healthcare, rants

A stupid hill to die on…

I’ve been thinking about my health lately, and not just because of COVID-19. That stomach bug I had two weeks ago has left some lingering effects. Sorry if this is too much information for the delicate among you, but I have been suffering from what I think is “post-infectious IBS“. Ever since I kicked the acute version of whatever made me sick two weeks ago, I’ve been dealing with, shall we say, mixed bowel habits, especially in the morning. Since mornings are when I tend to do most of my stuff for the day, this new development is cramping my style somewhat. As I write this, I feel vaguely queasy, and I’ve had diarrhea and constipation. It’s not the greatest way to start the day, although one positive to this development is that I don’t want to eat very much. Maybe I’ll finally lose some weight.

Up until two weeks ago, I’ve had the good fortune of being pretty healthy, in spite of my decadent lifestyle. I haven’t had a cold or the flu in ages (knock on wood). I didn’t even feel sick after I got vaccinated against COVID-19. I just had a sore arm for a day or so after the first shot. After the second shot, I didn’t even have that.

I understand not everyone has been as lucky as I’ve been. In fact, I realize that some people really suffered after they got vaccinated. Still, I don’t understand why so many people are still refusing to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. It seems to me like a pretty stupid hill to die on.

This morning, I read two stories about people who are refusing to get vaccinated. One person gave up her job as an anchorwoman on a morning television show in Mississippi. Another is allowing herself to be marked inactive as a candidate for a lifesaving kidney transplant. Both she, and her living donor, are refusing to be vaccinated against a deadly virus that has killed millions of people worldwide.

I’ve written before that, generally speaking, I do have empathy for people who want to make their own medical decisions. I also understand that there are people who can’t get a vaccine for health reasons. Some people also cite religious reasons why they won’t get the shot(s)– personally, I think religious reasons for avoiding vaccines are pretty bogus. Let me make it clear that I’m not for forcing people to get shots. However, I am in favor of private businesses being allowed to make decisions based on whether or not people get vaccinated, particularly against diseases that are highly communicable and have killed so many people.

The Mississippi anchorwoman, name of Meggan Gray, is 40 years old and has co-hosted “Good Morning Mississippi” on WLOX for the past 14 years. Her former employer, Gray Television, mandated that employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1. Gray decided not to comply with the directive. So she was forced to resign her position. She claims she had made an “informed and prayerful decision” not to get the vaccine. In a public Facebook post on her page, she wrote:

Before GrayTV mandated this vaccination policy, I made an informed and prayerful decision not to get the vaccine, mostly because I had already survived a case of COVID-19. (There are other, more powerful reasons that led to my personal decision.) I know there will be people who disagree with me or do not understand my reasons. That is fully understood because that is a protected right they enjoy. Moreover, it is a personal decision for each American; but in my opinion, a forced decision to decide between a vaccination and the livelihood of an individual is a dangerous precedent.

Unfortunately, because of my decision about vaccination, I faced termination. The decision was difficult because I knew it would impact me and my family. My choices were either I follow the mandate and get vaccinated, or I lose my career at WLOX.

Gray writes that she offered to be tested weekly (which wouldn’t have been often enough). Her request was denied, and rightfully so. Yes, it’s true that vaccinated people can still get and spread COVID-19, but the evidence is very clear that vaccinated people are much less likely to get and spread the disease. I fully support Gray’s decision not to get vaccinated. But I also support her former employer’s decision to terminate her for not complying with a company policy designed to keep everyone safe from a deadly communicable disease.

There are plenty of people out there who are willing to abide by the company’s policies and can do Meggan Gray’s job. I’m sure there are people who enjoy Gray’s work as an anchorwoman, but they can get used to someone else. Television is a pretty competitive field. I’m certain there are many people who would love the opportunity to launch a career at WLOX, although maybe some of them would rather avoid living in Mississippi. I’ve got nothing against the state myself, but I can see why some would rather not go there.

Moreover, Mississippi is an “at will” employment state. That means that a person can be fired from a job for any reason that is non-discriminatory. I’m not sure, but I don’t think COVID-19 vaccination hold outs are in a protected class of people who can claim discrimination when they are dismissed for non-compliance of company policy regarding vaccinations. I would think that someone who “prayerfully” considered not getting the vaccine would understand a private business’s right to enforce health policies. Besides, God helps those who help themselves.

