Sunday, March 10, 2013


In 1963 Tom and I were finishing school in Chapel Hill, graduate and law school, headed on the path to our years of working in South Carolina segregationist private schools and for Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama. We recently discovered that in 1963 another Turnipseed, Tom’s cousin not so far removed, was a college student of a very different kind.  This April her college is honoring her for her brave stand during the civil rights era. And to think this happened in my very own hometown.  Wow, do I wish we could go!

 Birmingham-Southern College students to march to downtown Birmingham in April to commemorate 1963 stand by BSC student

Birmingham News

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- In 1963, a 19-year-old student named Martha "Marti" Turnipseed heard on the radio that seven African-American students were staging a sit-in at a Woolworth's department store lunch counter in downtown Birmingham

Turnipseed, who was white, made a decision to join them. She walked off of Birmingham-Southern's campus and trekked two miles to downtown Birmingham, and sat down at the counter with those students.
For her efforts, Turnipseed was arrested and eventually expelled from BSC, although she was readmitted a year later.

On April 24, 2013, Birmingham-Southern students will recreate Turnipseed's walk as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Birmingham civil rights events of 1963. BSC President Gen. Charles Krulak and Birmingham Mayor William Bell announced the plans for the march at a press conference Thursday afternoon. 

"Often times we talk about the foot soldiers, and we think in terms of the foot soldiers being predominantly African-Americans, but there were many others who joined arms with them to say we're not going to tolerate segregation any longer in our community," Bell said.
A photo of Marti Turnipseed from BSC's 1963 yearbook.

"This is a young lady who, at the time, was a student here at Birmingham-Southern, and could have just easily turned away, and said that's somebody else's problem, and that's somebody else's headache," Bell said. "But she chose to get involved."

Marti Turnipseed later married Charles Moore and changed her name to Marti Turnipseed Moore. 

According to a BSC spokesperson, Marti died in a car wreck in 1972, and her husband is also deceased. Marti's brother, Spencer, is invited to the march.

Bell said he and Krulak plan to jointly invite current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to participate in the march.

The path is expected to be about 2.3 miles long, ending at Kelly Ingram Park.** Area gospel choirs, high school and elementary school students will be asked to join in the march along the way, Krulak said. Buses will be provided to return the marchers, choirs and students to where they began.

The march is being dubbed the "Forward, Ever Birmingham!" march after the"forward ever" cry in BSC's alma mater

"One of the hallmarks of a liberal arts education is that it's not just about the knowledge you gain, but how you apply that knowledge in helping to change the world," Bell said. "And Marti Turnipseed understood that. She stood up when others did not, and it caused people to think."

"This is not about what happened yesterday," Krulak said. "It's about what's happening today and what will happen the day after tomorrow. We know how important Birmingham was in moving this nation to do the right thing. Now, it's time to show that we're continuing to move forward."

**Across the street from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where the four young girls were killed when it was bombed that same year.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dr. King Had Other Dreams

Co-written by Tom and Judy Turnipseed

 On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus. Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 years old; Coretta had just given birth to their first child.

 E D. Dixon, another Montgomery pastor, asked to host a meeting in King’s Dexter Street Baptist Church—not because of King, but because the church was the closest to downtown--across from the capitol. King attended the poorly planned meeting, was reluctantly drawn in, and his greatness began to emerge. It wasn’t necessarily the perfect time for him--he was young with a new family, not much money or a lot of experience.

He even, at a critical point in his life, hesitated. On our Unitarian Universalist Living Legacy Pilgrimage this past fall, we sat at the very table in his kitchen where he sat, uncertain of himself, discouraged, and frightened for his family by all the threatening calls they had received. He almost called it quits that night. In the middle of his doubts, he had his “Kitchen Epiphany” when he faced down his fears with the conviction that God stands by those who stand for justice. The world doesn’t need a perfect person to do what he did. The world needed him. And this week we celebrate the 84th birthday of this leader of nonviolent protest, freedom fighter and hero in the struggle for civil rights and racial justice.

