The happiest day of his life

When I was a preteen, I got my first Spiderman comic book. I was enthralled. A hero who had powers, but had a grandmother, responsibilities, made mistakes, felt guilt and confusion. I wanted this, not the princess crap. I did not want a prince to ride in and carry me off. I did not and don’t trust princes. The wedding being the happiest day of a woman’s life: what the hell? Is it the happiest day of the man’s life? If not why not? It’s important to the woman to be married to her love but not the man?

And anyhow, the Disney movies were very consistent. There were no good Disney Queens. The good ones died in childbirth, or were absent, or their ship went down. The stepmothers were evil. The princess career ended with marriage. Pregnancy either kills you or turns you evil. Actually, sex turns you evil if you are a female. That was the very clear Disney message judging by the animated features. Virgin girls are pure princesses but there are no adult female role models for years and years and years. By my preteens I wanted to drive my own wagon: I was not going to be taken care of, controlled, or left poor and with small children through divorce. I would have a career and children.

What IS the happiest day of a man’s life? Do we have any map of that? When they are promoted? When they buy twitter? When they are elected President? When they get married? Why do we have a happiest day for women (and is it the marriage or the sex?) but not for men?

In the romance novels, the man is usually older, “experienced”, rich, and has a reputation for seducing women. The woman is often a virgin, or she has a child because there was an evil man who she thought loved her, or the older man got her pregnant and she never told him. She knows it is true love because she is pure and yet is overcome by lust, so it must be true love. Snort. I have always thought this is stupid and silly. So men in the novels are experienced, have sex with lots of women, and then are carried away by lust that turns out to be true love with this woman? What about all the others? Did they think it was true love too? Or were they “bad” women, who had lust without true love? Impure, not virgins, not a “good” girl. Seems pretty confusing to me. Often the virgin gets pregnant because, hey, she is carried away by uncontrollable love, so of course she would not think about birth control. What is the experienced man thinking? Hey, let’s get this one pregnant, I’d like to pay child support? Oh, he’s carried away by uncontrollable love, but really now, you’d think after all that experience that he would use birth control. Apparently the rich experienced older seducer males are all morons when struck in the heart by true love. These books should be burned, really.

Anyhow, I was suspicious of the princess story and I wanted my own horse and armor and sword and I’ll fight my own dragons, thank you! I was much more interested in the super hero story, even though the superheroines were still pretty lame and likely to get killed off. Oh, and girlfriends get killed off. Gwen dying from fear during a fall: give me a break. Yuk. Made me glad she was dead if she was that much of a weakling. At least she couldn’t reproduce. I liked Mary Jane a whole lot more: feisty.

I wanted to be a superhero and still human, not a princess.

So what is the happiest day of a man’s life?

_____

The cat is Boa, not Sol Duc. Boa died at age 17 right before Covid-19 started.

Qia and the dark

This story is part of a series about a Balint group for angels. Balint groups are groups for physicians to get together and talk about cases that bother them. This often means facing their own biases and discriminatory feelings. I wrote this in January 2022. The current estimate of Long Covid is 10 to 30% of non hospitalized people. Which is huge and terrifying.

___________________________

“And really, it looks like at least half the population will get Omicron. The question,” says Qia, “is how much Long Haul it causes. If it causes 30-50%, like Delta, we are in serious trouble.”

The angels are silent.

“Do you think it will?”

“I am hoping for under 10%.” says Qia. “But of course I do not know.”

Silence again.

“Why do you go to WORST CASE?” snaps Algernon. His wings rustle.

Qia blinks at him slowly.

She thinks about it. “It is the safest place to start.”

Algernon frowns at her. Another angel slowly nods.

“If I start in the worst case scenario, I can face it. I have to think about it, work through it, plan for it. Then I can back off and hope for one of the less horrific scenarios.”

“You are WEIRD.” says Algernon.

Qia is annoyed. Her wings go bat and blood red.

“Word.” whispers a very young angel.

“WHY?” snaps Qia, “WHY NOT face the worst?”