I’m sorry that Meggan Gray has chosen this hill to die on. I hope she doesn’t literally die because she’s made this choice. I especially hope her decision doesn’t kill someone else, and no one ends up begging for the shot as they lie in an intensive care unit, gasping for breath. I wish her luck with her career. Maybe Fox News will hire her. Or maybe she can start a YouTube channel. I know some people are cheering on her decision not to be vaccinated. Personally, I think people who are refusing to be vaccinated are short on sense. But maybe that’s because I have a master’s degree in public health.

As for the lady in Colorado who is being denied a kidney transplant… I don’t know where she’s been, but people who need organ transplants are routinely required to abide by conditions before they can get someone else’s healthy organ(s) transplanted. They typically have to agree not to smoke or drink alcohol. They have to agree to take powerful immunosuppressant drugs and yes, be vaccinated against diseases– not just COVID-19, but other diseases, too, like hepatitis and measles, mumps, and rubella. These are standard protocols for transplant surgeries; they are nothing new.

I don’t have any personal experience with organ transplantation, but I have done some reading about the experience. In one book I read, Sick Girl, by Amy SIlverstein, the author explained that getting a transplant is basically like trading one health problem for another. She wrote that she constantly suffered from sinus infections and colds because she had to keep her immune system weakened. Otherwise, it would attack her donated heart and she would die.

Leilani Lutali needs a donated kidney. She and her living donor have chosen not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 “for religious reasons”. Lutali claims that she’s “uncomfortable” taking the vaccine, and worries how it will affect her health. She stated, “I’m being coerced into making a decision that is one I’m not comfortable making right now in order to live…” She cares enough about staying alive to accept a donated organ, and her religion doesn’t forbid organ transplants. But somehow, her religion forbids vaccines? That sounds like bullshit to me. But if her faith in a God is so strong, then maybe God will perform a miracle and she won’t need that kidney after all.

I want to ask Lutali… why in the hell did she consult physicians for help with her kidneys if she knows more than they do? I get being an expert on the experience of living in one’s own body, but why go to a doctor for cutting edge medical care if she doesn’t trust their opinions about how to prepare for a transplant? She’s concerned about how the vaccine will affect her health in the long run? If she doesn’t get a transplant soon, this will not be a concern for her anymore. She will die, and health will be a thing of the past for her.

Aside from putting herself and the success of her operation at risk, Lutali will also be putting hospital staff and other patients at risk by not being vaccinated. For some reason, these folks who know more than medical and public health professionals have missed the memo that COVID-19 is extremely contagious. Hospitals, for all of their lifesaving capabilities, are chock full of organisms originating from sick people.

Hospitals are not actually good places for sick people to be, because sick people are there, and they spread diseases. That’s why people who go to the hospital for a simple surgery sometimes end up contracting nosocomial infections or iatrogenic illnesses. COVID-19 spreads like wildfire, and people in hospitals are already vulnerable. What right do Leilani Lutali and her donor have, putting other vulnerable people at risk?

I wish Lutali luck with her quest to find physicians and a hospital that will grant her a kidney transplant without the vaccine. I hope if she finds them, she tells us who the surgeon(s) are and where they practice medicine. That way, people can make an informed decision to avoid seeking treatment from them.

Most of the time, I really do support people’s rights to make their own decisions regarding medical treatment and healthcare. I do support privacy policies, too. But COVID-19 is a different matter. It’s killing people all over the world, and it’s a nasty way to die. The vaccinations have been tested and are safe and effective. They have been shown to reduce hospitalizations and the severity of illnesses. Every single vaccine that was ever made was once “new”, but as each day passes, these vaccines become less new.

At this writing, millions of people have been safely vaccinated against COVID-19. Hospital wards are not full of vaccinated people; they are full of unvaccinated people. And those people are preventing people with other health problems from getting the lifesaving care they need. That’s not right or fair.

I’m afraid vaccine mandates are here to stay. People better get used to them.

Don’t want to get the vaccine? That’s your right– for now, at least. But there are consequences for those kinds of choices. You should be prepared to live, or die, by your decision. You’ll probably be dying alone, too, because that’s often what happens when someone gets COVID-19 and it’s bad enough to kill them. I hope these ladies wake up soon.

In other– good– health news– Arran’s pathology report came back. The crusty growths he had removed last week are benign! So that’s one reason to smile today.

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healthcare, law

One brave Texas physician has already defied the new abortion ban…

The featured photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, where Bill and I lived before we moved back to Germany, and where our absentee ballot votes go when it’s election time.

