Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

I’m Actually Starting To Like This

There is not a parent in the world, who does not wish that their children never got old. The innocence of laughter, finding security in knowing the parent is going to be there for them, Little Einsteins.

I am one of those parents who has left three-inch divot skid marks, being dragged into the later years of my daughters childhood, one now actually of adult age. I most certainly miss the days of teaching to ride bikes, riding kiddie rides at amusement parks, watching performances, and of course, helping with homework that I could understand (at least in the first half of their elementary school).

All this is good. I know my responsibility as a parent is to teach them, to be a role model for them, to prepare them for that day that they eventually are out on their own. But I was having so much fun. Now, it is getting serious. They have actually mentioned boys. There are conversations about after high school. The things that I say and do now, are the things that they will remember, not necessarily follow my advice, but I will be in their ears at least.

I have emphasized to my older daughter, the need to register to vote. Of all things that she does as an adult, this is the one thing that will have an impact on her, each year of her life. She was upset that she missed the last presidential race, but looks forward to the next one. But having a father who spend a short period in local politics, this was an opportunity to teach her the importance of local political elections.

While it is hard to conceive that one vote could make a difference in a national election, that one vote can make a difference for sure in a local election. And where my daughters live, there is a very important election this year. And I have told my daughter, her vote will definitely make a difference.

This was also an opportunity for me to teach her, that elections are not just about showing up and casting a vote. As she prepares to register to vote, she already has an idea of where she stands politically, and proudly, the acorn does not fall far from the tree. Anyone who has followed politics over recent years, has likely heard the phrase “disenfranchised voters.” My daughter understands that.

I do not know if she will register with a party or as a non-party, and that is her choice. I will always respect that. But the one thing that I have heard from her that is encouraging, is that she will not tow a party line if there is an issue that she does not support. Good for her, in more ways than one. This means, she is actually going to look at the candidates that she will vote for. She will want to make sure the candidate best meets her values and interests.

Her sister is not far behind, but is still trying to figure out her direction. There is concern on her part, that she does not have a “focused” interest, like many of her friends. Both of my daughters have had their share of participation in recreational activities, as I tried to find their interest and keep it. And it is a parent’s choice, which direction is taken, whether to push forward, in spite of apathy or disinterest, or to allow the child to look into something else. And that is the path that I had taken.

I explained to my daughter, that she should not be discouraged because she has not “found” her interest yet. I explained to her, that it is all about finding the right one. She has no problem with application, she gives 100% whatever she does. But it is about keeping her interest. And then I threw this curve ball at her. That I was the same way, tried all kinds of things, not having one main hobby or interest. It was not until I got into adulthood, that I discovered two things that I truly am passionate about, and one of those came about by fate. Music is 100% in my blood. I have always enjoyed writing and public speaking. And it is since my diagnosis with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that I soon realized this was what was meant to be.

In the meantime, I will keep encouraging her to keep trying anything that has her curiosity. It would not surprise me one bit, ten years from now, she has returned to something she enjoyed in her childhood, and will make it what she wants to enjoy out of life.

I do not have many memories of my childhood to compare them with the adult conversations that I have had with my parents. But you know what? I am really starting to enjoy the more grown up chats with my daughters too. Now if I could just get the one to stop making me squirm with some of the topics (an intentional act on her part).

I Wish The Defense Would Give It A Rest

Like many, I am following the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. And as I have stated before, the purpose of my post is not to promote or refute any particular verdict in the case. That is my opinion. That is your opinion.

Instead, I do want to focus on an issue with the testimony that is really upsetting me right now, and pushing my limits when it comes to my PTSD with my cancer survivorship issues. While some focus on what they feel is the primary reason Mr. Floyd died, it is the defense’s job, as well as the prosecutor, to prove or disprove that there were any other possible main reasons. And to do this, attorneys bring in experts, in this case especially, medical experts. Testimony must be given from issues related to pulmonology and cardiology.

