Saturday, October 07, 2017

To Euthanize or Not to Euthanize?

To euthanize or not to euthanize? That is the question. Well, actually, not exactly.

My Tao-Tao has been diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma that his brilliant internist says should claim his life within two weeks or so on its own. But I don't want him to suffer needlessly enroute to his inevitable demise. Yet I also want to keep him with us and to hold him on my lap, as I'm doing this very moment, and stroke him, and tell him I love him for as long as I can before taking him on his final trip to the vet.

And right now, possibly due in part to administering to him antibiotic, appetite-stimulant (Mirtazipine), anti-inflammatory steroid prednisolone, and, via syringe into the mouth, prescription cat food with extra nutritional density, he seems to be doing much better than he was a few days ago. His respiratory infection seems to be pretty much gone, although the prednisolone may compromise his immune system enough to bring his infection back in spades. And he's eating, drinking, moving around, and vocalizing almost like his old, healthy self, although the Mirtazipine may well be magnifying his vitality.

This made it impossible for me to follow though with my original plan to have him put down yesterday or today. And, yet, I know he's not and never will be back to his old, normal self. I know his seeming "recovery" is superficial at best and exceedingly temporary. And, for all I know, he's suffering in ways I can't perceive.

So, am I being cruelly selfish in postponing the inevitable another day or several days? Tao-Tao is the closest thing to a human child I will ever have. Were he human, he would no doubt be kept alive, with palliative treatment, until he passed away on his own. So, why is it that we readily resort to euthanasia for our animal "children"? If we do it for them, in order to refrain from hopelessly prolonging their suffering, why don't we do it for humans? If our human children's imminent death is inevitable, is it really doing them any favor to grant them an extra few hours or days of life the memory of which will presumably be annihilated after they die?

But then one could draw out that line of reasoning to argue that bringing any new animal or human life into the world when we have the power to prevent it is an act of inexcusable selfishness since a new creature is likely to experience more suffering than its opposite and to die and to forget the good times it experienced. At the very least, this idea could be marshaled to argue that people, not to mention animals, should be euthanized at the first sign of distress caused by a hopelessly terminal illness, especially if they ask to be or lack the ability to express their wishes.

I can't confidently answer these questions, and I'm not going to tax myself trying to. I'm just going to continue enjoying my beloved Tao-Tao's company for as long as he seems to be enjoying mine, and when he no longer does, or his suffering appears, to my best judgment, to exceed his pleasure, it'll be time to do what it will break my heart to do.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

My Cat's Dying

I just received news from my cat's veterinarian that I was hoping to God (or to whatever cosmic powers that might be) I wouldn't. Tao-Tao has high-grade lymphoma of the liver and intestine and the treatment options are prohibitively expensive and unpromising for significant extension of life, not to mention quality of life, for however long it might be extended. Without treatment, he probably has less than a couple of weeks if his condition is allowed to run its natural course. But I don't want him to suffer that long just so we can selfishly keep him with us. So, it looks like euthanasia within the next day or two at most is in the cards, and I am deeply, deeply saddened. He may be just a cat, but he's OUR cat, and more like a child to us than a mere cat. I dread telling my wife the news, although I'm guessing she pretty much expected it, just as I did. Not much more to say.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Texas and Las Vegas: A Tale of Two Similar Massacres

Remember Charles Whitman, the "Texas Tower Sniper"? The Vegas shootings seem reminiscent of that awful massacre decades ago. And what distinguished that shooting, besides it having been conducted from an elevated location, seems as though it may distinguish yesterday's as well. Neither shooter seems to have undergone religious or ideological radicalization, to have had a longstanding obsession with guns and violence, or a lingering history of criminal or domestic violence. It turns out that Whitman had a large brain tumor that arguably caused him to do what he did. Will an autopsy, if there's enough brain left, reveal similar organic causation of the Vegas shooter's "out of the blue," homicidal frenzy? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

First Impressions of "The Good Doctor"

I didn't watch "The Good Doctor" last night, because I go to bed before 10 in order to get up with my wife at 6 on weekday mornings, and I value my sleep more than ever. However, I knew I could watch it on demand on the ABC website later, and I've just done that this morning.

