What do you call it when the people who are supposed to save the day, the so-called “experts,” fail to perform when the chips are down? There has got to be a terminology for that. For now, I’m going to go with the phrase “expert failure” or EF.
Example: “Yup. Things certainly went to shit. They EF’d up.”
In the excellent book Jurassic Park the character Ian Malcolm, a mathematician specializing in “chaos theory,” correctly predicts the failed hubris of the undertaking. (Also in the book the character John Hammond, the visionary, is ironically eaten by his creations. That tasty tidbit didn’t make it into the movie.) The genius of Michael Crichton’s book has nothing to do with dinosaurs. As Wikipedia puts it, the story is a “metaphor of collapse.”
Expert failure works like this:
- Only we are brilliant enough to design and breed dinosaurs. You are not brilliant by a long shot. Oops. The dinosaurs got out. Bad shit happens. Our bad.
- A virus enters the country. The hospitals and specialists we depend on for our very lives fail to follow basic protocols. (In unrelated news, studies have shown that 10 to 80 percent of ICU doctors fail to engage in sanitary hand washing as directed. Because, of course, they know better.)
- A politician says, “Doing ABC will lead to XYZ.” When that doesn’t happen, he adds, “Obviously we need a lot more of ABC. We have to give my policies a chance to work.”
- Your financial consultant advises you to invest heavily in Guru Of Negativity (ticker: GON) holdings and you lose your shirt.
- A baseball teams spends $50 million on a single player (cutting other players from the team to make this possible). Later, in game seven of the World Series, bottom of ninth, two outs, full count, bases loaded, trailing by one run the fellow whiffs flailingly at three straight pitches in the dirt and strikes out.
That last example is my personal favorite because I could have easily matched that performance for at least half price. Show me the money!
What else have experts gotten wrong? FEMA? Vietnam? The financial crisis? Mortgage-backed securities? Bridges? Stampedes at religious gatherings? Platforms at state fairs? Fires in disco clubs? Interfering in the civil wars of other countries?
The list is long and distinguished.
So now we look to experts to clean up the messes that were created by the same and/or previous experts. I’m no expert but I say that sucks. When you’re stuck on your the tippy-top of your roof and the water is lapping at your toes, just remember this: There is no expert correction fairy who will swoop in and save your bacon.
Ultimately, no matter what the experts would like you to believe, you’re on your own.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to change into my baseball uniform. You can depend on me.
Things fall apart. The center does not hold. –Yeats
I’d like to start this post with a Newt Gingrich joke. And this has nothing to do with his wife, either. It’s about him on a hot sex date. ba-doom-boom!
I keed, I keed. Seriously, though. I’m here all week.
So here’s the joke:
Gingrich is out on a date and things are going swimmingly. He drops his pants and says to the young woman, “Check out this Eye of Newt!”
Well, at least we can say this much about my sense of humor. It’s painfully obvious that I write my own material.
I woke up this morning planning a Newt Gingrich post. A quick check of Google News, though, and I feel like my thunder is about to be stolen away before I can even start. Check out some of these headlines:
- Our bizarre political theater
- Commentary: Newt Gingrich’s political suicide
- Gingrich, in N.H., tries to refocus his campaign
- Republican Gingrich defiant over Tiffany’s account
- Gingrich takes few questions, avoids press at NH town hall
- Gingrich’s campaign blindsided by bling
- Newt Gingrich Defends Paul Ryan From People Saying Same Things Newt Said
- Political Lolapalooza: Newt Gingrich’s Diamond Studded Hypocrisy & Other Tales From The Crypt
Note: These are all real headlines shown exactly as I found them while writing this post.
Apparently the Gingrich campaign is not long for this world. It’s about to slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of God. Or something like that.
Even so, I’m still in the mood to discuss my planned topic. And that’s doctors. Let’s give Gingrich a chance here. Let’s focus on the issues.
With all of the issues facing our country, what does Gingrich see as the cornerstones of his campaign?
- Repeal The Affordable Health Care Act
- Preserve Bush-era tax cuts for top 2 percent
- Combating radical Islamism
- Emphasis on math and science to give the U.S. military the “most advanced and powerful weapons in the world”
- Dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and replace with an “Environmental Solutions Agency” which would view the environmental based on job creation and energy costs
- Defund Planned Parenthood
- Protect religious expression (creches, crosses, menorahs) on public property
- Protect healthcare workers’ “right to conscience”
- Provide access to government funds for home schooled students
- Protect rights of teachers to discuss religion in the classroom
- Protect frail, infirm and elderly from the state’s arbitrary decision to terminate life
Wow, Newt! See the boogeyman much?
