Thursday, August 29, 2013

Here Comes the Judge - Part 2

Last week in "Here Comes the Judge - Part 1", I shared and gave my two cents in regards to Sarah Murnaghan's story. My readers may remember that I took issue with the judge's decision in that case. If you have not read my article from last week, you can do so by clicking here. Today, I share and give my two cents worth again, but this time it's in regards to a truly heart-breaking story, and the one I have an issue with is not the judge. My "bad guy" here will likely surprise you.

Elijah Smith, 21, was struck by a hit and run driver in the early hours of July 3rd while riding his bicycle home from work. Doctors determined he was brain dead the following day. When applying for his drivers' license months before, Elijah indicated that he wanted to be an organ and tissue donor. However, he never told his family of his wishes.

When Elijah's parents were approached to obtain their consent for the recovery of Elijah's organs, they declined, and they declined very vehemently. In conversations I have had with representatives from OPO's (organ procurement organizations) since my transplant, I have been told that in such situations the OPO will not push the issue and defer to the family's wishes. However, in Elijah's case, Lifeline of Ohio filed a lawsuit in order to get a court order allowing the recovery of Elijah's organs and tissues despite the objections of his parents.

In the article "Family Loses Fight to Keep Son's Organs from Donation" on, it says that neither Donate Life America nor the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) knows of any other instances where a lawsuit has been filed by an OPO to force a donation. So, this is the first time it's been done.

The judge hearing the case ruled in favor of Lifeline of Ohio because, according to Ohio law, only the donor can amend or revoke their consent to be a donor. So, I cannot fault the judge in this case. He followed the law. However, I can and do find fault with the OPO - Lifeline of Ohio. Their lawsuit going against the wishes of grieving parents is unconscionable.

Map of Ohio
Map of Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am 110% pro-organ and tissue donation. I am alive today because of it. I advocate for it every single chance I get. I know that there is a right way and time to do so, too. It must be done with the utmost respect and gratitude for donor families. They deserve it, because in their times of immense grief, they think of helping others. They do so time and time again. They are nothing short of heroes. If it were not for them, there would be no such thing as organ and tissue donation. There would be no Lifeline of Ohio. These are lessons Lifeline of Ohio needs to learn .... ASAP.

At the time a family is approached to obtain their consent so that their loved one can donate their organs and tissues, they are already upset, hurt, in shock, in distress, and fragile emotionally. Depending on the circumstances of their loved one's death, they may even be angry. Their emotions can vary, especially if their loved one passed due to an accident or as the victim of a violent crime. They may already be dealing with more than some can handle. It is not the time for an OPO, or anyone else, to impose their will by means of a lawsuit.

Here's the main concerns and problems I have with Lifeline of Ohio's actions :
  1. One thing I've learned in the 43 years I've been on this earth is that there is what's legal, and there is what's right. Those two things are not necessarily the same. The Elijah Smith story is a case in point. Was it legal for Lifeline of Ohio to sue in order to facilitate the donation? Yes. According to Ohio law, did the judge rule correctly? Yes. Even though this was all legal, was it right? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! It was just wrong. Lifeline of Ohio forced grieving parents to do something they did not want to at the time of their 21-year-old son's tragic death.
  2. Because of their actions, at a time when we need more registered organ and tissue donors, I fear Lifeline of Ohio may have hurt the cause of organ and tissue donation. The ones of us who tirelessly advocate and educate the public in order to increase the number of donors constantly battle against myths, rumors, and other negative PR regarding organ donation. These jokers have dug us a hole.
  3. I can't help but wonder how many people Lifeline of Ohio's actions have negatively affected to the point that they either will never register as organ and tissue donors, have already registered but will now revoke their election, or, if approached by an OPO representative will say "NO" when asked to consent to donating a loved one's organs. It could cost the lives of people on the waiting list.
  4. It is reasonable to assume that the Smith family now has a very negative opinion of organ and tissue donation. I imagine that if asked, they will be more than happy to voice it, too, and no one can blame them considering how they were treated. One could make a good case that they were bullied. The cause of organ and tissue donation does not need any personal stories with negative PR. Once again, it could cost lives.
  5. After my transplant, I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to try to contact my donor's family. I wanted to say "thank you." The recipients of Elijah's organs likely will, too. Most recipients do. However, will the Smith family want to be contacted?  If they are, will they respond? I think it's reasonable to think they will not. They might not want to risk re-opening the wound created by Lifeline of Ohio. In addition to the Smith's, the recipients then also pay for the "sin" of Lifeline of Ohio. Sad. 
On behalf of organ recipients, donor families, living donors, and the rest of the organ and tissue transplant community across the U.S., I would like to apologize to Elijah Smith's family for the way they were treated by Lifeline of Ohio. I would also like to convey our sympathies on the loss of their precious son. He deserved better and they did, too. Our prayers are with them during their time of grief.

