Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Old Soldiers and Czar Berwick

I spent part of the morning at the VA hospital for my annual physical. As always, I was impressed with how smoothly the whole system runs. As soon as I arrived I checked in and within five minutes I was downstairs at the lab. Soon I was called in for the blood draw. Zip/zop, I was in and out of the lab within 15 minutes.

From there I headed to my primary care clinic. After a short wait I was called back for the initial exam by a nurse who took vital signs and then asked about my drinking habits, my mood (“have you been sad lately?”), and tried to determine if I was suicidal.

She led me back to the waiting area, and within 15 minutes my primary care physician appeared and called me back to his office. Dr.P is a slightly built black man not much younger than I. He’s the father of a college student who’s studying nursing at UT, and he rides a Harley Sportster. And he wears Western boots.(I conducted my own exam.) Initially I sat next to him as he updated my health history, asking about my mom’s hip replacement surgery, my exercise habits, and aches and pains.

Then came the snap of latex and the requisite poking, prodding, head turning and coughing. Then we sat back down and Dr. P finished with his recommendations. “Cut down on salt, think about swimming for exercise, call me if you need me. Otherwise, I’ll see you in a year.” We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and I was headed home, all within two hours.

While we sat and visited I began thinking about what healthcare might look like in 5 or ten years as Obamacare becomes a reality. It occurs to me that it’s quite possible, under the leadership of Donald Berwick, the new health czar, that old guys like me might be treated like McArthur’s old soldiers and be left to just fade away. I lived for years on C Rations. I don’t want to have to try and exist on healthcare rationing.

Then I thought of my special friend, Clifford, who just represented our community at the national Special Olympics in Nebraska. What kind of care would be afforded to him and those who are less than “perfect?”

In the light of the return to privatization of the British health care system, a system over which Czar Berwick drools, we need to take a long hard at where Obamacare is taking us. It’s a system destined for failure, as the collapse of the British system demonstrates.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ronald McDonald fights back

I just watched a new McDonald's commercial featuring children eating Happy Meals. The announcer promises that a portion of the proceeds from each Happy Meal will go to provide hope ("hope," the children respond), for persons staying in the Ronald McDonald house. And the kids weren't munching on chicken nuggets or fries, but rather on dried fruit, obviously a ploy by the McDonald's corporation to thumb their corporate nose at the POTUS and the FLOTUS.

Admittedly, I'm not a fan of the Happy Meal. But the dollar menu? That's another story. As soon as the First Lady starts messing with my dollar menu, I'll do more than thumb my nose. I think she should concentrate on helping her husband stop smoking, and leave me alone to eat what I wish. It's my arteries, after all.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A letter from Kenya

With today’s mail came a letter from Kenya, hand-written by a young 5th grader named Reul Kalo. My wife and I sponsor Reul through Compassion International. Here’s some of what he wrote:

“I take this time to write to you again. Here at home we are very fine. How are you? I’m happy because I was promoted to standard (grade) five in primary school. Please pray for me because I’m not doing very well. My new teacher is teaching us very well.

I’m trying to read very hard so as to improve in science. Kiswahili (the local language) is my favorite subject. Do you know kiswashili?

When I’m free I play football (soccer) with my friends, who wish to become great footballers when they grow up.

I would like to sincerely thank you for the support you send. I’m very happy. Thank you for the blanket I received. The gift I got made me recall the story our Christian education teacher taught us about the miracles of Jesus.

Please pray for me so that I can pass my exams.

From your child, Reul.”

Mary Beth and I got teary-eyed as we read the letter. We can’t wait to write back and send pictures and a little extra gift. We’re thinking of trying to send a soccer jersey as well.

We westerners are so blessed, and take so much for granted. It’s really quite simple to share with others who are less fortunate. Compassion International gives us a chance to do something voluntarily to bless someone else, and in doing so to share the love of Jesus. I’d encourage you to follow the link on this page and find out how you can experience the blessing of sponsoring a child.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Baptizing A Cell Phone

Over the course of three decades I’ve done scores of baptisms, which, for a Baptist minister, means dunking a person under the water. All the way under. But yesterday was a first. I baptized my phone. All the way under.

