Before Breaking Both Wrists…

May 26, 2011 at 9:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Well, as you may recall, almost six weeks ago I fell down a flight of steps coming out from my parish church and broke both wrists and messed up nine teeth. Since then I have had occasion to reflect on the experience at some length (!) and offer the following pieces of advice to those considering taking a similar dive:

1) You should get into shape. Exercise. Lose weight. Do sit-ups. Lift weights. Because after you hurt yourself this way you are kind of wiped out and spend a lot of time lying around. And gain weight. So you need something (or perhaps: need less) to fall back on. I only resumed taking my once-habitual long walks around Brooklyn after my fourth week in splints, and I am still walking more slowly than I used to because I’m afraid of falling down.

2) Save money. This sort of accident is expensive, even if you have health insurance, as we do. The day before I had surgery on my mashed up left wrist, the surgeon’s office called to say that there was a co-pay of $300 that had to be paid in advance. Lucky we had it, because twenty-four hours isn’t a lot of time to be scaring up three hundred bucks. God knows what somebody without insurance would have had to pay up-front. And fixing my teeth may cost as much as $9000 out of pocket; ours, like most US dental insurance, is more or less symbolic. Covers a couple of cleanings and a root canal, maybe. “Just be glad you have the money,” as my shift-worker father used to say.

3) Have on hand some pants with an elastic waist. It is really hard to get your pants up and down,not to mention working a zipper and various related activities, with both hands in splints. LL Bean has some great women’s elastic-waisted pants for $39.95.

4) Get an Ipad, or a similar device with which you can turn pages by poking a screen. Reading is a lot less fun if it hurts every time you turn a page.

5) Have some very good friends, and if you don’t, start making them. Friends who will bring you containers of moist wipes (much lighter to use for washing yourself than a face cloth), tell you the name of a good home health care agency, bring you a roasted chicken or a chicken parmesan dinner, since cooking is pretty much out for the first month or so. (I can slice and sautee now, since my right wrist is much better, but I still can’t open a bottle of wine, or even a bottle of peanuts.) Actually, it’s also a good idea to have a partner who’s willing to wash your hair and hook your bra for you when the home health aide isn’t around. And a seven-year-old granddaughter who will come and watch the dvd of “Night at the Museum II” with you.

Another possibility, of course, is to hold on to the bannister, or to wait until you’ve got your umbrella up before walking down the stairs.

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Fraudulent Catholics?

May 12, 2011 at 11:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Two of our grandkids (and their parents) live out in western Massachusetts, in a village called Warren, near Springfield. One weekend when we were there I went to Mass at a church the next village over.

It was a pretty amazing experience. Almost everything about the liturgy, except that it was in English, could have taken place in my childhood parish in the 1950s: they even said the prayers at the end of Mass that we used to say before Vatican II, in which, among other things, we prayed to St. Michael the Archangel.

The most stunning part of my one and only visit to that church, however, was a poster in the lobby titled “Fraudulent Catholics,” with the names and photos of sixteen politicians, all Democrats, who had voted for some kind of legislation related to reproductive choice. The ones I remember are John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi–Pelosi whom some consider the most successful Speaker of the House in fifty years for getting the first real expansion of health care passed since the Johnson administration.

Let me be clear: I  can understand disagreeing over political questions. Even claiming that certain actions are against the teachings of the church. The term “fraudulent Catholics” strikes me as a little over the top, though. Besides which, if theses men and women aren’t real Catholics, why should they care what the St.-Michael-lovers out near Sturbridge think?

This brings me to two other Catholics, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congressman Paul Ryan, who are working like maniacs to do away with the social safety net that US Catholics, including our bishops and politicians, did a lot to get put into place. After all, Catholic immigrants throughout US history have comprised a good percentage of the poor; in some ways, the New Deal was the expansion of the kind of aid  Catholic parishes, Sisters, and machine politicians gave immigrant Catholics before World War II.

As you perhaps know, a group of Catholic professors and leaders have sent a public letter to John Boehner on the occasion of his addressing the graduates at the Catholic University of America, pointing out to him that the budget cuts he advocates in Medicare and Medicaid and other social programs are contrary to Catholic social teaching. I’m delighted that they did this, and proud of them for not descending into the kind of vilification that that poster out in western Massachusetts does.

I wonder, though, whether the current batch of Catholic bishops will show the kind of directness regarding the evisceration of the social safety net that they have shown on the subject of abortion. If Ryan’s proposal to block-grant Medicaid really does pass, thus cutting back massively, for example,on funds that extend nursing home care  for incapacitated elderly Americans whose savings are exhausted, will Ryan’s bishop deny him communion? Or is sex the only thing that merits unambiguous episcopal action?

Be Careful of the Steps

May 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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I haven’t posted anything on my blog for quite a while–strictly against the rules for bloggers who want to maintain a readership–but I have a good excuse. On Saturday April 16, coming out of my parish church after the 5 o’clock Mass, I fell down a flight of steps and seriously messed myself up: broke both wrists, damaged nine teeth, put my front teeth through my upper lip. The guys in the ER said I should be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

One wrist was hurt a lot worse than the other; more about that in a minute.  But the right one, the one I write with, was just a simple fracture so I can still write, slowly and with three fingers. But the wrist starts to ache after I write for a while, so I may be doing shorter blog posts till the middle of June…

I got quite good care at the emergency room at Methodist Hospital in the Park Slope section here in Brooklyn; none of that waiting six hours to be seen stuff, for which I was and am grateful. I’ve gotta say, though, that dealing with two broken wrists even as Paul Ryan et al attempt to privatize or abolish outright the minimal publicly supported health care we have in this country was a surreal experience.  Fact is, the ER guys sent me home with instructions to see an orthopedist who would put my one fractured wrist in a cast and probably operate on the other shattered one. Turned out the orthopedist whose name they gave my husband and me doesn’t do wrists; it took us three full days to find somebody who does and who would take our mid-level health insurance. Ultimately I found the surgeon myself by googling “wrist surgery  New York City.” Ended up with Charles Melone at the Hand Surgery Center at Beth Israel in Manhattan, who is, as far as I can tell, the messiah of wrists; he was the surgeon for the NY Knicks at one point, and fixed Patrick Ewing. He operated on me a week ago Thursday and says my wrist is going to be just fine.

So: all’s well that ends well, right? Maybe not. I keep wondering what would have happened to me if I had been, say, twenty years older than I am and maybe a little dotty. Or didn’t have a husband to drive me back and forth to the hand surgery center. Or didn’t have a professional-managerial-class-level of financial resources on hand to pay the home health aide not covered by our insurance and the three hundred dollar co-pay for the surgery (up front). Or had broken my right wrist as badly as my left so I couldn’t google my own surgeon. I’m sure my Irish-Catholic cousin, Congressman Ryan, is bearing all this in mind as he fine tunes his bill to eviscerate Medicaid and privatize Medicare.

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