Senior day care facility shuffle part 2

On April 2nd 2017 I wrote about the closing of one of the Senior day care facilities.

Friday was the last day for the Senior Resource Connection Adult day services facility in Kettering.

Source: Senior day care facility shuts down – Esrati

After surveying the landscape of options, I got mom into the Day Away program at St. Leonard in Centerville. Outstanding staff, facility, and for 2 days a week, my ability to focus 100% on work was restored.

I’d been meaning to write this week that the SRC facility had been taken over by Goodwill Easter Seals and reopened. I learned of this from an employee of SRC. I’d not been contacted by the facility, as a former “client”- nor had I seen anything in the media. But it seemed to me, that just like our tangled mess of local government duplicated services- that we’ve got the same problem in social services, health care, and non-profits.

Today, I got a letter in the mail from CHI Living Communities, the parent of the St. Leonard center. As of Sept 1, 2017, they too will close.

There is a meeting scheduled for families in July where they will explain options.

One thing I do know is that the need for these kinds of facilities is growing, not shrinking, and that if anything, we need more options not less.

Considering much of this is managed through our social services levy and the Area Agency on Aging, I think it would be great to get some kind of community analysis of needs and resources for caring for seniors who are still able to function in their own homes, but benefit from some social interaction as well as caregiver support.

The Narcan® roundabout

In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 photo released by the East Liverpool Police Department, a young child sits in a vehicle behind his mother and a man, both of whom are unconscious from a drug overdose, in East Liverpool, Ohio. Drug overdoses killed a record 3,050 people in Ohio last year. AP Photo.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 photo released by the East Liverpool Police Department, a young child sits in a vehicle behind his mother and a man, both of whom are unconscious from a drug overdose, in East Liverpool, Ohio. Drug overdoses killed a record 3,050 people in Ohio last year. AP Photo.

A small business I work with has had the Dayton Fire Department stop by almost every other day- because someone OD’d in their parking lot. The other day it was a city employee. The medics revealed that when they looked him up- they found out that he had been treated the day before as well. If a Narcan® revival was a frequent flyer bonus, we’d have people with miles to go to the moon and back.

Current practice is to revive them, offer treatment, which they refuse and let them go right back to using.

That would classify it as insanity- doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
I wrote a post about Narcan, coincidentally, 2 years ago to the day: “Just say no to naloxone” I was chastised in comments. And in the two years, we’ve just seen massive increases in overdose deaths- turning Dayton into the Heroin epidemic epicenter of the nation.
Two friends of mine, who are former journalists (the real kind- no longer employed by the Dayton Daily news) went out on an assignment from a foreign publication to do a story about the heroin problem. Within 30 minutes, they’d taken a photo of a roadside sign offering treatment- and followed a DPD ambulance to an OD victim in a parking lot of the U-haul franchise. Photos, story- the works- easy peasy.
In my last piece I spelled out the societal costs of heroin and overdoses- and they still apply. The drain on resources puts your life in danger- while the paramedics are out dealing with a self-inflicted wound- you might have to wait for a ride while you are having a stroke or heart attack.
Save and release ain’t working.
It’s time to change the way we do things. The first time you qualify for a trip back from death, you are taken to clinic where you are held for four hours, where you have to watch a video explaining the new practices and procedures on Narcan- and given a chance to enroll in a treatment program, offering methadone, Suboxone, Naltrexone, Vivitrol etc.
You are also informed that the next time you need to be revived, you will spend 24 hours in the center. There will be round the clock counseling available, but, you won’t be receiving any medications that aren’t prescribed as part of a doctor supervised program.
Third visit, you’ll spend 3 days in the center. Fourth visit, a full week. Fifth visit, a month. At the end of the month, you will have an option to voluntarily stay in a highly supervised treatment program for up to a year, or walk.
Unfortunately, after the fifth visit, you will no longer be revived by safety personnel. If you are unidentifiable as a five time loser, and are being treated for the sixth time, you will face a mandatory 1 year mental health incarceration. This isn’t in a prison, but a secure treatment facility. There are no options for appeal, or release. If you are identifiable by the medics, treatment will not be administered.
Drivers licenses or state ID’s will be “punched” with each treatment- as reminders and for medical personnel to check.
Right now, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can arrest suppliers and take enough drugs off the street to solve the problem. All the posturing of law enforcement is an insult to our intelligence. Heroin addiction isn’t a criminal problem- it’s a mental health one. Yet it does cause massive increases in crime and threats to public safety.
What we can do is seize all assets of anyone caught with what we would identify as quantities to distribute- and use the proceeds to fund the treatment programs.
Of course, the other option is to stop kidding ourselves, and just start providing addicts with safe, inexpensive heroin and take the profit motive out- and give people who want to stay high permission- no judgements. This has been done in other countries and has cut crime and deaths considerably. There are people who are able to function in society while high- this is nothing new- my paternal grandfather was a PhD MD and a morphine addict his entire adult life.
If you have any better ideas, feel free to leave them in comments.
It’s time to stop the insanity cycle of save and release in Dayton Ohio- it’s not working.

