Friday, July 29, 2011

Racin' N Prayin'


Last Saturday night, the NASCAR Nationwide Series made its second and final stop of the year at Nashville Superspeedway. Carl Edwards won the race completing a season sweep of the year's Nationwide Series races at the track. However, Edwards' win was not what has had people talking this week - the invocation given by Pastor Joe Nelms has been the "buzz."

If you have not heard or seen the video of the prayer, you can do so by clicking here. Some have said that only a NASCAR fan can really appreciate it, and that may be true. I attended the Nationwide race at the track back in April when Nelms gave a similar invocation thanking God for the drivers of the past whom have passed on. I've heard and read differing opinions of Nelms' prayer. Some have loved it, while others have referred to it as "irreverent" or even "blasphemous." I even know of one Baptist preacher who referred to Nelms as an "ignoramus" (and to any of my church family reading this, it was not our pastor.) Was Nelms' prayer different from most prayers ? Yes, and I can see how some people could be offended by it. The question is - who's right ? Is it Pastor Nelms or his critics ? Please indulge me as I offer my two cents, for what it's worth.

There is no doubt that Nelms is a big NASCAR fan. You can hear his enthusiasm for the sport and feel the heart and energy that he puts into the invocation. He is correct that the Bible teaches that we should thank God for everything. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, it says, "In every thing give thanks : for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (King James Version). Based upon this scripture, I don't think Nelms' invocation was irreverent, though it was different. Pastor Nelms loves racing and he was thanking the Lord for it. If he was blasphemous, then I guess some would think some of my prayers are, too. For instance, when I'm in the deer woods or the turkey fields and I harvest an animal, I usually thank the Lord for that deer or turkey because it is healthy food He has provided for my wife and I. I also thank Him for blessing me with the quality shotgun or rifle I used to harvest the animal. Does that make me "blasphemous," too ?

Some have implied that Nelms was just trying to be funny or entertaining with his prayer and wasn't really sincere. That is possible, but I've learned through the years that God has a sense of humor, too. He has revealed that to me in some of the lessons He has taught me. However, as Nelms explained in response to his critics (click here), this type of invocation is something he has done before. He wants these pre-race invocations to be different hoping that they might get someone's attention that needs the Lord. The fact is that whether Nelms was trying to entertain or praying from the heart is something none of us will never know. Only he and God do, and it's between them.

Personally, I don't see a problem with Nelms' prayer. Many today don't want anything to do with church or Christians. It may be because of a previous bad experience with church or because Christians are perceived as not having any fun because they have to follow too many "rules." They may view "church people" as hypocrites. Therefore, I think Pastor Nelms is refreshing because he shows that Christians are just regular people like everyone else. We have interests outside of church, and we do have some fun. Plus, his prayer may have touched someone who was in the stands or watching on TV who isn't a Christian nor attending church but going through a tough time. They might need something to hang onto, and Nelms' prayer might be the one thing that draws them to church where they can find the peace they're looking for in Jesus Christ.

Lastly, I've been going to church since nine months before I was born. Over the years, I've learned that each Christian's faith is a little different. Each of us relate to God a little differently and our relationships with Him are as different as each of us are. Sometimes I think that the fact that we take the time to communicate with God and spend time with Him in prayer is more important to Him than the actual words we say. At a time when it seems that God is being pushed out of every aspect of our society, I'm thankful that we still have the freedom to worship Him as we see fit. I'm thankful that NASCAR still welcomes Him to the race track with a special pre-race "invitation" each weekend, and I'm sure God is thrilled to receive it and that He always honors it, even if sometimes it's a little ..... different.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

New liver transplant technique

Liver superiorThe normal technique for preserving donated organs is changing. Normally, prior to transplantation into the recipient(s), donated organs are cleaned by flushing them with a cleaning fluid. The fluid is left in the donated organ which is then placed in cold storage until transplant. The problem with this method is that sometimes wastes can build up due to the stoppage of blood circulation. However, a new technique is changing the process for the better.

Donated organs remain viable for transplant for a relatively short time after donation, and the time varies depending on the organ. For instance, hearts must be transplanted within four hours after donation and livers within twelve. Kidney preservation times are longer. Recently, medical personnel have began using a technique called Hypothermic Machine Perfusion to preserve donated livers significantly longer than twelve hours. Basically, the technique works like a kidney dialysis machine. Special tubes are first connected to the donated liver's artery and vein. Then, a small cardiopulmonary bypass pump is connected to keep blood circulating. The technique simulates normal liver function which allows oxygen and nutrients to continue flowing.

