Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Transplants and Politics

As I mentioned on Monday, today's post will be the last one here on The Sheepdog for a while. I'm gonna take a break, a "Sheepdog Sabbatical," to begin working on a new project in order to get up and running with it as soon as possible. However, before I sign-off for a while, I want to follow up on some posts I did several months ago. This is a post I've been meaning to do for a while, but I wanted to follow the story a little longer to see how it played out. Plus, it just didn't seem the time was quite right for running it. However, with the sabbatical beginning a new chapter for me, I feel like today's the day.

Jan BrewerFolks who have been following my blog for a while remember me "raising cain" over a decision made by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (pictured upper right) and the state's legislature last year (click here to read earlier posts about Jan Brewer). Those jokers cut funding for organ transplants covered by the state's Medicaid program, officially named the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), from the state's budget effective October 1, 2010. Specifically, the decision ended AHCCCS coverage of transplants for anyone 21 and older. It left 100 of the state's sickest residents unable to pay for their life-saving transplants if a match was found for them. In fact, two of those 100 died without getting the transplants needed after the atrocious decision was made.

Gov. Brewer and the Arizona legislature decided to cut the transplant funding due to the state's budget crisis. Brewer even went further by saying the funding was cut because, in her opinion, transplants don't work. Do what ? Other state and local governments currently find themselves in similar situations. However, the transplant funding cut only amounted to a little over $1 million. The state's projected budget deficit at that time was a little over a $1 Billion. Therefore, the cut to transplant funding amounted to only ... are ya ready for this ... approximately 1/1000th of 1% or .001% of the projected budget deficit. In other words, if I had a $1000 per month budget for household expenses but decided to cut that budget to only $999 per month, that would be the equivalent of how much Arizona was "saving" by cutting the transplant funding from AHCCCS. Another way of looking at it is that two Arizonians died in order to save $1 out of every $1000 spent by the Arizona government. Apparently, that's what a human life is worth in Arizona. The really troubling thing, though, is that the state left funding for a new coliseum roof, the study of algae, and other pork projects amounting to millions of taxpayer dollars in the budget. I guess "pork" is more important than people. I'd hate to think that this "budget cut" wasn't about saving money but rather due to a lack of concern for the poor and sick in Arizona. However, that appears to be the case.

Back in the spring, due to public outcry by the people of Arizona and elsewhere across the country, reports began to surface that Gov. Brewer and members of the Arizona legislature were looking for a way to restore the transplant funding. The truth is, though, that the members of the legislature who were trying to find a solution were the Democrats. Gov. Brewer and the Republicans killed those proposals on multiple occasions. Finally, around the first of April, it was announced that Gov. Brewer and the legislature had restored the AHCCCS transplant funding. However, a closer look showed that wasn't necessarily true, either, and even if it was, Gov. Brewer's three-pronged solution was gonna leave other Arizonians enrolled in AHCCCS as the ones paying the price.

The seal of the United States Department of He...First, Gov. Brewer asked The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services for permission to eliminate $500 Million of Federal funds from AHCCCS. Then, she would restore the transplant funding and not allow new enrollments of childless adults and others into AHCCCS. Doing this would prevent 160,000 Arizonians from being eligible to enroll. In addition, some 200,000 others would be forced to pay higher co-pays and other fees if they wanted to keep their coverage. Brewer's proposal would make transplant patients look like the bad guy - they would get coverage while nearly 400,000 others wouldn't. I guess this is her way of  "CYA'ing." It's stupid logic if you ask me. You screw 400,000 to save 100. Aren't 400,000 votes more than 100 ? She ain't the sharpest tack in the box. Oh, and did I mention that the legislature passed, and she signed a huge corporate tax cut ? Sorry. I forgot to mention that. Wanna guess the total amount of the cut ? It was $538 Million. Hey, didn't she ask HHS to cut $500 Million from AHCCCS ? Wow. That tax cut would've covered that $500 Million Medicaid cut. Imagine that. Must be election time.

Secondly, the actual language in the new budget was so vague that it does not automatically restore transplant funding to AHCCCS. It only says that the legislature "intends" to restore it "within available appropriations." In politician speak, it basically means that the money will be available to AHCCCS if the governor and the legislature don't have something else they would rather spend it on. Furthermore, if the funds are available, the transplant program is still only going to be funded through June 30, 2013. I guess they think that starting in July 2013 no one else in Arizona will ever need a transplant. Dang, if Arizona politicians are that good at prognosticating, I sure wish they'd help me out by telling me the next set of winning Powerball numbers.

Thirdly, Arizona's politicians have proposed a so-called "Fat Tax" to help curb the state's budget problems. It would mean charging a $50 tax on childless adults who are obese that do not abide by "a doctor-ordered weight-loss plan," are smokers, or not following a proper treatment regimen for a chronic illness, such as diabetes. The first problem I have with this "Fat Tax" is that it's discriminatory. It specifically targets "childless adults." What's the deal ? Does the state think adults who do not have children for one reason or another are bad or worthless people ? The other problem I have with it that it applies to people considered "obese." If the goal is to "encourage" or "nudge" people into healthier lifestyles (Cass Sunstein would be so proud), why are they only targeting folks considered "obese " ? Some people who are overweight have other underlying health problems that contribute to their obesity. The problem could be genetic and not a component of their lifestyle. Besides, who's gonna determine what "obese" is ? Is it gonna be some government bureaucrat or a doctor ? Furthermore, if the state is actually wanting to punish or discourage unhealthy lifestyles, they should have treated everyone fairly by placing the same "tax" on others, too, such as people who drink alcohol. But of course, they're are not gonna do that because it would hack off some of their largest campaign contributors, and they're more important than the "little people."