There’s so much meat here, but if I take too big of a bite and I won’t be able to digest and then, well, I’ll be irregular. So let’s just take a nibble. Besides, since he’s got no chance, this is all just a thought experiment. A quick look, though, could still be a bit of fun.
I really want to discuss the doctor thing, but first, a brief history lesson on the biggest boogeyman of all-time. At least since abortion was made the end-all distraction issue of conservatives.
Planned Parenthood facts:
- Opened in 1916 as the first birth control clinic in the United States.
- In 1970 President Richard M.Nixon (Republican) signed the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act. This provided government funding to Planned Parenthood. The act had bipartisan support by liberals (who saw it as giving families greater control over their lives) and conservatives (who saw it as a way to keep people off welfare).
- Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States, which constitutes about 3% of the health care services it provides.
- Receives about one-third of its funding from the government.
- By law does not use any federal funding for abortions.
Now, the doctor thing. Gingrich essentially wants “healthcare workers” to have the right to “refuse service to anyone.” No big surprise that this one has to do with abortion. Gingrich wants to make sure that doctors are not forced to participate in or refer procedures such as abortion.
A couple of thoughts. First, is this a big problem facing our country? Do you lose a lot of sleep over this? Excuse the fuck out of me, but really. Boo-fucking-hoo. I don’t even know what to make if this. Has there ever been a doctor forced to do anything he/she didn’t want to? I find that hard to imagine.
Note: Some will point out, correctly, that an employee has to what he’s ordered to do (as long as it’s legal) or risk getting fired. True enough. I’ve been in that situation all my goddamned life. But where is the “force” in this equation? Like trillions of people have told me before, if you don’t like your job, go “vote with your feet” and find a new one. Unless the doctor is performing an abortion at gunpoint no one is legally being “forced.” Don’t like something about your job, whatever it is? Put on your big boy pants and go find a new job. This is, by the way, a basic building block of a “free market.”
And how exactly would this sort of thing be implemented? How to you legally define a “right to conscience?” Could it apply to any situation? Any medical procedure? Could it be based on hair color? The length of the patient’s skirt that is offensive to the doctor? A tattoo? A religious symbol? Gender? The color of skin? Smell?
How exactly would this conscience thing work? What would be permissible grounds for refusal and what wouldn’t?
This is exactly the sort of shit that flimflam politicians like to run up the flagpole to distract the rabble. Inflame the passions, distract, and walk your way into office with your prize money.
Another thing: Doctors are an important part of our society and we recognize them for that. They get money. The get privilege. Influence. Respect. Power. Isn’t that enough?
“So sorry, old chap. I appreciate all that, but it simply isn’t enough. I need to have total control over everything. Stat! Understood?”
What makes doctors so much more special than anyone else? I’d really like to know. How many other jobs can you imagine where the worker demands the right to refuse service?
- The firefighter won’t put out your fire
- The police officer won’t protect and serve
- The teacher won’t teach
- The mechanic won’t fix your car
- The cable company refuses to put the internet in your house
- The minister won’t administer sacraments and holy communion
Actually, that last one is already all too real. We’ve been working for millennia to end discrimination based on things like gender and the color of skin. When did it become acceptable to do it based on things like beliefs? And why, pray tell, does religion always seem to be right smack dab in the middle of it? Riddle me that, Batman!
Sure, in America, you have the right to your own personal beliefs. And we have the right to refuse service. You believe something different than us? We’ll do a little embargo of our own. Let’s see you eat nothing, you fuck! Enjoy your “rights” while you starve to death! Ha ha ha ha ha!
We’ve traded in one form of discrimination for another. I guess we can’t abide the thought of a world without some form of discrimination.
Do you know any worker who enjoys this sort of right? It sure the fuck ain’t me. I have to wait on everyone who comes my way or I get fired. Am I offended or find something repugnant about that task? Too fucking bad. Suck it up or be out of a job. That’s the everyday choice for most ordinary working people.
Why do doctors need and/or deserve different?
