Monday, June 30, 2008

First, Do No Harm

Contrary to popular belief, these words do not, in fact, appear in the Hippocratic Oath, but they make a good title for this post. I am pleased to pass on the news that in spite of the salmonella caused by our tomatoes and the E coli in the ground beef purchased from the local grocery stores, there is one place in Michigan where we will soon be in less danger from bugs and nasty organisms. Our hospitals. According to an article in today’s paper, “Metro Detroit hospitals are stepping up efforts to reduce costly and often traumatic medical errors, in preparation for new rules that will make them bear the cost of the mistakes they make when treating patients.” Traumatic medical errors and hospitals are two concepts that should not appear in the same sentence.

We’re not just talking about amputating the wrong leg, or “surgery on the wrong patient, surgery on the wrong body part and carrying out the wrong surgery,” as the article succinctly puts it. Read this paragraph:

One low-tech practice recommended by the hospital association to improve hand hygiene among staff -- a simple but crucial way to prevent the spread of infections -- is for hospitals to deploy workers, secret-shopper style, to watch over their colleagues on whether they've washed their hands before entering a patient room. "It is not a high-tech intervention, but it does have an enormous impact on the hospital setting," said Peters of the hospital association.
I have noticed in some public bathrooms a sign indicating that we should wash our hands for as long as it takes to sing a couple of verses of “Old MacDonald had a farm”. That’s the sign that appears next to the one that says “Employees should wash their hands before returning to work.” Obviously this sign should be amended in hospital bathrooms to add “Please add a couple of extra barnyard animals if you intend to perform open heart surgery.”

Too bad that it is concern about Medicare changes and not concern about patients that is bringing about these initiatives.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ya Gotta Love the Pointes

Thursday today and the mail brought the local paper. The usual stuff: water rates, expanding the library, notes from the school board. I turned to the Public Safety Reports. You may remember I quoted from this section some time ago because I found the reporter’s vocabulary so funny. You should know that the Pointes are made up of five different communities and Grosse Pointe “crime” is itemized by community. We live in the Park, which is a pretty nice place to live, though it isn’t as fancy as some of the other cities, and our crime is pretty basic—a bike-jacking, a “home invasion” resulting in theft, a gas grill removed from a yard in the wee small hours, and the attempted theft of a 2005 Dodge Caravan from the 800 block of . . . hold it, that’s our block. Don’t worry, the thieves were thwarted: the car didn’t start.

We move on to the more esoteric crimes reported in the rarified air of the Shores. Three of them:

  • . . . officers were unable to confirm an unknown caller’s report of five coyote puppies playing on a front lawn. . .

  • . . . officers investigating reports of a smoking street light discovered the fixture’s cover had come off. Fish flies were being zapped by the light, which caused a little bit of smoke. . .

  • . . . two officers investigated a complaint of four turkeys running around the yard of a residence. Officers herded the birds back to a neighbor’s pen. Police said the complainant “does not mind the birds as long as they stay in their pen”.

Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Et Tu, Head and Shoulders

Remember I commented on the proliferation of tomato products in the grocery store? Last week I grabbed my grocery list from the counter and saw that Ernie had added, “Head and Shoulders, old kind.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but when I got to the store (and this is the grocery store, mind you, not the drug store) I was faced with a mind-boggling choice. Did I want “Smooth and Silky” or “Extra Volume”, “Dry Scalp Care” or “Ocean Lift” (that’s the one with sea mineral essence)? Then there’s “Refresh”—with a cooling sensation—and 2-in-1 plus conditioner. There’s a version for sensitive skin, too.

But nowhere do they sell plain “Head and Shoulders.” The old kind.

Think Twice, Write Once

Shortly before we left for Washington I received an e-mail from a friend listing a bunch of unfortunately crafted URLs. In every case the company or entity involved had accurately embedded their name or function into the title of their website, but had not taken the necessary step backwards to see how the final product looked. I’d give you the references, but this is a family blog.

As we rolled along the Ohio turnpike on the trip east, I idly studied the cars and trucks around me. Da-da, there was a truck belonging to a company which picks up unwanted computers and electronic waste material and disposes of them. “When you’re done with IT, we’re just beginning.” Sounds good, but it translated to this.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Other Kennedy Boy

We were off in DC at the beginning of June when the country marked the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I remember how surreal the event seemed at the time. We were living in the upper unit of the duplex on Marlborough. It had two bedrooms, one of which was Ernie's study, the other was Al's nursery. We didn't own much furniture, so at the time we had our bed in the living room, along with a couch and a television. It was six weeks before Kate was born and I didn't see much point in getting up until Al woke up. Ernie was teaching summer school and was already up and getting ready. Did he turn on the television? I don't remember, but I do know that eventually I was sitting up in bed watching the tragic events unfold.

I don't know the date of this copy of the Billings Gazette capturing the visit of the democratic candidate to Montana, but we have it in our possession because the smiling woman in the center shaking Bobby Kennedy's hand is Ernie's sister Flo, and it seems important to preserve even a vicarious brush with history.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You got to know when . . . to fold em

I’ve been fretting away about writing a post describing our trip to Washington. We returned exactly a week ago, and if I haven’t got around to writing by now, I never will. Let’s just say it was a wonderful time and we spent four eventful days with our sons. There was a power outage in Rockville, which meant that Andrew and Liesl had a day off school and an extra day to spend with us, and the temperature rose to a record tying 98ยบ on Saturday. We spent the morning watching Emmanuel play three soccer games in a row while Al stood in for the coach, and returned to the same field on Sunday for Alex’ game. There’s a lot going on this week, so enjoy the photos of the trip while I clean house.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Year Ago Today . . .

. . . I was in Andrew and Marcie’s house in Rockville, MD, ministering to Liesl, Theodore and Linus. We had done the baby pancake bit (who wants syrup, who won’t eat butter?) and now we were building houses out of Lego for the gazillion dinosaurs marching across the basement floor. The phone rang—it was Andrew, announcing the birth of Sebastian Robert. I put the kids in the car and we took off for George Washington Hospital to see the tiny new member of their family.

And here he is one year later. I took this photo a week ago. Sebastian was a tad tired at the time after incremental attempts at walking. He’d got it all figured out and when we call tonight, I expect to hear he’s chasing his siblings around the yard.

Happy First Birthday, Sebastian.