Category Archives: medical news

Alzheimer’s delivers far-reaching pain and suffering

A conversation I had this morning with a family member reminded me of something I’ve actually known for decades.

Alzheimer’s disease claims many more victims than just those who are afflicted with this killer.

A member of my family (not the person with whom I talked today) is battling the disease. His condition appears to be worsening. He is confused; he has lost virtually all the examples of mental acuity he used to display.

Eventually, this family member likely could lose his ability to speak, feed himself, bathe himself. What then? It falls on those closest to him — his wife and his children and grandchildren — to bear an unbearable burden.

Which brings me to my point. It is that Alzheimer’s disease inflicts far more harm on loved ones than it does on the actual victims.

How do I know this? My own mother died of the disease in September 1984. She was just 61 years of age when she left us. We carried that burden to the end.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that about 5 million Americans are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, a neurological disorder that robs individuals of their cognition. It steals their identity. It turns vibrant human beings into shells of their former selves.

As the nation continues to age, the number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses is bound to increase, piling on more heartache to loved ones who are left to care for them.

While the nation’s political leaders debate and argue over how — or whether — to spend public money on more Alzheimer’s research, it is good to remember the toll being taken on an increasing number of Americans who are left to cope with the ravages this killer brings to its victims.

Do we devote enough national attention to battling this killer, let alone devoting enough of our resources to search for effective treatments and, indeed, even a cure? Not to my way of thinking.

Nor to those who are left to care for those caught in the grip of a disease that robs them of their very being.

Go for it, Jerry Hodge, in your effort to oust regents chair!

I hereby endorse former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge’s effort to oust the chairman of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents, Rick Francis.

Hodge is steamed over the way the Tech board treated former Chancellor Bob Duncan. I am, too. Angry, that is. Duncan got the shaft, the bum’s rush and was shown the door after what well might have been an illegal meeting of the Tech regents.

Regents took what was called an “informal vote” in executive sessions to deliver a no-confidence decision against Duncan, who then announced his “retirement” from a post he had held for the past six years.

State law prohibits governing bodies from voting in private, but the Tech regents did so anyway. Thus, we might have a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Law.

Hodge also is miffed that Francis might have sought to undermine Tech’s decision to build a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which has drawn full-throated support from the Amarillo City Council, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation and a number of corporate donors who have pledged money to help finance the project.

Committee targets Tech chairman

Will the campaign succeed? That remains a wide-open question. The committee that Hodge leads wants Gov. Greg Abbott to take action. Count me as one who doubts the governor will jump to the committee’s cadence.

Still, as a Texas resident with strong sentimental attachments to Amarillo, the Panhandle and a deep and abiding respect for the long public service career of the former Texas Tech chancellor, I want to endorse Jerry Hodge’s effort to raise as much of a ruckus as he can.

Do you recall the GOP lawsuit to toss out Obamacare?

Once upon a time — it now seems so long ago — then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner filed a lawsuit that sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Barack Obama was president of the United States. Boehner and his congressional Republican colleagues had tried but failed to toss out the ACA. So, Boehner thought he’d try another course, through the court system.

Then a funny thing happened. Boehner quit the speakership and left Congress. He got really frustrated with the TEA Party wing of his Republican caucus in the House. So he walked away.

Oh yeah, then we had this election in 2016 and a Republican, Donald J. Trump, got elected president. He’s tried to toss out the ACA, too. He cannot get the job done.

I keep wondering: Whatever became of that lawsuit? Boehner seems to have walked completely away from the public policy discussion that fueled so much of his awake time when he was speaker of the House.

As for the court system, I keep wondering if it has taken a powder on this notion of adjudicating a civil lawsuit that seeks to rid the law books of the Affordable Care Act.

Is the law perfect? No. Is it the “disaster” that Donald Trump says it is? No. It has put millions of Americans on health insurance who otherwise didn’t qualify or who couldn’t afford it.

As for the Boehner lawsuit he filed with considerable fanfare before he decided he’d had it up to here with the TEA Party, its dormant status suggests to me that when it came to throwing his weight around, the House speaker was all hat and no cattle.

Sen. McCain faces the final fight

The news was expected, but it remains a stunner nevertheless.

U.S. Sen. John McCain today announced he is terminating treatment to fight the aggressive brain cancer that has kept him at home for several months. He has fought the good fight, but as he noted in his statement, age (he is 81) and the cancer have taken their toll.

He doesn’t want to fight any longer.

