Family

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At some time in our lives, we all need to be told we’re good or shown the way.  A simple story about giving kids from Oakland’s toughest neighborhoods a chance to rise above the violence in their communities strangely touched me and compelled me to write.  As I do this, I am not that far from Oakland.  I have heard enough to tell you that the culture of violence described is not exaggerated. Patients who see me for marijuana permission are happy and delighted they do not have to drive there.

So there are children who grow up in a culture of violence.  I see adults.  Not too long ago, I was seeing adults for social security evaluations in Los Angeles. Many of them had been caught in crossfire, perhaps shot on their way to the supermarket or even in front of their own homes.  They told me they did not know why or by whom, and sometimes they still had bullets in them somewhere.  Other times it was just a memory that so overwhelmed them that the quality of their post-traumatic stress disorder was like the sort of thing that you see in Vietnam veterans. Read more on It Takes So Little…

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Perusing the internet, I am overwhelmed with people doing “weird” things.  But how do we define what is weird, when it is weird, and why it is weird?

I remember seeing the movie Fiddler on the Roof when I was quite young.  I shuddered when I heard the song “Tradition,” because it was evident, even then, that descriptions of the way people should or should not be caused a whole lot of pain.  The particular tradition that drove poor Tevye to hell and back was getting three daughters married off and being Jewish, which required dowries and Jewish grooms.

My parents attempted to receive my husband — who at that time called himself “the goy next door” and was willing to wear a yamelke and articulate a few words of yiddish he had learned from Mad Magazine.  But you could tell that this was a problem for them.  An eventuality I found just excellent in my life and which I credit with an uncommon level of happiness. I can say now that my marriage is happier than theirs ever was, at least from all that I saw.  Part of this comes from my willingness to ignore a tradition they took as dogma. Read more on The Rights of Individuals to Punish Each Other…

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“How in the world do you know how to say that in French?” I asked my hostess, in French. The reason for that was simple — we were in France and she was French.  In fact, she was my closest friend at that time and in that place. As I look back, she was one of the best friends I have ever had, in a basically friendless world where I have received few favors. She told me — as we stood in front of a cranberry display on the Market of the Rue Mouffetard, in Paris — that she had learned the word when she had been on the team that discovered that DNA (and not protein) was the hereditary material. Afterward she had a year of sabbatical in Cleveland, Ohio at the Case Western University, and they grew cranberries somewhere around there.  Her friends had known that this strange little fruit did not exist in France, so they showed it to her, and somehow they had tested and exchanged vocabulary, just as I had with her.

Although I had been born in suburban Boston,  I had not seen cranberries growing in a bog until a high school road trip.  My class had traveled to see Plymouth Rock, and the reproduction of the Mayflower (so tiny — they must have been really cramped) and other such things I had been told existed no other place on God’s green Earth except for Cape Cod.  I was glad I had my French friend to help me break such myths of chauvinistic rubbish.  How strong the myth had felt, how deeply I had believed it, and for so long. Read more on Canneberges?…

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By every measure, America is hanging onto its first world status by a thread.  And even that is arguable.  We have been in slow decline toward third world status for the last 30 years.  And nothing speaks to this reality more than this country’s poverty rates. It is sad that poverty is measured in percentages and indices that are debatable at best.  As in many news stories, an effort is made to personalize — to render concrete — these elusive numbers.  The happiness of the person who found free fruit but could not afford it at Walmart, cited at the end of the article, is a touching story. These are the stories of real poor folks, who have seen me as patients, in rural northern California. Folks like the married couple, both of whom were on active army duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  They left their kids with their parents while they served.  They wanted to continue serving, but were informed they could not because of “military cutbacks.”  They asked for job direction from VA counselors who were no help, and finally both found minimum wage jobs.  Their new wages combined total less than 1/4 of their military salaries, but they still make too much to qualify for insurance.  They own some land — from the family – where they are living with their children in their parents’ houses.  They are wondering how they are going to pay for their children’s medical care. Like the young man who has impacted wisdom teeth and back pain from a serious accident at a saw mill.  Something ran amok and tons of wood fell on his back. He cannot pay for either dental care or an operation on his back.  His family has chipped in for medical marijuana.  He has no idea of how to do anything except stay home, in pain, depressed, and stoned. Or there’s the older woman on oxygen who cannot lift her tank and has a bag of pills she cannot lift either.  She needs me to hold her hand while she limps with great pain into my office.  She has a broken hip but until she is old enough for Medicare — a year or so — mostly her friends shop for her and bring her everything she needs.  What she really needs is an operation on her hip but has no idea how to pay for it.  I tell her to ask her doctor for some kind of a device to assist ambulation.  She says a cane is not enough and nobody will pay for a walker; certainly not for a wheelchair. Some people think Obamacare might help but have no idea what to do until then.  I have seen unemployed young people who are glad they are still on their parents’ health insurance. The kinds of things I am seeing are the kind of things that missionaries see in third world counties.  I know some physicians who have been discouraged from that kind of work, simply because people need basic food and shelter before they can be cured or managed.  From what the people above tell me, they do not seem to have these things, either. Hanging on by a thread to our first world status?  No.  The thread has broken and we are third world. Now.

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I am happy — really happy — with something the state of California has done.  It is a very, very good thing.  They have become the first state in the nation to ban therapy that tries to turn gay teens straight. I am armed with subjective histories.  My heart, if not my brain, goes to them first. My first private office in California was in San Diego and just happened to be near the center of the alternative lifestyle community of that fine burg.  I heard tear-stained stories from gay guys whose parents had “suggested” therapy of this sort.  One man, who saw me for treatment of a physical pain syndrome, told me how his parents wanted and believed in a heterosexual son.  He cried as he told me about their “Christianity” and their desire for him to father a family.  They would even try to encourage him on dates with girls when he felt “less than nothing.”  Curiously enough, I remember him as being part of one of the most highly committed and long lasting dyadic relationships I have ever known.  He had a loving male partner who brought him to every appointment and waited in the waiting room. When I approach a situation, I do not start with subjective data, however emotional.  I look farther.