 He led waves of ordinary, courageous people on the streets of the South from the bus boycotts, lunch counter sit-ins, voter registrations drives, to the Freedom rides. In the face of overwhelming odds King knew those ordinary people needed a dream like all people do – one that speaks to our spirits through both our heads and our hearts. And because he knew that, on August 28, 1963, he stood at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington before 125,000 people and delivered one of the most well known and quoted speeches ever made and maybe the greatest.

 ”I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

 I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

 I have a dream today”.

 But Dr. King had other dreams.

 We forget that King had a dream beyond racial justice. He also believed that we can overcome war itself, as he hinted at in Oslo in 1964 and later. He dreamed that man would find an alternative to war and violence between nations just as he was finding a way to put an end to racial injustice. The madness must cease.

 President Obama, in his Nobel Prize speech, expressed the view that we’re stuck with war and there’s nothing we can do about it, indeed that it is often justified. Dr. King in his Nobel speech made it clear that he believed our destiny is ours to choose. “World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable,” he said. He knew—as we UU’s know “that we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality and whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” He tells us that we must either “learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.”

He became more and more convinced that he had to speak out strongly against the war on Vietnam and so in 1967 and '68 he did. He delivered his most famous antiwar speech “Beyond Vietnam” at Manhattan’s Riverside Church exactly one year before he died. It’s hard to understand just how radical it was at the time. His closest advisors tried to talk him out of it because they felt it would dilute his civil rights work. It would alienate President Johnson who was a civil rights supporter, but also pursuing the war. And it did. He would be labeled unpatriotic for his criticism of America’s foreign policy. But he felt that ending discrimination in America and ending the massacre in Vietnam were not separate. As a man of conscience, a man of compassion, he had to speak. And he paid the price for speaking out. All the major media backed the War. He was regularly attacked in national newspapers. The New York Times wrote editorials against him. Many of his supporters turned against him. He was called a traitor and a commie.

 He was attacked for many of the same reason we peace activists who oppose the wars in Iraq, Pakistan Afghanistan, and all our military actions around the world, are attacked today and his answers to them were a lot the same as ours are.

 First he connected the war with racism and the struggle for equality. Far more black men were sent to fight and die than their white brothers, who had the financial means and connections to escape the draft. Young black men denied equal rights in our society were going off to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia. Today, in our voluntary military, there is an economic draft, where those same young black men--faced with lack of jobs and few opportunities--are forced to join the military to survive.
  King was not limited by a narrow nationalistic view--by the idea of our country, right or wrong. He thought of himself as a world citizen. His dedication was not limited to the needs of African-Americans or the cause of civil rights. He was dedicated not just to save the soul of America but to work for the betterment of all, the brotherhood of man. He felt a special need to speak out against our militaristic nature. It was impossible to preach non-violence to young angry black men until he had spoken clearly to the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world of his day”—his own country.

He spoke of the collateral damage of the war and of the suffering of the people we claimed to be liberating—not the soldiers on each side, or the military government, but of the civilians, people who had been under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades. Even for those we came to support, we poisoned their water, killed their crops, destroyed their families, their villages and often brought death. And in today’s wars waged by our country, the collateral damage continues to grow. In World War I there was one civilian killed for every 10 soldiers on both sides. Nowadays it’s just the opposite. With the technological advances in killing tools, there are at least 5 innocent civilians killed for every one soldier.

And what about the wars’ effects on our own people? Then as now, “This business of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love”.

