Saturday, August 29, 2009

Absolutely. Totally. Breathless.

August is just about over.

It's cold and wet outside. Last weekend it was Hurricane Bill. This weekend ... Tropical Storm Dan. I always knew men were nothing but trouble.

But at least we did have our vacation.

It was a good trip. Most definitely not a relaxing trip (we didn't stay in any one place for more than three days at a time), but still a good trip.

Two days in Steinbach, Manitoba. Then off to Oshkosh. Oh yeah, Oshkosh ... heavy sigh... Back to Steinbach. This time for one day. Off to Saskatchewan for two days. Back to Steinbach for a whole three days. Then home.

Did I miss anything?

Oh yeah, maybe one not so little thing.

The Jump. The Free Fall. The Terror.

Yup, that's right. Yours truly jumped out of a perfectly good airplane [that did, in fact, land shortly thereafter].

How was it, you ask?

Well ... to put the matter simply, I pretty much hated it. That's right. I. Hated. It. End of story.

Don't get me wrong. I am totally happy that I did it. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time. It's just that (did I mention that I hated it?) I have no need nor desire to do it ever again.

I wasn't scared at all. At least not until after we fell out of the plane.

I jumped tandem @ 11,000 feet, meaning we had 6,000 feet of free fall. We were taught to keep our hands crossed on the chest (so we wouldn't grab the door of the aircraft and refuse t budge), bend our knees so our feet were behind us and arch our back.

Hands. Check.

Knees. Check.

Arch. Not so much.

I simply could not arch no matter how hard I tried. The wind was too strong. I suppose strong core muscles would help, eh?

Anyway, as I said I couldn't arch my back at all and we tumbled. And tumbled. Did I mention the repeated somersaults? Between that and simply not being able to breathe ... yeah, that was a treat.

Absolutely. Totally. Breathless.
Absolutely. Totally. Terrified.

That about sums up the free fall.

When Moo (yeah, I said Moo ... you had to love Moo, he was a great guy and absolutely hilarious) pulled the rip cord and my head was finally up, my feet were finally down and I could breathe again, he asked me how I had liked it.

How do you answer that question? The word "terrifying" did immediately come to mind.

The rest of the journey was okay but nothing too extraordinary. We weren't up very long after the free fall. I guess you stay up longer if you jump solo. The trade off is the free fall, of course.

But then my dear Moo made a couple of sharp turns left to right (to slow us down to land, I presume) and suddenly I was so nauseous. So totally nauseous. I didn't want to yell say anything right away and admit how sick I felt. After all, he was having a ball. Fortunately for me, just when I figured out that my only choices were to whine complain loudly or totally embarrass myself, we were ready to land.

The landing was okay. Although he kept yelling at me to put my legs out in front of me. And I kept yelling back that they were up, that was as far as they were going to go. When that concept finally got through to him, he grabbed the legs of my flight suit and pulled my legs up higher. We both basically landed on our butts. So gracious we were. A thing of beauty you might say.

It was a hot day and I couldn't wait to get the harness off and get out of that flight suit. When I did, I immediately became aware of the rest of the story. I was absolutely soaked with sweat. I guess between the adrenaline rush of the free fall and the later nausea ... yeah, that's enough about that.

Except that a whole crowd of my brother's friends had come to watch his wife and I jump and we were all suppose to be going out for supper afterwards. Right afterwards. As in we were already late for our reservations.

No way. No how. I made my sister-law take me back to their place where I changed my clothes and drained the contents of their water cooler. I still felt so sick and the car ride back to the house (followed by another long ride to the restaurant) definitely didn't help any.

Eventually it subsided. Although off and on all evening, even when I was feeling fine, out of nowhere I would get the sensation of butterflies (free falling butterflies, perhaps?) in my stomach.

And that night, about o'dark thirty I woke up so dry ... You might remember in your younger days, when you use to drink a fair bit too much (or you might remember that from last weekend, I suppose) when you had been out drinking and would then wake up so dry you thought you might die from lack of water. Again I drained the water cooler.

And so. The tale was done.

My sis-in-law loved it BTW. Go figure...

