Friday, March 31, 2017

Coronary thrombosis, cerebral hemorrhage, and I-85

If the main routes through Atlanta, Georgia can be called "arteries", then Atlanta has been long overdue for the traffic equivalent of a coronary thrombosis or a cerebral hemorrhage.

Yesterday, it got both.

At approximately 6:30 p.m., Channel 2 news cut to a live shot of horrifyingly thick black smoke billowing from under an overpass at I-85 and GA State Road 400.  This is the height of rush hour (or, non-rush hour, however you want to put it) and 85 was crawling with commuters desperate to get home.

The Georgia State Patrol, fearing for the integrity of the bridge, stopped traffic.

Minutes later, the bridge collapsed.

Amazingly, NO ONE was killed or injured.  In fact, NO ONE was even on the bridge when it collapsed.

However, the result of the coronary thrombosis of the highway will be Atlanta's own version of bypass surgery.

Beginning this morning, if you want to get into the city of Atlanta, you can't go down I-85 south. Instead, you'll have to exit on I-285, which goes around the city of Atlanta, and pick whatever access point you think will get you to where you need/want to go.  If you want to get downtown, your best bet may be to take I-20 from I-285.

If you want to go north on I-85, you'll have to get off at 17th street, just north of downtown.

Both I-85 north and south in the area of the collapse are closed until further notice.

Which leads one to ask:  Is there a traffic equivalent of beta blockers for Atlanta?

Well, possibly.  One is called MARTA, our public transportation system, comprised of buses and trains which may or may not get you where you want/need to go when you want/need to go there. Another is working from home, which people are being encouraged to do today.  There's also car pooling.

Dekalb County Schools are closed today, giving the kids there a one-day head start on their spring break.  (Matthew's home today.  Gwinnett County is using an unused snow day as a holiday today.)

What caused the fire?

We don't know yet what started it.  What people think was burning was a bunch of plastic cables stored under the bridge.  One (now former) Facebook friend posted "terrorist attack", with NO PROOF.  That is just plain irresponsible.  (And if it WERE Al-Qaida or ISIS, it would be a heck of a lot more coordinated and a lot more spectacular.)

For now, GDOT and whoever else is in charge will be performing bypass surgery and eventually reconstruction of the arteries.

Brace yourselves for a long hospitalization and recovery period!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"I didn't even see that he was drowning."

Dr. Jason Wheeler began Monday morning walking through the doors of Gaffney Chicago Medical Center and making his usual turn into the emergency department, where he worked.  He greeted his fellow co-workers and was greeted by them, with a comment by a nurse that he was needed in three.

He reassured her that he'd be there in a minute.

He boarded an elevator and rode up to the 10th floor.

Upon getting off, he calmly walked to an outside balcony and stepped up onto a ledge, where he looked down at the street and the people walking to and fro.

And then he casually stepped off the balcony.

This all happened in the first 90 seconds of "Monday Mourning," the Chicago Med episode aired on March 16th.

The opening sequence was shocking, stunning, and meant to be that way.  I mean, it was an ordinary, casual good-morning sequence, showing someone on his way to his normal duties as an ER resident, ending in his suicide.

Dr. Wheeler had had problems for some time.  He drank, and at one point, asked psychiatry resident Sarah Reese for pills and for therapy.  She turned him down.

Even in the shock of Dr. Wheeler's suicide, the ER department must go on.  After all, people are not going to stop getting sick and getting hurt just so the ER department can grieve.  So the staff went about their normal day as best they could, while occasionally stopping to wonder, how could they have missed that something was so wrong with a colleague?

The ER borrowed Dr. Reese, the psychiatry resident (and former ER med student) to help out.  During her treatment of a man who'd jumped into an icy river to save a little boy drowning--and who himself suffered a heart attack right after he did so--she asked, what went through your mind?

Dr. Connor Rhodes, heart specialist, overheard that conversation.

Dr. Reese said, he--referring to Dr. Wheeler--came to me for help and I brushed him off.

Dr. Rhodes tries to reassure her, saying, you can't save everyone.

