Monday, December 16, 2013

Are You SAD?

English: Diagram illustrating the influence of...
English: Diagram illustrating the influence of dark-light rythms on circadian rythms and related physiology and behavior. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The carols sing, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." And if you're afflicted with SAD, it's true...Dec. 21st marks the solstice, and the days, thankfully will become longer. Just the knowledge that we're not loosing more sunlight is often enough to turn SAD around.

SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, strikes many people living in northern climates where the daylight diminishes until winter arrives. It comes at the same time of year as Christmas when we're supposed to be happy, and so it also adds a layer of guilt.

Believe me, I know. Every year, beginning in November it strikes me...some years worse than others, and for whatever factors this year it hit me hard. If you checked the symptoms at
you'll know exactly what I've been feeling lately:

  1. depressed
  2. hopeless
  3. anxious
  4. listless
  5. withdrawn
  6. disinterested in my usual activities
  7. craving carbs and sugar (oh, gimme chocolate!)
  8. gaining weigh (see #7)
  9. unable to concentrate
  10. disruption of your circadian rhythms

Is there any way to find relief from SAD, aside from moving to Brazil or hibernating until January when the blazing sun shining on the glittering snow helps brighten the day?


And Yes again.

Yoga Class at a Gym Category:Gyms_and_Health_Clubs
Yoga Class at a Gym Category:Gyms_and_Health_Clubs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is what has helped me:

  1. Talk to someone. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. It's a real condition and someone you trust will understand. Go to a spouse, a friend, a relative, a pastor, or your doctor who can recommend a therapist. You're not crazy.
  2. Photo-therapy. Open the blinds. Buy full spectrum lights and  keep them on when it gets dark. For some people, a light box with intense light helps.
  3. Exercise. I don't mean running a 10K or weight lifting. Dance to the WII. Scrub the floors or vacuum. Go for a walk. Haul wood. Practice Tai Chi. Take a yoga class. Swim. Choose something your area provides that you enjoy. If you go out and socialize, that packs a secondary aid. (See #4).
  4. Socialize. Being with people you lik
  5. e takes your mind off yourself.Now's not the time to try out #1, you're trying to enjoy life like everyone else.
  6. Eat properly. You crave potato chips and chocolate--maybe chocolate covered potato chips?--but they're not good for you. Eat carbs like potatoes or rice or noodles, vegetables, and protein--whether vegetable protein or animal.
  7. Pray. Don't forget that you are love by God. As anyone who loves another, we do not want to see the one we cherish suffer. God understands.
  8. Read Scripture. For me, Psalm 138:8 did the trick. "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; yo
    English: Scroll of the Psalms
    English: Scroll of the Psalms
    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    ur steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands." (English translation)  I struggled with my writing, with my talent, my dreams, my goals. That God would perfect (KJV) or fulfill all His goals, encouraged me to almost giddiness.
  9. Omega 3. Try fish oil capsules.
  10. Anti-depressants. If you're not adverse to using them, they can be an invaluable help in coping.
  11. And number 10 reiterates number 1. Be vulnerable. Not to any old Joe, but to a trustworthy friend who loves you. Let people into your pain, and you will find healing.
Keep in mind--the solstice is only days away. You're not alone--why did society decide to celebrate all these holidays at the dreariest time of year? Why do we had lights to our homes? Go to parties? We need salvation from the dark.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dutch Schultz: A Malone Acquittal

Dutch Schultz Armored Car
Dutch Schultz Armored Car (Photo credit: www78)
When he was acquitted on August 1, 1935, the crowd outside the courtroom cheered. Judge Bryant “who was visibly astonished, disappointed and thoroughly exasperated. In fact, he practically ‘lost his cool.’ ‘Your verdict,’ he declared, ‘Is such that it shakes the confidence of law-abiding citizens in integrity and truth. It will be apparent to all who followed the evidence in this case that you have reached a verdict not on the evidence but on some other reason. You will go home with the satisfaction, if it is indeed a satisfaction, that you have rendered a blow against law enforcement and given aid and encouragement to people who would flout the law. In all probability they will commend you. I cannot!’” (Franklin County Review, vol 12, pg. 27).

