Saturday, May 29, 2010

Doom and Destruction of Biblical Proportions?

H/T to DistributorCap for pointing out that the verse in Revelation 8:8-9 is eerily similar to the idea of a huge oil rig blowing up, catching fire, and spewing oil into the ocean.

8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

As you know, I am not a particularly religious person, but even if the Bible is not true, then it is still a strange coincidence and quite chilling.

And the next verse is even worse - look out for a falling meteor or nuclear bomb or something hitting the earth next:

8:10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell from heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters; 8:11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

Let's hope this doesn't happen next. But the way things are going, who can tell?

Please go read DCap's post - he really sums up the whole horrible situation very eloquently - and scathingly. If we don't pay attention this time, our world may very well be doomed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

She's Not Dead Yet!

Monty Python's classic "Bring Out Your Dead" clip pretty much describes how my day at the hospital nearly went.

My mother had a bad setback two days ago. As many of you know, she was rehospitalized a week ago with dehydration and high potassium but she had been making progress, was eating about as well as she usually does, and was doing OK using a Bi-Pap machine to help her breathe except when she was eating, since it involves a mask over her face.

So I had gone to the hospital around suppertime since that was when I could talk to her without her wearing the mask, plus I could help her eat. So there I was, trying to be the ever-helpful daughter, and coaxing her to eat and drink more. She was having a little trouble with choking a bit on her food and said she didn't want anymore, so I encouraged her to have a sip of milk. She sipped it and at first she seemed fine but then started to cough. Not a big deal for anyone who has something go down the wrong way, but because of her weak lungs she was having trouble getting it out. I asked someone to get the nurse, thinking perhaps she needed some suction or something to help her, when suddenly she just flopped over.

After I tried to wake her up I went and got the nurse, who came in and checked her pulse and found there was none. In a split second I had to decide whether to have her revived or not, and since I felt responsible for the whole thing, decided to have her receive a full "code." I was kind of crowded into the back of the room so I just sat there calmly while all this went on around me, as if I were an extra in an "ER" episode playing the part of the concerned family member. (No, they didn't need to use the paddles or yell "Clear!" so apparently it wasn't that hard to bring her back with some CPR and epinephrine.)

Naturally she was entubated to be able to keep oxygen going to her brain during all of this, so they took her back to the ICU and put her on a ventilator. She woke up and was aware of her surroundings, and the next day, although not able to talk due to the ventilator, she was perfectly cognizant and able to nod yes or no and express things with her eyes and hands.

But immediately the resident doctors who are in the ICU began asking me what the next step would be if she couldn't get off the ventilator. I had decided I didn't want her resuscitated a second time, and signed a paper stating that. I also knew I didn't want her to have a tracheostomy, where they would put a hole in her throat to assiste her breathing so that at least she could talk again. But she would have to have it for the rest of her life and it sounded like a very uncomfortable procedure with a limited outcome, given her age and condition.

She did well overnight but when they tried to wean her off the ventilator yesterday they said she couldn't come off it yet. The resident again asked me what my next step would be. She said they didn't usually keep them on a ventilator more than 3 days if there isn't an ability to take them off. Her recommendation was the tracheostomy which I had decided not to do.

We waited till today and went to see her and another resident asked me bluntly if we had made a decision yet on the ventilator. My mother, you have to understand, at this point is doing fine on the ventilator - oxygen levels, heart rate, blood pressure all good. The only problem is they don't think she can go off of it. My aunt and I came back later on and told this resident that yes, we would try taking her off it and that we understood she might not survive. I did say I'd like to talk to the attending physician first.

Lo and behold, the pulmonologist came in to the room and said Mom is doing OK - that she is 91 years old and will naturally take longer to come back and be able to get off the vent. He said he certainly saw no reason to rush into anything without giving it a few more days. They had started giving her liquid nourishment (since she can't eat with the vent in her throat) and he said this may give her more strength and she'll better withstand the removal of the vent.

Thank goodness he came in and told me this. I had made up my mind to be resolute and get this done for my mother's own good, thinking there would be no other choice. I know she hates the thing being down her throat and she did say yes (nodding and even writing it on a piece of paper) when I asked her if she wanted it off "no matter what" and gave her a pretty good idea that if it didn't work, that would be it.