“Most people never do,” says the moderator.

“What?” says Qia.

“Most people never face the worst. They don’t want to. They are terrified. They are scared. They do things to avoid thinking about it. They skip that step and just go straight to hope.”

Qia glares at her. The moderator smiles and her wings go black as pitch.

“We aren’t PEOPLE. We are ANGELS.” says Qia, nearly snarling.

Algernon laughs. “Yeah, well, some of us do not want to think about the worst either. That is Gawd(esses) job.”

Qia is doubly pissed off to be crying. “No, we have to think too.”

“Qia, I agree, but it is hard.” says the moderator. “That is why you have the job you have. Because you are willing to go straight to the dark.”

Qia has her face in her hands.

The angels surround her, soothing, and start to sing.

Conspiracy is easier than vulnerability and grief

“Our culture faces a flood of conspiracism” says the Atlantic Monthly.

My great Uncle forwards an article that says we are tracking along stages as we did to WWII.

I write back. No, I say, we are tracking towards WWI.

Because of Covid-19.

The problem with the pandemic is vulnerability and grief. It is difficult to be mature enough to accept vulnerability and grief. It is easier to find someone to blame and go after them. We can’t burn a virus, we can’t hang it in effigy, we can’t take it to court and give it the death penalty. Many people are terrified and do not want to feel vulnerable and do not want to grieve. So they fall into conspiracies: it is safer to believe that the pandemic is a lie, that alien lizards have taken over the US Government, that it is the fault of a country making it on purpose, or a race, or a religion. It is easier to believe that nanocomputers are being injected with the vaccine than to think about the number of dead. It is easier not to think about the number of dead, the terrifying randomness, to believe that this only affects people with preexisting conditions, or people who God wants to smite, or people the lizard aliens hate. Or that the whole thing is a lie.

We are mimicing the late 19 teens and early 1920s very well. A world pandemic. We have a war, that is not a world war. This time we have bombs capable of destroying current life on earth. We’d be left with tardigrades and those bacteria who live in the deep trenches in boiling water where the earth’s crust is thin. At least one of my friends thinks this might be a good thing.

We have just reached 8 billion people.

In London, the Black Death had a 50% kill rate in the 1400s. Half the people that got it died. It changed the world. Pandemics change the world. In this pandemic the death rate is about 1% or a little more. However, 10% to 30% of the people with Covid-19 have Long Covid. Today, Johns Hopkins says we are at 635 million people who have gotten Covid-19. 6.6 million or more are dead from it. Then we have between 65 million and 195 million people with Long Covid in the world.

We don’t know how long Long Covid lasts. We don’t know how to cure it. We do not know if we can cure it or if people will get better. We do not know, we do not know, we do not know.

Which is also terrifying. So the conspiracy and someone to hate or some group to hate or someone to fight is safer for many people.

Do not go there. We must grieve. We must help each other. We must face fear and not give in to it. We must not fall into the trap of the charismatic leader who will give us villains, who will lead us into a World War to distract us from our grief.

And from there into a world depression. Remember, the Roaring Twenties end with the worst depression the world has seen so far. Let us not repeat it, let us not beat it.

Peace you and blessings.

Navigating disability

I am having an interesting week regarding disability. Maybe it will make me a curmudgeon.

A woman says, “It must be difficult to be disabled, with your lungs.” I wear my oxygen to sing in chorus. I did the concert without the oxygen but had to drop some held notes at the end. I get goofy when I am hypoxic. I also write really strange rhyming songs when hypoxic, which I recorded.

I reply, “Well, my mother and father and sister are all dead, so by comparison I am doing well.”

She looked horrified. “ALL DEAD?”

“Yes.” I said.

Mother at 61, father 75 and sister at 49. Cancer, emphysema, cancer. I am so lucky that I don’t smoke and have always disliked sodas and thought that addictive things were very dangerous for me before I started college.