Schultz tried to shake hands with the jurors. The first he tried said, “Mr. Schultz, I wouldn’t shake hands with you under any circumstances—especially here!” (Franklin County Review, Vol 12, pg. 27).

But the jury felt the government hadn't proved its case despite having called sixty-nine witnesses to the defense's seventeen.

Perhaps the biggest blow to the prosecution was that “Judge Bryant, at the request of the defense staff, ruled that the famous black ledger containing all the incriminating details of the Schultz organization’s operations had been illegally seized and directed that it be returned. The ledger being the core of their case the Government lawyers were stymied and practically futile without it” ( Franklin Historical review, vol. 12, 1975, p.26 ). This ledger had been meticulously kept, down to the penny, and in impeccable penmanship.

Then during the trial, defense attorney George Moore proclaimed, “the beer business was a hazardous business—our local bootlegger never made much money.”  (Kill the Dutchman by Paul Sann pg. 253).

The above obviously played into the acquittal. Foreman Chapin said, “I am sure that no man on the jury approves of racketeering or anyone connected with it. In fact the jury considers Schultz to be a public enemy. But the fact that he was a racketeer and in the beer business could have no bearing on the case. We felt that the Government did not prove its case. The whole discussion centered around whether or  not he was guilty of willfully evading tax payments We were instructed to follow the evidence that that’s what he did. Pre-trial influence had no bearing whatsoever on the verdict, which was 9 to 3 for acquittal.”

And according to Schultz, “An easy acquittal" (ibid).

Dutch Schultz showed the same generosity to Malone after his exoneration as before his trial.

At Moore’s office, two secretaries accepted five pound boxes of chocolates (pg 27 Review). 
And according to Fredrick Seaver who wrote the quintessential historical guide to Malone, more than one farmer had new cows after the trial.

Schultz tried to shake hands with the jurors. The first he tried said, “Mr. Schultz, I wouldn’t shake hands with you under any circumstances—especially here!” ( Review, Vol 12, pg. 27).

Beyond these things, Schultz did not stay in Malone long.Knowing that Dewey still had it in for him, he set up his enterprise in Newark, New Jersey.

Shortly before his death, fearing that he would be incarcerated as a result of Dewey's efforts, Schultz commissioned the construction of a special airtight and waterproof safe, into which he placed $7 million in cash and bonds. Schultz and Rosencrantz then drove the safe to an undisclosed location somewhere in upstate New York and buried it. At the time of his death, the safe was still interred; as no evidence existed to indicate that either Schultz or Rosencrantz had ever revealed the location of the safe to anyone, the exact place where the safe was buried died with them. 

Gangland lore held that Schultz's enemies, including Lucky Luciano, spent the remainder of their lives searching for the safe. The safe has never been recovered.

Treasure hunters meet annually in the Catskills to search for the safe. One such congregation was documented in the documentary film Digging for Dutch: The Search for the Lost Treasure of Dutch Schultz” (Wikipedia).
Schultz was gunned down October 23, 1935 at the Palace Chop House in Newark, New Jersey.

He survived the initial shotgun blasts and was whisked into surgery. “Before Schultz went to surgery, he received the last rites from a Catholic priest at his request. During his second trial, Schultz decided to convert to Catholicism and had been studying its teachings ever since, convinced that Jesus had spared him prison time. Doctors performed surgery but were unaware of the extent of damage done to his abdominal organs by the ricocheting bullet. They were also unaware that Workman had intentionally used rust-coated bullets in an attempt to give Schultz a fatal bloodstream infection (septicemia) should he survive the gunshot. Schultz lingered for 22 hours, speaking in various states of lucidity with his wife, mother, a priest, police, and hospital staff, before dying of peritonitis” (Wikipedia)

So instead of living safely in jail and running his empire, the events in Malone, New York actually contributed to his death.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Dutch Schultz: The Malone Trial

Dutch Schultz
Dutch Schultz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After living as a free man for his Malone trial, Dutch Schultz was remanded to jail on July 23, 1935. For the first day, he had to endure the same food as the other prisoners. This included sardines, boiled potatoes and cabbage, tea or water--certainly not the fare we serve today. However, after the first day, Schultz could order out.

