Your Health: What Makes a Good Doctor? Some Answers.

Your Health: What Makes a Good Doctor? Some Answers.

Choosing a doctor is not like selecting a friend, and certainly not like picking a car salesman. Yes, medicine is a type of business transaction. The doctor is providing a service and you want excellent care.

You also want a great car at the right price–another business transaction. But you only deal with the car person over a short period of time. Health is another matter. A doctor is someone you will probably deal with  frequently and bottom line: this is your health; this is your life. You need to make the right choice.

So keep in mind, after reading this post, that during the process of finding the right doctor you can: 1. read about a prospective doctor on line; 2. ask friends who they use or would avoid; 3. actually interview the doctor during a short appointment. 

NOW LET’S ASK: WHAT MAKES A GOOD DOCTOR?

Seventeen nurses, physicians and healthcare workers replied to your question. These are folks who work in the trenches–so I paid attention to their answers. Below are the ones I felt you needed to know.

  1. “Any great anything–friend, partner, doctor–is going to listen to you. You are exposing yourself, you are vulnerable. You want them to hear you, respect you.
  2. The doctor shows that she has time for you. Though the doctor might know a great deal, she also must care a great deal.
  3. The doctor should show interest not only in your complaint (back pain) but also in your concern (I babysit and can’t lift my grandson.)
  4. Often a patient is embarrassed relating information about their condition. When the doctor starts asking questions, they must be good listeners, know when to probe a bit further. D. “Are you sexually active?” P. “Well, I’m married.” D. “Okay, but what does that mean?”
  5. A great doctor is more interested in getting you off medications than on them. 
  6. A doctor should explain, when prescribing a new medication, what the patient’s life will be like, the side-effects, of that new drug. 
  7. Though a doctor may have been seeing you over the years, a great doctor does not make assumptions about your life. She/he asks questions to get to answers like: “I lost my job.” I fell two weeks ago.”
  8. If you are accompanied by a family member, a great doctor realizes that you might not have shared everything and provides a phone number for a later call. Also repeats the care plan before the visit is over. 
  9. Though doctors see patients an average of every 20 minutes, a good doctor slows down, pays attention, to pick up on many more things.
  10. If you have a friend who is a nurse and works in the hospital of the doctor you are considering, ask that nurse who she would pick. Nurses see who does well and who doesn’t.
  11. A great doctor asks so many questions you might want them to stop. But this is good. It’s your health history. It matters. Not-so-great doctors don’t ask much of anything at all.
  12. A great doctor reads, stays up with what in the biz is called “the literature.” That means the most recent medical articles that analyze and research procedures, medications, surgeries etc.
  13. A great doctor wants you to understand. If you hear: “I’m the doctor and I’ll do the thinking,”–run out the door.
  14. A great OB doctor is empathetic, expresses his or her concern if you have a miscarriage, BEFORE explaining why or discussing your medical care.
  15. You have chest pain. A great doctor listens to your whole story to determine the right path to take, uses what they know. Most patients with chest pain need Zantac, not an angioplasty.
  16. A great doctor considers the whole person, like a patient with diabetes who might have a difficult home environment or be unable to travel to a grocery for healthy food. Is their neighborhood safe to walk in to get to the store? Can they afford to buy their meds?

OTHER QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

What hospital is this doctor affiliated with–a local community hospital, a tertiary care center, a university hospital? Is this physician’s office and the hospital where she has privileges close to your home or a long drive? In an emergency situation, closer will always be better.

  1. Is this doctor board certified in the speciality that you need? Internal medicine board certification is a good place to start if your general health is good. But you may need a cancer or cardiac specialist etc, and that will narrow your choices. (Note: getting an internist in a university group is the best way to go as that physician can then refer you to say an ear, nose and throat, a surgeon or an orthopedic doctor etc in his group.)
  2. If you have trouble speaking English, that’s also a consideration. It’s always good if you are terribly worried about your physical health or running a fever or vomiting or a cancer patient etc that you bring someone with you to your appointment. But it’s not always possible. If language is an issue, you need to make sure you will always be able to communicate with your doctor. Misinformation can lead to your getting sicker or even hospitalization and death.
  3. The age of the doctor you choose or his or her years in practice might also be on your list of concerns. Some people want an older doctor who they feel they would be more comfortable with or who would know more. Others want a younger doctor who will be up on new advances in medicine. All physicians are required to stay up-to-date in their specialty through reading and testing and participating in hands-on programs for recertification.
  4. The gender of your physician might also concern you. (Certainly in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology there has been a major shift–more women in that practice now than men.) But that shouldn’t rule out the skill of male OBGYN’S. When my husband created his list for an internist, his final choice was a female internist physician. I also chose her for my doctor and we have referred her to our friends.
  5. It’s very important to discover if the doctor you are researching is taking on new patients. You might get all excited that you’ve found one, only to discover the practice is closed.
  6. Once you have found one or two you are considering, you can verify their board certification here. You can also go to your home state department of consumer affairs to check for any negative reports about this doctor. And as mentioned above, you can research them online for address, phone number etc.

You might also enjoy: You’re A Candidate for a Good Doctor

Bring Your List of Questions to the Doc’s Office–they have a list too!

Thanks to Stock Snap.io

Thanks to the AARP BULLETIN Sept. 2017

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Memories of Celebrating Labor Day & Considering It’s Purpose

Memories of Celebrating Labor Day & Considering It's Purpose

On Labor day, many people do not work. Instead, we are to celebrate those forces in society that create and supply us with goods and services.