As a reader of my blog, you know I am an unintentional “expert” by default in these two areas because of the many long term issues I deal with health wise from my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Enter Dr. Martin Tobin, of Loyola University Medical Center. Dr. Tobin is an acute care physician, a pulmonologist, and an academic with so many recognitions for his work and research in pulmonology and physiology. I have had my experience with another doctor similar to Dr. Tobin, so when I heard Dr. Tobin give his testimony, I knew that Dr. Tobin was the real deal. The problem for me, too real.

Dr. Tobin gave great detail, in verbage that all could understand, how the pulmonary system works. He even demonstrated various examples of the system and conditions. Watching him give his testimony, whether you have experience in the field or not, you understood what he was trying to get across. And then, he started talking about certain conditions that had occurred during the now viral video of Mr. Floyd’s death. I will not go into all the details, because they are quite graphic, and have no relation to my own particular issue.

But one term has come up, repeatedly, Hypoxia. Hypoxia in its simplest terms is “a lack of oxygen.” In medical crisis, this probably happens a lot, and as a patient, we are not usually aware of it happening, unless we read the medical reports where it would be noted, like I do. The court proceedings constantly flipped back and forth between using the terms Hypoxia and Asphyxia, which in the end, imply the same thing, the difference that Asphyxia is more or less the results of the Hypoxia. Either way, it is a lack of oxygen. And that is what is being claimed as leading to the death of Mr. Floyd.

What does that have to do with me? Following my first event of long term survivorship, my emergency double bypass for a “widow maker” heart blockage, a diagnostic test was being performed on me. It was a test that required a level of anesthesia (so that I would at least not be aware of what was happening). I was not told initially, but when I returned the following year, to have that test performed again, I was to undergo a deeper level of anesthesia than previously because, as it was explained to me, “something happened.”

Now, at the time, I had no idea what “something” was. And the copies of my paperwork did not go into detail either. I spent a long time trying to find the right person to explain to me what “something” was, and then I found her, a nurse in my care. She gained access to the testing records. She obviously did not want to get too technical with me, so she just explained what happened. I “had a problem breathing” during the test, evidently because of being so relaxed from the anesthesia, my trachea, weakened from progressive damage from radiation therapy had collapsed, restricting my ability to breath.

There was not much more discussion after that. No big deal was made of it. However, any further diagnostic procedure I had, or surgical procedure, and it involved anesthesia, I made sure that the treating physician was aware of this “incident,” even though I did not know what to call it. And that was that. My warnings were obviously heeded as I underwent many procedures without further incident, until a couple of years ago. Someone did not listen.

Now a routine procedure I had gone through at least five times over the years, my warning about my breathing was ignored. And something happened. Only now, this time, I got the actual report. And there was a word that I had seen for the first time, ever, Hypoxia. The report explained that during the procedure, I had experience Hypoxia, and that the procedure needed to be stopped, so that I could be “stabilized.” Keep in mind, after I had come to and recovered, it had been explained to me that there was an “issue” with my breathing, but it was brought under control, very casually. Later on, I would find out, that “stabilized” meant, needing to get my oxygen levels back up. I needed help with my breathing.

Spoiler alert, I am here typing this post, so obviously I survived. And now, I have a word to throw at doctors who order procedures on me requiring anesthesia. That is great. It gives me more credibility to say “I have a history of multiple Hypoxia events” as opposed to “something happens to my airway when I am relaxed from anesthesia.”

But it was during Dr. Tobin’s testimony, where he explained the effects of Hypoxia, the symptoms, and the results that occur. And this is what has jarred me. Up to this point, I have not given much thought about these incidents that I have had. With both prosecutor and defense attorney questioning Dr. Tobin, I could not avoid hearing just how serious it could have gotten for me. After all, it was the lack of oxygen that led to Mr. Floyd’s death.