Hypothermic Machine Perfusion will be a real plus for the transplant community. It will allow for donated organs to be preserved longer, be healthier at the time of transplant, and begin performing quicker in the recipient's body after transplant. In fact, tests have shown that the technique can safely increase the viability time of donated livers by at least 50% and maybe even double the time to 24 hours in the future !!!! This could allow for the donor pool to be expanded resulting in fewer lives being lost each day due to a shortage of donated organs.

Currently, the technique is primarily being used with donated livers. However, I think it's possible that in the future it could be expanded and used with other donated organs, too. What it boils down to is that increased organ preservation times equate to healthier donated organs and more lives saved. That is without question a good thing.

Isn't technology great !!!!!!!!

Source : article on titled Preserving Donor Livers, the New Technique

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Saves for Gavin

Gavin Scimeca, one year-old, was diagnosed with Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD) shortly after birth. Doctors say he will need a kidney transplant in order to save his life by the time he is five. The estimated cost is $500,000 for the transplant and Gavin's parents must pay $100,000 of that. Since Gavin's dad, Tony, is a police officer, it presents a difficult challenge.

One young man, Sean McCann, has stepped up to help start raising the money now. As the senior goalie on his Park Ridge High soccer team, he's began a pledge drive in support of Gavin when soccer season starts in September. Sean is currently seeking pledges for each save he makes during the soccer season in order to help Gavin and his family. The name of the pledge drive - "Saves for Gavin." In case you're wondering, Sean made a 102 saves last year. So, the pledges could mount up pretty quickly.

If you would like to help with the pledge drive, you can do so by visiting Or, you can send an e-mail requesting a pledge form to You can also donate via a check to COTA (Children's Organ Transplant Association) made out to "COTAforGavinS" and mail it to 334 Rivervale Road, River Vale, NJ 07676.

Source : article on titled Saves for Gavin Fundraiser Seeks Support

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Memphis Redbirds hosting Organ Donor Night

Suite seatsImage by theogeo via FlickrThe Memphis Redbirds are having Organ Donor Night on August 13, 2011 at AutoZone Park in Memphis. Game time is 6:05 PM CDT. Fans will be encouraged to register as organ and tissue donors at the game. The National Foundation for Transplants will have a table set-up to register interested fans. Fans who either register at the game or show that they have already registered will be entered into a drawing for prizes including a keyboard and an autographed team jersey.

In addition, the Redbirds will wear organ themed jerseys that night, a silent auction will be held on those jerseys, a transplant recipient will throw out the first pitch, and a fireworks show will take place after the game. It should be a fun night to support a great cause. If you live in the Memphis area, please go check it out.

For more information about the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT), please visit their website at

Source : 

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The NRA - incompetence, or just not 100% pro-gun ?

Back in May, the controversial and poorly named "Patriot Act" was extended for four more years by Congress. The bill has been constantly debated since it's passage due to the additional, and arguably unconstitutional, surveillance powers it gives the Federal government. Even the ACLU, whom I usually disagree with, is on the right side this time. They have criticized the bill's infringement upon Americans' civil liberties.

My longtime readers know that at one time, I was an NRA member. However, over the last few years I have become very unsatisfied with the organization. I have criticized them on a number of occasions in earlier blog posts, because they no longer appear to have the best interests of gun owners in mind. I was very critical of them last year in regards to their boondoggle on The Disclose Act. In fact, they have dropped the ball so much that I am no longer a member of the organization. The NRA's lack of leadership in the renewal of the mis-named "Patriot Act" is the latest of their "fumbles." If they were an NFL running back, they would have been traded or cut by now.

Rookie U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R -KY) (pictured upper right) attempted to add an amendment to the re-authorization of "The Patriot Act" that would have exempted the records of Americans' firearms purchases from the warrantless searches authorized by the so-called "Patriot Act." In my opinion, it was an amendment that was needed since Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security has issued a report deeming gun owners as potential "terrorists." Sen. Paul's proposed amendment stated :
Nothing in the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56; 115 Stat. 272), the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-177; 120 Stat. 192), the USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-178; 120 Stat. 278), or an amendment made by any such Act shall authorize the investigation or procurement of firearms records which is not authorized under chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code.
Sen. Paul's amendment might have passed, too, if the NRA had pulled it's head out of it's butt and done the job it's members expect and pay it to do - stand up for them and the 2nd Amendment. However, instead of supporting Sen. Paul's amendment, the NRA took no position as shown in the following statement sent to Sen. Saxby Chambliss by the NRA's Chris Cox :

Dear Senator Chambliss :

Thank you for asking about the National Rifle Association's position on a motion to table amendment # 363 to the PATRIOT Act.

