Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, January 31, 2015

"Together Forever"

"Officers attended and rapidly determined it wasn't a police matter."
"They [elderly couple] ran across some difficult times financially and he ended up pawning the wedding ring to get food."
"It struck a chord with our officers. It wasn't a normal call. It was an emotional time for all once they determined what had happened."
Believe it or not, they [police officers] don't do this for the recognition. They did it because it's what they do best, which is to respond compassionately."
"The bigger story here is you have a couple in distress in the midst of our community and it's the police that have to go. It's not a police matter but it turns into one because there's no other services out there on a Saturday or a Sunday."
"It really has caused us to become the social service of choice -- we're here 24/7, 365 days a year. If there's anything that happens that requires assistance, it seems to roll to us. We don't oppose intervening, because someone needs to, but our officers are called upon to deal with these things and ensure people are referred on to the proper help."
Cornwall Police Chief Dan Parkinson
Cornwall police officers bought a pawned wedding ring back from a shop for a senior who sold it to care for his sick wife.
Cornwall police, it would seem, responded to a call for intervention in a domestic dispute. A not-unusual type of call. Police are constantly called upon to attend to private homes where arguments or worse, take place in families, and they do their utmost to pacify the aggrieved persons, to persuade whoever happens to be the aggressor to calm down and talk things through. Unless matters have reached a pitch where someone has become violent. In which case violence begets arrest

In this particular case, however, there might have been a raised-voice discussion, nothing more. An elderly couple, married 54 years, with the husband providing the primary care for his wife who has dementia, driven to his limits of perseverance and compassionate care born of love and commitment. The man had evidently gone to a local pawn shop and turned his wedding ring over for cash to enable him to buy food.

This is what can be called dire straits. When an elderly couple has no one to turn to, neither family members who will care enough to involve themselves, nor neighbours with time to spare for others apart from their own personal concerns, nor social welfare units within the community geared to assess a situation such as theirs; an older man left to his own devices to devote time and care to a health-compromised wife, on a meagre income leaving them needy in every conceivable way.

When the responding police officers realized the the nature of the situation they found themselves faced with a personal dilemma which they felt required their personal solution, at least temporarily. They undertook to raise, between their fellow officers and the police department's civilian employees, enough money to buy the wedding ring back from the pawn shop, and to do some grocery shopping for the elderly pair.

It took $130 to give that 54-year-pledged commitment in a ring of gold with the inscription "together forever" a reprieve, and another $150 to furnish sufficient groceries for the elderly pair, to keep them nourished for a brief respite in their difficult elder-years. The police officers then contacted the Alzheimer's Society and the local Community Care Access Centre for assistance for the couple whose names have been discreetly protected.

Constables Kim Norman, Cody Casselman, Michel Riel, Rodney DeGray, Casey MacGregor, James Lemoyre, sergeants Patrick Paquette, Dan Doyon and George Knezevic, along with civilians Jody Sheard, Josee Lalonde, Claire Denis, Jenna Legault and Tasha Marcotte, are in line for a special commendation from their police services board.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Sight For The Sightless

"It's become a bit of a worldwide phenomenon. The response has been truly incredible. Just in the last couple of days, there's been many thousands who have emailed us, saying they'd like a pair."
"His thesis [eSight company founder] was, if technology can solve all these telecommunications problems, perhaps it could solve what he regarded as a greater problem, which was blindness."
"[The response] is beyond our wildest dreams. We're just blown away by how much people care about this story."
Taylor West, director of outreach, eSight

"It was amazing, honestly. I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't sure if I would be disappointed, if I wouldn't be able to see him [her newborn]."
"[She was ecstatic to be enabled to see his] fine little features.  He's [Aksel, her baby] a big and chubby baby now."
"It was overwhelming because I got to recognize my husband..."
"I would have figured out a way to do it [make the most of her blind state in caring for her baby] before, but now I don't have to figure out a way. I just get to do it. And that is enormous."
"I actually could see a cheque [with the glasses]. I had never really seen what a cheque looks like. That's how I knew it would work for me."
Kathy Beitz, 29, blind Guelph, Ontario resident, new mother

It is a story, after all, of enormous hope; that people without the ability to see will be able to now, with the help of new technology. Scientists are working on various aids to help people with blindness, not all of them requiring a technical assist; some working to 'rewire' (retrain) the brain of a blind person so that sight-reception can be achieved promoting neuroplasticity. But there are other technical devices, like one that uses the tongue to relay signals to the brain to achieve sight.
A pair of sunglasses wired to an electric "lollipop" helps the visually impaired regain optical sensations via a different pathway

The technology company that produces these goggle-like spectacles -- eSight -- which are computerized glasses, began its research and production eight years ago in a suburb of Ottawa. It took until 2013 to produce functioning sight glasses. Roughly 140 people now use these glasses, which have a pricetag of $15,000. News coverage from India, to Malaysia, South America to Japan have brought enquiries to the company about their product.
Kathy Beitz, who was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition called Stargardt's disease at age 11 and is legally blind, sees her newborn baby in this frame from a video her sister posted to YouTube.com.    YouTube.com
A video had been posted on YouTube by Yvonne Felix, of her sister Kathy Beitz of Guelph, Ontario. Both sisters had been diagnosed with Stargardt's disease in their pre-teen years. Over 2.4-million views have been logged since January 21 when the video first appeared of a young woman with a degenerative eye condition leaving her with a mere two percent of full sight, seeing her newborn baby in hospital with the use of the goggles.

