Sunday, July 24, 2011

MICHELLE BACHMANN – NOT A JOKE AND PROBABLY DANGEROUS

As the son of parents who were instrumental in organizing the modern Republican Party (not to be confused with the present version) in Dallas and north Texas, I was raised in a straight party line GOP home and at nine years of age passed out I Like Ike buttons in 1952. I am the proud grandson of a respected, long standing member of the Republican National Committee from Rhode Island and was a card carrying Republican for most of my adult life. My Mother was a dedicated Precinct Chairperson in Dallas, Texas and Providence, Rhode Island and private appointment secretary to two Rhode Island Republican Governors (Chris Del Sesto and John Chaffee). Just to be fair, my great grandfather Nathan Whitman Littlefield (D) was a member of the Rhode Island Senate from the city of Pawtucket (1894-98), a progressive Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island in 1900 and a heavyweight with the Anti-Saloon League (ASL). He was a great writer and despite his ASL activity one of my continuing inspirations.

Much to the chagrin of some Family members, I am truly dismayed with the path the GOP has recently taken - methinks to the far dark side. That feeling has been shared by many former Republicans (we are legion) who now embrace an Independent posture looking for the best candidate wherever they are, regardless of party, sex, color, religion or any other protected status. Come out, come out – wherever you are. I am not now, nor have I ever been a Democrat. I embrace liberal/progressive, moderate and conservative positions, judging issues on their own individual merits. I have voted for Democrats, Independents and Republicans though never for a Libertarian. For what it’s worth, I am considered by most folks as, “moderate.”

We at Might of Right have really tried hard not to further comment on dumber than dumb iconic hockey mom Sarah Palin (Paul Revere warned the British?) and others of her ilk though we did break down and post on The Donald after his continuing and nauseating antics and gaffs regarding President Obama. He predictably slipped and slid away to his real estate and TV Kingdom and hopefully out of politics. We have tried to shine the light of day on other political luminaries including President Obama, Joe Biden, Al Gore, Anthony Weiner and others whatever their party affiliation, gender, persuasion, etc. So much material to work with, so little time – for any journalist they are the gift that keeps on giving…

Then along comes Teabagger and the always camera-ready Michelle Bachmann, who represents Minnesota's 6th congressional district and is a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Now we don’t care about Bachmann’s gender, political party, religion or sexual persuasion, but she is so far out in left (OK right) field on so many substantive issues and with her rise in popularity (?), she can’t be ignored. No, I don’t think her migraines are an issue… Some of her antics have been so absurd, however, I had to recheck the TV info just to make sure I hadn’t accidentally tuned into a Saturday Night Live (SNL) Tina Fey inspired skit.

When I first started this post I intended to tie together, list and elaborate in nauseating detail on her numerous significant and disturbing miscues, gaffes, skewed (many times wrong) knowledge of history, lies and beliefs. But that’s mostly old news that’s been addressed and continues to be reported to this very hour by respected journalists around the world. What is unnerving is that Bachmann’s aberrant behaviors continue to this very day reflecting that she is not learning and surely hasn’t surrounded herself with capable and qualified staff and mentors who have at least a grasp on reality and history.

We understand why many respect her staunch conservative viewpoints and that this post will surely not dissuade the many Bachmann supporters who share her revisionist, fundamentalist Christian philosophies. What we do hope is that this will cast yet one more beam of the critical light of day on Bachmann and motivate folks sitting on the fence to delve more deeply into her qualifications, or lack thereof. Here are some snippets and bullet points from the aforementioned nauseating details we feel call the question her ability to hold any responsible political office.

 Michelle Bachmann is lock step with the pathetic, delusional though apparently sincere Harold Camping and his several failed end of the world predictions. Likewise, Bachman predicted the imminent end of the world in October, 2006, “the day is at hand”. We wonder like J. Clifford Cook, Senior Writer for the liberal Irregular Times whether Bachmann has the, “… mental capacity to understand the metaphorical structure of her own religion sufficiently to avoid coming to the conclusion that the Earth is about the be destroyed” or sincere in her beliefs wonder why she is running for President in 2012 if she believes that the world is about to end? For many this this appears to be, “…an issue of psychological stability.” Some ponder whether she would be more prone to engage nuclear conflict becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. We also note that there is a vacancy on the board of the Flat Earth Society.

