Saturday, November 28, 2009

A medical shot in the dark that worked


Pudd'nhead Wilson, one of Mark Twain's creations, said: "Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits." With all the emphasis on washing our hands today, I'm encouraging the good example of constant handwashing. Then Pudd'nhead would say: "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."

I'll begin by annoying doctors, nurses and hospitals. My pet peeve is when in hospital, I like for my doctor, in my presence, to wash his hands before peering over me.

When a doctor, nurse or visitor visits my hospital room, I have no compunction asking them to wash their hands. Even if the physician is a well-known and famous man of science, I request he wash his hands as I watch. All health providers know this and make a practice of letting the patient see them wash their hands, and most are not offended. They probably washed before they visited my room. Even if they say they just washed, politely request they do it in front of you. Most care-takers will see the wisdom of making the patient feel he is being properly cared for.

Making such a simple request is the patient's right, but more important it is the patient's responsibility. No one is as concerned about my health than me. The caretakers care (we can't thank them enough), but in the end, it is the observant patient that stays free of nosocomial infections. (Nosocomial infections are those acquired by patients while in the hospital, unrelated to the illness of the patient.)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates five to fifteen percent of all hospital patients acquire some kind of nosocomial infection. (Source: Christine L. Case, Ed.D., Microbiology Professor at Skyline College)

Few of us ever heard of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss. He was a Hungarian medical doctor in the late 1840s in the maternity wards of a Vienna hospital. Women in childbirth were dying at alarming rates there. Up to 25 percent of women who delivered their babies in hospitals died of fever.

Dr. Semmelweiss observed that the washing of hands between patients might help more women live. He began using soap and water and later prescribed ablutions with chlorinated lime water. His shot in the dark was successful But the doctors and staff greeted this with disdain for a long time. Records revealed his success, but other doctors were so hostile to this revolutionary "ceremony" as they called it, Semmelweiss resigned. He was later successful, but still a joke to his colleagues.

In 1879 at the Academy of Medicine in Paris, Louis Pasteur, who contributed to germ theories pushed by Robert Koch, stood and said: "The thing that kills women with [childbirth fever] you doctors that carry deadly microbes from sick women to healthy ones."

According to the United States CDC, "Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection." The report goes on to say we are all potentially at risk of contracting hand-transmitted illnesses, one-third of our population is especially vulnerable, including pregnant women, children, old people, and those with weakened immune systems."

Mark Twain wisely wrote: "The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd druther not." Wash your hands even if you'd druther not.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Behind Ft. Hood: US Invasion of Iraq

To avoid another Ft. Hood, bring the troops home

Now the American Indians, blacks, Jews, illegal immigrants, and all other minorities can relax in this land of the free and the home of the brave. You ask, Why? Because the latest clan on the block to fear and degrade are the Muslims.

U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan's killing spree on unsuspecting and innocent civilians and solders at Fort Hood was tragic, unfortunate and unnecessary. SOME MISGUIDED SOULS THINK IT WAS A TERRORIST ATTACK -- anything to spread fear.

Christian radio talk shows (such as American Family Association), all right-wing nuts on radio talk shows and the Internet are agreeing that this event at Fort Hood proves there "is an enemy within" that is out to destroy America. And the blame is because we have a bi-racial president. According to the comedian Rusty Limbaugh, President Barack Obama hates our country and is out to destroy it.

By ignoring the few facts known regarding the Ft. Hood murders, and refusing to wait for the actual facts to be studied and revealed, the Tea Party is out for blood – Islamic blood. These folks are not kidding and the rest of us best pay attention. Highway bill boards proclaiming a revolution to save America are sprouting up in Georgia and Colorado.

Those on the weird fringes of Christianity and politics are for stopping immigration of Muslims. And give the 3,700 Muslims now in the US military dishonorable discharges.

Bryan Fischer, of American Family Radio, writes on the company's web site: "It became evident almost immediately that the mass murderer in yesterday's killing spree at Fort Hood was a Muslim who was motivated by jihadist impulses. ... it is time, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military."

From all corners comes the question: How could we have missed this wayward Muslim assassin? How could these deaths been avoided? Who is responsible for the slip-ups that led this Muslim to kill his comrades? The FBI? The CIA? The National Security branch? It goes much deeper than one person or group mishap. We could have avoided this horror in Fort Hood by not invading Iraq in the first place. When the U.S. armed forces bombed and invaded Baghdad, an unending war unfolded. It turned the Middle East to mistrust and hate America.

In 2002 I wrote more than once for Bush to not start a war. He was intent on it. This week in England a committee of the highest order is going back over the records and concluded Bush was going into IRAQ he told the Prime Minister in 2002, a full year before the invasion.