A quick definition: Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It’s a tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

PERSONAL LABOR DAY MEMORIES  

I do love the definition and the purpose of the day. But let’s go back a bit.

When I was a kid, there was always a late afternoon picnic, and we could have orange or grape “pop” and eat hamburgers. But that celebration was lacking–it was not as exciting as the summer’s 4th of July, with its fireworks and red, white and blue decorations.

Labor Day was always too intwined with the heaviness of the next day, the Tuesday coming after–the first DAY OF SCHOOL.

  • As a kid, that meant no more jeans and bikes or swimming in the iron bathtub next door which was painted blue and fondly known as our neighborhood swimming pool. It meant wearing a uniform every day and doing homework.
  • As a teenager, Labor Day meant a pile of textbooks and next day meeting a bunch of new teachers. Would they like me? Could I pass my math classes? Would I make new friends? And the uniform thing again.
  • As a college student, Labor Day usually meant a planned break-up with my boyfriend, John. I think we did this for two years, but by Thanksgiving we were always back together. The purpose was to date other people. We’ve been married now for 47 years. The planned break-up didn’t work!!
  • As a young adult, Labor Day also meant school–but this time I was nervous, would be meeting five classes of young people and hoping they would like me. I taught high school. It meant homework and grading papers. It meant I could no longer read a new novel “just for fun.” Instead, I would be grading papers every weekend and rereading or reading for the first time literature that I would be teaching.
  • When a parent, the “going back to school” thing again applied. Did my children have all their notebooks and pencils, books and a backpack? Were they happy? Often they were both excited and scared. New teachers, new things to learn and people to meet. Some children thrive on the unknown, others back away. I raised both.
  • Later, when I worked in Labor and Delivery as a nurse, the entire weekend of Labor Day became a hassle for the staff: patients crowded the unit with false labor. So strange but factual. The very mention of the word brought them in and if there was a full moon, it was even worse. RN’s like their holidays off–but if you are trading with someone to get say New Year’s Eve off, don’t trade for Labor Day. It’s worse.

Quotes: Work, Zealots, Purpose

I no longer work in L&D or teach. I write. And my children are grown and school now starts, in most cases, BEFORE Labor Day. I do enjoy remembering. And there will be hamburgers tonight, but today I’d like to emphasize the importance of yes, the holiday and celebrating what true, honest labor does to keep the United States moving and flourishing. But more than that, could we discuss the purpose of labor, of work?

Being able to get a job, have a place of employment, pursue a career gives meaning to life.

  • Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. Rumi 
  •  Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Confucius
  • In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it. Marianne Williamson

Today it would be amazing if people wanted a job–not just for the economic benefit, but for the benefit of furthering their own knowledge of people and of the world. Take medicine for example. Men and women who spend years in school to become proficient in healthcare: doctor, nurses, physical therapists, first responders–statistically they not only take their work seriously, but they give of their hearts also. In many cases dealing with the public and everything “that comes through the door” you have to.

But there are downsides. The nurse in Germany now in prison for using his healthcare powers to kill patients. Wacko? Evil? Who knows. Or the policeman who joins the force because he or she wants power over a minority. Again, wacko, evil or carrying a belief so far that preventing crime devolves into creating a crime.

The following could be said of the Arizona sheriff. Quotes listed under zealotry:

  • You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission. Flannery O’Connor
  • “Zealots: Wild eyed persons afflicted with incurable certainty about the workings of the world, a certainty that can lead to violence when the world doesn’t fit.” Jonathan Stroud

These days the world doesn’t always fit and yet if we think through the origin of our task, to always keep it in mind: to heal, to teach, to protect, to produce–then maybe the CLEAR PURPOSE of our WORK will stick with us. We won’t wander off, use our talents to debase others, cripple their dreams or even end their lives.

On this day when we honor labor, let’s hope for good work, meaningful work for all Americans. So much can be achieved with labor that provides a positive and beneficial end for all citizens.

  • We are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. Barack Obama
  • Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it. Mark Twain
  • Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as ‘socialist.’ Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class. Bernie Sanders

Whatever work you and your family members engage in, I hope it is purposeful and brings you peace and satisfaction. Work can and should bring you to the top of Maslow’s Pyramid.

PHOTO: the Pyramid: Psychologist Abraham Maslow researched human motivation and action. His work lead to the Hierarchy of Needs, often shown as a pyramid.

Thanks to Pinterest

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Writing, Creating with Compassion

Writing, Creating with Compassion

Being a writer in today’s contentious climate can change your vision. It can make you either hop on the current bandwagon of anger and hurt, or make you want to think only happy thoughts, create a new world as you go, or simply focus on topics that have escaped contention. We need both.

WHAT TOPIC TO CHOOSE

I follow the blogs of other writers. I tend to be more serious while some fellow writers can knock out a light-hearted piece over and over. We need those. It’s like watching a great comedy where laughter is a gift. Because reading a newspaper every day and listening to news can really drag you down. Writers must create with variety. But also with compassion.

INSIGHT FROM DONALD MAASS 

I follow a blog for writers that is blessed occasionally with a piece by New York literary agent and author for writers, Donald Maass. He offers incredible insights into the writing process, but he also lives in the real world and in answer to another writer’s post recently wrote: (Note: I have altered his response slightly)

Stories do not require a consensus.They do not legislate.Their purpose is to persuade. But persuade us of what? And how? 

