My First Trip to Haiti: Day 1

29 01 2010

[Fri. Jan. 15, 2010]

Originally I hadn’t planned to go to Haiti. It was a last minute decision.

As many of you know, my brother is a doctor. He organized a team of physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists and support staff to go down. I helped with coordinating efforts; getting medical supplies together, arranging for tents, cots, generators, etc.

Once everything was set to go there was a personnel shortage. A couple people would have to come later leaving set up and logistics (i.e. schlepping and grunt work) to the medical staff. My brother insisted that I go along and act as coordinator. I insisted that I could do more by staying in NYC and coordinating resupply efforts from home. Then he promised I would be relieved as soon as the rest of the crew arrived. But the clincher was when my brother said, “Deep inside I know you really want to do this, you’re just afraid.”

He was right. I did want to go and I was scared shitless. The tragedy in Haiti was beyond comprehension to me. My tendency in situations like this was to send a check to the Red Cross and help out behind the scenes in whatever capacity I could. I give good phone.

My bother on the other hand, is one of those people who is always on the front line. He worked with Doctors Without Borders for years. He was there for Katrina and the Tsunami. He forges into remote jungle villages and fights disease outbreaks in places I’ve never heard of. Needless to say, I’m very proud of him, but I’m not him and I had never been in the front lines of any disaster.

I grabbed my backpack and quickly stuffed some clean clothes in it. An hour later I was on the plane and hoping I had remembered to pack a toothbrush in my haste. I was excited to be going and scared to death at the same time. The entire flight was surreal. I was intoxicated with fear and self doubt. “What if I fucked up?” “What if I couldn’t pull my weight?” “What if I couldn’t handle the blood, the smells, the horror?” “What if I made things worse, not better?”

[Sat. Jan. 16, 2010]

As soon as I landed the fears went away. There is nothing more sobering than stepping out of the plane at Port-au-Prince. There were dozens of relief organizations already there. Some large, some small. Some well organized and well structured. Some make shift and very impromptu. We were obviously among the latter.

Being small had its advantages. First was that we were able to keep all our equipment and supplies together. Many groups weren’t operational for a day or two because their equipment and/or supplies had been lost, rerouted or hijacked.

Luckily my brother took care of finding a staging area and coordinating things with what local officials there were. I would never have known where to start. But once we got positioned the medical staff focused on their thing and the rest was left to me. Or so it seemed.

In an ideal world we would have had the tents set up, the generators working, the cots laid out in neat rows, and all the supplies in place for easy access. In the real world we had broken bodies coming to us before the first rib of our tent was erected. The medical staff took on what they could as fast as they could. I was left to coordinate the rest.

The first two days were complete chaos. It seems like a blur as I try to remember everything that happened and in what order. My first task was to get the tent together. We had ladder to help with assembling the ribs and stretching the roof and walls, but we gave it to a search and rescue crew who needed it more.

I continued working on the tent by stacking up supply crates and climbing up make shift arrangements of boxes and luggage. I found I was good at improvising as was everyone else.

Later I hired a couple local guys to help me set things up. Luckily they spoke enough English for us to communicate the basics. They were wonderful but they couldn’t stay for very long. Other locals pitched in. People would bring us their injured family members and help in whatever way they could while they waited. Most of it was done without a single word being spoken.

In middle of trying to run power cords where needed I was handed a dead body. It was a young girl. I’m guessing she was six or seven. A teenage boy just handed her to me and ran away before I could ask any questions. I took the body to one of our nurses who quickly reminded me that the medical staff only had time to deal with people who had the possibility of survival. The words I remember her saying is, “Get used to it. There will be lots more before the day is through.”

She was right.

People started bringing us their dead. Some people were alive when they started but died before they could reach help. Others had been dead from the beginning and people just brought them to us because they didn’t know where is to take them.

I found a shaded area outside of the tent to place the bodies. It was among the rubble but out of the path of traffic. I tried to lay each both out properly with respect. I covered the first three or four of them in sheets, but soon realized the effort was futile. The sick and wounded needed the sheets more.

By evening there were dozens of bodies and I was stacking them two and three deep. I kept hoping someone would come by to claim the dead, but no one did. Most of the bodies were without identification of any kind. I put toe tags on the few that had ID.

I collected their valuables; wallets, jewelry, etc., and put them in individual zip lock bags. I listed their names on a clip board and used an empty crate to file everything. I tried to be a meticulous as possible hoping that it would make a difference to someone at some point in the future.

In between the mounting corpses I was running around trying to assist in whatever way I could. Moping, cleaning, etc. I found the more mundane and mindless the job was, the more relaxing. It gave me a break from the nightmare going on around me.