 Bachmann’s stand on Gay Rights and her satanistic perspectives on homosexuality, throwing her sister and Family under the bus and then her faux pas use of Katy Perry’s pro-gay hit song, “Firework,” as her intro into an ultra-right wing conservative conference demonstrate for many that she has, “a profound misunderstanding of popular culture.” Maybe Perry can pen a new theme song for Bachmann – something like, “From the Bushes.”

We also wonder about the grandstanding Bachmann who introduced redundant, unnecessary legislation into the Minnesota Senate in 2003 by proposing an amendment to Minnesota’s constitution banning gay marriage. OK, but the Minnesota state legislature had already passed a law making same-sex unions illegal. Most politicians (for and against) were non-plussed and were, “floored by the brazen pointlessness of Bachmann's bill.” It didn’t pass.

 Bachmann's revisionist version of her family history Minnesota v. Iowa and her origins (how many generations? – Norway to Wisconsin and Dakota Territory, etc.) is nothing more than political pulp, living for the moment and ingratiating and reinventing herself for her audience.

 We certainly understand and respect differing religious perspectives including those who would interpret the Bible literally. That is their right though when this religious minority tries to discredit science and foist their beliefs upon the rest of civilization, I take offense. For example, Bachmann believes the age of the earth to be around 5,000 years. Never mind the consensus in the scientific community that the earth is around 4.54 billion years old.

Despite what some may say, there is no controversy, no reasonable doubt - the evidence is overwhelming. By the way, I saw an interesting TV documentary the other day featuring the Paleo-Indian civilization of the Pecos River Valley which dates back 12,000 years. I also have a wonderful rendering of the upper Paleolithic cave paintings in the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc in the Ardeche region in France which dates from 30,000 to 33,000 years ago. I can go back as far as you want. Hmmm…

 Bachman would have us dumb down our educational system with nonsense and poppycock like Creationism and its carefully crafted anti-intellectual offshoot, Intelligent Design offered under the banner and guise of critical thinking. Think all you want - There is nothing intelligent about it and using words like critical, think or intelligent doesn’t make it any more credible or palatable. I’m on the side of Zack Kopplin, the young man from Baton Rouge, Louisiana who is rallying the cause against ignorance in education. Well done, Zack.

 Bachmann claims to be divinely inspired, that she speaks with God who has directed all aspects of her life. She states that she had no desire to enter politics, “…till God told her to.” So, if Bachmann is hearing only the Christian God, does that mean she won’t hear the opinions and relate to the needs of all our culturally diverse and multi faith population? Bachmann who feels she and those of her ilk have exclusive access to Heaven is clearly trying to impose her Christian viewpoints on everybody else and that alone makes her unfit for office. As a practicing Christian I do wonder what ever happened to the separation of Church and State?

 There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children she didn't know what to do…. Now, we know that wasn’t Michelle Bachmann though she often claims that she “raised 23 foster children.” The Minnesota Department of Human Services records reflect that Bachmann was licensed and paid to care for up to three children at a time for a 7 1/2 year period. Kris Harvieux, a former senior social worker in the foster care system in Bachmann’s county reflects that some placements were almost certainly short term and that Bachmann, “…makes it sound like she got them at birth and raised them to adulthood, but that’s not true.

