Stop the fat letters

The old putdown “you’re fat and your mother dresses you funny” has sadly become a new nanny state mandate. It’s not enough to endlessly test students academically, we’re now also measuring their waist lines in an endless attempt to turn education into an assembly line process, where all the products conform to someone’s “standard.”

A local teen, whom I’ve known since she was in her momma’s belly, has decided to do something about this absolutely pointless intrusion of schools into personal health matters, by making a documentary exposing this bogus and demeaning practice.

In her own words:

In an effort to address the obesity problem among American youth, lawmakers in over a dozen states passed a controversial mandate forcing schools to perform body mass index, or BMI, tests on their students. What soon followed sparked a heated national debate.

Coined the “Fat Letters” by students, letters were given to overweight kids whose BMI did not fall within a narrowly accepted range; essentially telling children, even as young as kindergarteners, that they are fat.

via THE STUDENT BODY.

It’s one thing for schools to say little Johnny is failing at math, or even in gym, but the idea that BMI is some kind of magic number that is somehow relevant to the process of educational outcomes is a gross overstepping by government. No one sent Chris Christy’s mother a letter saying he’s fat- and that it somehow makes a difference on his performance as governor. Nor, do we have any indication that being overweight makes people stupid. In terms of stupid things our government feels a need to do- shaming children shouldn’t be something we spend a dime on.

I’m pretty sure a better case could be made for teachers having to submit to BMI testing. There is a direct correlation to costs of health care being passed on to taxpayers for fat governmental employees. However, that’s not what was written into law.

Bailey Webber is the daughter of my friend Mike Webber, who makes movies for a living. He’s a local guy with a lot of talent, raising a kid to ask questions and challenge the status quo, and he’s doing a damn fine job of it. Esrati.com readers have read about him and his award-winning documentary “The Elephant in the Living Room”

The movie, “The Student Body” is in production now, and just began a kickstarter to bring it to life as a full length film. If you’ve ever been called fat, maybe you might want to help her finish this film. Pledge to donate $1  (or more) and spread the word- I’m sure there are more than 28,000 of us who have suffered the indignity of being called fat at some point in our life- and would prefer that it’s from a medical professional instead of the state.

How my parathyroid was sucking the life out of me

Back around 1997-98 I had my first bout with kidney stones. I don’t remember if my friend Audra Huelsman drove me to Miami Valley Hospital ER- or was the one that picked me up, but going in I could barely stand up. I remember lying on the gurney tucked into the fetal position. They gave me a shot in my butt- without telling me what it was. 10 minutes later I could dance right out of there. Welcome to my first experience with morphine. Now I knew how guys in WWII stormed machine gun nests despite being shot 5 times.

I started feeling like I had lost my “energy” around 2000. I went to my family doctor, I went to another. I started dating a girl in Cincinnati- who recommended me to a guy who specializes in cholesterol. He found that my triglycerides were at 1200 (normal is under 100) and started me on some meds to put that in check. I felt a little better, but I still didn’t feel like myself.

After eating, I’d often get tired- or feel a wave of depression. I started having reflux, and felt that eating more would help it go down. I’d have a pain in my lower, right side- toward the back. I wondered if it was my gall bladder, appendix or later my adrenal gland. In the last year, my memory seemed to be not as sharp- I found myself hunting for words.

Last September, I went to the hospital again for kidney stones. This time, they weren’t coming out without help. I had surgery to break them up- and a stent put in, and then a second minor procedure to take the stent out. I was sent to an endocrinologist for the first time. He ran tests. Vitamin D was low, calcium was high, PTH- the parathyroid hormone was elevated. He did more tests. 2 biopsies, 2 nuclear scans, multiple ultrasounds. He thought is might be my parathyroid, but wanted to be sure.

I didn’t even know what a parathyroid was, or what it did before that. A friend, Jen Alexander, pointed me to the website of a doctor in Florida who runs an assembly line for removal of parathyroid glands. Reading that site, www.parathyroid.com I learned more than I could ever need to know. There was no need for more tests- it just had to come out.

