Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Extremes and Forgiveness

The radio interview was with a New York Times reporter held captive in Afghanistan for seven months by the Taliban. He eventually escaped and has written about his experience. One statement stuck in my brain. "Moderate Muslims cannot cede Islam to the Talibans. ... (The Taliban) should not be allowed to portray themselves as the true defenders of that faith...."

Having spent too many years out of step with my own formerly Episcopalian Bishop, I am all too familiar with one set of views far different from mine portraying itself as the true defenders of my faith. In the case of the very conservative Episcopalians, as with the Taliban, the weapon of choice is knowledge -- knowledge withheld. Without additional knowledge, without exposure to the perspectives of the outside world, the general population takes the word of the leader as absolute, final. There is no basis for opposition, no room for questions. There is no room for independent thought.

Extreme liberals are just as guilty as extreme conservatives. I see the spectrum as an arc rather than a line. Figuratively and in reality, the two ends seem to reach towards each other at least in style if not in belief. "Believe me," they seem to say. "Ignore what the rest of the world tells you. Do it my way, or die." Both ends of the spectrum ultimately resort to shutting out, exclusion, death.

Another recent radio interview focused on a member of the IRA who planted a bomb in a hotel in Brighton, England many years ago -- and the daughter of a man who died in that bombing. Years after the bombing the daughter and the bomber had an opportunity to meet, and are now working together in The Forgiveness Project a UK-based charitable organisation which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life human experience.

This is not to say that there is no place in religion (or politics, or whatever) for the very liberal and the very conservative. That's why we have so many Christian denominations, so many political parties. But (at least as Episcopalians) we pray, "For all who fear God and believe in you, Lord Christ, that our divisions may cease, and that all may be one as you and the Father are one, we pray to you, O Lord." Those divisions cease, we are able to achieve unity, somewhere along the midline of the arc, not at the ends. There we find our points of agreement, there we focus, there we can come together.

Growth comes as we search for those points of commonality, of shared belief. Growth comes as we struggle towards forgiveness and, ultimately, inner peace.

Give thanks for those who actively work for reconciliation, conflict resolution and forgiveness. What conflict in your own life needs resolution before you can find peace of mind and heart? Don't forget to pray ....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Memory Issues

Katie is working through, and day by day conquering, her memory issues. A difibrillator has been implanted to keep her heart functioning, and she will go home as soon as her doctors release her. She is bored. In this case, bored in good! Really sick people don't get bored.

My dad, on the other had, is loosing his battle with memory. Mother and I picked him up this morning and took him to Kapiolani Park for a picnic lunch. He recognized me, called me by name, and knew that we were going out. He transferred relatively easily from his wheelchair to the car, and then asked me "When did you get in?" As in, when did I arrive from California. He did not remember that I visited him yesterday.

He seemed to enjoy being out, devouring two chicken legs, deviled eggs, potato salad, and his share of olives, tomato wedges, and cucumber sticks.

As our meal ended he asked if we could "drive by the boat to see if it was still there". So I drove to the yacht harbor at the other end of Waikiki. As we drove past the access to his slip it became obvious that "look at" meant "go aboard". I refused to play the game, had to tell him NO in very clear language. He was not happy with me.

Fortunately, by the time we got back to his care home he was in need of a toilet. He barely said good-bye. He was, in his mind, home safely. He had forgotten, at least for a time, that I wouldn't let him walk to the boat. Mother and I were no longer needed. ... His memory fades.

Give thanks for your memories. Enjoy the memories shared by our kupuna, the elders. They are worth preserving. Don't forget to pray.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Miss Katie ...

... is awake and asking coherent questions. She's understanding the answers to her questions. She's already been out of bed. She initially had memory issues, but she's improving hour by hour. Like most other patients who have come through a critical period like this one, she has no memory of what happened or why she is in hospital. One spouse explained it this way -- your brain takes about 2 weeks to make a memory permanent. If the memory hasn't been permanently "posted" in the brain, it is not remembered after a trauma like Katie has been through. It may or may not come back.

The medical team has done the first part of the job. Katie lived through the initial crisis. Now Katie and her family take on the hard work of rediscovering and relearning those skills Katie and her medical team consider essential. The whole family will learn to live with Katie's newly diagnosed condition. Like parents of all teen-agers, Katie's parents need to remember to give her the independence she needs -- so very hard to do under these circumstances. It's a very fine line between responsible care and over-protection.