Conrad Lewis, the company founder, is a computer engineer, and it was his vision of aiding the blind that led to this particular advanced technological aid for the blind. He was inspired by a need to help his own two legally blind sisters who just happen to suffer from the very same eye affliction as the two sisters, Kathy Beitz, and her sister Yvonne Felix, who also wears the goggles and happens to work for eSight.

Kathy Beitz has 20/400 vision. She has macular degeneration as well, leaving large blind spots obliterating most of her vision. Wearing eSight's glasses, her vision tests at 20/20. With the aid of the glasses she can read to her infant son. She can also shop like most people do, reading the tags for sizes and prices. One caution; the visual stimulation that the glasses account for can be headache inducing, so she wears them sparingly.

When Kathy's son Aksel was born on December 10, her sister was there to ensure she could take advantage of the glasses to see her baby. Her sister made a video of the unique circumstances and the first sight of the young blind mother of her baby boy. When it was posted on YouTube the response was immediate and gratifying. News organizations worldwide ran with the story.

Now, the demand for the eSight glasses has grown exponentially, so much so that the company is planning to expand production. If that demand continues it will have to increase production even more, leading to an increase from its current ten employees to however many it will take to train and begin production on a larger scale to meet the needs of those who are able to afford such an invaluable sensory assist in life.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Grateful To Be Alive

"I really want to find out who the man was who called the ambulance for me and saved my life. I owe him a huge thank you."
"He was kind of far away. I was screaming for help. I couldn't pull myself out of the ditch in time. My feet got caught. It wasn't like my whole leg that was caught, but my whole leg had to be amputated."
"It was dark. I could feel my feet. I was pulling myself out of the ditch with my arms. That's why I was stuck there for so long. I didn't have a chance to walk out of that ditch. I had to pull myself out with my hands."
"If it wasn't so cold I would have died. The cold kept me alive."
"He was by a car or a truck. He ran over and helped me and called an ambulance. After that I don't remember anything. I remember everything up until him calling the ambulance. The next time I came to it was around New Year's."
"I'm looking forward to going home because that's what's been keeping me happy and keeping me going."
"I can't wait for rehab[ilitation]. The time has finally come. I'm healing fast, extremely fast. And I'm finally done everything. There's no more surgeries."
Sarah Stott, Montreal, Quebec
Sarah Stott gets a visit from her dog, Sheeba, at the Montreal General Hospital.
Facebook   Sarah Stott gets a visit from her dog, Sheeba, at the Montreal General Hospital.

The 22-year-old woman, pursuing her advanced education in Montreal had just completed her shift waitressing at the Irish Embassy Pub on Bishop Street in the Verdun area of Montreal. It was early morning, dark since it was only 3:00 a.m. She took a short cut often used by neighbourhood people, leading across CN rail lines to arrive more quickly at her apartment not far away. She had passed a train that was stopped, but hadn't noticed a second freight train looming forward on the left-hand side.

That train hit her and knocked her into a dark ditch between two tracks. Where she lay in agony for hours. The newspaper item detailing her awful story didn't make note of why she hadn't heard the freight train coming toward her. Given the habits of young people today to constantly wear ear plugs listening to music on their electronic devices, or speaking on their iphones it's a fair bet that Sarah Stott, fortunately now recovering from her dreadful experience, might have been doing one or the other.

That happened in early December, and she has been in the Montreal General Hospital receiving treatment since that fateful night. It wasn't unusually cold that night at minus-14 Celsius, but cold enough for the date and the place, as the young woman lay in pain and morbidly wounded that she could have bled to death, but didn't because the cold slowed her rate of bleeding. The cold caused frostbite to her hands, so she also lost six of her fingers.

She has had to undergo over a dozen surgeries. One leg was amputated above the hip joint, the other below the knee. Only the thumb and index finger of each hand could be saved. And they care critical digits to have remaining functional. The last of the intravenous lines stabilizing her were removed this week. Her mother had left their Ottawa home when her daughter was hospitalized and has been living in her daughter's apartment since that time.

The plan now is to move the young woman from the Montreal hospital that has been treating her for the past two months to The Ottawa Hospital, in the city where the young woman grew up and where her family still lives. "Her address is with me", her mother Shelley Stott said, speaking of her daughter as "the air that I breathe. I need to be with her. I need to take care of her."