Issue: We also wonder why a bragging and chest-thumping Bachmann is want to treat her generosity and charity as a red badge of courage. We hope that most foster parents take in children because they want to make a difference in that child’s life and not as capital to fuel their political ambitions. Exploitation? One blogger recently noted that, “Being paid to take in a child for a short term, DOES NOT constitute raising them.” For whatever her foster care service was and for whatever duration and assuming Bachmann was sincerely motivated – Our Thanks. But, the self-serving characterization of her foster care activity leads to distortion and yet one more reason to question her motivation and character… Most folks I know that volunteer for worthwhile charitable causes like the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, among many others, don’t talk about it as they aren’t seeking accolades or compliments. They just do it as part of their service to humanity…

 While claiming to take us back to our roots and the spirits of our forefathers, Bachman has demonstrated a woeful and skewed (many times wrong) knowledge of history. Methinks that any new naturalized citizen of the United States may know more about United States history than Bachmann. Some say these are not legitimate concerns but, we beg to differ. The President of the United States has to be able to put into context – especially from historical perspectives – all the information available in order to made critical, strategic decisions on domestic and international policy.

For example, while stumping in New Hampshire last March Bachmann twice claimed New Hampshire was the birthplace of the American Revolution and, "the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord." Well, WE all know that state/commonwealth is really Massachusetts, not New Hampshire. New Hampshire voters appear to be predictably turning their backs on Bachman.

 Michele Bachmann's gaffe about how the Founding Fathers (in which she included an eight-year-old John Quincy Adams), "worked tirelessly" to end slavery, despite the fact that many were slave owners and wrote the perpetuation of the slave trade into the US Constitution has been revealed to most on our planet. Having said that, some of the Founding Fathers including Jefferson and Washington freed (or tried to) their slaves upon their passing. John Quincy Adams admirably fought the institution of slavery his whole life (Amistad) while Father and second President John Adams it was mostly an issue of compromise. John Adams was opposed to slavery and did not own slaves but he never worked, “tirelessly” for its abolition. Most of the Founding Fathers were more concerned with establishing a union with all the Colonies (including the South) and keeping peace by being mostly mum on the subject. While Bachman’s statement isn’t factual this may be the closest she comes to the elusive light of truth on this subject.

 Then there was Bathroom Gate where Minnesota State Senator Bachmann in 2005 demonstrated an extraordinary lack of control, freaked out and completely lost her cool. Seems that she was participating in a constituent forum in New Scandia Township, MN when during the question and answer session, the subject of gay rights came up. Apparently an uncomfortable Bachmann cut the session short and sought refuge in the Ladies Room. She walked into the rest room with ex-nun Nancy Cosgriff who was asking Bachmann (according to the police report) a question relating to the, “moral issues of same sex marriage.” Bachmann and Cosgriff were joined by Pamela Arnold, another constituent who wanted to politely continue the conversation.

After an interval estimated to be some 20 to 30 seconds Bachmann suddenly started screaming, "Help, "Help! I'm being held against my will!" and ran out of the bathroom. She was followed by the two stunned constituents (they held the door open) who only wanted to talk with Bachmann. Bachmann contacted the local constabulary and accused Cosgriff and Arnold of kidnapping. According to the police report, Bachmann said that she was, "Absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her."

The Washington County, Minnesota attorney after a thorough investigation, however, declined to press charges reflecting that "It seems clear from the statements given by both women that they simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann." If you want to see the police report it can be accessed on the Net. Remember, Ladies and Gentleman, this is a candidate for President who, above all, has to be able to maintain her composure and sometimes operate in the most trying circumstances. Yes, we believe Michelle was sincerely scared – and that’s the rub…

 When Bachmann announced her candidacy she made that now famous faux pas about which John Wayne was from her hometown (no need to comment here).

 Then Representative Bachmann recently signed a “Marriage Vow” offered by The Family Leader a homophobic, conservative right wing group based out of Iowa. Bachmann pledged to defend marriage from homosexuals and at the same time condemn abortion, infidelity and pornography. OK, but confusingly to this writer, the pledge also contained the following opening statement, "Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President." The insinuation is that African-American children are far worse off now under the Obama Presidency than during slavery? What a crock

The nonsensical association of slavery in 1860 and Black Family values in the 21st century with pledges directed against gay marriage, pornography, abortion and infidelity (notwithstanding the absurd link to Obama) make this whole exercise ludicrous. Bachmann signed though later stated that she did not know or see any of the references to slavery which have since been removed by The Family Value which (sort of) apologized citing that the slavery reference had been misconstrued.