Abortion is probably the last thing I want to write about today. That’s why I reposted four book reviews. Trust me… this is a topic I’m getting really tired of revisiting over and over again. I feel like this issue should have been settled about fifty years ago. But it’s hot news right now, and too many people seem to think it’s right to deny women this basic right to determine what happens to their own bodies. So here I am, writing about this again…

Actually, today’s post may be a bit more upbeat than outraged. One of the first news items I read this morning was in the Washington Post. It was about San Antonio based OB-GYN Dr. Alan Braid, who wrote an op-ed about how, on September 6, 2021, he violated Texas’s new abortion ban law. A woman received an abortion from him. Although she was still in her first trimester, she was further along in the pregnancy than six weeks. According to the article:

“I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly,” Alan Braid, a San Antonio OB/GYN, said in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. . . . I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

As I read that part of the article, all I could think of was– wow… what a BRAVE man. This is a man who cares about women and women’s health. He’s put himself at great risk. I would say that not only is his career at risk, but his very life could be at risk. He practices medicine in a state where just about anyone is allowed to carry a gun, and there are many religious nuts running amok.

I had to read Dr. Braid’s op-ed for myself, so I clicked the link in the article I read about it. In his opinion piece, Dr. Braid explains that he started practicing medicine on July 1, 1972. I was eleven days old on the day Dr. Braid began taking care of women’s health. I will be 50 on my next birthday. This is a man who has been in his field for a LONG time, and has seen and done a lot.

Dr. Braid graduated from the University of Texas medical school, and during his time as a med student, he was taught that abortions are an “integral part” of women’s health care. However, when he began practicing, abortions were effectively outlawed. It was only legal for a pregnant woman to get one if a psychiatrist certified that she was suicidal. I find that limitation curious, given that some women have medical issues that would also call for terminating a pregnancy for the sake of her health.

In those days, if a woman wanted an abortion, Dr. Braid would advise her to travel to a state where abortion was legal– California, New York, or Colorado. Some would go over the border to Mexico, which incidentally just recently decriminalized abortion. That’s interesting, isn’t it? It used to be, people from Mexico would come to the United States for medical care; but now, thanks to the extremely high prices of medical care and ridiculous laws such as Texas’s S.B. 8, Mexico may soon see more American women coming into the country for medical care.

As of September 1, 2021, Dr. Braid found himself in a similar situation that he faced in 1972. A 42 year old woman came to see him. She was pregnant, though she already had four children, three of whom were under age 12. Dr. Braid told her she should go to Oklahoma, a nine hour trip one way. He even told her he could help with the funding. The woman said, “Who’s going to take care of my kids? What about my job? I can’t miss work.”

Dr. Braid wrote:

Though we never ask why someone has come to our clinic, they often tell us. They’re finishing school or they already have three children, they’re in an abusive relationship, or it’s just not time. A majority are mothers. Most are between 18 and 30. Many are struggling financially — more than half qualify for some form of financial aid from us.

Several times a month, a woman confides that she is having the abortion because she has been raped. Sometimes, she reports it to the police; more often, she doesn’t.

Texas’s new law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

And I have noticed that Texas is also doing nothing to help pregnant women, either. I have not read or heard of any child or family friendly policies being put into place to help pregnant women get the care they need. I have not heard for a push for better sex education or making contraception widely available, easily affordable, and accessible to everyone. I have heard a lot of slut shaming, though.

Yesterday, I read another article about this new law. The focus was on Johnathan Mitchell, the main architect of this legislation that violates women’s self-determination and privacy. Mr. Mitchell is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, a very conservative Christian school. I knew about it before I heard about Mitchell, since I once worked with a guy who attended there. It was back in the 1990s. I remember my co-worker was very smart, even though he was selling ice cream at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was also VERY Christian. Anyway, I digress… except to say that I know Wheaton College is a prestigious, selective school, but it’s also a school for Christians.

Mr. Mitchell wrote, in a brief for the Supreme Court:

“Women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion; they can do so by refraining from sexual intercourse… One can imagine a scenario in which a woman has chosen to engage in unprotected (or insufficiently protected) sexual intercourse on the assumption that an abortion will be available to her later. But when this court announces the overruling of Roe, that individual can simply change their behavior in response to the court’s decision if she no longer wants to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.”

Based on this comment, I’m assuming that Mitchell doesn’t believe that women can get pregnant as a result of rape and incest. I’m guessing he’s akin to Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who famously said “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Did either of these two men ever take a biology class? Have either or them ever studied sex education? Sure, women sometimes get pregnant because they, or their partners, or both parties were “careless”. But not all sexual intercourse is consensual and, in spite of what these men seem to believe, sometimes women DO end up pregnant afterwards.

