Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Forever Young: Elderly Girl Shares Her Cherished Secrets

    (11/29/2011) Elderly Girl adores elderly people. They exude a sweetness and softness that is quite special. They have a vulnerability that is touching. They have patience, bravery and wisdom.
    Elderly Girl is glad they exist.
    She just doesn’t want to be one of them.
    Instead, she has become a kick-ass person, a hell-raiser, an enigma, a renegade. Much to her surprise, she has turned back the clock, becoming stronger and more luscious than ever.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Seeing Red: The first and only reported case of Blood-Spatter Psychosis


The beauty was unsettling but unmistakable.
    (11/28/14) On the day when Mitch Vasile lost his outward vision, his "inner eye" saw nothing but an infinite expanse of red. It seemed to be breathing or undulating. After a few days, the vastness began to differentiate into patterns: forceful sprays of red, glistening dribbles of red, smeared arcs of red, Rorschach patterns of red that resembled uteruses, poppies, crabs, galloping camels, emaciated refugees, a trellis of roses. He was in a universe in which there was no center, no foothold, no respite. It wasn't a silent universe, though. There were muffled sound effects: nonstop explosions, moans and screams. He blinked and blinked to blink it all away. He washed his eyes. He closed them,  but the images seemed to move in on him all the more. He trembled at the thought that this might never end.
    As I walked with the doctor through Bellevue, to the psychiatric ward, he warned me to set aside my investigative instincts and merely act as a friend to Mitch. "Don't ply him with questions. Don't press him for details. We're taking care of that," he said. "Just comfort him, if you can. He's devastated."
    The tentative diagnosis, he added, was "hysterical blindness," also known as conversion disorder. Patients experiencing some type of emotional or psychological trauma can lose some or all of their sight. Hysterical blindness is thus "a neurological abnormality with apparently psychogenic cause," he elaborated. Recovery is often very slow and uncertain.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A super girl becomes a Supreme for a day

A fictionalized  version of a wonderful true story.

    (11/24/2014) Candi was a sort of magical girl at William Penn Elementary School. She smelled of April Violets by Yardley, and she chewed grape-flavored gum. This seemed like such an inspired "calling card" that it left us feeling we couldn't possibly compete for male attention. We just gave up from the git go. She was obliviously beautiful, with her wild, curly black hair, full lips and cafe-au-lait skin. She managed to be smart and very creative (Crayola masterpieces) without evoking jealousy -- not an easy feat in our youthful hotbed of gossip and pecking orders. I think most of us had at least a little crush on her -- boys and girls alike. Candi had fabulously white teeth, which I noticed and envied even way back then, before "whitening" was an issue, and she had the longest eyelashes I'd ever seen. Her ballerina posture and unflappable nonchalance added to her "above it all" air, although we realized she wasn't arrogant -- she was a loner. She was a mystery. We watched her, quietly musing about what made her tick, and adored her from afar.    
    Her twin sister Carla was her greatest fan. She was a sensitive, tenderhearted  girl, but she had a broad, plain face, and she lumbered around the schoolyard while Candi glided, apparently immersed in a world of her own. Carla had bought the April Violets as a gift for Candi. She herself smelled like bacon.  I loved the smell of bacon before I "went vegan," but Carla  got nicknamed "Porky" because of her unmistakable aroma. I was truly relieved when I was nicknamed "Saliva," which I hoped would make Carla feel better.  
  As is so often the case in the unfolding of lives, there would be unexpected and startling reversals of fortune as the twins grew up.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"NO THANKS" Giving: Don't binge -- purge!!

    I have nothing against Thanksgiving, even though I think most of us realize that's it's just another excuse for overeating -- and another major burden on women, who are already collapsing under the weight of their responsibilities. Still, giving thanks is a nice thing to do.
    But to balance things out, I believe we need a day for giving "no thanks" -- a day that encourages people to vent the resentment, rage, irritation, exasperation, betrayal, jealousy and frustration that they are obliged to stifle in their everyday lives.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Farewell to Victor, "The Halfback" and "My Gay Fiance"

    I have just learned that three of the dearest people in my life, all of whom I have profiled in this blog, have died. Victor, the fiery black activist in "Model Intentions," passed away last week. Rhonda, the glowing and aching star of "The Halfback's High Heels," and Joseph, the big, manly gay architect who asked me to marry him, apparently died several years ago in dire circumstances.