The NRA takes a back seat to no one when it comes to protecting gun owners' rights against government abuse. Over the past three decades, we've fought successfully to block unnecessary and intrusive compilation of firearms-related records by several federal agencies, and will continue to protect the privacy of our members and all American gun owners.

While well-intentioned, the language of this amendment as currently drafted raises potential problems for gun owners, in that it encourages the government to use provisions in current law that allow access to firearms records without reasonable cause, warrant, or judicial oversight of any kind.

Based on these concerns and the fact that the NRA does not ordinarily take positions on procedural votes, we have no position on a motion to table amendment # 363 .


Due to the NRA's failure to support Sen. Paul's amendment, the U.S. Senate voted to table it effectively killing it. I'm irritated not only by the amendment's failure to pass and the NRA's failure to act, but also by the fact that both so-called "Republican" Senators from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, voted in favor of tabling it. Both have claimed to support gun owners, but when they have a chance to prove it, they voted against us. They didn't stop there, though. They both proceeded to vote in favor of the extension of the "Patriot Act." They both have got to go, and I can't wait for a chance to vote against them.

Furthermore, I'm can't understand what the NRA was thinking when it chose not to take a position on Sen. Paul's amendment. The organization's statement that the amendment would "... allow access to firearms records without reasonable cause ..." is simply untrue. A simple glance at what the amendment says shows that it would have done just the opposite and prohibited such access. Can the NRA not read ? Is it completely incompetent ? Or, is it simply not the pro-gun organization it claims to be ? Perhaps it's a combination of all of the above.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New CMV vaccine to be available soon

Scheme of a Cytomegalovirus (CMV).Image by Emmanuel Boutet via WikipediaRecently, transplant recipients around the globe received some good news. Astellas has developed a new vaccine to combat cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV is not usually an issue for people with normal, healthy immune systems. It will normally just lie dormant in their bodies if they contract it. However, in people with compromised immune systems, such as transplant recipients, the virus can "wake up" and cause havoc making them ill. After my transplant, I took an anti-viral medication for a while as a precaution against CMV.

The vaccine developed by Astellas is called TransVax. Astellas is slated to begin a Phase 3 trial in stem cell transplant recipients and a Phase 2 trial in organ transplant recipients in 2012. They will then market the vaccine in the U.S. and the rest of the world. TransVax will provide transplant recipients with an additional level of safety in that CMV will be one less thing they have to be concerned about on their post-transplant journey. In my opinion, that's a good thing.

Thanks Astellas.

Source : article titled Vical, Astellas Iink $130M Vaccine Licensing Deal
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Monday, July 25, 2011

A Fireflight Music Monday

The Sheepdog chose today's band, Fireflight, because he was in the mood for a rockin' Music Monday. Fireflight is a relative newcomer to Christian music. Even though formed in 1999, they did not release their first major album until 2006. Today's featured video (click here to watch) is for the single "Desperate" from their 2010 album For Those Who Wait.

Many of us can relate to the song's lyrics. At some point in our lives, most of us have found ourselves looking, searching, and trying to find our way. Some refer to it as seeking. I've been there and done that on more than one occasion. That seeking process is what "Desperate" is about. It also makes it plain that there is only one place to find what you're looking for, and that's in the presence of God.

I hope everyone enjoys today's music. I think it's a great song. I suspect you will be patting your foot and maybe even drumming on your desk by the time it finishes. However, let me let you in on a secret - it sounds even better played real loud. So, crank it up and enjoy. My only complaint about the song is that at less than three minutes long, it's too short. 
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Transplant patients and Tai Chi

Tai chi show on Kung Fu Corner in Kowloon Park...Image via Jakub Halun on WikipediaRichard Link is a kidney transplant recipient and can relate to the challenges facing transplant patients. He can say "been there, done that" when it comes to the lack of stamina and loss of muscle mass patients experience due to organ failure. He also knows that the best thing a transplant recipient can do after transplant, besides take their meds as directed, is exercise.

