I MAY HAVE UNDERGONE 7 BRAIN SURGERIES AND STILL COGNITIVELY ALRIGHT FOR THE MOST PART, BUT I CANNOT COMPREHEND THE WORLD WE ARE LIVING IN RIGHT NOW
It’s been a bit since I sat down to finally finish this Series. I REALLY thought it would be published yesterday, but life got in the way.
The concept for these Posts originated from watching too much news and reading articles on the vicious police brutality that captivated the country following the video of George Floyd’s horrendous death at the hands of those sworn to protect us ALL – not just white people! Seeing these utterly disturbing images and reading about incident after incident, I kept coming back to my favorite novel 1984 by George Orwell.
Every generation seems to compare their era to what Orwell warned us all of in his brilliant, dark tale: unchecked authoritarian power; constant surveillance of the proletariat (i.e. the everyday person); sadistic police and use of force; and importantly, the suppression of free thought and expression.
However, if the United States in 2020 isn’t the exact type of world Orwell feared could arise, well I don’t want to witness how much worse it can get in the alleged “Land of the Free”!
I had watched the abrupt militarization of the police throughout the years living just outside of and working in NYC. Police stood armed with massive machine guns in and around places like Port Authority Bus Station, Grand Central Station, etc. I worked downtown in the Financial District close to the World Trade Center. Police officers were everywhere I went, and they weren’t just carrying batons.
I never understood the need for such excessive police presence and their military-type weaponry. They weren’t stopping terrorists (and I include domestic terrorists who shoot up schools, malls and so forth in that). However, I do not like guns whatsoever. Lives matter. Your guns don’t.
Side Note: A fascinating look at the militarization of a police force is documented in the series “Flint Town” on Netflix. It follows the Flint (Mich.) Police Department. Besides its infamous water contamination problem, Flint is consistently among the country’s most violent cities! It’s a fascinating watch delving into so many issues, like political corruption, race, a health crisis, crime and of course, the police.
So to restate my main points through this series:
- SECTION 1: I related America’s current state of affairs to George Orwell’s bleak vision of the future set forth in 1984. I focused primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic.
- SECTION 2: I focused on my roots, born in Northern Ireland during “The Troubles”; police brutality; living under what looks very much like a “police state”; and, how what we escaped from in Northern Ireland seems to now be occurring all across America.
- SECTION 3: I had to break this up into 3 separate parts focusing on different aspects of the Black Lives Matter Movement as a white female. As I stated throughout my essays, I am not a person of color, so I cannot speak from that perspective, and I don’t pretend to.
- 3.01 – I summarized the basic principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement; White Privilege; Why the Protests Matter; and “Remember Their Names”
- 3.02 – I detailed the quite obvious “police state” we’re now living under, while recognizing the good police officers out there; However, I pointed out the systematic problem within the American police force today; and, the attempts at police reform
- 3.03 – I discussed the looting and rioting that is not a part of this Movement; “getting political”; and white, right-wingers, who have taken it upon themselves to “rise up” purposely to intimidate, threaten and assault protestors with no recourse from the police****
- In fact, a video recently became viral showing footage of an Oregon police officer “warning” a group of armed white men, ironically referred to as “Proud Boys”, who the FBI have labeled as an “extremist group” to go hide inside buildings or their cars because they were going to start arresting people. If THAT wasn’t bad enough, the officer said the directive to warn the men came from his Command and that “they didn’t want it to look like they were playing favorites”! There are disputed reports whether police then proceeded to tear gas the crowds of protestors. I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am nearly speechless. You can see the video here. https://www.insider.com/police-salem-oregon-protesters-stay-inside-curfew-proud-boys-white-2020-6
- Personally, I’ve been to several areas of Oregon and thought it was a pretty chill, “dirt cricket” kinda State
With all that being said, I feel an obligation to close out this series discussing our Healthcare Workers. There is so much to say on this topic as well that I’ll have to break this up into sections. This is Part 4.01. Hopefully, I can limit it to just 2 Parts, but no promises! 😏
Our Healthcare Heroes Working Through A Pandemic Unlike the World Has Ever Seen
I discussed the devastating COVID-19 pandemic in Part One. You can read that here:
So, I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already covered. However, since writing that Post, things have only gotten worse in many places across the world but particularly in the U.S. This occurred despite the carnage we saw here in the NYC Metro area!
No, People, the Virus Is NOT some “liberal hoax”!
While we were losing esteemed doctors, nurses, essential workers, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, etc. in the NYC area, those in other states screamed in the streets that the virus was a “liberal hoax”, waving their confederate flags or nonsensical signs.