I first posted about Arizona's transplant funding cuts back on December 16, 2010. That day, I was pretty hot about the whole deal, and it still disturbs me. In that original post, I predicted that if these type of cuts were allowed to be made in Arizona, it was only a matter of time until similar cuts would happen in other states. Unfortunately, my prediction is coming true. The state of North Carolina is currently considering similar cuts. Last year, the state cut over $350 Billion from The Division of Medical Assistance, and they are needing to cut more. It may led to transplants being limited and the elimination of dental care, hearing aid coverage, mental health treatment, and home health care for thousands of North Carolinians. In addition, last night on the local news, it was reported that huge cuts may be forthcoming for the state of Tennessee if Congress makes significant cuts in the amount of Federal funds sent to the states. It includes a possible $2 Trillion cut from TennCare, the state's Medicaid program. A $2 Trillion cut to TennCare would have devastating effects on Tennessee's poor and residents considered "un-insurable." I suggest Governor Bill Haslam and the legislature put a reasonable plan together to make sure these folks are provided for. Otherwise, they'll be hearing a lot from The Sheepdog and others in The Volunteer State in the months to come.

As I wrap this post up and begin my break, I want to give notice to the wolves out there, such as Jan Brewer. Even though The Sheepdog is on sabbatical, his eyes and ears are always open and his mind is analyzing what's going on. I can always take a quick break from my break and hop back on the blog to report what I see. I guess it would be my version of, "I'll make ya famous," as Billy the Kid's character in the movie Young Guns would often say. I encourage you jokers to be on your best behavior.

I know today's post has been rather long. However, I felt like this issue was worth following up on and visiting again. I, for one, am sick and tired of uncaring, selfish politicians who only worry about getting re-elected. They were hired, by us, to serve us - not themselves. It's high time that they got their priorities straight, stopped wasting our tax dollars on pet pork projects, and starting having some respect for human life. Personally, I'm beginning to think that maybe it's time for some transplant recipients, cancer survivors, heart attack survivors, and others with what could be considered chronic health conditions, who are now able to live fairly normal lives, to run for and get elected to political office. Then, we'd have some public servants representing us that understand how precious life and health really are. It's something we as a group need to give a lot of thought, prayer, and consideration to. Then, one of us who is courageous, bold, well-spoken, and not afraid of anything needs to go for it. That person must be one who will not compromise their values and one that people will get behind and work hard for in order to put them in office. That person or persons are out there, it's time for them to step up.

Well, all that being said, it's time for The Sheepdog to cut out of here and hit the trail to work on his new "project." I'll see y'all and update later in the fall.

Source articles include -

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HUGE Heart Transplant Technology Breakthrough

Thanks to a great, new breakthrough in heart transplant technology, Rob Evans' recent heart transplant was different from mine and thousands of others. When Rob's donor heart arrived at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, it was not chilled and in a cooler like most donated organs. It was warm and still beating with the donor's blood and oxygen still coursing through it (see video by clicking here).

Rob's transplant was part of an on-going medical trial of an organ-preservation system in which donor hearts are kept in a "delivery box" which very closely mimics their natural environment within the human body. The new technology, called the Organ Care System (OCS), has the potential to actually save lives by :
  • improving the functioning of donor hearts,
  • allowing transplant teams to better assess donor hearts,
  • allowing transplant teams to identify potential tissue-matching issues heading off future rejection, and
  • increasing the shelf-life of donor hearts.
The fact that this new technology could increase the shelf-life of donor hearts is the thing I'm particularly excited about. Currently, a donor heart has four hours from the time it is recovered from the donor until the time the transplant into the recipient must be completed and the heart restarted. Basically, this short window means that heart donors and recipients must be located fairly close to each other or the heart will lose it's viability for transplant. For instance, consider this - currently, if a donor heart becomes available in Tennessee, but there is no matching recipient close to the donor, such as in Tennessee or a surrounding state, there is the potential for a good, healthy heart not to be transplanted and basically wasted leading to an unnecessary death. However, if the clinical trial for this new technology is successful, it has the potential to change that by saving lives because the number of hearts available and viable for transplant would increase !! It would make it possible to safety preserve and transplant hearts that can't currently be kept viable long enough to save precious lives. For instance, with this new technology, and using the example above, if no match is found for the donor heart in Tennessee, or close by, the heart could be safely preserved and flown to a matching recipient in California !! Instead of the person in California losing their battle with heart disease, they win it instead !! Now, that's awesome.

The potential for the OCS is limitless. It could one day be expanded from donor hearts into other donated organs, too. The success of the trial could mean saving countless lives that otherwise would become another statistic. Personally, I'll be praying that the OCS trial is successful, and I hope you'll join me. It could mean the difference between life and death for many of our fellow Americans.

