Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ONE DOCTOR Examines The State Of Healthcare In The U.S.

As a  member of Simon & Schuster's Galley Alley, I receive promotional copies of books I've chosen to read. I'm not required to write a review. I write and share what I wish. Opinions expressed herein are my own.

Healthcare delivery in the United States is a disaster. Inflated costs by healthcare providers, incentives for non-delivery of services by insurance companies, and the  waning of medical students choosing internal medicine as their specialty contribute to a disjointed system that endangers patients' lives, rations services, and provides the greatest care to a fortunate and wealthy few. Dr. Brendan Reilly's first person account in ONE DOCTOR: Close Calls, Cold Cases, And The Mysteries Of Medicine is an empathetic and disturbing read.

It's empathetic for the medically near-impossible cases Dr. Reilly presents as he rounds with his  students. The reader doesn't meet patients and their families in a detached clinical sense, but as humans, grappling with decisions that no one should have to make. Between these cases, the author discusses his personal struggles in the profession, while sharing family history, as he decides how to manage his own elderly parents' end of life planning. What defines quality of life and when is "enough" enough? 

The disturbing nature of the book has to do with all the mishaps that occur when there's little or no continuity of care. As I read, I started making a list of the things I'll be doing differently moving forward. I learned more than I wanted to know about medical reimbursement, the dying autopsy, the unreliability of diagnostic tests, both positive and negative, the insidious nature of undetectable breast cancer, and the importance of having an advanced directive in place so that my loved ones aren't burdened with making the kinds of decisions presented in this book. Anyone who doesn't have a primary doctor should get one, now.

Monday, August 26, 2013

We Start At A New School This Week

We start at a new school this week. As some of you know, our son attended a small, private school close to home, and when I say "small," I mean K-8-under-one-hundred-students-small, where everyone knows your name. We're moving for a number of reasons, but the only one that matters to us is that our son requested it. He's ready to experience life outside his small brick building. Both Mom and Dad are a little nervous, because this will be a big change, not to mention culture shock for him. There will be no daily chapel, children aren't expected to hold doors open for their elders, he won't eat his lunch at his desk, nor will he be expected to attend eighth grade graduation each year. Having said all that, despite all that we'll miss that made his previous school special, we're proud of him for advocating for himself, stating that he's ready to make new friends, while firmly and confidently letting us know that he is not going to be siting at the peanut table, either.

Today we attend his new school's Fourth Grade Meet-and-Greet, where we'll drop in to the class, meet his new teacher, other parents and classmates. It's a huge fourth grade wing at a school that will be the equivalent of a small high school for a middle schooler used to a small brick building. I'm grateful beyond words for the role the school adjustment counselor, in addition to the other supports, that are being made available to make his transition as comfortable as is possible, for a ten-year-old, transferring to a new school. I can only imagine the anxiety a family must experience if they or their child are new to the country and don't speak the language. What supports are available to them? As a student of school guidance sitting on the other side of the table, I empathize with these concerns, and for that I'm also grateful.

This week we'll be chronicling a lot of firsts. We're not expecting everything to be perfect and we welcome the unpredictability and excitement that starting something new brings. I came across a wonderful article written by Dr. Michele Borba, a renown and multi-book published, parenting expert. The article is titled "Helping Kids Fit In to a New School and Make Friends." She makes some wonderful recommendations you might find helpful if you have a child starting at a new school.

Is there anything special you've done to ease your child's transition to a new school?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Winged Cigars

Learned something new this week I thought I'd pass along, because apparently I don't know much about insects. Earlier this week I noticed a green dragonfly perched on a dry rosebud in my backyard. I crept up to see how close I could get and saw that its tiny jaws chomped on something -- open, close, open, close, its mandibles moved rhythmically. How cute, I thought. The green helicopter is having a snack. Hmmmmm.

