Thursday, February 28, 2008

“We Need Scientific Proof!”

This is what a young resident told me the other day after I finished frying the synapses of my ER bud, Mark. Mark has been a happier camper since I started giving him a weekly Reiki treatment, and the resident was puzzled as to why. He simply couldn’t wrap his brain around the idea of energy treatments via my hands would send his formerly high octane boss into Nirvana.

He fell into the same trap that all good scientists do; he wanted to disseminate Reiki in order to understand its scientific properties, like one would do with a medicine. Problem is, there is little about Reiki that will satisfy our current definition of science. I tried equating Reiki to love – you can’t disseminate love either and, while there are some who question its existence, most of us accept it as part of our DNA. The resident was having none of it.

We were at a standstill until it hit me; he knows zip about the foundations of complementary alternative medicine principals, so it’s impossible for him to process the viability of Reiki. It’s like love. Until you’ve flipped both sides of the coin and have been in love, it’s impossible to make any judgments about it one way or another. Hampered by the lack of fundamental understanding, this resident is listening to a foreign language.

The way I see it, this resident is representative of the dichotomy currently taking place in medicine. Because many scientists don’t understand CAM principals, they want the ability to reduce holistic systems down to their most basic physical mechanisms like they do with medicine. Thing is, CAM can’t be measured following the traditional scientific rules, so the data becomes minimized, obscured, or distorted. I’m no longer puzzled over responses such as this young resident because I have friends like Mark who offer little in the way of scientific verification other than he “feels reeeal good.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

It doesn’t pay to get behind in my email. I opened up my NIH NCCAM newsletter to discover that the NIH, in all their wisdom, appointed a new director to NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine). This, in itself, is no great shakes, but they appointed someone who knows squat all about integrative medicine. This makes as much sense as appointing a radiologist to be the new director for Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Why would they favor someone who has no experience with integrative medicine over the many qualified docs who use it in their practices every day? It’s been mandated that 50% of the members should be licensed in the disciplines that NCAAM are supposed to study, yet they are woefully short of that at 25%. Is this payback for Congress passing legislation that enacts the study of complementary alternative medicine and shoving it down their throat?

With health reform being bandied about with our morning Cornflakes, one would think methodologies that concentrate on preventative viability would create some level of priority. Then again, we are talking about a government entity. There’s a great article that goes to the heart of this.

Ah well, I know of a number of docs who would cheer this appointment.

Friday, February 22, 2008

NO! Say in ain't so

I'm bereft. No, I haven't been slimed by my beloved docs recently about integrative medicine. It's worse. Much worse. Jessie L. Marin / Ed Green is leaving Law and Order. How can this happen? This borders on a national tragedy, and I'm ill prepared to cope. I love Ed. He's so cool and always gets his perp. This calls for the heavy artillery. Quick, someone hand me my therapeutic smelling salts, my Reiki mentor, some acupuncture needles, a biofeedback technician, my favorite guided imagery tapes, and a yoga mat.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Um, just how sick am I?

I know I believe in all kinds of homeopathic healing options and everyone is sick right now, but this Neti pot thingie sends me into fits of giggles every time I watch it. I'm not sure if it's her calm demeanor while mimicking my favorite favorite plaza fountain that spazes my bladder, or the serious art of toe touches. Either way, I'm certain that if the office folks caught me doing this, they'd fit me for a designer straight jacket.

Monday, February 18, 2008

“Why Reiki?”

My friend Mark, an ER doc, sat across the table from me and finished his Coke, making that disgusting slurpy noise when the straw hits the bottom of an empty glass. “I really liked your book, but, geez, why Reiki? It’s so, so –”

“Out there?”

He laughed and nodded. “Out there. Definitely.”

I shrugged. “Why not?”

“Because, like I said, it’s out there.”

“Look, Mark, you’re equating ‘out there’ as ‘not viable,’ and while my book doesn’t set an agenda, it is an entertaining invitation to think outside the box. I think docs who integrate alternative forms of healing to their practice is an intriguing idea. It’s controversial, to be sure, but it also gets people talking on both sides of the aisle about the future of health care and the various paths that care might take. This sells books, and, as an author, this makes me happy.”

“So it’s all about sales.”

I toss my straw wrapper at him. “Well, yeah, it’s about sales, stupid – I’m an author. But it’s also about making the reader go, “hmmm.” Integrative medicine is happening, as you well know. The first rule of writing is to write what you love and what you know. I love the whole doctor thing – what makes you tick, how you handle controversial ideas, and how your biases or personal journeys affect your patients’ care. What better idea than to bring two explosive ideas together – docs and integrative medicine? I’m very good at getting under the white coated curtain to humanize docs. I chose Reiki, in particular, because it’s one of the least understood forms of alternative healing options but produces some of the most interesting results. It’s also easy for docs and nurses to do while they’re working.”