Senior day care facility shuts down

Friday was the last day for the Senior Resource Connection Adult day services facility in Kettering.

I can’t tell you why, or how long it operated, or any of the things I should be able to share. But this video can.

I can tell you it will be missed. Not by my mother- who is soon to be 89, who went 2 days a week. It was always a battle to get her up in the morning and get her dressed to go. But, on those two days, I didn’t have to worry much about her, she was in good hands. The funny thing is, she always came home happy- and had a good time. That’s the horrible part about suffering with dementia.

The drivers were all wonderful and courteous. The facility was clean, well run, and best of all- when I walked around observing- a majority of the guests were engaged. The staff was friendly. There were at least 50 seniors off the streets- and into a positive, social environment. Although I didn’t take advantage of these services, they offered bathing and salon services as well for a very reasonable charge. For a caregiver- this was a much needed break.

One of the things most of us don’t think about, unless we’re dealing with an elderly parent or grandparent, is what kind of safety net is in place to help them cope. Since my father died in August, Mom has been living alone. I’m over at least half a dozen times a day to check on her, but, that’s still not enough. People need to interact- and socialize. Sadly, she no longer asks for books from the library- where she used to go weekly. She no longer turns the TV on- to watch the news- or the old movies that she loved.

Meals on Wheels is an amazing program- but, I still have to do all her grocery shopping, take her to all her appointments, and mange her bills.

But, we’re lucky in Montgomery County- we passed the human services levy- and the Area Agency On Aging has been amazing at helping me navigate the various federal and state programs- and to coordinate care. She’s eligible for a home health aide- who comes 4 days a week- and helps with cleaning, bathing and hopefully- working with her on her physical therapy/exercises. Right now- I’m waiting for a new aide after the last 2 quit.

There are other daycare programs- but, the one that can transport, didn’t impress me on our visit, and the other is “too far away” for her to qualify for transportation. I’m still working on that.

One of the great things about living in Dayton and especially South Park, is the help that I’ve received from friends and neighbors. I’ve had over a half-dozen people voluntarily come to visit with mom, bring her meals, help with watching her when I can’t be around. Our community is filled with amazing people, and for that I’m thankful.

I wish I knew why the center was closing down. I wish someone would see the value in these kinds of programs and step in and re-open it asap.

I shot a video of her at her worst one morning- to be able to show her what she’s like at her worst. I also shot one of her as she came home one day. I asked her how her day was- and she said it was wonderful to be home, that she’d been at “work” and had an amazing day- to which I confused her by telling her that she had been at daycare. “Daycare, that was daycare? I’ll have to think about that.”

We all need to think about it too- because one day, that might be us, who can’t remember, or has a safe place to go to socialize and be engaged.

Nuns kicking teen moms out on the streets

Photo of the home of the Mustard Seed Foundation on Denlinger Road in Dayton- a group home for teen momsApparently, the Sisters of the Precious Blood have lost interest in helping teen moms on a path to self-sufficiency. As of March 31st, 2017, the ten girls who have been living in the converted convent on Denlinger Road will be homeless, as the un-Sisters take back their convent.