Doctors take an oath to do no harm. If it’s your turn in the barrel and you’re on shift when a patient is brought it, you do your fucking job. You don’t become a conscientious objector based on things like differences in personal beliefs. Saving that human spark of life – no matter what – is your job. If you won’t do that, then society has absolutely no use for you. You don’t get the option of intermittent refusal and still keep all the special goodies and prizes and what’s behind door number three, k?
And no, you can’t stand back, do nothing, and say it is the problem of something else and get to keep your “do no harm” status. Doing nothing when your actions could have made a difference is the same as causing harm.
This is one so-called “issue” that should absolutely never see the rule of law. Ever!
Jesus Christ! I can sit here and close my eyes and I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of world that Newt Gingrich wants to live in. It sounds like a scary and hateful place. It sounds twisted. It sounds un-American.
Shouts to planetjan on this one…
This post will be like a big ball of used gum. I keep coming back and editing in more bits. Thus, it won’t be very cohesive and is going to jump all over the place. You have been warned. (Note to my students: Here I employe the classic negativity technique known as “Tell Them How You’ll Suck Right Up Front.”)
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB – for added fun pronounce this as “nicklebee”) was one of the first things proposed by George W. Bush, not long after the Supreme Court decision that helped make him president. With that kind of mandate under his belt he leaped in and, on January 23, 2001, boldly proposed NCLB. The bill was mothered by Senator Ted Kennedy and received “overwhelming bi-partisan support” in Congress. It become the law of the land on January 8, 2002.
One of the driving ideas behind NCLB was that measurable standards and goals would lead to positive individual outcomes in students. This included, of course, incentives in the form of Title I funds and how those funds would be allocated to government-run schools that receive federal funding.
At the bottom of this post I’m including an amazing video from TED entitled, “How do we do the right thing?” This is a topic I ponder a lot. The video covers lots of topics, including doctors, but also has a fair amount about teachers. What does an emphasis on things like test scores tied to funding bring?
The video tells one story. A teacher was visited by a consultant. The purpose of the visit was to help the teacher produce higher test scores for the school. The consultant was there to provide training towards that goal. Step One: Ignore students who would pass the tests no matter what. Step Two: Ignore students who would fail the tests no matter what. Step Three: Ignore students who were too new to the district that their scores would not count toward funding incentives. The remaining “bubble” students were the only ones deemed to be worthy of the teacher’s attention.
Wow. And that’s the system taking a major shit on human beings. Now, let’s move on an explore some other ideas.
Human brains love to categorize things. As a matter of routine we make snap judgements, thin slice and judge books by their cover, in spite of the old adage that says we can’t. It’s something that we do.
How can this sort of thing manifest itself?
One of my favorite researchers of all time is Dr. Ellen Langer. She wrote the book Mindfulness which is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. (If experiments like the ones I’m about to describe interest you, go find this book and read it. You’re in for a treat.)
In one of her experiments, two women were given three tasks. First, they were asked to individually solve arithmetic problems. Then they were given labels at random – “boss” and “assistant” – and asked to solve anagrams as a team. Finally, they went back to solving arithmetic problems individually again.
What do you think happened? The person given the “boss” label solved more math problems than she initially had in phase one of the test. The person given the “assistant” label solved less math problems.
Holy shit. Think about that. These were just words assigned to people in an experiment. I would imagine, as such, that they’d have much less power than the real life labels we take on each and every minutes of our lives. What a mind fuck!
It doesn’t end there. There have been other experiments involving teachers and students. In the experiments groups of students were randomly separated into two groups. One group of students was labeled “gifted” or as having high IQs and the other group of students was not. The label of “gifted” was communicated to teachers. The results were dramatic. Consistently the groups labeled as “gifted” performed higher than the control groups.
The label was affecting the teachers. It turned out that when dealing with students they thought were gifted, teachers interacted with their students differently. They looked at the students more often. They smiled and nodded at them more. They taught more content, set higher goals, called on them more frequently and give them more time to answer.
This sort of phenomenon, where people place greater expectations on others which leads to greater results is known as the Pygmalion effect.
Another example of the powerful effect of labels is the famous Stanford prison experiment. In this case, in addition to labels, the structure of a setting (a prison) powerfully manifested to such a degree that the two-week experiment had to be terminated early after six days.
The mind can be a strange thing. I’d like to close out this post with two more examples of Dr. Langer experiments.
