Book Reviews – Under Fire & Becoming

I always have a wish list for Christmas which includes books. This past Christmas I received four. I just finished the second.

“Under Fire”

April Ryan is a White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network. She is also a political analyst on CNN. Ryan has spent two decades in this correspondent position under three presidents. I’ve always admired her tenaciousness in getting her questions answered during White House press conferences. She is an intelligent source of information on cable news. Knowing these things about her I looked forward to reading her new book, “Under Fire.

The book was interesting as an inside, behind the scenes account of the past two years under the current POTUS. Two things about the book were disappointing, however. First, as a reporter, I expected Ryan to be an outstanding writer. In my opinion, she was not in this book, often repeating parts of her story. And, her story was truly HER STORY. Perhaps I should have expected that from the title and pre-publishing discussions. The message was a bit “poor me” but on the other hand, it seems she has legitimate grievances that result from being a black woman seeking answers for the African American community. 

The book is a quick read and worth the time to get a better view of the obstacles before people of color working in or around a very white government. 

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“Becoming”

Another book written by a well-known black woman, Michelle Obama, former FLOTUS, I would highly recommend. “Becoming” is a well written and very thorough autobiography of Obama’s life from early childhood in the South Side of Chicago through eight years of living in the White House as First Lady. Her life is impressive and the journey is thoroughly and honestly documented in this book. 

This is the first such thorough account I’ve read of what it is like to live in what the author calls the “bubble” of the Secret Service. Raising two young girls in this highly protected environment was very challenging and Obama is quite forthcoming about her concerns that her children grow up normally under such non-normal circumstances. 

This inside view of life in the White House includes accounts of foreign and domestic travel, campaigning, press coverage, pressures both small and colossal. The sheer size of the operation and number of staff to keep it operating was astonishing to me.

Michelle Obama is an intelligent and highly accomplished woman and I enjoyed reading about her life both as a professional and First Lady. 

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“Historically, black women have suffered tremendously, but today’s black women are the triumph. We have choices, and that’s what freedom is all about: having the power to choose.” Susan L. Taylor

Sisters

My Sister

Really, I never had a sister in the biological sense, but I came close. My cousin Pat was born six weeks before me and I never let her forget that she was the older. Her Mom, Lucy, was my Mom’s sister and they were very close. Pat and I were sisters in every sense of the word. 

Pat, beat breast cancer and then succumbed to leukemia a few years later. I was unable to go to the hospital to visit her due to my immunodeficiency, but I talked to her on the phone most days. Recently while cleaning up files on my computer, I ran across letters that I wrote to Pat during her last weeks on this earth. I am always more able to express myself in writing. Some letters were snail mailed, but most my husband delivered to her daily. I even wrote her obituary, per her request, and sent it to the hospice facility via that route. 

Reading the letters again has made me smile and cry and I’ve selected one, shortened, but not edited (sorry about some of the language) to share with you today. 


March 5, 2013 (a.k.a. first night of chemo)

Hi Pat,

Thought of you as soon as I opened my eyes this morning, knowing that you would be waiting for the THE CALL to come to the hospital and begin your clinical trial.  I don’t know how you feel.  I can only imagine and w/o prior experience such as yours the imagination can’t come up with anything close, I’m sure.  

I thought about our long past together and not together.  There are unanswered questions, like who broke who’s pot and did someone really drop a puppy and make a crack in his nose?   We went from innocent little girls to not so innocent middle sized girls.  We laughed and giggled all night.  It was especially hazardous at your house, because we knew your Dad had to get up hours before daylight to deliver bread.  It was for Bond, right?  He’d yell at us.  Your Mom would shame us, but we just could not contain the fun we were having.  I can’t remember our doing this at my house, but surely we did?

Then there was the teen stage when we worried about boys, hair, our weight and pimples.  I married and got pregnant, in that order and you got a job and became a business person.  How in hell did we both end up being nurses?  I cannot believe that I had the nerve to do that LPN thing and then it all came so naturally.  I decided there was no “practical” reason to be a practical nurse, so kept working at the RN and then we were both hot stuff; starched white uniforms, caps and feeling pretty damn proud of ourselves. 

Well, then as I told you on the phone today, I broke my pretty china nurse which you gave me when I graduated (the first time or second?).  Her arm is broken – osteoporosis?  But, it will be glued and good as new.  