The most disturbing effect of Hypoxia I discovered during the testimony, is the effect on the brain. And that the brain requires 20% of the body’s oxygen. It is also the first recipient of the oxygen. The lack of oxygen, Hypoxia, would result in less oxygen to the brain, and clearly could result in brain damage. How often have you heard the importance of a rapid response when it comes to CPR on a non-breathing, no pulse patient, having only minutes to spare when it comes to brain damage? This is what everyone refers to.

Unlike Mr. Floyd, lying face down in the street, I was in a medical facility, being treated right away for the Hypoxia. As soon as it was recognized, I was being taken care of, and spoiler alert… again, I am here to tell the story. Hearing the testimony of Dr. Tobin, I have an even greater appreciation for not only the efforts to save my life, but to help me maintain my life.

To say I was overwhelmed by Dr. Tobin’s testimony is an understatement. I know too much of my conditions to grasp just how serious they really are, and now to hear another expert repeat what I already knew.

I immediately reached out to many other long term survivors with the news, that there may just be another resource to help us, when it comes to dealing with our pulmonary issues from radiation damage and chemotherapy damage to our lungs, especially if located in the Illinois area. We can use all the help that we can get.

Then it was the turn of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker. The focus on his testimony was cardiac related as any questions relating to Hypoxia and Asphyxia, he often deferred to having limited knowledge, and to recommend pulmonologist testimony for accuracy.

The focus on cardiology was due to the fact, that Mr. Floyd had pre existing cardiac conditions. I will spare all of the details for the purpose of this post, as it is a comparison to my health that I am trying to draw, and I am not a smoker or drug user. But it is the conditions of Mr. Floyd’s two main coronary arteries that of course caught my attention.

Again, this is something that I am very familiar with. I had a double bypass of my left anterior descending artery back in 2008, almost thirteen years to the date in fact (this was what I referenced as the “widow maker”). And then I had a stent placed in the right coronary artery a couple of years ago. As the medical examiner testified, these are two of the main three arteries. I had repairs done to both. How bad were they?

In discussing Mr. Floyd’s pre existing cardiac conditions, both of his same arteries were blocked at about 75%. As the examiner stated, this was a serious enough level that could lead to a fatal event (hence, the “widow maker”), especially with any kind of stress. These are in fact serious numbers. But there was a part of me sitting there observing thinking, “hmph, 75% is nothing, mine were blocked 90%.” Nothing to brag about for sure. And to be honest, the first time, though I had symptoms, and simply ignored them, it was the second artery surgery that I had to expect some day.

You see, with my history of radiation damage, mainly scarring, doctors avoid wanting to go back in again, and again. Healing and bleeding become serious issues. So, as is the case with many of my issues, we sit back and wait. We watch the conditions get worse, until the risk of doing nothing, becomes worse than the risk of corrective surgery. Think of it as a ticking time bomb. And that is what took so long with the second artery for me, as well as other pending issues that I have.

But again, that is the benefit that I have. I have doctors watching me, able to respond, treat and manage my situations. Mr. Floyd did not have these options available to him on May 25, 2020. The defense wants the jury to believe that it was cardiac and pulmonary reasons that caused Mr. Floyd’s death instead of what Dr. Tobin and the medical examiner testified. And honestly, if I were a juror, because of my experiences with medicine, I have no doubt in the credibility of Dr. Tobin and the medical examiner and their testimonies. I lived through it.

Frustrated By Bystanderism

Like many, I watched the horrific murder of George Floyd in May of last year. And then I watched the anger, the fear, and the wreckoning of understanding that racism is still a major problem in this country, seemingly no better than decades ago, only now, massive awareness.

Like many, I have been watching the trial of the murderer who took the life of George Floyd. Like the jury, I have seen new unseen video footage, including from bodycams and other angles.

I want to be perfectly clear, I support our police and other first responders. And there is a huge difference from a cop that accidently takes the life of a suspect or in self-defense, and one that blatantly disregards human life. No matter how the defense attorney tries to deflect away the true cause of Floyd’s death with accusations against the victim and finding faults in the various witnesses including first responders and police supervision, his client, in the end, well, we all witnessed the same thing.

