Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Friday, October 28, 2011

Heads Up, Y'all

OK, I guess it is time to provide some sort of an update on happenings around us.
Don't know if I have mentioned this before, but I have been having problems with my left eye since shortly after we moved to Costa Rica. First, and this has been ongoing, I experienced a sensation of having something in my eye, like an eyelash. Nothing helped to alleviate this, and I tried everything I could think of – eye wash with a Boric acid solution, eye drops, and went to see an ophthalmologist in Liberia, who was recommended as the best in the entire province of Guanacaste.
He was not cheap, he did do a pretty thorough exam, but he said he could not find anything other than maybe the tear duct was clogged and inflamed. He said he cleared it, and he gave me eye drops, mostly steroids. I returned to see him, and all he offered was that maybe I had some sort of allergy, and he thought I should see an allergist, in San Jose.
I asked the doctor at our local clinic (the Caja) for a referral, and he gave me one. I ended up seeing the same specialist that I had seen as a private patient, and he had nothing better to offer me. He did prescribe some allergy drops (Patanol), but the Caja pharmacy hardly ever stocked it, and it was too costly to buy on my own (the one time I bought a little vial of this stuff it cost something like $64.00). Meanwhile, I have noticed over time that my vision in the left eye has deteriorated, to the point where I can no longer read, even with reading glasses.
Finally, I got the name of another specialist, this time in San Carlos, and saw this guy (a Dr. Vega) a week ago last Friday. He said that I have a corneal tear (not a good thing to have, but it explains that sensation of always having something in the eye) and also said that my diminished vision is due to a cataract.
Now, I can accept the possibility of a corneal tear, mostly because (after he mentioned it as a diagnosis) I do seem to remember the symptoms of this condition do seem a lot like what I have experienced. Regarding the possibility of a cataract, however, I have trouble accepting that as a possible diagnosis, because all I have noticed is diminished visual acuity, and no limiting of the visual field that I thought was the classic and most prominent feature of a cataract.
The doctor in San Carlos wrote me a detailed referral to see another specialist, in San Jose, and estimated that it should cost less than two million colones (about four thousand dollars in real money) for the two separate surgeries that he thinks I need. Of course that does not include the cost of travel to and from San Jose, and who knows what other expenses might arise.
So, I have concluded that I need to see a doctor in the states, especially since I am paying for Medicare already. I have therefore made reservations to go to Texas in early November, after making some calls to various doctors' offices and to Medicare. I have no idea how much time might be needed, but am giving myself two months to take care of this. I can only hope this will be adequate. Any questions, give me a holler, and I'll try to keep things up to date here, and on Facebook (for my faithful Facebook friends and followers).
Meanwhile, Blanca is still in Texas since she took the grandkids back in August, so she will just wait for me, and then we'll return home in early January.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Taking Care..............

"We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to none in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it."  -- Dave Barry