The Few, the Proud, the Masters of Manipulation

PROTECT YOUR KIDS from the Military-Seduction Complex
Being an American soldier is like being the Daddy to all the world's adorable children!
   (Nov. 2013) The commercials are more moving and stunningly tender than any ad campaign I've ever seen. First, there's the music:  a radiant, expansive, heart-rending hymn of somber violins that sounds worthy of a beloved president's funeral. The visuals are of noble young Americans: Beautiful, brave, principled, determined, competent and strong -- an idealized profile of what this country is supposed to be about.
    The few. The proud. The Marines. I have seen this series of ads over and over again the past 18 months. Even though I despise war, and believe that our military-industrial complex is the world's biggest, most dangerous source of corruption and suffering, I never tire of watching them. They stop me in my tracks every time. They pour forth with the poignant  power of superb human beings doing what they believe is truly righteous. There is grace and magnetism in the way these clean-cut kids hurl themselves out of planes, surge through forbidding terrain and leap with awesome fortitude over one barricade after another.The ads use sophisticated psychology to lure today's peace-loving kids into our "humanitarian" military. Watch out!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Malpractice and Malfeasance: Mama was delirious. I was furious.

    (11/19/14) As I walked down the hall of the dementia ward to have breakfast with my mother on Sunday, Nov. 9, I heard screams, sobs and moans. When I entered her room, she was pointing at the ceiling crying, "No! No!" When I bent over to hold her, she began yelling in an indistinguishable language, grasping my blouse and pulling me close to her face. "AHHHHH, AHHHH," she shrieked. She clutched her distended abdomen and grimaced, She was crying, but then she suddenly stopped, looked startled for a moment, and then began laughing in a shrill, Wicked Witch of the West fashion. "You," she said. "Oh honey!" She pulled me down onto the bed with her, and I held her while she jerked and trembled.
    Here we go again. I had seen delirium before, and I had no doubt that my mother was in the acute phase of this disturbing condition. If it's treated early enough, it can be resolved within 8-12 hours.
    But thanks to the apathy, cynicism and incompetence of the staff at this $74,000 a year facility, that's not what happened. Now, 11 days later, she is in the hospital, pouring gargantuan blood clots out of her rectum. "End of life" options are on the table. There may well be charges of negligent homicide if she isn't saved.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Just Shoot Me": My personalized health-care directive

    (11/18/2014) I have never heard anyone say he wished to become a burden to his spouse or children. Yet many, if not most, of us do become a burden as we decline. People can't help the fact that they become frail, disabled, sick or addled, and their loved ones do in fact feel burdened by this, financially or emotionally or both. Many people's lives are ruined by the demands of caring for incapacitated loved ones. Other lives are ruined by the guilt of failing to do so.
    I am drafting a health-care directive that I hope will prevent this from happening. Since it is a sincere document, reflecting my honest desires, I expect it to be implemented. I want to let everyone off the hook, and I think many of my peers would consider doing the same.

Thousands Left Homeless

It's news to you, but to a copy editor, it's just the same old story
I was a part-time newspaper copy editor for 17 years, beginning
in 1980. This is a fictionalized account of that experience.
           (2011)  The newspaper’s “metro room” seemed designed expressly to spare reporters the sights, sounds and smells of real life. It used to be that if you were writing the weather story, you could look out a window to ensure that your account had some relationship to the actual out-of-doors. But all the windows had been covered for better "climate control,'' so you relied on the telephone “weather line”  and wire service forecasts that might well say ``cloudy, windy and cold today,'' when in fact it was clear and sunny.
    Where reporters had once scrambled out at the sound of sirens, crashes, booms and screams, they now reposed in a surreally quiet suite that insulated them from anything short of a major earthquake or direct nuclear attack.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Livin' La Vida Lupus: How I've adapted to a "vida loca" disease