The jurors for Schultz's trial included many names still prominent in the area today:

  1. Arthur Quinn from Malone--a farmer
  2. Hollis Child from Malone--a farmer--his daughter stated her father said, "(t)he majority, seven jurors, felt that Judge Bryant brought the trial up here so he'd have a bunch of dumb farmers, and get what he wanted." (Adirondack Life,  August 1991, p. 30).
  3. Ralph E. Westcott from Malone--a farmer
  4. Hugh F. McMahon from Malone--a farmer
  5. L.P. Quinn from Tupper Lake--school superintendent
  6. Charles Bruce from Santa Clara--a manager
  7. Leon A. Chapin from Bangor--a farmer--and the foreman of the jury
  8. John Ellsworth from Ft. Covington--a farmer--the last to hold out for acquittal
  9. Arthur J. Riedel from Malone--a baker and related to the baseball commissioner
  10. Hugh Maneeley from Malone--a farmer
  11. Floyd Brown from Owls Head--a farmer
  12. Frank Lobdell from Saranac Lake--a guide
His defense team:

  1. James M. Noonan
  2. J. Richard "Dixie" Davis--“whose task was made more tolerable by the presence of a very well-endowed, red-headed show-girl name Hope Dare, who became the center of attraction and distraction in the crowded courtroom during the trial” (Franklin County Historical Review, vol 12, 1975, page 24). He eventually married and then divorced her.
  3. George Moore from Malone
  4. Robert G. "Bud" Main from Malone
The prosecution:
  1. Martin Conboy--a protege of Thomas Dewey who had vowed to get Schultz/in order to undo the travesty of his earlier trials.
  2. John Burke Jr.
The judge was a former Malone resident: Judge Frederich H. Bryant

For a while, it appeared this jury would be deadlocked. At 7:30 p.m., Aug. 1 as word leaked out of a 9-3 decision for acquittal. Later, only one juror held out against acquittal, John Ellsworth. After 28 hours and 20 minutes, the jury came back with a not-guilty verdict.

Judge Bryant “who was visibly astonished, disappointed and thoroughly exasperated. In fact, he practically ‘lost his cool.’ ‘Your verdict,’ he declared, ‘Is such that it shakes the confidence of law-abiding citizens in integrity and truth. It will be apparent to all who followed the evidence in this case that you have reached a verdict not on the evidence but on some other reason. You will go home with the satisfaction, if it is indeed a satisfaction, that you have rendered a blow against law enforcement and given aid and encouragement to people who would flout the law. In all probability they will commend you. I cannot!’” (Franklin County Review, vol 12, pg. 27).

In the answer to last week's quiz, the Rev. John R. Williams, the pastor of the First Congregational Church, made the national news as he spoke out against Schultz. He said, “the tendency of certain humans to desert spiritual for material gains” (p. 25 Franklin Historical Review, vol 12, 1975), he found it deplorable “that men in high places would fawn over gangsters and that communities would hail them with rejoicing because their arrival meant money.” (Kill the Dutchman, p. 245)

Quiz: How did Schultz's win turn out to be his loss?

Next week: the fallout from the trial

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Monday, October 7, 2013

The Dutch Schultz and Malone: Part 1

Prohibition ended in 1933, but Malone's last hurrah with it came in the summer of 1935 when the gangster Dutch Schultz came to town.

Schultz, whose real name was Arthur Flegenheimer, made his fortune bootlegging. He dodged $92,000 in taxes on $481,000 income. He said he was told he didn’t have to pay taxes on it because it was illegal income.

Judge Bryant, a native of Malone, decided to take him to his home town because he believed Schultz could be convicted. Unfortunately, the jurors disagreed. According to Jean Child, daughter of one of the jurors, Hollis Child, "(t)he majority, seven jurors, felt that Judge Bryant brought the trial up here so he'd have a bunch of dumb farmers, and get what he wanted." (Adirondack Life,  August 1991, p. 30).

In July, members of Schultz's mob began migrating to Malone. They took up residence in the Flanagan Hotel--a suite of rooms on the fourth floor for Schultz, the first floor for the defense team which included local lawyer, Bud Main. Immediately the gangsters began to buy the town.

Schultz arrived on July 17, 1935 with his chauffeur and body-guard, Lulu Rosencrantz.