Since 2010, the building has been provided at a very reasonable rate to The Mustard Seed Foundation, a group home run by a former foster child who managed to overcome the challenges she faced, and who decided to do something to help young mothers follow in her footsteps to self-sufficiency.

Shondale Dorise (nee Atkinson) suffered through 21 foster homes on her way to becoming a teen mom. She credits her final foster parent as the one that showed her the pathway to success, which she is now sharing with others. In the last 6 years, over a 100 young women have managed to not end up as other victims of the system thanks to their time in the big house on Denlinger.

But, all that is about to an end. Dorise, who is now a nurse, and has built the program, only managed to raise half of the $60K she needed as a down payment on the ideal future home for her young protegees- the former Daybreak facility on Wayne Avenue- in my ‘hood, the South Park Historic District. After losing her place in line, that facility is now going to house young males aging out of foster care.

Finding facilities that are move in ready isn’t that easy and the clock is still ticking.

The Mustard Seed Foundation is kind of unique- the way they fund their services is through the state funding for foster kids- plus providing mental health services paid for by medicaid. It’s this unique combo that seems to make the program work- where others fail. They are the only licensed facility of their type in the state- and accept kids from all over. If anything, they should be growing and expanding- because the need is there.

Instead, they may be going out of business.

What’s interesting to me, a spectator on the world of social service delivery, is that you’d think that this would be a natural extension of the well funded country club for young mothers the next neighborhood over. Over in the midst of the Twin Towers neighborhood, where the struggle is real, is a castle on the hill- The Glenn at St. Josephs– a retreat, a compound, a resort, country club- I don’t know what to call it- for young mothers, heavily backed by the Mathile Family Foundation.

There, young mothers over 18, who have a high-school diploma or GED, can live in a mecca of motherhood as long as they have been drug free for at least 6 months before entering the pearly gates. There, they will be coached, coddled and trained for 2 years, while their kids partake in a private 5 star pre-school, as they get their life together. In fact, many of the Mustard Seed(lings) graduate to The Glenn as part of a natural progression.

Teen pregnancy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. For the girls in foster care (wards of the state) The Mustard Seed Foundation has been a way to beat the streets. For those who live in dysfunctional homes, where they are following in their mothers footsteps (I was mocked in college for talking about a 22 year old grandmother in my neighborhood- the privileged college kids didn’t think that was even possible, and this was 1986 or so). Dayton Public Schools alone has plenty of young mothers who would do better in a supportive residential environment than where they are now.

That’s why TMSF was probably thinking too small when they were looking at the former Daybreak building- instead of looking for something bigger. If you have any ideas for a new home- you know of a viable facility- be it a former nursing home, group home, hotel, convent, rooming house, please drop me a line so we can try to find a new home for the Mustard Seed Foundation.

If you want to contribute to the cause, they have a donation page set up with Giving Fuel, but, you can save them the service fee by writing a check directly. They are a 501(c)3 and all donations are tax deductible.

I think that at least part of the former Naval Reserve Center on Gettysburg could become the Mustard Seed foundations new home, while the other parts could become a residential home for DPS students needing a temporary secure and safe place to live. Please, share any ideas you may have, the clock is ticking.

A present for all Ohioans starting Jan 1, 2017

Maybe when you read about this in the Dayton Daily news next week, they may give credit to who broke this story for them. Hah.
Yesterday, there was a front page article about the Veterans Service Commission appointment– a full 6 days after I wrote about it and gave you all the documentation.

There was also an article about new laws on the books– but they missed this on- pushed by local state rep Jim Butler:

O.R.C. 5162.80 [Effective 1/1/2017] Good faith estimates for charges and payments.