I know you’re dying to hear the rest of this story.

Yesterday afternoon, following the funeral service for my son-in-law’s grandparents, who had been married over 70 years and who died within 36 hours of one another (this is a story in itself), I took off, at my daughter, Kara’s, request, to pick up her 2-year-old, Lucy, who had been staying at her aunt Laura’s house. Leaving the church in Kara’s suv, I tried my hand at multitasking. Nothing major, mind you. Simply adjusting the air conditioning while holding my Blackberry and driving. Big mistake. Next thing I know, my Blackberry is at the bottom of a large cup of water – totally submerged.

With my catlike reflexes, I grabbed the phone and immediately held it in front of the air conditioning vent. Within seconds the screen fogged over. I knew it was a life-or-death situation.

As soon as I could I pulled over and removed the battery, then, turning up the temp on the passenger side, I held the open back side of the phone in front of the vent for the remainder of the 15 minute ride to Laura’s.

After retrieving Lucy, we headed back to the church to join the rest of the family for a meal that the church had prepared. Not wanting to ignore my granddaughter in the car seat behind me, I decided to forget about my phone and engage her in conversation. We talked about cows, trucks (a word she mispronounces), clouds, and the fact that we’d be to where Mommie is in just a minute.

At this point, I had given up on trying to revive my phone. I was resigned to having to undergo the painful process of visiting the cell phone store and going through the agony of waiting on being served, then having to endure a sales pitch for a new phone, knowing full well that the salesperson would be determined to put me into the latest model of smart phone after they assured me that my old phone was beyond help.

A couple of hours later, after Mary Beth and I returned home, I decided to make one more valiant effort to revive my phone. First I took a hairdryer to it, only to learn later that doing this could have fried all the circuits and melted the wiring.

Mary Beth said, “Have you thought about putting it in rice? I read somewhere on the internet that this works.” Upon which she googled several sites that mentioned this means of resuscitating a dead phone, including one Wikipedia article that said that the rice method was a waste of time.

Waste of time or not, I decided to give it a go. Following the directions in one of the articles, I dug out a Tuppermaid or Rubberware dish with lid, set my phone, the battery, and the back in the bottom of the dish, and poured in the Uncle Ben’s. Saying a little prayer, I put the lid in place.

The instructions said to leave the phone in the rice for a couple of days, assuring me that the rice would absorb all the remaining moisture deep within the phones inner workings. However, within a few hours, unable to bear the suspense, I dug the phone out of the rice, blew it off, put the battery in place, attached the back, and hit the red button. The screen flashed white, and the hourglass began to turn its flips, indicating that the phone was booting up. I was pumped. The rice remedy had worked. Then, as soon as it lit up, it turned dark again. I found myself rehearsing the conversation I was going to have with the zealous cell phone sales person.

Now, I’m not sure if what motivated me to try the rice again was a never-say-die attitude, or just the desire to avoid a visit to the cell store. But back into the bed of Uncle Ben’s the phone went, with the battery alongside. After I covered them with a cozy cover of rice, I snapped the lid back into place, burped it (You ladies will understand what I mean. Guys, ask your wife or SO.) and turned in for the night.

This morning I tiptoed into the kitchen, almost afraid of what I might find when I dug out the phone again. As I pried off the lid, all the while praying, “Lord, please make it work,” I noticed that the phone was still cozily buried in rice. I dug it out, blew it off, and put the battery in place. Even before I got the back replaced, the red light was on, indicating that there was, indeed, life. As I held my breath, I pushed the red button to power it on. The screen turned white. Then the little hourglass appeared and began to flip. I was encouraged. No, I was elated. As I watched with sweaty palms and an accelerated heart rate, the phone began to come alive. But the test would come when I tried texting and pulling up emails and tweets.

I felt like exclaiming, like the lady in the parable who found the lost coin, “Rejoice with me!”

Now, several hours later, it appears the phone is alive and well. Tonight it will sleep on the nightstand beside me. And I will sleep, peaceful in the knowledge that I’ve avoided the cell phone store.