And yes, this news has me pumped !!

Source : article on titled Patient's Life Saving Donor Heart Arrives 'Warm and Beating' Inside Experimental Device
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Wife Saves Hubby

Josh Londre recently received a kidney transplant and a second chance at life. He got a second chance to grow old with his wife and two children he loves dearly. After three years on the transplant waiting list, the neatest thing about Josh's story is that his wife, Valerie, is the one who provided him that second chance by being a living kidney donor.

Josh's doctors referred to Valerie as "the perfect match." I suspect Josh would wholeheartedly agree. Both of them are home from the hospital doing well but neither can work for several months until they fully recover. The big problem is that their bills are piling up and Josh's anti-rejection meds are very expensive. If you'd like to make a donation to help them out, you can do so by visiting I'm sure they will be extremely grateful.

Source : article on titled Wife Gives Husband Her Kidney

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Harris Co., TX Sheriff's Office Promoting Organ Donation

1200 Jail, the headquarters of the Harris Coun...The Harris Co. (TX) Sheriff's Office (HCSO) is beginning a new program that will save lives. They are promoting organ and tissue donation by teaming up with LifeGift, the local organ procurement organization (OPO). In doing so, the HCSO (image of headquarters at right) became the first law enforcement agency to join with LifeGift in the Workplace Partnership Initiative. The initiative is a program of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services aimed at increasing organ donation awareness among large employers.

The HCSO knows firsthand the positive impact organ donation can have on someone's life. One of their own's, Detention Officer Sgt. Vickie Bratcher, life was saved by a kidney transplant allowing her to spend more time with her family. In regards to the HCSO's decision to join the program, LifeGift president and CEO Sam Holtzman said, "The Sheriff's support is fitting in an organization that knows all too well about making sacrifices for the well-being of others." I'd like to add to that by saying that the Sheriff's support is a perfect example of what more public servants should be doing - actually serving the community.

Source : article on titled Harris County Sheriff's Office Commits to Save Lives - This Time Through Organ Donation 
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Mandisa's "Stronger" - the prelude to a sabbatical

Today's Music Monday will be the last one for a while. For the last 18 months or so, The Sheepdog has been doing a lot of praying, thinking, and seeking the Lord's direction. Over the last several weeks, I've come to the conclusion that he is leading me to begin a new project - a new chapter in my life. It's one that will require a lot of work and some sacrifice but will make a difference. I'll share more about that at a later date.

Therefore, at the end of August (Wednesday), I will be taking a "Sheepdog Sabbatical" to begin work on that project. I ask for my readers prayers during that time. I do not know if the sabbatical will last for a month, two, or several. However, I will be back, but for now, let's get to some good music.

Today's music and video is one from Contemporary Christian artist Mandisa. Her career really took off after appearing on American Idol. I don't think anyone can argue that she doesn't have a great voice. The message she delivers in today's featured song, "Stronger" from her 2011 album titled What If We Were Real, is one of encouragement and strength. "Stronger" is also Mandisa's 2nd number one single. It reached the top slot on June 18, 2011 and remains there.

I felt this song was the one to run today. It just seems like the perfect tune for a prelude to my break away from blogging because times are tough. The economy's in bad shape with no improvement in sight. Americans are struggling financially, some are having health problems, and some have relationships in trouble. I pray this song provides some encouragement. The video and music can be enjoyed by clicking here. I'll be back tomorrow and Wednesday and then begin the break. Until then .....
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Case Closed

Back on August 9th, I received one of the most interesting, politically based e-mails I've ever received. In fact, it was rather comical because the words therein provided evidence backing up some of the points I've made time and time again. I should probably thank them. After "ruminating" on it, as my buddy Dale likes to say, for a couple of weeks, I thought I'd share a portion of the newsletter with you and then add a little commentary.

The portion of the e-mail newsletter that I want to call your attention to is the part titled "The Myth of the Independent Voter" and it's from the August 2011 Wilson County Tea Party Newsletter (you can link to it on their site by clicking here). The excerpt said :

"I think that most of you would agree that the two political parties are further apart in ideology today more than ever.
The left supports monstrous growth in government coupled with restrictive states' rights, higher taxes, unbridled debt, redistribution of wealth, expansion of the welfare state, class warfare, judicial activism, a weakened defense, intense government regulation and the rights and desires of the collective rather than those of the individual.  The left is against the execution of violent criminals but strongly supports the abortion of innocent babies. They want religion visually removed from every corner of our society and tried to regulate speech they oppose.  The left believes that America must apologize for her strength and view America's exceptionalism as 'greed' and 'arrogance'.  They believe that the Constitution is an ever-changing document - one that should be changed to cater to the whims of the politically powerful - rather than a document that should be revered and provide the core structure of our government.