In June 2010, Link, a retired Air Force mechanic, began offering classes in Tai Chi at Methodist University Campus in Memphis. The results have been very positive. The transplant patients who attend his class are benefiting from Tai Chi's focus on stretching and gentle exercises involving fluid motion. His students are experiencing additional muscle strength, increased endurance, less pain, less stress, and are sleeping better.

One of Link's students, Kendrick Hope, who received a kidney, quickly noticed a significant improvement in his strength from the Tai Chi program. He tried to start swimming after his transplant but was so weak he had difficulty getting out of the pool. Hope said that after just two weeks of Tai Chi, "I had full strength in my legs." Other students have noticed similar results.

Richard Link is hoping that the program catches on, because he believes it holds potential benefits for others besides transplant patients, and he may be right. If you live in the Memphis, TN area and are interested in learning more about or enrolling in one of Richard Link's classes, he can be reached at (901) 581-8456 or via e-mail at The classes are free for transplant patients.

Source : article titled Restored by Tai Chi : Meditative Martial Art Strengthens Transplant Patients' Bodies, Minds   

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Obama at the Bat

This video is a spin off of "Casey at the Bat." Too funny.

(My e-mail subscribers and others can also watch the video by clicking here.)

Guest Column - Dale Flowers


Dale Flowers
There is so much worry and concern about social security. Since that is my source of income I am very concerned. Not for me but for my children. People fifty and younger do not expect it to be there for them.  There are a few things we must realize about Social Security. In the first place, it was never intended as a complete retirement fund. It was only to be a supplement for savings that the individual made. But several things have happened along the Social Security path.

Social Security was established under Franklin Roosevelt. It was supposed to be voluntary. Participants who chose to participate would only have to pay 1% of their first $1400.00 into the fund. The money the participants elected to put into the program was Income Tax Deductable. The Social Security Card was not to be used for identification. My first card boldly stated that on my first card back in 1956. The money placed into program was to be placed in an independent trust fund. It could be used for no other purpose.

If this plan had been continued Social Security would be a great investment. But sadly, it is no longer the case. What happened ? I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Who has been responsible for the changes made in Social Security which has put it in danger of insolvency ?

Lyndon Johnson made the first change in the program. He had the trust fund moved into the General Fund.  Since individuals are now required to pay Social Security Taxes, this amounts to a fraud. If it were a private investment firm, the CEO and Board would be in danger of serious jail time. Congress, thanks to President Johnson, is running a Ponzi Scheme on the working public.

Under President Clinton, it was decided that benefits could be taxed. Leave it to the Government to not allow any income source to be untaxed if possible. Of course those who paid the funds into Social Security had already paid taxes on them. This amounts to double taxation.

What about people raiding the Social Security Fund who never put a dime into it ? Today, immigrants can move into the country and never pay a dime into Social Security, yet, at 65 they can begin receiving payments. The credit for this boondoggle goes to President Carter.

Let’s review because we want to give credit where credit is due. Credit goes to Lyndon Johnson and Al Gore who cast the deciding vote to tax Social Security Benefits. The Democratic party eliminated tax deduction for paying into Social Security. Jimmy Carter opened the fund to those who never paid a penny into the fund. The score is: Democrats  4, Republicans 0.

Social Security is in trouble today because of these decisions. But rather than receive the applause for their actions the Democrats want to give all the praise to the Republicans. Isn’t their humility heart warming ?

Dale C. Flowers
P.O. Box 904
Hendersonville, TN  37077

Dale's thoughts are timely when considering Mr. Obama's recent remarks that Social Security checks might not go out in August if the Federal Government's debt ceiling isn't raised.

The Sheepdog 
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Celebrating five years of freedom

On July 4, 2011, Rick Allen celebrated freedom. However, it was not the typical kind of freedom that Americans celebrate on Independence Day. Rick celebrated five years of freedom from 36 stints, 3 pacemakers, 20 pills a day, and an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) which helped his heart pump but had to be plugged in to charge each night while he slept. He was able to celebrate five years of freedom from heart disease because of a heart transplant.

