Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Cup By Any Other Name...

Greetings, gentle readers. I come to you tonight, swathed mummy-like, from inside a surprisingly long Ace elastic bandage. Is this an indication of how Fashion-Forward I am? But, of course not.

Yesterday I underwent minor surgery intended to remove any doubt [as well as dubious tissue] regarding a recent mammogram/biopsy procedure. All seems to have gone well, and I have all the narcotics I need for pain relief...and, they DO come in handy.

As often happens, this excursion included both highlights and lowlights. I'll begin with the former.

Prior to leaving for the outpatient surgery center yesterday morning, Mr. H. prayed that we might come across a Christian caregiver at the hospital. This has been known to happen, and occurred repeatedly during Ben's month-long hospital stay two years ago. Still, it was a wonderful encouragement to recognize the nurse anesthetist who came into my 'holding' room...a delightful and highly competent professional we've known from church and violin lessons. Besides taking time to visit with us, catch up on our respective kids, and introduce us to the anesthesiologist, Polly was very supportive and informative, and took time to pray with us before I was, literally, rolled away.

I have noted before how utterly helpless and vulnerable one can feel from the vantage point of an operating table...when something is amiss with oneself and youu have no choice but to look up into the faces of everyone else as they look down at you, somewhat ominously. So, there was a bit of a comfort factor to recognize her eyes above one of the several blue surgical masks in the room, as well as spying the surgeon. Due to the miracles of modern anesthesiology, the next thing I knew I was in the recovery room, trying to 'come to.'

Now, on to the non-highlights, which occurred before surgery. First of all, it is not dreadful, but certainly not delightful to have oneself 'graffittied' with a Sharpie pen to ensure that the correct anatomical region is matched with the correct doctor, etc. But, better safe than sorry. I presume this logic also underlies the quick audio recording that was made in the surgical suite just before it's 'lights out' for the patient: "Would you please give us your name? Your date of birth? And what are you here for, Kathleen?"

A little surreal, but not pointless.

However, BEYOND surreal, and --literally pointless--was the Medical Supply [and I use the term loosely] employed following my needle localization procedure. Since it's not likely that the general reader is familiar with this, I will briefly summarize. Needle localization involves having an ultrasound technician locate with a transponder the area of tissue, etc. that will comprise the surgery site. Once the appropriate area appears on the ultrasound screen, a radiologist then mysteriously appears with Lidocaine and a specially wired needle.

Using the ultrasound as a visual guide, he then inserts the needle into the target area and magically injects a fish-hook type device therein, which acts as a physical marker. Because of the hook feature, it is stablized in the site. Try to think of this as something other than human.

Here, however, is where the production value of this scenario plummets. So outlandish was it, that it never occurred to me how truly crude it would be.

Allow me to illustrate.

What I Was Told: "Following the needle localization, they will cover the area with a cup, and then cover you, so can preserve a little modesty."

What I Imagined: After deporting myself as maturely as I could during this small ordeal, I would be helped into a sitting position and have my left breast comfortably and discreetly covered with a smooth, sterile, and hopefully warm vessel, similar to a dessert cup. Not that this would be on the top of my list of Fun Adventures, but still, better than..

What Actually Happened: I squiggled myself into an upright position on the table, trying to keep track of the single flannel blanket and numerous crinkly paper sheets. While thus engaged, I realized that the gleaming wire now protruding from my stern was rather hard to ignore, and yet not anything I wanted to fixate on. But, oh well, at least I would soon have my comfy cup to preserve my last shred of modesty.

Um, no. You could be forgiven for thinking, as did I, that the technician was making a weak attempt at humor when she reached for a paper drinking cup...the fountain size. However, this was not humorous. It was not expected. It was not appreciated. However, I have no doubt it WAS cost-effective.

As I watched, my mouth agape, this competent young woman proceeded to fold down strips of the paper cup rim into makeshift flanges...emphasis on 'shift.' Because they did. During downtime, someone had carefully snipped 8 or so cuts in the rim of the cup, extending down about an inch or two. It was then supposed that she would simultaneously hold, fold, and tape this paper catastrophe to my reluctant chest....suffice it to say, I had to hold the cup in place myself. However, I was mistaken in believing I would be covering any sensitive parts of my own anatomy...I was left 'hanging out' while the localization needle was carefully encased in a mutilated soda cup.