Example A of this Lunacy:
Back in mid-April in Denver, CO – another place I’ve visited multiple times in the last 5 years and love – 2 healthcare workers created their own counter-protest against mass “anti-lockdown” protestors. These 2 superheroes blocked traffic while they were verbally assaulted by people protesting the State’s stay-at-home order. Videos showed a woman in an American flag T-shirt hanging out of her pick-up truck (no judgment… but I’m not surprised she hung herself out of a pick-up) ranting at the health care workers.
Some of her well-articulated statements included, “Go to China if you want Communism!” and “You can go to work, why can’t I go to work?” Of course then there’s her sign “LAND FREE”. Hmmm…was she giving away or selling real estate? If you do not even have the knowledge-base that the phrase is “Land of the Free” maybe you should go home and read a book or 2. Just a thought.
The workers didn’t respond.
Example B of this Lunacy:
In Phoenix, AZ also back in mid-April, another place I visited countless times though I’m not really surprised by this, several nurses stood in silence at the “Patriot’s Day Rally” at the Capitol. Nearly 1,000 people gathered to demand that the Governor re-open Arizona. The nurses stated that they attended the “rally” (it’s a “rally” when white people protest, apparently) “to represent those who are too sick to speak out.”
The nurse in the photo above stated she faced “attacks, screams, and questions from several protesters at the event.” She further stated that “she heard vile and heartbreaking things from some of the people protesting.”
Example C of this Lunacy:
Apparently mid-April was a hot time for lunatics! An “anti-lockdown “rally” in San Diego, CA demonstrated just how utterly ridiculous these alleged “rallies” have become. As seen in the photo, the sign “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH”.
Ironically, that statement relates back to the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. The phrase is attributed to Patrick Henry, a member of the Continental Congress. He later became Virginia’s first governor. In his speech ending with that phrase, he discussed how the colonies were like “slaves” to Britain. Despite the obvious fact that he was speaking to white men, some of whom were actually slave owners, this speech discussed:
- being oppressed by an unjust system, and
- the use of force by British soldiers to suppress the colonies’ rights and expression
So, this lunatic clearly didn’t get an “A” in History Class.
Regardless, “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH”:
Well, the virus could potentially give you one of those, for sure!
NOW, To The Numbers
As I stated in Part One, we may never know the exact death toll from the virus. Nevertheless, the CDC has now confirmed over 3 million cases as of July 14, 2020 with over 135,000 reported deaths in the U. S. alone. Approximately, there are now over 60,000 new cases a day across the country. Nearly 13 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported around the world resulting in nearly 570,000 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
As for the U.S. though, let’s look at just a few states. These numbers are only Estimates and only based on Reported cases:
- Texas: 264,313 Cases & 3,235 Fatalities
- California: 329,00 Cases & over 7,000 Fatalities
- Arizona: 128,000 Cases with over 2, 300 Fatalities
- Colorado: 37,242 Cases with over 1,700 Fatalities
- Illinois: 155,506 Cases with over 7,000 Fatalities
SEE THE CDC WEBSITE FOR DETAILED INFORMATION: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.htm
ON JULY 13, 2020 THERE WERE NO COVID–RELATED DEATHS IN NYC FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE MARCH 1ST!
However, Florida, (Oh, Florida…) reported its second-highest total number of cases for a single day, just one day after setting the record for most new cases for a single day, 15,300. During the height of the New York outbreak, the worst day high was 12, 274 cases. Yet, they actually re-opened Disney World!!! Enjoy Mickey Mouse, people. You may never see him again. That is NOT a joke – that is truth!
The states where cases are surging could have seen what was happening here in and around NYC, and taken precautions to properly prepare its citizens. Instead, people went to the beach and kids threw parties. Hope those beach parties were worth it, kids. Now, hospitals that are not nearly as equipped as these top institutions in New York are scrambling.
I follow a nurse on Twitter who is based out West. She tweets about the horrid inability to care for the swarms of patients coming in. It’s mid July. NYC was in chaos back in March and April.
Did these state governments and hospitals truly believe it would not hit them????
Did they learn NOTHING from all the horror and death here????
MAYBE, “ELITIST, LIBERAL NEW YORKERS” AREN’T SO DUMB AFTER ALL, Huh? “FREE LAND!” (Please understand I know this is NO light-hearted matter. However, I use sarcasm to get me through tough times and these have been some severely TOUGH times!)
Also on Monday, July 13th New York Gov. Cuomo issued an emergency health order that requires visitors from states with high rates of COVID-19 to provide information about their in-state accommodations or face a penalty of up to $2,000:
If you fail to provide it, you will receive a summons with a $2000 fine. We’re serious about enforcing quarantine.Gov. Andrew Cuomo, July 13, 2020
Another frightening number that was just released is how many people have lost their health insurance. Between February and May, it’s estimated that 5.4 million Americans lost their health insurance! This is the highest loss in health coverage in a single year!