But as the night went on, the nightmare continued. The crying screams echoed from every direction. I hadn’t notice it as much in the day, but the later it got the more the sounds intensified.

Around midnight it occurred to me that I would have to move the bodies. It was hot and humid. When the sun came up in the morning the bodies would be another day older, a little more decayed. I headed out with a flashlight to find a more appropriate place.

I started moving the bodies one by one. The children were manageable to move. The adults were much more difficult to carry. Sometimes I’d get some help, but most of the crew was exhausted and by 3 am they were all trying to get a catnap.

People tried to get me to stop what I was doing and get some rest too, but I couldn’t stop. I knew that if I stopped for even a minute I would break down in tears. My brother tried to get me to at least sit down and take a breather. He said something about how a rested body could help so much more than an exhausted person. He was right in a physical sense, but I needed to purge all the emotions that had built up inside. Physical exercise was my way of doing it. I was sweating and I stunk and felt like I was detoxifying every impurity from the pit of my soul.

Maybe I was just insane. Besides the bodies there was so much more going on that I can’t possibly recount here. Every moment was filled with something more shocking than the moment before.

Around 5 a. m. I was still moving the last of the bodies. My brother had slept for a while and was attending to patients. He was upset to find that I was still trudging away. Again he tried to get me to stop, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t a matter of not wanting to, I just couldn’t.

There was an impending feeling of urgency. Time mattered. I couldn’t help thinking that if just one of the many bodies had been brought to us sooner, they might have lived. Maybe. Maybe not. I had no way of knowing but I was driven by the thought that I wanted to be on top of the situation before the new day began. And I certainly didn’t want new patients seeing those who had expired.

Doing an all-nighter wasn’t new to me. I had done it many times in college and more times than I care to remember as a business owner. But those were times when I was doing it for me, for my own benefit, for my own personal reward. Now I was doing it for something greater than me, something more important than my self-centered little world.

By sunrise the bodies had all been moved. All of the patients on cots had made it through the night. The screaming had subsided. The terror in the pit of my stomach had gone away.

I sat outside the tent and watched the sun come up. It was a new day and I was a new person.

[I wanted to write this for the people who asked. There is so much more to recount and I hope to have the time to do justice to all I witnessed. I did take some photos but it will probably be a while before I get them posted. I’m getting ready to go back down so if I don’t get them uploaded this time I’ll do it when I get back.]


Pammy and the American Dream

25 11 2009

Hi, my name is Pammy and I don’t like teabaggers.

I don’t like right wing nut jobs that regurgitate talking points fabricated by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others of their ilk.

I don’t like ‘hatriots’ who parade around in flags talking about truth, justice and the American way.

I don’t like people rewriting history and I certainly don’t like people who are too stupid to know the difference.

I don’t like selfish, lazy bastards who keep whining about taxes.

I don’t like capitalism for the poor balanced with corporate communism for the rich.

I don’t like people who think the status quo is better than healthcare reform.

I don’t like politicians who play games while people are dying from lack of medical attention.

I don’t like people that are so disgusting they would defend and support such politicians.

I don’t like people who think mob rule is better than majority rule.

But don’t let me bore you with all the things I don’t like. Let me tell you about the things I hate:

I really hate lima beans and people with shit for brains.

Other than that, I pretty much like everything else, especially people who are good to each other.

I like logic and people who can think rationally.

I like people who possess critical thinking skills.

I like people who have empathy, compassion, and clear insight. And I really love people who laugh at my Sarah Palin jokes.

Now that you read through my list of likes and dislikes, you probably want to know a little about who I am. So do I.

Some people call me a liberal elitist (usually in the derogatory sense). I take it as a compliment. I am an elitist. I look down on mindless fanatics and sneer at religious zealots.

I own a penthouse overlooking Central Park, but I was raised in an abandoned 14 foot trailer house that had plywood covered windows. I own a couple of businesses or should I say, they own me. They consume most of my time, but it wasn’t always like that. For years I waited tables and clipped coupons just to get through college.

I’ve traveled the great capitals of the world, but there was a time when I had to scrub other people’s bathrooms just to buy a bus ticket home for the holidays.

You might say I am living the American Dream, but it’s not my version of the American Dream. Granted, I’m rich and successful by most people’s standards. I’m self made. I’m in good health and I have great friends and a terrific family. But my American Dream is more than a fine home, fast cars and an expansive portfolio. My American Dream goes beyond the four walls of my condo in Aspen and the bumpers of my hybrid.

My American Dream covers all Americans; the sick and the poor, the wretched and the downtrodden, the educated and the ignorant. It covers the homeless and abused, the needy and the have-nots. And until everyone in this land who is in need of help is provided for, the American Dream is just a selfish illusion.