(A) A provider of medical services licensed, accredited, or certified under Chapter 3721., 3727., 4715., 4725., 4731., 4732., 4734., 4747., 4753., 4755., 4757., or 4779. of the Revised Code shall provide in writing, before products, services, or procedures are provided, a reasonable, good-faith estimate of all of the following for the provider’s non-emergency products, services, or procedures:
(1) The amount the provider will charge the patient or the consumer’s health plan issuer for the product, service, or procedure;
(2) The amount the health plan issuer intends to pay for the product, service, or procedure;
(3) The difference, if any, that the consumer or other party responsible for the consumer’s care would be required to pay to the provider for the product, service, or procedure.

Source: Lawriter – ORC – 5162.80 [Effective 1/1/2017] Good faith estimates for charges and payments.

Imagine this- except in an emergency, hospitals and doctors who have already negotiated different prices with different insurance companies what to charge you for a procedure- will actually have to tell you in advance how much they will bill, how much the insurance will cover- and what you will be stuck with.

This gives you a way to shop for that appendectomy next time- if you can wait a few hours.

It costs nearly $6,000 more, on average, for an appendectomy in Dayton than it costs for the same procedure in Cincinnati, even though the cities are less than a hour’s drive from one another, according to a study released by the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute.

The 2015 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report found vast disparities in the prices of medical procedures from city-to-city and state-to-state based on actual claims data from some of the nation’s largest health insurers.

While the average cost to have an appendix surgically removed in Dayton is $17,967, you can have the same procedure done in Cincinnati for $12,254, according to the report. Meanwhile, the average cost of an appendectomy in Columbus is $15,290.

Source: Medical costs vary sharply, study says

Of course, the hospital association- a powerful lobby in Columbus, is doing everything possible to stop this law from going into effect.

UPDATE

1pm Christmas day- oops, I missed it- they already filed a lawsuit and have an injunction banning the law from taking effect until Jan 20, 2017

In Dayton Ohio, we’re getting screwed. Between Premier Health and Kettering Health- we have a duopoly working together through their illegal trade association the Greater Dayton Area Health Assoication- GDAHA– to fix prices and drive competition away, while they force every private practice into their pockets.

In a universe, now far far away- this was called racketeering- and monopolization- and the federal government used to prosecute businesses that did this.

The simple solution is to start putting price controls in place on organizations that receive more than 40% of their revenue from federal or state funds- especially ones that claim non-profit status,  limiting payroll with a severe income tax. I’m sorry, running a hospital doesn’t entitle you to $4 million a year when the president of the United States only makes $400K a year.

Of course the first company to go into shock would be CareSource- which is a privatized way of using public dollars to provide health care- which could easily be solved with just expanding medicaid for all/Single Payer – and get on with it. I’ve yet to read a story about an insurance executive (or for that matter- a hospital executive) saving anyone’s life.

Forcing the posting of the true price of any service in the health care industry isn’t new, it’s just new to Ohio. We have laws about car repair quotes, we have laws about the shelf prices in grocery stores, and while having a good faith estimate in advance of care is a great start- what would be even better is requiring actual prices to be 100% posted online- allowing real cost comparisons, as well as stopping the illegal collusion between health care and insurers of creating different prices for the same procedure depending on the deal your insurer has worked out.

Even so- a big thanks to Rep. Butler for forcing at least this first step to health care transparency.

 

Just say no to naloxone

Naloxone, or Narcan® is the antidote for heroin overdose. It puts first responders in a position to “save” junkies from their stupidity. The same junkies who, in many cases, have been taking up inordinate amounts of their resources- causing crimes to feed to their habit.

Some first responders don’t feel comfortable intervening in Darwin’s work. Others, worry about liability, as practicing medicine isn’t what they signed up for. And, in many cases, it’s really a moot point, because many junkies just come back and do it again.

The reality is, our country is schizophrenic about addiction and drug use. While there is a growing base of support for legalized marijuana which was often labeled a “gateway drug”, cigarettes which are said to be more addictive than heroin- are getting carte blanche access to a new nicotine delivery system via vapor/e-cigs. Stats are showing a decline in smoking among teens but a huge uptick in e-cig use.

