Stem Cells and Pain

Medical marketing to a population in pain that is largely on a fixed income for the promise of pain relief through intervention that is cost effective comparatively to some other procedures is infuriating.

In February of 2018, I made a permanent move to California from New Jersey. I knew I should establish some local doctors and as luck would have it, my chronic knee pain reached levels of pain that required me to seek immediate medical help. Urgent Care didn’t have the resources to check my leg for the suspected Baker’s Cyst or blood clot, so I went to the emergency room and they were both confirmed. Since I have had blood clots in the past, a surgical option was moved to the bottom of my list and I began to pay attention to the Stem Cell advertisements that came to me by way of Facebook. I attended a free luncheon.

The information that I received in April of 2018 was very informative and I was ready to get the treatment. Financially, I wasn’t. It seems that this therapy although allowed to be performed by doctors, was still not covered by insurance. The cost of Dr. Duffner’s therapy was $6,000 and if I committed to the treatment, I would get a $500 discount. I didn’t have the $5,500 at the time, and they were willing to let me go into debt with something called Care Credit. I didn’t take it because I had enough debt already.

I limped along for another two months and met my new “family doctor” and we ran some tests. The doctor had concerns about my blood work and my family history, but he was happy to keep me on my blood thinners. I asked him to refer me to Dr. Duffner for an orthopedic followup, but I never got a call.

My leg got stronger over the next 11 months but I hadn’t been “pushing it”. I wanted to exercise to lose the weight that I had put on and improve my overall health. In May of 2019, I read the Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry. I lost 30 pounds, improved my blood numbers, and my pain in my leg all but vanished. Still, I know that I have some lurking issues in the knee. I decided to visit another Stem Cell Seminar. I figured now that it is being more advertised in the mainstream, the competition alone would bring prices more competitive. I was wrong.

Dr. Olesnicky and Dr. Hashimoto are on TV and the Internet and targeting the population of the Coachella Valley. Their costs are $8,900 for the same Stem Cell Therapy that I investigated a year earlier. The question I had was why wasn’t this covered. My choice, if I were still in pain, would be to use pain relievers. In this era of Opioid abuse, why would insurance companies be fighting this coverage and why is the cost so high? My specific therapy that was explained to me would be extracting my own STEM cells from my own fat and reintroducing them at the appropriate spot to stimulate growth. Why is the cost so high?

I now have access to money and if I were in enough pain, I would do it. I was told that this is the perfect time to do it and a person with my history of blood clots makes me a perfect candidate. Thankfully, my lack of pain gives me the ability to think it through and when I do, I get angry…very angry.

Medical marketing to a population in pain that is largely on a fixed income for the promise of pain relief through intervention that is cost effective comparatively to some other procedures is infuriating. This is a perfect fix for people who are dependent on pain relievers and the refusal of insurance companies to cover this procedure pushes patients into creating the necessity for more expensive and invasive procedures in short order. The amount of marketing through TV and Internet represents an enormous cost to the doctors and the behavior in the office makes it almost predatory. “Get this now and I will discount the procedure…” means it is already unreasonably high to begin with.

I am glad that my pain has subsided for now and I will continue to follow good nutritional practices which Dr. Gundry says will activate the STEM cells to repair damage done by inflammation over the years. He too sells far too many products that are marketed to people who want a quick fix for their weight and health issues. After reading his book, it seems to contradict what he preaches. As Dr. Hashimoto said when I asked him what the medical establishment is doing to solve the insurance issue…”healthcare is a business”. STEM Cells may be the next major step in fixing many of our medical problems…but it seems like it is just bad business for insurance to cover it. I don’t completely understand why because it seems like it would save them money and possibly lower costs to their subscribers. Oh, wait…maybe I do understand after all.

Stewardship-A Care Full View of the World

Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

The Amazon is burning. Why should I care? People are starving. Why should we care? The Earth is warming. What is the big concern?

We live but a small time in the ongoing existence of our planet. Humans lived only a small time on this planet according to scientists. Why then do we face such a broad array of problems from the environment to politics to social woes and why are those problems so critical right now?