But as it turned out, once again, "reports of her death were exaggerated." It is my belief that residents, no matter how skillful and and well-intentioned, should not be the doctors discussing end-of-life decisions with the family. They don't have enough experience to know what may or may not happen in specific circumstances. They only know the protocols and procedures they have been taught and only have limited experience in real life situations.

This is another example of the failure of our health care system and another reason "end-of-life" discussions should be covered in our healthcare as a matter of course, so that we get a better opportunity to talk about all of the pros and cons of a situation with a team of knowledgable professionals.

I am not blaming only the resident; I experienced a similar situation last time she was hospitalized with the pulmonologist who is the partner of the one I spoke to today (I like to call him "Dr. Death.") He practically convinced me my mother was not long for the world when she was in the hospital last time. She came home and lived two months at home after that, enjoying her day-to-day life; she had Easter dinner and Mother's Day celebrations over at our house, as well as enjoying a lovely lobster dinner sitting outside on our deck, with us, her stepdaughter (my half-sister) and her husband, who came up to see her from South Carolina earlier this month.

I sometimes wonder whether doctors realize how influential their attitudes can be on these types of decisions. In the case of Dr. Death, I got the distinct impression he disapproved when I told him I had not signed a DNR on my mother at that time. Guess he thought at 91 she wasn't worth saving, or knew that even if she recovered this time, she'd be back again soon - and of course, she was.

But what these doctors don't realize is that even a couple of months can be worthwhile for a person that age - another enjoyable family get-together, another chance to smell flowers and feel the breeze on her face. It isn't the quantity of the time, but the quality.

I second-guessed myself somewhat after I had them resuscitate my mother the other day. It had been very peaceful and I wondered if I'd done the right thing by having them revive her. But she did come out of it with her brain intact and as a result, at least my aunt, her sister, was able to come in and visit her and talk to her again. These things are important, both for the ill person and for the family.

I'm not saying anything against anyone who has made the choice, with or without a discussion with their loved one, not to pursue aggressive treatment. Each choice should be individual and based on the feelings of both the patient and their family.

But the doctors' influence should be kept to a minimum. The doctor should tell the family and the patient what the pros and cons are, what the prognosis is, what they might expect depending on what course of action they take, and then let the patient and the family decide. The family should not be rushed in this decision and should be given as much time as is needed, as long as the patient is not suffering.

Just thought I should share this experience in case anyone else has been struggling with this type of situation. There are no easy answers, but be aware that you need to get plenty of second opinions before making a decision. You don't want your loved one to be put in the position of yelling, "But I'm not dead yet!"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's a Shanda

"Shanda" is Yiddish for "shame." But it has a further connotation of disgrace or outrage. It's a better word for what is going on in the Gulf than simple "shame." People use "shame" for trivial matters - "It's a shame it had to rain over the weekend." A shanda is a bigger deal.

In today's NY Times, Bob Herbert talks about the bigger ramifications of the oil "spill" (gusher) in the Gulf.

He points out that the livelihoods of thousands of people are at risk, to say nothing of all the types of wildlife that depend on the wetlands along Louisiana's coast.

"The vast, sprawling coastal marshes of Louisiana, where the Mississippi River drains into the gulf, are among the finest natural resources to be found anywhere in the world. And they are a positively crucial resource for America. Think shrimp estuaries and bird rookeries and oyster fishing grounds.

These wetlands are one of the nation’s most abundant sources of seafood. And they are indispensable when it comes to the nation’s bird population. Most of the migratory ducks and geese in the United States spend time in the Louisiana wetlands as they travel to and from Latin America.

Think songbirds. Paul Harrison, a specialist on the Mississippi River and its environs at the Environmental Defense Fund, told me that the wetlands are relied on by all 110 neo-tropical migratory songbird species. The migrating season for these beautiful, delicate creatures is right now — as many as 25 million can pass through the area each day."

I think of the wonderful variety of birds I have been seeing and hearing in the woods near our cabin, and wonder whether they will be there next year.

