View From Table 9

June 20, 2008

Support Our Veterans Radiothon

Finally, someone talking about how we treat our Veterans and offering something we can do.  Philadelphia station WMGK is broadcasting a 12 hour radiothon tomorrow, June 20, from 6 AM to 6 PM in front of the National Constitution Center.  The goal is to raise money for the nonprofit Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center, a local group that assists Veterans in housing, benefits, job training, all those things they should be entitled to for serving us well.

Listen if you can, they stream online.  Give if you can.  Spread the word – more than anything else raise awareness.  Those who protect and defend us deserve better.


June 17, 2008

Being a Soldier Can Ruin You….

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 12:28 am
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Yet more on what happens to our injured veterans these days, or the Me Generation’s idea of Supporting The Troops:

Soldiers risk ruin while awaiting benefit checks

By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press WriterMon Jun 16, 2:07 PM ET

His lifelong dream of becoming a soldier had, in the end, come to this for Isaac Stevens: 28, penniless, in a wheelchair, fending off the sexual advances of another man in a homeless shelter.

Stevens’ descent from Army private first-class, 3rd Infantry Division, 11 Bravo Company, began in 2005 — not in battle, since he was never sent off to Iraq or Afghanistan, but with a headfirst fall over a wall on the obstacle course at Fort Benning, Ga. He suffered a head injury and spinal damage.

The injury alone didn’t put him in a homeless shelter. Instead, it was military bureaucracy — specifically, the way injured soldiers are discharged on just a fraction of their salary and then forced to wait six to nine months, and sometimes even more than a year, before their full disability payments begin to flow.

“When I got out, I hate to say it, but man, that was it. Everybody just kind of washed their hands of me, and it was like, `OK, you’re on your own,'” said Stevens, who was discharged in November and was in a shelter by February. He has since moved into a temporary San Antonio apartment with help from Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization.

Nearly 20,000 disabled soldiers were discharged in the past two fiscal years, and lawmakers, veterans’ advocates and others say thousands could be facing financial ruin while they wait for their claims to be processed and their benefits to come through.

“The anecdotal evidence is depressing,” said Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., who heads a subcommittee on veterans disability benefits. “These veterans are getting medical care, but their family is going through this huge readjustment at the same time they’re dealing with financial difficulties.”

Most permanently disabled veterans qualify for payments from Social Security and the military or Veterans Affairs. Those sums can amount to about two-thirds of their active-duty pay. But until those checks show up, most disabled veterans draw a reduced Army paycheck.

The amount depends on the soldier’s injuries, service time and other factors. But a typical veteran and his family who once lived on $3,400 a month might have to make do with $970 a month.

Unless a soldier has a personal fortune or was so severely injured as to require long-term inpatient care, that can be an extreme hardship.

The Army, stung by the scandal last year over shoddy care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, has been working to help soldiers during the in-between period, said Col. Becky Baker, assigned to injured soldier transition at the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office.

In a change in policy that took effect last August, the Army is allowing wounded soldiers to continue to draw their full Army paychecks for up to 90 days after discharge, Baker said. It is also sending more VA workers to Army posts to process claims more quickly, and trying to do a better job of informing soldiers of the available benefits and explaining the application process.

“We make certain that we’ve covered all the bases before we discharge the soldier,” Baker said.

She acknowledged, however, that the changes have been slow to take hold across an Army stretched by war. “It’s definitely a practice that is new. It takes awhile for new practices to be institutionalized,” the colonel said.

Stevens was moved to the Operation Homefront apartment after a social worker at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, acting on her own initiative, rescued Stevens from a homeless shelter there.

“This is a situation where someone used their common sense and they did the right thing, versus saying, `This is the rules. We can’t do this,'” Tripler spokeswoman Minerva Anderson said of the social worker.