I hope that your treatment will result in the same, or at least, comparable healing.  I used to pray for things I wanted badly.  I don’t do that anymore, but I keep you in my thoughts and send warm positive thoughts which I hope will somehow bring you peace and comfort. 

Oh yeah, our current stage of life is getting a little like Minnie’s and Lucy’s relationship in their later years.  I’m really ticked off at you for getting cancer a second time.  You had the good boob job and have the good hair and then you go and mess up both.  OK, I know it’s not your fault, but really, after beating the big “C” once, here you go getting it again.  I’m counting on you getting older (and me, too, of course) so that we can explore all the things that old women love.  

No, not knitting or any of that sort of bullshit.  We’ll go on long drives and wonder how we got there.  We’ll be gorgeous like Betty White and we’ll gossip about all our relatives (but mostly our in-laws).  We’ll wear polyester pants w/ elastic waistbands and go to all-you-can-eat buffets.  Then we’ll burp and complain about the food and have some more.  We’ll talk about what smart RNs we were and how arrogant and pushy the docs were and how things would be different in healthcare today if we were still there.

So, please try your best to get well, OK?  I need you.  I only have one sister and you have that honor.  

Love, Sue


 

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“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.” Alice Walker

Pappy’s Hat

Pappy’s Hat

My Grandfather’s hat was always at the ready. It was as though he was not decent, or a gentleman, without it. When dressed for church he would put it on his head as he left the house. That was his Sunday hat. 

When inside, whether at his little house or in his big store, his bare head showed. He was mostly bald with a few sprigs of white hair spread across the top. Upon leaving any building whether sunny or cold, a hat was placed squarely on that head. It was straw in summer and felt in winter. 

If he was working outside on a hot day the hat would be old and stained from sweat. That was not his primary function in life however, because he ran a general store and Post Office and he didn’t have to sweat much in those jobs. 

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His attire was simple, as was most men’s in those days. About all he needed was one suit and white shirt with tie for Sundays and funerals. Other days gray pants and a cotton shirt would do with a sweater added in winter. His shoes were black leather and tied neatly. He had rubber covers for those oxfords on rainy days. He called them “galoshers.” Top it all off with a hat and Pappy was good to go. 

“A person carries off the hat. Hats are about emotion.                                                      It is all about how it makes you feel.” Philip Treacy

 

Theme photo of hat in title by Pixabay

Book Review – Medicine Men

A Good Read

Would you like an entertaining, easy-reading book? If you have an interest in medicine and if you love the Smokey Mountains, you’ll definitely enjoy “Medicine Men” by Carolyn Jourdan. Ms. Jourdan is a sophisticated Wall Street Journal bestselling author, who apparently never forgot her mountain roots. Her father was an “extreme Appalachian” doctor and she tells his stories as well as those of many other such physicians who she interviews. It is a fun read which made me want to return to the Smokies for a visit. 

I heartily recommend this book which can easily be read in a day. As simple and funny as the stories are they stimulate thought regarding profound subjects and questions. 

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“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.” John Ruskin

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Soul 2

Soul Discussion

Not surprisingly this subject struck a chord with readers. We will not answer the questions posed in the last post. That is not the purpose of this series, but regardless it would be impossible. There is no way that we can know what the soul is or where it resides if it does exist. We can believe, but like the experience of death, there is no proof. We will surely die and if there is a soul, then we will know. This fact does not dissuade us from our beliefs or our interest in the opinion of others. https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/27/what-i-know-for-sure/

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Oprah Winfrey – Photo from Google

Even our friend Oprah wonders, asks questions and broadcasts about this subject. In 2012 on her series “Super Soul Sunday” she discussed this very question with over a dozen of her guests. HuffPost published this information and you may read the responses or watch excerpts from the interviews in a short video at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/25/what-is-the-soul-eckhart-tolle-wayne-dyer_n_2333335.html

Soul Opinions

The group Oprah assembled is made up of individuals from interesting and varied backgrounds. A few were religious but more perhaps were spiritual. Some work as life coaches, do public speaking and/or found institutions offering self-improvement programs. One, a medical professor with extensive name recognition in the US is Deepak Chopra who is known for his New Age and alternative medicine beliefs. Of the baker’s dozen personalities, at least twelve are authors. 

