“He forgets stuff a lot, he bumps into things,” said his new wife, Esther Brodniak. “But he keeps things light. He jokes about it.”
Perhaps the worst is the pain — blinding, incapacitating headaches that have left him able to sleep only in short intervals. He vomits daily when the pain surges.
“The pain is constant,” John said. “It’s a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10, and then it hits the high peaks and makes me vomit.”
With John unable to work, he lost his job — and his insurance coverage. Esther had insurance for herself and for her two children (from a previous marriage) through her job building manufactured homes. But she couldn’t add John to her plan because of his pre-existing condition.
Without insurance, John has been unable to get surgery or even help managing the pain. When he collapses or suffers particularly excruciating headaches, Esther rushes him to the emergency room of one hospital or another, but an E.R. can’t do much for him. One hospital has told them not to come back unless he gets insurance, they say.
Esther used up her family leave time to look after her new husband. “Then I went back to work, and he fell several times,” she said. “I told my boss that I had to quit. Taking care of John was more important than building someone else’s house.”
That meant that the couple had no income — and no insurance for anyone in the family, including the children. Neighbors have helped, and a community program has paid the rent so that they are not homeless. But bills are piling up, and John and Esther don’t know how they will cope.
The doctors warn that pressure from the growth could lead a major blood vessel nearby to burst, killing him. “They tell me I’m a time bomb,” John said. With a touch of bitterness, he adds, “It sort of feels as if they’re playing for time to see if it bursts, to save them from doing anything.”
I’m not a physician, and I certainly can’t speak to the medical issues here. But I have examined John’s medical records, and they appear to confirm his story.
John says the principal obstacle to treatment appears to be simply his lack of insurance. In August, he qualified for an Oregon Medicaid program, but he hasn’t been able to find a doctor who will accept him as a patient for surgery, apparently because the reimbursements are so low. Doctors tell him that his condition is operable — but that they can’t accept him without conventional insurance. He is increasingly frustrated as he watches his family crushed by the burden of his illness.
“The mill won’t let me go back to work until a doctor gives me a note saying I can go back,” he said. “I tried with several doctors. I said, ‘Just give me a note. ... I’ve got to do something for my family. But they won’t.” John and Esther agreed to tell me their story in hopes that somehow it would lead to medical help.
John’s story is not so unusual. A Harvard study, to be published next month in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests that almost 45,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a consequence of not having insurance. John may become one of them.
If a senator strolled indifferently by as John retched in pain, we would think that person pitiless. But isn’t it just as monstrous for politicians to avert their eyes, make excuses and deny coverage to innumerable Americans just like John?
And Members of Congress
- Lawmakers' health insurance, which is the same available to all federal workers, is part of the equation. Members of Congress also receive care by a physician at the Capitol for a small fee and treatment at military hospitals — the same offered to presidents and visiting dignitaries, watchdog groups say.
- "They get what bureaucrats get — plus," said Steve Ellis with Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Fall 2009 - Wild Mushrooms in the Bay Area
© David Arora - Mushrooms Demystified
Bitter, and hallucinogenic. Found in clusters near base of trees.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Catholic Church and Pedophilia Back in the News
Reuters News (in Washington Post, 11-26-09)
DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Dublin obsessively covered up widespread sexual abuse of children by priests until the mid-1990s in a misuse of the Church's central role in Irish society, an official report said on Thursday.
The government-commissioned inquiry into abuse in the Irish capital from 1975 to 2004, which came six months after a similarly damning report about Church-run industrial and reform schools, also accused state officials of abetting the cover-up.
The report, designed to show how church and state responded to charges of abusing children, said a representative sample of 46 priests made "abundantly clear" that it was widespread.
"The Dublin Archdiocese's pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid-1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets," the report said.
"All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities," added the report, which was published by the justice ministry.
Similar abuse cover-up charges have dogged the Catholic Church in other countries, especially the United States. Seven dioceses there have filed for bankruptcy protection to shield themselves from law suits by abuse victims.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Insurance Reimbursement for Prayers
The calls come in at all hours: patients reporting broken bones, violent coughs, deep depression.
Prue Lewis listens as they explain their symptoms. Then Lewis -- a thin, frail-looking woman from Columbia Heights -- simply says, "I'll go to work right away." She hangs up, organizes her thoughts and begins treating her clients' ailments the best way she knows how: She prays.
This is health care in the world of Christian Science, where the sick eschew conventional medicine and turn to God for healing. Christian Scientists call it "spiritual health care," and it is a practice they are battling to insert into the health-care legislation being hammered out in Congress.