I also attended a Roam Echo Telemedicine yesterday, about Long Covid. WOW. It was EXCELLENT.

https://hsc.unm.edu/echo/partner-portal/echos-initiatives/long-covid-fatiguing-illness-recovery/

Yesterday’s program was given by an attorney, discussing disability. She was describing how the chart notes can damage a patient’s chances of obtaining disability and she gave us forms to help us document disability successfully.

She put the number of people with Long Haul Covid at 30% of the not hospitalized people.

Thirty percent. That is HUGE and damaging. I have heard numbers from 10-30%.

There were also physicians attending the Roam-Echo program who have Long Covid and are realizing that they can’t work to the level they did before. Some can’t work at all.

The panel recommended neuropsychiatric testing if the patient is having any trouble with memory or executive function or brain fog. Document, document, document.

Not only that, the previously taped programs are linked to the site above. So I can watch the rest of them. It is FREE and I get Continuing Medical Education from it.

I trained in Family Medicine from 1989-93 in medical school and residency 1993-96. When I was in school I got virtually no training on how to do disability paperwork. Or even how to tell if someone is disabled. The truth is that people do not want to be disabled. In our culture it is shameful and anyhow, social security disability is often $1000 per month. Try living on that. Unenviable.

It turns out that I am lucky or smart or some weird combination. I bought disability insurance way back in medical school and paid $1000 per year for 29 years. I used it twice before 2021. I was on bed rest for 3 months of preterm labor. My insurance doesn’t kick in until I have been off work for 3 months. I wrote them a letter and said I expected to return to work six weeks after having my child, unless there were complications. The company paid me for an extra week. I called them and basically they said, we are so happy to have you return to work that we do not care.

The second time was after my third pneumonia. Strep A and my lungs and muscles were trashed. Both burned like strep throat. It hurts. I was out for six months and then worked half of my usual for another six months. Really I was working about 1/4 of a regular Family Practice Physician. I was seeing 4-5 patients a day and then sleeping for 12 hours, exhausted. A “normal” load is 22 or more. Which is not really sustainable with today’s complex patients, but that is another essay. I had chronic fatigue, MECFS, as it’s now called, but I was in denial. I never got past 8-10 patients a day for the next seven years. I was also running my own small business and had continual hostility from the only hospital in the county. I was one of three independent practitioners. I really do not understand why they thought my tiny clinic was a threat, but whatever. They could grow up.

From 2014 to 2021, I asked any patient with upper respiratory symptoms or a cough to wear a mask for the visit and I masked too. I explained that if I got a fourth pneumonia, I would be disabled for Family Practice medicine. I hoped it wouldn’t happen. I masked the people with allergies too, because after all, you can have allergies AND a cold. When Covid-19 hit, my patients just rolled their eyes and wore the masks. I only ever had one man, a new patient, object. “I won’t wear a mask,” he said.

I said, “Sir, you don’t have to. But I won’t see you without a mask, so please leave and go to Urgent Care.” This was in my waiting room.

“You mean that!” he said.

“Yes I do. I get pneumonia, so that is a firm policy.”

He put on the mask.

I closed the clinic in early 2021. Covid-19 hit us too hard and we were a shoestring clinic anyhow, with 8-10 patients a day. I went to work in the next county. I kept walking into patient rooms where people had their masks off. I had pneumonia in five weeks.

So it goes.

My disability insurance is paying. I did have to hire an attorney to get the company to explain the policy rules clearly. I don’t speak legalese, I hate it, and I think that insurance companies will use any loophole they can find to get out of paying. So far I am lucky to have navigated this. Now I have to look over my policy again, because some policies change after two years of paying and they don’t have to pay if you can do ANY paid employment. It’s pretty clear that I can’t. I went for a beach walk yesterday and then crashed for a two hour nap and then slept 8 hours last night. Any labor, walking OR brain, will crash me. ME-CFS sucks. I think we will have a handle on it in another decade and it’s clear that it is an immune system response. Too late for my employment, though. Ah, well. I got 30 years in. I was annoyed because I was NOT planning to retire yet. I keep running in to people who say, “How do you like retirement?” “I didn’t retire. I am disabled by my fourth pneumonia and grumpy about it.” “Oh,” they say. I should do the social thing, “Love it!” but I’ve never been good at that anyhow. I joke that I tell the truth because I am often not believed, so why bother to lie?