In a novel, (or screen play, script that becomes a film) to prove others wrong, it is first necessary to acknowledge that they may be right. So…

  • create characters who represent divergent ways of thinking and doing–actually opposing ideas are represented by opposing characters. (Brilliant and basic. Every television drama presents tension–because people with differing points of view are interacting.)
  • But to be strong, each character must face their weaknesses. (As writers,  our characters face what we are afraid of). As readers and viewers we will not be moved unless we see humanity first. The character must fail. And then to persuade us to change, the character must change because of the failure. They see the light, in other words. 

Maass states: 

  • Writers must create antagonists whose case is excellent and heroes who are flawed. 
  • But in order to truly be a hero, those characters must learn and then change. 
  • Thus the power of storytelling to change us (the reader) lies in the courage writers summon to see things as others do. It depends on creating heroes who are flawed and must learn. Most of all, it requires that authors humble themselves, writing not out of resentment but out of twined compassion and conviction about what is right.

Maass asks: What is the bell you will ring in your writing today? What clear and simple truth does it sound? Words are strong when you know their purpose. Stories speak loudest when the storyteller first listens.

I AM LISTENING

Writers speak through their characters. They use their so-flawed-ideas and their closer-to-perfect ideas. Both are on the page. My novel-in-progress. presents a crack in the foundation of a marriage: one of the partners decides to forget an initial pledge to be compassionate in life and help others. He is turning away. She is not. But that doesn’t make her an angel. Maybe she is overboard and thus wrong in her belief that she can change people through empathy and compassion. It helps me day to day to grapple with my own fears and insecurities while getting into the skin of my characters.

FINDING COMPASSION THROUGH SELF-TENSION 

This week Erin Aubry Kaplan published a piece in the LA TIMES, entitled A New Reckoning for Whiteness. And I found a connection between the hero of any novel or story wrestling with his or her flawed-ness, before becoming a hero-again. And myself wrestling with my own lived life. Kaplan writes that our current president’s “both-sides” problem just might make some citizens grapple with a crucial question: What does it mean to be white? Or, what does it really mean?

For me, it was a hard piece to read. But necessary–that’s why I am sharing it. Kaplan asks: “It (the question) requires individual answers to intimate questions: How do I feel as a white person? What advantages do I take for granted based on my skin color? How do I see nonwhites? Or do I see them at all?”

Kaplan writes that if white people struggle with these questions, she has struggled with similar ones all her life: “What sort of black person are you? Middle class or ghetto, articulate or down-home, educated or irrational, bourgeoisie or radical?”

She writes that currently, “no one can indulge in the illusion of togetherness. He’s (POTUS 45) disrupting a surface that needs to be disrupted, for good.”

She’s saying that in order to write the best American story, each of us “characters” has to look and acknowledge our flaws before we can go back to believing in the “prefect union” we so desire and thus become the heroes of our story. Please read the entire article to see the whole of her argument. It might be disruptive — but then we are becoming used to that EVERY SINGLE DAY.

In conclusion, I have been examining my whiteness. Yes, I benefited from living in a middle class Chicago neighborhood and attending private schools. I knew few black people growing up. My high school was integrated, but barely. Did I make an attempt to befriend my fellow black students? No. Maybe I felt myself absolved by the literature I was reading and getting A’s analyzing. CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY. Big deal. In college, Martin Luther King was assassinated and the black students printed a piece in our newspaper with a photo of them gathered. They called themselves the “worms in our apple.” By the time I was teaching high school in an integrated school that pulled from neighborhoods of poor whites, middleclass whites and poor blacks–I was more awake than ever. And I fought to stay awake. But even now, I wouldn’t give myself an A plus, that’s for sure.

SO WHAT’S THE END OF THE STORY?

I want to be open to the world and all its colors and brightness, all it’s variety and hopes, dreams and pains. I want that to flow through my fiction and encourage you to comment on this post. We are family–all of us. Time to work on our flaws and become the best people we can be. Compassion, anyone?

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See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

Odd. No one is in denial of America’s Aug 21 total solar eclipse. Like Climate Change, methods & tools of science predict it. These words were tweeted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of America’s foremost scientists whose name is synonymous with anything related to science.  

At least for this one day, August 21, 2017, Americans are in the grip of science and eager to learn about it, see it, experience it. I say BRAVO!
The widow of Carl Sagan, an American astronomer known for popularizing the study of science through books and television shows who died in 1996, said this about the coming eclipse:
“Think of it. We’re born in this kind of cosmic quarantine with no knowledge of what’s going on in the solar system, let alone the universe. And every now and then there’s an eclipse or every once in a while a comet appears in our skies. This is a kind of inducement to figure out what’s going on.
 
I’m glad we have [eclipses] because it reminds us of that sudden chill–the motion of the birds, the way that the rest of life reacts to the blocking out of the sun. It has that kind of mythic, biblical power to it. And it should.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, like Sagan, is an American astrophysicist and author who communicates with eagerness and a smile about anything you might want to know about science, the heavens, the eclipse, research regarding the solar system and yes, global warming. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

That center is part of the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson founded the Department of Astrophysics in 1997 and has been a research associate in the department since 2003. He is joyful about his work and whenever you see him in public, he is wearing a tie that pictures the solar system, the planets and shouts out: I’m an astrophysicist!!

See the Eclipse: Support Science & Global Warming

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson states: There is no science in this world like physics. Nothing comes close to the precision with which physics enables you to understand the world around you. It’s the laws of physics that allow us to say exactly what time the sun is going to rise. What time the eclipse is going to begin. What time the eclipse is going to end. Monday is the day, but if you don’t have protective glasses read this piece in the Washington Post: Can’t find the protective glasses to watch the solar eclipse? Go old school.    

