For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A brief emergence (correction edit)

Well, I suppose it's time for me to briefly emerge and reflect events of the past while.  Specifically about Jack Layton's death and the fallout.

I first heard about Layton's death when my husband sent me a text from work about it.  He had just arrived at the office and heard.  Eldest was on the computer at the time, so she quickly checked the news and we read more about it before she went back to her work.

I can't say I was surprised to hear of his death, and only slightly surprised at how soon it was after he stepped down.  The contrast between how he looked during the election and how he looked when he stepped down was so dramatic, it was clear he was fading fast.  I have, in the past, reflected on how I thought he should have stepped down when he announced his fight with pancreatic cancer, so that he could devote all his energy to his health and loved ones.  For some people, that would just make things worse - when my own husband was on medical leave, being stuck and home and not working caused more problems with his health than it solved.  When Layton didn't step down then, I could see that as being part of why.

Since becoming Leader of the Opposition, my dislike of Layton just intensified.  He kept making pronouncements about how he was going to  make PM Harper and the Conservatives do this or that or whatever.  For someone who had no power to do much of anything, his arrogant and adversarial attitude irritated me.  Layton was one of those politicians who, the more I saw him in action, the more he made my skin crawl.

When I heard of his death, I could only feel sympathy.  I didn't know him outside the political arena, so there was no sadness on my part.  I could empathize with his family and friends, and with the difficulty of facing a losing battle against whatever cancer it was that took him so quickly.  That's about it.

Then things at home took precedence.  I ended up getting a call from my husband to come get him, as he was in too much pain to stay at work.  He hasn't been back since.  Though every now and then he has seen some improvement, the pain keeps coming back.  Right now, he's pretty much worse than when this whole thing started.  Aside from the pain in his back, we are now thinking it's his sciatica.

With all that's been going on, I've only briefly been on the computer.  A quick check of my email, but not usually long enough to actually answer anything.  A quick run through my news, but mostly scanning headlines.  And, of course, checking my facebook.  The tv pretty much never got turned on, so anything there I missed entirely.  By the time I got uninterrupted time on the computer, it was late at night.  Sleep has been on the short side, and writing while sleep deprived is just not a good idea.  The only reason I'm able to write now is because Dh has gone to lie down again, and I am ignoring my usual online activities to write this post. 

Meanwhile, since I've been unable to access the computer for any length of time, and there's nothing I can do to help Dh other than stay out of his way, the girls and I have headed out a fair bit, so I just haven't been home much lately, either.  On top of that, I've got a course I need to finish, so I've been working on the unwritten portion of that (I'm doing to have to find some way to get enough computer time to do the written portion soon).

Yeah.  It's been an interesting week.

With all this in a swirl around us, I've missed most of the hysteria surrounding Layton's death.  The few times I popped onto facebook, I could see it escalating.  The first sign was when someone posted the hope, love optimism thing on their facebook status.  At first glance I though, "oh, I recognise that.  Who's it from?  Ghandi or something?"  Then I saw the attribution to Jack Layton.  Hmm.  I guess I was wrong.

Then another status changed. Then another.  And another.

Between one quick glance at my newsfeed and another, I saw all sorts of people changing their statuses to that line, repeating it in comments, and going on about this letter that Layton wrote.

Things went downhill from there.

Suddenly all these people were going on about how touched they were by Layton's death.  How they cried when they read the letter.  How moved they were by it.  How inspired they were by Layton's life.  Much public grieving, accolades, sackcloth and ashes.

Seeing all this in bits and pieces, I made note of two things.  One, who it was I was hearing this from.  I had no surprises there.  Two, out of all these people going on about how much they missed Layton, how much they loved him, and so on, only ONE of these people actually met him, was an active NDPer, and someone who, before Layton died, had spoken highly of him as someone they looked up to and admired.  ONE.

All those people who were going on about crying on hearing his death, planning on going on candlelight vigils and so on?


As far as I could see, it was just another example of people inserting themselves into some celebrity's life, making themselves feel better by being part of something bigger than themselves.  As far as I am concerned, there is no psychological difference between these outpourings of public grief over a famous person they have no connection with, and those rioters who were just "good kids" doing something stupid.  Everyone wants to be part of something bigger.  Everyone wants to say "I was part of this."  Whether that something is helpful, harmful or something in between is the only difference.

Then I caught Christie Blatchford's NP piece.  This is where I first learned that the now famous letter wasn't actually written by Layton.  Now, as someone who is dying, I can see wanting to write a letter to friends and family.  Since Layton was also a public figure, I can see wanting to extend that to a larger sphere.  I can also see, being sick and probably in pain, needing help to write such a letter.  Who better than his own wife for that?

