How the World Has Changed!

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September 12, 2013

Over the years, I have seen many storms including the horrendous Derecho last year when we lost four huge poplar trees in our yard, with one blocking an entrance of our circular driveway.  My neighborhood’s image changed after the storm, with hundreds of poplar trees taken down by our neighbors for fear of another nasty storm where the trees would crash onto the houses.  I probably was the foolish one who protested the idea of having many of our trees taken down.  My husband David was so frustrated with me as I walked around the yard taking down many yellow bands around the trees marked by the arborist as “diseased and weak, to be taken down later.

“They came before us, and I am not letting any of them be intentionally taken down! Trees provide more oxygen to the environment!” I stubbornly told my husband, as he was watching our next door neighbors John and Kelley taking down every poplar tree in front of their house. 

Today, as I was leaving the hospital to head home, after coming into the Labor and Delivery Suite at 3AM to deliver premature twins, a horrendous lightning and hail storm struck.  The rain was heavy, so heavy that I could hardly see anything beyond the emergency room parking lot.   Maybe I was foolish, but I decided to drive home anyway.  After a long night and day in the hospital, I just wanted to be home.

I have never driven in such a summer storm before! My car was bombarded with pea size hail. They hit and bounced off the car, making loud noises the entire seven miles home.   I kept looking up at the big trees along the roads, wondering if one of them would crash down onto my car.  Several cars stopped as I was passing by, making me wonder if I was foolish to move on? Physicians are not necessarily “smart” in everything.  Should I stop and wait until I could see more clearly from my windshield; or was it more foolish to stop on woody roads lined with tall poplar trees? To go or not to go, that was the question.  Even Hamlet would have hesitated to drive in that weather! I was so thankful to get home safely as I continued to see many cars stopping along River Rd.

Yesterday, on September 11, Kenneth Mallette, director of Maryland’s Emergency Management Agency, made the observation that, twelve years ago, terrorism and security was the biggest threat in the Washington area.  In 2013 however, it is storms like Hurricane Sandy or the Derecho, Mr. Mallette stated, that claim more lives and property damage!  We seem to be safer now from terrorism, but nature still has her last words.  Mother nature can be ferocious! I agreed with this statement, as I recall the tornado drills in my high school in Ohio.  The storms seem to follow me to the East Coast now. 

Everything has changed with time, from the weather to politics and sports.  The one normalcy during my scary ride home from the hospital was the conversation between Billie Jean King and Mr. Dave Davies on NPR.  Ms King, a twenty time winner of Wimbleton, is currently being featured in a PBS Master documentary.  Tennis has changed, she told Mr. Davies, as the players are much better and stronger now.  She admired that the US Open prize dollars have been equal between men and women for forty years.  The major “Opens” took an extra 34 years to catch up with the U.S. Open’s as they began awarding equal prize dollars to men and women only six years ago!  She talked about her “problem” of being a lesbian in the 1970s and 80s and how this issue has evolved for the better, depending on which perspective you hold, over time.  I really enjoyed her interview on NPR.  Her stories, especially that famous match where she beat Mr. Bobby Riggs, the self-proclaimed chauvinist, sounded much more fun than the loud banging noise of hail against my car! 

It is true that things have drastically changed on many issues over the last few decades.  I was moved this morning to hear about the possible breakthrough in medicine, the discovery of an HIV vaccine which seems to work in Rhesus monkeys.  Maybe it will work in men and women and, like measles and mumps, AIDS will really begin to decline and one day, perhaps, be eradicated.  All of my bootcamp friends remember the 1980s when we rounded as medical students on patients with AIDS, all of them were going to die.  My first experience with AIDS was a patient named Richard, whom I befriended for a month during my rotation in Internal Medicine.  Richard was quite sick with Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia and, at the end of my rotation, he developed Kaposi’s Sarcoma.  He was in his early twenties and was trying to succeed as an actor in NewYork, and I sadly knew he would not live to be thirty.  As I suspected then, there would be a day when the tragedy of AIDS would be stalled by a vaccine.  That day hopefully has come.

 Another big news item yesterday was in the world of politics.  Who would have thought Vladimir Putin would give US a lecture on diplomacy? Democracy might be his next big lecture to us, and I will have to say to you:

 “Oh boy, hasn’t the world changed, Putin and democracy!”  

 Did you think his “lecture” was “exceptional”?  

 I am not so sure I want to “enroll” in Mr. Putin’s university.   I am not among the three million followers on his blog! For now, I have to admit, watching the innocents being gassed to death in Syria is much harder for me than driving home through all that hail, lightning and rain.  At least, I survived the horrendous storm!

As I pondered about all the changes in the world, the weather cleared up.  I successfully persuaded my husband David to go “spinning” in the gym with me.  After all, we signed up for another Seagull Century bike ride, a one hundred mile ride through the Eastern Shore for the Lymphoma and Leukemia society.  We better practice a few times before the real race in October so that our “buns” and legs won’t be screaming afterward like last year. 

At the gym, we had “crazy Al” as our instructor.  Al is an energetic middle aged biker who can spin like a machine at a very high level while STANDING! He has those lean and muscular legs of steel.  He played music of the 1980s and 1990s and managed to move as if he was dancing on the bike. By the time the one hour ended, with all the fast spinning and climbing hills, and Al “dancing” while spinning his legs to the maximal speed, my bike’s data showed I had finished 25 miles. I turned to look at David in the back and thought he looked like a Syrian refugee trying to cross the border to Turkey.  Syrian refugees are running away from Assad to save their lives.  David and I, however, were trying to keep up with instructors like Al so that we can be more healthy and hopefully prolong our lives!  Well, if we can ride at this speed in October, we hopefully will not have to sit on our bikes for more than six hours like last year’s Seagull Century ride! 

Have faith, for tomorrow will be a better day! The HIV vaccine will save lives; the weather will get better; and maybe, just maybe, even Mr. Putin will believe in real democracy and diplomacy.