Science can help us use electricity efficiently, teach us about the planet we live on, help us cure diseases, reach for the stars…and on and on. Science can help us save our planet. Enjoy the eclipse in whatever form that takes for you. And do yourself a favor: read up on global warming. Help save this beautiful planet. Read and treasure the words of Carl Sagan:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam…It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Photos: Seattle Met; Pinterest;

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Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

Alternative Religion: Is There Such a Thing?

The little boats saved the troops at Dunkirk.

I’ve had enough of alternative facts. I’ve had enough of powerful people either in our government or operating as talking heads, obscuring the real tenants of religion. Whether you are part of a church or not–I hope you will agree with me that some of the basic principles used to found “this shining city on the hill” have been kidnapped by powerful people who do not care about their fellow man or woman–not in the least little bit. They could give a damn about loving their neighbor, unless that neighbor can grease their palm and make that first or second yacht a possibility. But if the neighbor is asking for legal help, looking for work, asking for good medical care, wanting her child to get a good PUBLIC education–FORGET ABOUT IT.

NO NAMES 

You might already have stopped reading, but in the hope that you will continue to hear me out, I will not use real names. But I will state my case.

In our country today and maybe across the globe, there now rises an alternative religion. It preaches through various voices that hating another man’s religion is okay. Much of this comes from ignorance. Yes, there are members of a certain faith who have twisted its basic tenants to support killing anyone who does not agree with them. THAT IS WRONG. But there was a period in past centuries when Christians armed and ready, took to their horses and in the name of Christ killed many. This was called the Crusades. Click on the word and read about it. The Crusaders USED religion to gain power. Wow, not a new concept. It’s going on in our country right now.

LIVING BY EXAMPLE 

I found the following sentence while thinking about writing this post. I don’t know who said it: You push people down and you have two choices. RAISE THEM BACK UP or arm yourselves. There is much truth in these words. But also a problem. With there being two sides we want to believe that one side is right. That one side is moral.

OKAY: One side is working to live, feed their families, and practice their religion. The other side is filled with hate, doesn’t want these people to live, take care of their families and practice their religion. (I started to write this post on Friday, having NO IDEA that #Charlottesvillle would occur. But it has.)

PREACHERS ARE HUMAN & COME IN ALL STRIPES

To be a preacher, sometimes all you need is a great voice, a few great lines and a Bible. You have to have a Bible. People come. People listen and they pay you. You are on your way. You can say outrageous things in the name of God. (In my day, there was that preacher couple. Millions flocked to them. She wore all that mascara. He went to jail.)

Here’s my question today. I’m a Catholic. But I don’t pretend to have read every page of the Bible. In college, I studied with teachers who used what is called EXEGESIS: an explanation or critical interpretation of a text. What this process does is get a person away from literal word interpretation. Like: if you sin with you hand, cut it off. The Bible as a holy book has been used to enslave and hurt human beings.

Jesus spoke in parables and this is my favorite. In fact, I wonder if modern preachers like that mascara lady just ripped that page right out of the holy book.

Luke 18:9-14 Two men went up to the temple to pray,one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

PUBLIC SERVANTS

Wow, my head kind of zinged when I typed that very familiar phrase. Servants? But the point I want to make is if you are a preacher of any religion or a senator, representative, mayor, the president–you are a public servant. You work for THE PEOPLE. ALL THE PEOPLE. Supposedly you work for peace; you work to prevent wars that kill people, not start them. You work for your citizens, your military, your diplomats. You work for me, for all of us. And burning in your heart, should be the desire to think: the people first, not my bank account.

MORE PUBLIC SERVANTS: DUNKIRK  

To wind this up, let’s remember DUNKIRK. My husband and I saw the film this week. Generations of Americans have no idea what Dunkirk was. Not a clue. But you could say the story of Dunkirk is a kind of religion, if you are using the definition A SYSTEM OF FAITH. The men in the little boats believed in their country and their countrymen. They were willing to give their lives for that faith.

Pressed to the edge of the sea by the Germans, thousands of British soldiers and other Allied Troops were evacuated from the beach at Dunkirk between the 27th of May to the 4th of June. Wiki Says: British press later exploited the successful evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, and particularly the role of the “Dunkirk little ships”. Many of them were private vessels such as fishing boats and pleasure cruisers, but commercial vessels such as ferries also contributed to the force…The term “Dunkirk Spirit” refers to the solidarity of the British people in times of adversity.[49]

I feel a thrill that is hard to describe every time I watch the clip below. Yes, it’s an old movie, but maybe in a small way watching these PUBLIC SERVANTS risking their lives connects me to the small things I have done: helping one of my students whose parents had no time for education; holding the hand of one of my patients who was losing her baby and had no one to cry with her.

I’m against using religion to fill your bank account. If you want to be religious, fill your heart and soul–take care of others, consider others. It’s A FACT — it will fill you up. PS: See the new film, though the clip below is great, part of the film MRS. MINIVER. 

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/1111863/Mrs-Miniver-Movie-Clip-Your-Destination-Is-Dunkirk.html

Photo Credit Taylor Homes

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The Health of Our Families? A Global Concern

 The Health of Our Families? A Global Concern

In 2009 when the H1N1 flu began to spread there was PANIC.

The outbreak began the weekend of April 24th when groups of students at a high school in Queens in New York became ill—all at once. Overtime, the spread of H1N1 became a global concern.

Then in 2014, a person from Africa brought Ebola to our country and there was even more panic. Ebola: a virus that is not air-borne, that is passed from direct contact with a symptomatic person’s body fluids—vomit, blood, watery feces. Healthcare workers became infected because they were working directly with very sick patients who were passing copious amounts of infected body fluids. But hospitals isolated them, cared for them and they all survived. 