But the help of two NDP spin doctors?

Blatchford's column was about the over-the-top response to Layton's death.  Even with what little I saw of it myself, I completely agreed with her.  Unlike her, I think this sort of thing started much earlier than with the death of Diana.  I think it goes back to Elvis, who's death saw an outpouring of  public grief.  Elvis, however, touched many lives with his music, so it was more understandable.  Then there was the assasination of John Lennon, which also saw an outpouring of public grief.  Again, like him or not, John Lennon touched a lot of lives with his music, both solo and with the Beatles.  Both these deaths made the public expressions of grief over a famous person much more acceptable and, in a way, it was understandable.

Then there was the death of Diana, where the outpouring of public grief went over the top.  Yes, Diana had touched many lives during her time as Princess, with her campaigns against landmines and the like.  She was genuinely loved by the public for her kindness.  As her personal life fell into shambles, people could sympathise.  Even so, the response to her death was well out of proportion, and even today there are people who haven't got past that (as demonstrated by the crass man holding a "Diana Forever" sign on the street while Prince Charles and Camilla drove by after their marriage).

This happened again when Michael Jackson died.  By then, these public and excessive outpourings of grief over the death of a celebrity had become expected.  I found it distasteful then and, like Blatchford, I found it distasteful now.  These public demonstrations are not about the person who died.  I find them extremely selfish and self serving.  When people who had never even heard of Jack Layton before start talking about how they cried over their death and, in one case at least, travelled to another country to take part in his funeral, you know it has nothing to do with Layton, and everything to do with themselves.

"I cried when I heard of his death" says someone who's never paid attention to politics before.

Translation: "lookit-me-lookit-me-lookitlookitlookit-memememe!!!!"

"I was so touched by his letter!" says the person who only read the last couple of lines.

Translation: "lookit-me-lookit-me-lookitlookitlookit-memememe!!!!"

"I'm going to the candlelight vigil" says the person who has never been politically active before in their lives.

Translation: "lookit-me-lookit-me-lookitlookitlookit-memememe!!!!"

"I made a chalk drawing in memory of Jack in Toronto," says the person who drags their little kids along to do chalk drawings as well.

Translation: "lookit-me-lookit-me-lookitlookitlookit-memememe!!!!"

No surprise that Blatchford immediately got attacked for her column.  No surprise that these attacks were vile and hateful beyond belief, and aimed towards her personally.  No surprise that when I saw a few of Layton's new fans bring it up on facebook, it was to share an article that compeletely misrepresented what Blatchford wrote, while expressing disgust at her personally for daring to not worship Layton and questioning their own motives.

It was like some sort of mass hysteria.

Thankfully, I missed out on so much of it, for what little I did see was more than enough to disgust me.

As for Layton and co's letter (and yes, it has been confirmed by the NDPers involved that Layton didn't actually write the letter himself), I didn't get a chance to read the whole thing until the day of his funeral.  I didn't watch the funeral myself because 1) I had no interest in watching the funeral of someone I didn't particularly care about and 2) I spent much the day with a friend.

When I finally read the letter, I was horrified and disgusted.  This letter was a campaign speech.  After his preamble, he talked about the NDP, telling them what he thought they should do after he died.  Then he made his "no one left behind" blurb (yeah... didn't Bush try that with the US school system?  Didn't that fail spectacularly?).  Then he tried to rewrite history.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. 
Uhm, no.  They voted for the NDP because the Bloc screwed up and the NDP was the only choice for people who weren't pissed off enough at the Bloc to vote Liberal or Conservative.  Nobody expected many NDPers to actually get elected - including those running for the NDP.

You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together.
Translation: vote NDP in the next election!

Then he starts into the collectivist shilling.

We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly.
And we all know what the NDP's view of "more fairly" is.  Wealth redistribution - take from the rich to give to the poor.  Except, of course, the NDP elite, like Layton himself and Chow, who have lived very well on the public dime for decades.

Of course, there just has to be a dig against the feds!

We can restore our good name in the world. 
Yeah.  Our current government is doing a good job of that right now, thanks.  Of course, that's depends on who's good opinion "in the world" you want.

We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change.
Earth to the NDP - our votes matter now.  We have real choices now.  We are working for change now.  That's why we not only have a Conservative government, but in the last election, we gave them a majority.  That's how democracy works, and if people are unhappy that someone they didn't like got elected, they should be mature enough to accept that maybe, just maybe, the rest of the country doesn't agree with them.

Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together.
Why am I suddenlty thinking of Animal Farm?

Okay, so that's the letter.  Then there was the funeral.

A state funeral?  What on earth for?  Aside from being against protocol (after all, protocol is not written in stone), what did he do to earn one?  What did he accomplish that was so great?  Come in second place at an election?  Make a lot of speeches?  Hang out at gay pride parades?