Aside from that, sometimes pregnancy makes women very sick. Sometimes it even threatens their lives. I don’t understand why, in the age of healthcare privacy laws such as HIPAA, a woman should have to justify her need or desire for an abortion to anyone. But I haven’t heard or seen any provisions in the new Texas law that allows for that scenario, either. Instead, the law encourages neighbors to spy on each other and file lawsuits in healthcare situations that absolutely none of their business. What makes this law even more sickening is the fact that the people might theoretically sue haven’t suffered a personal loss due to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. But, by suing, they may stand to gain a financial incentive, which seems very unethical to me.

I will admit, however, that Mr. Mitchell is certainly correct that a woman can “refrain” (I hate that word) from having sexual intercourse. And, quite frankly, it would serve the men of Texas right if women went on a sex strike and denied them that pleasure. In fact, I hope Mitchell isn’t having sex and never does again. If I were his wife, I would certainly keep my legs closed around him. He should be deeply ashamed of himself.

In another article I read about this issue, author Chavi Eve Karkowsky writes:

“Every week, I see examples of morally necessary pregnancy terminations that, under the Texas law, could put doctors in legal jeopardy. In one case, a 14-year-old with brain damage had been raped by a caregiver. In another, my diagnostic ultrasound 15 weeks into a patient’s pregnancy showed that her fetus had developed an empty space where a brain should be and would not survive more than a few hours past birth. In another case, a patient, whose heart had become weak during her previous pregnancy and had never fully recovered, sought an abortion so she could live to care for her toddler.”

Can you even imagine? Can you fathom being a woman in any of those situations? Or a doctor? It’s sickening.

I totally get that many people find abortion distasteful and morally wrong. I find it distasteful, too. It’s probably not a choice I would make for myself, but I can’t say I would never make it. Because there are situations when it really is the right thing to do. I am lucky enough to be in a situation in which I could go elsewhere for an abortion if I needed one. I am also at a point in my life at which I won’t be affected by potential pregnancies.

However, this new law does open up a Pandora’s Box that could affect other people besides women of childbearing age. Who’s to say that, based on this precedent, lawmakers don’t try to screw with people’s healthcare privacy in other areas? What if a law was designed to deny vasectomies to men? What if we incentivized private citizens into reporting on the men who want vasectomies by offering a $10,000 bounty? That’s just one example off the top of my head. The same theory could easily extend into other controversial areas… say, gender reassignment therapy, or marijuana use, or euthanasia… I’m sure I could think of more if I tried.

Anyway, my hat is off to Dr. Alan Braid. I think he’s a hero. This may be one of the most lifesaving actions he’s ever taken in his entire medical career. I know he’s a good man. I knew it when I read this comment from him:

I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

What a dedicated, brave, inspirational, kind, and excellent doctor Dr. Alan Braid is. He deserves all of the respect and all of the support that is coming to him.

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healthcare, law

The latest from the COVID-19 wingnut files…

Regular readers may notice that I’ve recently reposted a bunch of old blog posts. I mostly try to keep the reposts to things like book reviews, because I know that book reviews can be useful long after they’re originally written. I’ve also been reposting other items that I think are worth reading from my original blog. Moving away from the Blogspot platform has been difficult in some ways, mainly because there’s a lot of material there that I genuinely think is good stuff. Of course, there’s also a lot of stuff that isn’t so good. So that’s part of the reason for the many reposts.

But there’s another reason why I’ve been reposting so much old material. It’s partly because nowadays, so much of what I could be writing about involves one of a few subjects dominating the news right now– rightwing politics (Trump, in particular), abortion (especially in Texas), and COVID-19. Let me just say, I am so TIRED of COVID-19. I’m tired of thinking about it, and I’m tired of writing about it. I’m sure that many people are tired of reading about it. It’s a depressing subject.

And yet, I continue to be amazed by some of the crazy news the pandemic has spawned. Last night, just before I went to sleep, I read an article about Angela Underwood, a registered nurse in Kentucky, whose husband is dying of COVID-19. Underwood’s husband Lonnie, is 58 years old, and is currently in the intensive care unit at Norton Brownsboro Hospital in Louisville.

For some reason, Ms. Underwood thinks she knows more than the actual physicians who are treating her husband. She sued the hospital because the healthcare providers in charge of her husband’s care have allegedly refused to administer ivermectin to her husband. Writes Nurse Underwood in her complaint, filed last week:

“As a Registered Nurse, I demand my husband be administered ivermectin whether by a Norton physician or another healthcare provider of my choosing including myself if necessary,”

Underwood also stated, “I am [Lonnie’s] healthcare advocate… The studies and research does show the effectiveness of the medication when given to those patients in the trial.”