He played up his role as a wonderful, misunderstood man by making sure:

  1. People knew he served as a deputy sheriff at Long Lake. He had, at one time, for about six months.
  2. Was seen with locals such as Harold Main and Mayor Ralph Cardinal
  3. He went horseback riding with Main's son Robert. There were stables behind his house on Elm St.Young Main and Schultz would ride along a bridle path by the Salmon River.
  4. He'd pick up tabs for everyone in bars such as the Hillview and other nightspots.
  5. He'd leave $100 tips in restaurants.
  6. He'd buy new jerseys for our baseball teams. At this time we had a semi-pro team named the Stars that appeared to play at the Fairgrounds. Schultz shared Mayor Cardinal's box seat.
  7. He'd bring toys to children
And the town loved him, seeing him solely as a man on trial for tax evasion. Even though he was known as a bootlegger, most people, especially near the end of Prohibition, had made and/or sold their own liquor, so they saw Schultz as just a regular guy.

He dressed well. Was mild-mannered. And if he was so bad, why was he only being tried on tax evasion--especially as he had tried to pay the back taxes?

On July 23, 1935, his bail was revoked the trial began.

Answers to last weeks quiz: Who were the two gangsters in the North Country? Obviously, Dutch Schultz in Malone. The other was in Saranac Lake--Legs Diamond.

Next quiz: Which local person made national headlines speaking against Schultz and Malone's buyout?

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Bootlegging Buffoonery

1931 Packard 833 photographed in Montreal, Que...
1931 Packard 833: it'd be a shame to
shoot up this beauty.
Information for this article was found in: Mooney, Elizabeth C. "War on Rum Road." Adirondack Life. November 1980.

Buffoonery in Rumrunning? Yes, some of the things people did in the name of booze was quite funny. And there were no shortages of risk takers seeing as $240 in Canadian hootch netted the running $700 in NYC. A quite handsome Canadian exchange!

Getting to Canada, in those days, was quite easy...head to a neighbor's farm and drive over the back pasture. Voila. Load up your Packard and head on down to the Big Apple.

But what if a revenuer or Malone's Black Horse caught on to you?

  1. through the lever on the dashboard and lay down a smoke-screen. OR
  2. press the air compressor throttle and throw up dust. OR
  3. lay down an oil slick. OR
  4. aim for the prohi (fed) OR
if all else failed, go low tech--toss out the nails and broken glass you stored on the passenger seat. That would flatten any tire.

Fortunately for the bootleggers--the troopers didn't have cars in the early years. Your nemesis road a horse and Troop B of the NY State Police was known as the Black Horse Troop. They patrolled the border in pairs. The Captain of these troopers only had a general idea where their officers were. The bootleggers, via their underground network, knew to a man, where they hid.

Synonyms for the Black Horse Troop:
  • dressed up Boy Scouts
  • Map showing Rouses Point, New York
    Map showing Rouses Point, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • gun-toting tin soldiers
What happened when a roadblock netted a bad guy?

The car was put up for auction, and guess who usually bought it? At least the troopers got some revenue.
How'd the revenuers get rid of the booze?
  • In Rouses Point they tried flushing it down the toilet. But like today, flushing stuff not supposed to go in the sewer had dire consequences. The sewer line burst. It's said the railroad tracks in Rouses Point ran with rum.
  • "Whiskey Gully" (my name) on Webster St.
  • In Malone, uncorroborated reports say Canadian whiskey was dumped on Webster St. About a mile up from Route 11 a gully tuns down toward what is now Wilcox St. and the Rec Park. Supposedly lots of booze got jettisoned there. (I think it's time for a walk to look for some wayward bottles. Should be appropriately aged by now).
And I'll close with a quiz:
Who was the beer baron associated with Saranac Lake?
Who was the beer baron known in Malone?

The answers next week.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Moonshine Madness: The Source of Prohibition Alcohol

Prescription form for medicinal liquor
Prescription form for medicinal liquor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Prohibition did not stop drinking--in many ways it glamorized it. For example, people began flavoring the whiskey with fruit drinks and sodas, making cocktails. o to any bar today and look at the wonderful, colorful creations with the alcohol masked by alluring flavors.

