Monday, March 17, 2008

... and on the 8th day, God made golf

Author's Note: The following column was published in the March 6 edition of the Dallas Morning News Collin County Opinion pages.
It is written that, in the beginning, God created Heaven and earth. On the seventh day, He rested. A few weekends later, He displayed his incredible sense of humor and in­vented … golf.
That is the only explanation. Otherwise the game makes no sense.
After all, the concept defies explanation. Hit a little white ball, go find it hundreds of yards away, lying somewhere between trees and tall hay. When you find it, you hit it again ... and again ... and again ... until it falls into a hole no wider than a coffee cup.
And when that happens, pick up the little white sphere, march to the next tee, and proceed to repeat the en­tire process. For 17 more holes.
Under a blistering sun. Dying of thirst. Shaking like a leaf. Dog tired. Ready to col­lapse.
Or until you run out of those little white things. Whichever comes first.
It isn’t blasphemous to believe that God can be funny. The human race was made in His image, and we laugh our heads off all the time. Hence, God must possess a crackling wit and a wicked sense of humor.
Otherwise how do you explain a platypus? (Is it a beaver or a duck?) Or penguins (funny looking birds with feathers that can’t fly). Or the AMC Pacer? Or the Texas (baseball) Rangers? Or Sunjaya’s hair?
Lord only knows ... so to speak.
Obviously, God looked down at Adam, bounding around the Garden of Eden in his Ralph Lauren Polo fig leaf, representing Mankind, and He wasn’t happy.
God must have thought, “Adam looks too content, too comfortable, too at ease. I’ll invent something that will drive him crazy, keep him totally frustrated, perplexed, unnerved and exasperated.
“There’s already a woman in his life, so I guess I’ll just add golf.”
And that is how it happened. I read it in the Gospel According to (Ben) Hogan.
Soon, Adam reacted much like the rest of us to this newly-formed recreational activity. He left the Garden early in the morning with his clubs for the course, with Eve wondering when, or if, she would get him to cut the grass or do his chores around the hut.
Eventually Adam became obsessed with such terms as “cavity back,” “bermuda grass,” “draw,” “fade,” “you da man,” and “that dog will hunt.” When Adam would shout about “snaking” in a putt, Eve might have taken that a little too much to heart.
One day, Adam had enough of the game and tossed his clubs into the River Styx. He swore never to play the sport again ... unless God invented some Big Berthas that Adam could afford.
When Adam looked toward the heavens and questioned his Master, a sudden bolt of lightning cut through the sky. God had heard enough and ended the conversation abruptly.
“Be lucky I haven’t thought of bowling yet.”
Adam immediately looked for an apple to bite.
And we’ve had the “sport” of golf ever since.
Chuck Bloom, who was once called “Moses” by a caddy because he spent SO much time in sandtraps, is a former Texas columnist-edito-newspaper publisher.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nurses are God’s angels on earth

Author's Note: This is the unabridged version of the column published in the Sunday, March 16, 2008 edition of the Dallas Morning News Collin County Opinion page. The author suffered a heart attack March 3 and was hospitalized until March 8. He is now home recovering and rehabilitating his eating and exercise habits.
It took another serious medical episode for me to remember several vital facts of life.
First, a hospital is really no place for anyone to get well.
Second, nurses are God’s angels here on earth.
I survived a recent stay at Medical Center of Plano because I had a group of special people watching over me. More than the doctors who performed the various exploratory procedures (and helped stabilized me when I arrived in the emergency room), a patient is totally dependent on the shift nurses to maintain some sense of contact with the real world. Without them, you’re lost, often scared, confused … and completely alone.
I’ve visited hospitals far too frequently in the last decade or so, but before that, I’d never been hospitalized for anything more than removal of my tonsils (for which I hold no memory). So to most people, everything that happens, from the IV in your arm to the incisions you receive to the constant monitoring of vital signs, is brand new.
And, more often than not, it’s a frightening experience, especially when you have no idea of what the future holds. In my situation, that fear was eliminated by those “angels” – always there, no matter the time of night or how petty the request might have seemed to the non-patient. They were there to hold a hand if needed, to share a newspaper when sought, to talk a little politics when the sound of your own voice became unbearable and to explain what was often unexplainable in terms that the normal person can grasp.
I learned more about my procedure, options and the multitude of medications from the nurses than from my doctors (who were wonderful as well, but just not as omnipresent as the nurses). It wasn’t the technical knowledge that these men and women shared; it stemmed from their experiences with other patients, or in some cases, having gone through the same thing.
If I may, a word of praise for a moment of this particular facility – Medical Center of Plano – one of the possible “hidden” gems within the Collin County scene.
In this season of wide-ranging political debate, it needs to be stated that Americans do NOT have a health care providing problem; we have access to the finest institutions, best equipment and best-trained personnel in the world. We have a health care coverage/payment problem between the low-balling insurance companies and those within the business who must offset ever-increasing costs. The consumer/patient is caught in the middle of this tug of war and usually feels pulled in multiple directions.
But not here – at least not as the public face to its patients. MCP is one of THE best facilities I’ve seen from the inside. Everyone’s direct charge seems to be providing the best treatment and experience with a positive attitude; and trust me, with someone like yours truly, it can be tested to the hilt. MCP passed with flying colors because no one seemed to be able to say “no.”
At this hospital, little things matter. The food can honestly be judged against any restaurant in the area. When was the last time you heard of a hospital menu that provided fresh grilled asparagus or very tasty sugar-free cheesecake? “Rock-a-Bye and Good Night” is played softly over the hospital intercom when a child is brought into the world in the maternity ward. Patient advocates visit to specifically inquire about individual needs and patients can be discharged and take home a CD of their tests and documentation for future referrals.
In the catherization lab, support personnel asked me what music should play in the background, and from their library, I chose Dire Straits’ classic “Brother in Arms,” because I thought “Walk of Life” set the right tone … and I wanted to hum “I want my MTV” to distract me from my pain.
Even the gracious and accommodating dietician successfully determined the carb count (suddenly one of MY vital numbers to know) of matzo balls – one of my all-time favorite foods. While it might have been the most unusual request she’s received, she completed the assignment with total professionalism and humor (another indispensable item to one’s recovery).
It’s hard to imagine any major hospital functioning with any degree of proficiency without its well-trained, professional nurses. They have to wear simultaneously several gowns (medical service deliverer, maid, friend, confidant) and probably don’t earn nearly enough financial compensation for their troubles. I know they seldom earn the public’s highest respect; so it’s fallen to me to deliver such praise.
So this tribute goes to the doctors and nurses in the ER and on the seventh floor of Medical Center of Plano – Drs. Neeta Bavikati and Samaha Syed; ER personnel Dr. Jeff Shaffer, RNs Carolyn Sanders, Jackie Jirsa, Candice Stroh; floor RNs Fernando Cruz, Janet Trowbridge, Chandrika Solanki, Diane Finch, Abhini Joseph, Arlyna Lange, Blessing Ukaji, Morag Robson; nursing student Cathy Skarsten; and techs Happiness Robinson, Addie Robinson, Okama Bassey and Vicki Cuthbert.
They are to “blame” for getting me back to this keyboard and to my home, feistier than ever.
I’ll just call them as “Charlie’s Angels” if you don’t mind, and I will remember them for the rest of my (hopefully extended) life. :-)