And that's when Dr. Reese replies with, "It's not that I didn't jump in to save him. It's that I didn't even see he was drowning."

Of all of the lines, of all of the scenes of "Monday Mourning", that was the one that hit me.  I didn't even see that he was drowning.

We don't see, do we?  How many of us see that someone is "drowning" and reach out a lifeline to help?

It's impossible to see if someone is drowning if we're not looking at the water, so to speak.  It's also impossible to see if someone is drowning if the drowning person isn't screaming for help, waving their arms, trying to get someone's attention.

While Dr. Reese berated herself for not seeing that Dr. Wheeler was "drowning", she redeemed herself at the end of the episode.  She went to the office of Dr. Daniel Charles, head of the psychiatry department, and said, everyone talks to you and you absorb it all like a sponge.  How are you doing with all this?

His response:  "It was awful."

I've talked off and on (and maybe "on" more that "off") about my own circumstances here.  There are times I've felt like I was "drowning".  I think I use this blog as a cry for help at times.  It's a way that I process things that are happening to me, things that I observe, things that I think and feel.  Often, I write "off the cuff" and don't always go back and edit before I hit "publish".

It's tempting to use this episode of Chicago Med as a way to talk about how I often feel I am "drowning".  But, unlike Dr. Wheeler, I've been able to get the help I need.  For whatever reason, Dr. Wheeler was either unable or unwilling to say the words, "I am drowning.  I need help."  It's hard, especially in a helping profession like medicine, to say, "I need help."  At least one character in "Monday Mourning" made that observation.  Asking for help, too often, is perceived as a sign of weakness, like you need a "crutch" to help you.   And if you're a helper, why, then, do you need help?

I've been lucky.  I have access to medical/psychological help.  I see someone twice a month, and I take my meds faithfully.  And I have people I talk to.

So, let me ask the question:

Who out there is drowning?

Are you drowning?

And how can I throw you a lifeline?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

(The number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.  If you're ever drowning, this is a good lifeline to grab onto.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Matthew O'Brien and Tina Dineen

Fans of the TV show Scorpion may catch my reference in the title of this post.  For those who don't, I'll explain:

The basic premise of Scorpion is that of a team of eccentric geniuses who save the world every week. :-)  They are led by Walter O'Brien, who has an IQ of 197.  Although they are geniuses, the group's social skills are somewhat, shall we say, lacking.

In the first episode, Walter and the team meet Paige Dineen, a single mother working as a waitress. Walter discovers that Paige's son Ralph is a genius.  He strikes a deal with Paige:  You translate the world for us, and we'll help you understand your son.

That's sort of how I interpret my role in my son's life.

My role is to "translate" Matthew to people around him.  It is to explain why he breaks into game show lines, or who these "people" (mostly fictional characters or TV personalities) are that he talks about.  (He did tell someone that they looked like Emily Prentiss, the character Paget Brewster plays on Criminal Minds.  Thing is, the person he said that to . . . DOES look like her!)

Last night, his prayer request in his youth group was that Spencer Reid, a Criminal Minds character, get out of jail.  I haven't kept up with the show lately, but apparently Spencer is in jail in Mexico for something he may or may not have done.  I am very thankful for the people who work with Matthew in the youth group, because the leader handled his request with sensitivity.

I suggested afterwards that maybe Matthew could pray for the actor who plays Spencer Reid, Matthew Gray Gubler, because he probably needed all the prayers he could get.  (If you work in the entertainment business, I think that's definitely true.)

In recent episodes of Scorpion, Paige has been getting rather frustrated with Walter and has left him to "sink or swim" on his own.  That's sometimes how I feel with Matthew ("not everyone wants to hear about the last episode of Jeopardy!")  But, Paige is coming to understand her role not only as Walter's "translator", but as Walter's friend.

I don't know if Matthew will ever learn the "language" of the world around him, but I hope my "translating" has done some good.

Until then, I'm sure Matthew will be sending up more prayers for Spencer Reid, and God will smile at those prayers and understand the heart that those prayers come from.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Graduation and guardianship

This week, two life-changing moments met at the crossroads of irony and coincidence.