We’ll look at their comments and opinions in the next posts, but Chopra’s soul description is a good start for today.  He calls the soul an “internal reference point” and I wonder how that differs from having a conscious. He also refers to the “core” of an individual that is “eternal”. Two others in the group also intimated that the soul is eternal without using that word. 

 

What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room. Ray Charles

Part 2 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Beauty 3

Food for Thought from “Beauty 2” Quotes

 https://wordpress.com/post/crookedcreek.live/3480

I have thought about those quotes from well-known men and my thoughts follow each in red:

“A beautiful woman with a brain is like a beautiful woman with a club foot.” Bernard Cornfeld    This crook millionaire is dead now.

“The highest prize in the world of men is the most beautiful woman available on your arm and living there in her heart loyal to you.” Norman Mailer  And besides all the women he had relationships with, he married six others, one whom he stabbed twice in the abdomen.

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.” Tom Wolfe He has a Ph.D. from Yale and has had an outstanding career as a writer. Since he has only had one wife one would assume she must be a really good cook.

“It’s the combination of marrying a beautiful woman three decades younger and my iPad that keeps me young.” Bruce Forsyth    He was married three times and lived to be eighty-nine so apparently, his last young wife, a beauty queen, did keep him young. Or perhaps it was just the iPad?

“Surrounding myself with beautiful women keeps me young.” Hugh Hefner
This old fart finally died in spite of all his beautiful Playboy Bunnies.

“My addiction has always been to beautiful women, being surrounded by them.” Corey Feldman   Yeah, well okay, but you are no prize and you are also only 5’5” tall so it is doubtful they surround you for the reason that you believe.

BEAUTYMaybe only skin deep, but so very essential for the female it seems. 

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BEAST –   Was he really?

As I said earlier I often come to my conclusions and hold steadfastly to them without knowing the whole story. All I knew was that Beauty fell in love with a big hairy animal. I saw that as unacceptable on every level. Why must a female be so needy as to accept this as her fate? One reader pointed out that Beauty was good-natured and kind and that her virtues were rewarded. I had not gotten close enough to give much consideration to anything except what I saw as inequality.  

My Granddaughter (the same one who insisted I watch Frozen) knowing my strong feelings about the lack of egalitarianism in fairy tales as well as life, in general, asked me recently if I knew the backstory of Beauty and the Beast. I did not, but I do now. She explained that he was not really a beast, but a young prince who had been cursed by a wicked fairy. Only the love of a beautiful young girl could break the curse, but he was not allowed to tell Beauty that. She referred me to a group of podcasts that tell an earlier “non-Disneyfied” version of the tale. As I listened to the podcasts I learned that this was a complex story involving multiple cultures, families, communities, and fairies both good and bad.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tales/id1345709834?mt=2

It was shocking to learn how long this story has been around and how much it has and yet has not changed over the centuries. My interest being kindled I began to research more about the origins and found that the original was written in France in 1740. The original author was Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve but in an interview with the BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35358487  Dr. Jamie Tehrani stated: “Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than Classical mythology – some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts – but our findings suggest they are much older than that.” If this researcher is correct then such stories began as oral tales perhaps as long as 4,000 years ago. 

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Photo Courtesy of Google

Another interesting theory is that the Beast was based on a true story. There are paintings from 1580 of a man named Petrus Gonsalvus who had long hair on his entire body and face, a condition called “hypertrichosis”  or “Ambras Syndrome.” Gonsalvus as a child was abducted to the court of King Henry II who was reportedly interested in peculiarities. He was kept on as a court jester until the death of the King. After a marriage was arranged by the late King’s wife through trickery he was allowed to leave with his surprised (horrified?) wife.  They had seven children, three of whom had the same genetic syndrome and who were removed from the home to please other wealthy royalty.  

The original tome by Barbot de Villeneuve was first abridged in 1756 and then again in 1889. Since that time it has evolved through books, on stage as an opera and ballet and in movies. It has even been on television including The Hallmark Hall of Fame. When I’ve considered The Beauty and the Beast up until the past couple of weeks I had no idea that its history went back perhaps to the Bronze Age. Does that make its story better? Does it make it more acceptable? Apparently, it does for it to have endured so long and to have been enjoyed by so many. 

Number 3 of 4

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Books 5

“So many books, so little time.” Frank Zappa 

Do you have a book inside yourself?