On the other side of the spectrum are Conservative values.  They believe in smaller government in which individuals are allowed to keep as much of their earnings as possible and they support the rights of the individual.  They believe that the out-of-control debt is detrimental to our future and freedom and realize that we must live within our financial means.  They support states' rights and believe that hard work is the basis for wealth.  They believe that the welfare state, although needed for the truly  poor and disadvantaged, is destructive and addictive and that class warfare should not be part of our culture.  They believe in a strong defense, limited government regulation, the free market and adherence to the Constitution.  They believe in American exceptionalism.  Conservatives believe that innocent babies should be protected while supporting deserved punishments for violent criminal offenders who have made repeated destructive life decisions.  They strongly support the Constitution as the cornerstone of our government and judiciary and believe that this precious document should not be changed by a group of non-elected judicial activists nor is meant to be changed on a whim.

So how could someone truly place themselves ideologically in the 'middle' since the path that each of the two major political parties would like to take is starkly opposite?
You have to wonder if 'Independents' know what type of 'change' they really desire ?  In the recent debt ceiling debate, for instance, it was not possible to support fiscal responsibility while supporting higher taxes coupled with higher spending - the plan of the left.  Increased spending when the spending is based on a borrowed dollar is NOT fiscally responsible.  In addition, increased spending when you are forcibly taking money from a hard working American to give to another is not morally or fiscally responsible.

So, what is an 'Independent' voter ?
Many years ago, it might have been possible to support the ideological middle.  But now, no, it is not.  The sides are polar opposites.
You may find yourself on one side of the spectrum while supporting one or two issues from the other side but, unfortunately, your vote translates to 'all or nothing' support of the agenda of one side or the other.

There is no middle.

Most of us have a hard set of core values and beliefs that guide us through our lives.  These beliefs help us determine which stance we'll take on all issues in our life.  Therefore, if you are aware of your core values and you understand the differences between the two major political parties, you cannot be an 'Independent'.

Still consider yourself to be an 'Independent' at this point ?  You're not paying attention." (August 2011 Wilson County Tea Party Newsletter, section titled "The Myth of the Independent Voter")

My initial reaction was, "Not paying attention, huh ? Perhaps it is you who isn't 'paying attention' ?" It also occurred to me that the ideas and viewpoints expressed in the newsletter portion show exactly the kind of thinking that has wrecked the U.S. political system. I've made the point many times on this blog that for too long, we have blindly walked into the voting booth and looked for the "R" or "D" by a candidate's name and then pushed the applicable button. We've done it without knowing their stance on the issues or their voting record. We've voted for a "party" instead of the ideals we hold dear. By doing this, we've sold out the principles and values we believe in and that our country was founded on for the sake of "the party." It has to stop.

The quoted newsletter portion did get a couple of things correct. First, it correctly described the different political views of Liberals and Conservatives. Second, it accurately reflected the three main political mindsets - Liberals, Conservatives, and Moderates. However, it's accuracy pretty much ends there. The referenced portion struck me as basically a partisan piece of political propaganda that infers that as a voter you have to be a Democrat or a Republican. You can't be anything else. That's un-American in that it tells you how you must vote. Such a viewpoint throws freedom of thought and freedom of speech out the window. It's just like Liberals who support freedom of speech except when they disagree with what you're saying. In that case, they want you to "sit down and shut up." I was under the impression that the tea party groups supported freedom of speech and thought ? Hmmm. Maybe I'm confused.

Furthermore, the referenced portion implies that all Democrats are Liberal Lefties and all Republicans are Conservatives. Nothing could be father from the truth. There are many Republicans that are as Liberal as Democrats. I could list them, but I'd be typing for the rest of the weekend. In addition, there is the implication that all Independents are moderates, or fence sitters, Once again, untrue. Some Independents may be moderates, but some Democrats and Republicans consider themselves to be moderates, too. Heck, there are many voters who call themselves Independents who are far more conservative than any Republican ever thought about being.

I guess the thing that really jumped out at me as I read is the lack of understanding of U.S. politics. The number of voters registered as Democrats or Republicans do NOT determine the outcome of our elections. Just ask anyone who has studied Political Science. It is a well established fact that the American electorate is about one-third Democrat, one-third Republican, and the other third consider themselves Independents. It is these Independents that decide the outcome of elections. Often, an Independent is not a moderate or someone who sits on the fence. They are voters who have simply chosen not to affiliate with one of the major parties for any number of reasons. Oftentimes, it is because they used to be a member of one of the major parties but became "disgruntled" with it. In other cases, it could be that an Independent may tend to vote Democrat but not call themselves a Democrat because they don't agree with some parts of the Democratic platform. Take gun control for instance. I know some people who tend to vote for Democrats but are firearm enthusiasts who completely disagree with the Democratic Party's desire for more gun control. Others are Independents because they think that some Democrats are too liberal while others aren't liberal enough. Other Independents, such as myself, may tend to vote Republican. However, we have chosen not to brand ourselves as Republicans because some Republicans are too liberal or moderate and not conservative enough. This is where I find myself. I believe that most Republicans aren't conservative enough. Simply put, Independents generally vote for issues, NOT parties. That's basic Political Science 101.