The congress foolishly followed a president whose only warfare experience was successfully protecting the skies of Texas from the Vietcong. Men who have never been to war, so not know what hell it is; violence begets violence, not peace.

Most of this year, congress and talk radio-TV have talked the cost of health care being just too much money. I don't remember there being such talk when we revived up to invade Iraq. That on-going war expense of over one trillion (a million million) dollars was not debated like health care has been. Congress jumped immediately on the Dick Cheney tanks and planes and never looked back or counted of the cost in money and lives. American health care costs cannot top that.

We must withdraw our military from the Middle East. Such an unpopular move could solve a lot problems. (Example: Save tremendous amount of dollars now spent for war.)

We are not wanted in Iraq or Afghanistan. Both places are multi-racial tribal chiefs our government put in power. Both head men and their staffs are corrupt and show no signs of changing their ways. It is time to get out of the Middle East and the other 700 bases around the world. Then there may not be another Ft. Hood massacre. Showing our strength with smaller countries has in reality shown our inner weakness.

Monday, November 16, 2009

To take risks is worth it !!

Rewards are worth the risk.

"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first," Frederick Wilcox's most famous quote on winning involves resolve, not hesitating, but making choices.

Risks of any kind need courage. “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore,” wrote Andre Gide, winner of the 1947 Nobel prize for literature.

I'm told that most fighter pilots in World War II were barely into their 20s. The older we get the less we are interested in risks. Most risk-takers are young and can adjust fast.

To the young, risk-taking is as natural as running and swimming. Often the risk is not worth the effort, but the young seldom have second thoughts. Risk-taking is discouraged by nay-sayers, and the negative response such and such will not work. They stick to their guns saying "no" to any challenging ventures, which to them is a risk.

Mark Twain could have been thinking of these nay-sayers when he wrote: "Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

Soon after seminary graduation, I pastored a growing church in a community south of Big D. Except for one deacon and his brother, the former pastor, who had run the church since before the Civil War, all went well. We took the risk of needed positive changes, like better use of Sunday school rooms and some schedule changes. Slowly bits of progress began slipping into the congregation. To hope is to avoid the despair of doing nothing. "Only those who risk going too far can possible find out how far they can go." (T.S. Eliot)

Those days were but the beginning of a risk-taking life. Not all of the risks were world changing and are just normal reactions to most folks. We left that comfortable church and town later to begin a church in Arizona, which is now a 55 year old vibrate congregation. Family in Texas wondered why would I go to Arizona when Texas was still full of sinners.

The family really thought we were going too far when we left San Manuel, Arizona, for the edge of the world in Taiwan. We did not know what was ahead on the trail and still don't. None of us know what is ahead, but we can't sit around and wait for things to happen. Karl Wallenda said it this way: "Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting."

Ray Bradbury, the science-fiction expert once said, "Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down." There is some weird truth in the saying, to laugh is to risk appearing the fool; and to weep appearing too sentimental; to love is to risk not being loved in return.

Looking back on those years I now know it would have been unfortunate if we cringed from the risks or played it safe. Playing it safe has little ir no rewards. Grasp the moment, accept the challenge, charge ahead, for the greatest risk is not taking one.

What is taking a risk? It is not just being different, but discovering the known in the unknown. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I . . . I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remembering The Fall of Berlin Wall

My, how time flies

We have all exclaimed "how fast time flies." It took years of time to reach high school graduation. I thought it would never come. I thought the day would never come to get to drive. Now, with advanced years, time is no longer slow as Moses. It is like a flash of lightening.

Twenty years ago this past June 4, the Chinese People's Liberation Army crushed the demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen (English: "Gate of Heavenly Peace" indeed an ironic name). This was followed by student demonstrations a few weeks later in Berlin, Germany. By late September, 1989, the West German demonstrations against political repression had grown. Then at midnight, Nov. 9, the infamous Berlin Wall fell. Difficult to believe that all unfolded twenty years ago.

President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev worked to create a climate change in the Cold War. Reagan's speech in Berlin, June 1987, telling Gorbachev to "bring down this wall" was one of many events that led the Soviet satellites to turn to the West.

The night the Wall fell, Jody and I were in our dorm room of the Teacher's Building on the campus of Nanjing University, China. We were teaching English conversation for students at the university and at the Jinling Theological Seminary, a few blocks away.

As always, we were tuned to the British Broadcasting Corporation's English broadcasts that night. Along with people around the world, we could not believe the good news. The Berlin Wall that had separated Germans since it was erected in 1961 was no more.