First, I should say that I've been looking ever so forward to this show since I first learned of it months ago and saw the trailer for it. Of course, I've always been fond of good (and even not-so-good) medical TV dramas going all the way back to "Ben Casey." But "The Good Doctor" had two additional factors to commend it. 

First, is the autistic-savant theme which has a special personal resonance, although I don't know if and where I fall on the autistic so-called "spectrum." Or whether I come anywhere close to being a savant. I would say that I don't. I'm just modestly better than average with words and like to learn and think about a lot of things, even though I harbor no illusions that I'm any kind of genius of erudition or in the profundity of my contemplations . And I certainly lack the "Good Doctor's" phenomenal "spatial intelligence." 

Second is the show's pedigree. It was adapted by David Shore from a Korean medical TV drama of the same theme and name. Who is David Shore? The creator of "House." Need I say more? 

Now on to the first episode. My overall impression is a positive one. As I alluded to earlier, I love the theme of the brilliant autistic-savant struggling to fit into a society and medical sub-culture that operate on a different wavelength than his own. 

I identify very strongly with the person who has always been and always will be on the outside looking in at society. I like the way the actor Freddie Highmore plays the title character. Did you know that he's British, like "House" actor Hugh Laurie, and naturally speaks, as you might suspect of a British person, with a strong English accent? 

I like the Richard Schiff character very much. He plays Dr. Glassman, the hospital head who recruited Dr. Murphy and fought against strong and understandable opposition to get him hired. It's said that we each have an archetype--a personification of specific qualities of character--with which we resonate most strongly based on our own nature. Mine is undoubtedly the archetype of the "wise old man" or sage. Not that I consider myself a sage or to even begin to approach sagehood. But I'm most strongly attracted to sage-like characters in life and artistic drama. Dr. Glassman represents this archetype for me.

Then there is the very pretty Antonia Thomas. It looks like she and Dr. Murphy may develop some kind of friendship and perhaps even something deeper over time. She is also British. In fact, there appear to be many very pretty female characters in the show, which certainly makes it even more appealing to me. Some of the male characters, however, appear to be jerks. I like the way Dr. Murphy, lacking as he is in so-called EQ, tells the haughty chief cardiac surgeon, and without any artifice, exactly what he thinks of him at the end of the episode, even if it probably won't enhance his medical career prospects.

I like the intelligence of the dialogue. It's sophisticated and substantive, and I'm hoping it remains at that high level and doesn't devolve into disproportionately long segments of soap operatic personal intrigue.

Indeed, about the only thing I don't particularly like about the show is the way it uses music to melodramatic effect that I find distractingly cloying and certainly unnecessary. But the show looks like it's going to be more than good enough for me to largely overlook that.

What did you think of the first episode?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trump Makes Me Actually Like George W. Bush

I'm no presidential historian, professional or amateur. So, I claim no expertise in rating presidents on a quality scale. But when George W. Bush was president, I despised him and thought he was one of the worst presidents ever.

For better or worse, the presidency of Donald J. Trump has me looking back with fondness on the Bush presidency. And I actually find myself liking Bush as a person.

I now understand, in a way I never could before, why George Bush was reputedly the president people would most like to have a beer with, if he still drank alcohol, that is. I probably would too. And not because of his fame as an ex-president. But because, especially compared to our current president, he seems to be a genuinely nice person that it would be interesting and fun to talk with, no matter how incompetent he arguably was as president.

I suspect that Trump will make every president we ever had before or will ever have after his disastrous occupancy of the White House seem great by comparison. Should I be terrified at the thought?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fred Rogers is My Role Model

This morning, a friend posted to Facebook the following question: “What inspires you?” I initially replied with a photo of Donald Trump holding a bible. Of course, I was being bitterly facetious. To my mind, Trump’s Christian pretensions are a grotesque mockery of Christianity and, even more so, of the Christians who support him. But I wasn’t content to leave that as my final answer to my friend’s sincere and serious question. So I followed up by saying:

A more serious reply to your that too many things inspire me to list. But if I seek a common thread in most or all of them, what I find is people being the best they can be physically, intellectually, artistically, athletically, characterologically, "spiritually," and in every other good way possible and being a figurative light in the pandemic darkness of this world. And I've somehow come to view this guy as kind of the patron saint of "light."

I didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers. I came along several years before his PBS show did. But if I’d been a young kid when his show graced the airwaves, I’d like to think I would have benefitted from it. I’d also like to think I can still benefit from the shining example Fred Rogers set in videos like the one above and this one and this one.

How so? Well, I think we can all benefit from having inspiring role models in our life. It’s not that we necessarily try to be exactly like our role models. But we can do our best to internalize and manifest their spirit in everything we say and do. And when we encounter challenging circumstances where we aren’t sure exactly how we should proceed, we can ask ourselves what our role model would say or do in that situation.

Christians often ask and have been mocked for asking, “What would Jesus do?” Well, I never saw Jesus. Not in person or on video. But I’ve seen plenty of Fred Rogers. And his gentle voice and loving demeanor fill my mind with the palpable gratitude those Hollywood celebrities displayed during Fred Rogers’ acceptance speech at the daytime Emmy awards. And I want to live what’s left of my life manifesting his spirit in my own unique way.

I’m not sure how to go about doing that. I’ve bottled up a lot of anger and despair in my disappointing life, and I have a tendency to flee from Rogerian earnestness to pseudo-clever irony and caustic sarcasm, and from unconditional positive regard for my fellow humans to angry denunciation and condemnation of their words and deeds.

But I want to stop doing those things. And I’m hoping I have the wherewithal to follow through with my intention while there’s still time even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done or ever could do. May the saintly Fred Rogers help light the way out of my darkness.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why I Don't Mourn My Friend's Death

Over a year ago, I wrote the following in the wake of something I wrote even earlier:
Sitting at the bedside of a good friend who seems, for reasons I don't fully understand, to be virtually comatose and close to death from cerebral hypoxia associated with an advanced stage of Alzheimer's. What an awful, cruel disease Alzheimer's is!
Three nights ago, my friend’s decline ended unceremoniously in a senior care home bed. It was the first time either I or my wife had ever watched anyone die “up close and personal.” My friend lie in bed, unresponsive to his environment, unblinking eyes wide open, gasping in a strange, rhythmically spasmodic manner for breath. And then after what seemed like ten or more seconds’  interruption in breathing, he breathed in and out a couple more times, closed his eyes briefly and opened them again, and then stopped breathing altogether. A hospice nurse arrived a half hour later to officially pronounce him deceased on July 10, 2017 at 11 pm.

I wish I could say I was struck by the momentousness of a life passing before my eyes, but I’d be lying. I felt almost nothing except sadness for my friend’s wife who, after taking tender care of her virtually comatose husband for over a year with almost superhuman diligence, lost the considerable monetary benefits she would have qualified for had he been able to hold on for just twenty-two more days.

Maybe one reason why I felt so little is because it seemed to me that my friend actually died over a year ago. Certainly, the shell of a person who lie helpless in that bed virtually unconscious for all those months requiring total care from his wife and other caregivers was not the man who watched TV with me at my house several times a week two or three short years ago and intelligently discussed politics, international events, religion, philosophy, and the copious personal adventures of his rich and varied life.

If I were to have felt anything besides sadness for his wife, maybe it should have been elation over the fact that my friend was now “free at at last, thank God almighty [he is] free at last!”

Yet perhaps that possibility was tempered by various considerations such as my uncertainty over whether a fully dead or non-conscious entity can be better off than a conscious one any more than a rock is “better off” than a starving child, and of whether, if my friend’s consciousness continued in some posthumous condition or place, he actually suffered less when lying virtually comatose on this mortal plane. Suppose he died and passed on to some excruciatingly hellish afterlife or wandered alone and fearful in some strange new dimension.

Or maybe my friend’s death and death in general mean little to me anymore because life has come to mean little to me. The older I get, the more I see life as a pointless, futile exercise. My friend seemed to think of it that way too. In fact, we seemed to think a lot alike about a lot of things. Maybe that’s why we were friends.