His strongest response to his critics about his opposition to the war was economic and I agree with that today. He said “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” When we feed the homeless in the park in Columbia every Sunday with Food Not Bombs, we set up our sign. On one side is our logo, on the other, General Eisenhower’s words.
 “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

 Today the military represents 55% of our discretionary budget. The Afghan war alone costs us $2 billion a week. And the arms manufacturers and war mongers are selling weapons to both sides, getting rich off the blood of our young people. Those who will stand up and speak out fearlessly against such insanity today are needed now more than ever.
 At the end of his life, King was consumed with his dream of ending poverty. He spoke about it as early as 1964 in his Nobel Prize Lecture, but by 1968, he was speaking out strongly about the interrelatedness of racism, war and poverty. He was truly on dangerous ground. He expanded his vision from working to achieve equal rights for African Americans and peacemaking, to bringing an end to systemic poverty and seeking economic justice for all. Before, he was trying to change the way people in and out of power thought about race and war; now he was trying to change the way people in and out of power thought about power. 

On the day of his death he was in Memphis supporting the sanitation workers’ strike—for fair wages and decent working conditions. On the agenda was the Poor People’s Campaign, a plan to bring thousands of the poor of all races on another march to Washington to demand jobs and, most radical of all, not just a living wage, but a guaranteed income for all. In 1968 he understood economic exploitation and his dream was to end it. Throughout his life, King faced the three great evils of mankind—racism, war, and poverty. His dream was to overcome all three.

The night before he died, King delivered his last great speech of hope, assuring his followers that his dreams would not die. If they, like us today, would continue to pursue those dreams, he knew that someday we would get to the promised land. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Why Guns Won't Keep You Safe
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!" was playing live and the kids were so excited to be going with Linda and me. Their fathers, Don and Tom, were at an attorneys' reception and Linda, with her two children, had picked us up at the law office on Lady Street. In those days before seat belt laws, Jeff, aged 5,  Jeny, 3, and Linda's oldest--Jeff's age--sat unrestrained together in the back. Linda's baby,  who was barely 2,  stood between us in the front.  
Not long after we pulled away from the curb, amidst the squeals and jabbering of the four young ones, a BOOM exploded throughout  the car--a sound I can hear every time I think about it exactly as it was that night. Chaos! What was it!  Had the engine blown? Louder than that--A bomb? Where?--So loud! Like it was inside the car! The kids were screaming! Linda yelling--"What was that!!!" "I don't know" as I turned to the back seat.

Jeff was holding a gun.

"A gun!" I shouted. I grabbed it and threw it into the glove compartment as Linda tried to keep the car straight,  screaming "Is anybody hurt?"

"I don't know!"  Her baby was hysterical. I grabbed her and held her close, hoping to calm her down. I felt something wet and sticky. Linda yelled, "Blood, it's blood!"

She stomped on the accelerator, headed for Baptist Hospital just around the corner--though I still don't know how she did it. As we pulled into the emergency entrance, she grabbed the baby and ran. I scooped up the children and headed inside to register, answer questions, search for answers and try to calm the children and myself while we waited.  The police appeared with questions about the  hand gun, which I could not answer, nor could Linda later, as to why her husband had a gun in the car.
 .....How long had he had it? I don't know! Why did he have it! I don't know! Why did he keep it in the car? I don't know! Why did he keep it loaded? I don't know! Why in a cigar box? I don't know! Was it registered? I don't know! Did you know he had it? No.....

We were all lucky.  When Jeff  saw the cigar box on the floor, opened it, found the gun and pulled the trigger, he pointed it straight ahead, instead of at himself or either of the girls beside him.The bullet went through the side of the head rest before it hit the child. No vital organ was damaged; it was only a rather deep flesh wound and the police found the spent cartridge on the floor of the car.  It had not lodged in her little body.

Don's explanation to us all for why he had the gun was "for protection." His area of concentration in the law was collections. When a debtor could not pay, Don assisted the debt holder in bringing suit against the debtor.  He said he had had threats from those who were desperate, who were losing their homes, and he needed protection.  As for the rest of the questions--he had no answers. Why he kept a loaded gun in a cigar box in the family car he could not say. He did apologize for not remembering to take it out; but chastised us for not being alert enough to hear the sound of the gun being cocked in time to stop the tragedy.

