Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Look At Ourselves...

Two days ago, a friend of mine in Miami passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was 41 years old. He leaves behind a family, and many friends and co-workers who will miss him greatly. Jeremy was one of a kind. He was a very easy-going, happy, friendly man who made people laugh and never took himself too seriously.

Jeremy’s sudden passing makes one once again think of how fragile life can be and how little control we have over it. Sure, he could have lost some weight – couldn’t we all? I don’t know if he was actively pursuing a workout program but I’m thinking he probably wasn’t. (And I could be completely wrong about it. I haven’t seen him for several years.) Yet 41 is far too young for most of us to worry about a heart attack, and far too young to worry about dying.

When someone we know dies suddenly and unexpectedly it reminds us of our own mortality. At least, it reminds me of my own. I haven’t always lived my life in the healthiest manner. Who knows what damage could have been done in that time? Recently I’ve begun eating more healthily, walking as often as possible (distances that actually make my heart work for a while) and losing weight. Two years ago my doctor put me on blood pressure medication and cholesterol medication. Last year, after I lost 18 pounds and changed my diet, I was taken off all medication and I feel much better. My cholesterol is still a bit high but I’m still trying to lower it naturally rather than take medication. However, I know if it doesn’t come down I’ll need the meds because cholesterol is dangerous.

About a month ago, another man I used to work with died suddenly of a heart attack. He was also in his forties. Things like this often happen around the holidays for some reason. It’s strange that way. I feel badly for the families of those people who now, every year around the holidays, will be reminded of the sudden deaths of their loved ones. I remember once, when I was in the Air Force years ago, we rolled out on a 911 call on Christmas Eve to a home where a father had suffered a heart attack. His wife and young children watched as we worked on him but ultimately he didn’t make it. All I could think of after that was that every Christmas Eve his kids will be reminded of his untimely death. How terribly sad for them and for all who lose someone on a holiday. It’s difficult enough to lose someone unexpectedly. It’s more difficult to lose someone at a time when everything and everyone is supposed to be happy.

Jeremy, you will be missed, by more people than you probably realize. You touched many lives with your warmth, your humor and your genuinely caring personality. My thoughts are with your family today.

I hope all who read this will take a look at their own health and activities and, if you haven’t done so already, make a decision to get into better shape, maybe lose some weight and take care of yourselves. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for those who love you and want you around. They will appreciate you for it. January, right after the holidays, is a great time to start since most of us put on some weight over the holidays. If you survived the holidays it’s a good time to work on surviving the new year. And the one after that. And the one after that. And so on…

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Greetings 2011

The Christmas season is upon us once again. For many it’s a time of happiness, reflection and giving to others in the spirit of love and in the memory of the gift our God gave to us so many years ago.

I remember as a child on Christmas Eve we would gather round the Christmas tree after church, all the presents under and around the fully lit, fully decorated tree, and read the Christmas story from the Bible before we were allowed, in a very calm and orderly fashion, to begin opening presents. (We read the Christmas story so we’d always remember the true meaning if Christmas and not get too wrapped up (pun intended) in the presents and commercialism.) I have three sisters and a brother so, though we weren’t wealthy by any means, there were always lots of things to open. We normally each got one big gift – something we really wanted, then a lot of smaller, every day “need this” gifts, such as socks, pajamas, underwear, and often a new pair of shoes. There weren’t extravagant toys nor anything really expensive in those days. Even a new bike usually meant one that had been handed down from someone else, repainted and fitted with a new seat and pedals. But we were happy and always felt blessed to receive such wonderful and thoughtful gifts. One grandfather always gave each of us kids a $20 bill. When I was about six that was huge money. It lasted me for months.

An uncle who owned a vending company always gave each of us a box of assorted chocolates. Again, we were in heaven because we each had our own and didn’t have to share. We could, of course, trade our favorites for someone else’s if we wanted.