Why is everyone so upset about this issue regarding Ron Paul’s attempt to say that it is not the job of government to provide free health care for all?  Where have all these people been since forever?  And, why do people make statements like this:  “My (brother, sister, husband, friend, relative, or whatever) died because he/she/they did not have insurance…..”?  A lack of insurance is NOT going to kill anyone.  I’m sorry, but it just ain’t gonna happen!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do agree that a certain amount of government involvement in health care is a good idea, and the thought of truly universal access to health care is a very attractive, albeit lofty, ideal.  However, all you have to do is look at those nations that have attempted to achieve this, and/or are attempting to do so right now, and you might get an inkling of just what is entailed in pursuit of such a lofty goal.
First, do not throw the Constitution, the Bill Of Rights, or even the Declaration of Independence at me.  They do NOT address this issue.  Never did.  Second, remember the world of the folks who wrote those venerable documents.  Did any government, anywhere have any thoughts of addressing this issue?  No, I don’t think so.  It was indeed the responsibility of the individual, the family, and the community to care for those who needed it.  The only thought given to such an idea was to simply put it under the general heading of charity, and go on about other things.  Granted, a big part of this is simply that people didn’t generally live all that long, anyway, and when they sickened, they usually got better on their own, or died.  It was as simple as that.
Some of the people who might have needed assistance from their family or their community would have included widows, orphans, and those too ill or infirm (such as the aged) to work and support themselves.  There was no welfare office, no food stamp program, and no such thing as Medicaid.
Jump forward to the Twentieth Century.  By that time, government had grown (oh, how it had grown), and had indeed assumed too many of those responsibilities that rightfully should still belong to families, first, then the community at large (sans government entities).  This is part of what makes a nation strong, having a solid family support system.  We all know that, and we all acknowledge that.  Apparently, this has led to too many people who now believe that it is the government’s job to care for them, from cradle to grave.  That is not the way to build a strong nation, folks.  It might well lead to some kind of Orwellian horror, or even to a “Brave New World,” but those are not necessarily such good ideas!
Now, I grew up in the 50’s.  We did have some limited food programs, if you will, in the form of a county agency that dispensed surplus foods.  I recall peanut butter, butter, canned chicken, flour, generally items that would be considered to be mostly staples, and they were packaged in very generic containers.  And, I know that there were such governmental entities as County Health Departments that did things like give us our Polio Vaccination, when it was first developed and made available.*  When someone needed healthcare, first line of defense (and, offense, as well) was mom’s home remedies, that she had learned from her mom.  Then, in a small town, as a last resort, the ill person might be taken to the local doc, and he would be begged to provide some relief.  He was paid if possible, when possible, with whatever of value the people could scrape together.
Larger communities built county hospitals, supported by the tax payers, and yes, this is government involvement in health care.  As far as I know this system still exists in most cities across the nation.  People who are ill, and who do not have a doctor, or the means to pay a doctor, go to the county hospital!  So, where have we got this demand, and this belief that medical care is not available for those who can’t afford it?  Beyond the fact that these community hospitals do exist, and do provide care, we have organizations across the country such as the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, MDA, etc., etc., and on and on.  Those organizations do assist those who cannot pay in seeking appropriate care and treatment!
Very recently, I have seen a video online where a lady reports that her brother died of cancer because he was unemployed and did not have insurance, and she thinks Ron Paul and those others up on that stage with him, are just terrible, cruel, heartless people.  It makes me want to scream.  So what if he had no insurance?  So what if he was unemployed?  How did he let himself get into a position where he was not prepared to seek alternative employment when he lost his last job?  I know that I changed direction more than once during my career, changing jobs (because I got fired) at the age of 56 (older than her brother, by the way), then, again, at 58, and finally, accepting (I was actually recruited for this) my last job at the age of 57.  I then decided to retire at 62 mostly because I was laid off from that last job.  Ultimately, who is to blame for this lady’s brother not being prepared to go out into a new field at 55?  Not me, and certainly not the government!
I know people who were in their fifties at the time that they went to work as clerks in convenience stores after long careers in fields like IT.  My point is that I am well aware that it is hard to find work after about 50 years of age, but there is work out there, if one is willing to consider some alternatives to what one might have been accustomed to doing.  And, it is certainly not the government’s fault if a person lacked the education to pursue other avenues.  Keep in mind that very often, those people who took jobs like this still had no insurance, but they did know that if they were ill, there were free clinics, and there was the county hospital system where they could seek care.  There are always alternatives, and there is always a solution, so please don’t just blame the government, or worse, demand that the government take care of you, unless you’re also able to remember just who the government is!  (Hint:  We are the government.  Remember Junior High Civics?)
So, frankly, imho, Wolf Blitzer asked a loaded question deliberately, and phrased it in such a way as to throw it into the same category as that old one about, “do you still beat your wife?”  And, of course, the others on that stage said nothing, and that is because – even though they are Republicans, with whom I personally disagree – they are right.
Speaking as a Nurse, who has more than thirty years experience, I must say that there is another, and very significant, element important to proper health care.  That element rests with each and every one of us.  Whoever we are, whatever our health, whatever our socio-economic status, we must assume at least fifty per cent of the responsibility for our own care.  I mean that we must do what the doctor tells us to do.  We must share all pertinent medical information with the doctor and his/her staff.  We must strive to do at least minimal things to maintain a healthy condition, such as practice moderation, try to get exercise, try to eat sensibly, and so forth.  I say this because too many times I’ve seen too many people who want to blame the caregiver for a worsening of their condition when it was the patient himself who failed to do what he/she knew to do.
Lest I overlook another factor here, be advised that I am not a supporter of Ron Paul, or any other member of the GOP.  I support the President, first because he is the President, but also because I believe he wants to, and is trying to do the right thing.  My opinions, as expressed herein are strictly my opinions, and are not meant to suggest that they are a reflection of the views of anyone else, no matter what political stripe decorates their back.  I like to think that this is a logical position to take, and that it has nothing to do with politics, because ultimately our health is our responsibility, and caring for it should not require any assistance, interference, or direction from any government.

* County Health Departments did a lot more than that, and I know because I worked in Public Health for ten years, but their accomplishments are not my topic right now.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who Is In Charge Here, Anyway?