Jeff tells me he can remember every minute as clearly as I can, though he was only 5. Later that night, I read to him hoping to calm him down so he could go to sleep. When we heard Tom's car in the driveway, he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, "Oh Momma, Daddy is going to be so mad at me."

You can believe me, that Jeff was not the one who felt Tom's anger.  It was the person who thought he could make himself safe by bringing more guns into play, who was willing to endanger his family and friends by the careless use of a weapon.

Don was governed by fear, as so many of us in this country are. We are afraid of young black men, of the homeless, of people who wear turbans, of innocent young people who come to our door to trick or treat, of hooded teenagers walking through our neighborhoods where they "don't belong", of  anybody different from ourselves. We turn away from them, run from them, shoot them, go to war with them--and the gun manufacturers profit.

When horrific events happen in Sandy Hook or Columbine and small children are killed, we don't know how to react.  Some think  the answer is to arm teachers because they can shoot first and make the school safe. Some say "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."  Some of my very good friends, supporters of the NRA, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees the right for citizens to own almost any kind of weapon (though they do believe in background checks).

Here's some of what I believe. Yes, strict gun control, if not a total ban. Required gun safety courses for gun owners.  Sure, that.

But there's more to it than that.  I don't think that having fewer guns or no guns is the answer. I am an idealist. I believe that the attitude that gun control is the only answer because the horse is already out of the barn concerning guns is giving up, admitting defeat.  I want to go for more. I want to go for changing our way of thinking, doing, living, relating to each other--a culture change.  What if we stopped romanticizing violence? What if we learn to worship not the tough guys in Pulp Fiction or Fight Club, but instead the gentle, loving guys in To Kill a Mockingbird or Gandhi?   What if our movie heroes were not the ones who used violence to solve problems; our most sought after video games were not those where realistic killing was the point ? And we did the killing!!! What if  all our sports emphasized skill, endurance, cooperativeness, instead of violence where one of the purposes is to "take somebody out" with a head-on tackle and where the players are so damaged that their life expectancy is 55 years old? Oops, I know some Carolina/Clemson fans who will take exception to that one.

I believe in a world where we learn to honor God, not as an angry, vengeful God, a violent God who orders the Israelites to "not leave alive anything that breathes" or sends Joshua to destroy Jerico, or condemns sinners to hell, but as the loving New Testament God. I believe we can become a world where the mentally ill are not shunned, but are treated as any other person with an illness and we can commit the financial resources to truly help them. I believe in a world where we can learn to solve our problems without violence, but with respect, honoring one another. I believe in a world where we can overcome our selfishness, greed, lack of empathy and fear of one another. I believe in a world governed by compassion and respect for one another.

In that kind of world, Don won't need a gun.               

Monday, February 27, 2012


 Finding Your Passion

Jeff is a typical male--he loves sports.  He likes watching it above all else on TV, especially our beloved Tar Heels, and especially while eating snacks and drinking beer. He loves to love UNC and hate Duke and Coach K, the weasel.
He tailgates at every USC home football game with his law school buddies. Because he played soccer as a child and teen, he also follows college and pro soccer and watches it relentlessly on TV while all those around him are bored to death and clueless about what is happening. He tivo-es every soccer, basketball and football game of his favorite teams and will not let anyone tell him the outcome until he has had the opportunity to watch them himself.
 Much of what I have learned from Jeff though, has come from his love of soccer. He chose soccer as his sport right off.  When he was old enough to begin on Y teams, he and a lot of his friends signed up for soccer, which their fathers had never played and knew nothing about. It was a new sport in the South and had just begun to challenge football. So the boys took their first step toward independence, though short lived. Irmo area fathers bought up all the Soccer for Dummies 
 books and began to learn about offside and corner kicks and yellow cards and soon were coaching the teams their sons were on or yelling at the coaches of the teams their sons were on.   