In an earlier blog post, I made the point that some of the tea party groups are giving the Lefty Democrats evidence to support their claim that "the tea party is nothing more than a wing of the Republican Party." The newsletter excerpt makes that point for me, too, by providing more evidence to support the Lefties claim. However, in my opinion, the most disturbing thing about the newsletter is what's not said. The Chairman of the Wilson Co. Tea Party (WCTP) is Sherrie Orange. Earlier in the year, she was appointed to the Wilson Co. Election Commission. I'm not sure if Ms. Orange actually writes these newsletters, but nevertheless she is in charge of the WCTP. In my opinion, the lack of political understanding shown in the newsletter could make one wonder why she, the WCTP Chairperson, was appointed as an election commissioner. Who appoints these people anyway ? Isn't it done by an elected representative from that district ? Who could that be ? Could it have been State Senator Beavers ? I wonder who would know.

Anyway, based upon the newsletter, the appointment doesn't make any sense. Or, ..... does it ?

I love it when people make my case for me.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marine to Marine

Insignia of a United States Second LieutenantMarine Sgt. Jake Chadwick found out that he was in kidney failure shortly after deploying to Iraq. He knew he needed a kidney transplant in order to survive but knew finding a match would be tough because he has blood type 'O'. Therefore, he could only receive a kidney from a donor whose blood type was 'O'. He found a matching, willing donor only to have them change their mind and decide not to donate which put him back at step one.

Then, another Marine, 2nd Lt. Patrick Wayland, 24, suffered a fatal heart attack during a training exercise. 2nd Lt. Wayland was an organ donor, and his mother requested that at least one of his organ's go to a Marine, if one was in need of a transplant. Remarkably, through Operation Gratitude, The Wayland Family learned of Sgt. Chadwick's need for a kidney. The two soldiers were found to be a match, and on August 7th, Sgt. Chadwick received one of 2nd Lt. Wayland's kidneys. Sgt. Chadwick is already home and doing well. In fact, both families are already expressing a desire to meet.

2nd Lt. Wayland was a hero both on and off the battlefield. In addition to his fellow Marine, he saved five other lives by making the choice to be an organ donor. The story of these two Marines shows just how "brothers in arms," and Marines in particular, do indeed "take care of their own." Perhaps the rest of us could learn a thing or two from them.

Semper Fi.

Sources :
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"Transplant Games of America" to be held in Michigan

When the National Kidney Foundation (NFK) did not announce the location of the 2012 U.S. Transplant Games during the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Games, the ones of us who were there knew something was up. So, when the NKF announced last May that it would not be holding the 2012 U.S. Transplant Games, we were not surprised. T.J. Maciak decided that someone needed to figure out a way to put on a similar event instead. He knew how important the olympic-style games are to many in the transplant community and felt that he had to make something happen. So, he founded the Transplant Games of America and put together a plan to hold them July 28-31, 2012 at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

The current schedule of events includes :
If you are an organ transplant recipient and are interested in participating, you can visit the Transplant Games of America website (click here) for more information.

Source : article titled Transplant Games Coming to W. Michigan

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Your duck is dead

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest. After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away."

The distressed woman wailed, "Are you sure?" "Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead," replied the vet. "How can you be so sure?" she protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.

The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room. A few minutes later he returned with a cat. The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the woman and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."

The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman. The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!" she cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!"

The vet shrugged, "I'm sorry. If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it's now $150."
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"And Till Death Do Us Part"

When I ran across Rachael Frieson's story the other day, my first thought was, "Wow. You don't hear about commitment like that much anymore." Rachael and her husband, Dan, were just recently married. The interesting thing is that she is waiting for a complex combination heart and liver transplant, and that Dan didn't hesitate when learning she was sick - he's in it for the long haul.

Rachael was born with a genetic heart defect which caused her heart to not form correctly. She could have died the very night she was born. However, she was blessed that one of the nurses on duty that night happened to be the wife of a pediatric cardiologist, who was knowledgeable of an experimental drug that would keep the newborn alive until she could undergo live-saving surgery.

During her life, Rachael has endured three open-heart surgeries. In fact, about a year into her and Dan's relationship, her health started to deteriorate again. She offered Dan the chance to end the relationship and walk away. However, Dan chose to stay by her side saying, "I knew I couldn't walk away without wondering my whole life about it." At first, the couple thought about waiting to get married until after Rachael's transplant. Then, they changed their minds and decided to proceed because they " ... were tired of waiting."

Rachael and Dan's story is the type of story of love and commitment that we need more of. It just makes you feel good. I hope and pray Rachael is blessed with the transplant she needs soon and that her and Dan have many wonderful years together. Their story reminds me of how blessed I am, too. My wife could have bailed and ran at any time after I got sick, too, but she chose to stick with me through it all. Besides the Lord's blessing and the generosity of my heart donor and his family, she's the biggest reason I'm still alive.

Just like Rachael, I don't it take for granted, either - not for a single minute.

Source - article on titled Battle Ground Couple Marries, Even with Bride' s Two-Organ Transplant Looming
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Monday, August 22, 2011

"I Won't Back Down" on Music Monday

Today marks Tom Petty's first appearance on The Sheepdog's Music Mondays. He has been recording great music since the late '70s. Petty's Full Moon Fever album of 1989 may have been the biggest success of his career. The album reached #3 on the Billboard Top 200. Petty released five singles from the album and one of them, "I Won't Back Down," is the feature for today's Music Monday.