Not watching the funeral myself, I still caught many people commenting on it.  So many went out of their way to watch in on tv and talked about how moved they were by it, how they cried, and so on.

Then I started to get hard details.  Like the fact that there were three religions represented.  Actually, only two.  Jewish and Muslim.  The "Christian" representative?  A gay, married cleric.  Layton, it turns out, was a member of the United Church of Canada

In structure, the United Church has a "bottom-up" governance, where the congregation selects its clergy, rather than clergy being appointed by a bishop or other body. The policies of the church are inclusive and liberal: there are no restrictions of gender, sexual orientation or marital status for a person considering entering the ministry; interfaith marriages are recognized; communion is offered to all Christian adults and children, regardless of denomination or age.
In other words, it's a church that doesn't stand for anything and falls for everything.

Let me point something out here, and I'll paraphrase someone else's excellent metaphor in the process.  Being part of a religion is like being a member of a club.  Clubs have rules.  If you don't like the rules, don't be part of the club.  Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, views homosexual activity as a sin.  I can't speak for Judaism or Islam, but in Christianity, we believe in the forgiveness of sins, so if someone sins but repents, we believe they are forgiven.  However, for a CLERIC to be gay AND married - in other words, this is someone who actively engages in a behaviour Christianity views as sinful - they are living a life that is counter to Christian teaching.  There is no repentance of sin, since they clearly reject the notion that their actions are sinful.  One cannot be a Christian while deliberately acting against Christian beliefs (and this would apply to any behaviour recognised as being sinful by Christian faith).

So having this cleric representing Christianity isn't about being open or tolerant.  It is a slap in the face to all people who are faithful Christians.  A very deliberate slap, too.  It wasn't about faith.  It was about politics.

Since then, I've had a chance to view videos of the funeral, and I was thoroughly horrified.

This wasn't a funeral.  It was a political, NDP campaigning, event.  Now, I'm not one for sombre funerals and believe they should be celebrations of a person's life, not just mourning their death.  Even so, I was disgusted by the sight of people clapping, cheering and giving standing ovations to the so-called eulogy given by an NDP hack.  This sort of behaviour during a funeral and in a church was highly disrespectful, but respect for such things doesn't seem to be very high on the list of the far left, who reject religious beliefs and those who hold them, even as they take advantage of such beliefs to further their own ends.  Cheering of the idea of negotiating with terrorists?  There's a reason he was called "Taliban Jack."  And no, it's not "conventional wisdom," no matter how you want to spin it.  It was a bad idea then, and it's a bad idea now.  Terrorists should not be negotiated with.  Ever.

Yet this obnoxiously partisan speech had people cheering and clapping.  In a church.  During a funeral.

No, not a funeral.  Layton was just an excuse for more campaigning.  That his flag draped casket was next to the man while he spoke made it just that much more mordid, creepy and disgusting.

I find myself wondering.  Just how lucid was Layton near the end?  Just how much of this did he approve of?

I doubt we'll ever know.

In the end, though, this whole thing has left me thoroughly disgusted, not only by the people who took advantage of Layton's death for political grandstanding, but by those who mindlessly, herdlike, played along with it.

I wish I could extend my sympathies to Layton's family.  Had I not seen any of these, I probably could have.  As it stands now, any such sentiments would smack of hypocrisy, which I loathe.  Not even for his widow, for allowing his funeral to be highjacked like this.  I think the only person I really feel sympathy for is his daughter.  She and her toodler daughter seemed to be the only ones not taking advantage of Layton's death for their own personal, political ends. 

I find the whole circus has been disrespectful, distasteful and hypocritical beyond belief.

RIP Jack.  As much as you can, with your followers dragging your corpse into the muck with them.

Me?  I'm going back into my cave to try and help my husband with his health issues as much as I can.

correction: Layton's funeral was not held in a church, but at Roy Thomson Hall.  Somehow, that seems fitting for the psuedo-funeral.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Bit Better

Well, the adventure continued today, but at least we were able to get the mistake at the doctor's fixed up.

Unfortunately, Dh isn't doing any better.  For him, it started very painfully.  It took him a full 11 minutes just to get out of bed and to the washroom, which is just on the other side of the bedroom wall.  It was an excrutiating morning for him.

After yesterday's mix up, we headed straight for the clinic to wait for the doors to open.  We left a bit too early, getting there 15 minutes before the doors opened.  There was already someone else waiting, though that turned out to be for the pharmacy that shares the same main entrance as our dr's clinic.  That mean 15 minutes of slowly pacing back and forth along one side of the building, which did help loosen up Dh's back a bit.  He did take at T3 before we left, but 45 minutes later, it still didn't feel like it had kicked in.