This saddens me terribly. It should sadden all Americans who understand the sacrifice this man has made in the line of duty to the country he loves. He has spent more than 50 years serving his country: as a Naval aviator, a U.S. House member, a U.S. senator and a Republican presidential nominee.

He was shot down in 1967 over Hanoi during the height of the Vietnam War and taken prisoner. He served heroically — despite the claims of one prominent GOP politician.

Did I agree with Sen. McCain’s politics, his policy, his philosophy? No. This blog post, though, pays tribute to his service, his courage, his fortitude, guts, perseverance and dedication to country.

I know it’s no longer plausible to wish this brave warrior a full recovery. Glioblastoma is, in the words of Sen. McCain’s good friend former Vice President Joe Biden, “as bad as it gets.” However, the former VP has spoken often in the past about his friend’s courage in the face of insurmountable odds.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Politicians who cannot summon the courage to do the right thing when the chips are down need to steal a page from John McCain’s book of life’s lessons.

He is, as CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer described him this morning when the news broke, “a great American.”

May he find comfort and strength in the days ahead knowing that the nation is praying for him.

Why put our children at health risk?

Albert Karam is alarmed. If what he says is true, and I have no reason to doubt what he has written, he has good reason to be alarmed.

So am I.

Karam is a Dallas pediatrician who writes in the Dallas Morning News that too many Texas children are being denied vaccinations by parents who are exercising what is commonly referred to as “non-medical exemption.”

For the life of me, I don’t understand the so-called “logic” of forbidding vaccinations of children in school.

He writes about encountering sick children at the hospital where he was working. He was just out of medical school. The kids’ illness were severe. Why were they so sick? They hadn’t been vaccinated.

As Karam writes: In today’s pediatric world this is unheard of because of one thing only: immunizations. This marvel of modern medicine is truly one of man’s greatest accomplishments. Yet, our state is moving in a disturbing direction, putting us in danger of losing this protection especially for our most vulnerable β€” babies too young to be immunized or those who are immune-suppressed because of disease or medication.

Read Karam’s full essay here.

He adds: Unfortunately, those opposed to immunization have made inroads into spreading misinformation and falsehoods about the disproven notion that vaccination causes autism and other disorders.

How can parents convey this kind of mindless demagoguery and, in the process, endanger their children’s health and well-being?

Yet they do. They deliver frightening — and false — messages that spread like contagion throughout the nation.

Disgraceful.

Let’s see how can I say this clearly and without equivocation: Our children need to be vaccinated against childhood illness. Refusing to do so on the basis of lies amounts to child abuse.

That is unforgivable.

Hoping the VA health system keeps working — well!

You know already that I am a big fan of my pre-paid medical insurance plan provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My wife and I are venturing back to Amarillo in a few days to get ready for a trip out west in our recreational vehicle. Before we shove off, I have a routine medical examination scheduled with my health care provider at the Thomas E. Creek Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To date, the VA med center has run like a well-oiled machine. I show up at the appointed time, I wait a few minutes, I get called back, the nurse practitioner gives me the once over, tells me I’m in good health and I’m on my way out the door.

I just received a text message from the Creek Medical Center. It asked me to confirm my scheduled appointment next week. I did.

Then it sent a message immediately after that, ordering me to report to the medical center “15 minutes before your appointment.”

Here’s the deal. My appointment is late in the morning, which means that the VA will have plenty of opportunity to get backed up. That means — at least that’s been my experience over the years with private medical providers — that the later in the day one sees a doc, the longer the wait times. Am I right about that? Yep. I am!

So, my question is this: Is the VA going to ask me to wait 15 minutes longer than I need to wait or am I going to see the health care provider at the appointed time?

I will have faith that the latter is going to happen.

Oh, I do cherish public health care.

There will always be abortions

Let’s be crystal clear about something few of us want to discuss.

If the U.S. judicial system decides to overturn a ruling that legalized abortion, does anyone really believe that abortion will come to an end? Will women across the country decide to give birth even though they have been raped by an attacker, or impregnated in an incestuous relationship?

Abortion is about to return front and center to the public debate stage as the U.S. Senate ponders the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1973 the high court ruled in the epic Roe v. Wade decision that abortion can be done legally throughout the United States. It declared that the Constitution guaranteed a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy.

The discussion today centers on whether the court would reverse that decision if it receives a case involving abortion.

I want to be clear. Abortion won’t end if the court hands the issue back to the states. Many states are likely to make abortion illegal. I live in one of those states: Texas. Legislators here already have enacted anti-choice legislation and Gov. Greg Abbott has signed it into law. They have decided to make obtaining an abortion quite difficult.

