Sunday, December 27, 2009

The past gives seed material for the future

I have a son who has been sick enough all his life so that it seems doctors have given up on him. I haven't, and that really annoys the doctors no end. When I go in to see a specialist, he or she asks me the standard question: "What can I do for you?" And since the referring doctor usually does not inform the specialist about Erik's ailment, it is up to me to fill the doctor in telling him or her all I know about Erik.

I start at the beginning: "He was born premature; he weighed 3 lbs. 2 and one half ounce. At that point I get interrupted: "I don't need to know all that. Tell me what brought you here!"

I start again but at a more recent date, and I say all this very fast so I can get as much information into my sentences as possible: "In 1998 Erik had surgery on a Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis; the growth plate of the femur had slipped. This surgery left him in a wheelchair. If that wasn't bad enough he only weighed 34 lbs., and I wanted to know why. So Erik was referred to a gastro-enterologist to see if there was a malabsorption problem. After a biopsy of the small intestine, I think, the conclusion was drawn that Erik did not have celiac disease. I then kept asking for referrals to a kidney specialist..." Again I get interrupted. "I don't need to know all that," says the doctor. "Why do you want to delve so far back into the past?" He or she asks me impatiently: "Why are you here?" The doctor has not looked at my son."

The doctor apparently did not expect Erik to be a basket case. I sometimes even want to say that I am sorry to inflict such a sight on this mighty profession that believes in itself to cure the sick and only rarely misses a diagnosis. I want to shout: "Give me a diagnosis that Erik can live with. And I want it in writing." The diagnosis is kidney failure, please, write it down for me so that the next doctor Erik goes to doesn't have to guess. Erik has a record a foot high. The past and the future would be ample material for studies. But this seed material has become old and just not interesting enough any longer. Where do we go from here?

Monday, December 07, 2009

When we still pushed a hoop with a stick

When I was a child I still pushed a hoop with a stick. Hoops, better, bicycle rims from old bicycles were toys we were able to afford. The other day, I heard someone say something like "you act as if you only know how to push a hoop with a stick." The implication was that the days when people were still pushing hoops with sticks were really primitive days. Yes, I lived in those primitive days. We children did not have Transformers, those morphing toys that all the children seem to have to possess to somehow stimulate more of their imagination. We also didn't have computers. There was no television. The information we got came from a radio made before the beginning of World War II, and we listened to the Voice of America.

The Voice of America was our window to the world, and we loved anything American. Never having had an orange or any other tropical fruit, I accepted a black banana peel to have a taste of what it was. We were deprived, but we didn't know it. We were full of curiosity, and we had the world in front of us and we were not afraid.

Anyhow, we pushed hoops with sticks, and we were glad to have those. The days were filled with laughter, and joy and tears and crying when one of us scraped a knee or stubbed a toe with our bare feet. In those days the street was ours. We used it because the asphalt surface was nice and flat, and we laid pennies on the streetcar tracks to watch them get flattened. It was a carefree time. We had a minimum of supervision and we had to learn from our mistakes, and yes, I watched a large German Shepherd dog get run over by the streetcar. We learned to be careful. I watched a neighbor's dog named Toad run along the side of cars coming by at moderate speed. The dog furiously darted about, attacking the car as if it was a disobedient sheep barking at it while trying to bite its tires.

Those were simpler days where an organ-grinder played his tunes and a scissor-sharpener pushed his cart going from house to house, and we teased the old lady across the street who promptly threatened us with her great big iron grass shears saying she would cut off our ears if we didn't stop that. Of course she was not serious.

Did we live primitive lives. Yes, we pushed a hoop with a stick. But we truly knew things from our own experience. We knew how to push a real hoop with a real stick. We did not play vicarious games on the computer. We knew the reality of death from the war. We saw a dog die. But we also knew how to play, and we knew how to push a hoop with a stick.