Angela Underwood has asked the court to designate the unproven treatment as “medically indicated,” even though ivermectin is not actually recommended for treating or preventing COVID-19. I first heard of ivermectin when one of my dogs had heartworms, back in the late 1980s. Before COVID-19, I knew of ivermectin as primarily used for heartworm prevention and treatment in dogs, as well as a dewormer for horses and other animals. Yes, there are some medicinal uses for it in human beings, but not for treating COVID-19. In humans, it’s used for treating worm infestations, river blindness, rosacea, and head lice.

Unfortunately, just as some people were drinking bleach, taking hydrochloroquine, and ingesting fish tank cleaner last year, this year, there are many people who have bought into the erroneous idea that ivermectin is an effective treatment against COVID-19. But, it’s not. According to the Washington Post:

“[Ivermectin] hasn’t been proven to be effective [against COVID-19],” said Michael Saag, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “If I saw evidence that it worked, I would be one of the first to use it. But the truth is, there are no data that support its use.”

And Dr. Saag is not the only medical professional who says that ivermectin doesn’t work for COVID-19 and isn’t indicated. The idea that ivermectin might work against the virus caught on when Australian researchers noted that ivermectin killed the virus in laboratory settings. However, the amount of the drug needed to kill the virus was much higher than the safe dosage for humans. Moreover, lab settings aren’t the same as actual “real life” settings. If you click the link in this paragraph, you will be taken to a site that discusses the Australian research on ivermectin. But, you will notice that right there in black and white, it says:

  • Do NOT self-medicate with Ivermectin and do NOT use Ivermectin intended for animalsRead the FDA caution online.
  • Whilst shown to be effective in the lab environment, Ivermectin cannot be used in humans for COVID-19 until further testing and clinical trials have been completed to establish the effectiveness of the drug at levels safe for human dosing.
  • For any medical questions you have about your health, please consult your health care provider.
  • The potential use of Ivermectin to combat COVID-19 remains unproven, and depends on pre-clinical testing and clinical trials to progress the work.

Nevertheless, Angela Underwood and her ilk, in spite of having sought medical attention at hospitals for themselves and/or loved ones, apparently think they know better than physicians. And so, instead of following the care plan set up by the actual doctors treating her husband, Ms. Underwood wants to make medical decisions. Evidently, she thinks her nursing degree holds up to the medical school education her husband’s doctors have received. But even if Nurse Underwood actually had a degree in medicine, it wouldn’t be ethical or wise for her to treat her husband, anyway. She doesn’t have the appropriate professional detachment needed to treat her husband with objectivity.

Fortunately, Jefferson Circuit Judge Charles Cunningham has better sense than Nurse Underwood does. He’s issued a “scathing response” to Underwood’s lawsuit. According to the Washington Post:

“[the court] cannot require a hospital to literally take orders from someone who does not routinely issue such orders,” …[Cunningham] noted in his ruling how the Kentucky Supreme Court “only allows admission of scientific evidence based on sufficient facts or data.”

The judge continued:

“Unfortunately, the Internet has no such rule. It is rife with the ramblings of persons who spout ill-conceived conclusions if not out-right falsehoods… If Plaintiff wants to ask the Court to impose her definition of ‘medically indicated’ rather than the hospital’s, she needs to present the sworn testimony of solid witnesses, espousing solid opinions, based on solid data.”

In other words, Ms. Underwood is not a medical doctor. Neither is the judge. Trying to force Lonnie Underwood’s physicians to allow certain drugs to be administered is outside of Judge Cunningham’s area of expertise. And if, by chance, the off label use of ivermectin led to a bad outcome, isn’t it possible that Ms. Underwood might then sue for medical malpractice?

I congratulate the judge for rendering his wise decision. I wish all judges had that much sense as Judge Cunningham has. Sadly, some judges think they’re physicians, too.

Last month, in Ohio, a judge ordered a hospital to administer ivermectin to a patient with COVID-19, even though “the Food and Drug Administration has not approved ivermectin to treat or prevent covid-19 and has advised against that use amid spiking calls to poison centers after people took potent versions of the drug meant for livestock.”

Then, another Ohio judge reversed the first judge’s order. The second judge, like Judge Cunningham in Kentucky, realized that judges are not doctors. Moreover, human beings are not horses or dogs or cats… So, unless you have a parasitic infection or rosacea, it’s best to leave the ivermectin on the shelf. And don’t waste time and money on lawsuits, because again, judges and lawyers are experts in LAW, not medicine.