My grandfather, who was an MD, used to poke at my neck when I was 12 or so- wondering about my thyroid. My grandmother had had hers removed with radiation in 1948- when they were in the first stages of using all the new-found nuclear toys to do new things in medicine. All of my life I’d heard about the thyroid- but never the parathyroid. The parathyroid is actually four small glands that are supposed to be the size of grains of rice that sit on the thyroid- right next to your vocal cords. They are supposed to regulate calcium in your body. When one goes crazy and starts producing too much hormone, the others go dormant. Your body starts sucking the calcium out of your bones- and often times, makes kidney stones. But it also can do all kinds of other things- like be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia among other things.

David Esrati's neck after parathyroid surgery

On leaving the hospital, the purple was marking the surgery- the scar below is the parathyroid scar.

Then came a few delays in scheduling which were frustrating me no end. Falling asleep while reading, feeling sore and stiff when waking up, all these things were driving me nuts. Never mind the recurrent kidney stones.

Yesterday, around 8:30am I went under the knife at the Cincinnati VA by Dr. David Steward, and got at least 1 oversized parathyroid removed. I have a scar at the base of my neck that follows a fold. The stitches are all internal- and there is a clear glue protective coating on it. It looks like someone tried to garrote me with piano wire- and didn’t finish the job.

My neck and throat were sore as I left the hospital around 1 p.m. They were still sore today- although it’s getting better by the hour. But the way I feel is magical. The haze that hung over me, the feelings of depression and tiredness are gone. I feel a clarity again that I’ve missed for so long, it’s as if I’ve been given a whole new life.

To think that I’ve spent the last 13 years thinking this was just because I was getting old, is a little bit depressing. I’ve always reminded people that doctors are “practicing” medicine – as in they still haven’t got it perfected, but right now- despite being sore, I feel like a gazillion bucks comparatively.

If you’ve had kidney stones, or if you’ve felt like you’ve had a loss in energy, or feel depressed after eating- I highly recommend you do a little research and have your PTH, calcium and vitamin D checked. Apparently, parathyroid disorders often go misdiagnosed for years.

 

 

 

 

What shall we fear next?

I wake up to 2013 and find out that two hours after the “fiscal cliff” deadline, the Senate has worked out a deal. The House, still has to approve it, but Congress knows that their jobs would get infinitely more difficult if our government went into default.

And in case you weren’t looking, on Friday, it was announced that they extended the F-35 program and had no problems spending an additional $3.68 billion on a plane (actually 31 additional ones) that has no purpose except to keep the macho fighter pilot legacy alive for another 30 years. Our Congressman, Mike Turner, also was proud to announce that he had managed to save jobs in Lima working on a tank that the Army said it didn’t need.

Through the years since we battled the greatest evil ever (Hitler and the axis of evil) we’ve lived in a perpetual fear cycle. First it was our former allies, the Russians with their bombs, then just communists in general, and until Osama Bin Laden ascended the throne of scorn, we had struggled to be distracted with all kinds of other fears as our sense of safety has slowly eroded away. There was energy security, with the gas lines in the early seventies, AIDS stepped up to turn up a moralistic engine against gay marriage, and NAFTA first had us worried about jobs to Mexico, which wasn’t but a few drops over the dam compared to what China and India would do to our working-class jobs.

Wars are won in inches, not by miles, and slowly, fear has become the ultimate tool to create change in our country. We get upset and argue after horrible events like the Newtown Children’s Massacre, but the daily death toll, inch by inch, keeps piling on victims. We’ve put more people in prison for petty crimes linked to our “War on Drugs” while we’ve carried out a systematic war on the middle class that has devastated our country’s economy as banks behaving badly were bailed out, while home owners were thrown out of their homes.

Government grew a whole new Goliath to protect us from terrorists with the Department of Homeland Security, while we barely lifted a finger to provide a department of hometown and homeowners security. Wall Street Bankers are still buying little weekend getaway cottages, for $32 million, because their Manhattan apartment and Long Island mansion just aren’t enough.

We’ve seen the results of “Citizens United” as the battles for votes were driven by dollars, big data and gerrymandering to further separate the “representatives” from the “represented.” As power has slowly been siphoned off from the masses, we sit here this New Year’s day joyful that the rich will now pay a paltry 4.9% more in income tax and that milk won’t go to $7 a gallon.