Interestingly, as part of a new patient satisfaction scheme(I assume), during my initial assessment, I was asked to read five 'value' words on a whiteboard, and to indicate which was the most important to me during my 'hospital experience.' I don't recall all five, but they were along the lines of 'friendliness,' 'feeling respected,' etc. I chose 'professional skills of caregivers.'

But, had I known then what I know now...I might have suggested they scale back the award-winning architectural details in the hosptial concourse and splurge on sensible and appropriate procedural supplies. Going through this adventure again is definitely NOT on my bucket list.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Memorable Mile

This evening, dear readers, it is my high privilege to be the first to interview Mr. J. Daniel, one-mile runner.

Editor: Mr. Daniel, to what do we owe this auspicious opportunity?

JD: Well, it's not THAT important...I mean, all it is is a mile run. I mean, people have done it before.

Ed: Well, point taken, but please tell us about YOUR experience this morning.

JD: Well, we went to the neighborhood of my dear friend, David Hook, a fellow Loves Park resident. He has this pond in the front of his subdivision, and we did the mile around that.

Ed: Um, so why did you do that? Run a mile around a pond, I mean...

JD: Oh, oh...well, see, every year, our School does the mile run as part of our P.E. They sort of put us up to it, you could say.

Ed: Ah! Well, give grown-ups a little power and there's no telling where it can lead...

JD: I suppose so, but, hey, what are you gonna do?

Ed: Quite.

JD: Not everyone had to run the whole mile. They give the little kids a break because, well, I guess because they're still little. Life is easier when you're little. But, being a teenager myself, I had to run the whole mile.

Ed: So, how did it go?

JD: It was sorta long, because we had to do it three and a half times around the pond...and it was really COLD and windy...that was one of the disadvantages...

My sister Cecily, poor kid, also had to run the whole mile because she is 10...and her legs ARE getting kind of long. But still, it was brutal.

Ed: So, how many laps did you older kids have to run?

JD: A dreadful three and a half miles!!!

Ed: But, unconfirmed reports mentioned that there were some faithful, hardy moms shivering under blankets to cheer you all on!

JD: Whatever. That didn't really help because they just kept standing still. We were the ones doing the pain!

Ed: Hmmmm....well, OK. Were you running against the wind, or did you have the wind at your back?

JD: Well, since it was kind of round, on one side the wind was behind us pushing us, but like all good things, it didn't last, because we would turn the corner and have the wind blast us in the face. It was hard to keep your balance.

Ed: Gracious! How did you manage?!

JD: Well, I did it...you just do it, ya know?

Ed: Did everyone finish well?

JD: Well, that's kind of in the perspective of the other people. Everyone was kind of lying in the grass and dying and stuff. There were a couple of kids who couldn't finish...or they didn't persist enough. Really, we were running against ourselves, not against each other. Well, I gotta go brush my teeth, so I'll see ya around.

Ed: But, Mr. Daniel, I don't think we're quite done here....Mr. Daniel...???

How GOOD Can It Be?

Curiously, today's cnn.com seems rife with Belief.net stories...everything from Victoria Jackson taking issue with a gay story line on the show, "Glee," to details of the on-set negotiations that apparently went on during the filming of "Soul Surfer", the story of Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer who lost an arm to a tiger shark.

As long as the world we live in remains fallen, there will be no agreement or lack of controversy on how to manage the "Jesus Issue."

What is it about this guy that seems to make it impossible to remain really neutral?

Hopefully, you realize that I pose the above question with tongue firmly planted in cheek....there are many reasons why Jesus is seen as a 'polarizing figure.' My take is that chief among these reasons is the pivotal fact of Jesus' mission: to rescue us from the consequence of our inherent sin; a fact which requires us to acknowledge that we DO, in fact, miss the mark when it comes to being holy enough to be in relationship with God. And, face it, who wants to look at their own sin?

And once you've allowed for the possibility that none of us is as good as we could or should be, well then, my friend, you are only a baby step away from assenting that we do, indeed, live in a moral universe.