That care and the emotional support that it represents will be needed by her daughter as her new life evolves and she learns to make herself comfortable within that new and very unexpected future.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hunger Gnaws in Nunavut

"There's always been incidents of starvation."
"Economically Inuit were now [with collapse of fox fur trade] in really serious trouble."
"Inuit were moved around [government Northern relocation]. The attitude was, 'Well, you know, what the hell? They can survive anyplace there's snow and caribou and foxes to be had."
"By the mid-1950s, the government sort of saw what they thought was the handwriting on the wall. That Inuit were going to have to be modernized instead of kept in their traditional lifestyle."
Frank Tester, Arctic historian, University of British Columbia

"Bringing something as private as poverty and the fact that you're hungry and you're food insecure, that's very different."
"I think people are saying, 'This is not a hidden problem. We can't pretend it doesn't exist anymore'."
"There is a disparity -- not only ethnically, but also the social classes."
former Iqaluit mayor Madeleine Redfern

"When farms do not make enough produce, farmers are given a lot of subsidies across Canada. But in Canada's Arctic, prices are rising in terms of bullets, ammunition and Ski-Doos, the equipment. So it's more costly to hunt."
Cathy Towtongie, president, Nunavut Tunngavik

  • The shelves at the Northern Store in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, in February 2011 show very high prices for things like processed cheese spread, infant formula and instant noodles. Nunavut MLA Ron Elliott, who represents Arctic Bay, says the prices of these items have risen in Nunavut's High Arctic communities since the federal government started changing its northern food subsidy program last year. (Submitted by Ron Elliott)
  • The shelves at the Northern Store in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, in February 2011 show very high prices for things like processed cheese spread, infant formula and instant noodles. Nunavut MLA Ron Elliott, who represents Arctic Bay, says the prices of these items have risen in Nunavut's High Arctic communities since the federal government started changing its northern food subsidy program last year. (Submitted by Ron Elliott)
The Government of Canada initiated a $60-million food subsidy called Nutrition North to alleviate the burden of food cost for Northern residents of Canada. The high cost of shipping food to the North meant that prices for ordinary food fundamentals were sky-high, unaffordable but for the very necessities, and even those beyond the reach of many of Nunavut's residents. The Northern AirStage Program of the 1960s also known as FoodMail was initiated to try to amend the problem.

That program of subsidizing shipping costs changed in 2011 to Nutrition North, where food retailers were granted a subsidy based on the weight of eligible foods shipped to eligible communities. Canada's auditor general, after recent careful scrutiny, reached the conclusion that the Aboriginal Affairs Department erred in not selecting eligible communities based on need. That designation was instead granted communities based on year-round road access and whether they had made use of the old FoodMail program.
mi-iqaluit-protest-june-9-2012
Leesee Papatsie, the organizer of the Feeding my Family protests, speaks to the crowd Saturday in Iqaluit. (Ronald Elliott)

Those communities that had seldom used the program are under the new one eligible only for a partial subsidy; those that hadn't used it at all, have no eligibility under the new program. "Consequently, community eligibility is based on past usage instead of current need", the audit found; a poor measure of need. Auditor General Michael Ferguson was informed by Aboriginal Affairs that to expand the full subsidy to some 50 fly-in northern communities would increase the cost by $7-million annually.

That niggling problem was solved somewhat with the federal government increasing its spending on the program by another $11.3-million over the following year. Under the current program, merchants are not required to report profit margins, a yardstick of measurement that would reveal whether the full subsidy is being passed on to the consumer. As of April 1, another change has been made where retailers will have to give that information on their current and long-term profit margins.

Organizer of the June 14 food protest, Leesee Papatsie, holds a sign at a protest held across the street from Northmart in Iqaluit. About a dozen people came out to raise awareness of overpriced and expired food in the North. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Organizer of the June 14 food protest, Leesee Papatsie, holds a sign at a protest held across the street from Northmart in Iqaluit. About a dozen people came out to raise awareness of overpriced and expired food in the North. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

The emergence of a Facebook group calling itself "Feeding My Family" revealed to a wider audience the shocking price tags that people in Nunavut face when they trek into their local grocery store; the sheer unaffordability of eating decently. That revelation gave way to street protests. And it became clear that those going hungry are Inuit. Their record of unemployment is a hint of the problem they face. Nunavut's labour force represents 14,000 individuals, 9,500 of them Inuit.

A deeper look at the statistics indicate that 8,500 working-age Inuit are not included in the labour force, in comparison to 600 non-Inuit who are unemployed. During the last three months of 2014, the unemployment rate for Inuit in Nunavut stood at 17.9 percent. The territory's statistics bureau indicates that the number of people in Nunavut on social assistance during 2013 was 14,578. To place that in perspective, the total Nunavut population in 2011 was 31,906.

Inuit traditional foods called "country food" is represented by caribou, seal and whale meat. The Nunavut Food Security Coalition, comprised of representatives from the territorial government, Inuit organizations, industry and social groups, recommended that Inuit return to their tradition of hunting for their food. An enterprising former Edmontonian began a hunter's and trapper's market in Iqaluit, inviting hunters to sell their meat through his town market.

"The goal was really to change the conversation about how we deal with country food here in Iqaluit", said Will Hyndman who operates the market. But then, most of the hunters face another struggle; to be able to afford the price of ammunition and fuel, to be enabled to sell their the product of their hunting forays. In Iqalui,t people cope as well with the help of the soup kitchen operated by the city, or they turn to the food bank open two days a month.