Many, if not most, readers feel they could write a book. I bet that you have considered it or attempted it. One of my daughters has encouraged me to write for so many years that I am surprised that she hasn’t given up. She has provided many texts for guidance and even a little sign that hangs in my office which says “Award Winning Author at Work.” In spite of all the encouragement, I haven’t made an attempt as an adult. 

Do you journal?

If not, you should probably consider it now. I have never been very faithful in writing daily in a journal, but when I traveled for work, I often wrote down thoughts along the way and they have been one source of material for this blog. Many of the scribblings I still run across are valuable to jog my memory and prompt smiles or sometimes tears. 

Poetry               

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/07/29/challenge/  

We discussed poetry and some of you took the challenge to write a poem a long time ago. I also happen to know that more than one of the readers of Crooked Creek are very talented poets with years of work to their credit. You know who you are and you should definitely publish! I am not a poet by any stretch as my lines below will demonstrate. Had it not been for my attempt at journaling, however, I would not have these lines from 1993.

Waves of Time

Time, like waves upon the sea, though predictable, may catch one unaware. 

The same, be it waves of time or tide, possess the power to generate joy or pain.    

A rare and special friendship, though far away, burns steadily through time like a lighthouse glowing through the tide.                                                         

Good Reads 

https://www.goodreads.com

Although I admit that I have not kept my Good Reads account up to date I still believe that it is a useful website for readers. Even if you do not want to catalog your books in one of the many ways provided it is an excellent source of book reviews.  If you have not already check it out and see if it would be worthwhile. If any of you readers are active in Good Reads and would like to share the advantages that would be great!

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”                          Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

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Confessions:

  1. When in the eight grade I naively started a book, entitled “Tennessee Ten” and completed about 10 handwritten pages! It was awful of course.
  2. I have a few books by authors who I greatly respected until some current event, such as the #MeToo movement, changed my mind. 
  3. One of my blog readers has told me privately that I should concentrate on writing humor, but honestly, sometimes things just aren’t that funny, at least not on a regular basis.

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Reader Feedback

Another reader weighed in with their earliest book memories: Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ferdinand the Bull.” 

Part 5 of 5

Medicine 2

Sexology

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It seems to me that Dr. Scholl and his writers hedge their bets in giving advice on Courtship and Matrimony. The recommendations are pretty emphatic but then a little wiggle room for the exception exists.

Those reading this post on a device smaller than a computer may not be able to read the print on the copied page above so I will paraphrase it for you. In summary:

  • Dispositions should be studied before falling in love. To do otherwise is blind folly. 
  • Run around long enough to be sure about the person you are settling on.
  • Courtship shouldn’t be rushed.
  • Long engagements are a spectacle of the couple getting on each other’s nerves.
  • Affinity (vs. aversion?) is essential.
  • Don’t marry someone dumber than you.
  • Grow up before you get married.

I am sorry to report that a page or two of Sexology seems to be missing, but have no fear there is more information to convey. I was both surprised and concerned to learn the following: 

  • Courage in a woman is illustrated by how well she cares for her children, especially when the children are ill for “weary hours, days or weeks.”
  • The mood determines whether pregnancy occurs, i.e., there will be no conception without “sexual emotion.”  
  • Life itself should be a sober hilarity” whatever that means and homes that approach sex with “holy fidelity” . . . prepare children to “dwell in heaven.”

Now that we have all that cleared up we will in the next post move on the section entitled “Can Parents Control the Sex of the Child?” Most parents of teens today would quickly answer, of course not, they will do whatever they decide regarding having sex, but on closer scrutiny, I believe that the advice refers to choosing the sex when a child is conceived.

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/01/23/medicine/

Part 2 of 4

Medicine

The Bookshelf

Bookshelves barely exist today. Those that remain often contain old books left over from a former era or perhaps ones with some sentimental memory attached. I must admit that I still like the feel of a real book and I like to highlight and make notes in margins. I can do that with my Kindle but it just does not feel the same. I will admit though that clicking on an unfamiliar word and having the definition pop up on the screen is a valuable feature of electronic readers. 