What’s even funnier- is that persons vaping in the bar, may not even have nicotine fluid in their vape- it may be hash oil- and you’d be none the wiser. Chalk one up for the druggies.

Fentanyl is the “new problem” for junkies. Dealers apparently don’t see the value in return clientele and are cutting their H with Fentanyl- with deadly results. It’s a synthetic opiate- that’s much more powerful and fast acting. It’s a sad day when you need 100% organic labeling on the drug you’re buying to ruin your life- but, that seems to be the case.

Governments can pass laws all they want against drug use, but they won’t stop it anymore than laws against prostitution have worked, or prohibition with alcohol. Drug use is here to stay. What we have to decide is what our real goal is in society? Is it to eliminate people’s escape mechanisms- or to create a huge incarceration industry- or to improve everyone’s quality of life?

Think about it. You may never ingest a single illegal substance. You may not know anyone who does, but you pay for it in so many different ways.

  • The cost of crime to feed the addicts’ habits.
  • The lost hours of productivity as people deal with their loved ones’ addictions.
  • The cost of emergency services to respond to overdoses.
  • The costs of locking people up.
  • The cost of insurance against the actions of addicts- who are more likely to be uninsured motorists involved in accidents, thieves, etc.
  • The cost of health care provided “for free” to these physically debilitated junkies.
  • Costs of maintenance programs that substitute one drug for another at public expense.

Face it- we all pay the costs of a few peoples’ illness.

This isn’t unique to the United States- just our huge emphasis on incarcerating people for being involved with drugs are. We spend billions on a system that doesn’t solve anything. Just like Naloxone- it’s not a cure, just a quick fix- a return back to square one, to start the merry go round again.

Should we just let junkies die? While that sounds harsh- we seem to be in favor of the death penalty too, seeing as we allow it. It’s amazing- the State can’t find the drug combo it wants to use to kill people- with drug companies “refusing to supply it” – while Fentanyl seems to work just fine on the streets.

We need to totally rethink how we want to deal with drug addiction in this country. Suppose we supplied clean kits and provided no questions drug purity testing? Would heroin deaths and the need for Naloxone drop?

Or, if we just legalized the drugs and tried to make sure that the people who want to go through life stoned- can do so without impacting the rest of us? Sometimes I think we’d do better to just wall off a Vegas like compound- where people can go in and do whatever they want- signing waivers to enter- with the only condition is much like the old Vegas ad tagline- “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” You want to gamble, prostitute, do drugs- go to the compound, let the rest of us get on with our own lives free of your “sins.”

While I believe my body to be a temple- and that ingesting drugs and  alcohol are a defilement, most of the population has no problem with drinking- despite the huge numbers of deaths from drunk driving- and costs associated with lost productivity due to hangovers. Taking drugs is really a crime against yourself in my eyes- and having the government get involved in your personal decisions doesn’t work out most of the time, be it pregnancy, marriage or assisted suicide.

You can make a historical argument for such a place- didn’t the founding fathers declare: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – and if you think heroin is going to make you happy- who are we to stop you?

When the VA does good

The VA is government-run health care. It’s the largest single health care organization in the United States. The patients they see aren’t like the patients that our private health care system treats- they are different. Many of them have been to hell and back and are already living on borrowed time.

My father, is an 87-year-old Army Veteran with a cornucopia of medical issues. When I was in fourth grade he suffered a heart attack, and doctors gave him less than five years to live. He’d broken up a fight outside a Boston bar in the fifties while driving a cab to put himself through Boston University- and had been stabbed in the back (the VA put him back together then too). He’d had multiple heart surgeries over the years- each one more risky. He has a low grade cancer. He’s diabetic. He’s not what you call an ideal candidate for surgery. In fact, in the pre-op meeting, the anesthesiologist flat out opened with “this surgery will kill you”

That had been the reason they didn’t opt to operate over five years ago when the hernia began. At that time I didn’t challenge the doctor. And neither did my father. He sucked it up and drove on. That’s what old soldiers do. Older people also are less likely to challenge their doctors- it’s just not what they do.