It is promoted by society, particularly commercial society that we should be striving for financial independence and security. Those who have this to sell believe that those that don’t have only themselves to blame. It’s a pitch made to a world that believes that it can own something. Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

In church, one of the hardest topics for preachers to preach on is finances. It’s in the Bible that God owns everything. He also requires the first fruits. It’s a hard pill for Christians to swallow so it’s delivered with so much “tact” that it has lost its meaning. The truth is that it is a universal truth. We can’t own anything here…ever. Oh yeah, we can possess it for awhile, but we can’t own it. The only thing that we can own is our mindset. It is this that will cause us to destroy the very world that we live in.

I am not an owner, but a caretaker. While I am here, I have to take care of that which gives me life…my planet. I cannot be careless because if I am careless then I am just a taker. If I am a taker without giving as so many of us are…we will keep on taking until we tip the scales. I cannot be carefree because without the care I cannot be free.

As the political season continues to drag on in the US, we need to care more and not care less. When the tipping point is reached in the environment, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in the economy, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in international politics (aka Presidential trash talk), there will be nothing we can do to recover from the devastation.

Feeling Guilty in Retirement

I was challenged to continue to do my work as long as God keeps me in this body. This seems to be helping me to clarify my life

Everything that I always wanted…

So here I am going into year 3 of my retirement. I always got up to be a teacher very early. I can’t sleep now. I still have to get up. I get confused because there is no one telling me what to do. I can’t seem to get started on anything.

I think that the guilt comes from the fact that when I was a teacher, I knew in my heart that I was helping people. I don’t know. Service to students isn’t always appreciated but I just believed that everyone wanted just what I wanted…crazy right? Still, I managed to fool myself for over 25 years.

Today in church, during a study of Phillipians, I was challenged to continue to do my work as long as God keeps me in this body. This seems to be helping me to clarify my life. Yes, I still want to be at the pool everyday. Yes, I still want to ride my bicycle everyday. Yes, I want to make music…(this is my biggest challenge even though I was a music teacher.) The fact is that I want to enjoy it…guilt free.

I have to be productive. I have to be guilt free. I have to help people. I have to feel relevant. Maybe then, the guilty feeling will go away. I’ll keep you posted.

An Abortion Story

When the life starts growing, the ethical questions get tougher. In a culture of extremism, the answer to a question like this is difficult to find.

In the summer of 1987, my wife became hospitalized with extreme swelling and high blood pressure. She was in her fifth month of pregnancy. She had an undiagnosed auto immune disease. There are a limited number of medications that don’t cross the barrier to the fetus that may control the blood pressure.

I can still remember being called to the hospital by my wife’s nurse. I came to the hospital and my wife was crying. She had been told that there was no way to control her blood pressure and that they had to administer drugs that would be harmful to the baby and that the very presence of the pregnancy was causing her blood pressure spike. They also induced labor. Later that night, while my wife and I were alone, she spontaneously delivered a still-born child.

What I just described was an abortion. This is a medical procedure for terminating a pregnancy. This decision wasn’t made by myself or my wife. It was made by medical professionals. The doctors weren’t weighing any other political or moral questions. They weren’t worried about the legalities of the steps that they took. My wife’s life was saved, her Lupus was diagnosed and she is a mother today. This didn’t happen easily as another pregnancy ended at 7 months with the death of the fetus in utero.

Today, I have 28 year old twins who wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for an abortion performed over 30 years ago. For the record, I am pro-life. Today, I honestly believe that there are 3 lives that wouldn’t be here if the doctors had to face this decision in this environment. Abortion was a heroic intervention that needed to take place when the circumstances demanded it.

I do believe that abortion should not be treated as a casual solution for an unwanted pregnancy. I do believe that there are choices that can be made before and after sex. When the life starts growing, the ethical questions get tougher. In a culture of extremism, the answer to a question like this is difficult to find.

I recently began a new diet, well, healthy living program. It is based on the premise that all living things want to survive long enough to procreate or reproduce. Their defenses are genetic, instinctive, and rational. They protect their young from the time that they are alive. Certain plants are poisonous until they are ripe and then they become food so that the plant can reproduce. This astonished me, and gave me pause.