It’s become all too clear that not all legal professionals and lawmakers have the common sense and wisdom Judge Cunningham does. Yesterday’s fresh post was about the new abortion ban in Texas, and how it will probably lead to a lot of suffering and deaths. Why? BECAUSE THE MEN WHO MADE THE LAW ARE NOT MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS!!!!! Moreover, they lacked the foresight , wisdom, and care to seek advice and insight from people who practice medicine for a living and know about the scenarios that can arise in pregnancies that would necessitate abortion for medical reasons.

Lawmakers are the same people who tried to pass a law requiring that ectopic pregnancies be “re-implanted” in a woman’s uterus. They did this (as if a woman’s body is like a planter), even though it’s technologically IMPOSSIBLE to re-implant a tubal pregnancy, and ectopic pregnancies must always be terminated, at least at this point in time. Lawmakers and lawyers are not medical experts. But some of them simply don’t realize, or want to admit, that when it comes to medical matters, they need to stay in their lane!

Why go to a hospital for care if you’re not going to follow the advice of the medical experts there? I realize that there are situations in which it’s right for a patient to speak up. However, when it comes to treating and preventing COVID-19, I really don’t think that following wacky conspiracy theories spouted on Fox News or YouTube is the best course of action.

Angela Underwood did find a doctor in Indiana who was willing to prescribe ivermectin, but she claims the hospital would not allow him emergency privileges. But Cunningham, who was filling in for another judge who was more sympathetic to Underwood’s case, wrote “Frankly, even a doctor who was in the trenches in 2020 fighting hand-to-hand against the virus, is probably not up-to-date with what works and what fails in late 2021 because the virus has mutated and our responses and therapies have evolved with it.

Cunningham continued, regarding Underwood’s desire to find a hospital more willing to administer ivermectin, “This is impractical because it is likely that no such hospital in the United States, or certainly in this region, agrees with Plaintiff. Moreover, her husband’s medical circumstances may make such a transfer unjustifiably risky.

I truly do have a concept of wanting to try everything, especially when a loved one is sick and dying. I’m sure Ms. Underwood’s reasons for wanting to try ivermectin are borne out of concern and despair. But I also think it’s foolhardy to try to use horse dewormer to fight a deadly virus. I agree with Judge Cunningham’s wise decision wholeheartedly. I think it’s very astute.

According to the Washington Post, Angela Underwood’s husband, Lonnie, remains in the hospital and is fighting for his life. Thoughts and prayers for him… and hopefully, both of them will get vaccinated, if they haven’t been yet. So far, unlike ivermectin, the vaccines actually have been proven to work against preventing and lessening the severity of COVID-19.

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healthcare, law, politics

Texas is turning into Gilead…

Every day, I read another distressing headline about the craziness going on in the United States. At the top of today’s crazy headlines is the new law that went into effect in Texas yesterday. In their neverending quest to deny women the right to determine whether or not they want to be pregnant, lawmakers in Texas crafted a law that seems to have come straight out of East Germany in the 1970s.

At this writing, it is now illegal for a woman to get an abortion in Texas if she is more than six weeks pregnant. Most people don’t even know if they are pregnant at that point. This law basically outlaws abortion, since most abortions are done after six weeks gestation. What makes this new law even more sinister, though, is that it encourages neighbors to inform on each other. The Supreme Court, stacked with Trump era justices, has declined to intervene on this barbaric new law. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberal justices.

The law is unique, in that it puts enforcement on the population and is difficult to challenge in court. According to The New York Times:

Usually, a lawsuit seeking to block a law because it is unconstitutional would name state officials as defendants. However, the Texas law, which makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape, bars state officials from enforcing it and instead deputizes private individuals to sue anyone who performs the procedure or “aids and abets” it.

So basically, if your right wing nutjob neighbor Bubba gets wind that you’re pregnant and you get an abortion, Bubba can sue your doctor, the facility that performed the abortion, and anyone else who “aided and abetted” your abortion. I guess that means if you took an Uber or your mom gave you money for an airline ticket, your driver and your mom could be sued for “aiding and abetting” your abortion. Maybe Bubba could sue the airline that transported you to a distant city for the procedure… even if it was in another state.

Interestingly enough, Bubba can’t sue you for having a procedure. He can only sue anyone involved in your getting the procedure. However, Bubba can sue, even if the procedure isn’t done in Texas, as long as the person having the abortion is a Texas resident. So, Texas ladies, you’d better keep your personal life private.