Since drinking didn't stop and bootlegging increased, from where did the populace find its hooch?

  1. They imported it. Canada had no prohibition, so border states would cross the line and buy in bulk and sell at a profit back in the States.
  2. Rum-running is a name that describes exactly what was done. Boats would sail to the Caribbean, pick up a load of rum and sail it back home
  3. Industrial alcohol. Potable booze is made from fruit and grain, industrial comes from wood and is toxic. Wood alcohol or methyl alcohol has a denaturant added. This makes it stink and taste awful. Skillful chemists would remove the denaturant and then flavor was added--voila, a new drink--mortal moonshine.
  4. And speaking of moonshine--this had been manufactured in Appalachia from corn-sugar mash,to avoid excise tax. It became a new pastime. Only, many people didn't know the correct techniques and many toxins were often include.
  5. Wine and cider--most people could make these at home. Vineyards would sell juice making kits with the caveat to not let it sit too long or it would ferment.
  6. Sacramental wine. Many rabbis and priests (or rabbi and priest pretenders) ordered lots of sacramental wine for their huge congregations.
  7. Prescription. Alcohol could be used medicinally. Thus many pharmacies arose.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bootlegging In Malone

Mary Riley Road--top left, in pink
Lost Nation Road--to the right, in blue
Bootlegging was not considered a big deal--thus when Dutch Schultz arrived in Malone, NY for his second tax-evasion trial, no one thought of him as a gangster. Grandpa and Dad both made hooch in the barn.
English: Dutch Schultz 1935
English: Dutch Schultz 1935
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However Malone saw its share of crime from bootlegging--mostly gangsters from the city, but then, as now, our proximity to the border makes this area an ideal spot for smuggling.

Tales gleaned from The Malone Sesquicentennial by a renowned local reporter, Del Forkey, talk about death rides and bootleggers swerving to avoid rabbits but aiming their hulking cars at the feds. Two roads infamous for this are: the Mary Riley Road in Franklin County and Lost Nation Road in Churubusco, Clinton County. Also ill-famed is the Poke-O-Moonshine Road. To the best of my knowledge, that road is in Essex county near Elizabeth town and the popular hiking mountain of the same name.

(My map, with apologies, doesn't show in great detail the location of the roads as my skill with Photoshop is limited, but you can see their locations).

According to Forkey, We were part of a "bottleline" use to stem the illegal flow of liquor from Canada. Our area had seen bootlegging, high-jacking and gun fights. "Malone became occupied by a colorful garrison of prohibition enforcement officers and, in flush years, the community was accustomed to seeing long fleets of seized booze cars brought in almost daily."

Prohibition was enacted with the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 and repealed with the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. Never popular, and largely ignored, by the end little was done to enforce prohibition.

Glossary of terms:
A revenuer--the federal agent in charge of stopping bootlegging
Booze, hooch, giggle juice, mule--whiskey
Cadillac--one ounce packet of cocaine or heroin
Micky, Micky Finn-a drink spiked with a knock-out drug
Rot gut, bathtub gin--prohibition alcohol
Speakeasy--an illegal bar disguised as something else

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Bootlegging: Then and Now

1930 Model "A" Ford - Deluxe Fordor ...
1930 Model "A" Ford - Deluxe Fordor Blindback #170-B (Photo credit: Timothy Wildey)
Wending my way to Ellenburg, I run into an old friend, Sgt. Martin (or whatever you call the border guys). He sports Elvis-styled sideburns and a gun. Yikes. You know I stop, not because I'm an Elvis fan. We meet on a regular basis--either on Rt. 11 of 190.

 Fortunately, Sgt. Elvis isn't interested in me or what I'm toting in my suitcase. He's looking for drugs or aliens (of the earthling persuasion), and he knows this old granny doesn't fit the profile of a drug runner.

And speaking of profiles, Sgt. Elvis fits that of North Country law enforcement fighting the opportunism of a rural border which allows good to happen--like the runaway slaves and the Underground Railroad--as well as bad.

But my tale deals with Prohibition which became law on November 18, 1918, and according to Del Forkey in the Sesqui-centennial of Malone: 1802-1952, "...a complete history of this region's part in the 'dry era' would contain some rather stirring, blood-flecked pages, including everything in the rum-toting category from bootlegging and high-jacking to running gun fights through the streets of peaceful villages" (87).