One of the consistent things about Christmas when I was a kid was the presence and the celebration of God and Jesus in almost everything. People in the neighborhood, the local community, city and statewide had nativity scenes in their yards and in their living rooms. Churches had large nativity scenes outside without fear that someone would vandalize, steal or destroy them. My family and most of our friends went to church regularly and many of us participated in the church Christmas cantata or other presentation. The entire community, with very few vocal exceptions, got caught up in the spirit of the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, while the world even then could be a cruel and even evil place, more people were public about their faith and belief in God and it seemed the world was happier and Christmas was more widely accepted by all. I’m sure there will be those who disagree with me on that but I speak from my own experiences in 54 years of life.

These days it seems it’s becoming a problem just saying “Merry Christmas” to people in public. Schools are banning any kind of Christmas activities in favor of “holiday” activities and some even are preventing the giving of cards and/or gifts from one student to another. Forget about a nativity scene on public property and politicians are proclaiming the Christmas tree to be a holiday tree instead. It’s been “Christmas” for centuries and I truly don’t understand why it’s so offensive to some. I don’t get offended when someone wishes me a “Happy Winter Solstice”, a “Happy Hanukah”, a “Happy Kwanza” or any other holiday greeting. (As of yet I haven’t had an atheist wish me anything in particular, that I know of except maybe “Happy Holidays”, which is generic and has no particular group meaning.) I appreciate the fact that people want to include me in their personal celebration. Yet some people get highly offended at those of us who wish people “Merry Christmas”.

To those of you who get offended I say my greeting of “Merry Christmas” is my own celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and is in no way threatening to you or your beliefs unless you choose to make it so. I’m not threatened by your beliefs (or non-belief, as the case may be) so please stop feeling threatened and/or offended by mine. My Christian beliefs are not threatening to you in any way. I find it sad that a nation founded on belief in God (or Gods) has now basically removed God from their everyday activities. And please don’t bring up “separation of church and state” because 1) it’s not in the Constitution and 2) the separation to which it refers meant government shall not have or enforce a particular religion. Therefore a government should be allowed to display a nativity scene if it also displays a Menorah and/or any other religious symbols during the same season (or at different times depending on the time of celebration.)

All in all, when I say “Merry Christmas” it is my wish for you to have a happy and love-filled holiday with your friends and family and the God (or no God) of your choice. It is not a threat or an insult so please don’t take it that way. Please.

At this time of year I’m reminded of something I read (and posted) last year just before Christmas. It was Christmas greetings to Democrats and Republicans and still makes me laugh. It reads as follows:

To My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To My Republican Friends:

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Whatever your beliefs, may you enjoy the wonderful blessings of the Christmas season with your family and loved ones and may you all have a wonderful new year full of good things.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Soon To Be Gone" - a Military Doctor's Opinion

I read this in an e-mail today and thought it worth passing on. If true, it gives me hope that the younger generation might actually grow up to appreciate those who have lived and died before them. I too have met elderly, retired military personnel and have marveled at some of their stories. I once met Daniel (Chappie) James, America’s first black, four-star General and the first black General in the U.S. Air Force. He retired soon after and died within a couple of months but while alive he had a commanding presence and was an amazing man to talk to. I also knew a retired Colonel who was dying of cancer but was full of stories and loved to make people laugh, regardless of rank or position. It was his way. I attended his funeral.

Dr. Ellison’s reference to “Saving Private Ryan” is a lesson for all that those who offered their lives (some made that ultimate sacrifice) in service to the U.S. during past wars should be remembered and honored. It was my pleasure serving in the U.S. Air Force for eight years. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything and even though I never served in a war zone, I have always felt my contribution was important. I respect and honor all people who have served, regardless of how long they did it. Serving your country in the armed forces is an honor and a privilege.

The e-mail is as follows:

This should be required reading in every school and college in our country. This Captain, an Army doctor, deserves a medal himself for putting this together. If you choose not to pass it on, fine, but I think you will want to after you read it.

