Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sitting Side By Side: American Health Care "Despairities"

It strikes me as almost inconceivable that here I am with very good health insurance because I work for a large university who competes for good and talented employees. On the other side of me here at my doctor's office sits a family with no health insurance and scraping the money together to pay for their child's visit. The middle aged man sits counting out all the money in his wallet. They have no health insurance and must scrape along without a good doctor. Antibiotics for their child may cost $5 to $10 per tablet. I, on the other hand, pay nothing for my doctor visit and only $8.00 for a 10 day supply of an expensive antibiotic. I don't understand now; nor will I ever understand why this man's family has to suffer and also spend their supper money on a doctor visit. It is one of many amazing and non-sensical facts about living in America. We spend as much on our military as all the other countries in the world combined. We pay twice as much for our medical system as countries like England, Canada, Germany, and France yet we leave 50 million fellow citizens without coverage for basic health needs. This is living in a country with high rhetorical regard for human life, but little financial support for human life.

The Philadelphia Unemployment Project demonstrating to save AdultBasic, the State of Pennsylvania insurance program to cover the unemployed. The Blues have refused to extend the contract. Why did the insurance industry try so hard to destroy …

Frank Elliott - I read this article today in the blog Crooks and Liars. Then I looked at my position of relative affluence and compared it to a family in my doctor's office just a mile away from our home. How has it come to be that there is such a poor social support system for families who work hard, but are not university graduates? Other countries who compete with America do not allow such basic human needs as health care to be decided by chance. America does. It makes no sense to me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lessons For Today -- Isaac's Storm: A Good Read On Hurricanes and Disasters

This was a engrossing and deeply tragic book. It is all about the devastating Galveston Hurricane on September 8, 1900. At that time, there was no advanced warning for hurricanes and no regional weather service to focus on nearby multiple state forecasting. Meteorology was a new science. Tens of thousands of lives would have been saved with just a couple of days advanced warning. There was none because all weather related activities came out of Washington D.C. People did not move out of Galveston in time and the city was destroyed by storm surge that was higher than two story buildings. Because of the disaster, the National Weather Service was firmly established and regional weather bureaus were started. Isaac Cline is generally recognized as the person who did this. The book is not a boring recount of facts and dry material, but tells the story of some of the many lives destroyed.

The book centers itself around the life of Isaac Cline, a weatherman. He was the first person to establish reliable frost forecasts, but like almost all people of his time, did not understand hurricanes. They could only be understood well later with new technology and new scientific understanding. This was a time before aviation and photography/film was just in its infancy. The wonderful retelling of the tale of the Great Hurricane is embedded in the culture of the early twentieth century. There is quite a bit of thinking about what might have happened if only there was more communication with nearby areas in the Caribbean. Engineering Schools were first being established and beginning to separate themselves a little from agricultural engineering, but this was way before the separation of science into many scientific specialties of today. The findings of many new sciences were finding their way into the discourse of educated people. Unfortunately, communication was still extremely primitive. Their were no radio's or radio stations. There were no telephones or instant communications to share many sentences or much detailed information. For rapid communication, we had only the telegraph. It was used for brief, very truncated communications. Mr. Isaac Cline had downplayed the idea that a hurricane could ever overwhelm Galveston and no break wall had been built around Galveston.

I loved this book because it is a story with keen lessons even for us today. Think of all the lives that were lost in Katrina in 2005. People had been warning about that potential disaster for many years. There were warnings several days in advance that this might well be a catastrophic storm. Unfortunately New Orleans lower areas were not evacuated. Isaac's Storm is a book about learning lessons from a disaster and then taking action based on the new sciences. We as a society would do well today to revisit what happened in Galveston. In 1900 people learned and adapted. We were not a polarized society and regarded science and learning very highly. Today we polarize issues such as oil well safety or climactic change and there is little or no adaptation to show that our society has learned important lessons. Read Isaac's Storm or listen to it in an audio book. It will keep your attention and if you are like me, introduce you to critical thinking. What did they believe wrongly that led to this storm becoming a disaster? How did the people involved act in counterproductive ways? How would you have acted differently and why?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Discovery And Discernment

I have struggled for several years with the issue of trying to get well or what I am capable of given my limitations. How do I improve my quality of life given several chronic illness and chronic pain? Unfortunately I have seen this as big C Change. I'm finding that it is more like little c change. Like St. Theresa says, It is the little things that matter. Last Sunday I got out and made some calls for a political party at a community center nearby. Took my own cell phone so I could use my headset and made 17 calls in about an hour. Was able to make contact with 5 people and encouraged them to vote. The rest of the people were not home. That’s typical for an early Sunday afternoon. Most people are not home. With all the people I talked to, I learned about their feelings and about them. I also asked them if they would support our Governor's Candidate and other party candidates too. All but one said they would. That was a positive affirmation of me as a person. It was just what I needed and something I don’t get much of being at home most of the time.