It’s all smoke and mirrors, driven by the giant fear machine, devised to keep us all from the realization that in the end, the forces of unbridled population growth, the dependence on fossil fuels that are destroying our environment and unregulated market forces will never result in a sustainable equilibrium of peace, health and welfare for all. Those same seven deadly sins that we were warned of long ago will win, because fear also stops us from speaking out, acting up and changing our global priorities for the good of the entire human race.

To quote Marvin Gaye, “war is not the answer.”  It never has been. We can’t wage war on drugs, poverty, or each other and hope for fear to leave us. If we had spent the trillions we wasted on Iraq and Afghanistan on sustainable energy, food and educational and health care equality globally, we’d be an entirely different world. One where mothers wouldn’t fear losing their children to disease, famine or war as they lay their children down to sleep. A world where the only insatiable hunger is for knowledge instead of sustenance.

A friend who reads voraciously said to me yesterday that she no longer reads newspapers because she doesn’t want to be depressed. Fear wins again.

Before it’s too late, I ask all of you to consider this as your resolution for 2013, the one greatest fear for most people is the fear of change. It’s the one fear that is almost universal to mankind. Fear of change is the only fear we need to go away to start making real choices about our future. The key is to stop thinking about change in terms of me, but to change our perspective to the scope of we. Once we think big picture first, maybe we can put fear in the rear view mirror.

Best wishes in 2013.

A project for Congressman Turner: give the VA the tools they need

The half a hammer award to congress for failing to give the VA the tools to do the job

Our congress is willing to give our military weapons they don’t want, but won’t give our VA the tools they need to treat our vets. For this- here’s the half a $600 hammer award.

I’m writing this from room 124A, on 3-S of the Dayton VA.

I came here Monday night with a severe case of kidney stones. As a veteran with a service connected health issue, I’m guaranteed health care. I’ve only used the VA for the last 7 or so years- despite having coverage via my partner, Teresa who works for Elsevier. She even reminded me that she could take me to MVH- which is five blocks away instead of to the VA which is five miles away. When you are in serious pain- the idea of closer counts.

I told her I preferred the VA- because all my medical records are there (electronic)- that the people at the VA care about me and that I trust them. 24 hours later- I know I made the right decision. Partially, because instead of being sent home after the stones were removed (less than 14 hours after arrival) I’m still here- taking it easy, with a catheter still in place. At the Valley- they would have been sending me home- because the insurance company said to.

The doctors that worked on me were all fantastic, from the experienced calm hands of Dr. Potts in ER, to the follow up twin geek residents who stepped in after to assess, to the Johns Hopkins trained urologist who ultimately put in a stent, removed the stones and made sure that I wouldn’t be waiting the next two weeks for a very big stone to pass.

But, despite all this stellar work- and support from nurses, anesthesiologists, social workers and even the legal guy who helped fill out the directives before surgery, there is one small issue that needs to be addressed, now, not later.

The urologist is part of a husband and wife team- he wrote the textbook on non-invasive surgery for urological (I don’t remember the rest of it… and my phone was dead, so no picture to show) – and she was the one who answered all the questions and discussed my options. They came here two years ago to help straighten out the department, which apparently was in trouble. I didn’t know this, but there is an international shortage of urologists. They are getting ready to leave Dayton- for points elsewhere. She talked about wanting to be working on troops suffering from extreme pelvic trauma in the first 4 hours after getting hit by an IED- but that the Army won’t take her at 51, she also talked about the fact that military medical system doesn’t integrate as well with the VA as they could- or should, but that’s not the real sticking point.

The fact is, while they can put my stent in- when it’s due to come out in a few (a) weeks- they don’t have the technology to take it out. In fact, they haven’t had it for the entire two years they’ve been here. It seems the VA only bought one machine- and didn’t buy the service contract that guarantees a replacement when this one needs fixed. Apparently, they also don’t have the money to fix it, so instead, they are going to send me to a private physician to remove it- and have the VA pay. She’s worked in for-profit hospitals and said that she always had the tools she needed because she made them a lot of money. Apparently, to our congressman, it’s more important to write laws that guarantee business for the insurance companies that would have sent me home this afternoon- or to the defense contractors that sell us weapons systems that the services don’t need or want like the C-27J or the M1 Abrams tank. Yep, defense contractors and insurance companies get preference over taking care of your veterans because defense contractors and health insurance companies donate lots of money to our congressman’s campaign- and the VA docs don’t.

