Rights and Responsibility–somewhere in there, should be compassion

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Bob Dylan

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.
Helen Keller

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

― Albert Einstein

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(emerging fall color / Julie Cook / 2014)

The news as of late, has been rife with the stories of the growing cases of Ebola emerging outside of the so called West African “hot zones”—With most cases occurring in individuals who have traveled to and from theses specific hot zone— such as doctors, healthcare providers, aid workers, with a few emerging cases from average citizens who simply wanted to “get away.”

After reading the headlines and watching the latest breaking news concerning this growing global worry, I have become a bit troubled by one story in particular, which has been capturing a great deal of attention. It is the story of nurse Kaci Hickox from Maine, who after returning from Seirra Leone, has refused to be quarantined against, what she claims, to be her will. She was initially detained in Newark, NJ as soon as she disembarked from the plane. Eventually leaving the hospital in New Jersey, heading home to Maine, where the state of Maine has asked that she at least “self quarantine” at home, avoiding contact with anyone and to not leave her home for the requested (note requested) 21 days.

A defiant Hickox has refused, claiming that she is healthy, perfectly fine, and refuses to be a “prisoner” or allow her “rights” to be jeopardized. She claims that not being able to have contact with loved ones, after returning from a stressful situation, is simply too much to ask.

Really?

I certainly do not adhere to the “Henny Penny the sky is falling” school of panic, but I do believe in common sense and responsibility. With any new, scary, unknown factor there is indeed going to be a certain level of concern and even panic on the part of the general population. The thought of a modern day “plague” is very frightening. The unknown itself is simply very frightening to people.
Somehow I don’t think the taking of a defiant stance helps to calm heightened concern.

Modern day science and medicine is indeed a marvel. We have made so many wonderful advancements in the treatments of deadly diseases and viruses, even taking on the so called super bugs as we wage a war of eradication.

Unlike the days of the Middle Ages when those, having contracted leprosy, were required to wear bells around their necks so as to warn those passing near to be cautious and move away as a leper was in the vicinity, we have learned that we cannot contract certain viruses and diseases by mere touch or being in the presence of the “sick.” Yet many individuals are still concerned, cautious and afraid.

It was reported that the local hospital in Ms Hickox’s town has had up to 10 individuals cancel elective surgeries out of concern that Ms Hickox could become symptomatic requiring her to have to go the hospital for treatment. It was reported that she was craving a pizza from the local pizzeria. The restaurant was inundated with calls concerned about her showing up as other patrons did not want to be there when and if she arrived.

Some may consider such behavior in her community as bordering on hysteria, some may see it as merely precautionary. I do believe however that Ms Hickox, especially as a healthcare provider, does indeed have a responsibility to her community—in which she should want to work to ensure calm, reassurance and the bridging of gaps and not create or add to the hype, the rising sense of panic or fear that a belligerent, spiteful and defiant attitude breeds.

I’m not saying that we should give in to hysteria and panic but I am saying that we should be brave enough and smart enough to execute judicious precautionary action. 21 days is said to be the time for the incubation of the virus, should someone having been exposed, contract Ebola. I don’t think 21 days of quarantine is much to ask of anyone coming back from the so called hot zones. We’ve already seen how several healthcare providers, who felt perfectly fine upon leaving the country or having worked with sick patients, eventually came down with the virus.

I find Ms Hickox’s lackadaisical and caviler attitude bordering not on the knowledgeable and scientific and constitutional as she claims, but rather of the selfish. She is hellbent, having already “lawyered up” as it were, on maintaining her “rights” to come and go as she pleases—despite the fact that she has caused contention, consternation and division within her small rural hometown of Maine.

Is it fair to the town, the state, the Nation, or to the Global family at large, to throw caution to the wind and go merrily about one’s individual world while those around are questioning, fretting, arguing, debating, panicking—which gives way to the fact that our lives are not so single and individual as we think but are actually linked inextricably to and with that of our fellow human-beings.