Langer, a social psychologist and teacher, has written a book, this is actually her fourth on mindfulness but first on health, that is philosophical in part, and practical throughout. It is based on many of her studies and those conducted with her students. One classic study Langer conducted had senior citizens, some of whom were in nursing type facilities spend a week living as though it was 1959 again, wearing the type of clothes they wore then, doing things like carrying their own suitcases, which they hadn’t done in years, bringing photos of who they were then and “acting as if” they were their younger version, again. A week later, most were actually livelier, stronger and healthier, they expressed more vitality and took more interest in life than they had in years. (Source.)
And, excerpted from Dr. Langer’s web site…
In the 1970s my colleague Judith Rodin and I conducted an experiment with nursing home residents. We encouraged one group of participants to find ways to make more decisions for themselves. For example, they were allowed to choose where to receive visitors, and if and when to watch the movies that were shown at the home. Each also chose a houseplant to care for, and they were to decide where to place the plant in their room, as well as when and how much to water it. Our intent was to make the nursing home residents more mindful, to help them engage with the world and live their lives more fully.
A second, control group received no such instructions to make their own decisions; they were given houseplants but told that the nursing staff would care for them. A year and a half later, we found that members of the first group were more cheerful, active, and alert, based on a variety of tests we had administered both before and after the experiment. Allowing for the fact that they were all elderly and quite frail at the start, we were pleased that they were also much healthier: we were surprised, however, that less than half as many of the more engaged group had died than had those in the control group.
Dramatic results, eh? My advice is to be mindful about your brain. You never know what it might be doing to you.
A little something from my Twitter timeline:
My wife is still not feeling well and saw a new doctor today who listened and asked questions. Is it sad as fuck that surprised us so much?
—April 13, 2011
I don’t care what your job is. Maybe you’re the kid who pumps the gas. (Historical reference.) Maybe the person on the other side of the counter at the fast food restaurant. Maybe even the President of the United States.
Maybe you’re a pathetic loser, like me, nothing more than a piece of gum on the bottom of the universe’s shoe.
Or maybe you are a doctor.
Whatever your job, and more importantly, whether you hate it or not, you should do your best. Hell, I find myself caring and trying to excel even as I wish I could melt out my eyeballs with a blowtorch. There’s something very very wrong with me in that I care about doing things right even while I hate what I’m doing. It’s a sickness, I think.
That’s probably why I’ve never been fired in my entire life. I know! But it’s true.
It’s no secret that I don’t think too much of doctors. I often bitch about doctors on my blog. In a previous post I called them Salubrious Basterds. (That post was yet another “challenge” post, namely Blog Improv. The day is coming soon, I think, where a post that isn’t part of any challenge will become the most trendy challenge of all!)
My beef with doctors is twofold. First, they still haven’t evolved too far beyond, “Hey, let’s break out the leeches. That should improve your humors. Fuck it, we don’t know what else to try.” There’s still so much we don’t know.
When the U.S.S. Enterprise went back in time (yeah, that narrows it down) Dr. McCoy gave an elderly woman at the hospital a pill and she grew a new kidney.
Alas, we’re not quite there yet.
My second beef is that, out of all the people I meet, doctors seem to be the least concerned about doing their job and doing a good job.
It works like this: You go to the doctor. You wait on them half an hour or more because they are way more important than you. You pay $100 for about three minutes of their time. During those three minutes the doctor won’t listen to you, glances at facts, leaps to conclusions, acts like being near you is akin to being covered in biting, crawling fire ants, scribbles out a prescription based on the latest visit from a pharmaceutical rep, and then flees the room as fast as humanly possible.
$33 a minute for that kind of “work” is fantastic when you can get it.
The last time I went to the emergency room, I was there about 15 minutes, got a shot of something called diloted (which was actually good shit), saw the doctor a total of three minutes, and got billed for $1,200. What a fucking racket.
My main point is, can’t they at least pretend to care? Do they have to act so rushed, like your mere presence is such an imposition on them? We’re paying good money.
My wife and I have been sick a lot so far this year with that damn lingering bug that has been going around. I went all John Wayne on it (perhaps Mike Rowe is the more suitable name these days?) and toughed it out by going to work and never seeing a doctor. I consider it my duty to work when sick and be a vector.
My wife, however, missed a record number of days and used up all her sick time. She went to the doctor a few times, too. And urgent care.