Jeff played classic league soccer in middle school, which gave him the opportunity to play teams from other states. He traveled to Alexandria, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland, staying in the homes of professors, playing against Ambassadors’ sons.  The opportunity gave him much broader experiences than playing school soccer would have, traveling with Irmo Middle School to Spartanburg and Greenwood.

pick up soccer
Though he ended his organized team soccer career at that point, Jeff has a life long love of the sport and has participated in it almost daily since. Any sport is better played in person than viewed from the couch. Though going to a game with friends is more social, it does nothing for your cardiovascular health and your waistline.  Every day at lunch Jeff changes into his soccer clothes, rushes out from the law firm and heads to the USC intramural fields to play pick-up soccer. That is a term, for those of us who don’t do pickup sports, which means you show up at a soccer or baseball field or a basketball court (or at least a goal) and whoever else shows up divides into teams and plays a game.   

Many of the players he meets at lunch he plays with in an adult league of indoor soccer.  Playing pickup at lunch and team league indoor soccer are miles apart, let me tell you. Indoor soccer is fast and loud and echo-y and sweaty, with balls bouncing off the walls where there is no out of bounds.  We go as often as we can because it is soooo much fun to watch. It takes us back to the days when we cheered Jeff on as a teenager, only not exactly. His bracket is age over 40,  so this is a bunch of middle aged men. At 42 he is one of the youngest players, but that doesn’t mean he is the best.  Many are in better shape, since he has a bad back and knee and shouldn’t be playing at all. There are some that look to be mid-fifties and sixties who are great players. A couple of my favorites grew up in Brazil or other countries where soccer is the national sport and they are several notches above the other players. 
 Several players are ferociously competitive—they scream at the referees and get yellow carded and get kicked out of games. Jeff is not one of those. He is pretty laid back, but nobody loves the game more than he does.

So I have watched my son learn to be independent; broaden his horizons and meet people very different from himself; find a passion, a way to have fun and relieve the daily pressure the comes with working with clients in pain and who are victims of an unresponsive system.

But there’s more.  In addition to playing, he is a coach—of Sam’s soccer team—-The Bobcats.  He has been the coach since Sam, who is almost 9, was 4. We go to every game we can and I watch Jeff as much as I watch Sam.    This is what I have learned.

He loves to watch soccer, to play soccer, but more than anything, he loves to coach soccer. On that soccer field he combines his two passions, soccer and fathering. He is a great coach. A natural mentor, he communicates his love for the game to his boys and girls. He instills in them respect for each other and for the other team—and expects all of us, even the fanatic parent fans, to show respect for the other kids, parents and even the referees--wellllll maybe not so much.  There are father coaches on the field who scream at their kids and the referees, who don’t rotate their players, who favor their own kids, who deny the girls equal opportunities on the mixed teams. Unless those players have a chance to play for another coach soon, their love for soccer will die.

These are the other things Jeff teaches his players:
Have fun.  This is a game. You are here to learn to love the game and learn how to play it.

Show up for practice. You can’t get better if you don’t learn and practice the basics. You don’t have to be at practice to practice. You can practice anywhere.

Each of you will rotate in two quarters and out two quarters.  Even if you are not the best, you will play as much as the rest.  Even if you know you are stronger than others, you will play no more than the rest. It is your job to learn to play with everybody and to help your teammates while you learn the game.

Winning is important, but not the most important thing. Even if we need one goal to win and everybody on the team thinks we should keep the most advanced players in, we will put in those who have not yet had their turn.

Each player will play each position on the field, even if you are better right now at some positions than others. You are here to learn and are too young to be locked into one position yet.

It is just as important to pass and help set up a teammate to score as it is to score yourself.

When a player makes a goal, he/she will be moved into a defense position to give one of the other team members a chance to score.

Stand your ground, but don't try to take the other team's players out.