If Congressman Turner really wanted to do something to help the VA- instead of creating a media circus over some missing records or a senile dentist gone bad- he’d be asking the docs what tools they need to do their jobs and making sure they had them.

We’ve all heard of $600 hammers- well, in this case, they’ve given my urological heroes half a hammer- the one to pound the nail in, but not the one to pull it out. With election time coming up- and 2 weeks before my stent needs to come out- let’s see if our congressman can work for the people who used to work for the base that he swears his candidacy on.

Photo of David Esrati in VA hospital bed recovering from kidney stone removal surgery

Have iPhone, internet access will publish.

And to all my champions at the VA- if there are other stories like this- where you aren’t given the tools to do your job for our veterans properly, now’s the time to speak up. Please go to a public computer- like at a library, or use a friends home computer or a mobile device at a non-government hot spot- and leave a comment on this post. You don’t have to use your real name or email address, just be honest. Tell us about what Congress isn’t getting for our vets- and let’s let our congress earn their jobs back by getting it to you – before November 6.

Thank you for all you do. Despite not having the proper tools- you have the heart that’s missing in the cold world of corporate medicine- and that’s why I choose you first. Because when most of you say “Thank you for your service” I can say the same thing back.

And, special thanks to Director Costie, who even made a bed side visit and is currently investigating this situation as well. My bet is that he gets the stent remover back in service before our congressmen does.

[update] 29 aug 10:12 am The head of surgery stopped by with an update- the post is getting read. They have three of the scopes they need- 2 are out for repair. The docs don’t like working without a spare. They also have plenty of a different kind of scope- a cytoscope, which will work to take my stent out. No need to go to private practice. The surgeons want a more expensive type of equipment- that isn’t in the budget- and there are some disagreements on brand- but this is internal politics. All of the equipment was bought within the last 2 years and most of it was put in service last August. They are being careful stewards of our tax dollars. I had this update done once with the right names- but lost my internet connection- via my phone, so it got lost. They still are hoping to add wi-fi to the rooms, but that isn’t crucial to the provision of health care. [/update]

How to cut the cost of Medicare and save tax dollars

Medicare is a major financial driver for healthcare in Ohio; the government insurance program for the elderly and disabled younger people paid for 41 percent of all medical services at Ohio hospitals last year, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.

via Hospitals’ Medicare funding cut over readmissions | www.daytondailynews.com.

There is no arguing that America pays more for health care than any other nation, and gets less. In the same breath, you can also hear that independent physicians are going as far as leaving medicine, despite shortages of physicians, because they claim that they can’t make money accepting the reimbursements from both Medicare and private insurers.

Republicans talk about spending cuts all the time. Paul Ryan is under attack for wanting to transform Medicare by turning it over to private insurers (which is exactly what we’ve done in Ohio and specifically with a major business that’s been propping up Dayton- CareSource).

CareSource has been in hyper-growth mode as a manager of Medicare/Medicaid dollars, getting more government money for every citizen that enrolls in their managed care program. They then sit between the government and the health care providers and try to ration and manage tax dollars to provide the “highest quality care” for their clients.

But here’s the rub. All of these private companies that count on government tax dollars for large parts of their income, 41% for hospitals, and 100% for companies like CareSource aren’t subject to any effective cost controls. How do we know this? The CEO of Premier Health Partners, makes $4 million a year, and most of his top staff makes a seven-figure salary. The CEO of CareSource makes $3 million a year. Her salary is set by, get this, a board made up of her customers- the hospitals.

Congressmen often make fun of the proverbial $650 toilet seat or the $700 hammer, but, with Medicare/Medicaid paying 41% of hospitals’ revenue, and 100% of CareSource, why don’t we have wage controls on these government contractors? The same can be said of defense contractors, although the main difference is that no defense contractor is pretending to be a non-profit.