I'll admit that reading Rick's story was emotional for me because it sounded eerily familiar. Before his transplant in 2006, Rick's kidneys were failing and he got winded just walking across a room. Rick said, "I was on my last hurrah." I've been there and done that. It's no fun. However, at a July 4th party in 2006, Rick received a call that a heart had become available for him. Now, he is able to golf, play football and basketball with his son, and has seen four new grandchildren born. He is able to enjoy it all because an 18-year old known as R.J. chose to become an organ donor.

I often refer to organ donors as heroes, and R.J.'s no different. As I read about his gift that saved Rick, I thought about the old saying which says "only the good die young." That is often true, and in this case when a good man died young, something good took place - another man's life was saved.

Source : article titled Bay City Heart Transplant Recipient Celebrates Five Successful Years, Prepares to Thank Donor's Family 
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Monday, July 18, 2011

The NewsBoys on Music Monday

It's been three weeks since The Sheepdog had a Music Monday and he's having withdrawals. After a long vacation and some time to get caught up from being gone, it's time to get rockin' again. We'll do that today with the NewsBoys first appearance on Music Monday.

This band has been one of Christian music's most poplar bands for the last several years producing over a dozen albums and rocking music fans across the globe. They also accounted for what may have been the most shocking music news of 2009 when lead singer Peter Furler announced he was leaving the band to spend more time with his family. Many wondered what the band's future would be like until it was announced that Michael Tait, formerly of dc Talk, would replace Furler. Tait is as talented as Furler, so I felt the band's future remained bright. I couldn't have been more correct as is evidenced in today's video of the band's first single from the Tait era - "Born Again" from the album Born Again. Enjoy.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

L.o.L.o.L. - Lies, or Lack of Leadership

Obama, the Democrats, and the Republicans in Congress have been butting heads for some time over whether or not the federal government's debt ceiling should be raised. Obama and the Democrats originally wanted it raised and the Republicans did not. Now, they're trying to negotiate a "deal." The Republicans say they will only support the raising of the debt ceiling if substantial spending cuts and tax breaks are included. Obama and the Democrats originally said they wanted to raise the debt ceiling and impose tax increases on the "wealthy" to pay for it. Now, the two sides are negotiating. All sorts of stories have come out during the "negotiation." One said that the Republicans would give in to the tax increases. Another one said that Senator Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky had proposed letting Obama raise the debt ceiling all by himself. Where will it end ?

The proponents of raising the debt ceiling say if it's not raised the federal government will default on it's financial obligations. The ones who oppose a debt ceiling increase say no such default will occur. Who's right and who's wrong ? Are we being lied to ? In the last few days, it's gotten rather ugly with Obama trying to scare senior citizens and the disabled by saying that he "... cannot guarantee that those checks (Social Security) will go out ..." if the situation is not resolved. He said the same thing about payments to veterans. He's also challenged Congressman Eric Cantor (R) by saying "... don't call my bluff." Where's the leadership ?

What is the debt ceiling ? Basically, it's the federal government's credit card limit. We've all got credit cards with credit limits. If you're credit card limit is $5000, once you purchase enough on that card to reach that credit limit, which is not advisable, you can't "charge" any more to that card until you pay some of it off. That's basically where the federal government is. They're gonna "hit the limit" on their credit card and can't borrow any more money. So, what do you do if you hit your credit card limit ? You only buy what you've got the cash to pay for. This is where the folks who say the federal government will default on it's financial obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised are wrong. If you and I limited out on our credit cards, we would have to pay cash for everything. The federal government could do the same. They would have to make it by on a cash basis and live within a budget. The problem is they don't want to do that. They're basically addicted to spending money.

In fact, a recent report on reported that there is enough money to pay the government's bills if the ceiling isn't raised. The report was derived from daily reports produced by the U.S. Treasury that reported that current fiscal tax revenue was above projections and was adequate to pay the monthly interest. Furthermore, the same report stated that current revenue is adequate to pay for the interest on current debt, Social Security, Medicare, and the monthly salaries and benefits of federal employees including the military. Interesting, huh ? Now you have to ask yourself, "who's telling the truth ?"

I do not believe there is a need to raise the debt ceiling. The country is indebted too much as it is. The federal government needs to learn to live within it's means like the rest of us. If they are that concerned about running out of money, they need to prioritize spending. Make the necessary payments - i.e. interest, payroll, Social Security, Medicare, defense, etc. Cut the ones that aren't needed. They could start by getting out of Libya, not spending the unused stimulus funds, cutting off foreign aid, cutting off federal employees travel, etc. Heck, Obama and Congress could even take a pay cut and stay at home instead of flying all over the world costing taxpayers millions. I know - that would make too much sense.