 Further, Bachmann has linked swine flu to Democrats, dismissed and characterized the Pigford decision as fraud and waste of government money, assured us that carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, that elimination of the minimum wage would eliminate unemployment so employers could offer jobs at, “whatever level” and that a bill to raise the minimum wage would actually lower wages, her either for or against America perspectives on Congress smacks of McCarthyism, Bachmann a pro-lifer used the same slogan as the pro-choice movement in arguing against health care reform, assured the American public that "There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design." and many, many more.

While Bachmann has put together an impressive resume that includes stints in Congress and the Minnesota House, she does not appear to have the character, demeanor, critical reasoning, emotional control, collaborative perspectives, world view, tolerance, etc. required for the most important job in the World today. She is confrontational, obsessive, divisive and tends to bend and procrastinate on and embellish the truth and at an alarming rate that will surely keep the highly regarded and objective PolitiFact.com busy for some time. She scares me

Republican and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson says it all for me with his comments on Bachmann’s commitment to The Family Leader Pledge. Johnson decried the pledge and concluded that, "The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country." Well done, Governor Johnson.

I attended a Fourth of July Concert with several Friends in the Dallas area which featured the Plano Symphony and a couple of choral groups and representatives of all branches of the US Military. They gave out small American flags which we all proudly and patriotically waved as we entered the auditorium. As we were taking our seats a man (no gentleman he) loudly and stridently commented to his sidekick that there surely were no Democrats in this crowd and if they were they would be waving their hammer and sickle flags! He then went on to invoke the spirits of Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry as saviors of our Country.

Well, I guess the Republicans are reaping what they sowed. It now appears to some that Bachmann may be the most UnChristian among us.

Aye,

Ned Buxton

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WEIGHING IN ON OBESE AIRLINE PASSENGERS

I recently flew on US Air and on one of their outstanding, very reliable though aging 737 400 aircraft that looked to date from Piedmont Airlines days. They accommodate up to 144 passengers and one has to assume passengers of average height and weight. This flight seemed to have more obese passengers than usual (what’s that?) and I saw seat belt extenders handed out like party favors to overweight passengers that were at least severely obese. One obese traveler “sitting” in an aisle seat spilled out onto the aisle way requiring a careful negotiation by other passengers and most certainly by the flight attendants and their drink cart. I was seated immediately behind him and noted that the seat literally expanded outward an inch or two as he squeezed his frame in.

Now I know that those two CFM56 turbofan engines (part of GE’s stable) are capable of handling a substantially greater load (especially as presented by the great abundance and challenge of obese passengers) understanding that safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and other critical factors are closely managed by the airlines. However, there were so many fat folks on this plane (OK, OK I’m moderately overweight too) it seemed to be a tipping point for me wondering what accommodations and safety precautions are made by the airlines for these obese folks.

A Friend who worked for two major airlines (Braniff and Delta) answered this question by indicating that there is a weights and measures person with the airline who with the flight crew monitors the safety factors attributed to weight of the aircraft – literally for every flight. The underlying considerations include the maximum payload and the center of gravity (C.G.) of the aircraft which, as fuel is expended, shifts fore and aft, side to side. Their goal is to distribute passengers, cargo and baggage so that the aircraft doesn’t get tail or nose heavy so as to maintain the stability and maneuverability of the airplane. Bottom Line: You can’t sit all the obese folks in the back or front or either side of the aircraft…

Pursuant to my concerns, average weights for passengers (which increase every year in the US) are used though the weights can be corrected by weighing a selected sample of actual, loaded aircraft. The weight of the aircraft is known with baggage and cargo weighed separately. With weight of the fuel added in and then additional parameters such as takeoff power, rotation speed, best climb speed, needed takeoff distance, safe landing weight, fuel consumption, etc. factored in including the environment the plane will encounter (heat, cold, weather, etc.).