Typically, the first 100 days after discharge are spent just gathering medical and other evidence needed to make a decision on disability, VA officials say. If paperwork is incomplete, or a veteran moves to another state before the claim is decided, the process can drag on longer. Disagree with the VA’s decision, and the wait time grows.

“The claims are a lot more complicated than people think,” said Ursula Henderson, director of the VA’s regional office in Houston.

Amy Palmer, a disabled veteran and vice president of Operation Homefront, which helps newly disabled servicemembers, said: “Nobody’s assigned to them. You’re on your own once you get out.”

Hall is pushing legislation that would force the VA to use compatible computer systems and more consistent criteria and to reach out to veterans better.

“A veteran goes and serves and does what the country asks them to do,” the congressman said. “But when they come back they’re made to jump through these hoops and to wait in line for disability benefits.”

Simon Heine served three tours in Iraq as a tank mechanic before he was discharged with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

His wife quit college so she could figure out how her four children could live on less than $1,000 a month. Eventually, she moved the family of six into an Operation Homefront apartment so they could finish navigating the bureaucracy and wait out the arrival of Social Security and VA benefits.

“It is like giving you a car and taking the steering wheel off. They say, `There is the gas and the brake. Just go straight,’ and hopefully, you are going in the right direction,” Heine said.


On the Net: Operation Homefront:

Veterans in homeless shelters.  I thought we pledged as a Country to treat these wounded better than those from VietNam?

June 15, 2008

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

He did great.  The three of us discussed how he felt that morning.  Funny, he thought the teacher would make him even if Mommy said no.  He’s really terrified of her (I’m not a fan either).  So, in the end I reminded him that Mommy always keeps her promises, Daddy does too (we do – Love & Logic pays off), and he decided to participate with the caveat that he could come sit with us if he wanted to.

I have to say Kindergarten graduation was really cute and yes, I got teary.  They introduced themselves, sang some songs, showed a slide show with music, and each got their ‘diploma’.  He was really getting into a couple of the songs.  He looked over at me lots of times and I gave big thumbs up.  10,000 watt smile from him each time and a giant run over and gave me a jumping hug after.  Wonderful.  The kids had all done artwork that they posted, including one behind each chair that showed four things they remember about Kindergarten.  Our son had 1) Playing with his friends outside 2) Playing at lunchtime, 3) Playing with choices and 4) Kindergarten rehearsal.  Note the dominant word “Playing”.  Definitely not an anti-social kid, even for all his performance shyness.

Then, of course, off to the post-graduation party (yes, even in kindergarten).  6 hours of playing.  Heaven.

June 13, 2008

Performance Anxiety

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 10:05 am
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Today my son ‘graduates’ from Kindergarten. They’re doing a ceremony where the kids sing some songs, do some sign language, French, and Spanish, and show their artwork. When I was young, we didn’t do this, you just finished kindergarten, had a little class party, and went home to play with the neighborhood kids for the summer. I think they do this now as a way of proving to the parents that the boatloads of dollars we’ve spent to put our kids in this school were worth it. OK.

What I was surprised about is that my son is scared to death of doing this. He says he’s not a very good singer and that they have to do SO much and that he doesn’t want to do it. Breaks my heart. He’s never been much of a performance kid so we’ve never pushed this.   “Show us how you do a cartwheel” even will get him being all shy and hanging behind us.  What’s a little different about my son is that if you don’t say “Show us your cartwheel”  he’ll do them with great joy all over the place.  Yes, even in places like store aisles.  He just doesn’t do it “on demand”.

I was a shy kid too and despised having to do these ‘performances’ myself so much that even now I don’t like people making a big fuss over me and putting me in the spotlight.  So, when he is reluctant, this resonates strongly for me.  I think I also have a little bit of performance anxiety about him too – what if he does mess up?  I want the whole world to see what an amazing person he is but what if they don’t?  Then the normal part of my brain says “Who the hell cares? It’s Kindergarten”.  Still, I wonder if he’s picking up on that.  He picks up on everything else it seems.