To Lifeline of Ohio, I say "shame on you." What the heck were you thinking? You guys have done some great work and helped save and improve many lives in the past. However, this time you flat blew it, and this is the type of thing people remember. In this heart transplant recipient's opinion, whomever gave the approval to file the lawsuit in this situation should be fired. No one should be treated the way the Smith's were.

I want to encourage every one whom has already registered as an organ and tissue donor, and the ones of you who will do so in the future, to please, please, please tell your family and discuss it with them. It is so, so important that they know your wishes ahead of time. It will give them a sense of comfort and peace at the time of your passing, because they will not have to guess what your wishes are, or be blind-sided, as the Smith's were. Talking about it will make things easier for everyone involved.

Additionally, I should state that the type of treatment the Smith's received from Lifeline of Ohio is extremely, extremely rare. OPO's are usually made up of kind, considerate, and compassionate individuals. Please do not let this situation, this one bad apple, negatively influence your opinion of the whole lot or of organ and tissue donation in general. Donor families I have talked to since my transplant have bragged about how well they were treated. Usually, the fact that their loved one helped someone else with what amounted to their final act gave them peace and comfort in their time of grief.

In my opinion, the way the Smith family was treated is indicative of a prevailing problem in the U.S. today. So many times, it seems that we just don't have any respect for each other. We don't think of "the other guy." It's all about "me." "No, I want it my way," is often the prevailing theme. It seems to be the way Lifeline of Ohio dealt with the Smith family. Respect and sympathy seemed to be lacking towards the Smith's during their time of loss. Lifeline of Ohio had to have it their way and went to court to make it so. Just wrong ... and terribly sad.

I so wish we could get to a place in this country where we treated each other with kindness and respect. It would prevent situations like this one. Unfortunately, it is beginning to appear that I have a better chance of hitting the Powerball than I do of seeing that happen.

Isn't it sad?
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Here Comes the Judge - Part 1

By now, most of us have heard Sarah Murnaghan's story. She is the 10-year-old girl from Pennsylvania who received national attention when her parents filed a lawsuit in order to get her a double-lung transplant. Suffering from the horrible disease of cystic fibrosis, Sarah was running out of time quickly and her only hope for survival was a lung transplant, which she received and is now recovering from.

Sarah's story is one I've been following since it began developing in early summer / late spring. It is also a story that as an organ transplant recipient, I felt compelled to weigh in on at some point. However, I chose to wait awhile in order to see how the story progressed. Yesterday was the 6 1/2 year anniversary of my heart transplant. Today, I give my 2 cents .... or, whatever it's worth.

Heart and Lungs
Heart and Lungs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In case any of my readers are unfamiliar with Sarah's story, I lay it out below.

As I mentioned, Sarah is a 10-year-old girl who suffered from cystic fibrosis. She was deathly ill and had been on the transplant list for an extended period of time. I think I saw somewhere that it was 18 months. One reason her wait was so lengthy is because she is under 12.

Through the years, UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) and OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network) along with other medical and transplant experts have studied, researched, and compiled data in order to put rules, regulations, and procedures in place to administer and regulate the U.S.'s transplant system. One of the goals of that system is to be fair to all and help transplant recipients have the best outcomes.

One of those rules is that a person under 12 years of age is placed on the pediatric lung transplant waiting list in order to receive lungs from a child. If a person is 12 or more, they qualify for the adult lung transplant waiting list. The main reason for the different lists is because size matters. Adult lungs are generally too large for a child. Being on the adult transplant list might have shortened Sarah's wait, since adult lungs become available more often than pediatric ones, but there are no guarantees. The problem for her was that pediatric lung transplants are rare, because donor lungs from a child seldom become available.

Sarah was running out of time, so an appeal was made to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to make an exception for Sarah and place her on the adult lung transplant waiting list to improve her chances of getting a set of lungs. Sebelius wanted to help and even acknowledged that the rules concerning pediatric and adult lung transplants should be reviewed and given further study. However, she said it was not her place to alter the current rules and make an exception for one individual.