By the time the doors opened, there were quite a few people waiting.  Dh went straight to the counter, gave back the print outs we got yesterday and basically told them, "this isn't me."  The receptionist immediately knew who Dh was.  It turns out our Dr. saw the guy who's file he'd actually had instead of Dh right after we left, and the mix up was caught then.  We were told that the request for an MRI got sent out properly, she was all ready to get a new chit for medical leave written up, and handed over a print out for prescription refills, which was something that got brought up during our visit yesterday.  Along with his refills, there was a new prescription for T3s for when what we have at home runs out.  Plus there was...

... hold on.  What are those doing there??

There were two new meds on the prescription list, and we didn't know why they were there.  One I recognized the name of.  It was an anti-depressant Dh had been prescribed before - 8 years ago and in another province! One of a number of possible side effects of this particular brand of anti-depressants was suicidal ideation, and sure enough, that was one of several side effects that he got out of them.  Not something he would be taking again!  I recognised the name of the other one, but couldn't remember what it was for.  After talking to the receptionist about it, she asked if we were able to wait around a bit so that we could talk directly to our doctor, who wasn't in yet but expected soon.  We decided to wait, though there was no way Dh could sit on those waiting room chairs for any length of time, so whe headed back outside, where he had more room to pace.  With his handy-dandy Blackberry, he looked up the other prescription that was on the list, and it turned out to be a painkiller that is often used topically.  I'm not sure why I recognize the name.

When the dr. arrived and he saw Dh he was very quick to apologize for the mix up.  It seems that the mistake was completely his, having called up the next patient's file instead of Dh's.  He saw us first, even though there were quite a lot of people waiting.  We even ended up in the same examination room as before. *L*  As we were waiting a couple of minutes for the Dr. to join us, Dh was sitting in one of those waiting room chairs, rocking gently from side to side, adjusting for the pain.  At one point, he just kept leeeeaaaannnniiinngggg over to one side until he head was almost on the counter beside him.  Thankfully, it didn't take long for the dr. to join us.

Again, he apologised and we found out more about what happened.  We asked about the new prescriptions on the list, and it turns out that they should have been on the other guy's file, not Dh's.  That got fixed right quick!  This had the potential to be a lot worse than it was!!  It's a good thing it got caught as quickly as it did. 

We chatted some more about Dh's situation.  A new medical leave chit was printed out, along with the proper test results from Dh's Xrays for the physiotherapist.  We got a chuckle over the coincidence that he'd have another patient with such similar problems as Dh - those his back damage is far less than what Dh's is.

So that was all fixed up and settled, much to everyone's relief.  Dh got his new print outs, and this time they both double checked that they were the right ones. *L*

After that, we sung through a fast food place for food, since neither of us had had breakfast.  It was a nice surprise for the kids, too.  When we got back, Youngest was up and very happy to see us. Somehow, she missed out on all our conversations yesterday and had no idea why we were gone or where!

Dh ended up spending most of his day tilted back in the computer chair.  The walking from earlier helped quite a bit.  Though every movement was painful, he had more range of motion than before, and the pain wasn't quite as acute.

Sleeping is getting to be a problem.  As long as he doesn't have to move or roll over, he's fine, but he can't stay in one position all the time, or that just brings in a new set of pain.  We're thinking of finding some way to elevate the top of his mattress to see if that would help, but we can't figure out how.  Sleeping in an incline might make things a lot more comfortable for him, though.  It's looking like we need to get one of those beds that are like a hospital bed, where you can adjuste the angle to whatever you want.  Not that we could afford something like.  :-P

Tonight, Dh is trying a double dose of the T3's (the maximum he's supposed to do) to see if that will make things easier for him in the morning.

I sure hope so, even if it just takes a bit of the edge off.

We shall see.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not Good

Okay, it's well past midnight, and I really shouldn't start writing so late, but I wanted to record this while still fresh in my memory.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know we've been dealing with some ongoing health issues with my husband.  Some of this includes old injuries coming back to haunt him, and the worst of these is his back.  He tore out the muscles on one side of his lower back twice - the first time while in the military some 20 years ago, the second time during martial arts training almost 15 years ago.  That second time never really went away, and it's gotten increasingly worse in the last few years.  Despite numerous doctors visits, Xrays, and other examinations, it was only last year that we found out that he also has spina bifida occulta, and that a couple of his vertebra aren't attached properly.  Basically, he's in pain pretty much all the time, though the severity of it comes and goes.

Last night, however, took it to a whole new level.  We don't even know what triggered it. 