Simple? Not really… and this is our segue to the matter of obesity. By extension this discussion leads us to other significant issues that wash all over me as of this writing to include what is fair and what is not. When we first decided to address this issue, we fully intended to support the airlines right to charge an additional fee for obese people (and for all intents and purposes, still do). It certainly seemed a simple and straightforward issue. Now I know that this issue is far bigger than this post and will be difficult to fairly resolve.

The Association for Airline Passenger Rights (AAPR - not to be confused with the AARP) and other organizations like the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination (“working to end discrimination against people who are heavier than average”) claim that charging extra-large passengers (self-inflicted or not) higher rates or requiring them to purchase another seat is discrimination and just another way for the airline to make even more money. The AAPR has capriciously demanded that the airlines change/enlarge their seats across the board.

We don’t agree with this blanket demand and wonder if any thought was given to safety and the basic rights of other passengers, let alone the health and well-being of the airlines. We think if that request is accommodated it would give new meaning to the term, wide body. While some maintain that airline seats in coach are too small and need to be made larger, methinks that just adds fuel to the fire of the rising rate of obesity in our country. There would be few incentives to curb or even slow down our expanding waistlines and that’s the direction we need to be headed. Instead we would literally have to redesign all commercial aircraft and install larger, more powerful engines. Ahhh, fuel economy where art thou?

Let’s put this issue in perspective. Obesity in the United States is literally now at epidemic proportions and we appear to be getting worse, not better. Forbes.com cites a 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) report that identifies the world’s fattest nations that has the United States weighing in at No. 9, with 74.1% of those over 15 years old considered overweight. However, since most of Oceania which includes the very, very small south Pacific Island nations of Nauru, Micronesia, Tonga, American Samoa, Niue and Palau which constitute the top six – our ranking becomes more impressive. In many South Pacific nations being overweight has been a cultural paradigm where being fat was a sign of wealth, power and beauty. Forbes, however, aptly points out that obesity in these cultures now is, “not about being rich and well fed. Obesity is most often related to poverty, low economic status and exclusion from the health system.” Most of us in America don’t have the same excuse and year after year we remain ranked at or near the top of obese nations.

We at Might of Right are totally supportive of passenger rights to include correction of some of the recent abuses including keeping passengers in plane on the tarmac for hours and hours in stifling and uncomfortable environments. Complaints about no food on flights (their right?) or that the airlines should accommodate obese folks above and beyond the reality of safety may now be nothing more than flights of fancy where eager, agenda driven opportunists would have the tail wag the dog. Again, the issue seemed that straightforward…

All this may change in the courts as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as administered by the US Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) appear ultimately predisposed to label and legally classify obesity (whatever the cause) as a disability, opening Pandora’s Box forever and a day. Note that our northern neighbor Canada already considers being morbidly obese a disability entitling large passengers to an additional seat at no extra charge.

This issue may be ultimately determined via the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) which Congress passed in 1986. The statute prohibits discrimination in airline service on the basis of disability. Obesity advocates have maintained that Very Fat Folks are disabled (whatever the cause) and therefore entitled to the protections and accommodations defined by the ACAA. Of course, without a disability rating this dog won’t hunt. These obesity advocates appear to many as more concerned with the private right of Very Fat Folks to sue for monetary damages for alleged acts of discrimination (Ca-Ching!). I have even seen one fat advocacy thread where Very Fat Folks are advised to ask for an aisle seat and request that the adjacent seat be kept empty and if not accommodated communicate that they are not happy and surely any adjacent passenger is not going to be comfortable. Bottom Line: If Obesity is ultimately legally determined to be a disability, then all the rules may change.

All that may be to no avail as the airlines are responsible for the SAFETY of all flights and that includes passengers, flight crew, cargo and equipment. In the interests of safety airlines can currently exclude any passenger or cargo that compromises safety, period. The ADA and the ACAA are all fine and good, but they don’t trump the duty, responsibility and right of the airline to provide a safe flight. As witnessed in Canada, a court of law might someday mandate accommodations for obese passengers but in the near future the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) isn't going to tell an airline to do something they think compromises safety. Balancing an aircraft or limiting or delaying egress from an aircraft are two pretty big safety issues.