Yesterday, I got an email from Matthew's teacher asking if we had ordered his cap and gown yet. I'm in the middle of a somewhat busy week, and my first reaction was, "arrrgh, not another thing I have to do."

And then it hit me:  cap and gown.

As in, Matthew's high school graduation.

I put the order in for a gown that will fit someone 6'1 and approximately 120 pounds (probably less.)

High school graduation comes as a rite of passage, and for most high school seniors, it's the moment where they start thinking of themselves as "adults".  They go to college, get jobs, date, marry, etc. We consider them "grown-ups" and expect them to (eventually) be out on their own, living on their own, being independent.

The irony?

Today Frank, Matthew and I were at a court hearing where we took those rights away from Matthew.
Because Matthew has autism, we've had him evaluated to see if he's legally competent to handle his own affairs, and the opinion is that no, he is not.  I agree with that opinion.  Since Matthew is 18, the law considers him an adult, and therefore, legally responsible for the consequences of his actions, whether for good or for ill, whether he understands those consequences or not.  However, if an interested party can show that it's in Matthew's best interests to have a guardian appointed to look after his interests, the law will allow for the appointment of a guardian.

Frank and I filed paperwork in December to be appointed as Matthew's legal guardians.  Our court hearing was today, and our petition for guardianship was granted.  As of today, my legal standing in regards to Matthew is not that of "parent".  It is that of "legal guardian".  When a person becomes the ward of a legal guardian, they give up the right to control their own property and the right to make certain important decisions.  Matthew cannot enter into any legal agreements or contracts (including marriage) without my permission/approval.  And among other things, if we move to another state or move Matthew to another state, we have to get permission from the court to do so.

So all the stuff that comes with high school graduation--freedom, independence, etc--will not come with Matthew's high school graduation.  Instead, he'll still live at home, still with his parents making decisions on his behalf.  In Matthew's case, it's the right thing to do, because as smart as he is, and as capable as he is, legally, he just isn't competent to handle those types of freedoms.

It's extremely odd to hear a judge state, regarding your child, that "the court finds that he lacks sufficient capacity to . . ."  Although you know it's true, and you know you're doing the right thing, to hear it worded in such a way, from an officer of the court, just sounds so, well, final.

This week, we ordered a cap and gown for a graduation.

This week, we legally took rights away from our son, for his own protection.

How ironic it is that they both happened in the same week, on back-to-back days.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Quiet time

This morning, I had a quiet time.

People who read some of my Facebook or blog posts will be surprised at that statement, because I've written before about how I hate the term "quiet time".  "Quiet time," in the church I left, was used to refer to a mandatory time of daily prayer and Bible study.  And you would be asked, what are you studying in your quiet times?

The term "quiet time" has very bad connotations for me, and that is why I refuse to use it when I talk about "a period of time for prayer and Bible study".

This morning, however, I sat at our dining room table, eating the granola-and-plain-yogurt mixture I've gotten addicted to lately, and read a few Scripture sections from a devotional book that's part of my Logos software package (I have a subscription to, a service that provides multiple Bible translations as well as a number of other study/devotional resources.)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the forty days before Easter, and I guess it's appropriate that I began this period with a morning time of reflection--of "quiet", shall we say.

I sat with yogurt and granola, a glass of water, and read about Jesus being both the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) and wondered, if Jesus is the perfecter of our faith, does that mean I don't have to constantly "work on" my faith?  If so, that takes a lot of the pressure off of me to "get it right".

This, I think, is what is meant by "quiet time" -- a time to be still and quiet before the Lord, to listen to Him speak in whatever way He chooses.  A time just to sit, and breathe, and not worry about the rushing and helter-skelter of the coming day.

Soon, I will have to leave the computer and start some running around.  I see the chiropractor today, I need to plan my meals for the month, do this month's budget, cook dinner tonight, and learn some new music for our praise team.

But this morning, I had a quiet time.

Perhaps it's this kind of "quiet time" that I need more often.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.