Her primary care physician wouldn’t give her the time of the day and prescribed prednisone, some sort of steroid. Why is it that doctors think steroids are God’s gift to medicine? Steroids must be the modern version of leeches. Then, when the prednisone didn’t work and caused other problems, the doctor stuck his fingers in his ears and went, “naw naw naw I can’t hear you.”
Meanwhile my wife is paying big money for the privilege of having this discussion with him over and over.
Finally, she figured out that if she made an appointment on his day off, she’d get to see someone else. Brilliant! And that’s when something unusual occurred. The person she saw actually listened. And didn’t act like my wife was frothing at the mouth with rabies and stayed in the room with her. And even asked questions! And, get this, said, “I see you went to an urgent care. You need to sign this form so we can get their records over here.”
What the hell?
The thing that really hit us was, of course, how bloody surprised we were to be treated well by a member of the medical profession. Wow. It’s truly sad just how staggering of a surprise it turned out to be. When doing a good job is so damn unusual perhaps there’s something wrong with the whole profession?
I often wonder, “What would life be like if a native American village ran like our modern society?” You’d go to see the medicine man and he’d say, “Yes. I can help you. But in return, I will require from you everything you hunt for the next 12 years. Sound like a good deal? If you don’t like it, you always got that other option. Just go die.”
Somehow I don’t think they ran things that way.
To close this section, I’d like to talk about a doctor who is not-so-affectionately known as The Dragon Lady or the The Black Widow behind her back. The woman is a Queen Biatch of Quackery in the highest degree. (In this context, “quackery” is just a general derogatory term based on her profession. I don’t know what her actual skills are.) She had her own practice but suddenly and mysteriously closed it down. Now she works in the field of insurance billing where she is hated. If you are a doctor she’ll treat you with a modicum of respect. Anyone else? Watch out. You are her minions and treated as such. A noble example of a noble profession. And, at least to me, she’s not that exceptional in her field. Just another doctor that doesn’t treat people right.
Big “Q” Bonus: Quetzalcoatl
If you’ve ever played Nethack (the greatest computer game of all time), then you already know that Quetzalcoatl is the lawful deity of the archeologist profession. He’s the guy you pray to when you are dying of hunger or about to die.
Quetzalcoatl was also a God to the Aztecs.
One of the principal Aztec-Toltec gods was the great and wise Quetzalcoatl, who was called Kukumatz in Guatemala, and Kukulcan in Yucatan. His image, the plumed serpent, is found on both the oldest and the most recent Indian edifices. … The legend tells how the Indian deity Quetzalcoatl came from the “Land of the Rising Sun”. He wore a long white robe and had a beard; he taught the people crafts and customs and laid down wise laws. He created an empire in which the ears of corn were as long as men are tall, and caused bolls of colored cotton to grow on cotton plants. But for some reason or other he had to leave his empire. … But all the legends of Quetzalcoatl unanimously agree that he promised to come again.
[ Gods, Graves, and Scholars, by C. W. Ceram ]
It is also interesting that Quetzalcoatl has a tie-in with Mormonism:
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Some Mormon scholars believe that Quetzalcoatl, as a white, bearded god who came from the sky and promised to return, was actually Jesus Christ. According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus visited the American natives after his resurrection. Latter-day Saint President John Taylor wrote:
“The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being. But the history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure Lamanitish source. “
TED: Ideas Worth Spreading
A song by Queen on a slightly different instrument…https://ted.com/talks/view/id/1063
This is my “Q” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”
This was not my original post idea for tonight, but when life gives you lemons, you need to pucker the hell up and be sour. It’s time for a little blog improv.
My wife, who apparently is on a quest to find another way to die, had a prescription that needed to be picked up. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been caught dead at such a place on an evening like this.
It all started around New Year’s 2011. My wife already had a hurt shoulder than pains her greatly from time to time. One night we went to bed and everything was fine. When we woke up, somehow she had injured her knee. We’re still stumped about that one. She’s just that talented, I guess. But yeah, that knee injury was bad. Out of the blue she was on crutches and going in for MRIs (which were a friggin’ joke), trying to see an orthopedic surgeon who wouldn’t call her back and interpret her scans, and generally just trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
Then, about three weeks ago, the wife decided she needed to go foraging for organic materials for basket weaving. She likes to weave baskets. Personally I’d rather debug Perl scripts or write compliant HTML, but we all enjoy different things. Naturally, a few days later, she started seeing red splotches on her body. At first we thought they might be a reaction to something we ate. The next morning, however, it was all made clear. She had been visited by the poison oak fairy.
