Posts Tagged ‘health care’

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adirondacks: Off the Couch, Out the Door

Severe thunder storms. Stuck in the house. So what else is new this summer in northern New York? Now, nature addicts like me don’t mind a little rain. That’s what Gore-tex is for. But crashing branches and slashing lightning? No way am I hiking or paddling in that, and it’s driving me nuts.

Where comes this craving to be out in the woods in all weathers (except severe thunder storms or maybe freezing rain)? It started when I was just a small kid, maybe 9 or 10, growing up in a boatyard on a lake in Michigan, with a dad who had lots of chores for me and who wasn’t all that nice about getting me to do them. But he had taught me how to paddle. And a winding creek ran between our lake and another, the banks lined with marsh and forest. And canoes were there for the taking. I soon learned that two turns of the creek carried me beyond the sound of my dad shouting about unfinished work. So the woods and the waterways became my refuge, my place to get lost on purpose.

And so they still are. For 15 years I worked as a nursing assistant for Hospice, traveling all over Saratoga County to care for people in their own homes, people dying of every illness the human flesh can fail by. And I couldn’t fix it. Each day I had to walk into the heart of suffering. And stay there. Friends asked me, “How can you stand it?” One way was to go to the river, push off in my little canoe (a 10′ Hornbeck Black Jack, weighing 12 pounds), and as soon as I felt that smooth silken water bearing me up and smelled the sweet scent of mossy banks, I sensed that all was well. I could really believe that some great goodness lay at the core of creation, that death and change were just part of the scheme of things, and that all would be well, indeed.

It’s funny. I thought I’d enjoy such nature magazines as Outside and Backpacker, but when I leafed through a few issues, I found the articles were mostly about surviving nature — enduring thousands of mosquito bites, falling off cliffs, freezing in the mountains, struggling across deserts, that sort of thing: Nature as something that had to be challenged or overcome. Not for me. I preferred to go to nature for its power to heal. During my work for Hospice, I witnessed this power in the lives of others, as well. Let me tell you about two of these folks. While it’s true they both eventually died, I know that their final days were enriched by getting them off the couch and out the door.

Dan, a Polish-American retired paper mill worker, wanted nothing to do with me. No, he didn’t need a shave. No, he could shower without my help. No, he didn’t want to chit-chat. “Just siddown and be quiet. I wanna watch ‘The Price is Right’.” Now, to spend an hour doing nothing was bad enough. But to have to spend it watching “The Price is Right” — torture! So I busied myself making his bed and nosing about for something to read. And there on his bookshelf were several field guides for mushrooms. I interrupted his program: “Dan, do you like to hunt mushrooms? You know, we could go look for some.” It was late autumn. There might be a few late fruiters. Click! The TV went dark. “Could you really take me?”

Indeed I could. We drove to a site where he knew some Late Fall Oyster mushrooms might be found. While he sat in the car, he sent me off into the woods. It must have been angels (plus Dan’s good directions) that led me right to them. A whole bunch. I gathered a gallon or so, and you know, it might have been gold I laid in his lap, he was so delighted. And after that adventure, off we would go nearly every day until the day he died. He’d sit in the car with his oxygen tank (he had terminal heart failure), and we’d drive along the Hudson and Hoosick Rivers, visiting all the haunts of his youth. We found where he used to hide his canoe. We found where wild asparagus grew. He recalled how his father was gassed in the war. He remembered his mother’s struggles to run their tavern. He confessed how he started drinking young and how mean he had been to his wife when he was drunk. And he found at last the courage to ask for his wife’s forgiveness before he died. And he died in her loving arms.

Then there was Eleanor. I’m not sure what Eleanor’s illness was. Terminal crankiness, probably. She lived in an assisted living facility, very nice, lots of social events, classes, good meals. She never left her room. She wanted her meals sent up. She wanted her shades pulled down. The one pleasure she allowed herself was to sit on the porch in her wheelchair on pleasant days. One day I rolled her down the ramp: “Some Blue-eyed Grass is blooming near the parking lot,” I told her. She reluctantly consented. She had never seen (nor ever cared to see) Blue-eyed Grass, but that day her eyes were opened. A sea of radiant blue covered a vacant lot, studded with bright yellow Small Sundrops and snowy Wild Strawberry. “Oh my! How pretty,” she said (in spite of herself).