"There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity." - - Robertson Davies

I was taught as a child that America was founded on a principle that while we’re all equal, we should, as a nation, always strive to do what is best for the majority of the people.  What was the phrase?  Something about “we must do the most good for the most people……..”?  That means, we do not force the majority to do a thing for the benefit of any small minority – ever!  Doesn’t anybody remember this phrase:  “Majority rules!”???  This was, of course, with the understanding that the Constitution does protect the basic rights of any minority at the same time.
So now, someone please tell me why have we allowed ourselves to be taken hostage by all these splinter groups, these minorities of ‘Mothers of left-handed, spastic mutes,” and other wacko idealists?  Why is it that we have allowed the Constitution to be so twisted that it no longer supports the ‘most good for the most people,’ but instead is now interpreted to mean the majority should now acquiesce to every demand made upon it by whatever minority screams and cries the loudest?  Worse, we pay for this with our tax dollars!  (Well, those tax dollars that are not being tossed away on yet another stupid war).
Here’s a revelation for ya:  The ADA is a very bad law.  There, I said it.  Why is it a bad law?  For one thing, it hurt a lot of businesses, especially small ones.  I recall a number of small businesses that had to shut down because they could not afford to provide wheelchair ramps, or rails and other fixtures at their entrances, or in their bathrooms, or even to set aside handicapped parking.  For another, it diverted a lot of tax dollars from being able to help a majority of people with real and pressing needs (you know, like hungry people, homeless people, people with mental illness, and like that; but those are no biggies, right?), to catering to the needs of a very small minority.  That is, frankly, un-American, and just plain dumb.
I also recall - vividly - working in a facility that had to install all the handicapped-access gewgaws, only to see them never get used.  Ever!  And, this was a Public Health Clinic!  And, when was the last time you saw a truly handicapped person park in any handicapped spot, anywhere?  For that matter, how often do you drive into a parking lot, and marvel at all the empty spaces right up close to the entrance of Wally World, or the Mall, because apparently all those handicapped folks for whom these spaces were created do not appreciate the effort that has gone into this convenience, or maybe they are staying close to home, because they can’t find a decent paying job (much like everybody else in this economy).  Or, you go into the public bathroom in a restaurant or a movie, or even a store, only to find that there is always one stall empty.  And, that is the handicapped one, right?  This whole sorry scenario is a perfect example of the majority having to give way to a minority.
Take a look at public education.  It has dumbed down over the last thirty or forty years, in response to demands by minorities of every stripe.  You have to provide ‘special education’ programs for every individual who is not quite up to average physically or mentally.  Why?  Who is really helped by these programs, and who is harmed?  As for who is helped, I’ll tell you, in one compound word:  nobody!  Who has been harmed?  All of us, since our young people can no longer compete on any level internationally.  As a result of the dumbing of America, we no longer produce well-educated anything.  It may be true that our young people are perfectly prepared for the world we are leaving them (a world where we no longer make anything except hamburgers) - a world where we no longer provide much of anything of value.  A world where they won’t have to think for themselves, because we are passing along that need, along with our ability to do so, with every new law that takes from the majority and gives to the minority.
This is wrong, and if someone does not realize this, and begin to take steps to reverse this process, you can kiss goodbye any expectation that the U. S. can hope to be a leader in any area.  We may well continue to be a world leader, but we will only lead in the lowest achievement scores, as we become a quiet backwater nation peopled by sheep, who will be little more than a mat for the rest of the world to wipe its collective feet on.
Speaking of education, I remember when a grade of ‘C’ was considered to be average, and an easy acceptance that – at the end of the day – most of us are indeed just that – average.  And, you know what?  There is nothing wrong with being average!  (That makes us, after all, a part of the majority of the people on the face of this earth!)  Sure, we can all strive to do our best, and try to achieve beyond our abilities.  But, that doesn’t mean everyone who makes the effort should automatically be granted some sort of special dispensation just because they made the effort.  That means that those who actually reached that goal, those who demonstrated that they are above average, should receive a better mark for not only their effort, but for their achievement!  (btw, in other words, a ‘B’ was considered to be a good grade).
To further illustrate what I’m talking about here, below is the Mission Statement of a school District where I once worked as a school nurse.  The district in question is the Ysleta Independent School District, located in El Paso, Texas.  They adopted this absurd statement back about ten years ago:
All students who enroll in our schools will graduate from high school, fluent in two or more languages, prepared and inspired to continue their education in a four year college, university or institution of higher education so that they become successful citizens in their community.