So, has Obama and Congress been lying to us or is there just a serious lack of leadership ? You have to make up your own mind, but I believe it's some of both. Think about it for a second. Can you still pay at least some of your important bills if your credit card is maxed out ? Of course you can. You prioritize. Congress and Obama can, too. They are lying to us when they say they can't. In addition, leadership is not shown by scaring people as Obama has attempted to do, and for him to imply, as he did, that he has some sort of control over social security checks is incorrect. If he would take a look a the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, he would see that only Congress has such authority over fiscal matters - not him. There has also been a lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Members have been demonized. Nancy Pelosi has called Republicans "Satan." That's not leadership.

I've been hard on Republicans for the last year or so. However, this time I applaud the ones who are standing strong and saying no to raising the debt ceiling and instead insisting on spending and tax cuts. They must continue to do so, because they are right. They should show leadership by accepting no deals. They were voted in to do just that. They need to stick to their guns - period. Nothing else is acceptable. The problem is that I suspect Obama's scare tactics will work and they will eventually give in, but I hope I'm wrong.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Transplant Med may help kids with rare disease

:Original raster version: :Image:Food and Drug...Researchers may have found another use for the anti-rejection medication Rapamycin. A study has shown that the drug could be used to treat a very rare childhood disease called Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS). The disease is very severe, but is so rare that since it's discovery in the early 1900s, only 100 cases have been diagnosed.

HGPS basically causes children to age too quickly. It causes them to develop joint disease, skin issues, and severe cardiovascular disease generally killing its victims in their teens. The disease is caused by the body producing too much of a protein called progerin. Progerin is present in everyone in very small amounts. However, as we age, it accumulates in our bodies causing cell damage leading to the typical symptoms of old age.

Rapamycin, though, has been shown to reverse the damage caused in children with HGPS and may be the answer that will keep them from growing old before their time. Plus, since Rapamycin is already on the market, it's safety record and side effects are known, and the FDA has approved it's use, it should be available for treatment of HGPS fairly quickly.

Personally, I think it's neat that a drug used in organ transplantation has now been shown to have other beneficial uses. Plus, here's a thought - since the drug appears to reverse the aging process, maybe at some point in the future this medication, or one similar, will benefit the rest of us, too.

Source : article titled Organ Transplant Drug Might Treat Rapid Aging Disease in Kids

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"Wall of Heroes" dedicated in Texas

Methodist Dallas Medical Center recently dedicated its "Wall of Heroes." The wall is a tribute to organ donors who have saved lives with their gifts. The Methodist Dallas Donor Collaborative Team and the Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA) teamed up to make the project happen.

Staff members of the organizations involved, donor families, and organ recipients attended the dedication. The memorial's main mission is to honor organ donors and their families. However, it may also help encourage others to register as organ and tissue donors. The "Wall of Heroes" is a wonderful idea that shows the difference that organ donors make in people's lives and honors their lasting legacy.

Source : article titled Methodist Dallas Medical Center Dedicates 'Wall of Heroes' to Honor Organ Donors

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More than just a vacation

View of downtown San Diego, CA during harbor cruise
It's been nearly two weeks since I posted anything on this blog. My wife and I needed a break, so we got out of Dodge for a week for a much needed vacation. Our destination was San Diego, CA. We were there five years ago for the last vacation before my heart transplant. We had been wanting to go back badly but had not had the chance. I wanted to go back for two reasons : 1) the climate is perfect (especially in July), and 2) I had "unfinished business" there.