Ouch. And Sgt. Elvis thinks we have it bad.

The bootleggers means of hiding booze aren't different from drug hiding today--in the woman's bloomers (which is why they grope us in airports), baby diapers, false doors in their cars. And they loved BIG cars (carried more Mountain Dew aka hootch). Some bootleggers became such good drivers they could spin the car around and then aim for the law officers. Or they'd use decoy cars--autos that would speed off in an opposite direction allowing the one loaded with white lightening to flee.

 I love this stunt the best. A bootlegger would get through the road blocks and then be hijacked by another bootlegger who now didn't have to face the 1920's Sgt. Elvis.

 These booze runners were depraved. One even went so far as to dodge rabbits skittering across the roads, but he'd aim his car at law enforcement officials.

 Forkey claimed most of the villains were outsiders like the infamous Mobster Dutch Shultz and Legs Diamond. I'm not so sure. Many arrested for drug dealing aren't native, but many are. And we must remember:
     What has been will be again,
   what has been done will be done again;
   there is nothing new under the sun. Eccl. 1:9
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kidney Quest: Surgery & Recovery

Cardiac operating room
Cardiac operating room (Photo credit: Ruhrfisch)
If you are anticipating becoming a donor, the hardest part has past once the day of surgery arrives. The procedure is much like any other peritoneal surgery.

  1. You will be taken into the OR.
  2. You will be given an IV and anesthesia.
  3. You will have a breathing tube because the anesthesia suppresses your respiratory system.
  4. You will wake up and discover you have save a life.
The recipient will follow the same procedure. In our case, my brother's procedure began about two hours after mine. He had the adjoining OR.

Your recovery will be a bit more difficult than the recipient's. The surgeon must penetrate the peritoneal cavity. So the next day you will have a liquid diet.

The kidney is implanted in the peritoneal pocket. This is a section under the hipbone. My rail-thin brother can feel the kidney when he bends. Because the surgery is not as invasive, the recipient will be on a full diet the next day.

The donor will be released in one to two days, and you can return to work in about a month. The recipient will be released in about four days.

If you have any questions about what to expect, please feel free to leave a comment.
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Kidney Quest: Last Tests

In the last week, you will have the last tests. For us, the test came five days before the transplant. Alan and I returned to Mount Sinai for final testing. Since the HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigens) can change, within a week of the transplant, the recipient and donor must be re-matched to be sure we were still negative antigen reactive--i.e. he won't reject my kidney.

Alan had to have an X-ray and CAT scan. We both needed to be examined by an anesthesiologist. Alan had to be seen by the doctor who would do his surgery. I had to see mine.

So on surgery minus one week--you can expect:

  1. an additional cross matching
  2. and X-ray and CAT scan
  3. a check-up by an anesthesiologist
  4. a check-up with the surgeon
Site of kidney extraction:

Formerly, ribs had to be removed and the kidney was taken out from the donor's back. This left the donor in a lot of pain and often produced unsightly bulges in the muscles. Donors complained, so doctors began taking the kidney from the front. Still, ribs had to be removed.

Once laproscopic surgery became feasible, the kidney had generally been removed near the navel and no ribs were taken.

My doctor took it one step further. He would remove the kidney near the pubic bone. This would leave the scar hidden by bathing suits or underwear. I nice thought for a single, fifty-year-old!

It took us three months to complete everything. However, all the tests can be completed within three weeks. Most of the time and effort is spent before the surgery.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Kidney Quest: Interlude--The Last Days--Perspective

Night lights
Night lights (Photo credit: dlanham)
Our kidney transplant would take place shortly after the results for the MRI and sonogram came in. I returned home. Within a week, I knew everything was a go, and I needed to make my final journey back to Mount Sinai for our last tests scheduled for November 13. My brother-in-law flew his Cessna up to Malone, and whisked me back to New York City.

I sat in the back of the plane and studied the world beneath my feet. The sky was dark, the ground studded with lights. I watched the cars snake along mountain roads, watched light pool in towns like Lake Placid, saw them flood Albany. This scene always mesmerized me, made me realize how small we are, how vast the world.