Which is why I find it so curious, and mildly bewildering, that a serious British scholar has found the need to compile a secular Bible. Now, "bible" is simply a word for "book." But The Holy Bible is a wholly unique book from a holy and unique God.

Why, then, does Prof. Grayling find the need for creating his own 'bible'? Well, here's a clue. He identifies himself as an atheist; in which case the whole God/Jesus thing is a bit inconvenient. So, instead, Mr. Grayling has painstakingly culled through centuries of recorded wisdom, meditation, and other 'good thoughts.'


He makes no claim to original inspiration here...just the fact that he undertook the massive task of reviewing, researching, evaluating, and eventually compiling this 600+ page book of worthwhile thoughts as an ethical guide. With an open mind, with a searching eye, and with absolutely no restrictive boundaries or limits set by moral or religious notions. But, why would you care about being ethical if there is no plumb line by which to define it? What's ethical to Eve, may be unethical to Steve. Confusing?

However, more than this, I find myself wondering, why Mr. Grayling decided to entitle his new tome, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible and how he can define the word "good" apart from a moral connotation.

Good (per dictionary.com)means morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, pious. Really, if there isn't some external, reliable, unbiased standard by which to evaluate, how good can it be?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Of Limits and Flying Shoes

One of our family's favorite games is called "Mille Bornes", or "1,000 Stones." It's a French card game based on the idea of an auto race, the object of which is to lay down enough mileage cards to reach one thousand miles (milestones) before one's opponents do the same. For the sake of interest, not to mention verisimilitude, there are helps and hazards to be played for and against oneself and one's competitors in the course of the race. One of the more frequent obstacles to be played is the familiar speed limit card, which can be dispensed with if you are the lucky holder of a corresponding "End of Limit" card.

Would that such valuable gambits existed in Real Life. I find lately that limits smack me in the face with less warning and more impact than ever before.

Over the weekend, Mr. Bill and I went to the cinema to take in the new release, "Limitless." [One-sentence review: hardly a classic, but novel, entertaining escapism.] The film follows the journey of a struggling writer whose life is catapulted into unimagined success by virtue of an experimental drug that gives him supernatural focus and access to his brain's full potential. Under this influence he is, virtually, limitless. But, as we all know, real life is full of limitations.

And if it is frustrating to bump up against the reality of my own limitations, how much more so when others supercede their limits and trespass onto my domain?

And so it was last night, when my own personal boundaries were again exceeded by a son's folly, that our front door was enexpectedly opened and his shoes became airborne, landing with an unimpressive squish onto our sodden front lawn.

I have no idea whether any curious neighbors happened to witness this little display, or whether they may have reacted with bemusement, astonishment, or worse. I just know that my ability to absorb further disrespect and boundary violations collapsed at that moment, and I needed some impact, however ludicrous it may have appeared.

Cathartic? Well, that may be stretching it. Attention-getting? Um, yes. Sudden silence reined for a few minutes before the prodigal's brother began sputtering in disbelief and confusion.

This is probably to be expected. Today's conventional wisdom apparently includes the erroneous notion that parents' longsuffering is limitless. Well, not at this house. I don't even think it's particularly helpful to perpetuate this myth. No one and nothing in this fallen world is without limits. A clue? Prisons. Cemetaries. Pink slips. Hospitals. Eruptions of all kinds. Limits are breached and "surprises" ensue.

As I once heard Chuck Colson observe, failure to freely self-govern inevitably leads to diminished personal freedoms. Few of us want to believe this but, alas, experience repeatedly bears it out. If we're not willing to acknowledge and respect where our rights end and another's begin, things quickly "go south." Far better to learn this early on and treat others as we want to be treated. This means understanding and living within reasonable limits.

I am learning, albeit with painful slowness, that life works better when I live within limits. Not arbitrary limits, but those that proceed from wisdom.
And even this--finding wisdom--requires me to face my own limitations because wisdom does not originate from me.

“Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds of the air.
23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
28 And he said to man,
‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.’”

[Job 28, selected]

But, as my experience last night demonstrated, such lessons can be offered, but receiving them is up to the other party. Since he's not interested in learning yet, I hope he at least picked up his shoes.