The song's message is a powerful one that we should all take to heart. It basically says that no matter what life throws at you or how tough times get, don't give up and don't back down. It's kind of a catchy tune with a fun video. I hope everyone enjoys it. You can watch it by clicking here.

And by the way - here's a little trivia for you. Can anyone tell me who the two other well-known musicians are in the video ? I'll give you a hint - they played with a popular British band that came on the scene in the 1960s. Who are they ? Leave a comment on this post with your guess. 
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Friday, August 19, 2011

T.A.P.S. - Helping the Families of America's Fallen Heroes

I recently learned about about an organization called T.A.P.S. - the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. The organization was formed in 1994 and provides support for the families of American servicemen and women who have died during their service to our country. Support is provided whether the soldier was killed in action or died from some other circumstances, such as an accident, illness, or suicide. They believe a loss is a loss and support the service member's family no matter what. Some of the programs they offer to military families include a :
  • Peer Support Network where survivors can connect, share experiences, and support each other.
  • Survivor Seminars and Good Grief Camps to aid in coping with grief.
  • An Online Community with chats, blogs, message boards, and newsletters.
  • Crisis Intervention specialists on call 24 / 7.
In addition, there are other programs and benefits offered by T.A.P.S. For more information on them and T.A.P.S., please visit or click here.

A friend of mine, Steve Mitchell, has first hand knowledge of T.A.P.S. services. I first met Steve about 3 or 4 years ago. Steve is one of the good guys. He's hard-working, professional, and a straight-shooter who looks you in the eye when he's talking to you. I've never heard him say a negative thing about anybody. In fact, he's rightly corrected me on a few occasions when I had something "un-nice" to say.  You don't see many like him anymore. I guess you could say he's "old school." In this day and time, we need more of that.

Steve's son, Captain David "Seth" Mitchell (pictured multiple times in this article), served as a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. Everything I've read and heard about Seth leads me to believe that he had the same good qualities as his dad - qualities that make for a great Marine. The following is Seth's bio :

Captain David “Seth” Mitchell USMC, son of Steve and Connie Mitchell and brother of Drew Mitchell, was killed in a helicopter collision while on duty in Afghanistan October 26, 2009. Captain Mitchell was stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA and was part of the Marine Corp HMLA 367 Scarface unit. Captain Mitchell piloted an AH-1 Super Cobra helicopter.

Seth Mitchell was born in Charlotte, NC and graduated from Loveland High School in Loveland, OH in 1997. One turning point in Seth’s life was getting involved with Student Venture, the high school ministry of the Campus Crusade for Christ. Seth found his spiritual compass and developed leadership skills that would serve him well in future endeavors. At Loveland High, Seth played football, ran track and was elected president of his senior class. After high school Seth enrolled at Virginia Tech and earned an ROTC scholarship after his freshman year. He pursued his dream of becoming a Marine through the ROTC program transitioning from Virginia Tech ROTC directly into the Marine Corp in 2001.

Upon graduating from OCS, Captain Mitchell was assigned to Camp LeJeune, NC. While at Camp LeJeune he served tours in Okinawa, Haiti and Iraq as part of an infantry unit. Growing up he had dreamed of becoming a pilot but did not qualify for the military aviation program due to his eyesight. After corrective eye surgery and while stationed at Camp LeJeune, Captain Mitchell pursued and achieved his private pilot’s license. Due to his determination and diligence, Captain Mitchell beat long odds and was awarded a Marine Aviation training spot after four years in the Corp. Captain Mitchell started his flight training in Pensacola, FL earning his wings in May 2007. He later qualified to fly the AH-1 Super Cobra Helicopter. Captain Mitchell had achieved and was living his dream of serving his country as a Marine aviator. Captain Mitchell loved to fly and did so during his second tour of Iraq in 2008. In very typical fashion, Captain Mitchell volunteered to report early to duty in Afghanistan to assist a unit short on manpower. 

Seth was without a doubt a hero. Steve is currently preparing for the Annual Marine Corps Marathon. He is running to honor his son and to raise funds for T.A.P.S. because he believes in the wonderful services they provide to the families of deceased soldiers. Below, Steve's tells about his run and provides a link where you can donate to T.A.P.S.

Help the Families of our Fallen Heroes

Dear friends,

Here I go again !! I am training for the 36th Annual Marine Corps Marathon on October 30, 2011. My participation in last year’s marathon proved to be not only fulfilling, but also rewarding as we raised over $12,000.00 for TAPS. Since January 2011, over 250 families have been impacted by war related deaths and countless others by non-war related deaths. TAPS provides needed help and services to those families that have lost a loved one while in service to their country.

I will be honoring my son, his colleagues that perished along side him (Capt. Eric Jones, Capt. Kyle Van De Giesen and Cpl. Gregory Fleury), and supporting our nation’s surviving military families by participating with the TAPS Run and Remember Team. At the end of this email, you will have a chance to visit my link and join Team Seth Mitchell (TSM). There are several ways you can join TSM. You can join by your thoughts and prayers for the survivors, you can join TSM and participate in the Marine Corp Marathon 10k (the 26.2 miler is full), or you can make a financial contribution to our team in Seth's memory.