Inside those tiny lights lived people, many with big problems, but how small they seemed up here. The perspective made me remember Isa 55:8-9. "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,"  declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" We struggle here on earth and forget the big picture. We forget our suffering, in the scheme of eternity, is slight and is short in duration. Life hurts everyone. No one is left unscarred. We have to remember that God sees all, has all in perspective and cares more about each of us than we can fathom.

The peace in the sky lulled me to sleep. I awoke as we flew over the Long Island Sound, a black desert with no boat lights on this dark and foggy November night.

We descended through clouds, trusting instruments to make a safe landing. In a few days, I'd be trusting more technology to keep me and my brother safe. My life would be in the hands of a skilled physician. 

No matter what trial we face we have to remember two things:
  1. Keep all in perspective.
  2. Keep all in God's hands
How about you? Have you let life distort your vision of the bigger picture? How have you let go and trusted God?

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Kidney Quest: The Final Sonogram and the MRI

Once blood tests have been completed, two additional tests remain: an ultrasound of the kidneys and an MRI.

an image of kidneys from an MRI
Most people today have had ultrasounds. The most difficult part of this test is the cold jelly. Like stethoscopes, I believe the jelly is stored in the freezer before use. But the ultrasound test is surprisingly comforting. The cool gel relaxes. The tech kept the lights dim, and the slow rotation of the trandsducer probe--the probe that sends the sound waves to the computer, felt like a soft massage--a belly rub which lasts about fifteen minutes.

The ultrasound checks the health of the kidneys, but a more detailed test must follow. This is the MRI or magnetic resonance imaging. This will test, in depth, the blood vessels and the kidney.
An MRI representation

How the MRI Works:
  1. You are slid into a large open tube so that the kidneys are central to the imaging
  2. The MRI can make images along any plane. The CT can only take it alone one plane and then the patient needs to be re-positioned.
  3. The magnet in the MIR is one-thousand times stronger than the earth's magnetic field. Thus stethoscopes, paper clips, pens, etc. can be unexpectedly pulled out of pockets and hurled toward the magnetic center.
  4. Patients are screened for metallic implants. If a patient had a staple or pin implanted at least six weeks prior, he or she can safely withstand the magnetic field because scar tissue builds up and holds the pin in place.
  5. The MRI works with hydrogen atoms.As the magnet of the MRI works, the atoms essentially line up along the magnetic field, with the MRI either pointing toward the patient's head or feet. However, enough don't, and it's from these that we get the image.
  6. MRIs have no radiation. The only drawback is for those with claustrophobia. Since can be in the machine for over an hour, the closed space terrifies some people. But today, we have open MRIs--so essentially, no complications from the MRI unless the patient develops an allergy to the dye.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kidney Quest: Blood Tests: AKA The Vampire Syndrome

After Mt. Sinai sucked my blood dry like a vampire falling off the wagon, my brother-in-law flew me home in his Piper. Autumn had settled over the Adirondacks and the land below me danced in orange and red and green. Dying, in the natural world, is beautiful.

Neil picked me up at the airport and drove me home. There I had a message waiting for me. Mt. Sinai had not drawn enough blood for all their blood tests. Would I please come in at my earliest convenience?

Hmmm--I took a day off to have these blood tests done. Now they needed more. Done in NYC. Not Malone. Told me Malone wasn't good enough.

Okay, I showed them the error of their ways and they faxed a script to Alice Hyde Medical Center. Once there, the phlebotomist came in with labels for nine vials of blood.

NINE! Donating keeps vampires in business.

So what is tested through blood tests?
  1. chicken pox
  2. rubella
  3. electrolytes
  4. white count syphilis
  5. toxoplasma
  6. hematoligical systems
  7. clotting mechanisms
  8. glucose intolerance
  9. liver function
  10. pancreas function
  11. HIV
  12. herpes
  13. hepatitis A, B, C
  14. CMV--cytomegalovirus
  15. CBC
If you are planing on donating, be prepared for an alphabet soup of blood tests.

Oh. And the last indignity? They handed me a urine specimen cup. Apparently, the twenty-four hours worth wasn't enough!

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