Maybe this all boils down to an inconsistent policy dealing with this new “threat” to humanity as it seems we, our Governments and Medical Communities, are learning on the proverbial fly. Each day and each new case brings with it, its own unique set of circumstances. We’ve seen the quarantining of the pets of victims. Spain opted not to quarantine a beloved dog of a nurse who had come home bearing the virus, but opted rather to put the dog down. Global leaders are grabbling with how best to quell the growing worry of an ever growing weary world. Not everyone is making the most wise of decisions as we continue living in the midst of the learning curve.

Ms Hickox’s responsibility to her fellow human beings, in my opinion, outweighs her so called constitutional rights. To claim one’s individual rights when it is affecting the wellbeing of countless other lives, businesses, decisions. . .particularly when one is supposedly about the business of selflessly caring for others, rings of selfish, self centered egotism.

I’m all for defending our rights and freedoms, but I think we must ask ourselves is it fair to put countless others at risk without a bit of cautious reflection? In this case a time of evaluation and observation of 21 days is the “cost” of being cautious. The responsibility taken to travel to a highly volatile region brings with it obvious risks—those risks don’t simply disappear when one hops in a plane and flies away, leaving it all hopefully behind. There are consequences for all actions, good and bad—if we are willing to jump into a risk filled situation then we must be prepared for the followthrough—in Ms Hickox’s case, that followthrough is a 21 day time period of quarantine. It’s that cut and dry.

Groups such as the ACLU and various civil liberty groups seem to throw common sense out the window just to argue a point. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve allowed “the law” to overshadow reason, compassion and the doing of the right things for and by people. Oh I know what many will say to such, that the law is the law is the law and it is our duty to defend it. . .especially when a body of one, a minority, is concerned. I fear we’ve seen far too often how we now bend over ourselves for the few, often forgetting the whole. . .
As a nurse, Ms Hickox should know that sometimes there are some hard consequences as part of a profession and if a 21 day quarantine is requested, not necessarily required, but merely requested, should not precaution trump the selfish clamoring of violated rights? Could not her self imposed quarantine perhaps not be the best teaching example to help educate and quell fears?

Ms Hickox was selfless in her desire to work with the organization Doctors without Borders–demonstrating a concern and compassion for those afflicted, sick and dying–yet in her having come home, that same sense of concern and compassion no longer seems applicable to her very neighbors as she choses to cause division in her very own community. I’m thankful that she is “free of Ebola” and has returned home, as she continues to claim, very much well and healthy, but the issue here is one of caution, of which she has been asked to observe and of which she is vehemently refusing.

May we be willing to take and bear the responsibilities for our actions. May we work to put the wellbeing of others above our own wants and desires for in so doing we create a more compassionate and kinder global community. May we learn to yield our self governing egos to that of compassion, giving, caring, not demonstrated to but a few, but to all we encounter. . .if I should see that my hellbent desires are causing so much ire, so much pain, so much contention and consternation around me, may I learn to back off, taking on the spirit of gentleness with my responsibilities verses the combativeness of self.

A few observations

“We cannot create observers by saying ‘observe,’ but by giving them the power and the means for this observation and these means are procured through education of the senses.”
Maria Montessori

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(sea algae / Watercolor Beach, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

Life’s a bit hectic right now. . . leaving me absolutely no time at home and very little time to, let alone, think! Yet I have been rather keen to be observant, taking in snippets of life, right and wrong, on my many comings and goings as of late. . .

Earlier this week, on the way to Dad’s, as I was making my way around Atlanta’s autobahn, otherwise known as 285 or the Perimeter, I noticed a glaring billboard advertising, for what I think is to be some new sort of new Fall TV series. . . “How To Commit Murder”—-
Will someone please tell me, why in the world would anyone want to put up such a billboard in a city that once held the dubious rights to the title of Murder Capital of the US? I would think, sadly, Atlanta had regrettably already figured out such, not needing a billboard for instruction. My other question is why would anyone want to use such as a title to a new show, and what kind of shows are we wanting to watch these sad days. . .digressing. . .

