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Is this how it begins?

Is this how it begins?
Not saying something bad has happened here
but if it did ‒- How would you know?

Is it because you are so old
or so fatigued with waiting
that all you want to do is
Leave
that you don’t notice the missing
information
and you don’t think
even though you are well-trained to think
(but you are not employed at this time)
anything of it?

No doctor’s name
No diagnosis
No codes

Is this not an invitation to bad events
Even if you do not know
they may
or may not
have happened.

You will not know
what happened
until the report arrives
from Medicare
and your secondary insurer

And then
if you are merely charged a few dollars
for something that never happened
after two insurers have paid the provider
(bigger bucks)

Will you notice then
Or will you simply pay the small remainder

perhaps ‒- just as the other 2,000 patients
in the practice
who are also
too old
too sick
too busy
to give it a thought

And if you ask
And they say
It was all a Mistake
Will you believe that, too?

It’s Not Just About the Mosquitoes

The essay is about mosquitoes, where they live, the harm they do, and how to get rid of them

But it isn’t just about the mosquitoes

The grandmother extracts a sheaf of browning paper, folded in thirds, from a dark drawer where the essay is stored to keep it fresh.

Academic
For $10 Prize

is written on the back of the folded packet.

Ten dollars is what a child can earn if she works really hard, thinks about life around her, and waits for the opportunity.

Ten dollars is a significant amount to earn in 1904.

You could learn to write well enough to earn $10, she says to her grand-daughter ‒ the grandchild who loves to write but has nothing to say because her life has not yet offered sufficient fodder even for a poem.

Poems are harder than essays, the grandmother says. You should begin with essays.

The mosquitoes on Long Island carried Malaria and Yellow Fever. They were nothing to be trifled with, and the need to locate and exterminate them was worthy of the effort it took to walk the paths of the village and to locate ponds and marshes and cisterns where the mosquitoes laid their eggs.

The essay does not merely locate the mosquitoes. It names names. Names villages that have since disappeared, names neighborhoods where names have changed. Names names of families on the lands where the mosquitoes flourish.

The serious teenaged writer could be a not-so-subtle activist, naming DeForest and Valentine and Prime and Townsend, Brush, Gaines, Lowndes, the Episcopal Parish House, Scudder and Dowden’s Tannery as hosts to unwanted and dangerous insects.

Contamination plays a role, and the 16 year-old woman-child names them: the dumping ground that has been closed but still is being dumped upon, the tin cans holding water and encouraging insects.

She exposes political irresponsibility, the villages where a boundary crosses a marsh. Cold Spring is willing to control the bugs, but Oyster Bay is not, and so Huntington residents continue to be endangered.

Infrastructure and failure to maintain it also take a hit:

Last February the mill dam at Cold Spring broke through and left a large opening so that the water ran through and left St. John’s lake entirely empty except for a mass of mud and pools of stagnant water… the banks of the mill race on account of the ill repair they have fallen into furnish a foot hold for the mosquitoes and on account of the numerous springs the sides of the road leading to the depot are often filled with water.

The child grew into a journalist and a poet, her future already foreshadowed in this prize essay that was about mosquitoes and people and responsibility and facts gathered through investigation.

The child has told her grand-daughter about the Town of Huntington and who was living there in 1904 if they had water on their grounds.

If a child were to write this essay today, the essay would remain inside a folder in the teacher’s desk to avoid causing offense to people named in the essay. It would not win a prize. Her parents would be called in for a discussion about discretion and libel.

The grandmother, if she were here today, would pride herself on doing it again: Finding the mosquitoes and naming their human hosts. She did not want to get sick from those insects. She did not want anyone else to get sick.

And so ‒ she would do it again.

Here is the place to go for information on patient safety.
Here is the place to hear voices of patients who have been harmed.
Here is the place to find the voices of survivors of those who have died due to medical mistakes in the hospital.
Here is the place to go for action to make hospital care safer for all of us.
http://safepatientproject.org/

Here is the place to go for information on patient safety.

Here is the place to hear voices of patients who have been harmed.

Here is the place to find the voices of survivors of those who have died due to medical mistakes in the hospital.

