Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm thankful to be alive

It’s the time of year when newspaper columnists wax poetic and list things most of us can be thankful for on this holiday, things like living in the USA, being able to read, having friends and family members to love who love us back.
Trite, formula stuff. I’ve read and written many such columns. While my columns were full of truisms, I don’t think I understood what it means to be truly thankful... until now.
Oh, I’ve had more than my share of blessings: my lovely wife, Linda; our healthy and intelligent children, Joanna and George.
I have an interesting job that challenges me, a loving extended family and a few good friends.
But this year I’m thankful for something even more basic — being alive.
This spring, after a routine physical, my family doctor sent me to a specialist who discovered I had prostate cancer. In May, a surgeon used a high-tech robotic device to remove my prostate; the cancer hadn’t spread.
I’m thankful prostate cancer is among the least aggressive. I had access to first-rate health care and we caught it early. It appears I’m now cancer-free.
I know how fortunate I am.
But that wasn’t my closest call with death this year. In September I had a stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke to be exact, otherwise known as a brain hemorrhage.
It sounds scary because it is.
After some physical activity my blood pressure spiked, causing a blood vessel in my brain to rupture.
It didn’t hurt a bit, but at first I couldn’t talk. After a few minutes I was able to utter gibberish and a few minutes after that all seemed well. I didn’t realize I’d had a stroke, I just chalked it up to another one of those things that happen to you as you grow older (and not the worst one, I might add).
It wasn’t till the next day, when I got to work that I realized that something was definitely wrong; my typing was far worse than normal and my speech was less fluent.
Linda took me to Oneida Healthcare; they scanned my brain and sent me to the Upstate Stroke Center at University Hospital in Syracuse.
Long story short, the experts watched me closely in the Neurology ICU, brought down my blood pressure and I’m almost back to normal. I have to closely watch my blood pressure and may receive some physical therapy to erase any lingering effects.
So I’m thankful to be alive. And I’m thankful to be able to offer a bit of advice. For prostate cancer, monitor the PSA results from your annual physicals. While there’s some controversy in this, be informed and make your own decisions.
As for strokes, call 911 immediately at any sign of a stroke. The FAST signs of a stroke:

F: Face -- Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.
A: Arms -- Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms.
S: Speech -- Does speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Example: “The sky is blue.”
T: Time -- to call 911, if you observe ANY of these signs.

Happy Thanksgiving. If you’re reading this you are also alive. You may have problems, we all do. And there always are people whose lives may seem better than yours.
So what?
There are also many whose lives are far worse. Help them and experience the true meaning of this holiday.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Penn State story has no bright side

I almost threw up.
On a day I’d like to be concentrating on Penn State’s big game Saturday against Nebraska, I’m focusing instead on learning as much as I can about the child abuse scandal that’s rocking my alma mater.
I read the full 28-page grand jury report on the sordid Jerry Sandusky accusations, hoping that I could still respect Joe Paterno as much as I have.
Sadly, Joe let me down along with an estimated 1.5 million alumni, 95,000 current PSU students, and especially young people who deserve protection from alleged sick predators like Sandusky.
True, Paterno wasn’t arrested because he immediately reported the incident that began this investigation to his boss, Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz were arrested for not reporting the incident so Children’s Services could investigate.
I take no comfort in knowing Paterno appears to have fulfilled his duties as a mandated reporter under Pennsylvania state law.
If this had happened in  New York, Paterno would have been arrested. In this state, mandated reporters (teachers, school administrators, doctors, social workers and others who deal with children) are required by law to call the state’s child abuse hotline. Merely reporting it to your boss is not enough.
But beyond the law, Paterno had a moral responsibly to follow up and to keep this man away from his program as long as there was any chance even a part of the allegations may be true.
Paterno has to bear responsibly for seeing what apparently had been going on under his nose for years. Any half-measures he took placed vulnerable young people in danger... for years.
No, Paterno may have done nothing wrong, but he didn’t do enough right.
The motto of the Penn State football program is “Success with Honor.”
It rings sort of hollow today.

The New York hotline to report suspected cases of abuse or maltreatment is 1-800-342-3720. You can remain anonymous.
In cases where you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Read the full grand jury report: