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Friday, September 24, 2010

On Gratitude...

I have much to be thankful for on an everyday basis.  A healthy family.  A supportive husband.  A secure job.  Wonderful friends.  But, recently, I have learned, I have much more to be thankful for.

This week has been overwhelming.  The response to the recent incident on Kol Nidre has been more than I have ever imagined.  From people close to the family, from my community and from complete strangers.  It is like getting a great big virtual hug.  Many times a day.  And it is heartwarming.  

Ok...and I LOVE the blog traffic.

And, in my usual fashion, I have questioned my role and the bigger meaning of it all.  Truth be told, the recent "publicity" has been a bit uncomfortable.  Good or bad, as a doctor, my job never ends.  It is a constant responsibility, as it should be.  I consider what I did to be an extension of that job.  My duty.  To put my knowledge and education to use when someone needs it most.  Not a hero.  Just lucky.  Right place, right time.  Able and willing to help.  Along with many others, who put forth great effort to make a difference.

In Yiddish it is called Beshert.  Meant to be.  Beshert.  I was near this man and able to help.  Beshert.  This man happens to be the uncle to one of my former partners.  Beshert.  Many doctor friends at the hospital continued to care for this same patient.  Beshert.  That I have a forum to discuss my thoughts and reflect on what happened.  Beshert.  That these words, told directly from my heart, could reach his family and loved ones so quickly.  And that they touched a nerve with them.  And with you.  And that you may have been kind enough to share my story with others.

I spoke with the son of the patient and he expressed his gratitude to me.  He told me about his father.  That he is his hero.  That this was not his time.  That he is a patent attorney, and still working.  That his mind is sharp and he is a thinker.  And that he is kind and generous man.  

I told him that the AED saved his life.  Because it did.  This little machine, that can be operated by anyone, restarted his heart after its electrical system went awry.  That he would not be here if someone had not bought that machine.  Right place, right time.

And then he told me something that made all of my doubts of heroism go away.  Something that made me think less about the science of sudden cardiac death, and more about the meaning of his spirit.  

That machine saved his heart, but you saved his brain.  

He is more than his body and his beating heart.  He is a devoted father.  A loving husband.  A generous member of the Jewish community.  A thoughtful attorney.  And in those few moments before his heart was "restarted", we preserved all that.  For him.  For his family.

There are times when we are reminded how precious this gift of life is.  This, for me, is one of those times.

Thank you for your taking the time to read my post and for sharing your thoughts. 

On a more academic note:

Here is important information about HANDS ONLY CPR.  If you are faced with a situation like the above, you do NOT have to be a doctor to save a life.  You don't even have to do mouth to mouth resuscitation.  PLEASE watch the short video for a demonstration.  

I have also included a link to a handout that I give to all parents to put in their cupboards should their child need help.  Click the above link and then select the 2nd box entitled "Choking Prevention".  PRINT this.  Put it someplace you will remember.  You will need it in an emergency.

If you have never seen an AED, watch this video so you could use this simple device if needed.  It could save a life.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Kol Nidre to Remember...

It was the holiest day of the year.  Kol Nidre.  The night before Yom Kippur.

I entered the synagogue after a filling meal preparing for my fast.  Running late as usual.  Looking around to find my family and my seat before the service started.  There they were. In the usual place.  We embraced.  Ready to be inscribed in The Book of Life.

Then it happened.  Something I was totally unprepared for; yet, I had spent years of my adult life preparing for this actual moment.  I turn to the elderly man seated next to me, he is slumped over in his chair; no breath, no pulse, no life.  His heart had stopped.  In this most sacred of places, on this most holy of nights.  Right next to his family.  Just as he was to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

I remained calm and my doctor instincts took over.  I have done this before, so many times, so long ago, it seemed.  Yet this was so different.  The hospital is a safe, controlled environment.  There are masks and medicines and respirators and IV lines.  Here, there is none of that.  Just a bunch of well trained physicians and other caring members of the community wanting to help.  Praying that this breath would not be his last.

He lay across on the chairs where we were seated.  I felt his neck and confirmed that he was without a pulse.  Delegate.  Someone call 911.  Start compressions.  I look down.  It is my duty to give him a breath.

ABC.  Airway.  Breathing.  Circulation.

No bag and mask.  No comforts of the familiar "code blue".  I bent down and began to breathe for him.  And then started chest compressions to circulate the blood that needed to get to his brain quickly.

He was moved to the hallway.  The life saving device was there.  An Automated External Defibrillator.  Another doctor placed the pads, called all clear, and the life sustaining shock was delivered to the patient.  The patient, a husband, a brother, a father called Abba.  It had been about 4 minutes.  It seemed like an eternity.

And then a breath.  And with that, a return of a pulse.  And his eyes opened.

"Abba, don't leave me", his son insisted.  "I am here with you."

Time passed, EMS arrived, the patient was stabilized and transferred to the hospital.  He was awake, combative and breathing on his own.  On his way to a recovery.  From death, back to life.