TAPS stands for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS reached out to our family after Seth died while serving in Afghanistan. The heart of TAPS is its national military survivor peer support network and its focus to support families and friends as they cope and recover. Please visit the TAPS web site at

Connie and I attended our second national seminar over the Memorial Day weekend. We continue to be touched and impressed by the entire organization. TAPS is an organization worth supporting.

Will you please sponsor me in the Marine Corps Marathon so that TAPS can continue its mission to support those impacted by the death of a loved one in the armed forces?

Steve Mitchell

Follow this link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Tragedy Assistance for Survivors (TAPS)

My last check of Steve's fundraising page (click here) showed that his fundraising goal is $3000 and he is a little more than halfway (a little over $1600) there. Please join my wife and I in supporting Team Seth Mitchell and America's military families who have given all. It's the least we can do to say "Thank You" for protecting our freedom.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Walking for Deanna

Kites on the Ocean City, New Jersey beach at 1...
Ocean City, NJ beach
Michael Tittinger is a man on a mission, and as I tell his story, I want to warn you to have a tissue handy before you continue reading. Michael is walking across the country to raise awareness and money for organ donation, and he's doing it to honor the memory of his late wife, Deanna. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at the age of 10. Doctors said she only had a few years to live, but she proved them wrong and lived into her 20s. Three years after the couple was married she went into heart failure. Deanna ultimately lost her battle with the disease, because she was on the heart transplant list so long that the rest of her health was severely deteriorated by the time she received the transplant.

While Deanna was in the hospital, Michael promised to make her proud, and it's a promise he intends to keep. Since Deanna's death, he has moved to California and remarried, but he felt like something was missing - he hadn't kept his promise .... yet. Then, with the prompting and encouragement of his new wife, Brooke, who told him, "You need to walk home," he began planning his walk as a way to keep his promise to Deanna. He began it in San Francisco, CA back in June and will conclude it in Ocean City, NJ - the place he spread Deanna's ashes and said goodbye.

Michael's walk is not only raising awareness about the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor, but it's also raising money for the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund that he set up in honor of Deanna. Onny and Oboe were the names of Deanna's childhood imaginary friends. Contributions to the fund are awarded as post-secondary school scholarships for heart transplant recipients, and their spouses, and / or children in order that they might further their education. If you would like to learn more about Michael's quest, follow Michael's progress across the country, or make a donation to the scholarship fund you can visit his website by clicking here. If you are unable to make a donation, I encourage you to at least visit his website to learn more about his mission and lift him up in prayer as he continues his journey.

Michael, myself, and others who have been impacted by organ transplantation are on similar journeys. Our goal is stop the needless suffering and dying due to the shortage of organ donors. There is no valid reason why any American should ever die waiting on an organ transplant or suffer for so long waiting that the rest of their body begins shutting down, as Deanna's did. It's senseless. We live in the wealthiest and most medically technologically advanced country in the world, but yet about 18 Americans still die, or suffer, needlessly every day because not enough of us have registered as organ donors. Michael said it best, "It seems like the easiest way to be a hero. You can save eight lives just by checking a box on your license. If more people were organ donors, Deanna might still be here."

He's absolutely right. There doesn't have to be more Deanna's who suffer and suffer until they can't hang on anymore. What if Deanna had been your spouse ? Or, your parent ? Or, your sibling ? Or, your best friend ? Help us stop the needless suffering and dying. Visit the Donate Life America website today by clicking here to learn how to register as an organ and tissue donor in your state.

Source : article on titled Walking Cross-Country is Close to His Heart   

P.S. I have only summarized Michael's story here. Be sure to click on the source article link above and read the entire thing. It will move you.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guest Column - Dale Flowers

My buddy, and fellow heart transplant recipient, Dale recently spent a few weeks out of commission due to a health issue. However, he's back in the saddle, back to "ruminating," and still riled up a bit. Let's see what he's "chewing" on now.

Welcome back Dale


It was bad enough to be laying there with my lower right lobe removed from my lung. Being loud and long winded, I did and will miss that organ, but I won‘t miss the cancer that came with it. And then I had to lay there and listen to the stupidity that went on in Washington.

Allow me to draw a parallel. When I visited my lung specialist the first time, we discussed the FACT that I had a strange nodule growing in my right lower lobe. We had three options. We could ignore it, and let it grow until it killed me. We could remove the nodule. We could then test the nodule, and, if malignant, remove the rest of the lobe. Since it was my life on the line it was my decision to make. Considering the fact that I had survived the “widow maker” heart attack at 42, had bypass surgery (30% chance of survival) at 56, and finally a heart transplant at 65, I saw no reason to stop now. “Jerk the thing out” because God isn’t through with me yet. I can live on four lobes. There are those today who are living productive lives on less than one lobe. So, let’s solve the problem and full steam ahead.

While in the hospital, I watched the “budget battle." This is when the major pain kicked in. Our nation has a major budget problem. Sadly, the powers that be want to argue party politics rather than facing the FACT that we are going broke and need to solve the problem. There was the problem of pride – the “I can’t let you win” attitude. Their pride does not allow them to remember that it is the people on the street looking for work that are the real winners or losers.