Here is the place to go for action to make hospital care safer for all of us.

http://safepatientproject.org/

Yanling Yu is one of my colleagues on the Consumers Union Safe Patient Network.  A gifted scientist, she utilizes every ounce of energy she can summon to bring attention to the patient safety hazards that can potentially harm any one of us. 
Here is her father’s story as Yanling Yu told it in her letter to her congressional representative as part of our new initiative:
Today is my Dad’s birthday.  Sadly, he was not here to celebrate with us because he was killed by preventable medical errors.  Six years ago, my disabled, elderly Father was given an off-label medication that carried two contraindications for his medical conditions and was warned for a risk of a life threatening reaction. Unfortunately, without medical emergency, all critical drug information was withheld from my Dad and my family, preventing us from making an informed medical decision. The misuse of the drug caused a cascade of hospital-acquired complications, including open bedsores, acute heart failure, acute respiratory failure, and acute renal injury. He died only two weeks after being admitted. However, none of these hospital-acquired adverse events were reported by the hospital, and no one took any responsibility for his death. 
Unfortunately, my Dad is not alone. A recent estimate shows that as many as 440,000 patients die of preventable medical errors each year, making it the third leading cause of death in our nation.  Medical harm has become an epidemic and a public hazard in the U.S. health care.
That is why we are writing to you. In the enclosed letter that was signed by both of us and our 32 patient safety colleagues around the country, we urge Congress to step up its oversight on patient safety.  As we explained, preventable medical errors have profoundly impacted many people’s lives and created a significant financial burden on this nation. While there have been many state and federal efforts to improve hospital safety, the progress has been frustratingly slow.   
Therefore, we are urging the Congress to take action to protect the citizens of this country from preventable medical harm and to save more lives. To receive medical care free of harm is a human right. 
 

Yanling Yu is one of my colleagues on the Consumers Union Safe Patient Network.  A gifted scientist, she utilizes every ounce of energy she can summon to bring attention to the patient safety hazards that can potentially harm any one of us.

Here is her father’s story as Yanling Yu told it in her letter to her congressional representative as part of our new initiative:

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  Sadly, he was not here to celebrate with us because he was killed by preventable medical errors.  Six years ago, my disabled, elderly Father was given an off-label medication that carried two contraindications for his medical conditions and was warned for a risk of a life threatening reaction. Unfortunately, without medical emergency, all critical drug information was withheld from my Dad and my family, preventing us from making an informed medical decision. The misuse of the drug caused a cascade of hospital-acquired complications, including open bedsores, acute heart failure, acute respiratory failure, and acute renal injury. He died only two weeks after being admitted. However, none of these hospital-acquired adverse events were reported by the hospital, and no one took any responsibility for his death.

Unfortunately, my Dad is not alone. A recent estimate shows that as many as 440,000 patients die of preventable medical errors each year, making it the third leading cause of death in our nation.  Medical harm has become an epidemic and a public hazard in the U.S. health care.

That is why we are writing to you. In the enclosed letter that was signed by both of us and our 32 patient safety colleagues around the country, we urge Congress to step up its oversight on patient safety.  As we explained, preventable medical errors have profoundly impacted many people’s lives and created a significant financial burden on this nation. While there have been many state and federal efforts to improve hospital safety, the progress has been frustratingly slow.  

Therefore, we are urging the Congress to take action to protect the citizens of this country from preventable medical harm and to save more lives. To receive medical care free of harm is a human right.

 

The natives are restless — and not just the Sporks. 
Tomorrow a group of patients rights activists from across the country are launching an initiative to move things ahead — as usual, one step at a time.  Thirty activists plus Consumer’s Union Safe Patient Project.
http://safepatientproject.org/
Those already injured by medical error — and 440,000 patients die “before their time” each year because of medical errors in the hospital and many more are harmed — know that it can happen to anybody.
http://www.propublica.org/article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals
The huge number of those who died before their time includes Millie Niss (1973-2009) who created Spork, Sporkworld, and who devoted herself to patient advocacy for the mentally-ill and for the chronically-ill.  She had served as a board member of Rhode Island’s NAMI.  She had made trips to Washington to meet with her congressional representative.
Her expertise did not save her.
Worse, she had often predicted and feared that someone would make crucial mistakes and cause her to die before her time.
So, although an adult, she had a plan.  Like so many children of any age, she demanded that her mother Fix It.
And many mothers and fathers and children of these harmed or deceased people are trying to do just that.
The rest of us — those who have yet to be harmed — don’t want to think about it.
That is very understandable.  It is unpleasant to think about it.  But if we don’t think about it, we open ourselves up to harm, because — meanwhile — nothing is being done to address even the most easily corrected problems.