For the past while, he's been missing a fair bit of work and he's often called me to give him a ride home from work early.  He usually walks to work, which is supposed to be good for his back, but it hasn't seemed to be helping at all lately.  He'd missed Friday last week because he could barely move, tried to go to work on Monday but called for a ride a couple of hours early.  He was walking with a cane again, and had difficulties just getting into the van.  He has his muscle relaxants, which help but make him sleepy.  Loopy, too, if he has to take more than one, so he doesn't take them while at work. 

For some reason, however, the area started spasming far worse than he's ever had before.  I had got up at about 5 am, having given up on sleeping by then, and was in the kitchen making breakfast when I started hearing him moving around.  He was clearly having troubles, from the sounds I was hearing, and I was really startled by some rather loud sounds I couldn't figure out.  It turned out that he was simply trying to get out of bed to go to the washroom.  It hurt so much to move, he had difficulty getting just rolling over, never mind crawling out of bed and having to crawl around to find something he could use to pull himself upright.  Then when he tried to use the washroom, the loud noise I heard was him falling onto the toilet (not off, thankfully).  When he came downstairs, I could hear him struggling with every step he took.  Rather alarmed, I asked what was happening with his back and he told me that the only thing keeping him from screaming in pain was the fact that the kids were asleep. 

He spent the next while pacing from one end of the house to the other, trying to work out the spasm.  Walking is one of the few things that helps.  He took a double dose of his muscle relaxants, but he wasn't sure if they were any help at all this time.  He would only keep walking for so long before he had to sit for a while, but the act of sitting down was incredibly painful.  I'd set up an electric heating pad for him to use, but he kept having to shift around from the pain, I don't know that it even had a chance to be any help.  He'd then have to get up and walk some more, with getting up being just as painful as trying to sit down.  We even debated whether or not to take him to the emergency, but decided against it.  Instead, we decided to get him in to see our regular doctor as soon as possible. 

We both finally tried to go back to bed for a couple of hours before the clinic opened.  Well, couch for me, as the hard mattress he needs for his back is too hard for me to sleep on.  We got a bit of sleep, at least, but even with the muscle relaxants and painkillers, his back wasn't any better.  It got to the point that he dreaded any kind of movement.  I understand only too well, from when we were living in Richmond and my osteoarthritis let me know it was there.  I still remember being almost in tears just thinking of how much pain I would be in when I stood up, yet not having a choice.  Knowing that moving around would actually help reduce the pain a bit didn't make that initial pain from getting up any easier to deal with.  At least I could sit up on the side of the bed before I had to deal with the pain.  For him, it starts with the very first movement.

He called the clinic shortly after it opened, and they were able to make an appointment for him at 11:30.  He spent much of that time in our computer chair, which has the most lumbar support, and also allows him to recline if necessary.  It's also much easier to get in an out of than any other chair we've got.  Even so, he was constantly squirming around, and would have to get up and pace every now and then.

When it was time to leave, I brought the van around so he wouldn't have to walk as far.  Getting into the van was a challenge.  He would get one leg in and be sitting down, but had to make several attempts to get his other leg in.  Even closing the door and buckling up had him struggling.  At the clinic, I was able to drop him off pretty much at the door (though 2 cars were parked in the loading zone, so it wasn't as close as it should have been).  I was able to find a parking spot fairly quickly, so it was only a couple of minutes before I could join him.  I remember glancing at the clock and seeing we were 10 minutes early.  At pretty much the same time, I could hear the receptionist telling someone that they could take Dh into an examination room.  Dh's name was then called by a young man I'd never seen there before.  Dh mentioned hearing that he was the son of one of the receptionists, so I don't know if he even actually worked there, or was just volunteering to help out. 

We followed him down the hall and he showed us to a room.  He seemed a bit hesitant about it, pushing the door open to see if anyone was inside, or at least so it seemed to me.  He carried no file, though.  The last time I saw our doctor, they were just moving back into this building.  The building the medical files had been stored in during the move had flood damage, and they were slowly going through all the folders to transfer them to electronic files.  This was a problem with some of the more badly damaged files, but ours were not among those.  At the time, the Dr. was still having to do everything on paper and by hand, but not anymore.

We didn't have to wait long before the Dr. came in.  He's seen Dh often enough to remember most of his issues off hand.  It was while he was describing the spasms to the doctor that I found out just how much worse than usual it was.  Normally, the injury area itself spasms, which also affects the surrounding area, but still mostly just his lower back.  This time, the spasms were shooting down through most of his leg as well. 