WHAT IS PANIC: a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Repeat: wildly UNTHINKING behavior. Do you even remember what happened in 2009? Probably not.

BIRD FLU H7N9  But now an even bigger global pandemic looms and there is no fear, no panic. Basically because people are not aware of it and the government is ignoring it.

The problem is a bird flu, H7N9, that mostly infects poultry. However, it has started jumping from chickens to humans more easily, which is very bad news. The virus is a killer. People can easily get pneumonia from this flu, end up in intensive care with severe respiratory problems and die.

Right now H7N9 CANNOT easily spread from person to person like other flus. But the longer it stays in humans, the better chance it will mutate to become more contagious.

When that happens it’s just a matter of time before it hops on a plane out of China, lands on foreign soil, and there spreads like wildfire. Scientists want you to know that this is real, not some script for a horror movie. It is a highly plausible nightmare scenario that should be keeping the American President and other world leaders up at night.

WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? 

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks H7N9 as the flu strain with the greatest pandemic potential, one that can go global. It is seen to be so deadly that it could kill tens of millions.
  • Bill Gates, World Health Org. Director Margaret Chan, former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden all warn that we are scarily exposed, not doing near enough to even consider how to fight this.
  • To help, The Gates Foundation alone is giving 100 million dollars over the next five years to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) which might get us to a vaccine and also invest in next generation technologies that can counter future threats.
  • The Trump Administration is blind to this: key government positions remain unfilled, including a new director for the CDC. (as of May 2017). They have proposed slashes to funding for Health and Human Services (HHS) and also cuts to National Institutes of Health (NIH)–which underwrites serious infectious-disease research.
  • The budget for the State Department foreign aid which supports efforts to stop the spread of diseases that can come to the U.S. has also been cut by 28%. Some of the cuts have been blocked, but what is obvious is that the VISION of this government does not include the possibility of a pandemic. They don’t seem to care.

The 1918 flu pandemic killed 50 million people–more than the combined total casualties of World Wars I and II. And we are even more vulnerable now. Why?

  • There are more of us and we live in more densely populated areas.
  • We travel; 4 billion trips were taken last year by airplane and diseases go with them even if a disease starts in a remote place on this earth.
  • It’s extremely expensive to deal with these global outbreaks. SARS in 2003 killed only 800 people, but cost the global economy 54 billion dollars.
  • The World Bank estimates that a severe flu pandemic would cost 4 trillion dollars.

SOME GOOD NEWS and BAD NEWS

There is an ambitious program called PREDICT that might be able to respond to emerging pathogens. It was launched in 2009 and is funded by the U.S. Agency for International  Development (USAID) and has helped discover nearly 1,000 new viruses in animals and in humans. “Outbreaks are like fires,” says Dr. Eddy Rubin who partners with PREDICT. “If you’re able to understand where there is a greater likelihood of their occurring and detect them early, you can shift the impact.”

There is also the Global Virome Project, a strategy to identify, characterize and sequence a half-million viruses in animals that have the potential to spill over and cause human deaths. But cuts to USAID’s budget would greatly compromise this work.

There are many concerns voiced by folks who work in science and medicine. There is not enough current funding and were we to suddenly have to deal with an outbreak, not enough hospital beds to help people. “In a situation like the 1918 pandemic, the expectation is that the resources are not going to be there for everyone,” says Melissa Harvey, who head the division of national health care preparedness programs at Health and Human Services (HHS). The United States right this moment needs sustained funding for pandemic preparedness that extends out for years!! We need research and development to create vaccines. That’s the only way to deal with a pandemic–line people up to be vaccinated. Otherwise, it’s the panic on the Titanic–who gets a lifeboat that is, a hospital bed.

TRUMP’S PLANS & PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

During the last election campaign, the Republican candidate stated over and over that his goal was to keep Americans safe. His multi-billion dollar wall CANNOT stop a pandemic. Cutting aid to programs that help fight diseases overseas is like cutting our CIA and military budget in time of war. We must have funds to prepare for a pandemic.

“The emerging climate of fake news and alternate facts leaves us worse off than ever before,” says Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist.”I’m very worried, because I am certain there will be an outbreak.”

YES. What if Trump tweeted that the pandemic vaccine wouldn’t save lives but cause Autism (a fake notion he leans to.) What I just wrote MAKES NO SENSE, but in a panic situation, people will listen and react. They won’t get inoculated and the disease will spread. Please read more about HERD IMMUNITY here.

And please remember: PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT IS CRITICAL TO PUBLIC SAFETY. Educate yourselves. Talk to your doctors and caregivers. Bill Gates reflects: “when I was a kid, the disaster we worried about most was a nuclear war. But today, if anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it is likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes.”

Tell your Congress Person to: FUND and SUPPORT THE CDC, HHS, and the National Institutes of Health and to work with the World Health Organization. The lives of your family may depend on it.

Photo: The Royal Society Interface and thanks to TIME MAGAZINE, May 15,2017

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What Are the Chances that Folks Will Remember You?

What Are the Chances that Folks Will Remember You?

Maybe you’re not in the mood for this, but I’ll try to make it upbeat.

We all want to be remembered. For something. And though today, right this moment, we might consider how vast our place in FOREVER might be, it’s not that vast. I’ll use ME as an example. Who will remember me?

My family: my children and grandchildren. After that it’s a guess.