Sarah's parents then sued claiming that their daughter was being discriminated against because of her age. They wanted a judge to order Sebelius to place Sarah on the adult lung transplant list. The judge hearing the case agreed with them, and on June 12th, Sarah had a lung transplant. However, the story does not end there.

Shortly after the transplant, Sarah's new lungs failed. It's not an uncommon occurrence. It happens in as many as 25% of lung transplants. Then, on June 15th, another set of lungs became available, so Sarah had another lung transplant. The only problem was that the donor of those lungs had pneumonia, which brought a whole new set of problems into the mix. However, her parents chose to accept them, because Sarah would die otherwise.

English: A very prominent pneumonia of the mid...
English: A very prominent pneumonia of the middle lobe of the right lung. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After the second transplant, Sarah's problems did not cease. Besides the battle with the pneumonia, she would need another surgery to repair a partially paralyzed diaphragm. As someone who has had pneumonia once, I cannot imagine the suffering Sarah has gone through. First, two lung transplants. Then, pneumonia coupled with a malfunctioning diaphragm. It's hard enough to breathe with just pneumonia working against you, but with a bad diaphragm, also, while recovering from a double-lung transplant - it sounds horrible.

Sarah's story has sparked national debate about the whole donated organ process, as it should. The controversy coupled with all the raw emotion the debate has brought with it is the main reason I've held off weighing in until now. But as I said, as a heart transplant recipient, I feel I must. I've been in Sarah's shoes. My family has been in Sarah's family's shoes. It is not a good place to be, and it's why I continue to advocate for more Americans to register as organ and tissue donors every chance I get.

Before I get too far into "my 2 cents," let me say two things. First, I think Sarah's parents did the same thing any parent would in those circumstances - fight for their child and do whatever it takes to help them. Sarah's their baby. They love her and would do anything to protect her, just like any other parent. They did what they had to do, and I don't think anyone can blame them for that.

Second, I am happy for Sarah. To her, I say welcome to the "Transplant Recipient Club." I would also say to her that she should not expect the journey to always be easy. There will be bumps in the road. However, every extra minute spent with her family and doing the things she loves will be worth it. Trust me. I have over 2300 days of experience under my belt. Those days are priceless.

All that being said, this story makes me a little uneasy and concerns me greatly. It goes down a slippery slope and opens a can of worms that I'm not sure we as Americans really want open. I see "DANGER AHEAD" signs flashing for a number of reasons.

First, I do not think a federal judge should have stepped in, overruled the rules for one individual, and "forced" Sarah onto the adult transplant list. The age rules set forth years ago regarding the lung transplant waiting list were put in place after years of research, study, and analyzing the outcomes of both adult and pediatric lung transplants. These rules were put in place by transplant medical experts in order to assure that the sickest patients had the best possible outcomes per transplant. They should not have been overruled on the emotional whim of a judge. It was an overstep. Rules are put in place for a reason - to prevent chaos and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

Official portrait of United States Health and ...
Official portrait of United States Health and Human Services Secretary . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While I am not a big fan of Secretary Sebelius, I would like to commend her in this situation. She followed the rules and was not willing to change them without further research, data, and a discussion with the medical professionals who put the rules in place to begin with. At a time when the Obama Administration seems to break or change the rules daily, it is nice to see her following them in this case. Thank you, Madam Secretary.

Second, the judge's ruling sets a dangerous, dangerous precedent. When I heard of the decision. my first thought was, "I wonder how long it will be before another child's parents do the exact same thing?" Sure enough - I was right. I heard just a few days later of another such case where a judge overruled the transplant guidelines. Welcome to chaos.

Third, my opposition to ObamaCare is no secret. I have preached against it now for what seems like an eternity. While Sarah's case has absolutely nothing to do with ObamaCare, it shares something with that piece-of-crap legislation - bureaucrats making healthcare decisions instead of medical professionals. The federal judge's ruling in this case opens the transplant process up to corruption.

For instance, let's say, hypothetically, that a federal judge's golfing buddy is in need of a life-saving liver transplant. Let's say you need one, too, are sicker than him, just days away from death, and at the top of the list. You get the call that a liver is available for you. Unbeknownst to you, that liver is a match for both of you. You've followed all the rules and are first in line. It's yours. Then, all of a sudden, the judge's golfing buddy's wife files a lawsuit in order to get the golf buddy that liver instead of you. The case just happens to come before this judge. Think the judge will recuse himself? Are you sure?