1970s Print

This framed print from my office is a drawing by Robert Conley.  Conley’s art was in tribute to nurses who cared for his terminally ill wife in the 1970s. I love it for many personal reasons, but I’m sharing it today to point out two essential medical books of that era. The Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) and The Merck Manual seen here were essentials in any clinical area. The PDR was published each year and contained page after page of details about each prescription drug available.  It was heavily used by doctors and nurses alike. The Merck Manual explained diagnoses and treatments. I am willing to bet that you do not recall seeing either of these in the past thirty years and younger readers will not likely remember ever seeing a doctor referencing a book of any kind. 

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The reason, of course, is that now all this information and so much more is available and up to date electronically. This easily accessible data saves time and, no doubt lives. One only needs a handheld device to answer any inquiry. 

1910 Manuscript

Recently I ran across a few pages I had photocopied from an old book at some point long ago. I have no recollection why I had them or had kept them, but I’m glad that I did. Especially since that out of all “Twenty Books” in the “One Volume” I had chosen to copy Book VIII entitled “Sexology.”

Library of Health – Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease

Edited by B. Frank School, Ph.G, M.D.

Graduate of Jefferson Medical College and Philadephia College of Pharmacy

Table of Contents:

Anatomy, Physiology and Preventive Medicine, Curative Medicine, First Aid Measures, Diagnosis, Nursing, Sexology, Simple Home Remedies, Care of the Teeth, Occupational Diseases, Garden Plant Remedies, Alcohol and Narcotics, Treatment by Fifteen Schools of Medicine, Beauty Culture, Physical Culture, the Science of Breathing and the Dictionary of Drugs. 

Historical Publishing Co.          Philadelphia, PA


In the next few posts, I will summarize some of the wisdom contained in this 108-year-old manuscript. So if you have questions about courtship, matrimony, procreation and more HANG ON! The answers are on the way. 

Part 1 of 4

 

 

Truth

New Horizon 

Last night at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey won the Cecil B. DeMille award.  She gave a momentous acceptance speech that I’m sure many of you heard. She spoke of empowerment and equality.  http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/08/entertainment/oprah-globes-speech-transcript/index.html

One of our readers, Lula, remarked to me in a private message that it reminded her of our Crooked Creek discussions last spring regarding “What I Know for Sure 1-5.” https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/27/what-i-know-for-sure/

I agree because one of Oprah’s statements, in particular, bears repeating and remembering: “What I know for sure is that speaking the truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

Thank you, Oprah and Lula. While truth has always been crucial, this is a time when women must not only be truthful but also demand truth from others. Truth, spoken by both women and men can bring about, finally, the transformation needed for women and girls to truly be equal . . . in respect, in compensation, in power.

This time is long overdue.

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Courtesy of Pixabay

 

The Ritz

Recollections of Travel 

One of my favorite places to stay during my travels was the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA just outside Washington, DC. It was right on the Metro (subway) line and even attached to a first rate shopping mall, not that I had much time to shop while working. I was supposed to be at this venue on 9/11/2001, but two days before I canceled my plans for reasons I do not recall. Others who attended that meeting spent several days getting home because all flights were grounded for days. One of my associates got back home to Florida via train. While I would have been in no danger, I am glad I was not so close to the horrendous disasters of that day.

Before you think I’m bragging about staying at the Ritz-Carlton, I will hasten to add I also stayed at Holiday Inns, La Quinta Suites and once at what must have been a truck stop motel in Bluefield, WV. So West Virginians don’t become offended, let me clarify it was many years ago and I know from a current Google search Bluefield has many nice hotels today. I was in Bluefield briefly to observe an eye operation at the Ophthalmic Center of Excellence. Back to the Ritz story. I was attending a conference, I believe it was sponsored by the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization (NATCO), a group to which I belonged. In the middle of the night before the conference was to begin the next day the fire alarm jolted me out of bed. I grabbed my robe and room key and followed the emergency exit lights. Down many flights of stairs, as the alarm continued to scream, I finally arrived at a door that surprisingly led me straight into the kitchen. Several people who appeared to be employees did not seem in a hurry to evacuate, but the sight that will always remain in my mind is chicken and a few other food items scattered about the floor. Pieces of fried chicken and I distinctly remember kicking a piece aside as I made my way to another door opening into the main lobby.