My friends. Yes I have many, my husband has many. But like Wendy, Michael, John and Peter Pan, we might ascend to the heavens all at the same time, or around the same time. Because remember, we are all of the same generation.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE REMEMBERED

Be kind, be as generous as you can be and take photos! From the beginning of our life together, my husband took photos–of our vacations and family events: baptisms and weddings, holidays and birthdays. We have a cabinet full of photo albums and now many of those precious memories have been digitized so that we won’t lose them. You cannot walk through a room in our home without seeing a framed photograph of family. It’s necessary–because two of our children live a distance away and life gets crazy and we want to think of them and see their faces. It’s a form of connection. I also have a photo of the women’s group I was a part of when I lived in Iowa. I look at it frequently–I miss them.

Communicate: we have phones, snail mail and email. Though hearing a friend or a family member’s voice is the best, it’s not always possible to connect that way. A voice mail starts the process and so does an email–it’s like a friendly knock on the door of the person you want to chat with. It’s saying: here I am. I have news. Or I want to tell you I care about you.  Or I don’t want to forget you and I don’t want you to forget me.

Don’t Move. Stay in one place. This is hard to do. We live in a society of movement and change. In our years of marriage, my husband and I have moved twice–once with our children (though one was in college, one in grade school and another already working) it changes the center of the family, the HOMESTEAD. When we moved the second time, it was just the two of us. Now one daughter is near us, one in Boston and our son in Chicago–which is our starting place, our HOMETOWN. Chicago is where we were born and lived for many years–and thus there are people in Chicago who do not forget us. They are the Golden Oldies and if you’ve moved from your Hometown, you know that and you need that.

But regardless, you must call or write, visit and embrace. That’s how you will be remembered. We had many wonderful years in our second Midwest home, and I knock on doors with email whenever I can, people visit when they travel here, and yet I fear over time those friendships could be lost. Of course, now in our new home, we make new friends. Will they last? Will they remember me?

Become a Member of Ancestry.com or a similar organization. Talk about memories!! My husband has become the official family historian–and if you can become part of someone’s history, why yes, you will be remembered. He has unearthed photos and news clippings about my deceased father and mother and his family. He is building a family tree that grows bigger and bigger with births and with finding those that lived before us. No one is ever deleted. They live in our memories. What will be necessary is for someone to continue this endeavor. Not everyone finds history fascinating. But here’s something else to consider:

Someday you will be history, but only if there’s a living person keeping track. So encourage record keeping of some sort. You know what they used to say: if your house catches on fire, grab your photo albums and run. Now you need to have a flash drive or backup system you can grab and run with.   

And I guess, finally, make a name for yourself. Or in other words, get your name out there. Still with becoming so-called FAMOUS, there are no guarantees. You have to be truly truly famous to go down through the ages. I would love to publish my novels. Then, hopefully, someone would have a copy when I’m gone. But over time who is remembered? Shakespeare. Homer. Jane Austen. Dickens. Writers of literature in languages I am unable to read. Tyrants, kings, presidents, politicians, saints and sinners.

Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us 

Yes, this is a real thing, a book by scientist Sam Kean. He is fascinated with all things science and finds connections for us–between the LIVING and the DEAD. An excerpt: Even more startling, our breaths entangle us with the historical past. Some of the molecules in your next breath might well be emissaries from 9/11 or the fall of the Berlin Wall, witnesses to World War I or the star-spangled banner of Fort McHenry. If we extend our imagination far enough into space and time, we can conjure up some fascinating scenarios. For instance, is it possible, that your next breath–this one right here–might include some of the same air that Julie Caesar exhaled when he died? …Across all that distance of time and space, a few of the molecules that danced inside his lungs are dancing inside yours right now.   

Kean’s theories certainly connect all humans to one another. And we will be remembered as the species that occupied the planet Earth for thousands of years. But will some other species know that we were also the creation that destroyed it?

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

In order for humans, those that are famous, those that our infamous, those that will be forgotten over time–the earth must survive. It becomes questionable that we should strive to advance and change, only to allow some naysayers to condemn the planet to it’s final death. Yes, there is controversy, but if your painting or photo, your poem or organization, the building, the business you built with your name up in lights or glorified on a skyscraper–if any of that is to have meaning, the human race must survive on this planet. Or we can say goodbye to Shakespeare, Austin, Caesar and the rest–then, Oblivion. So we must strive to keep the earth healthy, for our DNA to continue on in some form. And to make that happen? We all need to fall in love with Mother Earth and protect her.

P.S. To preserve memories, you can interview family members and write down their memories. Or keep a diary. More about how to do that here.

Photo: Pixabay

 

Daddy’s Penny Box

Daddy's Penny Box

small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field cover.

It’s sometimes hard to hold on to a dream, or make a plan work out. The very definition of “life” includes disappointment. But humanity has dealt with this by educating people that can help us: doctors, counselors, lawyers etc. They study so that they can supply us with help and care when our dreams, our bodies are failing. Today, you can search the net for advice if you want to be a photographer, writer, artist—the list is endless. Our endeavors are endless. And complicated.

But notice, I have yet to mention the first person each of us encounters who begins the process: comforts us when we have pain; praises us when we do the right thing and scolds and should explain why, when do the wrong thing. Parents. Parent. Guardian. The one who is there when we need to be fed and our diapers changed. The beginning.

Growing up I had one parent. I lost my father when I was three. (Many of you already know this.) But my two brothers and I had this amazing woman for a mother. A loving, complicated, intelligent woman (Jinni) who probably never sought out a grief counselor when left with three children to raise—ages: 3 months, 3 and 6 years. How the hell did she do it?