I returned to the service trying to decipher what had just happened.  But before I could gather my thoughts, before I could process this moment, the following words were spoken:
Great is the eternal power at the heart of life; mighty the love that is stronger than death.  Faithful love gives life to all, the acts of grace restore our strength.
Words I have heard every year at this time since childhood.  Yet tonight, they took on a new meaning.
Life's harsh winds uproot the weak; its hard rain beats down upon our kin.  Let those who stand support the falling, keep faith with those that lie in the dust.
And while I would not classify myself as deeply religious or even necessarily spiritual, it was hard to hear those words and not feel as though they were being spoken directly to us.  To all those who helped bring this man back to life.
To the sick, we must bring healing; and to those that are bound, release.  We give thanks for the power to live and act, for the blessing of love that is stronger than death.
Was there some divine intervention that put me in this place?  Was this night not supposed to be his last?  Could his family's blessings of love save this man from death?

I sat through the rest of the service and continued to reflect on what had happened.  I spoke the words that I have every year, tonight, with more conviction.
Birth is a beginning, and death a destination.
And life is a journey: 
from childhood to maturity, and youth to age;
From innocence to awareness, and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion, and then, perhaps, to wisdom;
From weakness to strength, or strength to weakness--
and, often, back again;
From health to sickness, And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion
And grief to understanding---from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat--
Until, looking backward or ahead, 
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, 
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning, and death a destination.
And life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage--
To life everlasting.

May this year be a happy and healthy one.  L'shanah Tovah.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flu Shots...Important Information

So with flu season rapidly approaching...I want to provide some information to my readers about this year's flu shots to answer some important questions.

Flu shots are recommended for all children over the age of 6 months.  The flu can be a serious illness in any child, regardless of their previous health status.  If you have a child under 6 months, the best way to protect them from the flu is to get yourself immunized.  Unfortunately, the most devastating effects of the flu can be seen in infants, so be sure to protect yourself and your baby.

Essentially, the only TRUE contraindication to the flu shot is an egg allergy (or a history of Gullian Barre Syndrome within 6 weeks of a flu shot, though this is RARE).  Both the intramuscular vaccine and the nasal mist are manufactured inside of eggs, so egg allergy means no vaccine and even more frequent hand washing.

Though the H1N1 pandemic officially ended this summer, there is still a risk for this type of flu.  This year's flu shot is a COMBINATION of the H1N1 shot and the seasonal flu vaccine.  Though there were (unwarranted) concerns early last year about the safety of H1N1 vaccine, millions and millions of doses were given last year with no increase in adverse events reported.

For kids:  Who needs what and when...





This year, as in years past, there will be 2 forms of the flu vaccine available.  The Flu Mist is a live form of the flu virus and can be given to healthy children over age 2 without any lung problems or immune compromise.  There is a risk of MILD upper respiratory congestion with the flu mist.  The intramuscular vaccine is available as well and this is a KILLED form of the flu virus.  You cannot get sick from the flu shot.

There is even more recent data proving that there is NO association of autism with vaccine preservatives (thimerosal).  However, there is plenty of preservative free vaccine available.  All vaccines for children under 36 months is preservative free.  The preservative free vaccine is in the individually stored syringes and does not need to be drawn up by the nurse.  Ask your doctor what type of vaccine they are using if you are concerned.

The best time to get the flu shot is EARLY IN THE SEASON.  The immunity will last well beyond this flu season and there is no sense in being unprotected early in the season. So, call your doctor and find out if they have received their shipments of shots.  And don't forget the importance of hand washing!

Click here for more information from our friends at the CDC.

Stay healthy!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dear Daughter...

I am a working Mommy.  Always have been.  Probably always will be.  Right now, I am very comfortable in this place.  But I have not always been.  Before and after having my first baby I struggled with this idea.  In fact, at one point, I became resentful of my career path knowing I could not wave good bye (temporarily) and be welcomed back.

I grew up with a SAHM.  She was always around.  To drive us anywhere.  To run our errands.  To take care of us when we were sick.  Would I be a less of a mother if I was unable to do all of these things?  Or would my work add to my children's experience and my own and make me an even better parent?

Jury is still out on this one.

Today I ran across this article by Lisa Belkin of the NYTs in her blog "Motherlode".  Apparently, 8 years ago, there was some research indicating that children of parents with working mothers were cognitively delayed compared with those with SAHM's.  Scary.  Luckily, 4 years ago when I had my child, I was blissfully unaware of such research.

However, in light of the fact that about 60% of mothers actually work when their children are under 6, these same researchers decided to dig a bit deeper and follow these children through 1st grade.  They did confirm the mild cognitive delay among children with working mothers in the first year of life.  However, they go on to state that the other benefits of having a working mother offset this "harm", and the overall effect on development is, in fact, neutral.  These benefits included "greater maternal sensitivity, a higher income, and that these mothers were more likely to find high quality child care."

