Thursday, February 28, 2008

Column for Feb. 28, 2008

"Ow, my pancreas!" not as funny as it once was

I have enjoyed watching "The Three Stooges" since I was but a wee lad. I remember one line in one episode that comedic genius Larry "Fine" Feinburg said after getting hit in the abdomen. He cried, "Ow, my pancreas!" I thought that was actually a funny line since none of us really knows how a pancreas feels when it hurts. At least I didn't, until last week. A pancreas can actually inflict serious bodily pain.

For those of you wondering why my column was not in last week's paper (and I got several inquiries. Thank you all for that), I simply did not think to bring my laptop to the emergency room at Johnston Memorial Hospital. I probably would not have been able to think clearly, much less type through the Demerol induced mind fog in order to write. I did, however, already have a topic ready and outlined to go. Oh, well. Such is the nature of medical emergencies. My pancreas had its own time frame, so I was not able to write last week.

I did, however, gain a few perspectives and even reinforce a few others with my nearly week long stay in our county hospital. On a local level, it is obvious to me that we have an undersized emergency department as well as facility. I was told that every bed was taken, all rooms were at full occupancy, and that the day I went was the busiest they had in a while. I was amazed that here in little old Johnston County, we had that bad of a hospital overcrowding problem.

One reason for the emergency room overcrowding was the lack of judicious use of the facility by those who should probably have been at a clinic or urgent care center. Since the county hospital must see all who come there for care, the emergency room has become a regular doctor's office of choice for many, it seems, regardless of the patients for whom the visit is truly an emergency. I thought I was having a gall stone attack or the like, was yacking up many different colors of gastric content, was in pain, and about to pass out. I saw a few others who were bleeding and battered, but most were very mobile and probably should not be at a county hospital emergency room. There were a few brought in after an auto wreck. That is what an E.R. is for, not runny nose cases at tax payer expense. It has also become a haven for those who are here illegally to obtain minor medical care, since they will never be held accountable for payment.

I have heard of problems with friends and family having experienced the same and even seen it with my own eyes in times past. I realize that it is not the facility's fault for medical care that moves at the speed of smell as opposed to light. It is the system. It is the degree of socialized medicine we already have here in our nation. I had plenty of hours to reflect upon the horror of how my stay would have been should we be under Hillary Care or other totally socialized medicine program in this nation.

Here is what I did see that amazed me. I met many young nursing professionals, as well as some older ones. I met one lovely, elderly nurse with a grandmotherly look, demeanor, touch, and level of care. I loved her level of dedication and softness. The young professionals, however, amazed me most. There were some young females in our local Johnston Community College nursing program who were learning, and I was glad to be their patient in order for them to learn. Their instructors were meticulous and I was glad to see it. I am almost old enough to be the father of some of these young ladies, and I was encouraged to see the level of dedication and knowledge displayed by the younger generation in the medical field. I was encouraged when I talked to a young man in his mid 20's who shared his journey in getting his RN certification, about his family, and displayed a great degree of knowledge and care.

The young nurses were primarily single, I assume, since some of them work at more than one hospital and even travel a bit. I enjoyed hearing that they are experienced and ambitious. I was disappointed, in general, with the middle aged and older staff. It has nothing to do with the fact that the younger nurses look better, (though I would have preferred the Frederick's of Hollywood nursing uniforms on a few of them instead of the uniforms purchased across the street at the Medical Mall) but it had everything to do with attitude and level of personal care.

Is it that the older staff are worn down with time, cynical, more settled in life? Will the young, dedicated staff become a bit more bitter with age? I truly do not know. I just hope that the crusty folks I encountered will not remain as such nor be a model for the youth. I actually liked what I saw in and was optimistic about the next generation of medical professionals and pray that they will only improve with age.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Column for Feb. 14, 2008

I had several topics I wanted to cover, but none would take up a full column, so I decided to go with the "LaPlante's Rants" being plural rather than singular concept. So, here it goes.

I just finished filing my annual federal and state tax returns. Even with a good tax software program that I use every year, it was a real challenge this year. I had to deal with capital gains tax, stock options, medical bills, and more receipts than to which I am accustomed. I could have saved a few hours of my own time, corporations save tons of money, and Americans save plenty of time and money by having a simple tax code. I am a huge supporter of the so-called Fair Tax. We could replace our entire income tax and FICA tax system with a single national consumption tax. This would save so much time and money and none of us would have to fight with a tax code thicker than The Bible. It would also tax us according to our spending rather than the enslavement of our labors, all would pay taxes including illegal aliens and criminals, and we would not have an easily manipulated, punitive tax code.

I am very frustrated with the amount of taxes I have paid that will potentially going to people who do not work as I do, much less file tax returns. I personally know people who have what has been aptly termed a learned helplessness. There are people who frustrate me by leeching off the government, friends, and family. Why in the world do people cry total poverty, yet will run out to Wal-Mart to buy the latest DVD releases, get tattoos, buy cartons of tobacco products, pay for high speed internet, and satellite television? It is all a matter of priorities. I realize that there are truly those who are destitute in this world, but I am so tired of people begging to borrow money from me when they could simply do some planning on their own, exercise some self restraint, and do for themselves. In addition, many people could do much better on their own rather than waiting for the rest of us taxpayers to pay for their paltry monthly handout.