No trash talk or gloating.  Don't respond to gloating, trash talk, or unnecessary roughness. If it gets too dangerous, report it to me as the coach and I will handle it with the other coach.
If we are way ahead, don't slack up--but toward the end of the game we will suggest that we let them play with more players or we will play without a goalie. We will hope they will do the same for us in similar circumstances.

If it is a very early morning game, do not make fun of the coach because he shows up with bed head.
The soccer parents have a lot of respect for Jeff and they tell me that their children love their coach. 

  Oh, and this season they went undefeated.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic

 Yesterday we would have been

on the Danube River

Today,  traveling the Glass Road 

 through Bavaria

Tomorrow, exploring Prague

Way back in January we signed up to go on this tour, organized by a Unitarian Universalist friend, a retired college professor, who leads a group every year. Tom's last trip to Europe, specifically Germany,  was with the US Army,  years ago and I spent a study summer in Europe my Senior year in college more than 50 years ago.  Neither of us has been off the North American continent since, even on a cruise. We were excited, Tom less so because he thinks of a cookie cutter tourist-y trip as a trendy extravagance. 

But he said yes, to please me, and we paid for the trip a little along till we had the whole thing paid for. It was truly inexpensive for that kind of trip, because Don takes no commission. Everybody just pools their money and he gets the best deals for everything--and after all these many years, he knows where they are.

So we got 449 emails from him. He updated the itinerary.  He sent us the menu for our Mozart Concert Dinner.  He presented us the option and we voted yes to adding a visit to Dachau to the original list of sites. We received travel tips on what to wear, what to carry, how to pack, what and where to eat. We were educated about the currency, cell phones, rest rooms, shopping, electric converters and walking shoes.

Then Tom's gout/stress fracture happened.(See posts about Differential Diagnosis) That was at the end of June and we had till mid September to deal with it--13 weeks--so we weren't worried.  The foot would be well long before September 16th--our departure date.  July came. July went.  We attended the trip party and met our fellow travelers. The foot continued to swell and hurt. We purchased and began to read Rick Steve's travel guide to Europe. Things grew more peculiar as the foot stubbornly refused to get better. August came.  We bought our euros, after much consultation concerning how many we might need. Then, on our fourth visit to the orthopedist, exactly three  weeks before our plane was to leave for Munich,  Dr. B. found the second fracture!  And so our trip preparations came to an end.  Top priority was to find out why two fractures and to get the foot well.  Tom could not look forward to spending half the trip in a hotel room 

while we hiked to Hitler's Eagles Nest 

or walked through the Salt Mines, places where he would be unable to go.

We did recover some of our costs.  On September 2nd, 14 days before the plane flew, we found a good friend who was willing to buy the trip and some of our euros. We gave him a good deal and he found a friend to go with him.  She applied for a  passport renewal and received it 4 days before the departure date. We lost the cost of the plane tickets to Munich (unless we want to go sometime this next year.) and they had to fly out a day early because so many flights were full by September 9th, the day they booked, it was the only one available. But they made it and promised to return with many pictures, as did the rest of our fellow travelers. 

The group returns at the end of this week. I hope they bring me awesome I-feel-sorry-for-you presents.  They all said they would, but I don't know how long before thoughts of those they left behind were crowded out by the new experiences they have been encountering. 

Neal, Pat, Don, Carol, Jerry, Annie, David, John, do you hear me?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Differential Diagnosis II

More Medical Adventures

This week brought some good news and some interesting twists regarding our health status.

Odd how, with age, this topic becomes more and more the subject of conversation.  I remember how I used to dread asking certain members of our family how they were, lest the inquiry unleash a torrent of unwelcome detail about their various ailments. Ah, well, so here goes......

