More Organ Transplants

On average, heart transplants, the most successful of all the transplanted organs have added 4.9 years to a patient’s life. Those who had a combined pancreas-kidney lived an average of 4.6 years longer. Kidney recipients lived 4,4 years longer, liver recipients 4.3 years, intestine recipients 2.8 years and pancreas recipients 2.6 years. All in all 2.2 million years have been added to the lives of organ recipients in the past 25 years. According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery, 533,329 patients have received organs between 1987 and 2012. More than half the extra years belong to people who had kidney transplants. Next are people who received new livers, then people who received hearts followed by people who received lungs, new pancreas, pancreas and kidneys together, then intestine. For a layperson such as myself there were surprises. I didn’t realize intestines were on the list of donated organs, nor did I realize the extent to which livers were transplanted.

And yet 579,506 patients were put on the transplant network waiting list, but did not receive an organ. It’s easy to imagine the anguish of those patients and their families. Somehow the fact that only 48% of patients needing organs receive them is a striking statistic. At some point in the future, it is possible that those waiting for an organ without being able to receive one could be a friend or member of our own family. There is to my knowledge no study of what people do with the years gained from being an organ recipient. I venture to say that rare is the person who did not make use of being given another chance or a chance to make their life count or succeed in however small a way. The bottom line remains though that less than half of those who need transplants are able to receive them. We definitely need more awareness and more people willing to donate their organs

Doulas For The Dying

The idea is new enough that there are no statistics as to how many there are. Their duties also vary, anything from arranging all sorts of details such as power of attorneys and funeral arrangements to counseling. Mostly there is a lot of hand holding. Increasingly people find that handling death is too much not only emotionally but also in practical terms given that the end of life comes with many details needing attention, so they turn to what is being called death doulas. Doulas, from a Greek word meaning woman who serves, are established in helping with births, so it seems natural that some would also chose to work with the other end of the life spectrum. There are now private courses to certify one to be a death doula. Some doulas or the organizations they are affiliated with use volunteers, and most charge fees, depending on what is required of them. Some were hospice nurses or volunteers for whom being a doula is a logical transition .When the nearness of death comes to a family, family members suffer in one way, while the dying member usually requires something different.  For many the idea of someone who will be there to guide them through this emotional journey is a great help and, as is the case with hospice, for the dying person that kind of comfort to them and their family can be welcomed.

Death is such a traumatic subject for so many, or at least one laden and fraught with fears that death doulas can, and sooner than we think will, end up filling a niche in our service oriented society. Hospice care, since it is covered by Medicare, at least for those over 65, is not class conscious. It helps the poor like the rich. With death doulas, since it is a service provided for a fee, it does make one wonder if it will turn out to be something that benefits the affluent more than others?

Transcending Its Controversy

Periodically there’s a movie about an historical event or person and we argue about its accuracy. History itself is full of interpretations and historians themselves argue about which is truer. Maybe, though, when it comes to movies, the issue of historical accuracy is not the best criterion. Artistic freedom is another issue, one’s that’s usually cited in defense of whatever a point of view may be, as it is now with the movie Selma. It’s a powerful argument, one difficult to argue against. But does artistic freedom exist in a vacuum? Does it mean anything goes? Fresh from the Charlie Hebdo attack and murders it is a question some are asking. In that case Charlie Hebdo may not be a good example, because as a newspaper its mission in essence is to provoke everyone and bait anything. Exceptions aside, artistic freedom doesn’t erase the issue of social responsibility. And even when artists factor it in, it does not ensure there shall be no dissent, no criticism. John Adams, the composer of the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” wanted to be responsible and portray both sides of an issue. Still the protest was strong enough the Metropolitan Opera had to cancel its scheduled HD broadcast of it a few months ago. Movies are such a powerful medium, the responsibility of the filmmakers ought to be even greater. Sometimes facts are altered to create drama, often a sign of a filmmaker’s limitations. But there’s a difference between bending facts and interpreting them. Filmmakers are people, as imperfect as the rest of us, and most of all entitled to their point of view. What I expect from a filmmaker is honesty and taking responsibility for his or her point of view. What I expect from a movie making a social statement is that its impact outweighs whatever flaws it might have.

With Selma, therefore, the issue ought not to be whether LBJ is portrayed accurately, but whether the director is open about her point of view and whether the movie’s message and importance are bigger than its controversy—or its flaws.

Toward The American Dream?

It now takes a yearly income of $96.513 to be able to afford a median price home in Los Angeles—$481.000. That is the third highest in the country. The highest needed income of $145,361 is In San Francisco, and the second highest of $101,682 is in San Diego. These figures assume a 30-year mortgage at 4.25% and a 20% down payment. As a result, the housing market in California is needless to say slow, although as one would expect, the high-end market is doing quite well. Yes, there is the other end of the spectrum where the lowest needed yearly salary for a median priced house in that area is in Pittsburgh with $32,373. Regardless of those few housing markets that appear affordable, the high cost of housing in several key areas of the country continues to exclude an increasingly larger group of people. It’s only a matter of time before such prices have more general consequences because rents are affected too. The cost of housing in turn affects disposable income, and when it does, it’s a concern, because with less money, people spend less and the economy of that area suffers. The housing numbers, collected by the mortgage research firm HSH.com, may seem dull but behind them there are realities affecting many lives—and a new poll tells us the American Dream. That’s why high housing costs have prompted both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae to announce new housing programs with down payments as low as 3%, given that 20% down payment is a main obstacle to home ownership. Less people now believe that the American Dream, so centered on owning your own home, is within reach. These measures are a good step, but it’ll take a whole lot more than scattered efforts to restore the average person’s faith that the American dream can still be part of the national psyche.