What complicates and continues to fuel this issue is that obesity is not a disease by itself, rather a symptom of an underlying condition that could be a legitimate medical / psychological disorder that predisposes some to even morbid obesity. However, not every obese person necessarily has an underlying disease and while most in the medical community concur, that’s the conundrum. I have great sympathy for and support those with a medically induced obesity.

Many believe and statistics appear to bear out that the great majority of fat folks engage what has been termed, “willful misconduct” eating more calories than they burn with the conclusion this is a voluntary condition, blaming it on weak character, poor lifestyle choices, gluttony and even sin (yikes!). Bottom Line: Most obesity is the result of voluntary free will, not a medical illness.

Most physicians including the American Medical Association (AMA) do not consider obesity a disability and are, “committed to obesity prevention through promoting healthier lifestyles.” While part of their motivation may be political/legal spin to limit potential legal liability, this stand resonates throughout much of the medical and business community.

We need to be compassionate and sensitive for those with legitimate medical / psychological disorders that prompt obesity. We don’t know anybody that really wants to be obese in a society that seemingly rewards skinny and that wondrous and elusive six pack. We know that obese folks (whatever the cause of their condition) have a diminished capacity and don’t live as long being subject to the likelihood of fat-related diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, apnea and certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis, among others. They generally have limited mobility and cannot perform tasks that require a full range of motion. So, how do we accommodate these folks above and beyond extra seating and continue to maintain the safety and stability of the aircraft?

Our current recession has reinforced the realization that it always has and will come down to dollars and cents. Most of the airlines continue to lose money even with their attempts to generate further revenues by charging for luggage, snacks, meals and many of their other add-on fees that used to be incorporated into a basic ticket price. Accommodating obese passengers even at the current level has already cost the airlines hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The airlines are now literally in survival mode.

All airlines promise to properly accommodate disabled and special needs passengers under the ACAA and it would appear in the case of the severely obese, that’s by providing the opportunity to purchase seating that will accommodate their wide girths and then allowing them to board the aircraft. The bottom line (uh, huh) is if an airline passenger can’t fit into their seat [armrest(s) down], significantly encroaches on adjacent seat space or needs more than one seatbelt extender that’s a hint that the passenger will require more than one seat and, if no other space is available, needs to pay for it. If extra seats are available we don’t know of any airline that wouldn’t try and accommodate a severely obese passenger. However, if that obese passenger is a potential threat to the safety, health and well-being of any other passenger, they should not be allowed to board the aircraft.

What gets my goat is our politically correct world where the demands for “individual rights”, however nonsensical, are at the forefront. Many of this genre seem especially empowered demanding their rights here and there - many times at the expense of our neighbors and the good of the many. When possible, we need to belly up and accept the responsibilities for our behaviors and use this issue as yet another warning that we are nearing or at the outer limits of our capacity to accommodate this issue. In this case we can’t continue to upsize seats, construct larger aircraft, bigger autos, wider highways, mandate bigger houses – well, you get the idea.

What we might be able to do is determine the average number of obese passengers who travel via the airlines and dedicate several larger seats throughout Coach/Economy class for the severely/morbidly obese and others with special needs. If no obese passengers purchase these seats they can be sold to other passengers, even for a premium like first or business class. This would be like having so many accessible parking spaces at retail or business venues consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

I can confess that I had to sit next to an extremely obese fellow years ago and his fat spilled into my seating area and literally on me. I was uncomfortable the entire flight. He didn’t care and never said a word.

As a consumer I have choices too and faced with side by side sitting options that may include a severely obese traveler, an over-ripe, aromatic fellow passenger or even an incessantly crying baby with a full diaper I would as one seasoned air traveler and blogger recently opined, “Take the sweet-smelling “passenger of size” – and hopefully for both of us, it won’t be a long flight.”

