TV: The Bleeding Edge

large_bleeding-edgeI recommend watching Netflix’s The Bleeding Edge which is an exposé into the “medical instruments” industry. The documentary clearly shows that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is failing the American people by not adequately checking that products (often very expensive products too) are safe for their proscribed purposes. This includes hip replacements which break down and cause neurological symptoms and contraceptive devices which will stop you having children… by virtue of the fact you won’t be able to have sex because of pain and injuries. (The latter device, Essure, is still for sale in the US for the remainder of 2018 – despite being pulled from overseas sale when regulators asked for more data).

The scam and failure seems to be multi-faceted:

  • a clause which allows companies to claim a product is “similar” to an existing product, and so it doesn’t need to go through approval. (A product can be similar to a similar to a similar…)
  • much less stringent testing is required for devices than drugs. (One would think a device which stays in the body would need more testing than a drug which passes through the body).
  • the FDA’s inability to recall or reject approvals based on “similar” items, even if those items are recalled due to adverse outcomes.
  • the partisan-nature of FDA management, who seem to have very cosy relationships with the medical device industry – frequently working with them before and after a stint in the FDA. (Not to mention lobbying of politicians).
  • doctors are unaware (or some, complicit) and assume if the FDA approves an item it is safe.
  • even when compensation is received from a company, it often is a token-amount of their overall profit (and so hardly going to change their behaviour).

Well worth watching, and telling your friends to watch too. I’d love to see the

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The War that we Need to Win

Today on ANZAC Day Australia remembers those who die, and serve, to protect the freedoms which have made our country great. We remember every son, daughter, mother, father, husband, wife… Each fallen hero represents a hole that was made in the intricate web of society.

I think especially of those haunted by the horrors of war, or those for whom the pang of loss are still fresh, deep and treacherous. Thank you for your service or the service of your loved ones. Thank you for paying all that it cost. May we always remember and honour them, the living and the dead, always. May we remember those they left behind, and do our best to ensure that as we were protected, so we protect. As they kept our families safe, may we do likewise.

It’s time that Australia wins a war, the silent war of attrition against returning veterans. More resources need to be put into medical provision.

In 2016 the former Chief of Army Peter Leahy said,

“The number of suicides and the incidence of despair, depression and broken lives among our veteran community is a national shame.”

A recent study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 80% found that 80% of current ADF members described their experience of those [suicide] services as fair, good, very good or excellent. (Note current members; the suicide rate for former members is 13% higher). Note also that means 20% of the survey respondents found it less than fair.

We should not ask so much of our men and women, and then penny-pinch to stop them getting the help they need. We should not ask them to brutalise their minds and bodies, and then expect them to jump through hoops to get the medical support they need.

I am all for budget-repair as a priority, but let’s not take the money off of those who have earned it. Find some other lower hanging fruit, there’s plenty out there.

Contentment in Life

I wasn’t in a particularly good place a few minutes ago.

Having cerebal palsy, and not having taken proactive-care of my health, my mobility is becoming more problematic. In the last few months this has become much more apparent. My legs are have lost flexibility, and my arms can no longer always cajole them to behave. (Actually cajole is too soft a word, let’s go with force). Even the simple act of putting on shoes takes more effort than it once did. Add to that, my gait is now so bad that the rate at which I go through shoes is not an insignificant cost.

And so, at crazy-stupid-o’clock this was bearing down on me, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself, and all involved. I guess it’s like growing old – only I’m experiencing it a few decades too early.

One could continue to wallow in self-pity, but that really is an ugly thing. Especially when I sit in a first world country with all that it offers. I’ve found through life’s varied challenges, physical or otherwise, that self-pity calls for a perspective change. It’s not about looking at what you don’t have, but being thankful for what you do have. Sure, my legs aren’t all that great, but I do still have good mobility. Sure, I should own shares in a shoe company, but at least I can afford to buy shoes.

It reminded me of the amazing Nick Vujicic. Nick doesn’t have any limbs, but he does have incredible determination, adaptability and a joy that shines through.

In his book Unstoppable Nick speaks of a man named Phil Toth who was an encouragement to him. Among other things, Phil shows us that age, experience or circumstance are no barrier to being used by God. The value of Phil’s example is so poignant that I must share the passage:

For nearly two years his doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong, but they finally diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)…

The life expectancy for one with this incurable disease, which destroys the motor nerve cells in the brain and spine and causes muscles to deteriorate, is usually two to five years. Initially, Phil’s doctors told him that his case was advancing so quickly that he might not survive another three months. Instead, Phil lived for five years, and I think it was because he did not focus on his suffering. He focused instead on encouraging others to pray and trust God. Phil dealt with his deadly illness by celebrating life and reaching out to help others, even though he could not lift his arms or legs from his bed.