My American Dream includes a life of service to others and a continuous contribution to society as a whole. I don’t want to sound like Mother Teresa so I’ll close by saying that if your version of the American Dream is reflected in the words of Sean Hannity we have nothing in common.

If your American Dream is ME, ME, ME then as far as I’m concerned you and your dream are worthless. And if you have struggled all your life to fulfill a self-centered dream that does not involve the dream of giving to others and the betterment of all mankind, then you have wasted your life on a meaningless pursuit and I pity you.

The eloquence of @femmepatriot

24 11 2009

“…can only address to me as …”


The eloquence of femmepatriot.

She’s so clever.

No One in America Has Adequate Healthcare Insurance. No One.

20 10 2009

Medical Insurance

Medical Insurance

“Die Quickly” is Only Half the Story

There is nothing adequate about deception and “death for profits.”

There are many myths surrounding the health care debate, but the biggest myth of all is that adequate health care coverage even exists in America. The whole concept is nonsense.

People like Sen. Orrin Hatch & other members of the GOP are often boasting how 84% of Americans have health care coverage. That may be true. But what they don’t tell you is that it is not adequate. Estimates vary on how many people are underinsured so I won’t debate the figures. Instead we should look at the millions who think they have full coverage, who think they are completely covered against any and all situations that may arrive.

The big illusion being that because the insurance companies meet their everyday needs; routine examinations, casting their kid’s broken arm, prescribing drugs, standard surgeries, short hospital stays, etc. doesn’t mean they will be there if and when something extraordinary happens. It doesn’t mean they won’t deny coverage on treatments that are too advanced or too new to have a track record. It doesn’t mean the won’t drop them completely at any time for any reason if they think they can get away with it.

Health insurance companies lie. They make blatant lies, as proven in the last few months of debate. They lie while pouring millions of dollars to lobbyist in an attempt to distort the facts to members of Congress. They lie when they pick and choose statistics to present to the public.

For anyone to think they have “adequate” insurance with any company that deliberately and systematically lies to them, they are sadly mistaken. Which leads me back to Orrin Hatch. Sen. Hatch enjoys the luxury of full coverage for him and his family paid for by US taxpayers. It is considered top-of-the-line coverage. The coverage all Americas should aspire to.

But is it adequate? No.

Along with being a US Senator, Orrin Hatch enjoys the benefit of having a high profile. If Hatch required some expensive treatment or long term extended care, it is doubtful the insurance providers would deny it. It would bring too much bad publicity. But what if Hatch wasn’t in his Senate seat and wasn’t in front of the camera on a routine basis? What would happen if Orrin was just another working stiff? Just another number whose suffering, illness and eventual death was to go unnoticed?

I don’t think I need to answer that. Everyone knows what the truth is. We might not like to admit it. We might like to think we are “adequately” covered. We might like to think that “It won’t happen to me. They won’t drop coverage on me. I’ve been paying for years and they have always been good to me.”

Nonsense. They will drop you like a hot potato with any excuse they can use. They will deny treatment whenever they can. They will side with profits over health whenever they need to, and not think twice about it.

Over the last couple months we have seen one story after another emerge on how people have been denied coverage for outrageous reasons. Acne being considered a pre-existing condition. Baby’s being too big. Women being married to wife-beaters. If you didn’t cross a t or dot an i, you are denied coverage.

Just the idea that such a thing as a “pre-existing condition” even exist is this country is an insult to common decency.

The idea that insurance companies are not “death panels” is insulting. And for any politician to imply otherwise is disgusting. For politicians to seek their own personal and political gains over the betterment of all Americans is un-American and should be punishable by law.

When Rep Alan Grayson said the Republican’s back up plan was “Die Quickly,” he only told half of the story. The more important half is that “Die Quickly” is the policy presented by the health insurance industry during end-of-life term. The quicker you die, the less it costs. Benefits are extended only to a certain degree, and that’s it. It is an acutuarial calculation known as “death for profits.”

I don’t care what kind of coverage you have, it is not adequate. The mere fact that your dollars are doing to CEOs, along with their lawyers, accountants, and other henchmen, who seek reward by denying coverage to others, it is not adequate. It is a system that no one in America should ever accept. And an unacceptable system means that no one, not even Sen. Hatch, has “adequate” health care coverage.

Short link to this article for your convenience

The Joker Laughs at You!

1 10 2009

rr-round-125“People who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

“Expert, textpert choking smokers
don’t you think the joker laughs at you.”

~John Lennon

Do you remember when Ronald Reagan said he was sending Chesterfield cigarettes to all his friends for Christmas and you should too? Do you remember Chesterfield had an “independent” study done that declared “cigarettes are good for you?”