The Niqinik Nuatsivik Food Bank, begun in 2001, served about 30 families at its outset. Currently, according to its chairman of the board, Stephen Wallick, 120 families benefit from food and supplies handed out every two weeks. The city's soup kitchen makes enough for 200 servings daily, sometimes finding it's not enough to serve everyone who needs the help.

There are suggestions that the federal government consider operating a program providing funding to hunters to enable them to buy equipment to hunt, fish and trap. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.'s president feels the government should offer to offset the cost of hunting equipment in the North as a fair and just reflection of the way it aids in the subsidy of farmers in the rest of Canada.

How expensive are groceries in Nunavut? Shop for yourself by checking the items in the grocery cart to find out. 
CART
Celery (1kg)
Onions (1kg)
Canned tomatoes (796ml)
Baked beans (398ml)
White sugar (2kg)
Carrots (1kg)
Dried macaroni (500g)
French fries (1kg)
Bananas (1kg)
Mushrooms (1kg)
Canned soup (284ml)
Ketchup (1L)
Soda crackers (450g)
Oranges (1kg)
Potatoes (4.54kg)
Sliced bacon (500g)
Processed cheese (250g)
Apples (1kg)
Instant coffee (200g)
Bread (675g)
Hot dogs (450g)
Baby food (128ml)
Peanut butter (500g)
Butter (454g)
Canned salmon (213g)
Pork chops (1kg)
2% milk (1L)
Stewing beef (1kg)
Ground beef (1kg)
Eggs
(1 doz.)
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Arctic Bay
$230.74
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Arviat
$207.13
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Baker Lake
$208.36
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Gjoa Haven
$234.03
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Igloolik
$214.63
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Iqaluit
$203.19
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Kugluktuk
$216.47
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Pangnirtung
$242.20
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Pond Inlet
$231.60
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Rankin Inlet
$205.80
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Canada
$113.99
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Nunavut
$219.80
Interactive by Murat Yukselir/The Globe and Mail; Reporting by Josh Kerr for The Globe and Mail; Research by Josh Kerr for The Globe and Mail and Rick Cash/The Globe and Mail Sources: Food Price Survey Report August 2013/Nunavut Bureau of Statistics, Firstair.ca, Interviews with First Air and Arctic Co-op

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Special Angels"

"A 25-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder after a stabbing attack in Petawawa, Ont., left one man dead and a woman and teenage girl critically injured."
"Brian David Goddard appeared in a Kingston, Ont., courtroom on Saturday morning via video from the Ontario Provincial Police detachment where he is being held, according to OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae.
Rae said Goddard, who has no fixed address, will be remanded in custody until his next court appearance on Tuesday in Pembroke."
CBC News, June 29, 2013

This home on Jan Drive in Petawawa, Ont., was taped off after Emma Guthrie, 17, was stabbed, neighbours said.
This home on Jan Drive in Petawawa, Ont., was taped off after Emma Guthrie, 17, was stabbed, neighbours said. (Kamil Karamali/CBC)

"[There are] special angels in this world. Ted took this on himself, and the whole community has rallied around. They've come together to help me, and I think it's awesome. I am so, so blown away."
"Telling them thank you is nowhere near the gratitude I feel. I've done a lot of crying, because it's so awesome."
"They've given me something to dream about."
Sharlene Pietersma, Petawawa, Ontario
A year and a half ago, a tragedy struck Jan Drive in Petawawa, Ontario when a teen-age girl, at home in her parents' house, was attacked and left with serious wounds. The 17-year-old had been home alone in her mother's day-care facility; there were no children present, nor was her mother at home at the time. Her attacker fled, and seeming to be looking for a place to hide, entered another home whose front door had been unlocked.

There he found an couple at home, with their two grandchildren under age ten. It took no time at all before the intruder knifed the home owner, Dan Pietersma to death, and inflicted dreadful multiple stab wounds on his wife, Sharlene. The children were left unharmed physically but carrying with them for life the dreadful scene of a violent stranger killing their grandfather, and leaving their grandmother close to death.

Sharlene Pietersma lost her husband that day, her lifelong companion, and with his loss much else that was irreplaceable, including her health. She was taken to intensive care at the hospital in town and then her family discovered the group insurance held by her husband was cancelled on his death. For the first nine months following that dreadful invasion, Sharlene Pietersma had a feeding tube giving her the nutrition she required.

Sharlene holds a photo of her late husband, Danny.
A home invasion left Dan Pietersma dead and his wife, Charlene, blinded and barely clinging to life. Photo: Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen
She had lost her eyesight in the attack, lost her sense of smell, lost her job and lost the ability to swallow. Eventually, she was able to regain the capacity to swallow. She was unable to keep her job as manager at a mall store in the nearby town of Pembroke and from then on the 56-year-old woman had to survive financially on a CPP disability pension. She found herself unable to return to the home she had shared for 33 years with her husband with all its memories.

So the family looked into selling the house. When a home inspection revealed a number of serious problems with the house, the owner of Kent Construction assessed what it would cost to bring the house up to saleable condition, concluding it would be financially wiser to demolish it and rebuild. Mrs. Pietersma prepared herself for a new mortgage. But Ted Kent informed her he planned to do the job without charge.