If you care about this issue, please communicate with your Congressman/woman though this will all be ultimately decided by lawyers and judges. Maybe some benevolent entrepreneur will start an airline just for fat folks…. And those passengers in the airplane at the start of this post – they’re smiling and happy because – well, you know why

Aye,

Ned Buxton

Saturday, July 2, 2011

INSECT BITE AND INFECTION – PART DEUX

Never have much liked crawly things like bugs and frankly, all insects, perhaps with the exception of the docile, beneficial and colorful lady bug (excuse me – ladybirds) which is actually a beetle. Folks who have had fall infestations of lady bugs in or on their homes (literally by the thousands) probably don’t share my admiration. Having said that I do understand the natural order of things and that without insects and other like critters we (Homo sapiens) probably wouldn’t be here…

Then there are spiders that are not insects, rather members of the class Arachnida. I have a personal and up close relationship with these critters. Last year (2010) my Montana spider bite and subsequent staph infection required almost three months of treatment and as my Mother would have surely and rightfully observed, was a “ghastly” experience. It was far from my mind this new year though a continuing, healthy reminder that none of us are immune from the slings and arrows of Mother Nature. One of my brothers was bitten by a Brown Recluse spider while attending Baylor University many years ago. That bite became staph infected and even with aggressive, state of the art treatment he now sports a deep scar that reminds me of the Grand Canyon… Like some now fulfilled rite of passage I thought my 2010 experience was behind me. I was wrong

Now this isn’t going to be a whiney pity-party post, rather an alert for all you folks who think this can’t happen to you. Please take heed and use my experiences for your benefit. I am in good health and have no underlying health issues so no compromised immune system. Like the doctors have said, just pure bad luck and being at the wrong place at the wrong time?
Yes, they really said that…

Three weeks ago I had been working in the yard, strained my lower back and went to my doctor for a quick consult. While I was there I had him look at an insect bite I had received the evening before on my right knee. He verified that it was, indeed, an insect bite, advised me to keep it clean (I had) and let him know my status the next day. Mind you, I was leaving for a wedding in Colorado Springs in a week and didn’t want a repeat of my 2010 spider bite episode. I was cautiously optimistic since after the wedding we were headed on to Montana for a relaxing week in the Beartooths.

By the next day (Saturday) my knee was raging and the doctor prescribed a multi-purpose antibiotic which I started that weekend though by Monday my right knee was even worse. I saw my dermatologist on Tuesday who confirmed that the wound had become infected, verified that it was that run of the mill staph [Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus)] and went to work with his trusty scalpel. That was fun, not… Mind you, there was concern that the infection might spread to the knee joint so the doctor prescribed a much more powerful antibiotic and anti-inflammatory that I continue to take as of this posting.

By Thursday (we were leaving the next day) I thought it wise for the doctor to see my knee once again as it appeared to be worsening. I was unable to make an appointment though he prescribed yet another antibiotic and on Friday we started for Colorado Springs.

I won’t go into much detail but the knee closely resembled the Pacific Ring of Fire (Popocat├ępetl), an apt metaphor appreciated by one MD, PhD. It wasn’t pretty though the pain was tolerable. I was hopeful that when the antibiotics finally kicked in the mend would start. After all, this was probably just a mosquito bite and did not manifest the ever expanding necrotic tissue of my spider bite. Everything was going to be OK….

By Saturday there was no improvement though an alarming indication presented that the infection may now be spreading up the leg (not venous). We went to the wedding where two young people were beautifully married and became as one. The Father of the Bride along with another wedding guest are eminent physicians though they certainly had other personal Family business on their minds. I wasn’t going to belabor them with my problems.

The wedding reception was held at The Broadmoor, the five star/five diamond, iconic and constantly updated resort hotel property that may be the epitome of the greatest hotel and hospitality available in our country today. The Broadmoor resort was formerly the site of the Broadmoor World Arena, a historic ice arena where many of our figure skating Olympians (and hopefuls) trained. I vividly remember as a young man watching on TV the World Figure Skating Championships held five times between 1957 and 1975 at The Broadmoor. So, this place has special meaning for me on both the sporting and hospitality levels. Little did I know that I would be attributing yet another significant experience to The Broadmoor.