Again from the article:

The patient may not be sued, but doctors, staff members at clinics, counselors, people who help pay for the procedure, and even an Uber driver taking a patient to an abortion clinic are all potential defendants. Plaintiffs, who do not need to live in Texas, have any connection to the abortion or show any injury from it, are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees recovered if they win. Prevailing defendants are not entitled to legal fees.

Naturally, a lot of people are pissed off about this new legislation. I am pretty pissed off about it myself, although it’s not going to affect me personally. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, I am 100% pro-choice. It’s not because I cheer for people having abortions. I personally find abortion sickening. It’s because it’s simply no one else’s business what kind of medical care someone else gets.

There are times when an abortion is indicated for medical reasons. I don’t think anyone– especially someone not personally involved in the pregnancy– has ANY right to insert themselves in someone else’s private medical business. Moreover, given that we don’t do fuck all to help people who might choose abortion, nor do we do much once those babies are born, I think this law is especially wrong-headed and cruel.

I am still a Texas voter, even though I live in Germany. This shit just makes me more determined to vote straight blue from now on… not that it will do any good. Makes me wonder, though, if people will get desperate enough to get violent about having abortions.

Texas is a famously gun friendly state, especially now that Texans can openly carry weapons without a permit or any training. What if Bubba decides to sue someone because of their choice to have an abortion and gets shot in the head for meddling in someone’s private medical affairs? I’d like to think that’s an unlikely scenario, but given how absolutely crazy things are in the United States right now, I could actually see it happening. People are unhinged, and this kind of interference can lead to desperate and tragic consequences.

I worry about the developing fetuses that may suffer needless pain because there’s something congenitally wrong with them that would make being born cruel. I am concerned about twelve year old girls who have barely reached puberty being forced to give birth. I am concerned about 49 year old women who have chronic diseases having to continue pregnancies that put them at risk. I worry about the teenager who got pregnant by her brother or her uncle or her father… or her abusive boyfriend. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Edited to add, Rachel Maddow points out why this new law is so chilling and disgusting on so many levels!

I know some people think abortion is always wrong. To those people, I say “don’t have an abortion” if you think they’re morally wrong. You have no right to dictate another person’s medical care, especially if you’re not going to be around to help deal with the consequences.

What especially pisses me off, though, is that I haven’t heard of any legislation that makes medical care less expensive and more accessible for all of these women. I haven’t heard of any legislation that makes the men who got the women pregnant in these situations more accountable for their parts in the unintended pregnancies. Where are the laws that support the pregnant people who are going to be forced to give birth? Haven’t seen any, yet… but I have seen a lot of people slut shaming and putting it entirely on women to be sure they are doing everything to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Once again, the Trump era has delivered another disaster to the United States in the form of forced birthing and neighbors reporting on each other, as they might if they were in East Germany and under the watchful eyes of the Stasi. It’s creepy and sickening, and it makes me glad I don’t have a daughter who might be affected by this intrusion. But the people who are going to suffer the most are the poor, who won’t be able to simply move out of Texas and take care of this private business on their own. Hmmm… one can only hope those souls, who will be born into poverty or other difficult situations, will grow up and vote for Democrats.

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book reviews, healthcare

Repost: The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis

I am reposting this review, originally written for Epinions.com in 2010, as/is, since I mentioned this book in my review of Roy E. Ice’s book about his wife’s experiences with cystic fibrosis. Sadly, Anabel Stenzel died in 2013. Isabel Stenzel Byrnes is still living in San Francisco, California.

Like a lot of Americans, I’ve been keeping up with America’s Got Talent this summer. I had previously gotten hooked on NBC’s talent contest three years ago, but had missed it over the two years my husband Bill and I spent in Germany. I was eager to see what kinds of people would be showing off their talents, or lack thereof. This year, Christina and Ali, two singing sisters from Idaho Falls, Idaho, performed for America and shared that they were two of four siblings who suffer from the genetic disease, cystic fibrosis (CF). Cystic fibrosis is a devastating illness that affects all facets of life, from breathing to digesting food to eliminating waste. Christina and Ali had been told they would never be able to sing, since CF damages the lungs of those who suffer from it. But sing they did, and while I have heard better singers, the fact that they were able to perform as well as they did was astonishing to me.

I mentioned Christina and Ali on a messageboard I frequent, also mentioning that I had also read Frank Deford’s incredibly touching book Alex: The Life of a Child. Deford’s daughter, Alexandra, had died of CF in 1980 at age 8. She was almost a year older than me and I found her story very moving. One of the posters on the messageboard then recommended that I read The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis (2007). Written by twins Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and Anabel Stenzel, the book offered a more recent account of living with CF. Now that I have finished the book, I can say that I was richly rewarded by the experience.