One group had their feet on the ground. They recognized there was a serious problem and were prepared to take the painful steps to solve the problem. Unfortunately, there were several other groups who wanted to ignore the danger the nation was in. When I was a freshman at CHS in Cookeville, we learned in our economics class that we had to live on a balanced budget, but most of us already knew that. I had to make the $2.50 off my paper route last me all week. It is painful that many in our government do not have the financial knowledge of the average working teenager.

In order to go home, I had to have the tubes removed from my chest.  There was only one way to do it – pull them out. I have never felt such pain, but I would do it again to come home. When we recover from a sickness, we often experience pain. Our nation must recover from a spending spree of money we didn’t have. I hope we have what it takes to do it.

Dale C. Flowers
PO Box 904
Hendersonville, TN  37077

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vet gives Gift of Life

Tal Afar, IraqSpecialist Austin Spencer "Ash" Hamilton served his country admirably both at home and abroad. He served as a scout in the U.S. Army's 1st Calvary Division in Iraq. Then, after returning home after his tour of duty, he served once again by being an organ and tissue donor after losing his life in a tragic accident. He was a hero in saving five lives and improving many more.

One day after Austin's death, his family received a letter from an 18-year old man. The letter said the man had been in danger of losing his leg to amputation. However, Austin was a perfect match for him and he received a bone graft from him which allowed doctors to save his leg.

The letter completely changed Austin's dad's, Keith, view of organ and tissue donation. In fact, he quickly established an organ donation awareness foundation named after Austin. Then, he custom-wrapped his car with a "Donate Life" message in order to get the word out about the miracle of organ and tissue donation. Keith did it to honor his son and because, "It only takes a few minutes to enroll on the (organ & tissue) registry, but those couple of minutes could one day mean the difference between life and death for someone on the waiting list."

Keith is absolutely right. I know firsthand. I'm one of those lives who have been saved by organ donation. You could save someone's life, too. Just visit the Donate Life America website by clicking here to find out how to register in the state where you live.

For more information on the Austin Spencer "Ash" Hamilton foundation, please visit or click here.

Source : article on titled Hitting the Streets for Donate Life 

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Monday, August 15, 2011

In memory of Jani Lane

A few days ago, I was saddened to learn of the death of former Warrant lead singer Jani Lane at the age of 47. Warrant hit the big time during the height of the hair metal years of the late 1980s. They enjoyed a great deal of success selling millions of records and epitomized the genre of hair metal.

Warrant's first power ballad, "Heaven," was a huge surprise success. Nearly reaching #1, it peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was the highest charting single of the band's career and one of the reasons it did so well was because of Lane's vocals.

Lane, like most of us, had his demons. He battled the demon of alcoholism throughout most of his career. On several occasions he stated how badly he wanted to beat it, but the demon won most of the battles. As someone who grew up during the "hair metal" days of the '80s and enjoyed his music, I think Lane should instead be remembered as a talented artist with a great voice. Today's Music Monday is a double shot of Warrant in memory of Jani Lane. The first video is of their single "Big Talk" and the second is of their hit "Heaven." Both songs are on the band's 1989 debut album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.

Thanks for the music, Jani.

Watch "Big Talk" by clicking here.
Watch "Heaven" by clicking here.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Is Obama really considering trying 'Reaganomics" ?

Official Portrait of President Ronald ReaganThe other day I read an interesting interview with Arthur Laffer, a member of President Reagan's (right) Economic Policy Advisory Board. In the interview, Laffer said that he was contacted by the White House earlier in the year. They asked him to speak to Austen Golsbee, the former chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors. Laffer says he told Golsbee that the only way to fix the U.S. economy is through "Reaganomics."

Laffer is known best for an economic theory called the Laffer Curve. Laffer's theory states that somewhere between 0% and 100% there is a tax rate that will result in the most tax revenue. The Laffer Curve was one of the theories around which President Reagan's economic policies, "Reaganomics," were based. Reagan was a firm believer that lower tax rates, controlling the money supply to reduce inflation, less government regulation of the economy, and reducing government spending will lead to economic growth. After the four-year economic debacle called the Carter Administration, the following happened as a result of "Reaganomics" :
  • By the end of Reagan's last year in office, unemployment had fallen from about 12% when he took office to about 4%. In other words, he cut it by two-thirds.
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a rate of nearly 4% from 1981-'89.
  • Federal Income Tax receipts grew from $309 Billion to $549 Billion from 1981-'89.
Reagan's "trickle down" economic policies worked. The top tax bracket was reduced from 70% to 28%  by the mid-'80s spurring investment and creating millions of jobs leading to greater tax revenues. Laffer said in the interview that five things needed to be done to fix the economy. They are :
  1. Get rid of current Federal tax structure in favor of one low-rate flat tax.
  2. Cut Federal spending.
  3. Have sound money. He said Ben Bernanke's policies are poor.
  4. Ease up on the regulations that are causing unintended damage.
  5. Have free trade.
It's good to see the Obama Administration finally consulting with someone with Laffer's background in successful economic policies. The question I have is, what the heck took you so long ? This should have been done two years ago.

Source : article on titled Laffer : Obama Must Use Reaganomics to Save Economy

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