At any rate, 10 or 30% of the people who have had unhospitalized Covid-19 is a huge number of people, and we do not know how long Long Covid will last or how to resolve it. Stay tuned. I hope it is less than a decade, but it will be a little while yet.

Prayers and blessings for all.

The photograph is the really beautiful agate I found yesterday. For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: curmudgeon.

Practicing Conflict II

Practicing conflict II

In Practicing conflict, I wrote about practicing conflict by arguing different sides of a topic inside my head. I wrote that I don’t fear conflict and have learned to enjoy arguing with myself. I am a physician and physicians argue all the time.

What? No they don’t. Well, the doctor persona does not argue with the patient much. Some doctors give orders to patients, others try to negotiate, some try to convince. But behind the scenes, doctors are more like the Whacky Racer Car with the Cave Guys, running with their feet and hitting each other with clubs.

In residency in Family Practice at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, I start on General Surgery during internship. This is in the early 1990s and there was not much in the way of “disruptive physician” rules. I have to cover Trauma and Plastic Surgery and General Surgery at night on call. The resident is present but I get paged first for patients on the floor. I learn that I should go to all Trauma pages in the emergency room. If I know what is happening with the new Trauma patient, it’s a lot easier to handle the phone calls for more drugs and so forth. Also, the resident is less mean to me.

We attend the Trauma “Grand Rounds”. These are unreassuring to a new intern. A resident presents a trauma patient, giving the history in the accepted formal order. The Faculty Trauma Surgeons interrupt, disagree with management of the patient and yell. They yell at the resident and at each other. The upper level residents yell too, being well trained. The Trauma Surgeons do not agree with each other. They are inflammatory and rude. I am shocked initially: medicine is not a cookbook, is not simple and it appears that it is a controversial mess. It turns out that medicine IS a controversial mess.

There is not as much yelling on the next rotation. At that time Trauma Surgeons yelled more than any other set of doctors that I ran across. They yelled in the ER, at each other, at the staff, at the nurses, at the residents. The culture has changed, I suspect, but that’s how it was then.

I take Advanced Trauma Life Support as a third year resident. The Trauma Surgeons at OHSU helped write the course. They don’t agree with it. On some questions the teaching Surgeon says, “The answer to this question is (c), “ followed by muttering loudly, “though I totally don’t agree with that and I would do (b).” Another Trauma resident or surgeon then might start arguing with him, but they moved on pretty quickly, to teach the current agreed best practices in the book. Which change every few years. Great.

Years later (2009) I join the Mad as Hell Doctors, to go across the US talking about single payer. They are a group from Oregon. Physicians for a National Healthcare Program are a bit cautious with us the first year: we might be whackos. We have an RV with our logo and we have a small fleet of cars and what do you think we do in the cars? We argue. Or discuss. Or whatever you want to call it. We spend the driving dissecting issues and how to present things best and tearing apart the last presentation and rebuilding our ideas. The group does 36 presentations in 24 days. Each presentation takes an hour to set up, two hours to do and another hour to break down and debrief. We get more and more exhausted and cranky and um, well, argumentative, as the trip proceeds. Even though I think of the Whacky Racer Cave Guys running with their feet and bonking each other with clubs, this is the most wonderful group of doctors I have ever been with. A common goal that we all want to get to, discussing and disagreeing on strategy all the way! I feel closer to those physicians in a week then I feel to any of the physicians that I’ve worked with for the last 9 years in my small town. Conflict with a common goal.

Doctors are TRAINED to argue, even with themselves, to document every decision in the chart with reasons why they have reached that decision. And that they have thought about all of the reasons for say, a low potassium, thought of every possible cause and worked their way through testing. The testing always has two strands. One strand is rule out the things that could kill the person NOW, even if rare. The other strand is what is common? You have to think about both at the same time, always. And argue with yourself about which tests should be done, in what order, what is most important, how do you treat the person while awaiting results, and have I missed anything? And if we aren’t sure, we call another doctor, run it by them, wait for them to shoot holes in our logic or to say, no, I can’t think of anything else.