Get out, you bastard!
Sometimes it helps to fight Lupus ferociously. Sometimes it doesn't.
   (March 7, 2014) I began having symptoms of Lupus four years ago. Extensive blood work indicated that I had an active and rapidly progressing autoimmune process occurring in my body. I was scared when I read about what Lupus can do to you. Actually, it seems that it can do pretty much whatever it wants, from rotting your teeth, to devastating your cognitive function. You are made to feel helpless as this beast rages through you, striking one organ system after another, without warning, and often without symptoms. "Your kidneys could fail at any moment," I was told. So could my heart or liver. This was a nightmarish state of chronic inflammation.
    Like most women who have responded to my previous posts on Lupus, I have gotten no help from the medical establishment. I really don't believe they have any idea what this disease is, how it works, or how to mitigate it. But I've come up with a few strategies that have helped me. Perhaps they'll help you as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In a burst of inexplicable candor, Obama declares war on everyone

Isn't it fair to say that war has its own special beauty? Some find it exhilarating.
     (Nov. 15, 2014) President Obama today declared war on every country in the world, and upon his own citizens as well. He's just tellin' it like it is, bro. Deal with it.
    In so doing, he merely acknowledged what many savvy observers have known or suspected for decades. American troops, private contractors, Homeland Security operatives, so-called "diplomats,"  and intelligence agents -- foreign and domestic -- are conducting overt and/or covert operations wherever there are people to monitor, infiltrate, bribe, manipulate, seduce, torture, rape, sabotage or assassinate.

She has been a true Mother Superior

Part Two of "I Did it My Way."

   The doctor who came over to deliver one of Mama's four younger siblings referred to the Baird house as "the sorriest shack I've ever seen." It was the first time my mother -- who was just a little girl -- had ever experienced shame. And shock as well: She loved home, as most of us instinctively do. She recalls running, with tears in her eyes, to her grandmother's house across the field, and asking her for some flower seeds. A few months later, the hardscrabble yard had blossomed into a pastel wonderland of sweet peas, blue flax, bachelor buttons, larkspur, zinnias, asters, poppies and daisies that captivated passersby (and hid the shack). That was the opening act in a life devoted to the transformative power of beauty.

Global Panel Selects Elderly Girl to be "The First Immortal"

"Fountain of Eternal Life" by Marshall Fredericks.
    (11/14/12) Every couple of years, Elderly Girl is awakened from her luxuriant slumber by a 3:30 a.m. phone call. Her wavy hair gleams, her cheeks are adorably rosy, but in her eyes there is exasperation. It must be Stockholm ringing again to announce that she's won the Nobel Peace Prize. Please, people! Elderly Girl has been rousted by these annoying intrusions about 40 times in the past 85 years. Every time, she has politely declined. She doesn't like prizes. She resents them. She rejects them! They're trinkets that cheapen one's accomplishments and taint one's motivations. Her wish is to solve problems, not to be celebrated. She was preparing to say "NO THANK YOU!"  yet again, until a gentleman with an East European accent told her she had been selected to be "The First Immortal."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Heady, Naked Guile of Medical Style

Perhaps having no clothes on is the real key to avoiding migraines.
    (3/17/14) Doesn't the sexy ecstasy of this promotional photo make you wish you had migraines? If only you did, your insurance or Medicare would buy you this silvery, "tiara-like" fashion accessory, which is essentially a glorified TENS unit that is designed (elegantly) to reduce the incidence of "cluster headaches." It obtained FDA approval last Friday, after a "fast track" process that required no independent scrutiny or verification.
    Why would the FDA be so cavalier about a device that transmits electricity into patients' skulls? Why would it accept two limited, unimpressive studies as adequate proof of "safety and effectiveness"? How can we assume that such a device can target one specific nerve --the trigeminal -- leaving adjacent nerves and brain tissues unaffected? What might be the long-term effects of using such a device on the central nervous system?
    The Cefaly product is available by prescription only, the FDA said. Yet, astonishingly, this "newly approved" device has been available without a prescription at many retailers -- including Amazon.com -- for more than three years, which I learned inadvertently by doing a simple Google search. It gets 2.7 stars.