Which was when Operation Bring Sharlene Home was launched. Mr. Kent planned to provide all labour from his company without charge. The reaction to that was that 34 companies pledged to contribute to providing a new home for Mrs. Pietersma. "I asked her, 'Out of everything in your new house, what's the one thing that you would most want?'

"She asked me to paint the bedroom blue, the colour of her husband's eyes. That tore my heart out. We're getting a photo of him, so we can match them  exactly."

SEAN CHASE/DAILY OBSERVER
Doug Liot, brother of Sharlene Pietersma (right), thanks Edward Kent (left) for donating the labour and equipment necessary to tear down the Pietersma home on East Street in Petawawa on Thursday. Looking on is Sharlene's daughter, Charisma and son, Doug.
SEAN CHASE/DAILY OBSERVER Doug Liot, brother of Sharlene Pietersma (right), thanks Edward Kent (left) for donating the labour and equipment necessary to tear down the Pietersma home on East Street in Petawawa on Thursday. Looking on is Sharlene's daughter, Charisma and son, Doug.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

From Holocaust Survival to Happiness

"There was no water system, electricity, nothing. I was always barefoot [in 1940s Konus, Hungary]. If a car came into town, that was like a national holiday. We used to run out of school."
"People used to see bundles of bodies tied together with wires, floating in the rivers."
"My dad and I and my brother went to one side. And my mom and my three young sisters went straight to the gas chambers."
"I remember one day they called everyone to the middle of camp [Auschwitz/Buna work camp] and brought in three people, and hung them that night. One guy stole a piece of bread, another stole an apple. To survive, you had to. We called it organizing, not stealing."
"You didn't care [about death]. You're so desperate, so hungry, you don't focus on human beings. You're an animal."
"I had my number, 6024, and that's all I knew. You could have called my name, I wouldn't have answered you."
"When you were marching on the death march, you could hear shooting continuously. People who couldn't walk anymore, they shot them. Bang, bang, bang, bang -- continuously, you see?"
"I was sitting on top of someone's head [packed open freight cars]. People were starving, freezing -- it was January. They'd stop the train every so often and pull all the dead bodies out."
"[Buchenwald] was worse than Auschwitz. In Auschwitz, at least I went to work. In Buchenwald, you went there to die."
"[On April 22, 1945 came the Americans] All the guards were gone. You always thought that the Germans were coming back. You were so scared of everything."
David Moskovic, Holocaust survivor, Ottawa, Canada
David Moskovic is seen with his only surviving sibling, his sister Edith, who now lives in Florida.     Courtesy Joy Moskovic
David Moskovic's memory reaches back to the early summer of 1944 when, transported with his family to the Auschwitz death camp he recalls a smokestack and foul-smelling smoke blackening the sky; nearby a mountain of clothing and shoes. "But nobody knew what it was." Now, 85, he was fourteen when he was introduced to the world outside of his rural village, a farming community, now located in Slovakia. Even there his family heard of dreadful misfortunes of European Jews, and then his family was swept toward that wholesale misfortune.

This was when the infamous Adolph Eichmann, tasked as a major Nazi Final Solution organizer, began rounding Jews up in the provinces of Hungary. Rattling trains of cattle cars duly delivered 12,000 Jews on a daily basis to Auschwitz. Germany and its Axis supporters might have been fighting a war on the world stage against the Allied forces, but it viewed Hitler's dream of exterminating the world's Jews as too important to be neglected, so energy was not spared to fulfill that obligation, diverting troops and transport to the vital task.

On the day the town crier in Mr. Moskovic's sleepy little town ordered that all Jewish residents must assemble the following morning, he, his parents, his brother and sisters were placed in a cattle car with standing room only for the two-day trip to the death camp; no toilet facilities, but then no food or water either. On entering the camp gates SS guards separated the arrivals; women with children, the elderly and most girls to the left, men and youth to the right.

Moskovic, like others detailed to work as slave labourers to IG Farben -- still a German chemical colossus in Germany -- were taught various labour skills. He was taught how to lay bricks and was expected to work toward building a factory -- which American or Russian bombers would regularly bomb to rubble. "The whole world was shaking. When it stopped, it was back to work."  Those were twelve-hour workdays where the workers were fed a typical Auschwitz diet of 700 calories daily mostly comprised of stale bread heels and watery 'soup' absent nutrients.

The Buna camp inmate life expectancy was about three months on average. Workers considered too ill or too weak to work were liberated from their tasks, sent to the Birkenau gas chambers. Finally, in January of 1945 as the Soviet army began to close in, the Nazi command ordered 58,000 prisoners to be evacuated from Auschwitz on a forced march, one of which Mr. Moskovic and his father survived. They weren't called "death marches" for no reason; any who fell or became ill on the move were summarily executed.