“Yeah, I know, I know,” he said, rolling his eyes. “The old laying of the hands bit to spread energy around. So what’s it accomplish for the patient?”

“Let’s put it on a simpler level. It’s been cold lately, right? And we humans work better when we’re comfortable. So rather than heating empty rooms in the entire house, I close vents and doors and trap the air in the rooms where we’re occupying. That means the guest room is freezing, and so is the library. Our bodies are the same way. Energy surrounds every living cell, but energy gets trapped and doesn’t flow properly. It affects our health. Reiki goes in and opens the doors and lets the warmth flow in all the rooms.”

Mark stared at me. “Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?”

I thought of some of the internet docs I know and seminars I’ve attended. “Yeah, Mark, I know how ridiculous I sound. I felt the same way when I first heard about Reiki. My original manuscript had Reiki as a mere footnote. Through my research phase, I encountered it on a more personal level and became intrigued. The more I learned, the more curious I became. After a few shots of this energy stuff, and I had to know more. It took my book in a whole different direction. The fact that I was an ardent skeptic shouldn’t be ignored. I made them prove it to me.”

“Yeah, but that’s the point. You can’t prove Reiki works.”

“I know how I felt. I saw verifiable changes through how relaxed I felt. I nearly soiled myself to realize I no longer needed my meds. That strikes me as fairly compelling proof. And no one could explain it.”

“But you can’t guarantee results.”

“You can’t guarantee results with hypnotherapy, either, but it’s been widely accepted for years. And now I’m hearing that guided imagery is being elevated beyond the X-files category? I’ve seen some great things happen with guided imagery on cancer patients, but come on, no one can guarantee its efficacy. Even so, you guys have decided to give it its due? It’s selective. And it’s like you say; Reiki is ‘out there.’”

He shoved his drink away and folded his arms. “Okay, fry me.”

I blinked. “Huh?”

“Fry me. Go on, give me a Reiki treatment.”

I looked around the crowded restaurant. “I can’t do it here.”

“We’ll go back to the hospital.”

So we went to the hospital where he found an empty exam room. I had him lie on the exam table and relax while I took some deep cleansing breaths. It took mere seconds to feel the trademark warmth pulsating through the palms of my hands. I placed my hands on his forehead and the top of his head.

“Why there?” he asked.

“Beats me. Seems to be where my hands want to go.”

“It’s hot.”

“Yes, Mark.”

“Feel gooood,” he said, sounding slightly mushy. “Oh wow…”

Within minutes Mark was snoring. I zoned out, too, which is common. It’s not falling asleep, but rather, going into a meditative state where you’re semi-aware of your surroundings.

The energy subsided, and I woke up. Half an hour had gone by. I removed my hands from Mark’s head, and he woke up slowly.

“I feel like a freaking million bucks,” he said, stretching. “I also feel like I’m on another planet. Will I be able to do my job?”

“You’ll do just fine. I promise.”

He called me later that night, after his shift. “Um, so, like, when can you do this Reiki shit again? I had the shift of my life.”

“Slow night?”

“Are you kidding? We had our usual pile up of death-defying teens driving Daddy’s expensive cars, drug seekers, sniffles, flu, illegals – the usual. But none of it bothered me. I handled my cases and dealt with the usual administrative crap that prevents me from practicing medicine the way it should be practiced – and it rolled off my back. I flew through my shift with a smile. A freaking smile! I never smile. Not anymore. Whatever you did to me, I want it again. Yeah, yeah, I know what I said earlier today, but I’d like to see if my shift was a fluke or whether you really got something here.”

“So now you’ve answered your own question,” I said.

“What question?”

“You asked me today, ‘why Reiki?’ for my book. Now you know. Now go forth, young Grasshopper, and tell your colleagues that we aren’t to be feared, but embraced.”

“Yes, Great Yoda…”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

“I need it, but I don’t want to pay for it!”

I liken universal health care (and government in general) to my kids. Back when they were young, we paid for everything. As a result, they “needed” this and “needed” that. It got out of hand, and my husband and I realized we were creating little entitlement junkies. It was time to teach them a serious life lesson about responsibility. We gave them chores that allowed them to earn money for their “needs.” As I suspected, our jaunts to the mall still consisted of those same “needs,” and it was a lovely moment when I reminded them that they had their own money.