Let's say the judge does not recuse himself and rules in favor of giving the golf buddy that liver you should have had. How would you feel? Is that fair? What if that liver was the only opportunity you would get at a transplant, you don't get it, and die? Don't think it could happen? Why not? The judge that ruled in favor of Sarah Murnaghan set the precedent for it. Precedence is a dangerous thing. Such a ruling leads to chaos and a lack of faith in the system. The scariest thing to me as a heart recipient is that I could see it having a negative effect on getting people to register as donors. Why would they if integrity is removed from the system through judges bending the rules on a whim? Scary ... just scary. It could cost people their lives.

Fourth, the one thing that hasn't been discussed in this whole situation is the fact that it's likely that by the judge placing Sarah on the adult lung transplant list, and her receiving two sets of adult lungs, two adults on the adult list, who had played by the rules, didn't get the life-saving lung transplants they desperately needed. What if they died because of it? Was that fair? It's a very serious, potential reality that should not be overlooked.

I hope no one reads this post and thinks I've got a problem with this little girl and her parents, because I do not. I do not blame any of them at all for doing whatever it took to save Sarah's life. They didn't do anything anyone else wouldn't have done in the same situation. The only person I find fault with in this situation is the federal judge who overstepped and made a decision that should have been reserved for the medical community. In my opinion, the ruling is scary and puts the entire field of medicine in jeopardy, not just transplant. A judge's job is to ensure that "the law," or the rules in this instance, are followed and applied to each person equally. This judge did not do that.

Here's something to think about. Do you know what the root cause is as of why we are even having this debate? It's not parents fighting for their daughter's life. It's not because of an improper decision by a judge. All of those things were set in motion by the fact that too few Americans have chosen to be organ and tissue donors. Whether we want to admit it or not, the lack of donated organs has led to a form of rationing. If every American would register as an organ and tissue donor, we would not have any "Sarah Murnaghan Stories" and lobbying and filing lawsuits to get so-and-so's loved one a transplant.

Today, August 22, 2013, about 19 Americans, out of the 119,000 on the transplant waiting list, will die a needless death due to a lack of organ donors. Those Americans have spouses, children, golfing buddies, and other people close to them who will mourn their passing and miss them terribly. The big thing we should all learn from the Sarah Murnaghan story is that the lack of organ donors in this country is an ... "epidemic." And yes, I used the "e-word," because, in my opinion, it's that serious.

The good news is that this epidemic has a simple cure. If all of us will register as organ and tissue donors, the shortage of donated organs will end immediately. The epidemic of 19 American men, women, and children dying every single day while waiting on a transplant would be history. The solution is so, so simple. Registering as an organ and tissue donor doesn't cost you anything and only takes a few minutes of your time. Isn't a few minutes of your time a worthwhile investment if it means someone might live ?

Please help by being part of the solution. Register as an organ and tissue donor today by clicking here. Show that you care about your fellow Americans by REGISTERING NOW.

P.S. Next week, in Part 2, I'll share another story of a transplant-related legal battle. This one is truly sad.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Lita Times 2

The '80s were known for not only pop and "hair metal," but it was also a time when women rockers saw a great bit of success. Artists like Heart, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Vixen, and Lita Ford sold a ton of records and received a lot of airplay. Heart and Vixen have already received their share of the attention here on The Sheepdog's Music Mondays. Today, its Lita Ford's turn, and as promised last Monday, I'll run two of her music videos. Both are from her 1988 self-titled album, Lita.

Cover of
Cover of Lita
Known to some as "The Metal Maiden," Lita Ford got her start with The Runaways in the '70s. Joan Jett was one of her bandmates. When the band broke up in 1979, Lita embarked on her solo career. I remember hearing a few critics back in the '80s make comments along the line of, "She only made it because of her looks." While I would agree that Ford's looks likely opened some doors for her, I would argue that her looks alone did not sustain her career for nearly 40 years (counting her time with The Runaways). It took more than that. In fact, she just released her 8th studio album last year. Her voice and guitar skills are the reasons she's still going. If you're not familiar with Ford, once you watch today's 2 videos, you'll agree with me that she's got some talent.

Video #1 is her hit duet, "Close My Eyes Forever," with Ozzy Osbourne. It reached #8 on the charts. Ozzy's been featured here a couple of times before, but this will be Ford's debut. It is embedded below or can be watched by clicking here.

Video #2 is all Lita. It's of "Back to the Cave." You may find yourself tapping your foot by the end of this one. It's embedded below or can be watched by clicking here.