Leaders of the Church of Christ, Scientist, are pushing a proposal that would help patients pay someone like Lewis for prayer by having insurers reimburse the $20 to $40 cost.
The provision was stripped from the bill the House passed this month, and church leaders are trying to get it inserted into the Senate version. And the church has powerful allies there, including Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who represents the state where the church is based, and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who said the provision would "ensure that health-care reform law does not discriminate against any religion."
A friend commented:
- Hey, why stop at christian healers, bring on the faith healers of all stripes. I see new industries popping up. Call your favorite faith-healer in Bangalore. There is a very large constituency of remote healers in the land of the snake charmers. These guys claim to have magical powers of remote diagnosis and cure. Hook up Pir Sahib or Baba Love to a VOIP and just watch them shake that money tree.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Pleasure is in your own hands
It is a subject that would make most governments blush, but officials in the Spanish region of Extremadura have launched a major programme to encourage what could be described as a more hands-on approach to sexuality.
The region's socialist government has launched a €14,000 (£12,600) campaign aimed at teaching young people how best to set about "sexual self-exploration and the discovery of self-pleasure" – or to put it less delicately: masturbation.
"Pleasure is in your own hands" is the slogan of a campaign that has sparked political controversy and challenges traditional Roman Catholic views on people having sex, even on their own, for non-reproductive reasons.
"This is an intimate subject that should be dealt with at home," complained local opposition leader Hernández Carrón of the rightwing People's party. "We have become the laughing stock of Spain."
"They are interfering with the right of parents to educate their own children about a matter as important as their sexuality," agreed the conservative Confederation of Fathers and Mothers of Schoolchildren.
Officials from the neighbouring region of Andalucia have expressed an interest in copying the programme.
The newly released "2012" doing well at the box office.
In the movie, an alignment between the Sun and the center of the galaxy on Dec. 21, 2012, causes the Sun to go berserk with mighty storms on its surface that pour out huge numbers of the elusive subatomic particles known as neutrinos. Somehow the neutrinos transmute into other particles and heat up the Earth’s core. The Earth’s crust loses its moorings and begins to weaken and slide around. Los Angeles falls into the ocean; Yellowstone blows up, showering the continent with black ash. Tidal waves wash over the Himalayas, where the governments of the planet have secretly built a fleet of arks in which a select 400,000 people can ride out the storm.
But this is only one version of apocalypse out there. In other variations, a planet named Nibiru crashes into us or the Earth’s magnetic field flips.
There are hundreds of books devoted to 2012, and millions of Web sites, depending on what combination of “2012” and “doomsday” you type into Google.
All of it, astronomers say, is bunk.
“Most of what’s claimed for 2012 relies on wishful thinking, wild pseudoscientific folly, ignorance of astronomy and a level of paranoia worthy of ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ ” Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles, and an expert on ancient astronomy, wrote in an article in the November issue of Sky & Telescope.
Many will flock to see the film.....and some of the moviegoers will believe in what they see. The web site December 212012.com lists Mel Gibson and Shirley MacLaine among the believers. Yes, 'usual suspects'. A lot of geegaws on sale -- coffee cups, tee shirts, books, pictures,etc. No doubt the promoters will make some money. But December 21,2012 will come go just like any other day and the hucksters will move on to something else to dupe the gullible.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
On the road to 2010 - Shrinking Coattails of President Obama
To some, "Liberal" is a dirty word. A liberal friend emailed:
- better vote liberal -- no not just obama, vote specifically for the liberal agenda, not to be confused with the big-tent dem agenda. better back the likes of frank all the way. and better pally up with the likes of the odious bill moyers and reich and the rest of the faux-wine-swillers.
- yep, its a bitter pill.
SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--President Barack Obama headed to Shanghai on Sunday to press China on issues from climate change to economic restructuring, amid rising concerns that his first swing through Asia will yield more disappointment than progress on trade, human rights, national security and environmental concerns.
A flurry of actions here this weekend raised more questions than they resolved on a broad sweep of issues confronting both sides of the Pacific. On Sunday, leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum dropped efforts to reach a binding international climate change agreement in Copenhagen next month, settling instead for what they called a political framework for future negotiations.
Thought I was reading about G.W. Bush!
The President can continue his policy of appeasement and take a chance on support from enough middle-of-the road voters to carry the Democrats in 2010. A rebound in the economy and improvement in the unemployment numbers would help him and could make a difference. Right now,however, things don't look rosy.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Hands Across the Seas, Part III
Sarah took this photograph a few days ago.