As we were talking, the Dr. glanced at the computer screen and noted that Dh hadn't had any Xrays done.  Dh mentioned that he had, and that was when we'd discovered the other problems with his spine. It reminded us to ask for the release the physiotherapist had asked for, so he could see the test results before attempting any more treatments.  It kept getting forgotten, so Dh hasn't been back for physio since then.  The Dr. scrolled up and found the test results and printed the page off.  He also wrote up a chit for medical leave for Dh.  He was willing to write him up for a couple of weeks or more, but Dh has lost a job over extended medical leave in the past, and he didn't want to risk that again, so he got written up for just this week.  The Dr. printed that off, too.  He also wrote Dh up for an MRI to check for nerve damage and see if there's anything that can be surgically repaired (which was ruled out a year or so ago, but it worth looking into again).  A bit more discussion of treatment and pain medication (the T3's I never used from my own surgery are now going to see some use), and we were done.  On the way out, the Dr. grabbed the printouts for Dh, who just folded them up with barely a glance. 

Yes, that detail is pertinent.

As soon as we got home, Dh scanned the note for medical leave and emailed it in to work.  Once he was safely ensconced in the computer chair, Youngest and I headed out for some errands.  Dh was in bed when we finally got back, but he got up soon after.  Once he was up, he took the computer chair again and checked his email.

Oh, oh.

There was a problem with his medical leave.  It turns out there was someone else's name on it.


The sheet was still in the scanner, so Dh took it and looked.  Everything was exactly as it should have been - a brief description of the problem, the length of time off, the Dr's info at the top and...

Who's name was that on the other side? 

Thinking it might just be a problem with the medical leave, I checked the printout of his test results.  Sure enough, there was this other person's name.  Reading the results, though, it looked right.  The specific vertebra that were damaged listed and... hold on.  It doesn't say spina bifida occulta.  It names a different type of spinal damage.  What the heck?

Some how, instead of Dh's file on the computer, the Dr. had someone else's file, and this someone else has problems just close enough to Dh's that the Dr. didn't notice.  We couldn't see the name on the screen and when Dh got the printout, it never occurred to him to double check for his own name.

Which means that this other person now has new notes on his file that should actually be on Dh's file, has been written up for a week of medical leave, and has a request for an MRI sent out.

Not sure what Dh has been written up for that was meant for the other guy.

In talking it over, the only thing we can think of is that the person who lead us to the examination room took us to the wrong room.  The Dr. likely sees far too many patients to remember all their names off hand, and would have had no reason to think that the file on his computer was for someone else.  That there would be another patient there at the same time with similar enough problems, and who *also* had testing on his back done about a year ago, would have been pure chance. 

Which means we need to get back to the clinic first thing tomorrow and get this fixed.  It's a relatively minor problem for us, but potentially a huge problem for them.

Not good.

Which also means I need to get to bed and try and get at least a few hours sleep. Tomorrow as the makings of another very long day.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dignity and respect

I've been able to spend a fair bit of time recently with a friend of mine.  It's always great to spend time with her, and we have some of the most interesting conversations.  She's been having a harder time of late, and I can't help being really frustrated on her behalf. You see, she is now a quad and had to go into long term care not too long ago.  This was a very difficult thing with a lot of personal stresses on top of her health problems. 

Out of sheer coincidence, we have come to know a LOT of people who have various forms and extremes of physical disabilities.  Part of it is because of the co-op we now live in, which was actually built with meeting the needs of people with disabilities and allowing them significant levels of independence in mind.  Part of it is because quite a few people I have known over the years have come down with various ailments.

Living with a disability is hard enough when you're born with it and have known nothing else.  It's hard to go from hale and hearty to having one's body basically give out on you to varying degrees.  Throw in personal challenges, relationship challenges, family challenges, etc. it all adds up.  I have tremendous admiration for the strength and resilience I am seeing, and can only hope that I have been able to help my friends out in some small way.

When a person is already in a situation that leaves them so dependant on others for their most basic needs, one would hope that the people caring for them would treat them with dignity and respect.  Unfortunately, my friend is having to struggle with this.  Most of the people involved with her care are fine, but it only takes one or two people to cause major problems.

In seeing first hand how she was being treated, I found myself rather shocked.  Being in long term care, most of the other residents are elderly and suffering from various levels of dementia.  They are often quite passive and unresponsive or, to the other extreme, unable to control their outbursts.  My friend, however, is quite young, and her health problems do not affect her mental abilities.  She has, in fact, just been approved for membership in Mensa (which she is encouraging me to do as well. She's so sweet! :-D ).  So we have a brilliant mind trapped in a failing body.  Some of her caretakers, however, seem to be under the impression that her mind is failing as well as her body.  They are treating her as though she were a child, and not a very smart one at that.  Not only did I witness condescending treatment, but later on we discovered that the person in question lied to the doctor in charge, claiming my friend had been rude and yelled at them.  I was there, and was able to say otherwise, but without an outside witness, it becomes a matter of "I said, she said."  With the sorts of patients they normally have to deal with, there seemed to be a tendency to assume that staff was telling the truth, while my friend was being another unruly patient.