The natives are restless — and not just the Sporks

Tomorrow a group of patients rights activists from across the country are launching an initiative to move things ahead — as usual, one step at a time.  Thirty activists plus Consumer’s Union Safe Patient Project.

http://safepatientproject.org/

Those already injured by medical error — and 440,000 patients die “before their time” each year because of medical errors in the hospital and many more are harmed — know that it can happen to anybody.

http://www.propublica.org/article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals

The huge number of those who died before their time includes Millie Niss (1973-2009) who created Spork, Sporkworld, and who devoted herself to patient advocacy for the mentally-ill and for the chronically-ill.  She had served as a board member of Rhode Island’s NAMI.  She had made trips to Washington to meet with her congressional representative.

Her expertise did not save her.

Worse, she had often predicted and feared that someone would make crucial mistakes and cause her to die before her time.

So, although an adult, she had a plan.  Like so many children of any age, she demanded that her mother Fix It.

And many mothers and fathers and children of these harmed or deceased people are trying to do just that.

The rest of us — those who have yet to be harmed — don’t want to think about it.

That is very understandable.  It is unpleasant to think about it.  But if we don’t think about it, we open ourselves up to harm, because — meanwhile — nothing is being done to address even the most easily corrected problems.

All are accounted for and the Mama Robin is in a rush.

Fledgling #1 flew into the next yard and fell behind an air conditioner compressor in a yard normally occupied by dogs that chase birds, but the dogs are away. Once rescued by its mother cheeping orders, it sits on a rock and poops.

Mama rushed from that crisis to Fledgling #2 apparently asleep on the birch branch.

Fledgling #3 is on the edge of the nest.

Busy Day — One of the Busiest

And soon we will regain our front porch.

Fledging.  First fledge is on the birch branch.  Second fledge is on the edge of the nest.  Mama Robin is advising from the ground and has fed Fledge #1 once.

Third robin was present on June 17th.  It may be down in the nest.

We’ll see.

Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic, Connecticut

Be careful what you seek
Consider hiding what you find
Your ancestors were not all angels
Your family pride may be misguided
There are bodies buried here
Who carried secrets to the grave
And you are on the verge
of finding what might better be left
buried although if it is solving
riddles of strange inheritances
that you are after perhaps
this advice is incorrect

So here it is:
The father known and loved
born February 2nd 1913
(which you knew)
and his father who was born
March 22nd 1886 his birth date
written in his own hand
on the WW I draft card he signed
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1919

Milwaukee was a surprise
that caused no pain
Boston-bred and Boston-raised
in Wisconsin?

This grandfather we did not know
This grandfather whose name was never mentioned
This grandfather about whom
no questions could be asked

It wasn’t because he moved his wife
and son to Milwaukee

His death date unknown
No Social Security account

This gets us closer to a truth

The packet of postcards
found among his mother’s papers
ordered destroyed by the son
was not destroyed by our mother

More to the point:

If it was so important to burn those cards
Why didn’t he do the incineration?

The packet of postcards has surfaced
with the emptying of the house
on Clinton Avenue and after
both the son and his wife had died

Now viewed and read and partially
understood by grandchildren
who knew this grandfather
by silence and surmise

Mystic, Connecticut
February 12, 1913
A father wrote to his 10-day old son
at home in Massachusetts:

I don’t think you would be as comfortable
here as you are now.
A little colder.
Love,
Papa

His 20 year-old wife
who had just given birth to their first child
at home in Massachusetts — was he there for the birth?
Was he there for her recovery?
And if not him, then who?

Mystic, Connecticut
August 29, 1914
A father wrote to his toddler son:

Dear little Sonny
Daddy sent you your first post card
a year and a half ago from here, dearie.
What’s on the other side?
"Water." "Water." Lovingly,
Daddy

The handwriting so different from the earlier card
two scenes of the Mystic River
The second with a view of the graveyard at Elm Grove.
Sends a cemetery card to his 18 month-old son
Signifying ‒