Tuesday, May 16, 2006

20 Years as But a Day (published 5-16-2006)

The Appalachian Irishman admits it; he can be hard to live with at times. Must be those Irish roots! Twenty years ago today, Mrs. Appalachian Irishman made the dubious decision to honor me by becoming my wife. Dubious on her part, because I dragged her, not by the hair, mind you, to the flat lands of Missouri for several years then on to Russia for a few more, before finally, finally returning to the true Garden of Eden--Upper East Tennessee.

Those twenty years have passed by as but a day. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman, at times, probably feels as if it has been forty years, but for me, it has been just a day. She is more lovely and dear to me now than then--and believe me, she was lovely and dear then too.

So, I raise my Guinness to you (no, I don’t drink, but let’s pretend), Mrs. Appalachian Irishman! Thanks, my dear, long-suffering wife, for putting up with me all these years. Here’s to twenty more!

Okay, okay, you may wipe your eye now! The Appalachian Irishman will return to his wit and witticism later.

What say you?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

ILLEGAL ANALOGY (published 5-14-2006; updated 6-26-2022)

We have a large, fine home with plenty of room. It is the envy of many in the neighborhood.

We regularly invite our neighbors over for the evening or to stay the weekend. They ring the doorbell and come in through the front door. They conduct themselves politely and properly. They leave willingly, when it is time to go. On occasion, an invited neighbor acts out of turn or over stays his welcome. He is not invited back.

Many in the neighborhood face difficulties in their own homes. We invite some of these neighbors into our home, not as guests, but as new family members. We take them in willingly, and we would take in more, if we had additional room. These neighbors are grateful, agree to obey the rules of our house, take on our last name, study our family heritage, and leave behind adherence to their old homes. We celebrate when we are able to help such neighbors!

Lately, however, some neighbors have tried to sneak in through a back room window. They do not have the dignity or courtesy to wait to be invited in through the front door. We ran them out at first, but they returned. So many started coming in! We couldn’t stop them!

Mother wanted father to increase security around the house, to keep out these uninvited neighbors, but father saw that some of them were cleaning the house, taking out the trash, mowing the yard – doing chores that house members did not want to do. So, he allowed them to keep sneaking in. Mother kept telling father that these neighbors were eating our food, using our medical supplies, and hurting us physically, but father didn’t care. He just noticed how the uninvited neighbors washed his car so well.

Some of the family even argued that we must allow these uninvited neighbors to come in, because we are so wealthy and they are so needy. “Why can’t we go to their homes and help them? Why can’t their own fathers and mothers help them?” I asked, to which I received no reasonable reply.

In time, these uninvited neighbors demanded that we take care of them! They wanted us to change our last name to theirs! They demanded their “rights” as equal members of the family! Our once well kept home is now in need of repair.

Why can’t these uninvited neighbors just wait to be invited in by the front door?

Hanging Up My Shingles (published 5-14-2006)

Chicken Pox Part Deux? Varicella zoster is the more scientific but less entertaining name. Yes, the shingles have floored the Appalachian Irishman!

Too much dang work! Too much darn stress! These are the hammers that nailed me. It started with that little pain in the side, like a sore muscle. Nothing about which to worry, right? Wrong! Next, the malaise poured over me. “What’s this little rash on my side?” I wondered next. Then, over last weekend, the little pox belt appeared!

By the way, for you linguists, varicella, from the Latin, means "little pox." Zoster is Greek for “girdle” or “belt.” The word shingles comes from cingulum, Latin for “belt” or “girdle.”

Finally, the proud Appalachian Irishman went to his family doctor, whose shingle hangs about 30 minutes from home. Having already done the research, I agreed with the doctor’s treatment -- an antiviral medication, ibuprofen, plenty of water, and rest. In another country, I could have bypassed the doctor’s office charge, by buying the antiviral drugs directly from the pharmacy -- without prescription. Not so in the good ol’ US of A! No, I must pay the doctor, to prescribe that which I know I already need! What a country!

Anyhow, I am recovering but not completely well. But, alas, this is not the nail point to the story!

Upon arrival at the doctor’s office, promptly, for my 9:45 AM appointment, I had to take a place in line, behind one of those well-dressed, overly friendly to the medical staff, pharmaceutical sales representatives -- pill pushers, by another name. Great! I almost asked the young thing, “Are you here to see the doctor for a medical reason?” Assuming her negative answer, my next line would have been, “Well, since I’m actually sick, you shouldn’t mind if I cut in front of you!” But, being a southern gentleman, I brushed aside those thoughts. Instead, the added stress, caused my side to hurt more. I’m sure that another red streak appeared as well. Thankfully, the receptionist made pill pusher chicklet sit down to wait also.

The good doctor took my advice and prescribed the antiviral medication that I recommended -- the generic that works as well as the high dollar brand name, which he first suggested. The brand name drug was probably the one that the sweet young thing out in the lobby was pushing!

Upon leaving the examination room, what did my wandering eyes see? Yes, another pill pusher -- standing just outside the door, like a vulture awaiting its next victim! This time, it was a young man, slickly dressed in the traditional dark suit. “Hello, Dr. Cox!” he cheerfully chortled. He caught my eye, and I glared at him.

Oh, by the way, before getting in to my family physician, I tried out a foreign doctor, whose shingle is only about five minutes away. “With the price of gas these days, why not try the local guy?” I had concluded.

Well, arriving for the 8:00 AM appointment, I filled out the traditional reams of new patient paperwork. To my surprise, the receptionist started talking about payment -- before I could see the doctor! “Well, with my HSA health insurance plan, I pay doctor’s office visits, for a reduced premium,” as I told the one-brain-celled young lady. I added, “I am ready to pay the $70.00 with my HSA debt card.” Well, to my surprise, the debt card frightened to death the educationally challenged chick! She asked me to go home, get the HSA checkbook, and return, before I could be treated!

Having arrived home, with additional pain and reddening in my side from the experience, I called my regular doctor, mentioned, above, to set an appointment. I then promptly called the give us money first, before we help you, doctor’s office. I told, politely, the one brain cell babe that I didn’t like her approach. I told her that I had arranged to see a real doctor.

Fortunately, the Appalachian Irishman is from hearty stock and doesn’t need a doctor more than once a year, if that. This experience, however, illustrates the sad state of medical practice in this country. First, the lack of true market forces continues to drive up health care costs. Set aside the stinking co-pays, to which millions think they have a constitutional right, and dicker directly with doctors on office visit charges! Second, pharmaceutical companies should neither advertise nor send their minions of pill pushers, to bribe doctors into prescribing their high priced product. Third, people should put down the Twinkie and get some exercise, instead of neglecting their health and expecting the doctor to fix them. Finally, tort reform should eliminate frivolous medical lawsuits and limit settlements. Other measures, I’m sure, could be taken.

Despite the need for reform and improvement in our medical system, we must not seek salvation, by further socializing healthcare! I’ve been to Russia, and I've seen the effects of socialized medicine. We don’t need that here!

Well, it’s time to take another pill. Maybe America will do the same.

What say you?