We can deal with conflict. We must deal with conflict. The world is too small not to deal with conflict, with disagreements, with different viewpoints and positions and ideas. If doctors can do it every single day at work, then everyone else can too. Trying to see all the positions and possible diagnoses saves lives in medicine. We need to extrapolate that to everything else. Try to see other positions, try to understand them, to respect them. We can and we must.

Blessings.

Here are the Whacky Racers:

And Madashell Doctors blog: http://madashelldoctors.com/category/uncategorized/page/3/

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: discuss.

The photograph is from my clinic once we had stopped seeing patients and were selling everything. Mordechai was our clinic skeleton, made of plastic, from China. This was in January 2021.

On pants and pronouns

My pronouns are now per and pers. And that’s what I am going to call you and you and you over there too. Because I don’t care what is in your pants unless I have personal interest (rare and unlikely) or unless I am working as a physician. Per and pers are short for person. Generic. Nongendered because I don’t care. I suppose we could use Pee and Pees for People, which would amuse small children and immature adults (which includes me).

As a physician I need to know if someone is XX, XY, XO, XYY, or any of the other variations because it affects health. I need to know if the XX is of childbearing age or before that or after that. I need to know if the testes are undescended or have been removed because of prostate cancer. But otherwise I don’t need to know and I don’t care what is in your pants.

Get over gender. Everyone can wear kilts or carhartts or makeup or glitter or boots or toe cleavage sandals (ok, the five inch heels are really bad for your feet) and I don’t care. The first time I met my future husband was in a contra dance line where the people coming up the line were upset or rattled. I wondered why and there he was, wearing his mother’s wrap around lavender flowered skirt and dancing the “male” part. Now the parts are often called “lead” and “follow” because the callers don’t care what is in the dancer’s pants either.

When I saw my future husband in a wrap around lavender skirt, it was not love at first sight. What I thought was, “Well, that is not your routine Beltway Bandit. Bet he’s not an attorney.” This was Washington, DC in 1985 or 6 and the place was crawling with attorneys. I was correct. He is not an attorney. I thought, well, at least he’d be interesting to talk to and I found the consternation in the contra dance line amusing.

I did not talk to him that night. The next time I ran into him was at a square dance at the Washington Cathedral Nunnery. (You now may be wondering if this is true. It is.) He was wearing pants. After the square ended, I said, “You look different from a week ago.” He laughed. “The woman I am here with hates it when I wear skirts,” and he promptly invited me out. Ok.

Marge Piercy published Woman on the Edge of Time back in 1976. The pronouns in one of the two futures were per and pers. I am fine with that and I am not fine with having every single person pick their own pronouns. If we are going to pick our own pronouns, I am going to be “Mother Superior”, because I think it is stupid. Make it generic and non-gendered and I have no issue with generic. I don’t care what is in people’s pants or shirts or whatever, nor do I care what gender they are born nor their present identification nor their future plans. Except, as I said, if I am romantically interested or if I am working as a physician.

And since I love words and wordplay, my reply to the next query about my pronouns will be in a very sexy voice. “My pronouns are puuuurrrr and puuurrrrrs.”

sending flowers

I was “separated” from a website for “not explicitly breaking the rules”. Hey, it’s a “woke” website and wow, I guess I was annoying, or the editors are insane, or something. The eds who had become friends over the years didn’t know a thing about it. The owner removed me.

Now I am removing every reference to that site from my blog, over time.

So here is a poem from a week ago, to “honor” the insane editors. I do think they need to vet them a little better, heh. But if the owner doesn’t mind the site imploding and dying, hey, he has chosen the best editors for the job.