In NY there is currently legislation being discussed to cap non-profit executive pay at $199,999 and it’s already in place in NJ. I remember outrage over 20 years ago when the CEO of the Red Cross was toppled for a salary over $1.5M but can’t find the reference right now. Adjusted for today’s dollars it would dwarf the salary being paid to our local chiefs.

Government contractors over a certain size are even told how much they have to pay each worker in a specific position. A secretary is proscribed to be paid $21.08 an hour in one package I looked at. How come we don’t have maximums required as well? Part of the reason politicians refuse to address this, is that without being able to make over a million a year for running a “non-profit” health-care  operation, many of these emperors without clothes wouldn’t be able to make huge contributions to their campaign funds. According to open secrets, health-care professionals were the 5th largest donors to political campaigns in the 2008 election.

Of course if we eliminated private money from political campaigns we might get the politicians we need instead of the best money can buy.

Access to affordable health care in this country is a farce. Any major illness almost always comes with bankruptcy as a side-effect. Small businesses struggle with insurance costs that climb between 20% and 40% annually, without offering better coverage. It’s a small step, but ending the exorbitant salaries of semi-public employees (those who make 40% of their income from our tax dollars is a good starting point.

Chutzpah alert: as a small business owner, who is also a community activist, I’m publishing this piece at the same time as I’ve requested a meeting with Premier Health Partners President and CEO James Pancoast to discuss the benefits of a real bike-share program in Dayton and the environmental, economic and health benefits to the community. A first class system could be bought and paid for with 75% of his annual income, leaving him a cool million to still keep food on his table and gas in his tank.

I’m betting that he won’t be willing to meet with me, blaming my criticism of the system that makes him a very rich man, with our tax dollars. This is the America we have. Unfortunately, because our leaders apparently don’t read history, they are ignoring what inevitably happens with all republics that allow the gap between the haves and the have nots to get too wide.

 

Your health, our government and our food.

Breville BJEF10XL Ikon juicer

The juicer of “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” Breville BJE510XL Ikon 900-Watt Variable-Speed Juice Extractor

A few weeks ago I posted this:

Right now, my favorite product is this Breville BJE510XL Ikon 900-Watt Variable-Speed Juice Extractor. I’m 5 days into a 30-day juice fast and feeling great. You can buy one of these juicers and help support the site- and get healthy. If you’re wondering why I’m doing the liquid diet- you should watch this movie: “Fat Sick and nearly Dead.” You can watch it via Netflix streaming or for free online via the site. I’m inspired by the movie and my friend Pastor Jimmy Mann who has juiced for years. If you know him, you know you won’t find a more healthy, energetic, positive person.

via The best ad agency in Dayton Ohio supports esrati.com.

Five days is nothing. I’m at day 26 now, and although I’ve had a few meals out- sushi, salads and the wonderful half socca with salad at Olive, an Urban Dive, for the most part- it’s been juice 3x a day, nuts and my homemade hummus (plantain chips from Trader Joe’s are amazing btw). I also have eaten bananas, apples, oranges, and carrots and celery (to scoop the hummus).

I’m down 15 lbs. I haven’t felt as much energy, mental acuity and gotten as deep a sleep ever. And, I’ve not been hungry. Sure, it’s been hard watching people at work eat Pizza Bill’s amazing “Buffalo Chicken Ranch” pizza (our office favorite- since our video guru, Max, suggested the recipe to Bill). It’s definitely helped that I’ve been doing this with my amazing partner, T.

On the recommendation of a friend who works for a bariatric surgeon (the guy who does surgery to help you lose weight if you don’t take my advice now). I also watched “Forks over Knives.” There are a slew of movies you can watch to tell you what you don’t want to hear: our diet of over-processed food, promoted by a government funded by lobbyists for big agriculture, is making us sick, fat and walking medical disasters waiting to happen.

Going carb-, sugar- and meat-free- essentially vegan, raw- was something I never thought I’d do. But, considering the way I feel and how easy this has been- I’m wondering why should I go back?

Since I’ve never been a coffee or caffeine drinker- and have always preferred water over soda, and I don’t drink alcohol- this diet was probably a lot easier for me to adopt than it will be for many of you. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss steak, gyros, Skyline Chilli- but, I don’t miss how I felt when those were part of my diet. And, for me, day 2 of juice wasn’t fun- let’s just say, don’t plan on going too far away from a restroom.