“WHAT?” they screamed? “You want US to pay for that Barbie/G.I. Joe with OUR money?” The indignation nearly melted the paint off my car.

“Absolutely,” I replied, enjoying the moment. “This is called fiscal responsibility. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and you have to spend your money wisely. Ask yourself whether you really need this toy. Of course Dad and I pay for your basic needs, but if you want to add one more Barbie/G.I. Joe to the bursting-at-the-seams toy box that’s filled with hardly-used toys, then knock your bad selves out. Only you’ll have to do it with your money.”

“It was a lot more fun when Mom bought all the toys,” they grumbled while deciding they didn’t really need a new toy after all.

And that’s the way I see this push for a national health plan. Spending is a lot more fun when the government can raid our wallets via taxes and garnished wages (if Hillary gets her way) in order to provide something that “feels good” but is structurally unsound. Just like my kids, there’s no accountability or concern for quality. Anyone been through the DMV lately? But where I was able to reign in my kids’ spending habits, we continue to vote in politicians who foster wasteful pork barrel spending so that “the little people” will continue to support them. And they use my hard earned money to do it.

I noticed that when my kids paid for toys with their own money, they took better care of them. They made sure the toys were put safely back in their toy chest, kept clean, and in good working order. Toys that we’d bought were left outside for the dog to eat and barf up on the carpet at three in the morning.

Being a parent isn’t a popularity contest, and I’ve made thousands of unpopular decisions in their lives. But I said no to my kids because I wanted them to understand that they are responsible for controlling every aspect of their lives – that, for example, it’s no one else’s job to ensure that they have medical insurance or even pay for their medical care. If you’re sick, you go to the doctor and you pay for it – just like you do when you buy a new G.I. Joe.

Why on earth can’t we say no to the politicians who promise Coke in the drinking fountains and “free” health care for all? Since it’s “somebody else’s money,” there is no incentive to be fiscally responsible. They’re Robin Hood on crack, and they’re killing our free will along with our overworked ER docs. How long will it take until our ERs become every bit as inefficient as the Department of Motor Vehicles and my kids’ toy box?

And what about the docs? If you listen to the politicians, they are always talking about how doctors “make too much money.” Docs are already making less because insurance companies have decreased their payouts. None of my doc friends went into medicine for the money, but my GOD, considering what they go through to become docs, I think they should make whatever they damn well like. But then again, I believe in a free market and healthy competition to keep spending in control.

In my personal circle of friends, three docs left the ER, and one left medicine all together. Multiply this across the nation, and you have a serious strain on the medical community. I understand that many who aren’t insured aren’t lazy or looking for a free ride. But looking at my tax bill, I find it difficult to contain my frustration and anger. I thought very hard about my future and took special care to get a good education and seek jobs that offered good insurance. When we were unemployed a long time ago, we still paid for our insurance. It ate at our savings, to be sure, but we viewed medical care as vital as breathing. If I worked hard and thought ahead so I wouldn’t be a burden to society, why can’t others? Isn’t this responsible? It’s not my neighbor’s job to see that my kids got their puppy shots and check-ups. And can someone please tell me why I have to pay for someone who’s in this country illegally?

Nothing is “free.” The money has to come from somewhere, and that ‘somewhere’ is our out-of-control taxes. The more we make, the more we pay because it’s our “duty” to take care of those less fortunate. Is it also my duty to pay until my personal money tree has been picked clean?

It’s a given that the government is all too willing to step in and to implement their social programs funded with our sweat. It’s all about control and votes. But I think what bothers me the most is society’s compliance in letting it happen. How many people out there have long forgotten our independent American spirit that believed in making all things possible through our own hard work? We make our lives happen – not the government.

Many are unwilling to take personal responsibility for their lives and expect those who produce to pick up the tab. If you have a cold and fever, do you go to your PCP and get checked out – knowing you’ll have to pay for the services up front – or do you clog up the ER and get treated for free? If you live in any American city, the answer is yes.

In the end, I’m less concerned about the reasons why people have this “it’s your job to take care of me” attitude. I’m more concerned with protecting what little I have remains mine. And my kids? They buy their own toys.

Object lesson

“Mom, Dad, what’s socialism?” #1 Spawn asked us over dinner years ago.

Hubby replied, “It’s the distribution of wealth. It takes money from people who have more money and give it to those who don’t have as much.”

“Who makes that decision?”

“The government.”

“Why do they do this?”

Ah, the sixty four gazillion dollar question. “Socialists believe that everyone should be equal.”