Hope everyone enjoyed today's "Lita Times 2." The gal can flat play a guitar.
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Elephants, Donkeys, and "Death Panels"

I vividly remember, and I'm sure many of you do, too, the insanely intense debate about ObamaCare that went on prior to it becoming law. The Sheepdog and many others, more knowledgeable than I, barked very loudly in opposition to the legislation. We did so for a number of reasons, which included :
  1. Despite the claims of the legislation's supporters, we did not believe ObamaCare would control rising healthcare costs. It was our opinion that it would actually accelerate them.
    Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in Dover, NH.
    Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in Dover, NH. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  2. We felt that once the costs of ObamaCare went out of control, it would lead to the rationing of healthcare. The legislation's supporters said, "Naw - that's crazy talk."
  3. A number of experts, along with Sarah Palin and other political figures, claimed that the legislation would lead to so-called "death panels." This idea came from the provision within the bill that established a bureaucracy known as the "Independent Payment Advisory Board" (IPAB). After I read the legislation through, it appeared to me they were correct.
Now, what is this "death panel" thing ? Basically, it is the IPAB and its authority, granted by the legislation, to either approve or disapprove medical procedures, coverage, and payments for such to medical providers. The members of the IPAB could conceivably choose not to cover or pay for a person's medical care as they saw fit due to cost or other reasons. This could include necessary surgery, prescriptions, and other things. In the event a life-saving surgery or procedure is necessary, if the IPAD refused to cover it, and the patient doesn't have the surgery / procedure, the patient will, of course, die. Thereby, the term "death panel." As a transplant recipient, I felt at the time, and still do, that transplants would be the first thing axed, because they are so expensive.

Sarah Palin was one of the ones who vehemently cried out and warned about the "death panels." She was vilified, smeared, called an idiot, and threatened for it. Her claims were referred to as "the biggest lie of the year." Palin's warnings led to Obama going on record and saying "there are no so-called death panels." He even referred to Palin's claims as "Phony."
Death Panels
Death Panels (Photo credit: Renegade98)

Now, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, has written an editorial for the Wall Street Journal titled "The Affordable Care Act's Rate Setting Won't Work" which validates the claims of Palin, myself, and many others. I am gonna break out a few of the highlights below, but I encourage you to click here and read the entire editorial, also. As Glenn Beck would say, "do your own homework."

Being a "good Democrat," the first thing Dean does in his editorial is criticize Republicans' continuing effort to stop ObamaCare as "willfully destructive." What do you expect, right ? Personally, I don't think the Republicans have got a clue on how fix the healthcare problems in this country anymore than the Democrats do, but I've already beaten that horse to death, so I'll let it lie.

After taking his shot at the GOP in the editorial, Dean says :
  1. "One major problem is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them."
  2. The IPAB will not be able to control healthcare costs, because its increased bureacracy will drive up administrative costs, and therefore overall healthcare costs.
  3. Both patients and medical providers will be left frustrated.
Photo credit : John P. Hoke via Wikipedia.
Aren't these the exact same problems with ObamaCare that myself and others pointed out from the get go ? Aren't these the exact some issues for which Sarah Palin was vilified for pointing out ? Now, we have a top Democrat and former Chairman of the DNC basically agreeing with Conservatives ... and Sarah Palin. Hmmm. Interesting. Oh, oh, oh ... and before I forget - did I mention that Dean is a DOCTOR ? In my opinion, that makes his assessment of ObamaCare much more credible than the Community Organizer in Chief's.

Dean's editorial leaves us with a top Democrat agreeing, at least in part, with Palin, other Republicans, myself, other Conservatives, and other anti-ObamaCare Americans. One can make the argument that Dean's editorial shows that the claim that so-called "death panels" were "the biggest lie of the year" is in of itself ... a lie.

So, who's the "phony" now ?
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Monday, August 5, 2013

An '80s Classic #1 on Music Monday

Today's Music Monday brings with it a bit of history. Thirty years ago this week, in 1983, The Police had the #1 song in the country - "Every Breath You Take." The song was recorded on the band's album Synchronicity, and it spent the months of July and August 1983 atop the charts.

After a two year hiatus from The Sheepdog's Music Monday Series, The Police are back today with what some have referred to as the band's "signature song." The video is embedded below or can be watched by clicking here.


Next Monday will be the second Monday of the month, so I'm running a double shot of a newbie to my Music Mondays. Some have referred to this artist as "The Metal Maiden." It should be fun. If you would like to venture a guess as to whom it is, just leave a comment on this post with your guess.
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