On my wife’s side of the family, poison oak is a deadly force to be reckoned with. Just looking at a picture of it can make them explode in an itchy red mess. Me? I don’t think I’ve ever had it. I guess some people are more susceptible.
My wife’s case was bad. Very bad. It was in and around her eyes, mouth, face, tummy, legs, hands, and, well, suffice it to say a few other choice spots that shall remain unmentionable.
So now my wife was being subjected 24/7 to intense pain and scratchiness on top of her shoulder and knee that were still painful, too.
That led to several more doctor’s visits, missed days from work, and eventually a prescription for a pill known as prednisone (a pill) for poison oak. My wife was told right up front that one of the side effects of the pill is that it can make you “grumpy.” Oh Lord, help me!
I went to WedMD to check out the possible side effects. There it was in black and white. Mood swings. Chronic trouble sleeping. Depression. Delirium. Hallucination. Paranoia. Mental disturbance. Wow. That’s quite the list.
Bonus side effect: “Complete Stoppage of the Heart.” Yeah, that would qualify as a side effect. Personally, I don’t care what medical problem you have. A side effect like that one just might be worse than the problem it’s supposed to allegedly be fixing, eh?
She’s definitely had trouble sleeping since the first of the year. That sure doesn’t help.
So Friday morning we wake up and something new is going on. She’s having trouble breathing and doesn’t feel well. By the time I go to work she’s still in bed so I figure she’s taking the day off. I tiptoe out of the house.
I called at lunchtime to see how see was doing. No answer. Finally later in the afternoon she called me. She had gone in to work at noon and will be going to urgent care when she gets off. Because she’s sick of her doctor who never does jack shit.
Related post: Salubrious Basterds/The doctor will fee you now.
Urgent care told my wife that she had picked up bronchitis and/or pneumonia and likely an infection, probably because the prednisone weakened her system to the point of allowing such things to be able to gain a foothold. That’s just friggin’ pluperfect! Their brilliant plan to deal with this troubling development? Yep. You guessed it! A cocktail of even more prednisone and some antibiotics to knock down the infection. Doctors are so smart!
And that’s the short preface to this post. A post which is actually about how I ended up at a friggin’ Walgreens of all places on a friggin’ Friday night. Gads!
I had to go pick up my wife’s prescription. It takes a damned good reason to get me in that shit hole.
As soon as the glowing building loomed in my field of view I knew I was in for the time of my life. You see, I live in a very small town where they roll up the sidewalks early every evening and all day every Sunday. Places like Walgreens stay upon 24 hours a day, thus become destinations in and of themselves to the indigenous locals who don’t know how to entertain themselves any other way.
I pulled into the parking lot and couldn’t believe my eyes. 8pm on a Friday night and the Walgreens was packed. Who knew?
I parked and tried to make my way to the front door. The sidewalk was teeming with all sorts of miscreants. Yes, once again, I had entered The Cloud. That’s just my way of saying “outdoors where people accumulate and smoke their asses off.” I was swimming through a sea of smoke, holding my breath while walking, trying to make it to the front door.
Most of the people were conglomerated around the evening’s star attractions: The two shiny and gleaming RedBox video rental machines on the sidewalk near the front door. Jesus Christ, what a clusterfuck! I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “Who the fuck rents their DVDs from a fucking vending machine?” No doubt if they put a vending machine there that served french fries then these same helpless/hopeless people could also enjoy a hot meal!
I steeled my resolve. My mission was to ingress and egress the scene as fast as humanly possible and then get the hell back home. I was already “feet wet” so there was no turning back.
Inside, I made a beeline to the area for prescriptions. Imagine the layout of the store as a rectangle with the same aspect ratio as a widescreen movie. Label the bottom left corner of that rectangle as “entrance.” Label the top right corner of that rectangle as “prescriptions.” If you drew a line between those two points you’d have a hypotenuse, your optimum shortest distance of travel. If only there weren’t aisles and aisles of shit in between.
The place where you pick up your prescriptions is located in the most remote location in the whole friggin’ store. There can’t be any logical reason for that, right? It has absolutely nothing to do with making you walk by soda and candy bars and cheap plastic toys made in China and all kinds of other friggin’ horseshit, right? I must have hiked 2.3 miles to get to my wife’s prescription all the while exposed to purchasable goods.
