Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful . . .

I wrote this on Thanksgiving 2005, but I felt it was worthy of a "re-post."

I am thankful for so many things--I could write a book! Today I will write about one thing for which I am thankful--life itself.

I always took life for granted. After all, I couldn't really imagine not living. "To be, or not to be," wasn't my question. That being said, I wasn't really worried [in 2003] when I was scheduled for a hysterectomy. Of course it was major surgery, and I knew the risks. But people have surgery every day, and this is a fairly common surgery. Who would have guessed my surgeon would nick my uterine artery?

I remember waking up in the recovery room and having my nurse ask some simple questions. She told me that I would be transported to my room shortly. Then I started feeling faint--my blood pressure was dropping rapidly. At this point I still wasn't truly worried. My doctor checked to see what was wrong and explained that I was bleeding internally. He wanted to see if the blood would clot and the bleeding would stop. When this didn't immediately happen, he talked to me about having a blood transfusion. I had checked the box indicating "only in life threatening emergency" in the paperwork I completed before the surgery. He made me sign a new form before giving me blood. After the first unit of blood, I still wasn't worried. As time wore on, and they continued giving me blood, I wondered if I would live. My doctor continued to check on me, but he would say "I still think it may clot--I'm going to catch a baby, then I'll be back to check on you." To this day, the words "I'm going to catch a baby" echo in my mind when I think back on the recovery room.

As they continued to give me blood, and I continued to bleed internally, my abdomen distended and my skin felt like it was going to tear. As this occurred, it became increasingly harder for me to breathe. My nurse brought me the phone and said, "we want you to talk to your children." My children were in the waiting area with their nanny and my family. I don't remember what I said, or what they said, but by this time I was convinced that I was going to die, and I think I would have. Instead of giving up, I started praying. I don't remember everything that I said to God, but I do remember telling him that I wasn't ready to die and that my children needed me here. God answered my prayers.

Finally, I couldn't feel my feet and I could barely breathe. I was able to tell the nurse and things moved quickly as they paged my doctor and rushed me back to surgery. I had been in the recovery room for about eight hours by this time.

I spent that night in the ICU under a bair hugger. I was told that I received a total of 6 units of blood. I received so many flowers, I almost thought I had died! My coworkers donated enough sick time that I could have taken up to four months of paid time off. The typical recovery time for a hysterectomy is one month. With my complications, I was told to expect a longer recovery period. I was back to work in three weeks.

I am thankful for this brief glimpse with death because it made me realize just how precious my own life is, and just how many things, people, and circumstances for which I am truly thankful.

Life is an incredible blessing; for this I am thankful.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Panhandling: if beggars can't be choosers, why are they so picky?

I've noticed that there are many panhandlers in my new city . . . I drive past them every day. There are two who seem to take shifts near Target, and they hold their signs claiming embarrassment and God's blessings to me as I drive by. What do I do? I drive past them, wondering what their situations truly are. What do you do? Do you slow down and hand them money? Do you offer them jobs? Do you give them food? [Photo credit]

Some people think I am cold and lacking in compassion for my attitude toward these folks. But I didn't always respond in this way, and I am compassionate. But I refuse to be an enabler. Years ago, I would go home and make sandwiches to take back to people wanting to work for food, etc. I did that until I drove by and saw the food that I and others had brought left on the corner where a beggar sat earlier in the day. This man clearly didn't want our food . . . Which makes me strongly doubt that any money given to this man had been spent on food. Perhaps I'm wrong--maybe he was just a picky beggar. Maybe he was hoping to make enough to eat at Stanley and Seaforts that day. Yeah, I guess my attitude has grown a little jaded . . .

Then there was the time I drove past a panhandler on the way to an appointment with my doctor. This beggar was on the freeway exit by Fort Lewis in Tacoma. His sign read "Help a veteran - will work for food." At the time, I was the office manager at a large church, and I had many contacts and resources that I could offer this man. I had to get to my appointment, but I stopped and gave the man my business card. I told him that I could aid him in finding employment--I offered to help him. The man was gone when I drove by after my appointment, and I never heard from him. I guess he didn't really want to work for food. Maybe I'm wrong, but I seriously doubt that the man was a veteran.

Look, I want to help these people, but handing them money as I drive by isn't a good solution. It doesn't even qualify as "feeding a man for a day" instead of "teaching him to fish." And yes, I do realize that there are many homeless folks out there with mental illnesses, etc, who cannot work and do not have resources. But I highly doubt that these are the folks holding signs on the street corners asking for my money. Seriously. If a person has a serious mental illness and isn't taking his/her meds, I can't see them having the resources for panhandling . . . (BTW, in Washington State, people with serious mental illnesses cannot be forced to take their meds, and there is a serious problem with with folks suffering from mental illnesses living on the streets, but I digress). Again, perhaps I am wrong, and if I am, I still don't think my donations will solve such a huge problem.

