Friday, October 25, 2019

Past Due

My next column in The Everett Herald:
I’ve just returned from NYC, where my brother was mowed down by a taxi on his morning run. He was in the ICU, intubated, for three days; has undergone four operations. He knows he’ll never run again and will be lucky to recover to the point of walking. With a walker. 
The obvious, the cliché, is that things can change in an instant: live every day as if it’s your next to last. Would that we all could; though nowadays I doubt every human would spend it lovingly. 
Also obvious: anyone who dismisses Democrats’ urgency in improving our healthcare system has never been really sick. My brother and his wife can afford supplemental nursing care. They can afford a lawyer, not only for the legal issues but for help with the dizzying paperwork. Pages and pages of it. Bills coming from all directions, staggering bills. Traveling only four blocks between hit and hospital, the ambulance charges alone were in the thousands. 
Despite passing much of the work along to the lawyer, my sister-in-law has spent hours dealing with approvals and refusals; speaking, emailing, texting to various agencies and offices. For many, probably most people, it’d be all but impossible.  
The care he’s received in NYC has been excellent. Still, communication has been occasionally spotty, and were it not for the extra help they hired, my brother’s needs would be met more erratically. Too slowly, in some cases, as he is entirely, helplessly, bedridden.  
To those people whose reaction to healthcare reform proposals from any Democrat is a kneejerk cry of “socialism, communism, they hate America,” one hopes none have to experience what my brother and his family are going through. If they ever do, and if Mitch McConnell has managed to keep things the same (or, as Republican legislators prefer, improved them only for insurance executives and stockholders), and if Trump’s lies about Democrats and “socialism” continue to infect their minds, I hope they have the education and monetary means of my brother and his wife. 
I’m not saying reform won’t be disruptive or complicated, or won’t include unanticipated glitches. What I am saying is it’s undeniably necessary. 
Enough said. Of that.  
While biting the Big Apple, I spent time with my niece, an extraordinarily brilliant, internationally-honored researcher and professor of immunology at NYU. (Also, sweet as honey.) Her work is published in highly-regarded journals; work that might – no hyperbole – lead to defeating a particularly deadly form of childhood leukemia. I asked how things are going.    
Not well. Like many devoted scientists, she’s feeling the effects of Trump’s funding cuts for research. Also, because, seeing the writing on the wall (not that one), American students are increasingly disinterested in pursuing science, her post-docs are all immigrants. Which, again because of Trump and his weak-kneed defenders, have become difficult to hire. To Trump’s self-centered, short-sighted, uninquisitive cultists, none of the preceding is worrisome. How amazing. How deplorable.  
Speaking of worrisome, on a related, less complicated but locally important note, I have a simple, understandable algorithm for evaluating our state’s voter initiatives: if it’s one of Mukilteo Tim’s, I vote no. Why? Because I’m a member of society. Because I understand the role government plays in keeping us mobile, not to mention safe, educated, healthy, not poisoned or on fire. If I don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes and fees, I recognize their value.  
Eyman once bugged me to write a column about one of his initiatives. Eventually, I did. And never heard from him again. A monument to self-indulgent esurience, his latest, I-976, is ruination in the making. Perhaps some voters never drive, or if they do, it’s never to Seattle. Maybe they don’t see potholed roads or rickety bridges, never use our ferry system. So maybe, rationalizing penuriousness, they’ve convinced themselves there are no direct or indirect benefits to them for keeping those things functional and improving. 
I may not use mass transit much, but I understand its value and am willing to pay my share. Also, I drive an electric car. On tax-supported roads. I’m okay with the EV fees I’m charged, and don’t think reducing them to $30 is fair to those who pay gas taxes.  
This neo-Republican greed must be brought to an end. America is letting infrastructure decay to third-world levels, ceding science to China and India, world politics to Russia, and the future to people who’ve stopped caring. Or don’t have grandchildren.

[Image source]


  1. From your lips to Congress's ears.

  2. Hi Sid, great article as usual! Sorry about your brother, good that he will not be broken by lack of insurance, as many are.

    Had the one mile $5,000 ambulance ride offer, I had to move to a different hospital, I told them it looked like a nice day for a crawl! A sweet nurse was going that way, and kindly gave me a ride; I learned later, she could have gotten in trouble for doing it.

    It's an odd thing about San Diego, we have four major hospitals within a few miles of each other, and heavy traffic between them.

    Seattle is a great place to visit. When B and I were starting out, we planned to move there because we really love the Pacific Northwest; a twist of fate brought us to San Diego where we live among palms instead of pines.

    Perhaps next time? Or, maybe not, I used to believe in reincarnation, but that was in my other life.

    Too bad about some of the the older roads though; you need to be in top form to compete with the daily commute.

    Neo-Republican greed? What's new about Republican greed; neo or otherwise? It may be a little more naked than previous versions, but it's still the historic Republican reverse Robin Hood ethic: Taking from the poor to give to the rich.


  3. The "Me Generation" doesn't "pay it forward". Everything their parents accomplished are all but gone or in complete tatters.

  4. Thanks, Eugene. Good to hear from you, as always.

    In using "neo," I was thinking back a few decades when Congressional Rs weren't so uniformly awful. Dirksen, Javits, Rockefeller... Back when the parties talked to each other and understand the need for and value of compromise. Back when they'd tell a lying "president" to resign or be impeached.

  5. I am always "nice" except when I have to deal with insurance companies. I always feel like I am being watched by the shareholder of the big "I" . My prayers and thoughts go out to you and your family. Sometimes it's better to just 'go out'...die quickly and do no harm. I hope he is not suffering (a foolish idea). Life is all about suffering. We would not be human beings if we did not suffer. Turns out I have a very rare form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy... an apical variety (we used to call it LVH). Well now they can treat it surgically, so I am going to Mayo Clinic in about one week to have my chest cut open again. The prognosis is fairly good, mortality less than 1% unless I am in the 1%. So far I have never qualified for that, certainly not economically. Maintaining my sense of humor. Turned 76 (seems like just overnight) Seems as though I have had many near-death illnesses, but have fooled the 'grim reaper". Life is different after Sharon fell down the stairs 3 yrs ago and had a subarachnoid hemorrhage with blood coming out of her ears, puddling on the sidewalk. She stopped breathing in the ambulance, and they intubated her. When I got to the ICU first thing I told them as she did not want that. My son Sam (with CF) who is now age 29 watched with me while they extubated her. We held her hand as she stopped breathing, it took about an hour or so. She had a number of bad breaks, a son with cystic fibrosis, a bowel obstruction with sepsis, a wrist fracture with non-healing and complex pain syndrome followed by opioid dependence. Mind you I am not complaining, just amazed at what can happen when you plan and plan and life happens. I miss operating and ophthalmology. It is a great specialty and I was around for all the big breakthroughs. Now the big Lebowski is diabetic retinopathy and the anti-VEGF biologics that stop neovascular retinopathy, thanks to a guy named Volkman who I believe discovered it treating tumors. My best wishes to you and your lovely lady. I wish you a swift simultaneous death holding hands smiling at each other. I was hoping for that ending with the dear deceased love of my life. I will continue to read your "stuff" . Regards,

  6. Wow, Gary.

    Wish you well at Mayo. A fellow trainee went to Boston for a fellowship with Judah Folkmann, to whom you referred. Change has been happening fast in the past few decades. Pretty much nothing is the same as it was when we trained, and I'm only a year behind you.

  7. I'm so sorry about your brother's accident and lengthy recovery period. I'm sure he was grateful to have your visit and you were heartened by seeing him and speaking with him. I hope he is soon-enough relieved of most of his pain and surrounded always by those who love him.


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