After several days of marching they were once again on a train, this time to be taken to a concentration camp close by Weimar in Germany. Eventually American troops drew near to Buchenwald and the SS began killing prisoners; 500 or a thousand prisoners taken outside the fence by guards, forced to dig their own graves, then shot to death, to fall into the ready graves. David Moskovic survived this ordeal as well, managing to evade being called into a death group, by subterfuge.

When the Americans did arrive, he and the several thousand left in the camp were liberated, and he returned to his home village, hoping to find family members there. One day one of his sisters arrived. Before reaching the gas chamber his sister Edith had spontaneously been helped by several Slovak women who took her from the line to hide her under the linen they were handing out. They had been tasked to hand towels to victims informed they were headed to showers, to wash, not to be gassed by the deadly Zyklone B.

In 1950, David Moskovic applied to emigrate to Canada. There he found work as a plumber's apprentice. Preparing, among other apprentices to write a test to attain their master plumber's licences, a friend informed him that the city of Ottawa's then chief inspector had said: "There's a Jew coming through ... let's skin him alive." "A free country, with all the freedom in the world, and that's what happens to you in Ottawa!", he said wonderingly. "Would you ever believe it?"

Eventually he married, after starting his own company, General Plumbing and Heating. He and his wife had three children. "I used to drive down the Queensway and I didn't feel the tires touching the road. Life was terrific." He had moved beyond his soul-scathing experience in Europe. "Many people live that camp life till they die. I'm not one of them. I never fell into that horrible stuff. I became a Canadian boy, a good citizen, and I never looked back. I've had a good life and I never think about the camp."

"My life is so good that every day I get up and say thank God of another beautiful day. Every day's a gift. I'm a happy person." This speaks to the resilience of the individual, that hope was never lost despite horrendously brutal and tragic conditions imposed on men and women and children by the atrocious genocidal ideology of a vicious totalitarian government. It speaks also of the sad universality of anti-Semitism. But above all it speaks of human condition and the will to survive.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

In-Hospital Pathogens

"You could sit and call every hospital in the country, and ask them when was the last time they cleaned the sink in the [neonatal intensive care unit] and how they cleaned it, and you'd get nothing but blank stares."
"It's just totally loosey-goosey."
Darrell Horn, patient-safety investigator, Winnipeg Region Health Authority

"She kept yelling at me, 'I know my body, I know there's something wrong in my stomach and nobody wants to listen to me. And I'm going to end up dying here'."
"She died the most horrible, painful death anybody could suffer, and nobody would listen to her and reach out to her."
Kym Dyck, Kim Smith's sister-in-law
Brenda Dyck, the sister in-law of Kim Smith holds her portrait as her father, Gord Smith and brother Trevor Smith look on in her Winnipeg, Manitoba home. Kim Smith, went to hospital last year for an elective hysterectomy, the surgical wound became infected and she ended up dying in agony days later from necrotizing fasciitis - flesh eating disease.
Lyle Stafford for National Post    Brenda Dyck, the sister in-law of Kim Smith holds her portrait as her father, Gord Smith and brother Trevor Smith look on in her Winnipeg, Manitoba home.
"Nurse found her confused, half-naked, pulled her IV out, anxious. Saying she is at her end and is suicidal."
Kim Smith's hospital patient chart

"There is no question that at a national level, both our surveillance for hospital-acquired infection and our surveillance for anti-microbial resistance is not serving our needs. [And] we know, very substantially, that you can't fix what you're not measuring."
Allison McGeer, infectious-disease specialist, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto
Roughly 8,000 Canadians annually die from pathogens they have become infected with during a hospital stay. Infections cause many more to have a prolonged hospital stay, and their illness deleteriously impacted by the onset of an infection. Millions have been spent on combating the scourge of hospital-acquired pathogens, all of it with the intention of making hospitals safer places for patients, but the problem remains and its extent has not been properly quantified.

The rates of sepsis (blood infection) is now published by a federal agency when they occur at individual hospitals, but the value of the gathering statistics is questionable. As is the tracking of drug-resistant bacteria by government; since the data-gathering is not universal and thus of questionable practical use, according to infectious disease physicians.

Clearly Canada's health-care system needs a boost in ensuring that hospitals maintain rosters of adverse effects to be shared within and across the provincial hospital systems, to alert one another and to share best-practise hygiene protocols to combat the problems. The spotlight has, however, been turned on hospital acquired infections now with greater awareness of the problems involved than in the past, in lock-step with the rise in drug-resistant pathogens.

Kim Smith entered Winnipeg's St.Boniface Hospital to undergo elective surgery for a routine hysterectomy and ovary removal. Post-surgery she began complaining of escalating pain in her gut, intense enough to bring her to fear for her life. Finally, she wanted to end her life. It took time for medical staff to take her complaints seriously, and it was discovered an infection in her stomach had turned into necrotizing fasciitis which had eaten away at a chunk of her abdomen.

The medical staff had originally been of the opinion that her anxious state was responsible for prolonging her recovery. Until her brother Trevor Smith, sitting beside her in the hospital twelve hours after the sedative Ativan had been administered, noticed that there was a strange purple discolouring on his sister's feet. He raised an alarm, leading to his sister being taken into the operating room where "a large effluent of brown, foul-smelling liquid from the abdominal cavity" was noted.