So far no one has managed to stop the oil from continuing to pour into the once-pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico. How long can this go on? How many people have to die, how many birds and animals must perish, before America says "enough"?

I know the government is doing things to try to help and that BP is supposedly trying to stop it. But this is a disaster of such magnitude that ordinary effort is not enough. This should be an all-out assault on that oil leak.

Has the government done enough? Maybe, maybe not.

According to the May 8 Times Picayune, President Obama's administration did respond appropriately and quickly to the disaster as it became apparent that it was a bigger problem than originally believed.

"While the Obama administration has faced second-guessing about the speed and effectiveness of some of its actions, a narrative pieced together by The Associated Press, based on documents, interviews and public statements, shows little resemblance to Katrina in either the characterization of the threat or the federal government's response."

And according to Reuters, the government doesn't have the oil industry skills needed to be of any real help:

"The federal government, not in the oil well business, is limited by what direct impact it can have on stopping the leak. The U.S. military does not have skills in the oil sector and officials have stressed the Pentagon is already providing whatever support it can to assist the U.S. response to the disaster.

The Obama administration has piled heavy pressure on BP to speed up its efforts to plug it up. 'We are continuing to push BP to do everything that it can,' said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs."

But is pushing BP enough? BP is the company that brought us this disaster in the first place. They won't want to spend any more money than they have to to clean it up.

And why doesn't the federal government have more ability to stop this leak? Surely our navy has some equipment, some expertise in deep underwater maneuvers, that could be helpful in plugging that hole that is gushing oil a mile underwater. And if not, why not? We have the most powerful navy in the world. Wouldn't you think they would have some knowledge of how to deal with things in the deepest depths of the ocean?

Of course the Republicans don't come off looking good here, not surprisingly. They recently blocked legislation that would have raised the cap on BP's monetary liability from $75 million to $10 billion.

On the other hand, the Obama administration is still playing both sides against the middle on this. Interior Secretary Salazar recently told Congress that too high a cap might endanger the smaller independent oil companies, the same argument given by the GOP.

I can't help thinking that no one is doing enough about this disaster.

Bob Herbert expresses the same feeling, that there has not been a strong enough response to this disaster, either by the Obama administration, or, for that matter, by the public. I mean, why aren't people marching on Washington demanding something more be done?

"The response of the Obama administration and the general public to this latest outrage at the hands of a giant, politically connected corporation has been embarrassingly tepid. We take our whippings in stride in this country. We behave as though there is nothing we can do about it."

While much of the coziness between the government and the oil companies that led us to this place can be blamed on the Republicans, not all of it can be. The Democrats are equally to blame for not overseeing the industry more carefully now that they are in power, and instead just let things go along as before. And many of them were pretty cozy with the oil industry to begin with. As Herbert says,

"The risks unleashed by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are profound — the latest to be set in motion by the scandalous, rapacious greed of the oil industry and its powerful allies and enablers in government. America is selling its soul for oil."

Of course, I'm not sure America still has a soul to sell these days, but if there's a little something left of it, it will soon be gone if something isn't done to fix this mess and prevent future similar disasters. It's a shanda.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Cat's Eye View: Baxter's Back

Baxter here. Hoo boy, it's been a long month since my Human last posted here. A lot of Water has gone under the Bridge, as the saying goes. Or maybe I should say, a lot of OIL has gone under the Bridge.

I Apologize for My long Absence here. My Female Human has been Too Preoccupied with her Mother to pay much attention to Me or her Blog. Funny, though, she always has time for that Facebook thing. I myself have a Catbook page but I really never got into it Much.

To be Honest, the main Reason I have time to be on the Computer is because my Human has a Day to Herself and can help Me. It's not for a Good Reason, but it is still a Day to Herself. Her Mother had to go to the Emergency Room of the local Hospital yesterday due to Dehydration. She has been admitted to the Hospital and is doing Well. However, my Human is not sure what to do when her Mother gets Out, as it seems as if, more and more, she really may belong in a Nursing Home due to her Frail Condition. Plus her 89-year-old Aunt has been helping with her Mother's care at home, and my Human is afraid it is starting to Stress Her Out too.