The average person may not understand all of the medical terminology being thrown around in this trial, but unfortunately, many of the terms are all too familiar to me, given my extensive history as a cancer survivor. I know the terms hypoxia, RCA, lactic acid, and many of the other terms, because they all deal with cardiac concerns, of which is one of the health issues I deal with.

But, besides the fact, that Floyd lay unconscious, unresponsive for as long as he did until paramedics arrived, and the murderer remained on the neck of Floyd ignoring his obligation to be responsible medically for the victim has left so many scratching their heads, what else could have been done, since the killer would not relent.

In the schoolyard, probably all of us at one time or another, had witnessed a fight on the playground. Two combatants in the middle of a huge crowd, being cheered on. Likely, one fighter a bully, the other the target. Or perhaps you witnessed someone being pushed around publicly in a restaurant. Witness a parent just wailing on a kid’s ass in a grocery store? There are three participants in an act of bullying, the bully themselves, the target, and the third, the bystander. This is the person who for whatever reason, is unable to stop or prevent the assault from going any further.

The reasons of the bystander(s) can vary from apathy, to fear and apprehension, physical, or even health issues. If you really want to understand the mind of a bystander, you could not have a better example, than those who witnessed the murder of George Floyd. Testimonies by the many witnesses who gathered at the scene, finding their words as the only method to try and stop the murder. Sure, there will be those who will claim the behavior and language only enflamed the situation. Really? Could you picture yourself at that scene? All you had to do is watch the testimonies, and you could see why there was no easy solution for them to save the life of George Floyd. We see a fight… we try to stop it, and get hurt in the process. We see a cop killing an unarmed, restrained, and unconscious human being, if we lunge at the officer, the only thing that clearly would have prevented this killing, we would have been shot by the other officers at the scene.

My friend, fellow Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, actress, author, Annie Lanzilloto did what she does best a couple of days ago, put her feelings, the way many of us feel, into words. With her permission, I am sharing the gut-wrenching monologue and video. An advocate for many causes, these words strike a hard reality. And that there is the possibility as history is witness to, justice still is at risk to not be served in the end. Floyd will still be dead. And we will still not have an answer, how to protect others from those who are supposed to protect us.

With that, I present the text and the video about “Bystanderism, the risk of stepping in,” by Annie Lanzilloto. Annie, these words are perfect!

“It’s Good Friday, and the crucifixion is happening every day. Bystanderism is unbearable testimony in the Chauvin case. The guilt the underage witness Darnella Frazier feels, saying, “I’m sorry George.” Meanwhile without her witness and steady hand, where would we be? Frazier’s video is the gospel of the Passion. It is how we best know what happened second by second. The helplessness and rage of off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansen and all the witnesses. What they have to bear is unbearable. If they rushed the officers, they would have been shot. Yes I wish we all bumrush bullies of one stripe or another—that the three Marys tackled the Roman guards and got all three guys off the crosses, that we could all be like Todd Beamer and passengers on flight 93 on 911 headed for D.C. rushing the terrorists together, that the doormen in the lobby tackled the attacker of the Asian senior citizen woman on 43rd Street as he stomped her. Me? I cut my baby teeth on my father’s kneecaps biting through his green work pants as he shook my mother by her hair in the Bronx, 1969. Baby teeth are sharp. Bystanderism. The mortal risk of stepping in, I know well, as I got kicked across the room, into the piano. The guilt the witnesses bear and do not deserve. Kitty Genovese, 1964. What have we learned. Where are we? Who are we? And the horror of the Defense message about “interfering with police business” this Passover, Easter Week, and Spring Break, the timing of the Chauvin case on the calendar when we all are home watching. There are only two kinds of people now: when you look at George Floyd, do you say, “He is me,” or “He is not me.” He is me.”

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