I know that the searchers of the human genome for markers for homosexuality have come up empty.  This seems to mean that homosexuality is probably not genetic.  It does not mean it is not biological.  Last time I tuned in, people seemed to believe that homosexuality — at least in males — seemed related to stress during pregnancy.  I was still back in Europe when I read that the largest number of gay males ever born in a similar set of circumstances were the male children born to women who had been incarcerated in concentration camps. Read more on Good for California! “Straightening Out” Gays Is Now Illegal…

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Britney Spears doesn’t make the news much anymore.  Her career is probably still going strong, but her wild ways and scrapes with the law are old news.  The media has latched on to new starlets and scandals, and they will never run out.

However, I noticed recently a story about conservatorship of this once-superstar (perhaps now only a mega-star?), and wanted to take the occasion to talk about this very serious legal step of conservatorship.

Miss Spears’ father is her conservator, and he wants her boyfriend appointed as a co-conservator over her well-being, and this might be a sign that he’s getting ready to marry her.  There is something very wrong with this picture.

People having conservatorship over other people should not be taken lightly. Read more on Brittany Spears, Conservatorship and the Abuse of Power…

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The first time I heard about using empty whipped cream dispensers to get “high” was a long time ago.  I was living at my parents’ house after I had finished medical school in France.  I had done my thesis as quickly as possible, in the fall.  My residency was projected to start July first.  I promised my parents I would do what I could to earn my keep.  I sold kitchen cabinet fronts over the telephone, got involved in a chorus production of “Pirates of Penzance,” and substitute taught for awhile.

As a substitute teacher in suburban Boston I was taught everything from senior hygiene to 9th grade algebra.  A principal saw me teach 9th grade algebra and told me the heck with the credentials — the way I put across factoring quadratics was good enough for him to take me on permanently.  I was leading the class in yelling, singing, and dancing “everybody factor.”  And they were.

I told him I was going Cincinnati to start a surgical residency.  He stared at me in disbelief.  I told him I had more important news for him. Read more on Teens and Inhalant Addiction and — K2 Spice?…

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The death rate is down and the life expectancy is up.  “Nothing but good news,” says the statistician.

Perhaps our prevention programs and treatments are working.  Statistics are unwieldy things, but these are so general, the news of less death and more life can only be seductive. I want to look at it closer. I want to look at the differentiations among groups, which I doubt have changed. If you ever wondered about women living longer than men, both in the African-American race and the Euro-American races, you should have seen my waiting room the day I encountered a soft spoken and personable but physically-challenged African-American man.  He was surrounded by obviously smitten females bearing gifts.  Two of the three young ladies offered him homemade baked goods and made a point of telling the third she did not have a chance because she only had a dozen store-bought doughnuts. Read more on Why Do Some People Live Longer Than Others?…

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Sometimes my mother would act strangely.

I remember when she told me that she remembered when my tiny behind could fit entirely into her hand, and that for that reason she did not have to listen to anything I said.  I did not follow the logic, but since I certainly could not remember when my behind was that small, she had me.

It seems that wherever I go, whatever clinical situation I have found myself in, my female colleagues on the staff eventually start talking about mothers and daughters.

The following statistic is not from valid research mind you – just from casual observation – but every mother wants to have a daughter just like her.This does not happen, as I patiently explained to my mother, because of the DNA getting all jumbled up through something called genetic recombination. I would probably have a daughter who was as charming as Great Aunt Gussie, the woman who had stolen the family inheritance and had not been known to be particularly polite in polite society either.

Butch Cassidy and his Hole In The Wall gang

Probably the most famous outlaw gang in history -- Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

The fact that mothers and daughters are genetically different is only one reason moms just never get someone “just like” them. Mothers and daughters grow up in different eras. A woman of my mother’s era may feel that her professional options were limited — teacher or nurse, maybe, but these were generally some sort of “skill builders” until Mr. Right came along.

My mother told me that her mother wanted to do something vaguely medical, even had some kind of an interest in laboratory analysis.  But she ended up being some kind of a religious philanthropist, starting Jewish institutions.  Nice, but not hands-on caring for other people, if that is where your passion is.

There are other differences, in family and upbringing, that are too great to describe.  Here is a superficial if not-otherwise bad article on this from our friends at Good Housekeeping and Web MD.

But wait, there’s more.  Consider the 32-year-old woman with allegedly healthy five and seven year old children at home, who said she was wildly depressed because her mother did not visit, did not come around at all, and could not seem to have a good, happy relationship with her.

I asked her the obvious question.  What kind of activities did she enjoy with her mother? I tried not to jump when I heard the response.

“Armed Robbery.” Read more on Family Bonding As Outlaws…

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I have grudgingly accepted that we live in an anti-intellectual society but I find it extremely difficult to take care of people who do not know if they are pregnant or not — and have no interest in pregnancy tests. You might ask what business is it of mine?

Teens Having Babies Is Hardly News AnymoreIt is my primary business – giving people prescription drugs or natural alternatives to same.  If these people are women of child-bearing age, I have to know – and advise them – of potentials for birth defects, transmission of substances through nursing, and other eventualities.

So it is extremely important in my line of work to determine if a woman is pregnant, nursing or even just planning to have a baby. Read more on Children Having Children Is Not A Sustainable Model For Society…

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