All summer we walked and rolled, on into the fall. If the day was rainy, she waited for me in her raincoat. She couldn’t get over the beauty of Blue Vervain (“How can that be a weed?”) or the tiny pink blossoms of Northern Willow Herb (“Wouldn’t they make a darling dollhouse bouquet?”) We picked gorgeous bundles of Panicled Dogwood (burgundy leaves, waxy white berries on hot pink pedicels) mixed with the dark maroon seed sprays of Curly Dock. Then we got in trouble for bringing in armloads of Goldenrod. Her daughter threw it all out: “Get those weeds out of here! They’re dropping pollen all over!” I heard that cranky tone and marveled: that’s how Eleanor used to sound. She didn’t anymore.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Matt Funiciello Reports: Scott Murphy Comes Town

Matt Funiciello sent us the following report on Scott Murphy’s trip to the north country last week. Matt writes a regular blog that can be found here.

I went to visit Scott Murphy on Tuesday morning. The new Congressman was opening the doors of his new congressional office in Glens Falls, N.Y. Located at 136 Glen Street, it is just around the corner from my own cafe. About 65 people were gathered to voice concerns and ask questions of the 20th District’s newest representative. Murphy appeared calm and thoughtful as he answered all the questions asked of him for about 45 minutes.

He first spent twenty minutes talking about his initial 7 weeks in the House and extolling the virtues of the Credit Card Reform bill and the Mortgage Reform bill which he voted for. He also spoke at length about his support of the recent (and controversial) Energy Independence bill. One citizen critic opined that the bill was a boondoggle designed to put carbon-trading credits under the control of Wall Street bankers.

Murphy noted that there were pluses and minuses to the bill and pointed out that, in New York state, we spend far more for power than other states because we have already done so much to clean up our power sources. He cited, as well, the credits that were negotiated right before the bill passed concerning “woody biomass”. These credits, he said, will favor pulp and paper mills like Finch-Pruyn, located in Glens Falls, which he specifically mentioned.

Although many questions were asked, a reasonably large number of people were in the crowd to voice their support for a Single-Payer Health Care plan (HR 676, Improved and Expanded Medicare For All). We were there to ask Mr. Murphy why he has not signed on as a sponsor to the bill. John Thomas, from Hartford, asked him to define single-payer as he saw it and Peter Lavenia, co-chair of New York state’s Green Party asked why he would not sign on as a sponsor.

Murphy said that, “I haven’t decided which of the various bills that I am going to vote in favor of or against.” He went on to say that he was looking at access to health care for those who don’t currently have it but also the retention of “choice” for those who do. Further, he said that Americans “have the most expensive system with the most mediocre result.”

David Nicholson, a Vietnam Veteran, was holding a sign that read, “Rub Out The Two Party Mafia” and a compatriot of his had one that said, “Washington. You’re fired!” I spoke to Nicholson prior to the event and he said that he wanted to ask about whether or not Murphy would support the HR 1207, the bill Ron Paul and Denis Kucinich have sponsored which would allow for proper auditing of the Federal Reserve. They did not have a chance to speak directly with Murphy before he took the event indoors, so after pledging my support (as a businessman, an employer and a person who grew up under a single-payer system) to HR 676 and urging him to consider supporting it, I asked if he would support Ron Paul’s bill.

He maintained, as many elected officials have, that an independent firm already audit’s the nation’s bank, but he also said that he would not be against further auditing being done directly by the General Accounting Office to allow for better oversight of the privately-held bank that has literally made $2 trillion disappear right in front of lawmakers’ eyes.

He had made an earlier statement about troop withdrawals from Iraq under Obama and I asked how he felt about the historical number of mercenaries that were being deployed to replace the soldiers now headed from Iraq to Afghanistan. I asked if this switch, along with our 14 permanent military bases in Iraq, could really be looked at as any sort of meaningful “withdrawal”?

Murphy responded, “As we are bringing our troops back, there are also people that are hired by the U.S. and by Iraqi Security Forces to provide security and, my hope is that, over time, we’re drawing that (number) down as well.”

Lastly, I asked him why our state’s dairy farmers are still being forced to deal with subsidies and price controls in an age when people are starting to eat real food and are getting used to paying what it is actually worth. I also asked his position on N.A.I.S. (the National Animal I.D. system which would have every farm animal tagged and coded for federal oversight).

Murphy said he has spoken with many dairy farmers and that he spent several days trying to figure out all the nuances involved in our “anachronistic” system of dairy pricing. He said that he was working towards answers but that it was a very complicated issue.

As for the tagging of every egg, chicken, cow and piglet, he said that it is not something “the agricultural community is very excited about” and that
he would not support it “at the current time”.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Healthcare: Hamilton, Essex Counties Have Most Uninsured

Health care reform has been promised by President Obama for this year (here is a pdf of his plan). According to a new map created by Jim Gimpel of the political blog The Monkey Cage, the Adirondack region, particularly Essex and Hamilton counties, has the most to gain from health care reform. The numbers are drawn from the 2005 US Census and represent the percentage of uninsured in each county (under age 65, those older are eligible for Medicare).