After safely making my way on and off 285, arriving safely at Dad’s in one piece, Gloria immediately wants to show me the new bedspread she found for the front bedroom. As I make my way down the hall for the exciting viewing, I notice (observe) that my old bedroom’s door is shut. That door is never shut–not since an angst ridden teen use to reside in there oh so many years ago. It’s the room directly at the end of the hallway which now carries the official title of “Dad’s Office.” The same said office I had come to make some sense over, wading through the accumulated piles of bills, statements, invoices and chaos known as Dad’s world.

“Dad, why is the door to my old room shut?”
“Shut, oh, uh, I don’t know. . .”
“Daaaaad”
“Because we’re not going in there.” (shrugging of shoulders and a little snicker)
“Dad, that’s what I came for, to help you go through the bills. (I feel a battle ensuing)
“Ohhhh, don’t harass me today.” (digging in of heels)
“Dad.” (note stern voice)
“OOOOOhhhhhh NOOOOOO, NOT TODAY! I want a nice day.”
“Dad, you have a nice day every day” (as that is part of the problem). . .

And that is when I tell myself to simply let it go. . .today, we’ll enjoy lunch and a nice visit.
When the time arrives for my departure, I simply tell Dad that he best plan on opening that door next week because. . .I’ll be back. . . (using my best Austrian accent of course)
More shoulder shrugging and snickering.
UGH.

Another observation from today, of which I’ve noted that I must be the only person observing—or the only person that this seems to bother, is looking at the headlines and of the disparaging extremes over what seems to be important and what seems to be an after thought.

Here we have some news headlines touting what seems to be oh so important. . . A Dancing with the Stars participant has a new boyfriend. Oooooo.
Firstly whoever would have thought a show about the grueling (paaalllleeezzzeee) dancing of the famous or infamous would seem so important, let alone the news that one of them has a new boyfriend.
Go figure.

Or what of the slew of TV dramas, aka reality shows, with one of the latest being titled Utopia—of which sounds to me as if it’s anything but. . . maybe that’s the point. If we tend to seek out entertainment in order to avoid reality, then why is it that there is a flood of Reality shows. . .hummmm. . .

We’ve already discussed murder, which equates obviously to violence, which pretty much sums up most of the drama shows. . .we’ll move one. . .
What about the tiring endless obsession we have with our sports figures and of their bad boy behavior? Perhaps we should rethink that whole payment of millions of dollars for “playing games” as their behavior on and off the field is egocentric, childish bullish and piggish. Shame on us for allowing such . . .

Which brings us to the after thought headlines which really should be the REAL headlines—headlines such as:

The latest beheading of the French tourist by Algerian ISIS sympathizers.
Or what about the bombing of Syrian ISIS strongholds which in turn prompts an accelerated US threat. And yet we’re focused on the latest greatest IPhone. We may be facing devastation but we’ll do it with the best new phone out there.

Or what about the potential global political disaster, not to mention medical catastrophe, of those countries battling the spread of Ebola. An estimated 1.4 million cases of Ebola are predicted by the start of 2015. Sheer global devastation with the predicted collapse of several African nations, yet our concerns focus on the “stars” who dance and football players, which we’ve “enabled” to act badly. . .Are we about to get caught sleeping at the wheel again. . .?
Ugh

Or who heard about the thousands who took to the streets in Russia over the weekend to protest Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
Really?
How great is that?
Yet who heard about it?

My life is busy right now.
Busier than I prefer.
And yet there is a world that is spiraling out of control.
Are we all so busy and or preoccupied by the little things in Life, those things we’ve allowed to become bigger than they should. . .so much so that we prefer merely to bury our heads into these things which are to be considered “fluff” and superfluous in hopes that all that is bad, troubling and negative will simply go away?

We must remain observant, vigilant and thoughtful of our world and of those things taking place that need our attention, our help, our sorting and not let the things which are secondary to act as blinders or detractors to the very REAL issues. . .