That is difficult enough, but it become even more of a problem when a staff members uses their position to "pay back" my friend for having complained about her treatment.  We are talking basic care, here - like being dressed, groomed and placed into her chair.  There also seemed to be an assumption that, because my friend has so little mobility in some areas, none at all in others, she must also have lost her ability to feel pain or temperature, which she most certainly hasn't.  You can't just lean against the limbs of someone who can't move them out of the way if there is pain!

Even the simplest of things were a problem.  Did she really need to tell someone to pull her shirt down again after they removed the sling to put her in the chair?  And how on earth does someone who deals with mobility challenged people every day put on a splint backwards?  Or not remember how to put the tool for holding things like cutlery or a pen into the splint facing the right way?  This is not a once in a while thing, but a daily occurrence.

It was disgusting to see my friend treated this way by one of her caregivers.  At least my friend is able to speak out for herself.  She is able to be proactive in her medical treatment and assertive in her needs.  If she is having such a difficult time, how is it for the other patients this person is treating, who are not able to voice their discomfort?  Or are perhaps too intimidated by this person to complain about their treatment.

It shouldn't be too much to ask to be treated with dignity and respect, and it shouldn't be contingent on one's physical or mental capabilities.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Take a long, hard look.

To Brigette Depape and all those who said we need our own "Arab Spring" here in Canada.

Take a long, hard look at what is happening in the UK right now.

I don't know what dreamy visions you all were picturing, but this is what the reality would look like.

Friday, August 05, 2011


It perplexes, yet fascinates, me when I see how people will take information and turn it around to be something else entirely.

I've got the "share on facebook" button on my browser bar, which makes it easy for me to share various things I find online on my facebook.  Most of the time, there's little or no comments made on them, though I see quite a few people going on to share the links themselves.  The topics range from the trivial to the deep; from entertaining to data heavy.  If I think others might be interested, I share it.

In the last while, I shared three links that not only got a lot of comments, but the comments themselves were absolutely bizarre to me.  They put me straight into observation mode, wanting to figure out just how and why they went in the directions they did.

This was the first of the three.  More young children are alarming thin.  Here are a couple of key points in the article, but please follow the link and read the whole thing.

From 1999 to 2006, eating-disorder hospitalizations for children younger than 12 increased by 119 percent, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

...doctors have seen more of their young patients misinterpreting messages intended to fight childhood obesity. A child's desire to eat healthier food, initially applauded by parents, can lead to dangerous and addictive behaviors.

 The article covers a lot about how very young children are seeing what their parents are doing (dieting, either for health or weight loss), absorbing the anti-obesity messages in their schools, and being affected by the "healthy eating" obsessions of our culture, and how this seems to be playing a large role in why so many very young children are developing anorexia nervosa.

So what was the response this story got?

Gee, that's terrible, but ZOMG TEH FATZ, kids these days are FAT and LAZY and STOOPID, and FAT PEOPLE are DISGUSTING and OUT OF CONTROL and oh, yeah, super skinny people are disgusting, too.

Yeah, I'm paraphrasing a bit.  Still, the gist it is that the point of the story - that we are seeing a massive increase in very young children being hospitalized because they're starving themselves, and that our dieting culture plays a significant role in that - was completely ignored as people ranted about how terrible it is to be fat, and there are just sooooo many more fat people, and if only parents modelled better behaviour for their kids, we wouldn't have an obesity epidemic, with a token mention that skinny people are gross, too.

Basically, everything that the article said was the problem was being repeated as a solution.

It blew my mind that sharing an article about the alarming rise of children being hospitalized for anorexia would bring out such incredible anti-fat ranting.

Some time later, I shared another link - this to a pdf paper called Morality and Health: News Media Constructions of Overweight and Eating Disorders.  Again, I recommend following the link and giving it a good read.  It's 20 pages, though, so you might want to save it for a thorough reading later.

I found this a fascinating examination on the differences of how the media portrays eating disorders that lead to extreme thinness vs eating disorders that lead to extreme fatness.  It also touches on the differences on how family, friends and our culture treat people with different eating disorders.  In the process, it touches on race, gender and economic status.  In a nutshell, people who are very thin and with anorexia and bulimia tend to be wealthier, female and white.  People with these eating disorders are viewed and portrayed as victims, and their treatment reflects this.  Fat people, however, tend to be poor, non-white and while eating disorders are still predominantly found in women, there tend to be more males involved.  For those with Binge Eating Disorder, there is a tendency to blame the victim for their condition, and to deny that their eating disorder really is a disorder, rather than a sign of how weak willed they are.  Their treatment, either medically or socially, is completely different.  In both cases, projections on the morality of the victim are also being made.