I watched as the hernia grew. And grew. His quality of life kept getting worse. After his first heart attack he started running- jogging as we called it in those days. Running one mile was his first goal- as laid out in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police workout. That was the state of athletic training then. Calisthenics and a run. I remember “running” with him- at a snail’s pace. A 12 minute mile was an amazing accomplishment at first. He kept running- and tracking it on the wall at the JCC on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights. He loves to tell people how he ran 3,500 miles. And the cardiologist, who gave him five years to live- died before those five years were up- and they were close in age at the time.

After five years of an ever-growing hernia, he sometimes sat on his special cushion the VA had given him- with a cutout for the distended parts- and just hung his head. I know how uncomfortable it is- having had both a hernia and a varicocele. He never complained.

The turning point was when his pacemaker/defibrillator battery began to near end of life. The doctors all got in a big hurry to operate to replace the battery, device, add leads etc. I said “hold it. You won’t operate on the hernia that’s making him miserable, but have no problem operating on a 10-year-old pacemaker that’s pacing less than 1% of the time and has never defibrillated?” Why is your CYA device more important than everyday life?

I got stern lectures from our GP (we see the same guy) – from cardiology, from pulmonary- all giving all the reasons that one surgery was risky and the other was somehow warranted. The surgeon, luckily saw my point of view and thought she could give it a shot. All the departments that had to sign off, all did so grudgingly and pointed out the things that would make it risky. About two weeks ago, we were on the pre-op consultation rounds and the anesthesiologist flat out said “you’ll die on the table” explaining how his damaged heart’s output wasn’t up to the task of moving the oxygen after surgery.

My father faced a decision. Go on with the ever increasing mass- or risk an almost certain death. We spent the last 2 weeks talking, eating at his favorite places- Smashburger and the Amber Rose. We went over the will, the insurance, the notifications- and today, we headed off to the VA at Oh Dark Thirty for the big day. It was almost 1:30 when the surgeon came out to tell us how it went.

The hole, which is usually the size of a quarter was big enough to fit two hands in. The small intestine had descended instead of the colon. He was suffering from malabsorption in addition- thank to the pieces not being in the right place. They did some innovative anesthesia. When he came to, his first words were “I’m alive.” When I got to see him, he had more color than he’s had in the last year- and his smile was ear to ear (even without most of his teeth).

As Yoda would say, “the will to live is strong with this one.” Others would say, he’s too stubborn to die. My mother, his wife of 60 years, cried tears of joy more than a few times today. I found out on Facebook how many people I’ve touched who were willing to keep him in their thoughts and prayers.

And, this is a story that none of you will read on the front page of the Dayton Daily news- or any other “newspaper” in this country. All you’ll ever hear about the VA is how they made a mistake. As if they don’t make mistakes in every single hospital in the world.

There were other families in the waiting room today. The surgical waiting room is staffed by volunteers- a wonderful woman from Belmont who is a military widow. I didn’t catch her name, but I couldn’t have asked for someone who kept us all smiling through the wait on our loved ones. There was a common bond in that room, not only of those waiting for possibly bad news- but of those who have a common bond of service to this country. There were no strangers in the room. Something that’s pretty common in every VA I’ve ever been in.

The room is stocked and funded by the Disabled American Veterans – who supply free snacks, coffee, tea, water. The TV is donated by Best Buy. The only things missing were wi-fi and cell reception :-) I’ve decided that the bare walls needed some art by veterans on the walls- and have reached out to two Marines I know who are amazing photographers for some prints.

My father isn’t out of the woods yet. There are always post-op complications possible. But, the other families who were waiting, they all got good news too.

But when the VA does good, you won’t read about that anywhere but here. And I am so thankful for the changes that the Director, Glenn Costie has made and the new surgical leadership they have in place.

I urge all veterans in the area, even those in perfect health, to please go out to the Dayton VA and register with them for care. As long as you have a DD 214, and an honorable discharge, they have services available to you.

Thank you for reading. And thank you for supporting our veterans by funding this amazing service.

 

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.