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Proverbs 22″3

Healing

“I didn’t expect to recover from my second operation but since I did, I consider that I’m living on borrowed time. Every day that dawns is a gift to me and I take it in that way. I accept it gratefully without looking beyond it. I completely forget my physical suffering and all the unpleasantness of my present condition and I think only of the joy of seeing the sun rise once more and of being able to work a little bit, even under difficult conditions.”
― Henri Matisse

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(roses / Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’m traveling bright and early over to Atlanta today, taking my son to a specialist at Emory as we seek some much needed healing of body. Complications from the kidney stones are not getting better but seem to be worsening.

As we travel to Emory I am very mindful that Dr. Kent Brantly is currently in Emory’s infectious diseases facility for treatment of the dreaded Ebola virus he contracted while in Africa treating the growing number of victims of this frightening virus. Tuesday Nancy Writebol, a missionary also in Africa to help those victims of the virus, as well as, the second American to contract the virus, will arrive in Atlanta for treatment.

I am aware, as a mother, how I am concerned over the health of my now grown son–I can only imagine how the families of both Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol must feel. The fear of the unknown coupled by the knowledge of what a virus such as Ebola can do to the human body with a vicious and deadly rate of speed.

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(roses / Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)

Today may we all offer our hopes and prayers for healing.
Healing for all who are currently afflicted by illness of both body and mind.
May we remain prayerful for those suffering in Israel and Gaza.
May we remain prayerful for those in China who were affected by yesterday’s deadly earthquake.
May we remain prayerful for those in Ukraine and Russia as that portion of the world remains in crisis.
May we continue to be prayerful for the families who have lost loved ones on both the Malaysian planes–one downed and one still missing.
May we pray for all in Africa who are afflicted with Ebola.
May we pray for all the healthcare workers throughout this world who work tirelessly to bring hope and healing to all who suffer.

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(roses, Boston Public Garden / Julie Cook / 2014

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5

what’s Preparation H got to do with it?

“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”
― Tennessee Williams

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(an expensive collection of spectacles from over the years)

Two things you may or may not know about me. . .
First, I got my first pair of glasses when I was a junior in college and secondly, I’ve got terrible sinuses.

And if you’ll just hold your horses, I’ll tie in the Preparation H in due time—trust me.
And no, we’re not going to delve into the whole hemorrhoid issue because I was raised that a proper lady does not discuss such in public. And for the record, this is not a tale about that.

My eyesight started out as a tad near sighted coupled by a astigmatism. Meaning my poor eyes did double duty just trying to focus– period. Which in turn meant, at the time, I was not a candidate for contacts—and that was certainly fine by me as I wasn’t too keen on the thought of constantly poking and dabbing in my eyeballs 24/7–or God forbid, I’d lose a contact in my eyeball as it would slip to the back of my eye and eventually into my brain. Ok, I admit I wasn’t up on the physiology of eyes.

It wasn’t until about 5 years ago when I started wearing my glasses religiously. As in now it’s troubling seeing both near and far.

You should also know that as I type this post, I am actually wearing two pairs of glasses. One on top of the other. As in I had to get new glasses last week and they had to mail in my frames to be fitted with the new lens—leaving me up the proverbial seeing creek.
I have had to get by wearing a very old pair which may be doing more harm than good. These old glasses are so weak that in order to see up close and read, I’ve had to put some dollar store readers over the old prescription pair—talk about a new fashion trend. . . as well as a headache–literally!

These substitute glasses are so bad that as I was recently reading an article about the latest, frighting and devastating stories about the Ebola virus spread in Africa it was my understanding that the article stated that the school of thought and latest theory about the spread of this deadly virus is a result of fruit bars.

Fruit bars??
“Oh dear God,”
I practically scream as I immediately think I must rid the kitchen cabinets of any and all fruit bars, when it dawns on me that fruit bars seem to be an odd item for the inception of something as sinister and deadly as Ebola.
I double up the glasses, rereading the sentence—ahhh, fruit bats!!!

Which now brings me around to my sinuses.
I never seemed bothered by sinus issues until I moved to this current town of mine almost 35 years ago. Of which was also the time I started teaching high school art. And you should know that our town is also home to a very large company which I will refrain from mentioning by name but just know that they do things with wire—-lots and lots of wire–all over the world, as in this is a big time global company. They have some smelting plants, retaining lakes, giant smoke stacks, and buildings for this and that important business scattered all over town.
I’m talking big time.