Do you remember when Ronald Reagan said Medicare would result in doctors being told what town they could practice medicine in?

Do you remember when congressional Republicans paraded in CEO’s from the tobacco industry to testify that “nicotine is not addictive” and cigarettes “do not cause cancer?” Do you remember GOP members telling us that restricting the tobacco industry was a breach of liberty and freedom?

Do you remember when the chairman of the House Republican Conference distributed campaign checks from a Kentucky tobacco corporation to his friends while Congress was in session?

Do you remember when Republicans stood before Congress and told us that auto safety regulations were a plot to destroy capitalism? Do you remember when right wingers said that seat belts and air bags were communist plots to destroy America? Remember when the GOP told us that we had the best auto safety system in the world and we didn’t need to reform it?

Do you remember how much money was spent to discredit and lobby against Ralph Nader? Do you remember how many people died because of the Corvair’s poor design? Do you remember how many roadblocks the GOP placed against auto safety reform?

If you don’t remember, you should because as Santayan says, “people who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Here we are at the brink of history with health care reform in the balance.

Do you really think Reagan believed what he said about the merits of smoking Chesterfield, or do you think he just said that because he was being paid to? Do you think Reagan really believed Medicare was “evil” or that it would result in the destruction of America?

Of course not. Reagan was just a paid actor who later became a paid politician. Just like Baucus or Cantor, Reagan would say anything to gain the approval of those who make the right contributions. They are all paid actors/politicians.They say whatever it takes to keep the contributions coming in and if they contradict themselves, so be it.

In the past we had big corporate interests sponsoring phoney “independent” research groups to come up the conclusions that they wanted politicians and pundits to keep repeating. These groups were not unlike Lewin Group of today. (The Lewin Group promotes itself as “unbiased & independent” when in fact they are owned by the insurance giant United Healthcare.) They call themselves “experts” when in fact, their only expertise is in marketing practices of mass deception.

Then there is Betsy McCaughey, Dick Armey, Rick Berman and a host of other disinformationalists who make their living by bombarding the airwaves with absolute lies. And they know that if they lie often enough and get others to repeat it enough, the corporate interests they represent will benefit in the end.

Then there are cheap politicians who will probably rot in hell for preying on the elderly by spewing out nonsense about “death panels” and “plots to kill your grandmother.” They know all too well that sensationalism sells, so they use it as an effective way to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

And of course there are the rating whores like Glenn Beck & Rush Limbaugh who will do anything to draw advertising dollars. I’m sure if Chesterfield could still advertise on TV and radio they would be their biggest sponsors.

Then there are the bloggers, text messagers, and twitterers rapidly typing out variations on whatever they deem to be the cleverist comments of the day. I call them the “textperts.” They repeat whatever they can to get attention without regard to its merits or basis in fact.

But the saddest thing is the people who get swept up in the tidalwave of lies that keep being spewed out by the self-serving corporate pawns. They are the “choking smokers” who don’t realize the “jokers” are laughing all the way to the bank.

Worse, the “choking smokers” are the ones who need healthcare reform the most.

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rr-chest2-250 . rr-chest1-250

So-called “Christian” RWNJ Mob Shouts at Me During My Morning Walk

26 09 2009

RW Christians Spewing Hate

RW Christians Spewing Hate

Nothing like taking my dog for a morning walk and having a bunch of right wing nut jobs shouting profanities at me to get my blood boiling.

These ultra-conservative extremist groups that call themselves Christians and say they are spreading “truth” are the epitome of all that is wrong with the right wing. They have no logic, no basis in fact, nothing good to offer, nothing positive to say, and nothing to contribute but vile and hate.

After I passed the mob my dog took his morning dump. It was a nice big one. I quickly scooped it up and, remembering something @Shoq said recently, I lobbed a juicy stink bomb right back at them!

RWNJ Calling Themselves Christians

RWNJ Calling Themselves Christians

Joe Versus the Volcano: Joe Wilson & the Brain Cloud Disease

11 09 2009

It was spontaneous!

It was spontaneous!

“You lie!”
Joe Wilson & the Brain Cloud Disease

One of the greatly underrated movies of all time is “Joe Versus the Volcano” starring Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan. It is a classic of good vs. evil, life vs. death, truth vs. lies and clarity vs. confusion.

It is also serves as a great metaphor for my thoughts about Congressman Joe Wilson and the swarm of ridiculous lies that have been spread by his ilk.

Until Rep. Joe Wilson gained his 15 minutes of fame by calling the President of the United States a liar, he was just an “Average Joe” kind of guy. Mostly unknown outside of his district, rarely mentioned by the media, and basically ignored as a politician.
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