So what else can I, or we, do to help? I don't really know . . . My ex-husband and I once took a homeless man out to breakfast in Salt Lake City, but that was merely feeding a man for a day. And that isn't something I would do now as a single mother. Call me heartless, but it's a safety issue.

Jamal Thalji of the St. Pertersburg Times wrote about panhandling in Tampa Bay last January:

"I never used the 'work' or 'homeless' signs," [Jim Tolbert] says.

He first panhandled with the beer sign at this very corner 18 months ago. He saw one like it years ago, hitchhiking through Montana.

His best haul: $120 in four hours. He's gotten 12-packs, wine, champagne and - he swears - Xanax. Read more . . .

[Photo credit]

Personally, I am in favor of panhandling laws.


Editorial (October 3, 2007): Panhandling ordinance, A law targeting charitable motorists seems extreme

What do you think?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Body Worlds 3: fascinating yet disturbing

This weekend, my daughter and I visited the Body Worlds 3 exhibit and were equally fascinated and disturbed. I have wanted to view this exhibit ever since reading about it at the now extinct blog, The Examining Room of Dr. Charles.

Many people have viewed this exhibit for varying reasons. I have long been intrigued by the human body, especially the nervous system, and once considered attending medical school. I actually spent one year as a post-baccalaureate pre-med student before realizing that I'm just too damn old for that bumpy road and earned my MBA instead. I am also a fan of medblogs and live vicariously through the folks who author them. So, when Dr. Charles wrote about the exhibit, I knew I had to eventually see it . . .

I have to admit, the exhibit itself was a bit overwhelming for a non-medical type like me. My daughter and I examined everything and read all of the information available, but it was a lot to absorb. One could easily walk through and view all of the bodies and body parts as one would works of art--and isn't the human body truly the most amazing work of art in existence? Yet there was something just a little nauseating about the whole experience. A part of me felt like I was intruding . . . And the crowd flowing through the exhibit, peering at all the anatomical details with me, seemed extremely irreverent. As a Catholic, I couldn't help but wonder what the official Catholic stand is regarding the process of Plastination.

The answer, I found, is complex. When the Body Worlds 3 exhibit was in Phoenix in February 2007, Mike Phelan wrote about it in the Catholic Sun article titled, Death, the Body, and 'Body Worlds 3.'

Phelan neither condemns nor applauds the exhibit, but cautions Catholics that the body is sacred and is to be treated as such. He explains that "burial is the normal requirement" when a Catholic dies, but that we are permitted to donate organs after death. He points out that viewing the exhibit brings a person face to face with the eventuality of death, and notes that surrounding the exhibit are quotes from various sources throughout the ages and from different perspectives ranging from Christian to Atheist. I have to admit that I found all of the different quotes almost as fascinating as the posed bodies . . .

But the question that I couldn't keep from my mind was "would I want to be displayed like this after death?" Abso-friggin'-lutely not. And "would I want to see my parents displayed like this?" Oh, hell no. My children? You have got to be kidding . . . And all of these people on display were someone's parents, kids, etc. It haunts me still. Beautiful? Definitely. Disturbing? Oh come on--do I really need to answer that?

Before writing this, I tried to find the blog entry written by Dr. Charles that so invoked my curiosity. While his blog is no longer available, I did find an entry by Kim McAllister at Emergiblog titled "Body Worlds 3: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made!" Kim's review of the same exhibit (at the same location) was exactly what I needed to read. She helped me to set aside my own reservations and initial repulsion to the exhibit and to see it through her eyes--the eyes of a nurse who studied the human body in a much less reverent fashion:
My experience with anatomy and physiology was one class, thirty-one years ago, with one gray, formaldehyde soaked elderly cadaver. My eyes burned from the fumes. I barely touched it. It was gross, ugly and, well…blech!
Touché, Kim. I'm glad I read Kim's post--I now have a better appreciation for the exhibit I viewed this weekend. Perhaps I should go back . . .

Update (10/21/2007): Someone found this entry by googling "why can't Catholics visit Body Worlds." I'm a devout Catholic, and I visited the exhibit and wrote about it. Apparently the Catholic Church in St. Louis is advising schools not to visit the exhibit:
In St. Louis the Catholic Church has advised school officials not to take children on trips to the exhibit. Read more . . .
Wow. All I can say is, God gave us free will, and I didn't feel the need to go to confession after viewing the exhibit.

[Photo credit]