The place where we jumped also offered hang gliding flights. This was the first time we had been out to my brother's place in the ten years they have lived there. So I asked her if, when I came back in another ten years, she would hang glide with me. Sure, she enthusiastically replied.

Head up. Feet down. That's the way I need to fly. It be next on my list.

And if you were hoping for a picture or a video, then I am sorry to disappoint. Although my brother and his friends promised to send me some of the pics they took so if I ever get them, I might ... just might (no guarantees) ... post one.

But if you want to see how it's really suppose to be done, just go here.

Now how come it always looks so cool when other people do it?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Which would pretty well sum up my reaction upon reading this article in today's edition of the Chronicle Herald which portended to delve into the "culture clash" between the Western world's child protection systems and various religious and cultural minorities. Due to the writer taking a major left turn halfway through the article.

After noting that "not one of the world’s major religions sanctions child abuse" [ED. A point open to debate - after all, if female genital mutilation isn't a form of child abuse, then what, pray tell, might be?], that "bridging the cultural gap in western countries would be easier if professionals, such as doctors who are compelled to report child abuse to the authorities, were exposed more often to people of diverse backgrounds", the reality that many medical graduates have never met a Muslim, a Sikh or a Sunni and that UNESCO reports some 250 million youngsters worldwide "suffer child abuse in the form of slavery, bondage, serfdom . . . child pornography, prostitution and yes, female genital mutilation", completely out of left field, at least for this reader, the article goes on to note that in Canada, "the biggest legal controversies involving child protection and religion have been well-publicized disputes involving Jehovah’s Witness families and their views on blood transfusion". According to Queen’s University law professor, Nicholas Bala.

My problem with this coverage of the fifth World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Halifax is the comparison of the issue of blood transfusions in Witness families and child abuse in any form, let alone slavery, bondage, serfdom, child pornography, prostitution and female genital mutilation.

As Mr. Bala rightfully notes, in cases of Witness children younger than age 12, the situation is generally pretty cut and dried - within a blink of the eye, the child is made a ward of the state, given a blood transfusion and then returned to their parents. Although this latter point he somehow neglects to mention. As these children become older (usually ages 12 to 16) and begin to articulate their own religious views, the courts are placed in the position of struggling with how much weight to give to the child’s wishes.

So tell me this, please - although I certainly make no argument against a valid interest in the state intervening if doctors feel a child needs life-saving medical treatment, is this really akin to child abuse?

Unfortunately, I know a fair bit about your more typical child abuse cases (leaving out of the discussion issues such as child slavery, bondage, serfdom, child pornography, prostitution and female genital mutilation for the moment) due to my regular reading and review of such legal decisions in my current work.

Two thoughts come to mind - first, I find it difficult to characterize a parent's refusal to provide consent to a blood transfusion for their child for religious reasons the same way as the horrific stories of neglect and abuse I regularly read and, secondly, trust me when I say that the children involved in such cases where abuse is found are rarely never simply thrown back into the offending parent's care, case closed, end of discussion. At least not these days. Not in this jurisdiction. If a child has been found to have been abused, they are not going back home without, at a minimum, supervision, follow up and the parents having participated in appropriate training and services.

And as far as comparing issues such as child slavery, bondage, serfdom, child pornography, prostitution and female genital mutilation to a parent's refusal of a blood transfusion for their child ... pulleaze. Give. Me. A. Break.

Granted, both child abuse and parental refusal to consent to medical treatment are child protection issues. But in my mind, to lump together child abuse (even in its more common forms of sexual, physical and mental abuse and neglect, let alone it's even more horrendous forms) with the issue of state intervention for children whose parents refuse to consent to a blood transfusion as done in this article is nothing if not disingenuous.

I also can't help but note the article's failure to make any mention of those cases where adult* Witnesses have had blood transfusions forced upon them agains their express wishes (to the extent of doctors tranquilizing patients against their wishes or even having them forcibly restrained). Which, while perhaps not technically relevant in a discussion of child protection issues, might be material in regards to full disclosure on the issue of the interaction between members of this particular religious sect and the medical profession around their medical care.