The map is remarkable because it shows that the liberal northeast has the lowest rate of uninsured. New York however, has the highest rate of uninsured in our region, and Hamilton County, one of the lowest rates of insured in all of New York.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Welcome to The New Millionaires’ Row at Lake George

The Albany Times Union ran a story this week that is one of the few looks at the really wealthy in our area:

” ‘It boggles my mind when I give a client a monthly bill for $500,000 and they just open their checkbook and write me a check without flinching,’ said Dean Howland. He’s been building high-end custom homes on Lake George for two decades and recalls only a few buyers who took out a mortgage…”

Today’s buyers typically come from the New York metropolitan area and often own their own business or amassed wealth as CEOs and money managers.

They generally refuse to be identified publicly (fear? humility? shame?) but they include this family:

Howland is building the Assembly Point complex for a Westchester County family in the construction business downstate. The owners, who asked that their names not be used, paid more than $1 million for an undistinguished house on a waterfront lot just south of Diamond Point on the lake’s west side. They tore down the old house and paid $500,000 to blast 10 feet into bedrock for a foundation, terrace the steep slope to the lake and truck in tons of gravel for a storm water management system. An adjoining parcel came up for sale. They bought that, too.

The couple’s 21-year-old daughter desired privacy, so they built a cottage with a loft, deck, gourmet kitchen and bath with Italian glass tile.

A partial tally of their lakefront compound reveals: 15 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, 18 plasma TVs, eight security cameras, one infinity edge pool, one sauna, one steam room, one boccie ball court, one Hummer, one Corvette, one Harley, two horseshoe pits, five kayaks, three Jet-Skis, two canoes, three golf carts and a boathouse with four motorboats.

Among those actually named in the piece include Robert J. Higgins (Trans World Entertainment Corp.); Lewis Golub (Price Chopper); John Breyo (Ayco); George Hearst (Times Union); Bob Bailey (Racemark International); and Vincent Riggi (Turbine Services Ltd.).

Stephen Serlin, Glens Falls obstetrician / gynecologist is owner of the 1895 Tudor revival Wikiosco, built for Royal C. Peabody in 1895 (that’s it at left). Peabody was founder of the Brooklyn Edison Co. – one of the country’s oldest electric companies and one that was charged with bilking its customers in 1920. It’s 11,000 sq-ft located just south of the Hearthstone Point, has “seven bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, seven fireplaces, staff quarters, a guest cottage and a 20-car garage. The asking price is $17.9 million.”

Phillip H. Morse, vice chairman of the Boston Red Sox, who got rich developing cardiac catheters, owns a newly built compound on the northern tip of Assembly Point estimated to be worth more than $20 million. The main house is over 10,000 sq-ft.

One wonders large a house it would take to cover the 2.6 million people in New York State without health insurance.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Adirondack Health Care, Influenza Shots, Avian Flu and the coming Pandemic

First, take a look at Adirondack Musings explanation of Drugs for Flu. Then, NCPR’s Brian Mann is offering us some insight on the coming flu pandemic [audio]:

A deadly strain of influenza could mutate and begin to spread aggressively among humans. There have already been dozens of cases where the disease made the leap from birds to people and in extremely rare instances the avian flu appears to have passed between humans. More than a hundred and twenty people have been infected so far, most of them in Asia. Nearly half died.

NCPR has also provided some links we’re copy here along with a discussion of the possibility from American Scientific:

Next, consider the shortage of Tamiflu, the drug considered most effective in combating H5N1 the avian influenza (a.k.a. Asian bird flu).

And from the CDC a short history:


Outbreaks of influenza H5N1 occurred among poultry in eight countries in Asia (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam) during late 2003 and early 2004. At that time, more than 100 million birds in the affected countries either died from the disease or were killed in order to try to control the outbreak. By March 2004, the outbreak was reported to be under control. Beginning in late June 2004, however, new outbreaks of influenza H5N1 among poultry were reported by several countries in Asia (Cambodia, China [Tibet], Indonesia, Kazakhastan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Russia [Siberia], Thailand, and Vietnam). It is believed that these outbreaks are ongoing. Most recently, influenza H5N1 has been reported among poultry in Turkey and Romania [and today Russia and Croatia, ed]. Human infections of influenza A (H5N1) have been reported in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Finally, here in the Adirondacks we already apparently have a severe shortage of health care professionals and a (at least currently) a lack of modern health care information exchange.

Luckily, and this may be our saving grace if the axe ever does fall – we don’t live in overcrowded suburban hell.



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