"Soon to Be Gone"
by Capt. Steven Ellison, MD
A Military Doctor

I am a doctor specializing in the Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One-Trauma Centers, both in San Antonio, TX and they care for civilian emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here. As a military doctor, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work. Most often, it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash.

Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed. With our large military retiree population, it is often a nursing home patient. Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.

I saw 'Saving Private Ryan.' I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage, but by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside, asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Dept.. and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Dept. encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a 'hard stick.' As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said, ' Auschwitz...' Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.

Also, there was this long retired Colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific Island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, he had a minor cut on his head from a fall at his home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients.. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end for several hours, and I couldn't drive him myself.

I was there the night M/Sgt Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Dept. for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn't know I was there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill's Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor of Omaha Beach, the 101 year old World War I veteran.

The former POW held in frozen North Korea.

The former Special Forces medic - now with non-operable liver cancer
the former Viet Nam Corps Commander.

I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women.

I have seen a Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who've sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.

It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation.

My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must 'Earn this.'

If it weren't for the United States Military, there'd be NO United States of America!

Steven Ellison, MD

Friday, December 16, 2011

Economics and Socialism

I read the following e-mail this morning and thought it quite interesting. I’ve seen interviews of young, liberal college students who think socialism and even Marxism are good ideas but when asked if they are OK with giving up a grade to someone who needs it is OK they all say no because “I worked for mine just as they need to work for theirs.” Funny how that works.

I didn’t write the following article and I have no idea who did. But I like it and thought it worth sharing.

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

It could not be any simpler than that. Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Like I said - I didn't write it. But it's worth thinking about.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Hero Died Last Year...

Today is December 1, 2011. One year ago today Corporal Chad Stafford Wade made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and his fellow Marines in Afghanistan. He was 23 years old and on his second tour – a tour he didn’t have to take being an only child. The Marines told him he didn’t have to go. Chad said if his buddies were going he was going too. That’s the man he was.

I have been so caught up in my own personal life that I almost forgot what today is. And that breaks my heart. Chad’s mom, Tami, is very special to me and it hurts me to the core that she’s suffering today. I know that type of suffering – it’s not a good thing. The first anniversary of your child’s death is very painful. They’re all painful but the first is doubly so. The first is when those memories come crashing in – how it happened, who said what, how you found out, what you did and what you felt when you realized it was real. And it hurts. It hurts deeply. And I hate it that Tami is having to go through that today.

Chad Wade was a Marine in every sense of the word. As I said – he didn’t have to go to Afghanistan. He had already been to Iraq. Being an only child with only nine months left on his enlistment he could have stayed behind. He chose to go because his fellow Marines, the ones in his platoon, were going and he didn’t want them to go without him. Chad Wade was a man of courage and honor and he put his buddies before himself. He paid the ultimate price for it but did so voluntarily. He loved his country and his fellow Americans enough to sacrifice his own life for them (us). Those Americans he loved included his mom, his step-dad, Tebo, his Aunt Paige, and everyone else he cared about, as well as those of us he didn’t know. Chad was an exceptional man.

On this day I ask that all of you spend a moment remembering Chad and his sacrifice, as well as his grieving mother and family. No one should have to bury their child. It’s simply not right. Unfortunately, it happens on a regular basis and some of us have to live with it. We don’t ask for pity. We don’t need pity. We ask for understanding of why we sometimes cry for non-obvious reasons and we sometimes smile more broadly watching someone with their children simply because it triggers a good memory for us. We sometimes ask that you honor our deceased children by simply telling yours that you love them. Today I challenge you to tell your children that you love them, in honor of Chad. If you can’t tell them in person, call them. If that’s not possible, send them an e-mail or a letter. If even that’s not possible (if your child is deep in a war zone) then ask God to tell them for you. I have a feeling He grants requests of that sort on a regular basis…