We had big plans for our first trip to San Diego in July 2006. We planned to visit the highly acclaimed San Diego Zoo, the U.S.S. Midway, and Sea World. Even though I had been in heart failure for several years, we felt like I could handle it as long as I paced myself. The trip was basically ruined on the first day. I had been on a anti-arrhythmic called Amiodarone for about six years. It had done it's job and kept me alive but at a price. One of the many side affects of the drug is increased sensitivity to the sun. In other words, it makes you sunburn easily. I tried many different sunblocks and sunscreens, some prescription strength, while on the drug, but none of them kept me from burning. As a last resort, one of my doctors recommended a new sunscreen made by Coppertone called Sport. It came in a cream or spray. I took some of the spray with me on the 2006 trip and "marinated" in it thoroughly before we headed out for Sea World the first day of our trip. Our first stop in Sea World that morning was Shamu the killer whale's show. Fifteen minutes into the show, I could feel my skin tingling - I knew I was already sunburned, and there was nothing I could do about it. We stayed through the rest of the day ducking into the shade any chance I got. When we got back to the motel that evening, I was as red as a lobster. I hurt so bad I couldn't bear to move, let alone sleep. The trip was ruined. We stayed inside the next few days only going to some museums and taking a bus tour of downtown. No Zoo. No U.S.S. Midway. I was both disappointed and angry. I now knew for sure that there was no sunscreen / sunblock made that would prevent a sunburn while taking amiodarone. We thought "maybe another day." Unfortunately, after we returned home, my heart conditioned plummeted. Three months later, in October, the doctor told me he had done everything he could and without a heart transplant I'd be lucky to live another year. I was only 36 years old. Now, the last thing on my mind was returning to San Diego. Then, February 2007 came along, and without rehashing my transplant story, the "second chance" I was hoping for became a reality.

In 2009, we went to Yellowstone National Park on vacation. Last year, our vacation was the U.S. Transplant Games. We decided that 2011, five years after our last trip there, was the year to return to San Diego and see the sights we had missed out on in 2006. We flew out on July 4th and enjoyed a fabulous fireworks show over San Diego Harbor that evening. The next day we went to the U.S.S. Midway, one of the destinations we had to punt on in 2006. The Midway has a storied history. It was commissioned as an aircraft carrier at the tail-end of World War II and launched the first planes to bomb Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It is a beautiful ship that is well maintained and taken care of. It was a neat feeling to walk out on her long deck and realize I was re-living history. Furthermore, I was getting that opportunity because of a generous organ donor named Kent and the grace of God. If you're ever in San Diego, you have to visit the U.S.S. Midway. It's an experience you will not forget.
The U.S.S. Midway with downtown San Diego in background
On day two of our trip, we visited the San Diego Zoo. It's a very nice zoo with nice facilities and plenty of animals to see. They have a shuttle service to various drop-off points within the zoo included in the ticket price enabling you to save some walking. The food was pretty good but a little pricey. It reminded me of going to a movie. Once they've got you in there, it's their food or nothing, so the prices are at a premium. We enjoyed the zoo but felt that the admission price of about $40 per adult was a little excessive. It was a nice zoo but not that nice of a zoo.
A baby giraffe at the San Diego Zoo
When, we started planning our trip, we decided to explore the possibility of driving from San Diego north through Los Angeles to Simi Valley to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. It's an estimated 3-4 hour drive depending on traffic. We made the trip on day 3, and if I can offer a word to the wise for anyone else that might consider doing the same thing - go ahead and plan on four hours. I've always heard about how bad LA traffic is, but I learned very quickly that you can't really get a feel for it without experiencing it. I'll say this - after making the round trip, which meant driving through LA twice, I believe I am fully qualified to race with the NASCAR Sprint Cup guys at Talladega and Daytona. I raced, uh ... I mean drove, three and four wide on I-5 for 350+ miles that day without putting a scratch on the rental car. Maybe I'll start looking for sponsors and a crew. Then, it's move over Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jr., and Kyle "Whiny" Busch. I'm coming through.

Myself with picture of President Reagan
The Reagan Library was wonderful. It contained copies of letters, diary entries, famous quotes, hundreds of photographs, videos, and artifacts from Reagan's Presidency and his life beforehand. There, you can learn about his childhood, his early career in radio and TV, his life with Nancy, his faith in God, what motivated him, and the highlights of his presidency. President Reagan has always been one of my heroes due to his love for his country and freedom, his character, his faith, his communication skills, the way he stood up to the U.S.S.R. and his other enemies, and because he was a perfect example of "The American Dream." He grew up with very little but worked hard and became successful. If you are a fan of Reagan, you need to make it a point to visit the Reagan Library. It's something I've wanted to do for years and experiencing it may have been the highlight of the trip for me for one reason - I shouldn't be here to experience it. However, because one hero, Kent, chose to be an organ donor, I was able to experience the life of another hero, Reagan, on a more personal level. I found myself getting emotional on a number of occasions while in the library. It's an experience I will never forget.