As a Cat, I can't really Comment, but I did spend some Time in the Cat equivalent of a Nursing Home, I suppose you could say. I was at a cat rescue called HAAL (short for Humane Animal Adoption League) before my Humans brought me home. The HAAL Humans were very nice to Us and let us out of our Cages to Play and took Very Good Care of Us. While of course I Prefer being in a whole House, it was Pleasant there. (If You are feeling Generous, please do click on the Link and learn more, and if you can Donate to them, I'm sure they would Appreciate it Deeply.)

My Human also wants me to tell You how much she Appreciates everyone's comments and Good Wishes for her and her Mother. She feels Very Blessed to have so many Friends here in the Interwebs.

As for Me, I have a lot of Catching Up to do on Current Events. As mentioned above, the Biggest Story to me in the past Month is the Horrendous Oil Explosion in the Gulf that is Still Going On.

How those Idiots at BP let this Happen I don't know. But as a Cat, I feel Fellowship with all of the Life in the Gulf that is being Devastated by this continuing Debacle, and it makes me Very Sad. If an Oil Company doesn't know what they would do if their Stupid Oil Well blew up and caused all the Oil to spout out into the Ocean, then they Darn Well shouldn't be Drilling down there in the First Place. Period. And the Government shouldn't be letting Them!

I won't get into all the Stupid things I've heard about - batteries missing and Whatnot, How to Stop It, and Who is to blame. But I'll let Jon Stewart explain it All for you:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
There Will Be Blame
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

In Other News, there was That Day when the Dow Jones Average tanked almost a Thousand Points and still No One really Knows Why. That was Scary. Luckily for my Humans' 401ks, it did Rebound Somewhat by the end of the Day. My Female Human happened to be watching CNN at the time it happened, and she saw her Retirement pass before her Eyes for a few minutes there.

Also during this past Month, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, receiving both Pats on the Head and whacks with the Rolled-Up Newspaper from Both Sides. Liberals are Worried she isn't Liberal Enough, and of Course, the Right would never think ANYONE the President nominated would be Conservative enough. We Cats tend to be Very Liberal, so in My View she probably isn't Liberal Enough. It seems as if the Republicans never have any Compunction about nominating people that are to the Right of Genghis Kahn, while Democrats are afraid to go anywhere but Slightly Left of Center at the Most when they nominate a Justice, resulting in a Court that shifts increasingly Rightward.

However, Elena Kagan hasn't really left enough of a Paper Trail to keep her from being Nominated or even give the Liberals any real reason to Worry. I say, give her the Benefit of the Doubt and hope she is more Liberal than she lets on. That happens sometimes even when a Justice is appointed by the Republicans. Let's hope it works for the Dems too.

I shall End with one of my Cheery and Uplifting stories so as to leave You on a Positive Note. My Human told me about this so I thought I'd pass it on to You. She was walking That Dog the other Morning, and as they started to pass a Garbage Can on the Street, she noticed that the white plastic garbage bag in the can was Wiggling, as if Something was Stuck Inside and trying to get Out! Holes at the bottom of the bag showed where the Creature had gotten in, but it wasn't smart enough to go Back the Way it Came.

A Man walking his dog approached, and my Human called his Attention to the bag. "I think there's a squirrel or something stuck inside that bag!" she said.

He looked while That Dog and his dog started sniffing hello. My Human said she was worried because the Garbage Truck would be along shortly. The Man looked around and got a long Stick and came back and started Poking the bag with it. He said, "I think it's a bird!" Suddenly the bag tore, and flying out of it came a large, disgruntled Starling! He took off indignantly, as if it were Their fault that he was stuck inside.

"We did our good deed for the day!" said the Man, and continued on with his dog, as did my Female Human. One less thing to Worry About.

Personally, I think they should have brought the Bag Home to Me so I could deal with that Starling!

In the Meantime, I'm going to add Beer to the Catnip I regularly Consume just to get through the latest News Events. Sometimes you need more Sedation than Others. Hang in there, and maybe Things will Improve.
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