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Archive for January, 2008

Carmelo Rodriguez – When Marines Become UNCitizens: Misdiagnosis, Malpractice and Outrage

(May 20, 2008 – find an update to this post)

[Let me begin this post with a bit of a disclaimer. My husband is a retired veteran of the Air Force — 20+ years — before I knew him, but that doesn’t diminish my pride in the fact that he served our country. His son and our daughter in law are both career Air Force, too, and our other daughter-in-law just completed eight years in the Air Force. So yes, we are huge supporters of our American soldiers.]

The story I’m about to tell you holds several interests and outrages and raises some important questions:

1. Since when is a soldier not a citizen first?

2. How is it that an accurate diagnosis could turn into a MISdiagnosis 10 years later?

This story is told on CBS’s evening news — about a young soldier, Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez, who joined the Marines in 1997. During his induction physical, the doctor noted a mole and called it a melanoma on Carmelo’s records. But nothing was said to Carmelo, and the paperwork was filed. Carmelo went through training, has spent these ensuing years in the Marines, and was deployed to Iraq…

…. where last year, the mole began to get inflamed and filled with pus…. so the sargeant checked in with the military doctor. He was told it was a wart, and to “wait and see.”

Sargeant Carmelo Rodriguez died 18 months later, of melanoma.

Turns out, according to the military itself, that there are “several hundred” cases of misdiagnosis of medical problems for soldiers in Iraq each year. Others have died from misdiagnosis and medical mistakes, too.

And I SO UNDERSTAND THE OUTRAGE! Because I’ve been there — misdiagnosed and floundering. There are tens of thousands of us — but most of us aren’t soldiers…

So here is OUTRAGE #2: Because Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez was misdiagnosed by a military doctor, his family has no legal recourse. None Nada. A law passed in 1950, called the Feres Doctrine, removes that right for soldiers, even when injured by the actions of a military doctor.

But wait! There’s more!

Outrage #3: Because Carmelo was sent home to die — so he could be with his family — he was discharged from service. That means that he can have a military funeral — but his family has to pay for it.

This entire story is just wrong on so many levels. The original silence on the part of the induction doctor who didn’t speak up about Carmelo’s melanoma, the missed-diagnosis on the part of the doctor in Iraq, the fact that Carmelo died!, the fact that the family cannot find legal recourse to be compensated for his loss (to help raise his son), and the fact that the military would simply turn a blind eye toward paying for the funeral. And those facts are probably only the tip of the iceberg.

Questions for the two military doctors: Since when don’t you tell/warn someone about their medical condition? How could you have missed melanoma?

Questions for the Marines: Since when do our soldiers cease to be American citizens with the same rights the rest of us have to sue? And since when does the military send a soldier home to die — especially one who has seen combat — and not pay for the soldier’s funeral?

The lack of communication, misdiagnosis and death are bad enough. When compounded by the final insults of rights removal and not helping to bury the soldier — all Americans should be offended.

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Eli Stone, ABC, Autism, and My Take on the Controversy

I’ve watched and heard plenty of controversy from those who are either upset, or elated, that ABC will be airing an episode of its new TV show, Eli Stone, tomorrow night.

Eli Stone is a lawyer who defends a lawsuit imposed by a family who believes that a vaccination caused their child to develop autism.

From the American Association of Pediatrics which believes (like the CDC, the IOM and other government and mainstream groups) that vaccines do NOT cause autism) to groups of parents and professionals who believe vaccines are at the root of autism…. they are riled up and making plenty of noise.

The AAP wrote a letter to ABC insisting the episode not be aired. The parent-group that shares the autism-vaccine correlation beliefs insists it be shown.

And my take on the controversy? It’s completely unrelated to autism, vaccinations or anything related to health or medicine….

Read what I had to say on About.com.

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What’s New? Developmentally Disabled Children Grow Old

transitionsprogram.gifUnless you have a developmentally disabled child or adult in your life, this is something you may never have thought about before.

When I was a child, I knew of other kids who spent their lives in wheelchairs, or went to special schools. When I got to college, I used to volunteer in a state-run home for “special” children.

But these kids didn’t often make it to adulthood. Or if they did, we didn’t know about it.