ALS is both wickedly cruel and extremely painful. Within a few years, Phil was bedridden and unable to do much for himself. His large circle of loving family and friends provided constant care. Even his voice was affected, making it difficult for people to understand him.

Despite his pain and suffering, Phil remained deeply devoted to his Christian faith, and beyond that he even found a way to put his faith into action so that he could reach out to console and inspire others who were suffering debilitating and deadly illnesses. By God’s grace, with all his physical challenges, Phil created the website that my mother discovered through the church. Here is part of the message he posted about his illness and the impact it had on his faith:

“I thank God for leading me through this! It has brought me closer to God [it would be worth it if this is all it did], it has caused me to reevaluate my life and see if I’m in the faith, caused me to experience the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, near and far. Taught me to depend fully on the Word of God, my knowledge of the Word has increased, as well as maturing in the faith. My family and friends are a lot closer now. Additionally I’ve been learning a lot more about health, nutrition, and taking care of my body. The benefits of my situation are endless.”

Make every moment count.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

2015 Report Card

Making goals for the coming year is relatively easy, achieving them is somewhat harder. But before we launch into the new year with hopes and expectations we’d do well to look at the past year. What we need is a little crazy eyes – one eye looking forward and one eye looking back. (Of course with only one eye looking back, your perspective would be wrong… but don’t read too much into the title – I mostly wanted an excuse to use the below photo…)

Crazy Eyes
From the very funny movie, Mr Deeds

How did I go at achieving last year’s goals? What things can I celebrate and what should serve as cautions for the future?

Mistakes will happen while we’re still breathing. There is normally a cost with mistakes, but there can also be benefits.

A mistake is made worse if we fail to learn from it; otherwise we can call it an unpleasant learning experience.

WritingA

While I did complete my goal of a first draft of Vengeance Will Come I did so about five or six months after when I had hoped.  Is the timeline a failure in itself? I don’t think so. My original target was over-ambitious;  I failed to consider the weaknesses in my plot which would require additional time to remedy. The story is now a far better product for the extra investment. (Like so many things in life quality is worth waiting for).

I had similar problems with other writing projects and timelines. I am however proud of the amount of effort and time that I have put into writing this year. No one can legitimately say that I haven’t been disciplined.

So from this I learn:

  • Try to identify plot flaws before they become a problem; it will cost less time to fix the earlier they are found. ‘Measure twice, cut once’ is an adage worth living by.
  • Set writing deadlines (aka milestones). When deadlines blow out, reschedule them. Be aware of external commitments and factor them in (e.g. assume very little writing will occur around Christmas, despite what you may think). The more deadlines set, the more accurate estimates will become.
  • Technique discipline. Try to write through an entire first draft without going back to rewrite sections. This will save a lot of time.

BloggingB

My blog is my platform for talking to other authors and hopefully in time engaging with readers. I’ve done OK but I need to be more consistent in posting and put more thought into targeting.

If all you are interested in is writing, this is the end of the blog post.

If you are curious in personal matters, please continue…


 

HealthB

Health is a very important thing for all living beings. Dead ones: not so much. Make health a priority.

I haven’t cared for my health as much as I had hoped for at the beginning of the year. Writing by its very nature can mean long hours sitting, which is exactly what I do at work…not a healthy lifestyle. My one saving grace that has saved me from a ‘C’ is that I did finally undertake some tests which I had been avoiding for years (and which came out all good).

  • Discipline with taking time to being active. Accept that this means sometimes exercise over writing, but it will keep me living (and writing) for longer. Don’t let weather be an excuse.
  • Master food. It’s called restraint, and I should have a double helping of that!

FamilyB plus

I am blessed to have an amazing wife and an amazing marriage to go along with it.

If I look at my wider family there is still work that I need to do. I don’t always act the way that I wish I would. If it takes a village to raise a child, I think I am sometimes absent… I’d like to be a better Uncle and a better brother.

FaithB plus

There have been some highlights and some not-so-great points. Again, I feel that I didn’t take full advantage of the possibilities of the year. There were some great times, but how much better could it have been? Was there too much of me, and not enough of Jesus?