One person was an 85 year old woman who talked to me about the ballot layout. Is it all in a straight line? I said, Yes. It's been like that in all the 14 years we've lived in Minnesota. She was relieved to know that. I asked her if she knew where to vote. She did. She said you sure are working hard there aren't you? I've gotten called by 3 volunteers. I said, yes we all are. To myself I said whew, bad call coordination here!! I said, goodbye Cecilia and thanked her for voting and for her support. Each conversation was a version of this one with variations. One person was an immigrant and she was very busy, but would be voting for us. She would vote for us this year and would consider calling our supporters next election. One person was probably a young man just out of college by two or three years. He supported us all the way. One woman was very mad at us and her husband was too. I said, please be sure to get out and vote. When you do that our democracy works better. Don’t let any conversation turn into a duel.

The beauty of all this time spent on calling, learning a script to vary as I'd like, recording the calls on the statistics forms, and thinking about how to do a little better on each call was getting out of myself and into a normal routine just for an hour or so. Life is not very normal for me because of pain, arm and hand cramping, and lack of stamina. If you are like me and have several chronic illnesses, I’ll bet you crave being able to go back to a normal life. I had a friendly, low-pressured hour of conversation on Sunday afternoon. At the end, when I decided I’d done as much as I could handle, I wrapped things up by talking to a young man with blonde hair and a dark-haired young woman (probably his girl-friend) working with him. They told me they’d been active doing this since their high school days and loved calling people and putting their fingers on the pulse of their community like this. I was impressed with their commitment to our Democracy. That friendly conversation allowed me to stretch out my very stiff and painful legs and arms and move them around. It let me exercise them with the drainage movements I've been taught to help the swelling decline a little. Time to relax at the end and to head home. I had done as much as possible and felt good about that human contact.

Did you know that about 40% of people 45 and up are quite lonely? I read that in my newest AARP Magazine (for folks 50 and over) So, that conversation had been good for me and good for some of them too. Yes, it is the small things, small actions that make for change and for discernment. I had never done anything quite like this before. Have to tell you though it was much easier than selling Kiwanis Club Pancake Dinners by walking through a neighborhood. Only sold two or three dinners after visiting almost forty homes back in the mid 1980’s. Hundreds or thousands of small experiences combine together to create a mental landscape of what my world is like. Those experiences allow wisdom, kindness, and most likely, discernment to grow. It was another important step in discovering what I enjoy and am capable of given my circumstances.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Snafu: Patience With Practice

I've been going through a very hard time with my legs swelling severely and pain and breathing difficulties the last two or three months. Added to that was another big worry which shouldn’t be there. My health insurance company made an awful mistake and rejected two years worth of claims saying some other insurer was responsible. Problem was I didn't have and never had the other insurer. Well their response was that, someone manually went into the system and entered that incorrect insurer. So 4 months later it still is not totally corrected and many health care providers are billing us. It's all the insurer's mistake.

They've sent me on to their issues resolution team and I have a person on the team who works with me. It's gotten to be a huge mess now because they let it grow to involve my claims since May 21st too. This involves more than one-hundred physician’s claims, more than two-hundred physical therapy claims, and dozens of lab claims and durable medical equipment claims over the last 1 ¾ years. Fortunately this type of thing happens infrequently. My employer says it’s one of the largest snafu’s they have seen.

Oh well, I’ve been given a “very special” lesson in patience and in letting go of things and not worrying. This student has learned it much better than ever before and GOT IT this time. I've finally learned to set this aside and work on it every few days. My psychologist calls this compartmentalizing. But, the good “Steamship Frank” has been in danger of losing his compartments many times. It’s just hard not to think about this a lot. I've called my employer and they are helping me now too. They’ll call me back this week (a two-week follow-up with me to see how my insurer is doing with this.) I’ll have to tell them it still hasn’t been cleared up and I’m getting more bills. The folks in the benefits department will get after this “health insurer” ha, really, are they?… Support is coming all over again.

