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Letters 8/31/09

- August 31st, 2009
Letters 8/31/09
Everyone‘s loss
As a physician, I have worked long hours in the emergency room -- seen, felt the calamity. I will never forget one little boy. The nursery school brought him, saying he did not play that day. He was quiet. All tests returned negative. Since the family had no insurance, we sent him home with strict instructions to call or return if a fever or cough developed.
About five hours later he returned, dead on arrival. He had meningococcal meningitis, a very contagious, quick-acting killer. Everyone exposed to him received preventive medication. If he could have stayed the night, he would have received the medication he needed and hopefully would have recovered.
A woman was admitted with a mass in her left breast, larger than a grapefruit. She told us a truck hit her. We all knew better just from seeing it. Her cancer was too advanced. She died within the year. She was young, in her 30s, had three children. Both she and her husband worked, but they had no health insurance.
The case histories could fill a hospital with many untold stories of sorrow, pain, death. How do the uninsured get treatment? They wait until they can’t function anymore, then go to the emergency room. Their cost of care is 40 percent greater than preventative care. They are sicker. The outcome of death is more likely. With these facts, how can we not afford reform?
We pay more now, through our general taxes, for the uninsured person’s care through the emergency room than we would under any reform package offered. It is estimated that 52 million Americans will be uninsured by 2010. The lack of health insurance coverage causes 22,000 deaths each year. We are 45th in the world’s ranking for quality health care. We spend more, get less.
The lack of health care insurance is everyone’s loss. We pay for it through our taxes, loss of jobs, the weakening of our economy.
We pay for it with decreases in our own health care. Hospitals have to lay off nurses due to lack of funds. Our fees for hospital care have risen in an attempt to offset these losses.
We also pay for it in the loss of qualified physicians. The zeal to become a doctor for humanitarian reasons has been lost due to insurance companies’ demands to account for time and fill out forms, rather than account for patients helped and cured.
This is especially true for those practices where individual care and listening go a long way. Many doctors get discouraged or choose to work part time. The passion has been driven from them or has no opportunity to blossom.
Medicine is that trust in the doctor-patient relationship. That relationship hastens recovery, leads to cooperation with treatment, consoles. That relationship is being eroded by our health care system today.
I have provided my patients with the best care possible. But today, with the constraints the present health care system places on all physicians, it seems almost impossible.
It’s time to make things better.

Emmy Lou Cholak, M.D. • TC

Pretend you‘re a sponsor:
I appreciated Marc Ryan’s “Film Fest elitists” letter in the Express. Others share his view. I would, however, like to add a different perspective. Just for fun let’s pretend I’m a TCFF movie sponsor.
As a sponsor I am dismayed at the paltry benefits I receive, while volunteers seem to enjoy near stardom without forking over a dime. I plunk down $1,000 to sponsor a single movie at one of the smaller venues, or much more for a premium venue. What do I get?
I get a few “free” tickets. Free? They end up costing me $250 or more each. I get the honor of paying retail price for additional tickets. I get to show up early for a movie to stand outside in a special line on the pavement allowing some people to jeer at me like I am a third world dictator. I get “reserved” seating, often behind someone over six-feet-tall with big hair. I get my name mentioned at the start of my movie, which elicits polite applause from my friends while everyone else is getting popcorn or using the bathroom. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the hat, the free hat.
Meanwhile, I am surrounded by volunteers wearing cool T-Shirts adorned with neckbands displaying colorful, shiny ID cards, making them feel like VIPs for the entire week. Volunteers get an exclusive free, end-of-festival party with food, drinks, music and promotional items on the lawn of Building 50. Volunteers mingle with people on the streets that treat them like rock stars and thank them constantly. Volunteers get the support of one of the best volunteer management groups on the planet.
As a sponsor I am beginning to think I’m getting a raw deal. I might just switch sides and become one of the haves, a volunteer.

David Halperin • TC

Liner notes
In regard to August 24 letter entitled “Film Fest elitists:”
I, too, have volunteered not only for the Film Festival, but for the State Theatre. Might I suggest that if the writer were paying a bit more attention to instruction of the volunteers he might understand the two line system. It is a have and have not system, like he said; however, not for those with money.... but tickets.
When you are lined up to the right of the theatre it is because you have tickets to that movie. If you were unable to get advance tickets, then you can get in a standby line to the left.
Indeed, there are perks to being a sponsor at the Film Festival, but the many hundreds of us lined up to the right for each and every movie were not all sponsors.... we were merely lucky ticket holders.

Kim Dittmar • Kingsley

Good deal for volunteers
I don’t understand what Marc Ryan refers to as Haves & Have-nots during the TCFF. For the small sum of $25, I became one of the ‘Haves’ who could buy tickets early. Also, even those ‘wealthy’ supporters had to buy tickets.
If all of us hundreds of volunteers got in free, the TCFF would be short-changed, money-wise.
During the Filmfest, we volunteers got a collectible T-shirt, a free movie screening and popcorn, a picnic, a chance to win swag, and that good feeling you get from helping a very special community event. For volunteering at the State at other times, you often get to see the movie on your shift, free pop and popcorn, and a voucher to see another movie, also that “good feeling“ as well as being welcomed as a part of a unique “family.“
One last gentle reminder: volunteers usually give for the joy of giving and not with the hope of receiving!