At the close of WWII, the Allies divided Germany into French, British, Russian and American sectors. Because so many East Germans were leaving the Russian sector, the Soviets closed the border in 1952. That did not stop the flow seeking a better life in West Germany, so the wall was built. It only slowed down the exodus. More than 2.6 million East Germans escaped to West Germany from 1949 to 1961.

On that eventful November night in a East Berlin hotel restaurant a couple remembers that as the main course was brought to their table, a woman came wandering in, stumbling up and down shouting: "Die Mauer ist gefallt! Die Mauer ist gefallt!" Everyone thought she was mad or having a mental breakdown when suddenly the cooks came from the kitchen waving their arms and saying the same thing.

Those who were there, or on radio or television, watching people marching for their rights in Berlin knew they were watching history. At this 20th anniversary, Paul Bent of Ireland, wrote the BBC the impact the event and their coverage had was tremendous. We felt the same way.

At Jody's classes the next day, all the students were aware of what had happened 10,000 miles away. Some spoke openly that this was what China needed. She had to caution them to watch what they said. There were always those who were watching and listening and she did not want their excitement to be taken as revolution talk.

The Communist leadership of China, made no comments immediately. But in the factories, schools and the back streets there was a feeling of a coming change. It was slowly evolving. The Chinese government to this day has never admitted to killing demonstrators twenty years ago. It is still a non-event for them. But their world was changing and one day the truth will be admitted when a more liberal forward-looking Chinese government and society emerges.

How fast these twenty years have come and gone. All the freeways, skyscrapers, colorful Western dress, new bridges and underground metro systems, more millionaires than America, the Olympics, more openness to the world, was only a dream. Now it is a reality.

If we have another twenty years we can be assured it will travel at light speed, bringing even more exciting, world-changing events.

Photo: On left is Lao She's son, Shu Yi and some other professors of Chinese literature at Lao She 100th anniversary of his birth Symposium, 1999.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

O, For a faithful husband-politician

Quirks on the political trail

The former Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo, wanted to do more for the poor of his South American country, so he campaigned for the presidency of Paraguay, and won.

A year before he became president, Fernando Armindo LUGO Mendez was the bishop of San Pedro. It was there he began a relationship with 16-year-old Viviana Carrillo.

A year and a half later he is elected President of Paraguay. A lawsuit brought the affair public and Lugo announced: "... there was a relationship with Viviana Carrillo. ... I assume all responsibilities, and I recognize that I'm the father of the child."

Lugo was looked upon as one that could bring politics to a higher level. The country's history from 1811, when Paraguay won impendence from Spain, had been one power-hungry dictator after another.

Last year Time Magazine likened Lugo to Obama, in his desire for hope and reforms, especially land reform.

Some say, what's the big deal? This is the 21st century. Lugo is simply demonstrating he's a man. Before pointing fingers at Paraguay's bishops and presidents, let's look at some of the stains on our North American politicians.

Rather than cast any more stones toward South America, I must go on record that I believe Franklin Roosevelt's secretary to be his true love, and during WWI Warren G. Harding loved a German spy. John F. Kennedy's habit of straying is well documented. JFK was smarter than Senator Gary Hart who dared the press to find him out, and they did. John Edwards turned his life into a train wreck, and evidently Bill Clinton was just living up to his Arkansas reputation.

But these guys are history. With all the good they did, they could have accomplished much more had they been more faithful to their marriage vows and their political commitments.

We do seem to let our sinning politicians remain at the helm too long. No ethical investigation, no replacing the bad egg, or demanding a higher standard for those who are serving "We The People."

What about those politicians still in office months after being exposed? They seem to have no shame.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, had his wife stand beside him, as he admitted yet refuted having call-girl friends in Washington. Later it was found he had them in New Orleans also

Mark Sanford, who thought the Appalachian Trail was in Argentina, is still governor of South Carolina. His lies continued even after being recognized in the Atlanta airport on his way back home from "his soul mate" (his words) down in the Pampas.

From out of the West comes the thundering denials of Nevada's Senator John Ensign. Money, large gobs of it, wasn't enough to cover-up his adultery with his staff. He sits there proudly on Senate committees with no concern for having messed up lives and caused more Americans to look with a jaundiced eye at public representatives. Such selfish men as these who cannot be faithful at home, make it more difficult for those honest representatives.

Our governor may have hair like former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, but he has not tried to sell a senate seat. (Rick Perry would much rather at least one of Texas' senators stay in Washington a bit longer.)

But this column about sex in the senate is not about our politicians who live and work in Texas. Texas has some "birthers" and some men and women who should take up another calling. Unfortunately some, like our own Rep. Mike Conaway, does not appreciate the yet-to-be health reform bill. He is against helping the least among us by opposing a single-payer system for everybody. Where is Molly Ivins when we need her?