When they started flaunting this line of crap I was, to say the least, flabbergasted, amazed, dumbfounded, and left pretty much speechless.  I am over the speechless part by now, however.  What kind of insanity is this?  How can anyone propose that they can take a group of kids, from all walks of life, with all kinds of socio-economic, not to mention cultural differences, and accomplish such a lofty goal?!  They should have skipped all that folderol, and just settled for “successful citizens in their community,” for crying out loud!
Read my lips:  NOT everyone is average!  One minority of us is above average!  Another minority is below average!  That is life, people!  You cannot change reality, no matter what you smoked back in the 60’s!  Not everyone can graduate from high school, and we all know that.  Not everyone can learn a second language, and we all know that!  As for everyone going on to higher education, fahgeddaboudit!  Ain’t gonna happen!  Can’t happen in the real world no way, no how!  Or, to put it more simply:  You can’t fix stupid!  (OK, it is also more expensive than ever to afford a college education, so that lets a whole lot of people out, without even considering their intellectual capacity for higher education).
What’s worse, I distinctly recall, at that very same YISD, there was either a written or tacit policy that said all students were to achieve passing grades of 80 % or higher in all subjects!  No such thing as pass or fail.  There was no room for failure, even for those dummies who always do, and we all know there are more than one or two of them in any given group of students!  That was a totally unreasonable expectation!
What’s worse, what we have achieved is to cheapen the efforts of those few who are exceptionally gifted, those few who can and do better than the rest of us.  How can they avoid adopting an attitude of “why try to do well, if that dummy over there is going to get a mark nearly as good as mine, and he/she won’t even have to try to earn it?”  Doesn’t anybody remember when grades in school were earned?
I have preached along these lines before:  maybe, just maybe, progress is not always achieved by changing everything that we do, and the way in which we do everything.  Maybe progress should be measured by a demonstration that we can continue to produce a certain percentage of overachievers, while overall consistently producing a good crop of average achievers.  You know, that sort of status quo worked for several generations, long enough for us to show the world what a real leader is and can be.  But, someone started messing with our system, back in the 70’s and 80’s, and now, we are not a world leader, nor are we showing the rest of the world our heels, because they are overtaking us, easily.  And, guess what?  Those other countries are not necessarily using totally new methods, but some of those same methods that used to work for us.
And, now we come back to another growing minority, one that wouldn’t even exist if not for certain exceptional folks having done some exceptional things.  This is not an easy pill for some folks to swallow, but here it is:  Due to major advances in scientific research and Medicine, people are living longer overall, and, at the same time, there are fewer birth defects, and many crippling diseases have been effectively eradicated.  Because of the lower percentage of birth defects and the eradication of so many childhood diseases, we now have fewer crippled children growing up in our midst.  However, also due to advances in Medicine and Science, we also now have babies born prematurely who survive where a short fifty years ago, they would not have had much chance for survival.  Unfortunately, a portion of those who survive their premature births are left with crippling conditions.  So, we have a two-edged sword at work here.
Our very advances have created a new class, if you will, of handicapped people, and a new and slightly different minority.  I remember going to school with kids who had contracted Polio, and this left them with different levels of physical handicap.  But, today, for those who are paying attention, you will not see many mildly handicapped kids, but kids who are in need of special equipment, like motorized wheelchairs, and computerized vocoder devices that speak for them.  And, just in case you think I’ve overlooked another phenomenon of scientific progress, let me acknowledge that today we also have significant numbers of kids growing up with conditions that did not even exist a few short generations ago.  I’m talking about kids with severe allergies (in part to things that did not exist a few short generations ago) and food sensitivities (celiac disease, et al).  Some of these kids would not have survived infancy, let alone childhood, just a few generations ago. 
A significant adjustment in the world around them has been made, and is being made, for this minority.  And, a lot of that adjustment is being made under new laws that did not exist fifty years ago, and at tax payer expense.  I am not offering any specific conclusion beyond this simple observation:  that this minority does exist, and that their existence is impacting what others (who outnumber them) have to do to accommodate them.
So, where are we headed?  All I can offer is this thought.  So many things in the world seem to occur like the movement of a pendulum.  Super strict morals swings to rather liberal morals, or attitudes towards science or religion swing from acceptance to rejection, in patterns, much like the swing of a pendulum.  Maybe this current trend of the majority catering to minorities, like the sickening demands for political correctness, will gradually swing back the other way, and the majority can once again resume their role in leadership while worrying less about how they speak to that role.