Isa and Ana

Like Alexandra Deford and me, Isabel (Isa) and Anabel (Ana) Stenzel were children of the 1970s. The twins were born in January 1972 in Hollywood, California to a Japanese mother and a German father and an older brother named Ryuta. It’s hard to imagine it, but those were the days before ultrasounds and genetic tests. Hatsuko and Reiner Stenzel didn’t even know they were having twins. Reiner Stenzel was a world-reknowned physicist and was out of town when his wife went into labor. She gave birth alone.

Days later, Ana had not yet passed her first meconium and required surgery to unblock her intestines. A doctor realized that meconium ileus was a sign of cystic fibrosis. Although cystic fibrosis is extremely rare in Asians, the doctor ordered a “sweat test” for both girls. The sweat test measured the amount of sodium chloride (salt) in the girls’ sweat. Both tests came back with abnormally high levels of salt, which confirmed that the twins had cystic fibrosis. The doctor informed Reiner and Hatsuko Stenzel that their daughters had CF, ultimately a fatal disease that would probably claim their lives during early childhood.

Thirty-eight years later, both twins are still living and working in Palo Alto, California.  They are both graduates of Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.  One twin is married. Both have satisfying careers, one as a genetic counselor and the other as a social worker. Both have traveled extensively and both have had lung transplants that later allowed them to compete in the Transplant Games. Together, they beat the long odds that were stacked against them at birth.

My thoughts

I think this is an amazing book on many different levels. First off, The Power of Two appeals to me because I’m about six months younger than the twins are. Isa and Ana take turns writing chapters and they start at the very beginning of their lives. Although I don’t have CF, I am a child of the 70s and 80s, so I understood a lot of the cultural references they made and felt like I could relate to them as peers.

I was fascinated by the story of how their parents, two immigrants who came from very different places, met in America and became a couple. Both Hatsuko and Reiner Stenzel were very much affected by the horrors of World War II. They left their homelands for something better in the United States and ended up getting married. The odds that they would both carry the defective gene for cystic fibrosis were very slim. CF is almost unheard of in Asians. When the twins’ mother, Hatsuko, called her own mother in Tokyo to enquire about her heritage, she was assured that the defective gene must have come from her father, who had died in Siberia as a prisoner. Somewhere along the line, Hatsuko’s father must have had a Caucasian relative.

Twins are fascinating to read about anyway, since they often have their own languages and ability to relate to each other. Isa and Ana were very close to each other for another reason; they relied on each other for the vital percussive therapy that allowed them to keep their lungs clear of the deadly mucous that collects in the lungs of CF patients.

And, as it turns out, Isabel Stenzel and I have something in common. We both earned dual master’s degrees in social work and public health. And while I am not primarily of German descent, I did just spend two years living in the twins’ father’s homeland.

Isabel and Anabel are excellent writers. They don’t hold back as they describe what it’s like to have cystic fibrosis. They very honestly convey the frustration they felt at always being sick, yet they also strived to not allow their illness to hold them back from chasing their dreams. I found myself marveling at all they were able to do as youngsters. I also admired how much they value their lives, even as they admitted to how much suffering they endured due to their disease.

I will warn that those with delicate sensibilities regarding language may not like that the twins liberally use profanity. Personally, I thought the profanity was certainly justified, given their situation. It also gave their voices a touch of realism and made them seem very human. But if swearing offends you, be advised that they don’t hold back at all. They also include some frank discussion about sex. Again, I liked this aspect of the book, but realize that some readers might not appreciate it.

The Power of Two includes a photo section. One of the most riveting photos in this book is that of Isabel post lung transplant, saying goodbye to the scarred, diseased, terribly damaged lungs that had miraculously sustained her for over thirty years. These women had spent their lives watching their friends die of cystic fibrosis. They knew that having a transplant was also no guarantee that things would get better. People who have transplants must suppress their immune systems to prevent rejection of the new organ. They knew that they were trading one health problem for another and, in fact, had seen several friends with CF die after their lung transplants. And yet, their healthy new lungs did give them new lives, and allowed them the opportunity to educate others about this disease and give them hope.

Overall

I definitely recommend The Power of Two because it’s a fascinating story on so many levels. Certainly, it’s good reading for anyone whose life has been touched by cystic fibrosis. It’s also a good book for those who are interested in a story of how World War II impacted lives. And people who are twins may also like this book because of the insight these women give into their experiences as twins with CF.

This is a powerful, inspirational book. It gets five big stars from me.

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