We returned to Doctor Burnworth's office for the results of the bone density test. The good doctor shall be referred to hereinafter as Dr. B, having so named himself in his comments to my first post on Differential Diagnosis. You might want to read those in his lively exchange with Tom below.  The happy news was that Tom had passed the test. He is dense--from head to toe.  This is actually no surprise to me. He eats well and has been an exercise fanatic as long as I have known him, so seemed an unlikely candidate for osteoporosis.
 Dr. B's diagnosis, a differential one now, having eliminated the first possibility, is that Tom's second fracture was caused by his total inability to obey doctor's orders to stay off the foot as much as possible, to walk carefully whenever walking is necessary, to elevate it often, etc., etc. This too is no surprise to me.  He doesn't ever follow my advice either. Tom marches to his own drummer. His x-ray showed the fractures healing well and he will be out of the boot in three weeks.

My own medical adventures began on Saturday, when I decided to take a nap, and was thunderbolted awake from a deep sleep by a whole-body jolt that threw me straight up, slap out of my chair.  It was like I had been hit with a defibrillator! Well, since I've never been hit by one, I guess I need to say it felt like what I imagine it would be like. Before I could even begin to process what had happened, I had an asthma spasm and couldn't breath!  For about 8 seconds I stood there, realizing that it would do me no good to find my inhaler--the attack was too severe to have been helped by such a puny rescue device.  Suddenly it let up, thank God. I could breathe again! Just as I began to feel safe, another spasm grabbed me and lasted for an awful 10 seconds. Long enough to make me wish I had cleaned the house that morning, or at least straightened up and emptied the trash.

Way shaken up, I sat down in the chair and tried to decide if I should wake Tom up from his nap to ask him to take me to the hospital.  While I was trying to decide, I thought I would test to see if I had had a stroke--possible cause of the body bolt, maybe.  So, standing in front of the bathroom mirror I tried to remember the three- part test to identify a stroke. Smile.  Is it crooked? Well, mine already kinda is anyway, but I looked to see if it was a lot more one sided. Stick your tongue out. (Was that one of the tests? What about your tongue? Was the test if you could move it in and out easy?  Well, I could) Hold your arms up over your head  I totally could not remember what about your arms you were supposed to look for.  I resolved to review and really learn the tests, cause sorta knowing doesn't help.  My diagnosis, maybe really my wishful thinking, was that I had not suffered a stroke.  Nothing seemed amiss, except that I was weak and scared.

Not long after, I was recounting the events to Tom, now awake from his nap. To his insistent plea for me to go to the hospital, I said no.  After all, nothing weird had happened since.  And now I felt fine.  Besides, what would I say when they asked me about my symptoms?  I got hit with a thunderbolt? How foolish does that sound. I know that women's heart attack symptoms are unusual, but that's a little over the edge isn't it?  It seemed just embarrassing to have had such a weird body experience--and I didn't want to have to try to explain it in case folks would think I was a crazy old lady.  I just wonder how many women don't go to the hospital when they should because their symptoms are unusual or vague.  Maybe they are afraid folks will think they are foolish or they are just complainers or that their symptoms are imaginary.

After a perfectly normal Sunday, on Monday I stopped at the drug store on the way to work and, while there, decided to let Jason, our pharmacist give me my flu shot. It briefly crossed my mind that it might be a bad idea, considering the unusual goings on from the day before, but, not really.... Jason did say he would call to check on me in a little while, to be sure there was no adverse reaction.

I was at the office by 10. In the middle of a busy day about 2:30 I was hit with a wave of nausea and dizziness. I felt myself fading away into a faint, so stood up and began walking around, announcing in a calm voice, that I did not feel at all well.  I went into Tom's office to lie on his couch and call Jason, who found no such side effects mentioned in the flu literature. Lie down, drink water and call me back in 10 minutes, Jason had said. As I lay there, with the room spinning and sick as I could be, and with folk fluttering around trying to be helpful,  I finally called my primary physician.  When I recounted my worsening symptoms, and those from Saturday---she told me to go immediately to Providence Emergency Room to explore if I might be having a heart attack.