Does it end abortion? Not in the least. Women will continue to seek them — for whatever reason they believe compels to do so.

I get the argument from those who are fervently anti-choice. They are sincere in their belief about when life begins. Their argument, though, won’t ever stop women from making profoundly difficult choices that only they can make.

‘Men have breasts, too’

My wife and I encountered an old friend in Amarillo over the weekend and came away with a stunning realization.

Our friend, a middle-aged man, is a recovering breast cancer patient. Not only that, he has become an outspoken advocate for men who find themselves in the same predicament he confronted just recently.

He was manning a booth along Sixth Avenue on Saturday during the city’s annual Route 66 Celebration. We made eye contact simultaneously and greeted each other warmly. I hadn’t seen Kenny for many years, and I knew only a little about his diagnosis, as I read a column he had written to tell the public about it.

I have some fairly intimate knowledge of this disease. My mother was diagnosed twice with breast cancer; I have a cousin who’s been battling it for years; one of my nieces has suffered from it as well.

They’re all women.

Kenny is part of an organization called the Male Breast Cancer Coalition. It was founded by Bret Miller (pictured), who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 17. He went through a mastectomy and all the requisite post-operative therapies. Miller also vowed that “no man would feel alone when facing a breast cancer diagnosis.”

Miller’s organization has set aside one week in October as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week; indeed, cancer awareness organizations recognize the entire month recognizes breast cancer, with media reporting extensively about women who have fought the battle successfully against the killer disease.

Miller has allies such as my friend Kenny to get the word out, that — in the words of the brochure that my friend handed out — “Men have breasts, too.”

Men often are reluctant to talk openly about this form of cancer, as it attacks women primarily. I guess is a male macho malady. My old pal Kenny is stepping up.

I am proud of my friend.

One more point about Dr. Krauthammer

I have written a couple of blog posts in recent days about Charles Krauthammer, the great columnist who died today of cancer at the age of 68.

Both pieces have omitted a reference to Krauthammer. I mentioned — until now — the fact that he lived most of his life as a paraplegic.

Why? It turns out that Dr. Krauthammer didn’t want to be defined by the accident he suffered in his early 20s. He went swimming with a friend. He dived into a pool, hit his head on the floor of the pool — and never walked again.

He went on to pursue his education. He received his medical degree. He developed a psychiatric practice. Then he went into politics and eventually into journalism. He wrote speeches for Vice President Mondale and won a Pulitzer Prize for his commentary. He did all this while sitting in a wheelchair.

Dr. Krauthammer never let his paralysis derail his ambition. Nor did he want to wallow in it.

He was a champion of the first magnitude.

St. Anthony’s Hospital campus might get new life

As much progress that has occurred in Amarillo, Texas, in recent years, there remains much work to do to restore, revive and rejuvenate historic landmarks.

To that end, a former hospital campus on Amarillo Boulevard and Polk Street just might become the next big triumph in the city’s long-term redevelopment strategy.

Or … it might not. I will hope for the best.

A newly formed non-profit group has taken possession of the old St. Anthony ‘s Hospital complex. The hospital closed many years ago when St. Anthony’s merged with High Plains Baptist Hospital to create Baptist-St. Anthony’s Hospital in the midst of the city’s growing medical complex along Coulter Street in far west Amarillo.

It has fallen, dare I say it, into serious disrepair. I got a first-hand look at it just a couple of years ago while writing a feature story for KFDA NewsChannel 10’s website. The then-owner walked us through the campus and, to point it candidly, it wasn’t a pretty sight. The place is crumbling.

The non-profit organization, St. Anthony’s Legacy and Redevelopment Corp., is led by Mary Emeny, who comes from a family with a long history of commitment and dedication to the community. Emeny issued a statement that declared, in part, β€œIt is a privilege to begin the work of bringing new opportunities and resources to the surrounding communities through this iconic property.”

That statement might need a bit of translation, given the rather broad and nebulous nature of its content. Emeny’s organization hasn’t yet revealed any details of what it intends for the old campus, or how it proposes to pay for whatever it will do.

I have known Mary Emeny for a number of years and I fully understand and appreciate her love of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. I am never going to doubt her ability to achieve whatever she seeks to do.

The Amarillo Globe-News named her its Woman of the Year some years back. I do not believe her energy and her commitment have abated one bit.

I wish my friend well. That old campus needs a lot of work. I have faith Mary Emeny will deliver the goods.