But actually, that is not what I found so compelling about the article.    At the end of the piece, she talks about a woman who is returning to work after maternity leave and is struggling with the decision.  She decides to write her child a letter to explain her reasons for returning to work. 

What a fabulous idea.  If I would have wrote such a letter here's what I would have said:

Dear Precious Daughter,

Your life has changed mine in this very short time.  I spent many a days wishing and hoping for someone as special as you to come into my world.  I loved feeling you with me, knowing that I was never alone for the last 280 days of my life.  Although I have continued to walk (quickly) through my ever so crazy life, I have never stopped thinking about your well being.

The day you were born changed everything.  I am now part of my own family, forever bonded to you and your daddy.  I have spent the last 8 weeks loving you, changing you, feeding you and nurturing you.  And I have loved every (sleepless, exhausted) minute of it.

But now it is time for me to go.  I promise will not leave you.  I never would.  But I must go back to this thing I call my career.  It calls to me at night, albeit, differently than you do.  It, like you, wants to be taken care of and nurtured.  And although I may try to suppress its voice, its calling will not be muffled.  And I cannot let it go.

Before you came into my life I made a decision to pursue a higher education.  I have worked hard, shed countless tears and sat through endless lectures to get where I am today.  I have a brain that is full of knowledge about the body and its inner workings.  I can help people with the information I have learned.  Through my work, I can feel fulfilled and challenged daily.  I can have time to think.  I will have time to read.  And learn.  And talk to other adults.

I can work to give you more in your life than you would have if I didn't.  You can help keep me balanced and grounded.  You will remind me of what is important.  And no matter what, you will always be my first priority.

I know you will be better for it.  I want to be a role model to you.  I know you will have so much to give to this big world one day.  I, too, have much to share.  And I know you would not want me to give this part of myself up.  And, luckily, I don't have to.

I have invested time and resources to ensure that you are well taken care of.  You will be around other children and caregivers that will teach you.  I hope that you see that a woman, a mommy, can be smart, educated, stimulated and balanced.  I promise I will not waste these days.  I will be proud of myself.  I hope you will be proud of me.

If I close my eyes I can picture you as a mature woman.  I see us talking about your path.  I know you will have struggles just like I did.  I wonder what choice you will make for yourself when that day comes.  I wonder what kind of example you would set for your daughters.  And I hope that you will make a decision for yourself that will make you feel fulfilled and comfortable.

And I will always be proud of you.  Because you are my greatest accomplishment.
                                                                       Love always,
                                        Your Mommy

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Women's Group

I have been uninspired on the blog front lately.  Maybe my mind is too quiet.  I should consider this to be a good thing in life, just not for blogging.  So I polled my Maj group about potential blog topics and they suggested I write about...the Maj group.  I like that idea.  I'll run with it.

The maj group (now known as the women's group) was formed in effort to allow our group of women to have a weekly excuse to leave the house and not put their kids to bed.  Ok, and to have wine.  We wanted a social game.  We wanted to eat guacamole (too much of it).  We wanted our brains to be challenged.  We learned this game which is a combination of luck and skill.  Some of us have mastered it more than others.  But the group over the past year has become much more than a forum for this (ever challenging) game.

It is a forum for ideas.  For sharing.  For relating.  To help us all do better.  And maybe even  to be better.  And no topic seems off limits.

We talk about things that are VERY superficial.  Who will win the bachelor and why we continue to watch.  What is set to record on the DVR.  Who is the craziest of the housewives.  What will be our new fall purse.  Where are the best places to find bargains on things that we don't need that cost too much.  About celebrities and movie premieres and US weekly.

We talk about things that are sort of superficial and sort of practical.   How to make your hair straighter.  Where to get a facial.  About a new type of nail polish that probably is just the same as the old nail polish.  About exercise and body woes.

We talk about all things baby.  How to breast feed.  How to swaddle.  How to make it all work.  What products you must have.  How to make your husband help.  How to soak in all that baby love.

We talk about taking care of the kids.  What we buy at the grocery.  What we pack in the kids lunches.  What vegetables are a hit with those that refuse.  About which dance class is best.  About teachers and buses and mommy friends.

We talk about things that make us worry.  About careers.  About homes.  About children.  About husbands and marriages.  About in laws.  About families.  About fertility.  About life.

We give opinions.  Ones that not you may not hear.  The ones that are honest and real and straight forward.  The kind of advice that can only be given when someone really gets the road you walk on.

And they get it because they listen.  Every week as life goes by.  On Monday night at 7:30 we pause, we play and we discuss.  For a couple of hours that seem to go by on fast forward.  Then we go home, and live.

Until the next week, when we do it all again.


Do you have a group of women that you can bounce ideas off of?  
What is your excuse for a get together?
Have you ever played Maj?  [if should start!]  
What do you think of the 2010 card? [I hate it!]