Well, it took me a long time, almost 3 1/2 months to get myself into a frame of mind of making a call or discussing an issue and then letting it go. Did that ever drag my life and emotions down. Oh well, it will work out and it will get corrected, but it's because of my constant pursuit and asking questions and not letting them off. I still have my doubts. I can only do my part of this. I sent in all my coordination of benefits forms correctly year after year letting them know what other health insurer we have and I’ve called problems to their mistake as they arise. They are now calling my providers for me to explain what’s happened and that it’s their mistake and that it will take some time to correct. Folks got so they wouldn’t believe me. As I said, I’ve got the university benefits department working on it for me too and they are taking it VERY seriously too. So, I’m asking the Lord to help me to stay calm and not worry about this. Take care of an issue as I need to and then let it go after writing careful notes of substance, time, and who I talked to and their direct phone number. I’m finally learning how to do this well after practice and practicing. You might say I've finally gotten good at homework. Geez .... did that really happen? I'm good at this now. Many notebooks are full of the Big Snafu. It's us "chronics" version of that show "Amazing Race" on CBS.

I hope to get back to reading Carepage Msgs soon and even writing some too. My energy level is low and stamina is limited. Just a little bit at a time and just about an hour a day is all I can handle. My difficulties are not anything like what some of you have been dealing with; I know that. Many of you too are examples to me of people who have kept their spirits up and stay in touch with many others and me too. You are all just so kind and full of a joy that is hard to express. All this contact with folks from carepages and kind people elsewhere has been a blessing that I would have never guessed possible. You know it's really too bad that illness and injury and all those kinds of things are what it takes to bring a group of people together. Maybe it will all change to this kind of sharing being much more common in the future. I hope so. I really believe that our Lord and God would want this kind of openness and sharing to be much more common. Here we share our lives, our hopes, our physician and health care stories, our wisdom, and our funny stories and our jokes. Hey, here’s a short one from last week; I thought it was funny. Why are math books so sad? Because they have so many problems. Put a smile on ok and pray for all of us.

May God inspire our doctors to help us recover and be healed and may he inspire medical scientists to do the research that will help us more. May all of us help each other by sharing our wisdom, experiences, and humor. P. S. I’ve added another nice picture of Amber here today. She's a really smart little female cat who we rescued four months ago. She loves our Velux blankets and office chairs. She jumps over Charley in a single bound. What a character. She’s a lifesaver who lays on my lap and then lays on her back and chews me and then touches her nose to my hand. Despite The Snafu and many chronic illnesses, I am so fortunate thanks to all of you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Living With Hope In A Community Of Friends

Had this happen last Sunday, the 15th of August, when a bike ride at a nature park got much too long. We missed a turn and we got lost. With diabetes, nerve damage, and severe asthma, I got very tired and shaky. Fortunately another couple who was biking stopped to help us and led us back to the parking area. I don't know what we would have done if they hadn't. I'm trying to exercise a little more and return some old and loved routines to my life. I've always loved biking. Will I stop this type of activity. No, never. Although my stamina is very low, I need to keep trying. Exercise has faded away with chronic illnesses. Activity had such an invigorating effect on me before.

I post many thoughts and mind exercises to help my friends on where I and many others make every effort to live more fully even with severe chronic illnesses. It is the first blog I got brave enough to post regularly on. At my blog's name is FrankLivingFully (upper of lower case doesn't matter). To be able to read it, people will need to sign up for . There is an easy link once there for people to find my blog. Don't stop there though. Search for the name of a disease or chronic illness you are interested in and it is easy to find patients with similar issues and concerns. is a support site for people who are ill in a hospital, clinic, or recovering at home. It is supported as a service by several hundred hospitals and clinics, mostly in the United States. During almost three years now while writing there I've found friends from all around the United States as well as many from Canada and even Australia. Several are lifelong friends now. The purpose is to enable people to share and learn from each other and to stay in touch with those they love. There is no cost for signing into it or registering for it. Carepages is much like .

Monday, April 5, 2010

Italian Vegetable Bake

Italian Vegetable Bake Recipe

I've been looking for some tasty vegetable recipes recently and finally found one. A couple of weeks ago we got my Diabetes Outlook magazine from Healthways, a company that helps people with chronic illness like me to maintain our health. The spring 2010 issue had a tasty and moderately spicy recipe that looked good. It can easily be toned up or down. It's also gonna be possible for me to exchange the Okra with something like fresh green beans. Mary and I will love the sprinkled parmesan cheese on top. I don't have much energy to cook and am looking for simple recipes like this with no more than about ten easy to find ingredients. Well, good, this has eleven and it looks simple. It will break me out of my regimen of granola bars and light cuisine frozen dinners. Geez anything would be an upgrade for this guy here.

Try this and let me know what you think. I'll be struggling with the Okra because I see now that it calls for half a pound of it and 1/2 pound of green beans too. Maybe, just maybe some parsnips chopped up into small cubes will work. You'll find a copy of the article and the recipe next to it here. Let me know if you try it and what modifications you made. It's some improvement for me to at least be thinking about cooking you know. God bless you all and happy taste bud exploring. Frank