The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that 27 million Americans have lost coverage in the pandemic taking into account family members of the insured!
This is all during a PANDEMIC of astronomical proportion.
How ALL This Will Affect Our Healthcare Workers & Our Entire Healthcare System
So, while individual citizens of these other states will suffer, our healthcare workers ultimately will bear the brunt of it all. They will lay awake at night, thinking about the patients they couldn’t save. Likely, they’ll suffer horrendous nightmares. They will risk their own lives, and their family members’ lives when they come home.
IT IS A WARZONE, AS WE SAW IN NEW YORK CITY. JUST LIKE SOLDIERS AT WAR, OUR HEALTHCARE HEROES WILL LIKELY SUFFER PTSD. IF YOU DON’T THINK SO, HERE’S A LITTLE ARTICLE YOU MAY WANT TO READ:
As I stated in Part One, I know many doctors, nurses and essential healthcare workers, who either had to work the frontline or volunteered. My own neurosurgeon is one of those amazing volunteers. Dr. Dimitris Placantonakis, you deserve the shoutout here. Other neurosurgeons I know, like the Chief of Neurosurgery at NYU Brooklyn, Dr. Eric Anderer, and a neurosurgery resident I now consider a dear friend, Dr. David Kurland also of NYU, deserve shoutouts too. My new GI physician, Dr. Todd Linden, worked alongside my neurosurgeon volunteering.
My physical therapist at NYU Rusk worked the frontline. I won’t name her, but we have a great connection, as I do with all my healthcare providers. When I asked her pointblank, “Was it as bad as they say it was?” all she could say was, “Yeah, yeah it was.” She is always happy and peppy, full of energy. When I saw the look on her face, I knew not to push any further.
Countless nurses I’ve met through my “cancer chaos” who cared so much for me in various hospitals were right there too. As I get back to see more of my providers, I imagine I will learn of even more.
Back “home” in Ireland, my cousin is a nurse working the frontline there. Another cousin works for a primary care doctor, where patients come in and out daily. Neither my cousin, nor the patients know if they’ve got the virus unless they’ve been tested for the antibody. Yet another cousin works for the governmental agency that assists people with their healthcare needs, having to interact with potentially sick patients 2-3 times a week even though at home her husband takes an immunosuppressant drug for a chronic condition.
I’ve literally lived in and out of hospitals the last 6 years. In fact, I was released from the hospital after my 7th brain surgery, in mid-February. I ONLY NOW know the virus was spreading around NYC the entire time I was hospitalized.
I’ve seen how tirelessly healthcare workers care for their patients under normal circumstances. It is NOT an easy job! I cannot imagine what they went through and still go through because now they’re facing a serious mental health crisis.
A GLARING example of this is what happened to Dr. Lorna Breen, the former Medical Director of the Emergency Department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Manhattan, which served a low-income community in Northern Manhattan.
In early April, she spoke with her sister explaining:
The unit had become a brutal battleground, with supplies depleting at a distressing rate and doctors and nurses falling ill. The waiting room was perpetually overcrowded. The sick were dying unnoticed… Yet, Dr. Breen was gifted, confident, clever. Unflappable.https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/11/nyregion/lorna-breen-suicide-coronavirus.html
Quick Side Note: I had to go to the E.R. in March. This was before I really knew the extent of what was happening and continues to this day, as you see from the staggering number of new cases. I let my doctors know I was heading to the E.R., so a resident was thankfully awaiting my arrival. I was quickly wheeled through a number of packed triage areas. I saw some pretty grim things in those areas: In a lone hallway lay a man with a coat over his head, face down on the gurney not moving. Was he dead? I don’t know. How could anyone breathe laying that way? If he was indeed dead, could he have been one of the early virus cases? I don’t know. One thing I do know – I will never get that image out of my head.
Dr. Breen, unlike our government officials, was convinced the virus would catch hospitals off-guard… Boy, was she right!
WARNING: SOME GORRY DETAILS OF WHAT HAPPENED INSIDE THE “ALLEN” (THE NICKNAME FOR DR. BREEN’S HOSPITAL):
- Intubated patients on stretchers jammed the halls.
- Portable oxygen tanks operating at their highest capacity petered out at an alarming pace.
- An area meant for X-rays housed the bodies of those who had taken their final gasps while waiting to be saved.
- One man, seemingly stable and about to be transferred to a different unit, was found dead in a chair, his skin blue.
- The emergency department was clogged with about triple the number of patients it could normally accommodate.
- Outside, ambulances lined up as medics tried to get patients admitted.
- A new City policy that decreed patients had to be transported to the closest available hospital meant the Allen was flooded with people from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, where some neighborhoods were hit particularly hard.
- The hospital was also ringed with nursing homes, adding to the backlog.