There is much more, of course, and once again, I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Now, this piece is a pretty straightforward examination of how the two extremes of eating disorders are portrayed by our media.  It makes no judgement on people who have eating disorders.  It makes no commentary on people's weights or diets or lifestyles.

Our news sample typically attributes anorexia and bulimia to a host of complex and interrelated factors, thus mitigating individual blame while representing anorexics and bulimics as victims. In contrast, it predominantly blames overweight exclusively on bad individual choices and emphasizes individual-level weight loss solutions. News reports emphasize medical intervention when it comes to anorexia and bulimia but not when discussing binge eating disorder, which they tend to deny the status of a real eating disorder and frame instead as ordinary overeating caused by lack of self-control and requiring greater personal discipline. After reviewing the quantitative patterns, we examine each case qualitatively.
So what happened in the comments?

I got a huge rant about how this was just the "intellectual elite" finding excuses for being fat and abdicating responsibility for being fat and TEHFATZ!!!OMG!!!!OBESITYFATZFATZFATFATZ!!!!!!

Yes, I mock.  Mockery is all it was worth.  In fact, I seriously wondered if the person even bothered to read the paper at all.  It was a nonsensical rant against fat that actually repeated many of the negative portrayals of fat people by the media.  Fat people are lazy.  Fat people are irresponsible.  Fat people are gluttons.  On top of that, the emotional derangement attached to the phrasing was rather extreme and included bizarre projections onto me and the body issues I must have, and my looking for reasons to excuse them.  This person was ANGRY.  Why an examination of how eating disorders are portrayed in the media would get this reaction escapes me.  Why the anger should be directed at me personally was also very curious.

Finally, we come to our third piece.  Living to see 100 is just luck, not lifestyle

Academics studied almost 500 people between 95 and 109 and compared them with over 3,000 others born during the same period.

They found those who lived extremely long lives ate just as badly, drank and smoked just as much, took just as little exercise and were just as likely to be overweight as their long-gone friends. 
 Basically, these old timers lived lifestyles no different than their peers who died earlier.  Yet they still concluded:

"Although this study demonstrates that centenarians can be obese, smoke and avoid exercise, those lifestyle habits are not good choices for most of us who do not have a family history of longevity.
"We should watch our weight, avoid smoking and be sure to exercise, since these activities have been shown to have great health benefits for the general population, including a longer lifespan." 
 In other words, even though there was absolutely no physical evidence for it, they still recommended people should go on diets, etc. if they wanted to live longer.

I actually found this bit even more interesting.

When it came to the centenarians' views about why they had lived so long, the group identified good genes as the main reason, followed by diet and physical exercise. 

 So even though these long lived people recognized that genetics played the main part of why they've lived so long, and even though they themselves have had lifetimes of smoking and drinking, eating "bad" foods and a lack of exercise, they still believed that having a "healthy" lifestyle is a big part of why they've lived so long.

 And what responses did I get to this one?

Several people talking about how they felt so much better after going on diets and exercising more.  Sure, it might not mean they'd live any longer, but gosh darn it, it's quality of life that matters! 

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a hard time seeing a life of self-inflicted deprivation as improving quality of life.  I realize ascetics is rather popular right now, especially when it comes to food, but what good is gaining a few more years, if the simple pleasures of life are denied?  Of course, they seemed to completely miss the fact that, for a lot of these long-lives folks, eating, drinking and smoking is part of their quality of life.  If some 90 yr old wants to enjoy a shot of whiskey and a good cigar, who am I (or anyone else) to lecture them? 

The responses, however, were fascinating to me.  Here we have an article that basically said diet and exercise makes no difference to longevity.  It's in your genes. Yet other than one response where someone talked about how her grandmother, who'd lived to 105, had still been an avid gardener at 99, and another that was rather preachy about that whole "quality of life" thing (because apparently the only good quality of life involves eating "healthy" and exercise), they were very "look at me!  I feel so GREAT because I diet/exercise!  I LOST WEIGHT!! It's so WONDERFUL!!!"

It was like listening to preachy ex-smoker, or someone who's just started a new diet program (It's not a diet!  It's a LIFESTYLE change!!!).  It was also curiously "Me, me, me!! Aren't I wonderful!"  I don't think they intended to come across as smug and superior, but they did anyhow.

In each of these pieces I shared, the thing that struck me the most about the responses is that they had almost nothing to do with the stories themselves.  Rather, the stories seemed to be mere stepping stones for people to run off on something they, themselves, have as a personal issue. 

It was truly fascinating.