I’ll spare y’all the rest of the details of my visit to Walgreens. I was able to make my escape and somehow return to home base, but it’s all a blur. My debriefing is scheduled at 0800.
I’ve been plotting my wife’s ailments since the first of the year. The trendline has decidedly upwards movement. In fact, if I project that trendline into the future, today should be the first time she’ll add two new problems on the same day. The rate of growth is exponential, so I have that to look forward to.
See you again soon, Walgreens. My old friend.
How’d I do with those lemons? Was I sour?
As one of the foremost “poop correspondents” on the internet it falls on me (no pun intended) to bring you this explosive story. Here’s my report filed from the trenches…
Recently, Brea thoughtfully tipped me off regarding some interesting news in the medical world. News that was right up my alley (so to speak).
To put this succinctly, poop transplants are now being performed as “last-ditch treatments” in the fight against an illness known as clostridium difficile or more commonly as “CDF/cdf” or “c. diff.”
According to Wikipedia, c. diff “is a species of Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Clostridium that causes diarrhea and other intestinal disease when competing bacteria are wiped out by antibiotics.”
The disease can be remarkably hard to treat and can be fatal. According to a story in the Associated Press, C. diff is “a germ that so ravages some people’s intestines that repeated tries of the strongest, most expensive antibiotic can’t conquer their disabling diarrhea.”
In dire cases, a new treatment consisting of a “transplant” of fecal matter from a healthy person is performed. A doctor in the story claims, “[fecal matter] is the ultimate probiotic.” (Probiotics are live microorganisms thought to be healthy for the host organism.)
I can only imagine how that doctor/patient consultation goes down. “Your problem, as you well know, is diarrhea. Our plan is to take poop from someone healthy and put it inside you. Poop will be the solution to your diarrhea.”
Sounds ass backwards to me.
It’s a little more complicated than that. The transplant procedure involves relocation of an “entire bacterial neighborhood” from the healthy donor.
Here’s the fun part. C. diff is thought to commonly be a “nosocomial infection.” That’s just a fancy way of saying the C. diff infection is often the “result of treatment in a hospital or a healthcare service unit.”
You go in for health care and come away with a little unplanned bonus. Interesting how that works, eh?
According to Wikipedia, a stay in the hospital up to two weeks represents a 13% chance to pick up the C. diff infection. A stay of four-weeks or more and that rate jumps to a whopping 50 percent!
I wish I was making this stuff up. All I can say is, “I’m not shitting you!”
As a poop correspondent, I’ve often sat around spending my free time daydreaming about things like hand washing rates. (Hand washing represents a substantial chunk of my “Poop Manifesto” I’m hoping to release someday.) We’ve all heard the stories about public handrails with more than 500 different sources of fecal matter on them. Or how people in public restrooms tend to wash their hands more often when they are being watched.
As a civilization we are apparently not big on the whole concept of hand washing and cleanliness. Even though science has told us about the dangers for a long time now.
Imagine a place where you think hand washing would reign supreme. Imagine people who you think would be best at it. It isn’t too hard to surmise that a place like an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) within a hospital might be such a place, right? And that people like doctors might be experts at washing hands, right? We’ve all seen the surgeons at Mash 4077 like Hawkeye, Trapper John and B.J. Hunnicutt “scrub” before working on patients. For them it was a big deal.
As it often turns out, it’s no big surprise (at least to me) when reality turns out to be just a wee bit different.
When doing my research, one thing I noticed was that the ICU industry (for lack of a better term) seemed to be bragging about hand washing rates of 97%. My reaction: How the hell is that something to brag about in a frickin’ hospital???
But it’s worse than that. Much worse. Studies have found that hand washing rates in ICUs are appalling low. Even after “awaresness campaigns,” specialized training, and even when employees are told that their hand washing will be monitored. And these are the people that take care of the sick?
One study found that within an ICU setting, there was a hand washing rate of 72.8%. Nurses were best with a rate of 97.5%. Technicians came in second with a rate of 47.7%. Are you ready to guess who came in last place? Yep, doctors, with a rate of 37.6%.
37.6%? Holy shit!