The world has changed, along with the health and medical care these children receive. Now, many of them — probably most of them — make it to, and through, adulthood. They are mainstreamed into normal classrooms. They make the transition into their 20s, then 30s, 40s, 50s…. it’s tough to believe that babyboomers have a subset of developmentally disabled adults that were not expected to live so long.

When they were younger, they were cared for by their parents and their pediatricians. So what happens when their parents are gone, and they have graduated from pediatrician-aged care?

When I said this blog would address something you probably never thought about — that’s the question I meant. And I have an answer for you that is hopeful, heartwarming, and showcases the best humanity has to offer.

I was contacted last week by John Reiss, PhD, from the University of Florida, asking if I would share their health transitions program for DD adults with you, my blog readers. His program is the answer to the question. Dr. Reiss sent me a link to information about the program – and ding ding ding! What a bell it rang!

Several weeks ago, on my radio show, I interviewed Dr. Nienke Dosa, from SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Center for Neuro-developmental Pediatrics — and her program for health transitioning is very similar. And yes, it turns out Drs. Reiss and Dosa know each other professionally. (Of course I had to ask! If they didn’t, I would have made sure to introduce them.)

The bottom line is that their programs are targeted to these young people who now must transition to adulthood — they need training and jobs, they need life skills — and they need specialized healthcare. Whereas their parents have been the keepers of their health, now they must learn to take over their own healthcare and decision-making. These programs exist to help those who have in the past been considered helpless and unable to care for themselves. Now, instead, they are taught to thrive and take control of their lives themselves.

This is a feel good story for you, and I feel very good sharing it. It’s a story of challenges being overcome by education and guidance. My favorite kind.

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Close to Home Comic – for Your Consideration

closetohome.gifDo you get the daily newspaper? Does the comics section carry Close to Home?

It’s one of my favorites — and I spent quite a bit of time poking around the Close to Home website to see if I could put a copy here on my blog. but no.

It’s worth a look — just to provide you with some food for thought:


“Your HMO has approved your surgery, but…. ” you’ll have to link to the cartoon to see the rest.

I’m curious. What do you think? I’d love to know how others react to this cartoon.

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Tax Rebates: Maybe Health Insurance Should Pay Attention!

So hubby and I are excited about this tax rebate thing… looks like we fit in that middle class group that will get $1200 back from the federal government.

We reflected on the rebate for a few moments, and the thoughts by legislators and the president alike — why they voted “yes.” I share their thoughts with you:

  • The economy is a mess. We need to make people spend more money to improve it.
  • If we GIVE them money, they will have more to spend.
  • We want voters to re-elect us in November , and if we give them money, they will like us and vote for us.

So here’s little old me, wondering the following:

  • Mr. President and Ms/Mr Legislator — excuse me — but wasn’t that my money to begin with? I sent you a WHOLE lot more than that last year, and I’ll be sending you a WHOLE lot more this year. I don’t believe you are “giving” me anything!
  • And one other question — where did all this extra money come from that you have to give back to me? All I hear about is the escalating costs of the war in Iraq and the hole that has put in the federal budget. So who exactly are you taking money away from so you can give it back to me?

Those thought processes would be enough to share in today’s post….but…. why stop now?

I got to thinking that health insurers should begin to take a page from the federal government’s book… don’t you think? We pay and pay and pay…. and we know they have extra money left over. They wouldn’t even have to go into the hole to refund us some of the money we have paid ….

Unfortunately — I believe the following is a better reflection of their thought processes — and business plans:

  • Wow – we suckered those patients and their families into giving us so much extra money in premiums this year! Now we have plenty left over….
  • Yeah, yeah — I know — we should probably either lower premiums next year, or give some back to them, but….
  • Instead, because we were able to deny so much coverage to some of them, and because we have a bonus system in place for those of us at the top who make six and seven figures who successfully corral our costs — we’ll just share it with — ourselves!

You know — you’ve never seen me side with universal healthcare or private healthcare. I’m not ready to do so because I don’t know all the facts about what either of those terms means. I’m working on it.

But I certainly do get heartburn when I begin thinking about the escalating costs of private health insurance, why those costs have escalated, the rewards in place for that escalation, and the fact that 45+million Americans can’t afford it at all.

Hmmm… I wonder if I can get my heartburn covered by MY insurance?

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