In the interests of full disclosure, although I most definitely am not a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, I was raised as one and, as such, am quite familiar with both their beliefs and their history.

* See para 26 of the linked decision

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Armed Only With A Bayonet

I'm thinking it would be quite enough of a job just to be an "explosive ordnance disposal operator" in Afghanistan. But how would you like to tackle one of those IEDs without the benefit of your military-issued dismantling gear?

After surviving the first explosion which ripped through the Bison armoured vehicle he was riding in and destroyed his gear on September 28, 2006, Petty Officer (second class) Jim Leith faced the second IED armed only with his wits, training (obviously not to be underestimated) and a bayonet.

The Dartmouth [Nova Scotia]-based specialist wanted to dismantle the second improvised explosive device so he could get evidence against the insurgents who planted it and the first bomb.

He crawled to the IED. Leaning over, he gently brushed away the hot, sandy dirt from the device meant to kill him and his comrades.

"You’re thinking a hundred thoughts," Petty Officer Leith said Monday, remembering that dawn morning, a third of the way into the group’s 72 bomb-clearing missions in the hard-fought Pashmul district.

"If it goes off, I’ll never feel it," he said, thinking he would just be a puff of "pink mist" if the bomb did its job.

He was also thinking about his number two operator, Cpl. Jim Lightle, who had been medevaced out within a couple of minutes of the first explosion. The corporal’s leg had been "shattered," remembered Petty Officer Leith, a navy clearance diver and explosive ordnance disposal operator.

Fortunately, his friend was rushed into surgery at the hospital at Kandahar Airfield and was later airlifted to a forces hospital in Germany.

For Petty Officer Leith, the task of dismantling the double-stacked IED remained. He had to see if it was booby-trapped.

Sometimes, insurgents aren’t content with one or two bombs, they’ll add a grenade underneath for good measure, he said.

"I’d just got my bell rung 40 minutes ago," he said. "You’ve got to make the lonely walk (to the IED). Somebody’s gotta do it."

Dirt brushed away, he cut a wire connected to the IED that had been buried under the dirt.

The earlier blast had destroyed his sophisticated dismantling gear, so he turned to his bayonet.

Using the "nice, sharp pointy end," Petty Officer Leith rendered the Taliban’s IED useless.

He won’t reveal exactly how he did it.

"We’re all . . . trained to do certain things with certain tools. We can’t let them in on our playbook."
It took a full day before the ringing in the Petty Officer's head subsided. To say nothing of his aches and pains from the blast.

In June, 2008, Leith was awarded the Star of Courage which is awarded to those who perform acts of "conspicuous courage in circumstances of great peril."

Well done, Petty Officer. And on behalf of your fellow Canadians, may God bless you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ironic, Ain't It

Loyal reader and fearless commenter, Pogue, pointed out the irony inherent in this story in the comments section of an older post. And he's right, given what is going on in the US at the moment, it is rather amusing to see Canadian doctors being accused of wanting an American style structure.

Sticking with that note of irony, I must admit that that particular point hadn't really jumped out at me as being too noteworthy until Pogue mentioned it. Simply because it's really not new news. Not here in Canada anyway. This particular debate (accusations included) has been going on in Canadian political and medical circles for quite a while.

What did jump out for me from this article was this quote from Dr. Anne Doig, the new President of the Canadian Medical Association:
"It’s not about choosing between an American system or a Canadian system," said Doig. "The whole thing is about looking at what other people do."

"That’s called looking at the evidence, looking at how care is delivered and how care is paid for all around us (and) then saying ‘Well, OK, that’s good information. How do we make all of that work in the Canadian context? What do the Canadian people want?’"
Ironically enough (again), the reason that particular piece tripped my radar was the thought that this was exactly what I have (repeatedly) being trying to say to my American friends (in various formats) in the context of their current healthcare debate.

Namely, that I hope their country as a whole will wake up and see how very lucky they are at the moment in having the opportunity to look at various systems around the world. To see what works and what doesn't. And pull together the best of the best practices to create a uniquely new, uniquely American system that works for them.

Do I think that will actually happen? At this point?

Not so much. But this is one girl that just keeps dreaming.