The study also found that an “educational program” about hand washing improved the hand washing rate among nurses and technicians, but not doctors. Said the study, “No statistically significant changes in the handwashing behaviour among doctors was observed during the study period.” Is this the “God complex” at work? Apparently doctors don’t like to be told what to do, about anything, from anyone. Oh, put your hands on me, doctor! And some people actually want to date doctors?
Side story: My wife worked in a doctor’s office. It was a small office where people sat a few feet away from the restroom. When someone did their business you could hear every “plop,” if you know what I mean. More importantly, however, you could hear if running water was turned on. Running water that would imply that hand washing was taking place. And guess who used the restroom and didn’t turn on the water before coming back out? Yep! The doctor! One of my favorite expressions used to be, “The doctor will fee you now.” But I think that’s old and busted. From now on, I’m updating my phrase to “The doctor will pee you now.” It think that’s a lot more apropos.
So, it seems to me, we just might have identified at least one culprit when it comes to nosocomial infections, eh? Do a serious internet search regarding the problem of simply getting health care workers to wash their hands and you begin to get an idea about the magnitude of the problem we’re facing.
The good news is that, since getting it’s humble start in hospitals and such, C. diff now seems to be making headway in the “outpatient setting,” also known as the general community outside of hospitals. You know, where people like you and me live our daily lives.
Humans! Is there anything they can’t do?
Thanks, Brea, for getting me started! 🙂
Note: This post satisfies the legal requirements of my earlier post entitled “Blog improv.” That’s where I asked for some random words. I will now use those words in this post. The random words, in addition to “Salubrious” which is used in the subject line, will be highlighted when they are used. Enjoy! –Abyss
The doctor will fee you now!
Is your doctor all that and a bag of chips? Is your doctor the cat’s meow?
I don’t know. You tell me. How do you feel about someone who says, “Sure, I’ll help you with something important like your health.” You know, that life and death stuff. Almost as important as a new episode of Jersey Shore. “But I’ll only do it for something akin to every penny you make for the next twenty years. Deal?”
Wow. That’s just awesome! And to think I’m such a friggin’ idiot – I do nice things for people every day and I don’t even charge. Woe is me, how dumb I’ve been. If you catch me at home sticking my head in my Easy-Bake Oven, please don’t try to stop me!
I get it. You are an important human being, Doctor. Me? I’m a steaming pile of poop. That’s why I have to schedule my whole life around my visit to see you, wait in your disgusting little room full of sick people, and pay over $100 for 10 minutes of quality time where you’ll barely pay attention to me and rush me away as fast as humanly possible.
The other day my wife was feeling rather forlorn because she was in some rather extreme pain. There was a red bump behind her ear and some painful redness that seemed to go up to the tip of her ear. At first we assumed it was a pimple or a bug bite.
The next day, though, her ear was still in a pickle, so she did something we don’t often do. She took herself in to see the doctor. Good thing, too. I turned out to be neither of the problems we suspected. It was some kind of infection of the bone behind the ear and is fairly serious if left untreated. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics.
My wife complained about the severe pain, which seems to be close to debilitating, but the doctor refused to prescribe her anything for it. Apparently he has his own moral standards about prescribing the dreaded “narcotics” that might take away my wife’s pain until the antibiotics could kick down the infection.
I understand that the health care system is so discombobulated that doctors now live in fear of writing prescriptions for pain meds. Some people visit 10 different doctors a month, get 10 prescriptions for pain meds, and get those prescriptions filled at 10 different pharmacies to remain under the grid and avoid detection. I get that.
On the other hand, however, my doctor can easily verify that he sees us like once every few years and that we haven’t had any prescriptions from him during that same time. If we’re addicted to pain meds we sure have a damn clever way of hiding it!
So the basterd listened to my wife complain about her pain and decided, “Nah. You can live with it. My salubrious standards are more important than your suffering. You are depressed. I’m glad you came to see me to get this off your chest. Come back and see me later. Next patient, please. Send in another victim of industrial disease!”
I thought doctors took the Hippocratic oath which says, “Do no harm.”
“Ah,” says the doctor. “There’s your problem, old chap. I’m not the one doing the harm. You can blame the funky ear bone widget thing for that. I’m just the one refusing to treat the pain caused by what is doing the harm. See the distinction? They taught me that in medical school – in addition to billing systems, of course. Also sailing, golfing, and hiding assets offshore.”
Are doctors simply in charge of thinning the herd? Or are they actually supposed to help the people that come to them in pain?
I admit. I simply don’t get it.