#1 Spawn’s face screwed up. “Well, that’s not a bad idea. There are people who can’t eat, or don’t have anywhere to live, or can’t see a doctor. If a rich guy has a big mansion and fifteen cars, why shouldn’t they help poorer people?”

“Do you think it should be forced?” hubby asked.

“Well, if the richer guy isn’t willing to share, then, yeah, the government should tell him to share.”

“Okay, let’s put this to a practical application,” hubby said. “How much money did you earn last week washing cars and mowing lawns?”

“Thirty dollars,” our budding young socialist replied.

Hubby then looked at our other two spawn. “How much money do you two have?”

#2 Spawn puffed out his chest. “Fifty-five cents.”

#3 Spawn, only four, said, “What’s money?”

“Okay,” hubby said, “#1 Spawn, you have thirty dollars. Let’s pretend I’m the government, and I’m telling you that you have to give #2 and #3 Spawn seven dollars each so they can go to the movies.”

#2 and 3 Spawn were thrilled beyond words.

The response was predictable. “Why?” #1 Spawn screamed. “I earned that money!”

“But they don’t have any money.”

“Well then they should go out and mow lawns and wash cars like I did. Then they can do whatever they want. They can’t have my money!”

“But I thought you said that people who don’t have as much as the rich guy should be forced to share.”

“I lied!”

Hubby smiled. “Relax, I’m not going to force you to give them any money. But what you need to know is that this is exactly what the government does. We’re now forced to hand over a lot of our money over to the government who, in turn, gives it to people who don’t have as much. And it doesn’t matter whether we like how they’re spending our money or now. We still have to pay it.

“What are some of the things you don’t like?” #1 Spawn asked.

“Well, you know how Uncle Mark is an emergency doctor? He has to treat people who can’t or won’t pay their medical bill. And he also has to treat people who aren’t in this country legally. Since neither of these groups have health insurance or money, they clog up the emergency room so people who have real emergencies have to wait a long time to be seen. These people use Uncle Mark as their personal doctor, like when we go to Dr. Bentz for the flu.”

“So he works for free?”

“Well, the hospital pays him, but the hospital doesn’t get any money from these people. Someone has to pay for all the medicine, equipment, and hospital staff, so we end up paying for it in higher taxes and insurance fees. And Uncle Mark is busy, even when the insurance companies decide to pay less for treatments.”

The dawn began to light on #1 Spawn. “So the government takes money out of your paycheck to pay for someone who can’t pay their bills.”

“You got it.”

“So, we’re socialists?” #1 Spawn asked. “I thought that was like Russia.”

“We’re not like Russia,” hubby said. “But we’re on that track.”

“So what will happen to us?”

“We’ll have to work twice as hard to keep up with taxes and keep a good life for us as well.”

“That’s not fair. Those people have to plan ahead, like Mom told me to do when I had that term paper last semester.”

Hubby shrugged. “Can’t disagree with you.”

#1 Spawn speared a piece of broccoli and stuffed it into his mouth before patting his wallet. “Socialism sucks.”

#2 Spawn piped up. “Does this mean we aren’t going to the movies?”

“Get a job and pay for it yourself,” #1 Spawn sneered.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

New employee to the rescue

Yessiree, I’ve been wishing for extra help for my day job – someone who would answer phones, take messages, file, be my all around gopher. My prayers have been answered…

Scroll down…

Yep, she’s tops. Her name is Lola. Pay comes in the form of walkies and kibble. Wish I could convince our editors and cover designers to charge the same fee.

You’re wondering if your eyes are deceiving you. Is that a diaper she’s wearing? Why yes, yes it is. She’s in heat. You just haven’t lived until you’ve diapered a dog. I wonder if she gets PMS? Or cramps? As long as she doesn’t ask for a day off on account of “the Curse,” I’m good.

P.S. This is my son’s dog. Cute as a bug’s ear. But can’t staple worth a tinker’s damn.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Scutmonkey scores!

How excited was I to read this in Publisher’s Marketplace?

Columbia-Presbyterian anesthesiologist and The Underwear Drawer blogger Michelle Au's SCUTMONKEY, a meditation on life as a medical resident, wife and mother, to Emily Griffin at Grand Central, by Sharon Bowers at The Miller Agency (World).

Scutmonkey scores big, and, as one whose day job encompasses the publishing world, I couldn’t be more excited. I spend my early mornings looking forward to reading Scutmonkey’s cartoons and blog. All I can say is, congrats Michelle/Scut. You landed yourself a great deal. Welcome to the insanity of publishing.