We have a lot of libertarian commentators on this site, who are always talking about personal responsibility- and taking government out of everything. The new health-care provisions which were helped by Thursday’s Supreme Court decision aren’t really the answer to solving the health-care problems in our country- changing what we eat would.

I’m not going to go into all the statistics about how our nation comes in 37th in health care, or leads in heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer, or how inefficient our health-care system is, or what the costs of treating all these diseases is annually- including the loss of productivity. I’m also not going to go into the effect of the “Western diet” is having in China- where the introduction of our over-processed, meat- and carb=centric diet is causing the same outcomes. We can skip the cost of the pharmaceuticals that are prescribed to “treat” the disease- instead of curing the cause. I’m not going to talk about the stupidity of having mandated health “insurance” instead of just putting all the money directly into direct health care. All of these facts, figures, and data are easily available elsewhere, and covered in the movies. And, besides these two movies- there are a ton more.

The list of movies about eating healthy, raw, organic, local, vegan, unprocessed, and the impact on health, the economy and productivity – ultimately telling a story that our government has lied to us and waged a secret war on our health through bad agricultural policy and horrible health suggestions;

  • Food Inc
  • Food Matters
  • King Corn
  • The Future of Food
  • Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat
  • Botany of Desire
  • To Market to Market to Buy a Fat Pig
  • Blue Gold: Water Wars
  • Sweet Misery
  • The Real Dirt on Farmer John
  • Food Fight
  • American Meat
  • What’s organic about organic
  • Fresh
  • Fast Food Nation
  • Processed People
  • A Delicate Balance
  • Eating
  • What’s on your plate, and of course
  • Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
  • Forks over knives

Each movie has a site, and reviews- and if I had hours, I’d build links to all. Many are available on Netflix instant. There is one doctor who keeps appearing in many of them: Dr. Joel Fuhrman who has a best seller, Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Revised Edition, which you can read to find out that you should be eating  a lot less meat, cut out sugar, carbs, alcohol and caffeine.

In terms of cost of the juicing diet- we’re spending about $150 to $200 a week to juice for two.  We’re also not eating out much- saving a lot of money. The biggest issue is that our refrigerator fills fast- and empties quickly- and cooking for the kids adds another meal to prepare. On average it takes about 20 minutes to clean, peel, prep the ingredients for juicing and about 3-5 minutes to clean up after. At first, we were following recipes from the “Join the Reboot” site from the movie Fat Sick and Nearly Dead- but soon we started winging it- it also didn’t help that they redesigned their website and made the recipes harder to use.

On making juices: our favorite ingredients are raw ginger, lime, carrots, apples, strawberries, cucumbers, oranges, lemons, rhubarb, grapes, broccoli, pears, peaches and pineapple- then throw in kale, Swiss chard and beets as the “it’s good for you ingredients” and you can live happy. Our rule of thumb has become: never to take the juicer apart until you taste it- so if you need to doctor the juice you can. The only absolute loser in the juicer was radishes- which with just a few made the juice have a pucker factor fail.

I’m not going to post before and after pictures either- no one wants to look at me- but, I’ve lost at least 2″ to 3″ off my waist, and will probable continue to lose inches as I continue this diet and up my workouts (work has been incredibly busy lately).

Even if this diet doesn’t appeal to you, next time you are out- start looking at people and counting the numbers of people who could do with losing 15 lbs. or more. Think of the costs of the diseases and health issues that come with the ever-expanding waistlines. What is the impact on our health-care costs and productivity?

Next time you have a physical, look at your cholesterol, triglycerides and risk factors for heart disease- and ask, if you can afford the treatment and the impact on your life?

While we believe in cheap, abundant food- Dollar menus at fast-food restaurants, processed prepared foods at the grocery stores- they come with a hidden price tag that can far exceed the “savings” up to and including a premature end to your life.

Go take a hard look in the mirror- are you happy with what you see? If you are ready to change your body and feel a hell of a lot better, take my advice and buy the juicer above- and start drinking your way to feeling great.