As I looked about the lobby I saw people looking dazed, some women were wearing fur coats, others were tightly clutching purses and a couple of men had brought their luggage down with them. I felt a bit underdressed, but I was proud of the fact I had followed emergency procedures and left valuables in the room, exiting quickly. Never mind I was wearing terry cloth, had a severely broken nail from the stair rail and no shoes. I wish I could tell you what was on fire, but I do not recall. Obviously, it was nothing significant because the firefighters soon allowed us to return to our rooms. I will never know why I did not encounter other guests on all those flights of stairs or why I ended up in the kitchen with the chicken.

Winding Up

It is time to wind up my recollections of business travel. If only I could remember more details, i.e., dates and exact locations, I don’t think I would ever run out of true stories to share. Of course some, because of confidentiality or intellectual property rights cannot be told. During those twenty-plus years, I visited over one-half of the states in the US and went to Canada three or four times.

The Transplant World

In those many cities, I worked with a diverse collection of people. There were transplant professionals, contract specialists, hospital administrators, lawyers, government and military officials and on very rare occasions a patient or family member. It was a humbling experience because each person had personal gifts, amazing intellect, and made contributions that helped to build not only a strong transplant network but a better and safer approach to life-saving procedures.

When I began my own journey in the transplant world, after a few years developing the immediate care centers, I found each day intriguing whether in the office in Louisville or in some distant city. When the first living liver donor transplant was done in the US, I was present at the hospital where the baby girl received part of her Mom’s liver. Years later, they looked me up and I was so privileged to see this young woman, healthy and ready to enter college. Her donor, (mother), was equally as healthy. Contracts were a challenge, but real people were the inspiration.

Kidney transplants from living donors were first performed in the 1950s and it was about eight years before kidneys from deceased (cadaveric) donors were viable. I became involved at the time heart transplants were first reimbursed by Medicare in the 1980s and one by one other solid organs and even double organs, e.g. heart-lung, were successful particularly after the development of anti-rejection drugs. Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation as better matching has been developed between donor and recipient have developed rapidly as well. I will always find transplantation fascinating. I was never in a clinical transplant role, my expertise in this field was administering benefits , contracting for services and third party reimbursement.

If you would like to know more about solid organ transplantation or becoming an organ donor see the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) at https://www.unos.org

Information regarding bone marrow transplants can be obtained through the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) at https://bethematch.org which matches patients and donors internationally.

And, here’s a bonus site for those who love technology. The so-called “heart in a box” is a development by TransMedics, Inc. Check it out here to see a video (<3min.) of the device with a cadaveric heart actually beating prior to being transplanted into the recipient. http://www.transmedics.com/wt/page/ocsheart-improve-tx_med

The company has also developed a similar device for lungs and livers which can allow donor organs to be transported further as well as tested and treated prior to transplantation. There is little doubt that these technologies will extend and improve life for many.    http://www.transmedics.com/wt/page/organ_care

The future is truly now. 

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Thank you for following along with me in my Recollections of Travel. 

 

Photos by Pixabay

 

Taken for a Ride

Recollections of Travel 

Houston

In Houston, the taxi driver taking me to MD Anderson Cancer Center was gigantic. He had a Jamaican-sounding accent and wore an enormous cowboy hat.  His remarks were friendly at first as he discussed the need for health care reform obviously assuming that I was interested in his opinions. He progressed to make disparaging remarks about “foreigners who take jobs from native Americans.” It was obvious that he considered himself to be one of the latter in spite of his very black skin, so I wondered if I was wrong about his being from Jamaica. I said something about American Indians being actual “Native Americans” and he postulated “they were not really here first,” he’d seen a documentary on PBS. I did not debate that issue with him.

During the ride, he talked cloyingly nonstop and I became rather uncomfortable as his comments grew more inappropriate in content as well as tone. At the time Ann Richards was running for governor of Texas and the driver declared that he did not want her to win, because “women should not be at the forefront.” It was hard to not debate that point, but I again managed to refrain. At that point, he asked me where I was from, not an unusual question for a driver picking up at the airport. When I said, “Louisville,” he asked about horse racing, again appropriate. I replied that the Breeder’s Cup was taking place there in a few days and his response was “I hope you breed something good down there.” Okay, so now I thought he had embarrassed both of us to the extent possible with words, but I was wrong. Suddenly he began to laugh when a female driver slowed and motioned him into the traffic flow. I thought I had missed something because it seemed simply a polite, not humorous, gesture. He spoke loudly in the car’s direction saying, “Thank You!” and then to me, “I’ll have to do something nice for a woman tonight! I’m glad that I have never impregnated a woman.” It was with considerable relief that I saw my destination up ahead. 