The rest of our trip included a visit to the Cabrillo National Monument, which overlooks San Diego Harbor, and a cruise of San Diego Harbor in which we got closeup views of a number of Navy ships in port including submarines, destroyers, missile cruisers, and the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson. The Carl Vinson got some notoriety lately as being the place where Osama Bin Laden's body briefly resided before "sleeping with the fishes."
The gigantic U.S.S. Carl Vinson in San Diego Harbor
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. It will be one I will never forget. For me, it's as if this vacation was about more than just getting away. It's as if it brought my heart transplant journey full circle. Shortly after the last time we returned from San Diego, the bottom fell out of our lives as we began the journey to, through, and after my heart transplant. We visited places we had to put on hold after the last trip making me feel as if we had taken care of "unfinished business. Furthermore, God gave me an opportunity to conquer the demon that raised it's ugly head in late 2006.

Lastly, I can help but wonder if this trip is the completion of one chapter of my life, and another one is about to open. I'm looking forward to whatever that is. There's one last thing that I've thought a lot about in regards to this trip since getting home. Years ago, while working for the state, a co-worker named Tony, who was an old Marine, told me, "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger." He served two tours in Vietnam. He seems wiser and wiser every day.
Sunset over San Diego Harbor with U.S.S. Carl Vinson at left.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Special July 4th Guest Column

My friend and fellow heart-transplant recipient, Dale Flowers, has been "ruminating" again and written an article that, in my opinion, is perfect for this Independence Day Weekend. He makes some good points and takes some people to task as he lays out what he thinks are some of the problems facing our country today. His points are especially fitting when we consider that by the time we celebrate the 2012 July 4th, we will have began the primaries for selecting the country's next president. Dale gives us some things to think about as we celebrate our freedoms this weekend. Enjoy.


Theodore Roosevelt stated that “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.” This definition came at a time when, like today, politicians were more concerned with “party loyalty” rather than “national loyalty.” Young men and women are dying because they are patriots. They are fighting for their country. People today support these young men and women for that reason.  They are doing the job they signed up to do – defend the Constitution of the United States of America. They do it for the same reason other veterans have done it, to stand by their country.

John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to be patriotic: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Far too often the reverse is the attitude today. We wear our feelings on our sleeve. We look out for number one. We will act like a child kicking and screaming, because we don’t get our new toy. This selfish attitude of “me first” is destroying the very thing that these patriots in uniform are fighting to protect. It is destroying the very fabric of our nation.

Do we still have patriots today ? Yes, the nation is full of them. They teach us, protect us, heal us and clean up after us. You can find them at a disaster with food, blankets, and chain saws. You will find them raising funds, giving their time and energy in service projects. You will find them at town hall meetings, politely asking questions and keeping the speaker’s feet to the fire. Churches and service organizations are full of patriots...

Patriots want to “give back” to the nation. Their reach is outward, not inward. They are involved with service projects because they want to leave a better nation for their children. They stand and take off their hats when the flag passes by or the national anthem is played. They are prepared to make any sacrifice in order to preserve this country for their children.

Why, then is our nation is such bad shape ? The answer is simple. We have made the mistake of placing people in a position of power whose focus is inward and not outward. They are not interested in the good of the country. They are interested in the good of their party and what is best for them. They seek to gain and maintain power. The only interest they have in the “little folks” is to be sure they keep them in power. These people are destroying the very fabric of our nation. They chip away at our freedoms with regulations and executive orders. They ignore the first amendment regarding religion.

What can we do ? We can elect patriots instead of career politicians. We need statespersons, not party hacks. We need to send people into positions of power who love both God and country. We need to elect those who still believe we are “One nation under God”.

Dale C. Flowers
P.O. Box 904
Hendersonville, TN 37077

The Sheepdog wishes everyone a Happy 4th of July. When you're celebrating, cooking out, and watching fireworks, I want to encourage you think about why we are still able to celebrate our nations birthday 235 years later. It's not because the President, Congress, or The Supreme Court say we can. It's because thousands of brave American men and women have fought and died to protect our freedoms through the years. They did so because they were patriotic Americans who believe in the same founding principles that the country's Founding Fathers did over 200 years ago. Whenever you see a veteran this weekend, be sure to go up to them and say a heartfelt, sincere "Thank You." Then, when you go to the polls next year, do your part to protect freedom by only voting for candidates who have those same founding principles and values. 
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