Then I remembered an incident from elementary school, when a young girl approached me on the playground. She held her index finger out in front of her, as if she wanted to say, "Number one." I remember asking her at the time what had happened to her finger, because the ruddy tip was smothered in a glob of a vaseline-like substance. That's when she told me that she'd been bitten by a dragonfly, except, she didn't call it a dragonfly. She called it a cigarrón, dragonfly in Spanish. What did I know? Winged cigars flew around burning people's fingers whenever somebody tried to touch them. Stay away! From that day forward I'd duck a cigarrón whenever one came near.

These days, I smile every time a dragonfly hovers about, mainly because somebody shared with me once that whenever you see a dragonfly, a loved one who's passed is thinking of you. I'd embraced the winged cigars.

That is until I downloaded this picture and upon closer inspection saw that it munched on a fly. Ew.

Turns out dragonflies are carnivorous.

Who knew?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I've Got Chickens On My Mind

You can fool a rooster some of the time, but you can't fool a rooster all of the time. So lemme tell you a story of an urban chick who got it into her head that she wanted to raise chickens. And by "chickens" let me be specific -- I mean two chickens in particular. If you read my Raising Chickens In The Burbs post, you know that my son brought home two baby chicks from his third grade's incubation project. At the time, the sex of the two baby chicks was unknown. I was hoping and praying that Ricki, my white feathered beauty with the rosy comb and waddle, was a hen. It was obvious that my sweet Samantha was a hen. No question. But, Ricki? Welllllll.

I'd convinced myself that I had two egg-laying hens. I so wanted to believe it. That was until a week ago Monday, when at 5:42 a.m. this creepy, croaky sound (like that of an animal being strangled) drifted up from the coop two floors down from my bedroom window. It sounded something like this: cocka-cuu-cu. My eyes snapped open at the strained crow of my Ricki. I knew it was Ricki. Who else could it be? So I waited, holding my breath, watching my husband, hoping he wouldn't wake up. The raspy crowing continued for about fifteen minutes and by six a.m. he was done. This scenario has repeated itself every day since.

5:30 a.m. .... 5:45 a.m. .... 5:20 a.m. I can tell you with certainty that the bird's found his voice.

What's an urban farmer girl to do? Do I keep him and risk having someone call the town to complain about the rooster in my backyard? I decided it would be better for Ricki to go live on a local farm where he'd roam free. I learned later from the friend who arranged the placement that the farm is called BLOOD FARM. Hello. I can't make this stuff up. You don't even want to know what I imagined. We'd decided that the farmer would take Ricki and introduce him to his flock, and in return, I'd get a hen. Then when I learned about the whole business having to do with quarantining a new chicken for up to six weeks to make sure it's not diseased (because it could kill my existing chicken with its bugs), I decided to give up Ricki in exchange for no hen. My Samantha would need to live a solitary life, until I could accommodate quarantine quarters. But then, what about the winter? She'd freeze to death. Even though Ricki bullies her around the coop, they roost practically on top of each other. He's her bud.

Could this story get any longer? So here's what happened next. It was the night before Ricki was supposed to go away, when I had an idea. Why not cover the coop at night and trick the rooster into believing it's still night when he rouses? So I did. With a half dozen Glad trash bags that I taped into the shape of a big blanket. I covered every inch of the coop, leaving the bottoms loose for the free-flow of air, and crossed my fingers. Wouldn't you know it? Ricki did not crow the next morning until I removed the cover from his coop at a more suitable time, like 7:30 a.m. I was ecstatic, jumping up and down in the kitchen in my pajamas, while my husband held his coffee mug and shook his head. He does that a lot.

Later that afternoon I texted my friend and told him I was going to keep my rooster because I'd solved the crowing issue.

Do you think the ruse worked the following morning?


Tonight the door into the enclosed part of the coop is closed enough to block Ricki's exit in the a.m. AND the coop is covered with my Glad bag invention.

We'll see what the morning brings.

(Samantha's now laying eggs :-)