Just as it is a fine line between responsible care and elder abuse.

Give thanks for the medical team that kept Katie alive (under terrible conditions) without the worst possible effects. Give thanks for the medical teams in your own community who with dedication and caring work similar miracles on a regular basis. Don't forget to pray....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More on Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Rather than my translating from the medical, I refer you to the American Heart Association publication on the disease. Click here to find that document.

Don't forget to pray...!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

The diagnosis is solid. The cause is likely genetic, likely from her maternal grandfather's maternal line. Interesting. Katie looks very much like that great-grandmother and her family. It appears that some other things came along with what we see from the outside.

Treatment? Too early to tell. Prognosis? To early to tell. Neurological condition? Doctors are doing everything they can to give Katie's body a chance to heal in a way that minimizes neurological effects. But it will be considerable time before anyone knows her condition exactly.

Katie is being treated in a Children's Hospital in a major metropolitan area with lots of experience in treating children with Cardiomyopathy. Without a quick response and a skilled team of specialists at the hospital .... Give thanks for those medical folk, their skill and their caring.

Please continue to pray for Katie, Christie and Meghan ... and for Miriam, the exchange student from Germany who is currently part of their family.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Granddaughter, Katie

This email just arrived from my daughter in Seattle.

Today is going to rank up there as one of those days you don't want to remember.

I dropped Katie off at school this morning a happy, healthy almost 16-year-old and found her early this afternoon as a patient in the PICU at Seattle's Children's Hospital. I wish I could say she will be fine, but I just don't know yet and we won't know for at least two days.

Katie collapsed during PE today. At first they thought she had had a seizure, but then she didn't have a pulse and went into cardiac arrest. There were several well-trained school staff close at hand and I am told everyone acted quickly and that the medics arrived in short order. Still the doctors are concerned that there may have been neurological damage from the event and have Katie medically paralyzed and sedated for the next two days....

I did a quick search on cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that affects children and blood flow into the heart.
---It has many many causes, including a virus. Is this an example of H1N1 at work???
---It can be totally debilitating, totally life-threatening, or completely controlled with medications and/or surgical implants. Doctors cannot say which form of treatment, if any, might be successful. There is no real predictor of outcome.
---One variation is sometimes called "Broken Heart Syndrome", a rather dramatic response to stress. That form usually resolves itself within a week. But we're a family with dramatic responses to stress. During the summer that Christie was 14, my own stress response was to try to go blind. ... Fortunately, my vision resolved itself.
---Twice as many children with cardiomyopathy are diagnosed in the first year of life than between the ages of 2 and 18 altogether. What does this say for Katie, who is nearly 16? That hers is not a congenital condition but a response to stress or a virus? That it is more likely to resolve itself than some other forms? That it is congenital, something her doctors have missed for nearly 16 years?
---The website says: Search for a cure continues. Unlike other congenital heart conditions, there is no surgical treatment or cure that can repair the damaged heart or the stop the progression of the disease. The first treatment option is usually medication to improve the functioning of the heart and for those with arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm) an implantable defibrillator may be recommended. For children that fail medical management, a heart transplant may need to be considered. Cardiomyopathy is the top reason for heart transplants in children. More than 80% of children receive a donor organ in time and survival after transplantation is good with an intermediate survival rate of approximately 70%.

Please hold Katie, Christie and Meghan in your prayers.

Give thanks for the quick, competent response and quality medical care Katie has received/is receiving. If this had to happen, there are many places in the world -- even in the US -- where she might not have made it to a hospital. Don't forget to pray. ...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Geography for the Day

In the last two weeks there have been a flurry of tidal waves, typhoons, and other water-related disasters in China, Japan, the Philippines, Samoa, Tonga and other Pacific Rim nations. Whenever I think about countries in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, I wonder about their relationship to the equator. Have you ever thought about it?

South America is relatively easy. Equador straddles the equator. Therefore, Colombia, Peru and Brazil are also crossed by the equator. That means all of North and Central America is above the equator.

Africa. The Mediterranian is not equatorial, so at least part of Africa is north of the equator. As it turns out, the northern edge of Lake Victoria is at the equator. So we have the Congo AND the Democratic Republic of the Congo (I didn't realize there were two countries using the name Congo ....) Uganda, Kenya and a bit of Somalia all touch the equator. A country which calls itself Equatorial Guinea must lie on the equator, too.