- Stefan has been and cleared ALL the leaves, AND composed the front garden. The earth becomes barer and barer, like me? Lucky to have him. At first, no dialogue. Now he tells lots of stories. Like that. So now, I, too, am spending a lot of time looking out the window, loving either the rain or the blue skies. The owl hoots every night. Love that, too.
- 8 October 2009: New research shows a third of deaths are hastened by doctors
- Clive Seale's research into end of life practice, published this week in Social Science and Medicine, has found that over a third of doctors say they have given drugs to terminally ill patients, or withdrawn treatment, knowing that it would or intending to shorten their life."
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Obama's Election Victory Redux
Not Much Has Changed * Year of Dwindling Hopes
The president has three more years in his first term.....a very long time in politics. Think of G.W. Bush and his sky-high popularity which plummeted in the last years of his second term. Obama's numbers could ascend or they could go down below that of Bush.
There are those who say that it is too early to stop hoping that President Obama would live up to at least some of the things he talked about during his campaign, and that he deserves more time.
Torture of Prisoners - Extraordinary Rendition
Still following Bush administration's practices.
Backed away from opposition to retroactive immunity for telecom companies that assisted in warrantless wire tapping within the USA.
After a strong statement calling for complete halt of settlement construction by the Israelis, the president quietly retreated.
Israel continues to be one of the primary recipients of financial and military aid
from the United States. The aid package is 'classified' . And no one talks about Israel's nuclear arsenal!
Reform of Wall Street
The hands-off policy that allowed giants of Wall Street to come up with creative
mortgage finance packages and exotic investment plans which eventually caused the markets to collapse began long before Obama became president.
However, it is now quite obvious that it is going to be 'business as usual'. Eventually, when some of the proposed measures to curb abusive practices take shape they will be largely symbolic.....toothless. Prominent members of his staff were involved in creating, and benefiting from the actions that caused the crash.
Democratic members of Congress have turned out to be in the pockets of lobbyists just like the Republicans. The Democrats are not blatant about being in bed with special interest groups, but that is the most one can say about them. Barring a few exceptions, our elected representatives are creatures of a corrupt system.
Health Care Reform
The president quickly retreated from a strong public option provision. Loud reaction from his "liberal" supporters forced him to return to resurrect the issue. But let's not fool ourselves. The much vaunted plans for a health-care plan to cover all Americans are dead. When the final bill emerges it is not going to be anything close to universal health care available in Canada, Britain, and some European countries. And costs will keep going up.
Currently, it looks doubtful that a bill would clear Congress and submitted to the president before the end of the year.
With the huge deficit that now exists, lack of funding for health care is a major obstacle. As long as we continue to take part in wars and propping up dictators in various parts of the world money for social programs and domestic infrastructure would not be available.
Iraq and Afghanistan
The mess started under G.W. Bush's presidency. We don't know what kind of presence we shall have in Iraq a year from now but President Obama is maintaining plans for withdrawal.
A different story in Afghanistan where NATO's UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is involved. But we have been running the war since 2001. The president is expected to announce his decision about increasing the number of soldiers. The military commander has asked for 40,000 more. The number of attacks by drones has increased. Afghan civilians continue to suffer deaths and injuries.
Hamid Karzai, the puppet installed by Bush administration as president of Afghanistan in 2004, won a technical victory in recent election when, after detection of wide-spread fraud and announcement of new election, his opponent decided to withdraw from the race.
Corruption is said to be rampant in Karzai's Afghanistan. According to recent reports, President Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is one of the major players in Afghanistan's drug trade, and he enjoys a cozy relationship with the CIA. The CIA has been paying him for years to assist in the war against the Taliban.
- My faith in our country and the belief that education and intelligence and smartness still has value in this country has been restored! at least for now.
- On my next international trip I hope I don't have to fidget to disclose my country or origin anymore.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Hands Across the Seas, Part II
A friend wrote to her that "prayers work". There is no argument about the fact that some people find solace, strength in prayers.
Our ex-president G.W. Bush spoke on October 26th at a Get Motivated seminar (ticket price $225.00) in Fort Worth,TX, about being helped by god in his decisions. And former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, talked about "divine impulses" during a video interview published by The Washington Post. Two men with blood on their hands. Sickening. No doubt the grand inquisitors felt empowered by god to burn the heretics. And the Crusaders went on their looting and pillaging expeditions blessed by god. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the Islamic fundamentalists are killing each other as if there is no tomorrow. They,too, believe in prayers and they blow up innocent people in the name of their god.
It was what Sarah wrote about her garden that made me feel good.
I love the garden with the bare earth and compost. The red roses
are still blooming,along with the winter jasmine."