Wednesday, 23 December 2009

On American racism

Let us try a thought experiment.

Imagine that Hamas has a legitimite gripe with an Israeli general - say, someone they claim is responsible for killing civilians in Gaza - and wish to kill him. On hearing that he is visiting the US, they arrange a bombing. This bombing - which may or may not kill the general - kills 49 American civilians. Images of mangled corpses of women and children fill TV screens.

The response would be obvious. Regardless of whether you supported the right of Palestinians to struggle against Israel or not, such a bombing would be universally condemned. It would be taken as a sign that Hamas was beyond the pale, and needed to be exterminated. Even if it was the other way round, with Israel attempting to assassinate a Hamas leader, it would be universally condemned. No-one has the right to blow up scores of American civilians as part of an assassination attempt, right?

The US just murdered 49 Yemeni civilians - including women and children - trying to kill a Al Qaeda leader.

Now, I was thinking - "would they ever send cruise missiles into NZ?" Would places like Aotearoa, Australia, or Canada ever find 50 civilians murdered in an explosion as the US attempted to kill its enemies?

The answer is, of course, no. For some reason, predominately white, English speaking people would never have to fear the same violence the US feels entirely justified in visiting on Arab countries. I wonder why...?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

On trudging up that hill again

Last summer, I decided to branch out on my exercise. I'd pushed myself into regularly doing 10 km walks and conquering Wellington's hills - I was climbing Mt Victoria three or four times a week, sometimes before going to work. So I borrowed a mountain bike from my uncle, the biking fanatic, and started biking. Towards the end of the summer, I'd worked myself up to 50 km road trips on the weekends (taking the train out to Paraparaumu and biking/walking back).

At the end of it, I tackled the Rimutaka Rail Trail, including biking to it from Upper Hutt and biking into Featherston. Took me hours, I got lost near the end (they could signpost the Cross Creek area better) and had to climb a fence and cut over a farm, and I was cramping up that night badly. But I did it. I'm proud of that.

This summer, I had intended to do it again - starting with reborrowing the bike and getting back into the road work. Additionally I had joined up with a gym to work on the rest of my body. My eventual goal was, in two or three years time, to work myself up into tackling the 150km Otago Rail Trail over three or four days.

I never got to use that gym membership. In between the initial payment and my intoductory session, my back suddenly went into agony, and you know the rest.

Now I get tired stumping around on crutches for 10 minutes. I'm looking at Mt Victoria now and cringing - it took me a long painful time to get my fitness up to the point where it was a pleasure to climb it and now I'll have to do it all again. Starting from learning to walk on my own two feet again.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

First you save yourself...

I've been away.

To be exact I've been away in hospital. On a Wednesday, I was sent home from work with my back problem flaring up. Over the next few days, it got worse and I only got through with the help of a friend. On Monday, I staggered to the GP to get a blood test, and was whipped into an office for an examination. And then an ambulance was called. At the ER, I was stuck quickly in an assessment bed, had saline inserted and was considered stable. Being a busy day, the ER then bumped me down the priority list and I was admitted to a ward in the wee small hours of Tuesday.

It was pretty obvious that it was a bit more than the initial diagnosis of "musculo-skeletal pain". A fair bit was dehydration - saline was pumped into me for three days. I had had a MRI scheduled for later that week; I was bumped up in priority along with the trauma victims and other serious problems, and scanned after hours.

I hate MRIs. As a test it is apallingly stressful; they have to sedate the claustrophobic.

I have an infected spinal disk, pouring pus into abscesses in my back and into my spinal canal. They monitored me for symptoms of nerve damage (past the continual pins and needles in my feet), ready to whip me into major surgery, while pouring huge amounts of antibiotics into me continously, inserting a PICC line after a while. The doctor pointed out the problem was both life and limb threatening. A CAT scan and biopsy got a sample of the bug to see to what it was vulnerable, while ultrasounds and punch biopsies looked at other problems.

I was in hospital for 23 days, most of it confined to bed. I played several long games of Civ 4 and Medieval Total Wat, and got a black belt in sudoku. Some nurses are very good at patient care and some are just petty dictators or mere jobsworths - and so it goes for any profession.

I am now at home, watching DVDs of "Outrageous Fortune" while lying on a couch and very painfully getting around on a walker frame. I have community nurses coming in every day tro check up on me and push antibiotics through the PICC line careful to maintain sterility. I also have clinics and therapists scheduled, contact numbers, and instructions for going straight back if things go wrong. It looks like I'll keep the use of my legs, and wind up with a fused disk.

Being in New Zealand, the stay cost me nothing. In fact, being confined to bed for most of this period helped my bank balance significantly. I had to purchase six drugs from a pharmacy afterwards - 5 of these were subsidised and cost me a nominal $14 (including slow release morphine); one painkiller was not, I chose to keep getting it, and I paid $80 for the privilege of a 2 week supply. I'm on sick leave while I need it, the medical services cost me nothing while things like Meals on Wheels are cheap.

I dunno how much I'd be facing in the US either with or without insurance, especially since some of the other problems were "pre-existing conditions". My worries involve pain and keeping this line into my veins sterile; they do not involve a huge debt, keeping my job despite being off for two months or more, or choices about paying for necessary care to support me at home.

Keep telling us socialised medicine is no good.

BTW, the title comes from a favourite Greg Johnson song.