So, we’ll see what happens today. I have told him that he does not have to do anything, does not even have to go to ‘graduation’ if he doesn’t want to. I’ve at least got to go because I’m taking two other kids to the post-party at one of the classmates’ house (parents have to work). I think what’s tearing him up though is that all his friends will be there and that they may make fun of him if he doesn’t participate or go.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to solve this for him in a nice safe way, it’s not for me this time. I’d love to see him overcome his fear and not let it control him but then again if it’s not his way, it’s not his way. Then again, it’s not something he HAS to do and I won’t impose my will where that’s not the case. Have to save the Mommy mojo for the times when you really need it



Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 12:36 am
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Last Thursday I had an unfortunate accident involving a glass of lemonade and my keyboard.  The result was a keyboard that could type only ffff444rrr44///rrrfffffff/f/rrr/ff/4 which would have been great if that actually meant anything to anyone.

Being on the frugal side, running out and buying a brand new keyboard wasn’t on the top of my list so I hit eBay, picking up a very nice used keyboard for like half of the cost of a new one.  This left me with a dilemma, though.  Unlike hitting up BestBuy, I’d have to wait several days for my keyboard to arrive.  In the interim, I was voiceless, only able to navigate by mouse, point, click.

It was amazing to me how much I really could do with just the mouse.  I could read newspapers, blogs, check the weather, upload pics from my camera, even do online surveys and such.  Made me think of what it would be like to go through, say, a day, with no voice, only pointing, gesturing, and observing.  Not that I’d make it, but it would be an interesting experiment.

I am overjoyed though that lovely keyboard #2 has arrived.  I plan to Freecycle keyboard #1, as I’m sure somebody could use it for parts.   Being mute was interesting, though I’m glad to be back in the world of the writer.

June 3, 2008

I Could Not Agree More…

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 8:37 pm

I was six years old when Roe V. Wade was decided.   I remember my very deeply  Catholic mother praising it, not because it was moral but because she felt it was high time that the Government not interfere with our rights to privacy and in medical care.

So it is with growing dismay that I see that right to privacy being chipped away by those who feel strongly about the morality of a procedure.  Now, I’m all for morals.  They’re good things used to generally keep society functioning peacefully.  What I’ve found though is that they are not absolute, nor are they universally held.  They are opinions, and like beliefs, they are those of individuals and are subject to change, interpretation and manipulation.

I believe we all have the right to protest, and we all have the right to act according to our beliefs – as long as those acts don’t seminally infringe on the rights of other individuals who don’t hold those same morals.  Telling someone not to end a pregnancy = fine.  Making it such that ending that pregnancy = breaking the law, not fine.

As memories fade, though, and as we begin to wax rhapsodic for the ‘good old days’ (revisionistic and all), I think voices like these are ever more important.

June 3, 2008

Repairing the Damage, Before Roe

With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside.

When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe “bad old days.” Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.

I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals.

There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. Yet the patient never told us who did the work, or where and under what conditions it was performed. She was in dire need of our help to complete the process or, as frequently was the case, to correct what damage might have been done.

The patient also did not explain why she had attempted the abortion, and we did not ask. This was a decision she made for herself, and the reasons were hers alone. Yet this much was clear: The woman had put herself at total risk, and literally did not know whether she would live or die.

This, too, was clear: Her desperate need to terminate a pregnancy was the driving force behind the selection of any method available.

The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous “coat hanger” — which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.

We did not have ultrasound, CT scans or any of the now accepted radiology techniques. The woman was placed under anesthesia, and as we removed the metal piece we held our breath, because we could not tell whether the hanger had gone through the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Fortunately, in the cases I saw, it had not.

However, not simply coat hangers were used.

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.

Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.

Waldo L. Fielding was an obstetrician and gynecologist in Boston for 38 years. He is the author of “Pregnancy: The Best State of the Union” (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1971).

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