Several abscesses were removed by the surgeons, the liquid was drained and then it was discovered that necrotizing fasciitis had expanded through the peritoneum (abdomen lining) and abdominal muscles. "What I witnessed, I was traumatized by for months and months", said Kym Dyck. "It was just a terrible, terrible, painful death. And she knew she was going to die, that's the worst thing."

After her sister-in-law's horrible death, Ms. Dyck said a doctor informed her that surgical staff had likely not disinfected her sister-in-law's stomach before the hysterectomy was undertaken. To ensure that any bacteria that came with Kim Smith into the operating room -- bacteria that most people carry around with them, on them -- stayed on the outside, proper preparation meant to prevent that bacteria from infecting the patient's interior viscera had to be ensured.

But the bacteria did intrude, leading to an infection, so that the day following her operation Kim Smith complained of pain in her abdomen. She would be unaware that surgical-wound infections arise often from bacteria that patients carry into hospital on their skin, which if able to get inside the body through incisions can cause a catastrophe such as she experienced. When she complained of pain nurses -- who presumably would have been aware of such a possibility told her she needed to walk around.

By the time doctors realized that she did indeed have a very serious infection and took her in for emergency surgery it became evident that little could be done to save her. Once begun, necrotizing fasciitis has a 70% death rate-occurrence. Her blood pressure by the following morning had sunk, more dead tissue had spread around her side to her back, and she went into cardiac arrest. Death was only minutes away.

And her sister-in-law recalls the sight of doctors and nurses desperately trying to revive her sister-in-law, fruitlessly; the sight of her sister-in-law's open abdomen as part of the treatment of the flesh-eating infection, haunting her memory.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Racist Bigotry in Canada

SOCIAL SELLS_MAC046

"Racism and intolerance exist in every community, but we do have a problem in Winnipeg. Instead of shrinking from the challenge, we need to rise up and we need to do better as a community."
"Winnipeg has a responsibility right now to turn this ship around and change the way we all relate."
"My wife is [of] Ukrainian heritage. My family is Metis. I want my boys to be as proud of both of those family lines."
"We're here together to face this head-on as one community."
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman

"I'm not here to pacify racism or to provide a politically correct statement on the reality of racism within the institutions that we function within every day."
"I guarantee that right now somebody's having a racist experience in a restaurant, or on the streets in Winnipeg somewhere. I'm not here to pacify that or to say that it's OK. But what I am here to do is I'm here to acknowledge the great work of people who get up every morning of every day to challenge racism in this city."
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, head, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

"I have a right to be different. If we as a society make that a basic principle -- that all human beings have a right to be different -- we'd go a long way to solving the intolerance that many people experience."
"Instead of putting each other down, we should be trying to lift each other up."
Ovid Mercredi, former national chief, Assembly of First Nations
Maclean's
'The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines. Its Native citizens suffer daily indignities and horrific violence,' the Maclean's article alleges. (CBC)

Canada's news magazine, Maclean's, has published a new issue creating aa newly-controversial argument that Canada has a larger race-relations problem than does the United States. And, it states, the face of that bigotry exists in Winnipeg. Where racial discrimination is alive and raw. Where Native Canadians are held to be uniformly of sub-par intelligence, whose culture and heritage is not worthy of respect. It isn't hard to find statistics showing that First Nations people are over-represented in Canada's prisons.

Pan-handlers surfing the streets, aboriginal women who are drug-addicted and working the streets. Petty criminals of aboriginal background. Alcoholism a problem of staggering dimensions. Reserve councils misappropriating tax-paid funds meant to improve the lives of their tribal dependents. High unemployment among aboriginals. And along with all of that the contempt that some segments of Canadian society holds them in; worse, the depredation of sociopaths on Native women.

It's hard sometimes to figure out where the primary responsibility for the social well-being of First Nations lies. People do have to be responsible for themselves. Other groups have traditionally experienced the wretchedness of oppression and deprivation owing to their status in society, held to be inferior to the majority populations. Yes, the damage to self-esteem and human nature's ability to rebound is severe, but there is also inner resilience that must be called upon.

Simply put, there is no reason why First Nations people cannot be as deliberately capable of more responsibility for themselves, leading inevitably to improved outcomes for succeeding generations. There is an enormous responsibility residing within the prevailing larger populations to ensure fairness, but there is also the need for First Nations leaders to take stock of their own deficiencies and to lead their people toward a place of greater self-respect.

That it is incumbent upon themselves to raise their families by healthy nurturing, and to eschew alcohol and drugs and social-welfare dependency rather than imprint them on their children's evolving values. The inequities facing aboriginals in Canada are undeniably existent. There is no reason for Native Canadians not to be proud of their heritage, but pride should lead to striving for an exemplary lifestyle, not one of dependency on social welfare, drugs and alcohol.

There are more than ample role models from within the First Nations communities for young aboriginals to look up to and emulate. Those who have achieved an advanced academic eduction and who now equal any other ethnic groups in the professions of education, law, medicine, architecture, the humanities and the arts and sciences, demonstrate more than amply that there is no deficit in intelligence quotient, their success illustrates the ambition to achieve success for their futures.