Urban legend has it that the fish living in the ponds near the plants have more than the required God given two eyes on their heads. There are also the stories of the mysterious green glow emitted in the wee hours of the middle of the night from the smokestacks of the plants. And then there are the dead pines and vegetation on the back side of the plant.

Correlation? hummmmm

For the record, I have had two sinus surgeries over the years. The first one on the right side worked like a charm—I could actually breathe and no longer battled an onslaught of infections. I awoke from surgery immediately aware of how freely I could finally, actually, joyfully breathe—it was short of miraculous!
The second surgery, which followed the first surgery by a couple of years, not so much.

There I was laying in recovery, just waking up, when the doctor, who, mind you was wearing pearls with her scrubs during surgery–of which made me feel terribly underdressed, triumphantly announced that all was now clear.
I however had to immediately counter her proclamation.
I knew without a doubt that nothing about my breathing through my nose was clear.
I was still just as “clogged” as I was prior to surgery.

A terrible waste of my money, my time plus my having to undergo a near death procedure as they made me sign all those papers about brain damage, going blind and of course– death. Not to mention a terrible waste of her having to have donned her pearls.

She never did understand that I couldn’t breathe and I never did understand the significance of donning pearls for a surgery.
Perhaps I missed the dress code–something about no make up, no jewelry, no nail polish–but nothing about pearls per se.

I have graciously volunteered for a sinusectomy, which sadly does not exist.
I’ve often wondered why we have sinuses in our heads in the first place. Air pockets inside our skulls which seem to act as ballast, keeping our heads above the proverbial deep waters of life as it were.
Wasted space if you ask me.
Pack um with cement and I’m good to go.

Which brings me back around to glasses, sinuses and Preparation H.

So between my feeling constantly clogged up, suffering from congestion, heavy watery eyes—not to mention the swollen bags under my eyes and pressure in my head, on top of the now strained vision sans my regular glasses as in I’m having to wear two pairs of glasses, I suddenly recalled a little beauty secret that surely could help elevate my latest sinus issues and swollen eyes, not to mention maybe bringing a little clarity to my vision—
enter Preparation H. . .

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There’s a little beauty secret in the world of runway models and photo shoots–Preparation H!
That thick white ointment used for years for the treatment of, how shall I put this delicately., hemorrhoids, or as George Washington would have known about such from his excessive time spent in the saddle.
As in hydrocortisone, as in anti-swelling.

Since the ointment is known for its “shrinking” abilities–once upon a time, some uber chic model out there, had the brilliant epiphany that she could use a little shrinking ointment to eliviate the puffiness under her eyes. Just before hitting the hay, for her much needed beauty rest, this uber model figured she could rub a little Preparation H underneath each eye in order to eliminate all traces of puffiness.

Voila, the secret to smooth, non puffy, eyes.

So last night, feeling way too congested, with lovely swollen puffy eyes and blurred vision too boot, I reasoned that if dabbing a little ointment under my eyes could relieve puffiness then obviously smearing it all over my face would surely help with congested sinuses and blurred vision.
Perfect sense.

After my evening shower, I proceeded to slather the Preparation H under my eyes, over my eyes, on my cheeks, on my forehead, over my nose–opting to leave it layered thick and heavy verses rubbing it in—heavier the better is my motto.
I now appeared a bit aboriginal dressed in complete war paint.

I top off my new beauty ritual with a nice thick layer of Vicks vapor rub smeared underneath my nose.
Nothing like the scent of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus trying to waft its way up through sealed nostrils.

Happily finished with my application of medicinal / beauty treatment, I head to bed.
Just as I crawl quietly under the covers, as not to disturb my sleeping husband— suddenly, with a jolt, my husband pops up, wide awake from a deep sleep as if he’s seen some sort of spirit or apparition.

“What in the world is that awful smell and what in the hell is that all over your face?!”

Maybe I need to work on a plan B.