Nature wants us to reproduce. That’s why we have a sex drive. God proclaimed for us to be fruitful and multiply. It was Mr. Spock who said, “live long and prosper”. The living long part makes us want to fight the nature of reproducing when our sex drive is the highest. It also makes for a huge market for solutions to the fact that we want sex to be for our own pleasure long after reproduction has taken place and our ability to “perform” is lacking. We are so afraid to separate the science from the science fiction.

Extremists on both sides want there to be black letter law to justify their positions. It is wrong for all pregnancies to be treated the same. My own situation is a perfect example. It is wrong for us to treat life with such disregard as to wanting the government to guarantee that a mother can make the choice for or against a life right up until birth. These are “extremist” views and neither one can be defended in a civilized society. So what if we start there and back off to the center.

If we decide that there are no absolutes and that there is in fact a point where we have to defend the living child inside of the mother as well as the mother, then we can talk about it. We have to define birth control before conception and conception interruption after coitus as acceptable means to control an unwanted birth that may have come from a non-consensual sexual encounter. If we are unwilling to do this, then we have no business being in government.

The bottom line, for me…abortion needs to be regulated as a choice. No medical professional should ever be second guessed by a black letter law when it comes to rendering care to a patient that needs it. Finally, no person, man or woman should have so little regard for human life that they proclaim the ultimate right to life and death of a living viable human being in the name of a cause.

Search your own hearts and know…that black letter law on this subject…is extremism…and if I may be so bold…now it is state sponsored terrorism against medical professionals.

The Role of the Choral Musician

Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

I have been a choral music teacher and director for many years. Now, when I get the chance, I am a singer in a choir. I may have a unique perspective when it comes to the rest of the choir membership. The issue of cell phone use in rehearsal has come up in my choir where I am a participant. Of course, the issue comes up in social media…and then there is the back and forth…and then there is the defensiveness…and, well some philosophies come out that are somewhat confusing. Still, it seems that the choral ensemble member doesn’t know what their role is in the group.

A choral music participant must be on time with their music and a pencil and be actively engaged in the choral music rehearsal process all the time. Active engagement requires all of the senses. It means watching and learning while other parts are being played or performed. Clearly, this has been a problem before cell phones particularly in high school where the typically overachieving student will try to sneak in a little homework. It is now magnified by the presence of electronic distractions.

From the director’s perspective, it is not always easy to see who is disengaged from the rehearsal because the phone is obscured behind the folder. It is easy to see from the choir chair, from the rows and seats nearby, and yes, it is very distracting.

A common level of commitment to the group means that everyone is desiring a good rehearsal situation. Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

The following issues are completely irrelevant.

  • It’s not a professional/paid choir. This is a complete cop out for those who don’t want to be held to the musicianship standards that we should all be striving to maintain. Whether you are in a grade school, high school, college or church and community group, you are still singing choral music and the standard for rehearsal should be the same. The compliance might not be as growth should bring maturity and older, experienced, and more seasoned groups should be much better prepared.
  • It’s not your job to police the choir, it is the director’s job. This one was mentioned in the “we’re all adults here” commentary. I guess that the concern is that you shouldn’t bring this to the director’s attention. It is likened to the grade school tattletale. Well, there are only two choices here. Go to the director and say that you are distracted or go directly to the source of the problem. Either way, ignoring the problem is the wrong choice. That’s the “mind your own business” implication.

The choir can be likened to a team. We all need to know our role. We all need to do our job.

Creating Your Own Reality

Whether it’s composing, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, or any other art, the act of creativity is disciplined and on purpose.

It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to create a vision for your future. My son, Ryan had a vision for his life to be a professional drummer. He wanted to perform on Broadway. He made his Broadway debut on 9/9/2018 in Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theater. Today he is a drummer for the First National Tour of the same production. This didn’t just happen. This didn’t just drop in his lap. He created his reality through vision and hard work and yes, he worked on his creativity muscle.