I recently had need to send a certified letter across the state. I paid the extra postage for the certified mail service, which also allowed for status tracking on the internet. I am glad that I could get an online status, since the post office is incredibly inefficient at returning mail such as mine that was refused for delivery. The letter took only one day to arrive for delivery, but after the recipient's refusal, I am still waiting for the return of the letter over two weeks later. Nobody at the post office can tell me where the letter is and why it has not yet been returned, even though there is a tracking bar code affixed to it. If UPS, FedEx, and DHL can track a package along every step of the delivery process, why can not the United States Postal Service do the same? Over five years later, my mother is still waiting for a Mothers' Day gift I sent her. When I got a PO Box, mail was taking six days to be forwarded from my home address in Selma to the PO Box. The mail was routed from Selma to Raleigh and then back to Selma to be placed into my box, just thirty feet from where the mail was placed to be routed through Raleigh. I was told that this was to make the mail process more efficient. If this is modern efficiency, I would prefer old fashioned common sense. Nothing will get better or service levels increase, but our postal rates will.

Speaking of the post office, what is it with these lazy people in Selma who are so lazy and inconsiderate that they will literally park the wrong way on the street in a no parking zone? It is literally scary to see someone cutting across traffic, going the wrong way, and then parking illegally. I see this most every day that I am at the post office. Many times I see that the offenders have handicapped parking placards and yet totally ignore the specific parking spot created just for them. Are people that lazy and selfish?

OK, one last one. My company recognizes Presidents' Day next Monday as a company holiday. I have a good friend who has to work that day where she works. That lack of a work holiday was a result of substituting Martin Luther King Day for Presidents' Day as a recognized holiday. It is bad enough that Presidents' Day was created to not recognize both the individual holidays of Abraham Lincoln's and George Washington's birthdays. There is no way I can possibly equate the celebration of Martin Luther King to the celebration of two truly great leaders of American history. This has nothing to do with race, just accomplishment, history, and importance of effect on this nation. Furthermore, I do have a problem with the idea of creating a holiday to appease a numerical minority.

As much as I would like to expound upon that last one, my space for this week's column has been taken up and my multiple rant packed column is now done for this edition.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Column for Feb. 7, 2008

Are there any Patriots left? Not if you are a Giant or love the U.S.

I was doubly dismayed at watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night. Not only did the New England Patriots blow a perfect season, I saw some corollaries that just saddened me. The New York Giants did not win The Super Bowl. The Patriots lost the game. There is a difference. The Patriots did not come in with their "A game". They seemed to be just going through the motions of game play except for a brief period in the fourth quarter. They were a much better team than they exhibited on the field.

I see a close parallel in today's culture. True American patriots are not coming to the game field with their best efforts. True patriots are not making the plays needed to secure victory. The effort just is not there. As a result, their opponents in the political realm are excelling and may very well win. For the record, I do not consider a former Muslim who currently attends a cultic "Christian" congregation and has a middle name of Hussein or the wife of a disgraced former President, both of which are admitted socialists by actions if not by name, to be patriots. I consider them to be the enemy.

I also do not consider liberally minded men who pretend to be conservatives to be patriots, either. When I see men running for the Republican Party's nomination for President who author bills that squash freedom of speech, oppose tax cuts, do not oppose gun bans, support amnesty for illegal aliens, desire to treat our war time enemies better than we treat our own soldiers, support increased spending and large government, and have just recently somewhat come to grips with some core conservative principles, I do not see patriots.

I may be biased, and I admit it wholeheartedly when it comes to this subject. One reason that I do not consider Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee to be patriots in the truest sense of the word is because I have been studying a lot lately about the American Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution. As a matter of fact, I have been teaching on the subject on a weekly basis for months. I have done extensive reading behind people like John Adams, John Locke, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Roger Sherman, and a host of others. The courage of men who "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" are far from those we have today. Basically, the true patriots of today, if there are any left, have failed to show up on the game field.

I can not, in all good conscience, vote for most of the men who are running for President this year. I would rather be stabbed to death with a plastic fork than vote for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. If anyone truly believes that they would be good for this nation, then they must not have ever studied economics, the founding documents of this nation, and have no idea why we are a republic, not a democracy, nor a socialist nation. I have a hard time believing that anyone would purposely choose socialism over liberty.

I have an equally hard time voting for John McCain, who is certainly not a conservative. I have seen so many errant decisions on his part that I have a hard time discerning any vestiges of conservatism left in the man. Mitt Romney, though very articulate, is still a relative newcomer to conservatism. Quite honestly, I have misgivings about his loyalties, as well. Though Mike Huckabee is an evangelical Christian and ordained Baptist minister, I still dislike some of his soft stances on a few areas. Though I do not question his loyalty to God, I do question his loyalty to our form of government.

Even my first choice for President, Ron Paul, has some areas with which I strongly disagree. The more I study the U.S. government, our national heritage, and our founding documents, the more I am willing to overlook some areas of disagreement in order to cast a vote for a return to those values. He is certainly the only candidate espousing these same values and standing by them.

Alas, there are not more patriots in this nation that will vote as I will. This year, I refuse to hold my nose and cast yet another vote for the lesser of two evils. Then again, it may be the evil of two lessers. I don't know. What I do know is that just as I saw the New England Patriots blow a perfect football season, fail to show up to play their best, and allowed their opponents to take advantage of their weaknesses, I am seeing the exact same thing in our nation and have for years. Good, strong patriots seem to be in short supply, both in politics and in football.