- There would be bodies every day.
- Ultimately, during the worst of the crisis, almost a quarter of the people who were admitted to the Allen to be treated for Covid-19 would die
Dr. Breen contracted the virus herself and went on leave. When she returned, to say she was overwhelmed is a massive understatement. She expressed in a text to a friend from her Bible study group, “I’m drowning”.
Although research is still preliminary when it comes to Covid-19’s effects on the brain, there is growing evidence that the disease, or the way the body responds to it, can cause a range of neurological issues… Dr. Breen’s sister wondered if the virus had affected her brain somehow.https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/11/nyregion/lorna-breen-suicide-coronavirus.html
Eventually on April 9th, Dr. Breen called her sister for help. Dr. Breen spent about 11 days as an inpatient in the psychiatric ward. When she was released, she went to stay with her mother in Charlottesville.
On April 26, 2020 Dr. Lorna Breen committed suicide. She did not leave any suicide note. Prior to the pandemic, she had no mental heath issues.
Rest In Peace, Dr. Breen
There have been so many traumatic losses within the healthcare community, and they’re only going to continue unless the government steps up and does what it is supposed to do – protect its citizens AND enforce regulations to stem the spread of the virus.
Another devastating loss to the medical community was the death of Dr. James T. Goodrich from COVID-related complications. He was a pediatric neurosurgeon at Montefiore’s Children’s Hospital in NYC and my own neurosurgeon’s colleague.
At Montefiore, he was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery and had spent more than 30 years of his career there. Also, he was a Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery, Pediatrics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Further, he held the rank of Professor Contralto of Neurological Surgery at the University of Palermo in Palermo, Italy. He authored numerous book chapters and articles in neurosurgery and the history of medicine, and was known internationally for his accomplishments and as a lecturer. In 2018, Dr. Goodrich was awarded the prestigious “Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award”. He was named one of the “Best Doctors in America” and was listed in the “Guide to America’s Top Surgeons” by the Consumers Council of America and New York Magazine. He received the New York City Mayor’s Award in Science and Technology. He was the recipient of many additional awards, including an honorary Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) from the Burdenro Neurological Institute (Moscow), the Bronze Medal from the Alumni Association of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mead-Johnson Award, the Roche Laboratories Award in Neuroscience and the Sir William Osler Medal.
Beyond those unbelievable accolades, Dr. Goodrich was made famous for two particular cases:
- A true “pioneer in his field”, Dr. Goodrich developed a special method to separate twins conjoined at the skull — employing a multi-stage approach
- He conducted a series of 4 operations, which took months to plan and nearly a year to complete on twins from the Philippines. They were joined at the tops of their heads and shared major veins in their brains.
- During the final surgery, Dr. Goodrich led a 16-member surgical team in a 17-hour surgery. However, during the procedure, they found a two-square-inch section of brain that was “fused instead of being separated by a plane”, which was unexpected.
- Dr. Goodrich had to make an immediate decision on how to proceed. He studied the “tangle”, turning the anesthetized boys as he examined the challenge. Then Dr. Goodrich found a solution! The surgery was a success.
For the boys’ 2nd birthday, Dr. Goodrich baked them a chocolate cake!
Above is a photo of the boys at 10 years old. They are now 18.
- In another celebrated case, Dr. Goodrich led a team of 40 surgeons in a 27-hour procedure in 2016 to separate another set of twin boys, the 7th separation procedure in his career.
Photos of the twins before and after their surgery
Dr. Goodrich was a humble and truly caring man. He did not crave the limelight and was beloved by his colleagues and staff. Every year, he baked holiday cookies and hand-delivered them to the nurses at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. Outside of his work, he was also known for his passion for historical artifacts, travel, and surfing.https://www.cns.org/in-memoriam-james-t-goodrich-md
“Dr. Goodrich was a beacon of our institution and he will be truly missed…His expertise and ability were second only to his kind heart and manner,” said Montefiore Medicine CEO Dr. Philip O. Ozuah. My neurosurgeon echoed these sentiments when I expressed my condolences.
You can read his full obituary here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/obituaries/dr-james-t-goodrich-dead-coronavirus.html
This is the level of brilliance lost to the virus. Rest In Peace, Dr. Goodrich. Just like Dr. Breen, you were an angel on Earth. You were taken too soon. Now, you are an angel watching over us.
Our healthcare workers deserve so much better. They deserve our immeasurable respect, higher salaries and proper protection to fight a virus we CAN stem the spread of because there is no vaccine, no cure, no escape!
I’ll just leave this image here. It speaks for itself.
Never forget these images. Never forget the risks these heroes take every day. Never forget that one day they could be trying to save your life.
SO WEAR A DAMN MASK! IT’S NOT YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO PUT THEIR LIVES IN JEOPARDY!