Margy Patchin • via email

Waste of tax dollars
Hearing that the Traverse Narcotics Team called in helicopters and a full-fledged invasion force for a marijuana raid convinces me of the utter insanity of America’s drug crusade. Doesn’t anyone in Kalkaska County know that marijuana prohibition began because of absurd racist fictions?
These ridiculous anti-human alibis are used by Lt. Detective Kip Belcher to justify traipsing around wasting taxpayer money prosecuting “marijuana crimes,” whatever that might really mean.

Ralph Givens • Daly City, CA

More Letters on Page 6

A gift for Donald
I met a homeless man asking for money at the corner of Garfield and Front, so I stopped to give him money, but just as I was about to walk away, I thought better of it.
“Where will you sleep tonight?” I asked. He laughed, but not in the joyful way you’d like to hear someone laugh. It was a laugh half lulled by cynicism, “Wherever I can find a place,” and he gestured at the space around him.
We talked for a while about his circumstances. His belongings were stolen recently and though his wallet was empty, his photo ID is still missing. He said the ‘boys in blue’ found the rest of his stuff, but never found his wallet. “I don’t have any ID,” he reiterated sadly, but then he said, “My name is Donald.” And I said, “I’m Sam,” extending my hand out to greet him properly. He took my hand and kissed it lightly and said “thank-you.”
“I like to know there’s still good in people,” said Donald. And for a moment we watched the cars pass the hat he extended toward them for spare change.
“My name is Donald,” he had said, as if to remind himself of his own identity. ”I’ve fallen on hard times,” he explained. Never once did I feel sorry for him; his dignity, despite the grim circumstances, was still very much intact. Had I given him the money and walked away, I might have eroded some of that dignity, but to stand and converse was the gift I wanted to give. To remind him he is still more than a man standing alone on some street-corner. To remind him he is more than the ID stolen by happenstance.
He is Donald, he is on our streets right now, he is in need of help from each one of us and more than a financial need, he will thrive, as we all do, on a small amount of compassion.
I said goodbye to Donald holding firm to the hope he would find a safe place to sleep that night, but knowing it was likely he would sleep outside somewhere in the tall shadows cast by buildings left vacant at night. And it seemed so unfair and outrageous that anyone could be so alone.
There is always something we can do, but to pass and assume the best, we have failed him. To stop, and to talk, and to help; we have not only helped one man, but saved ourselves.

Samantha Tengelitsch • TC

Civility needed in debate
In response to Robert Downes’ column “When the Mob Rules, the People Lose,” (Aug. 17) I wish to applaud and commend him.
It’s time to put “civility” back into the lexicon of American society. I’m all for debating an issue and supporting arguments for or against an existing law, or new law, or new legislation. But when citizens disrupt meetings and gatherings that are meant for meaningful discussion by shouting down the moderator or speaker, what is left? No one learns anything when one side is shouting down the other.
Whatever happened to a society and democracy that embraced the idea, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” by Voltaire?
When it comes to the issue of health care reform debate, I am steering all who will calmly listen to read the commentary “How insurance firms drive debate,” by Wendell Potter, on
Potter had a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive before he left his job last year as head of communications for one of the nation’s largest health insurers, CIGNA Corporation.
He states that those who stand to lose the most if we Americans change our current health care system, are the insurance companies – and their shareholders. And those folks certainly don’t want anything to change, because they are raking in huge profits with the system the way it currently is structured.
Potter also states that the insurance companies use a large portion of our premiums to pay an “army” of public relations experts to influence news media spokespersons, news anchors, radio talk show hosts, and public opinion.
What Potter is trying to do now is speak out against the insurance industry that he was a part of for nearly two decades and to inform Americans that when they hear isolated stories of long waiting times to see doctors in Canada and allegations that care in other systems is rationed by “government bureaucrats,” someone associated with the insurance industry wrote the original script.
We cannot continue with the current health care system. It may be working for a handful of folks, but eventually we are going to see the entire system collapse.
Sweden used to have a similar system to ours, until their insurance companies began doing what many here do – deny coverage when the customer actually develops a serious disease. Sweden changed their system and made all insurance companies nonprofit. Now everyone in that country has affordable, high-quality health care and their country as a whole is healthier. Try to imagine a world where everyone is able to afford the treatments they need to LIVE, let alone to live well.
When one news organization after another has to publish stories rebuking all the rumors and false information that is circulating about health care reform, there is a serious problem with the streams of communication. People who are shouting at these town meetings are angry, and afraid, and they should be. They’ve been listening to the wrong voices.

Tamara Stevens • Petoskey

Medical hypocrisy
So, Michigan has joined 12 other states accepting medical marijuana, yet there are area physicians resistant to accept the medical properties of marijuana. Obviously, if 13 states, and our federal government accept medical use of marijuana, there must be some basis-in-fact. There is: May/June issue of Journal of Opioid Management... and over 4,000 years of use.
THC (Marinol) and cannabinoids, compounds in marijuana, have been synthesized for medical use; however these fixed doses may be more than necessary. Marijuana allows the patient to use just enough for relief and remain functional. Narcotics may put you out for the duration. A vast majority of our medicines are derived from plant materials.
A friend has several painful maladies: severe fibromyalgia and degenerative disk disorder among others, and marijuana seems to be the only source of relief for her, when and if she has access.
Yet, rather than listen to their patients and consider medical marijuana, physicians will readily prescribe addictive narcotics. If you don’t mind a life of oblivion, these narcotics can certainly deliver. One fibro patient is on the verge of losing her children due to prescribed narcotics (Lyrica).
I am pleased that this issue has finally been raised and medical marijuana is an option, however difficult it is to find a compassionate physician receptive to the idea.

Bill Edmonds • Interlochen

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