Jinni had her own family behind her (mother, father, brother and two single sisters), people used to working for a purpose, people whose first reaction to a sad and complicated situation was kindness and how can I help.

But no person suddenly bereft of the one they counted on, bereft of the vision they had of their future finds this a happy fact. Jinni certainly had her moments of doubt and fear. But then she went on. There are so many examples of this in my personal story. Can you think of one in yours? If so, it’s good to be grateful.

Jinni’s three kids are older now, and though she lived into her late nineties, she shines bright and vigorous in our minds and always will.

But I’m going to take you back to our house in Chicago, to our dining room that had built-in cabinets with glass doors above and yet a cabinet below that was child accessible. In this cabinet was a small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field & Co. cover. But it was open and into it Jinni tossed pennies—change from her trips to the store. She called it Daddy’s Penny Box, because she started it after he died, and probably because when going through his top dresser drawer, she found a bunch of pennies.

In our Southside neighborhood, there was a deli that we could walk to in under five minutes. It had a counter with candy displayed in a glass case. We called it Mary’s Candy Store, and many times we would interrupt Jinni, who might be typing insurance policies in the corner of our dining room to pay the bills, to ask if we could go to Mary’s. In my memory, 99% of the time she said yes. And we knew what to do. Grab a few pennies from the box and go. Keary Moran, who lived on our street, once relayed to the neighborhood that we were rich! Of course we weren’t, but he was a kid. He’d seen all those pennies in the box.

But here’s the thing. We were rich. We had Jinni. When she sold our house years later, after my brothers had moved out of state, after I was married and teaching high school, there were still pennies in that box! Lots of them. Jinni believed in us and in our lives and our dreams. Daddy’s Penny Box was a symbol of that belief and promise. It could never become empty because her counsel, her care, her belief in our dreams and goals would never falter. Maybe we should have renamed it, Jinni’s Penny Box. But she would have said no.

My mother was given a major disappointment, one she had not expected. She accepted the help of family, friends, doctors (many who knew my father) and a lawyer friend. But that was early on. Once she got her stride, Jinni instinctively knew what to do. The Penny Box was part of that. She gave love and attention to her three kids. She fulfilled a dream–that she could succeed on her own, and in doing that, she helped fulfill ours.

My older brother is John C. Pfordresher, professor of English at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. His book THE SECRET HISTORY OF JANE EYRE has just been published by Norton. You can read more about it here. 

Daddy's Penny Box

No small accomplishment. Dad would be proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My younger brother is William F. Pfordresher (Bill) who went to LA in the early 70s to make it in the music business. HE DID. Read about him here.

And me, I have an amazing husband and family I hold dear. And though I’m  enjoying the process of writing a novel, I still have some dreams to fulfill.

Photo credit: Ebay, Amazon

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Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

There seems a human instinct to want to do physical work.

Do you like to vacuum? Weed in a garden? Plant vegetables? Wash your car? Maybe you enjoy grilling out when the weather is good or taking on a small chore like painting the porch floor or sanding a piece of furniture out in the yard. I’ve done all of these things and more, because I enjoy some physical labor. There are benefits for sure. Physical labor can: burn calories; increase pride of accomplishment; satisfy the urge to be creative.

The Decline of Manual Labor Jobs

Victor David Hanson writes about our changing society in his article AS PHYSICAL JOBS DECLINE, SOMETHING IS LOST. He asks if the reader thinks that the decline of physical jobs in our new culture is to our advantage. “…life superficially appears to get better. Cheap cellphones, video games, the Internet, social media and labor-saving appliances all make things easier and suggest that even more and better benefits are on the horizon.”

But is this a good thing? Hanson talked to academics, lawyers and CEOs, to find that most of them made sure that they biked or ran or lifted weights. So if obesity rates are higher in the class of people doing manual labor, why is this. One possible answer I found: these men and women started out being active and their diet consisted of many calories to support that activity. But as they aged and their metabolism slowed, their eating habits did not change. And possibly they rose up in their jobs and were foremen, more than laborers. Thus age meant packing on the pounds and not burning the calories. Of course not all are overweight. Many are quite fit due to their active work and healthy eating.

But Hanson And I Have A Question For You

What did you do in your past life that you would love to brag about? Or what did you watch or experience that really got your juices going? Hanson claims that the greater percentage of answers would include physical work–the expending of exhausting energy. Like climbing a mountain, conquering a sport for the first time, building something–and to that effect watching someone else expend that physical power. Hanson writes: THERE SEEMS A HUMAN INSTINCT TO WANT TO DO PHYSICAL WORK.

Does TV Have the Answer?

Think about how content on television has changed. While we go to the pantry to get more chips or some caloric snack, we might watch reality TV where people do energy expending stuff. Hanson writes: “In a society that supposedly despises menial jobs, the television ratings..suggest that lots of Americans enjoy watching people of action who work with their hands.”

WHY IS THIS? Because despite our advances, physical labor is the platform, the basis for our success. Men and women have to build cars, pump oil. No app can do that. Hanson writes: “The high-tech, post-modern society still depends on low-tech, pre-modern labor.” That could be you working to prepare a meal for your family, or the mechanic trying to discover why the computer on your car is reading an error. Someone has to get down and dirty to make things happen.

Those I Depended On

When my husband worked in his white collar job, I tended the household. There were many physical things that I could do to keep our home running smoothly. Some of them I mentioned above. But when the basement began to seep water, when termites were found behind a wall, when the roof leaked–I needed the American worker. Without them, house and home would crumble around us. Though to be fair, right this moment my husband is repairing a drawer in our kitchen, one with an odd working angle, not a fun project. He’s found the necessary part and powered up the drill. I will allow a brag or more when he gets the job done.