What some can do, others can strive toward, and however far they advance themselves they can take personal pride within. But it does take determination and effort and the desire to achieve a set goal. As for those within society who prefer to believe stereotypes have the last word, and who view First Nations people as somehow inferior to themselves, what they are succeeding in doing is diminishing themselves through their own lack of intelligence.

Winnipeg's new mayor, himself of aboriginal descent, defended his city, declaring the universality within Canada of racism. He plans to lead his city away from its current well-earned reputation as a place where First Nations disrepute is to be found, aspiring to see that Winnipeg can "lead the nation" in the eradication of racism. Racism is a damningly dire pathology that afflicts human nature and it will never be entirely eliminated.

But the effort to decrease its effect on society through education and a focus on leading people to a better place for themselves on either side of the spectrum of polarized mistrust is the path that must be taken to make Canada a better place, one fully respective of a Native history, heritage and culture that is an integral part of the country. At the same time, First Nations people must themselves work at improving themselves, as we all must do.

The city's chief of police is black. Chief Devon Clunis has stated he doesn't believe Winnipeg is the only city trying to come to grips with racism in Canada. "We need to have a difficult conversation in our city respective of race. I think you are seeing who is starting that conversation today", he noted.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Canadian First Nations Rights

"Any right, aboriginal or other, by its very nature carries with it the obligation to use it responsibly. It cannot be used, for example, in a way which harms people, aboriginal or non-aboriginal."
1996 Supreme Court of Canada finding in Van der Peet vs the Queen
Makayla Sault, 11, shown performing a dance routine at an event in Ohsweken last May, died Monday of what her parents say was a stroke, nearly a year after she was taken off chemotherapy for leukemia.
Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator    Makayla Sault, 11, shown performing a dance routine at an event in Ohsweken last May, died Monday of what her parents say was a stroke, nearly a year after she was taken off chemotherapy for leukemia.

It seems somehow not quite within reason that children under Ontario's Health Care Consent Act may be given the right to determine how they wish medical treatment to proceed for their particular malady. Are young children capable of weighing options and possibilities to arrive at a wise decision for their future well-being? But they may do so when an authority figure feels that child's judgemental capacity appears to understand "the reasonably foreseeable consequences of a decision or lack of decision".

And so it was that an eleven year-old leukemia victim (acute lymphoblastic leukemia), Makayla Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation had her personal determination to halt the chemotherapy regimen -- which was the only treatment that could be 80% to 90% certain to preserve her young life -- respected. Pediatric oncologists at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, attempted to persuade the child and the child's mother that to withdraw from that treatment was a death sentence.

The doctors appealed to the Brant Family and Children's Services, and its executive director, Andrew Koster made the determination that he and the child protection service would not prosecute the case because it was felt that the child's well-being was well placed in the loving care of her parents, evangelical Christian pastors. And that the little girl was convinced that an apparition of Jesus had appeared to her while she was in hospital, assuring her that he had cured her, spoke to the depth of faith within the family.

This, despite that the hospital's doctors had carefully explained to Makayla Sault's family that her leukemia could be cured only through the treatment of chemotherapy. Without that treatment death would be certain to follow, and fairly soon. As for the regional child services, even with that knowledge, they held fast to their position of non-interference in the case because "their choice to use traditional medicines was within their right". The family had "eloquently exercised her indigenous rights as a First Nations person."

And in exercising their rights the little girl was taken by her family to the Hippocrates Health Institute of West Palm Beach, Florida where she underwent the life-saving course for victims of cancer. Such as exposure to and treatment through aroma-therapy, wheatgrass enemas, acupuncture and naturopathic massage. The family paid $18,000 in their zeal to treat the child in a manner that would accord with what her body required to heal itself.

The Hippocrates Health Institute had successfully sold itself to the parents as a sole-source curing agency for any dire ills besetting the human body. This enterprise, licensed by the state as a massage parlour, advertises itself as the premier source for therapies known to cure cancer among other sever diseases like Lou Gehrig's disease.

The little girl considered herself cured of leukemia and assured anyone who might be interested that she had recovered, and the memory of her dreadful time coping with the initial stages of chemotherapy was all behind her as she looked forward to her future. Her future arrived with a suddenness that surprised the family, as the cancer, in remission thanks to the initial chemotherapy regimen, stormed back into her body with a vengeance. That vengeance took her life.

Oncologists explain the stroke that Makayla suffered which led to her death on Monday as the common result of leukemia left untreated by chemotherapy. As they mourn their dreadful loss, Makayla's parents ascribe her death to the ruinous effects on her body viscera by the chemotherapy treatments that Makayla had found so excruciatingly painful.

If there is a moral to this story it is an elusive one. In paying obeisance to Native culture and values Canadian society dares not offend First Nations by informing them that science trumps hocus-pocus. To do so is to invite a popular uprising of Canadian aboriginals declaring that the contempt in which their culture and their history is held is unbearable, and they must be permitted to honour their past and live as their ancestors did.

And so, they do.

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