Finally convinced, I told Tom, who grabbed me and ran, as fast as a man in a boot with a cane can move. 

If you want to avoid waiting in the emergency room, as we have done many times, go in bleeding heavily, or with asthma or any other condition which renders you unable to breath, or appear having heart attack symptoms.  You will be rushed right in for examination and treatment, as I was Monday afternoon. The doctor administered an EKG while he took a medical history and listened to my thunderbolt/defibrillator story, with only an occasional Humph. First good news was that it was not a heart attack, or at least the kind revealed by an EKG  (and I had already eliminated stroke right on my own!) Now began a series of tests--urine, 4 vials of blood, x-rays, another kind of heart monitor, and on and  on--all this to  eliminate other possibilities.  The doctor came in to talk-- a different one, who told me that the clues did not add up to anything--especially the thunderbolt thing--perhaps a first in the annals of medicine.  Maybe it was just the way I described it!  
While we waited for some of the tests to come back (she was pursuing some educated guesses with specific assessments), she taught me the three tests for a stroke--important for everybody to know for the sake of yourself or a loved one. 1) The crooked smile was the only one I had remembered right. 2) The arms. Hold them straight out in front, not over your head.  Watch to see if you can hold them steady.  If one drifts down, that is a bad sign. 3) The say-a-sentence test.  If you can say a slightly complex sentence without difficulty, then you are probably in the clear. For instance, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" would be better than "See Spot run."  If you slur, or can't form the words at all, then clearly, something is wrong.

About 7pm all the tests had run their course and the final differential diagnosis was in.  The doctor pronounced that I was super deficient in  potassium, cause unknown. The cure--replenish the body's potassium through a slow drip, drip, drip 

into my arm for 4 1/2 hours. It was boring; It was painful--maybe because potassium is thick and doesn't want to go into the vein (I am guessing here).  Tom stayed by my side, holding my hand almost the whole time, alert and sympathetic to my pain.  When he could bear to see me suffer no more and had to take a break,he would slip out for a beer at the local bar. He could bear it no longer a lot. He had to take a break a lot. He drank some beer a lot.  He did stay alert by my side a lot during that long 4 1/2 hours, and he did drive me home at 12:30 that night.

The doctor's further diagnosis was that it had been coming on for awhile. Part of the cause was dehydration, from not drinking enough liquids. She sent me home with directions to see my doctor for follow up. I feel great;  obviously my recent tiredness was a symptom--as was dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath--everything I had had, except thunderbolts. My doctor found that my potassium level is holding fine. She did not put me on any medication, just ordered me to drink lots of water. I have had 37 other consultants, mostly friends, some folks I hardly know, prescribe the consumption of bananas on a regular basis. I am now eating 6 bananas and trying to drink 64 ozs of water every day.

I have had no recurrence of thunderbolts.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Founding Fathers had many flaws

Tuesday's Letters to the Editors
Tuesday, Sept., 13, 2011

Worshippers of the Founding Fathers would return us to the “good-ol’ days” of 1787, when most African-Americans were slaves, many poor whites were indentured servants and women couldn’t vote. At the time the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, Native Americans were being slaughtered for their land, and Mexicans indigenous to parts of what became the United States were included in the genocide. No women, Jews, Muslims, poor people or non-land owners were numbered amongst the founders, who were rich white men.

Conservatives seek simple solutions to poverty, violence and war that make rich folks richer while poor people suffer and weapons makers and war profiteers make big bucks while killing and injuring innumerable innocent people.

The problems are caused by big-moneyed interests with the help of simple-minded sycophants wearing colonial-styled clothes and holding signs with right-wing slogans.

They look backward, believing the mythologized Founding Fathers are more intelligent and moral than anyone today except a Rick Perry or Michelle Bachman.

Tom Turnipseed

For some interesting responses to this letter go here:

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