More of Us Need to Do Physical Stuff

There are many upsides to taking up a chore. As Hanson writes doing what my husband is doing saves money and increases independence. It also helps we humans identity and find common ground with men and women who work.

Philosophical Benefits of Manual Labor

Hanson also mentions something we might forget when shut up in our air conditioned houses and cars, or eager to always dine at a restaurant where we don’t see the slime of meat or the detritus of vegetables. That kind of life hides reality. Some things that we encounter in day to day living must remind us of the struggles of human kind. Maybe they are not our immediate struggles, but someone’s. Hanson writes: “Working outdoors, often alone, with one’s hands, encourages a tragic acceptance of nature and its limitations.” He goes on to say that people who work 20 hours or more in minimum wage jobs know reality more than he did teaching in college.

Final Thought 

Hanson ends his piece by quoting Euripides, the ancient Athenian playwright: “The hopes of countless men are infinite in number. Some make men rich; some come to nothing. So I consider that man (or woman) blessed who lives a happy existence day by day.”

Thanks for reading. I’m going to do some chores now.

PS The Bureau of Labor Statistics States: Among workers age 25 and over, those with an advanced degree were more likely to work at home than were persons with lower levels of educational attainment—43 percent of those with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12 percent of those with a high school diploma. (But work at home means sitting at a computer, not building a highway or putting out fires.)

Photo Credit: The New York Times. Take a Labor Day Tour of Blue Color Art.

 

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From My Inbox To Yours

From My Inbox To Yours

Dear Readers,    Life asks a lot of us. Sometimes getting another email that reads: BOOMER HIGHWAY has a new post, it’s like (cuss word), again!? Too busy, done with that. I understand. Life can get crazy: emails, phone calls, your phone reminding you of appointments. I remember the days of phone calls when the phone was attached to a wall. You’d answer. Some lasted a minute or two, some much longer. And if you had a schedule to follow, you might try to hook the phone under your chin and finish something as you talked, something that was in the space where the cord would stretch. Or you might just sit and give up your schedule, relax with the call. Now with cell phones, it ‘s just different. It’s more constant and connections more various and numerous. So the desire to shut off the phone or stay away from email, at least for some periods of time,  makes a lot of sense.

FINDING CONTROL

The word that comes to mind is control. I get to say. I get to decide. The phone, my computer do not control me, though there are studies that show when your phone dings you are most often unable to resist going to it. We have become Pavlov’s Dog. You can read more about that study here.

That’s why it’s a good thing to take breaks from your phone during the day, allow yourself to circle back to a simpler time. I don’t use my phone when:

  • I work in the garden. Heat is not good for the phone in the first place; gardening allows me to listen, but not to someone talking, but to the birds, the wind in the trees, or infrequently eavesdrop on my neighbors. Once in a while I do have earphones, but that’s to listen to music.
  • I take a 2.5 mile walk. If something untoward happens, my husband has his, but he gets calls. I don’t want to get calls. Again walking is for walking and during part of the time we talk.
  • After six o’clock pm. It’s near me, but I am not picking it up all the time. I’m basically ignoring it: during dinner, watching the news, and later when I am reading or enjoying a film with my husband. My family comes first, so of course if one of them calls, I answer. But it is not my prime concern.

DISCONNECTING

I actually enjoy all these times when I am disconnected. I know some of you meditate and that’s a profound way to calm your mind and find yourself at the edge of a sea or high on a mountaintop, not embroiled constantly with the minute to minute sorrows and anxieties of modern living.

It will be fascinating in the years to come, when scientists know more about computer and cell phone use and how it is affecting us. I know my posts lately have all been on heavy topics (minus Mother’s Day.) And I apologize.

WHAT I WRITE ABOUT

I wrote those posts as my way of being heard at a time when we all need to speak out, share our views, help one another. Others of you are in the trenches: volunteering for the homeless, fighting anti-immigration tactics, teaching, working in medicine or simply listening to someone who needs to talk, to cry, to say WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME–please help!!

WE ARE PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL BEINGS

Moving to the spiritual side of our lives at these times (meditation, prayer) takes us on a journey free of cell phones, television, blatant opinion. We can construct our own thinking and find in our own depths HOW TO COPE.

And speaking of coping, no matter what is happening in the wide world or in the immediate circle that I live in, I lean on: my husband, my children, my brothers and sisters-in-law, my friends. And all of you.

I LOVE CONNECTION

No man or woman is an island. So though I try to space out my cell phone, computer, internet activity during any given day–I love connecting with all of you.

When we moved to Southern California, I left behind many people I love and though living here is good, I have not been able to replace them, to replace you. So thanks My Dear Readers. The connections I have made through My Readers, each of you, through two online groups, Midlife Boulevard and Women’s Fiction Writers Association, have filled up my days and my heart.

Soon, I will be back in my hometown–CHICAGO. I will be seeing my son and his dear girlfriend, oodles of family, staying with old and dear friends, eating pizza and attending a writer’s conference. So your inbox will be empty for a few weeks. Wow–did I hear some heavy sighs of relief?? Even some cheering?

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all the fathers in your lives. I will always miss mine. And HAPPY SUMMER to all. I hope you have some plans that allow you to drop off, chill out and reach out. The clasp of a loving hand warms the heart, often becomes a full-on hug. SO MUCH BETTER THAN A CELL PHONE.

PHOTO: thanks to pexels.com