I parked the car, hobbled into The Broadmoor and while seeking out my understanding and sympathetic Partner spied our hosts in the person of the Father of The Bride and his distinguished medical associate. The good doctor greeted me then immediately looked in the direction of my right knee. Someone had been talking.

He immediately posted hotel staff to secure the entrance to the men’s room where he and the other good doctor waited until the bathroom emptied (there was a long waiting line) and then thoroughly examined my knee with what seemed great consternation. He notified me that I would not be going to Montana, rather heading back to Dallas. He recommended that I see a top notch infectious disease (ID) doctor preferably at UT Southwestern.


With the very able and critical assistance and direction of another outstanding MD now at UT Southwestern I was able to see a specialist who confirmed the observations and diagnosis of the Colorado Docs, stating that he would have hospitalized me had he seen me then. My very supportive and empathetic partner verified that the Colorado Docs were also going to admit me in the Penrose St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs though the assurance of my hasty retreat back to Dallas cooled their ardor. All sorts of activity was going on around me and I didn’t have a clue. Some things don’t change…

The doctor at UT Southwestern’s Aston Clinic upped my medication and kept the regimen of my dermatologist in place. He forbade me to return to work so I lost a whole week of vacation time which we have, thankfully been able to reschedule for the first week in August. I was home-bound and with my leg elevated, slept much of that time. Were it not for the sympathetic ministrations of one Cairn terrier named Willa (she was constantly at my side), I would have surely reached the utmost depths of boredom.

I earnestly thank all of the doctors for their great service including the Father of The Bride in Colorado Springs and especially my partner who always seems to know best.
She is very wise….
The raging wound is subsiding though it would appear that this battle will continue for another couple of months. My message is clear for all you folks that think you are above the same experience. Well, we all know that Ned is getting long in the tooth and probably starting that long slide to senility. While that may be true, staph is everywhere, literally on your skin and by extension throughout your home and business place. With the evolution of the more resistant forms of staph (MRSA), frankly, we can’t use enough caution. Just ask any hospital where there has been an alarming uptick in the incidence of staph. This bacterium is incredibly opportunistic and that small, innocuous insect bite or seemingly minor scrape or cut can be a wide boulevard beckoning staph to come, pay a visit and stay a while.

Always pay special attention to objects and areas that are handled or frequented often to include doorknobs, light switches, tables, chairs, desk surfaces, counters, banisters, railings, etc. Pay special attention to shopping carts in grocery stores and exercise equipment in health clubs. Most retail outlets and clubs/spas (and even churches) now offer sanitary, anti-bacterial wipes. Use them often. When you go into a public bathroom and are required to sit on the toilet, always use sanitary covers if provided.

Wash your hands often and vigorously especially after touching your mouth and nose. Pretend you are a doctor preparing for surgery every time you wash with soap and water just to make sure you’ve really cleaned them. Use hand sanitizers when soap and water aren't available.

Don't share towels and washcloths with other folks. Wash your clothing and towels in hot water and bleach. We went to Costco and bought a pack of white hotel towels and washcloths which are for my exclusive use.

If you are member of a Christian Church and denomination that celebrates the Eucharist/Holy Communion, beware of the communion chalice which could contain more than wine or grape juice. Experts tell us that while there is no real evidence that drinking from a communal cup will prompt additional exposure to disease, they admit to the potential. We have all seen folks with a cold or flu taking communion. We have not drunk from the communion cup for years and practice intincture where the bread or host is dipped into the chalice and then consumed. In the Episcopal Church the priest dips the bread in the wine and places it on the tongue of the communicant. Likewise, after we “pass the peace” we wash our hands as soon as reasonably possible.

Again, we can’t be careful enough. Trousers and long sleeved shirts and a ready supply of duct tape will help… Be clean, stay well and live long.

Aye,

Ned Buxton