On to Asia. India is way north. Singapore just misses, but Sumatra and Borneo straddle the equator. New Guinea just touches the equator on the north. Once past New Guinea we have the Solomon Islands, which are either north or south depending on the map projection you are viewing, and not much else until we run once again into Equador. Samoa is a bit south. Micronesia is north. Manilla lies nearly 1000 miles north.

So what lies south of the equator? Part of South America. Part of Africa. Parts of Indonesia. Australia and New Zealand. Antarctica. A smattering of Pacific islands. The rest of the Earth's land masses -- North America, Europe, Asia, all the countries and continents most of us can find on a map (and a whole lot more in the bargain) -- are north of the equator. That is most of the population of the world. No wonder we don't know much about our Southern Hemisphere neighbors -- and cousins.

Of all the Southern Hemisphere nations, which one flies a flag carrying the Southern Cross (the constellation in the SH as important to navigation as the Little Dipper is in the north)? Answer? New Zealand!

Go exploring. This site is a little harder. If you are reading this, play for a bit on Google Earth. You never know what surprises you will find.

Give thanks that with the magic of electronics we can instantly communicate with friends and family who are literally on opposite ends of the Earth as well as those who are much nearer neighbors. Practice really listening to those whose values are different, sometimes very different, from your own. Focus on the common ground rather than the differences. Can we be friends?

Don't forget to pray ....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cousins and More Cousins

Saturday. The Daughters of Hawai'i held one of their annual fund raisers today, a small, high-end craft fair with lots of food and entertainment. The setting, Queen Emma's Summer Palace in Nu'uanu Valley, was beautifully green and lush. The small parking lot was filled with crafters -- jewelry, clothing, hats, tapa, more jewelry, books published by Daughters of Hawaii, jams, jellies, baked goods, tours of the interior of the palace included in the cost of admission. There were t-shirts, haku lei, and Dale's Attic, a "gently used goods" rummage sale, the province of the Regent. Many Daughters -- those taking tickets, acting as hostesses, chairwomen -- chose to wear whites, the "dress uniform" of the organization: white floor- or tea-length mu'umu'u, white shoes, optional white hat. Always with lei -- golden feather lei for Daughters, black kukui for the Calabash Cousins (women who cannot meet the lineage requirement, but want to be part of the organization). They looked particularly gracious as they mingled with the crowd. It was a visual experience; I didn't take a camera.

Because I know Marty through my weekly volunteering with the History Committee, I answered her call for volunteers to work in the gift shop. Among other things, the gift shop carries several items honoring the about-to-be-sainted Fr. Damien: commemorative medals, books, and prints (by order) of a lovely Peggy Chun portrait of Damien himself. There is some jewelry -- including some glorious gold-and-silver bracelets woven as if they were made from lauhala. They are referred to as the "Donna Cockett bracelets". My ears pricked up. I have Cockett cousins. Could this jeweler be married to one of them? In a word, yes! We are admittedly not terribly close cousins. Our grandmothers were cousins, and much of what we know about my grandmother's Hawaiian family comes from Mike Cockett's grandmother. Mike's dad and my mother were Kamehameha School classmates. (Aside: In Hawaii, one of the basic questions you ask someone as you begin to find shared life links is "Where did you go to high school?") We visited their family on Kauai more than a half-century ago. (Wait, wait, are we admitting to aging? I don't think so! Mike and I were not even teen-agers at the time!)

Another look at the program, and I realized another cousin was represented. Dress designer Mamo Howell and I share a great-grandmother. Mamo's fashions were being modeled throughout the day.

Early on in my residency in Tuolumne County I learned that you don't talk folks down -- the person you are speaking to could easily be related to the person you are speaking about. It's like that in Hawai'i, too. With the small population base and several generations of family, it's easy to be related to a lots of people. What always surprises me is that despite our lack of contact over the years, we tend to end up in the same large segments of the community -- in my case, the artists, musicians and wordsmiths. Is it in the genes? Is it cultural? Or is it coincidence?

Give thanks for families, and for friends working together. Give thanks for those who care enough to work for charitable causes. Hug a friend. Don't forget to pray.