______________________

Eeeeeeeeeew eww

eeeeeeeew eww
I’m annoyed at you
don’t you see you’re inconveniencing me?
don’t you see you shoot yourself in the knee?
don’t you see choices so dumb I could scream?
don’t you see
you’re destroying the dream

eeeeeeeew too
I’m so annoyed at you
but I’ll forgive you your sins
after I stick you with pins
and laugh many many grins
you’re sent to bed without dins

eeeeeeeeew too
I’m so annoyed at you
but I don’t really care
I think it’s totally fair
that you’re dissolving out there
in the cloud unaware
and no one else cares

eeeeeeeeew too
don’t cry a boohooo
you reap what you sow
I won’t cry when you go
sad to see you sunk so low
advertisment ho
drunk funked skunked bro
yeah, ed, he don’t know
sentimental slop woe
stinking slow to grow

eeeeeeeeew too
is yo owner a ghoul?
I think you raised up some fools
I mourn the loss of some jewels
when sad stupidity rules
some eds is fool mules
I carve yo gravestone with tools

Bears all his sons away

Disclaimer: I am not Native American. I am not male. I did not live here when the ships arrived. I wrote this thinking about a dream a friend told me, about a bear. So it’s the fault of a dream bear, this story.

One
I am wailing. I am crying. The Bear came today, our bear, the tribe’s bear, our Spirit.

But he didn’t just walk through camp and take fish and his tribute.

He took my son.

He walked right up to where my wife stood still, as we must when he comes, and he lifted the boy in his paws. The boy was quiet and still, he did well, he was brave, but when the bear turned to leave, he called once.

Then our bear dropped to three legs, my son in the fourth, and turned and left.

My son, my son, my heart, my joy. Spirit Bear, return him to me!

Two

We fought, argued, for a very short time. The Shaman said that if Spirit Bear wants my son, he shall have him.

He does have him, I said, but I want him back. The Shaman knew that was true. Some shook their heads and say that my son is already dead, but most agreed with me. We were on the trail nearly immediately. The bear should not be able to move as quickly as usual when he is carrying my son. I dread evidence of my son’s loss, that he will be eaten. But that has never happened, in the history, in the songs. The Shaman said as much. But neither has a bear taken a chief’s son.

Three
Spirit Bear is moving amazingly fast on three legs. He is headed for the mountains. Not a surprise. My son may get cold. But bears are warm. My son has not been eaten.

Four

We have to make camp. I am so angry that we have not caught Spirit Bear. Out of our home camp he is fair game.

We do the Bear Dance, four times. We did not bring the masks and the young men dance the women’s part and one sings the woman’s part. We made quick rough masks and costumes. The Spirits will forgive us. This is past all understanding.

What does a Spirit Bear want with my son? Four years. No one knows.

Five
Day again. I am up before dawn praying for light, for my son, to find the Spirit Bear.

Six

We are hot on the trail. We find that Spirit Bear did sleep and rest. My son is dropping beads. Smart boy. Each bead means that he is still alive and relatively unhurt.

Seven

We have spotted them. Spirit Bear stood and looked down at us, my son tucked against his side. My son very slowly raised his arm, so he knows.

Eight

We are approaching the peak. Everyone is tired from the climb and hungry and thirsty. Yet we keep going. No one complains.

Nine

We reach the peak and Spirit Bear and my son. We arm our spears and arrows, but my son shouts “No! Look!” We turn. We see the water. There is something in the water. It has tannish wings that are filled with wind. It is huge compared with our boats.

We turn to my son. He stands and Spirit Bear leaves, ambling down the mountain, quickly, gone. I hurry to my son, sweep him up. He starts shaking and then cries, leaning his head into me.

We turn and watch the tan winged thing, which is coming against the wind. It comes at an angle and then turns, to the opposite angle, yet still it comes. We know this is new and that there can be terror or joy, we do not know which. There will be learning, we know that.

My son falls asleep. We carry him down to water and camp. We are all singing quietly, the song of new things, fear and joy. The Shaman will welcome us when we are home, and we will prepare for the winged thing. We do not know what it will bring.

We thank the Spirit Bear for warning us, for telling us to prepare.