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Baltimore

Out of all those years of travel that cab ride in Houston, TX was the most bizarre, but two others stand out as slightly concerning.  One night, after entering a cab at the Baltimore Airport and asking the brooding driver to take me to my hotel near Johns Hopkins the entire city suddenly turned black. To me, it was an ominous sign, especially that it occurred the exact moment that I stepped into the cab. He drove silently block after block, underneath unlit traffic lights, in front of darkened buildings and deadened street lights, not saying a word that acknowledged he had even noticed the blackness surrounding us. Apparently, he was a seasoned driver, because within about a half hour he pulled in front of the looming darkened hotel. He popped the trunk to get my luggage and Baltimore was immediately illuminated with a brilliance that stung my eyes!

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Kansas City

Very late on another night I arrived at the airport in Kansas City and gave the driver the address of my hotel. About forty minutes later I was beginning to worry a little and then I suddenly saw that we were passing the US Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth! Much later I safely arrived at my destination and paid a $65 (in 1994 dollars!) tab which of course was an item of interest when I turned in my expense account. 

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Photos by Pixabay

Flights Home

Recollections of Travel 

From 1984 through 2005 I traveled nearly every week for work. At first, it was to train clinical staff and open ambulatory care centers (frequently called “Docs in a Box”) in eighteen states. Later, I began Centers of Excellence network development for the same company. Among other things, I contracted for marrow and solid organ transplant services. This position took me to even more destinations including a few times to Canada. In 1997, I incorporated a consulting company still working with transplant centers coast to coast until I reluctantly retired. I believe that I am finally over airport withdrawal but it did take a while. 

During those years of planes, taxis, subways and airports, I made many observations of fellow travelers and others I encountered along the way. I will share some of those recollections that, for some reason, I recall after all these years. Some were intriguing, many more mundane. I’ll let you consider why these memories persisted when so many critical medical and technical facts from those years have evaporated. 

Tampa

While sitting in the airport in Tampa one Friday afternoon, I looked around and noted that almost without exception travelers were either holding or working with a similar small book. Some of these were wire bound, others looked like leather and they came in various sizes. How we loved our Day-Timers back in that day. fullsizeoutput_b02They were badges of our busy lives and demanding careers. One could clearly see that we had a lot to keep up with, places to go and people with which to network. Perhaps few other 20th-century icons made a more important business statement. At that time some kids were using pagers, drug dealers even had mobile phones, but we were reluctant to transition to that digital age back in the 80s, so we proudly carried our Day-Timers everywhere, placed them lovingly into our briefcases and at intervals made critical notes. As I think back to that era, I wish I had saved at least one that recorded a year’s meetings, flights, and appointments. Today we use our smartphones to carry calendars, do banking, prepare and store documents, keep up with e-mail and social media, even monitor or control our homes, but I still recall the small paper pages that functioned on a much more limited basis but seemed equally important at the time.

A man sitting across from me in the waiting area had been dozing off and on. He was dressed in a very finely tailored suit, but the effect was minimized by his splayed legs and occasional snort. One hand was cupped over that bulge between his legs. Was he afraid that someone might steal it if it was not shielded in this manner? When he moved around for a more comfortable position, he changed hands but remained protective. Finally, the flight was called and he awakened, folded his Wall Street Journal and gathered up his leather attache. Standing, he straightened slowly and slightly shook one leg, then the other. Apparently unsuccessful,
he quickly removed the troubling wedgie with a snatch before proceeding down the jetway.
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Atlanta

After a transfer in Atlanta, I’m was finally on the way to Louisville in a much smaller commuter plane. The one busy flight attendant informed us that she was from Columbia and judging from her accent, I assumed that she did not mean South Carolina. Her pre-takeoff instructions included the fact that in an emergency we were to “pull the red liver” to open the door. As we approached Standiford Field (currently Louisville International Airport) for landing the flight attendant’s voice over the speaker gave the following instruction: “If you are enjoying a beverage please pass it to a flight attendant at this time.” So, what do I do if I am not “enjoying” it, but I am simply thirsty, do I keep the cup? I am way too literal to follow instructions tonight.

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Home at Last 

 

Photos by Pixabay