That’s right. Creativity is something that gets better through exercise. The musical performance above is on someone else’s channel, but it contains an original piece of music performed by the composer. Whether it’s composing, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, or any other art, the act of creativity is disciplined and on purpose. This goes for life as well as art.

Conformity and standardization have become buzz words and they are killing the very creativity that all people will need in the very near future as jobs disappear. Today in schools, entire months are dedicated to testing to see how students measure up to standards. Then they return to their regularly scheduled learning complete with even more tests and grades.

Ken Robinson has suggested that schools do kill creativity. Maybe there should be a course in how to survive school so you can still be successful in spite of it.

Ken Robinson has suggested that schools do kill creativity. Maybe there should be a course in how to survive school so you can still be successful in spite of it.

Who’s idea was this…college thing?

Maybe there would be far less scandals about entering college if the child understood or believed in the education that they were receiving or were likely to get in college enough to make the move themselves.

In a recent article in USA Today, I was introduced to a term that I never heard before. It was Snowplow Parents. This article spoke about the parents of today clearing away obstacles from their children’s world, whether created by others or themselves even when they entered college. Which begs the question, “was it really the child’s choice to to in the first place?”

Maybe there would be far less scandals about entering college if the child understood or believed in the education that they were receiving or were likely to get in college enough to make the move themselves. They also would have to make the decision to keep up with all of the deadlines…themselves. This should happen without counselors and parents doing everything for them.

Then maybe, ust maybe, the kids who belonged in college would be the only ones there. What do you think?

College Admissions Scandal

Way back in time, college educations were for the elite. People would attend college as a status symbol. It wasn’t needed for success in the world. It was there for people who could afford it. It was a “class” thing and not about going to class to get ahead. That is definitely the crazy thing about this college admissions scandal.

Some of the biggest people involved in the scandal are those that already had success. If you take just one, Olivia Jade, for example…she had a business based on her look and celebrity. She also “threw her dad under the bus” by outing the fact that he took his tuition money and started a business that made his life what it is today. If that isn’t the purpose of college, then you shouldn’t be spending the money on it.

It seems that this degree is becoming less and less relevant and we are returning to a time when our own individual effort in creating value is what will ultimately make our success. This should be the biggest takeaway for the average person who is struggling with the college acceptance issue. I am speaking more of the individual accepting college as opposed to the college accepting the individual.

A Culture of Obsession

It has been said that it starts and ends with education. That education cannot be the same kind of education that got us to where we are.

In 2015, I stumbled across a YouTube video presented by a high school student that talked about his inability to be valedictorian because he took choir in high school. It would seem that the grading system is based on only the academics being of utmost importance and those classes only had the ability for weighting as more important. This articulate young man describes education’s culture of obsession and is worth listening to so the video is included here.

It is not just academics in school that is the problem. My own family is obsessed with their credit rating. I guess that is kind of important. It would seem that a number assigned to your credit would be kind of important. It is also indicative of the fact that you need more money that you have access to at a given moment.

In a speech by Daniel Pink, he describes America as doing very well financially. His reasons are that our level of comfort and well being compared to our previous generations have increased. Additionally, compared to countries across the world, we have an amazing level of prosperity. Yet there are still many people that are out of work and devalued and this is startling.

It has been said that it starts and ends with education. That education cannot be the same kind of education that got us to where we are. We need a different kind of instruction. A kind of instruction that leans on the creativity that exists in both arts, sciences, and technology.

Winter Blues

My worry now is that it will go immediately from cold to blistering heat.

When the cold weather happens in the northern states in the Winter, you can expect that there would be a degree of melancholy. When that same weather happens in typically warm areas, you definitely can get the blues.

My first winter in California began last year at the end of the Super Bowl when my beloved Eagles won their first Super Bowl championship. I returned immediately to southern California from southern New Jersey. The mornings were cold but the temperature regularly hit 70 and sometimes even 80. This year, we have not had 80 degrees since before Thanksgiving.

I suppose that it is unfair to complain but, this is not why I wanted to move to the California desert. My worry now is that it will go immediately from cold to blistering heat. That would be very depressing. One could hope.