And who knows? Maybe us Canucks will even learn a thing or two in the process. Now, wouldn't that be ironic!

"A taste for irony has kept more hearts from breaking
than a sense of humor, for it takes irony to appreciate
the joke which is on oneself".
~ Jessamyn West

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Signs of Things to Come?

Even with our new NDP government officially sworn in here in Nova Scotia, I was finding it hard to get too excited. Perhaps I have become more cynical than even I had realized. Perhaps I was just politicked out.

And although I still wouldn't put myself in the category of "excited", there have been a couple of neat things a'happening recently.

For example, I was very pleasantly surprised to see this story concerning the provincial government's initiative to provide "eligible caregivers" in Nova Scotia with financial assistance to the tune of $400 per month to "recognize their important role and support their efforts to assist loved ones and friends". Unless and until one has been there, it's difficult to realize just how draining and demanding that role can be; physically, mentally and financially.

As I was to note that, in my absence, the Province has finally gotten around to launching the long-promised HealthLink 811 program which will enable Nova Scotians to be connected 24/7 via telephone with "an experinced registered nurse" who, we are assured, will be able to "assess the urgency of the caller's symptoms or health condition and advise them on the next steps, such as appropriate self-care, or to seek services from a family physician or another health-care provider, or to visit an emergency department". Meaning it looks like Nova Scotia has finally reached the cutting edge of healthcare given that similar programs have been available for quite a while in other provinces. It's about time, eh?

Last, but certainly not least, our newly-minted Nova Scotia government has lowered the amount of the application fee under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act from $25 to $5. Many of the fees under the Act were dramatically increased when the Conservatives were in power and, despite their own recommendations to the contrary, they were never dropped. Hopefully this will at least somewhat lessen Nova Scotia's dubious distinction as having the highest fees fees in the nation for access to information requests and appeals.

But more importantly, hopefully all of this is but a sign of more good things to come. Hey, a girl can always dream, can't she?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Life Well Lived

Two weeks. No newspapers. No TV news. Only the occasional dose of Lex.

It's amazing how cut off from the world you can feel while away on vacation. I commented the other day that the entire world outside a 100 mile radius could have ended and I might not have noticed.

But as I slowly begin to make my way back into the land of the living (pun somewhat intended) today, I note the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. In all honesty, not something likely to raise much comment from me. Until I realized her legacy, that is. As one of the key founders of the Special Olympics.

Regular readers well know the special place the Games hold in my heart. As if that could ever be in any doubt...

So thank you, Ms. Shriver.

Whatever else you may accomplished in your time, this, alone, is enough to make me and my family eternally grateful.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dear Mom

I miss you so much and some days it hurts so bad I think I will never survive. But I know I will because you would expect no less.

You would tell me that I have a family to think of, who need me to take care of them. And, of course, you’re right.

You would also say that my being sad and crying over you is the last thing in the world you want. You would tell me you want me to live my life, enjoy it and be happy. That I will never doubt. I promise you I will do my best.

You gave me so much. You were my go to person. My rock. Both emotionally and financially. Who do you go to when your go to person is gone? Quite frankly, I’m still trying to figure that out.

You were and are a wonderful mother and an amazing grandmother. We were all so very blessed to have you in our lives. From all the time you spent in the hospital with your one granddaughter to all the hugs, kisses and unconditional love you lavished on the other, to always being there for me, I don’t know how I would have ever survived those early days without you.

I just wish I could have done more for you. I know I had no choice but to put you in the hospital when I did, but how I wish I could have given you what you so desperately wanted and needed and kept you home longer. Please never forget, never doubt how much you were and are loved.

In all honesty, I don’t know what to think. I don’t know whether I will ever see you again or not. But whatever may be, I will never, ever stop holding you in my heart. They say that someday I will be able to think of you, remember the happy times and just smile. I would like to believe that, I really would. In the meantime, I will just remember you and try to smile through my tears.

And I know you will be waiting for that day when you can rejoin Dad, when death will be no more, neither will mourning, nor outcry nor pain be any more, for the former things have passed away.

Until then. I love you, Mom. Always and forever.

Saturday, August 1, 2009