Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 27, 2005

Great Moments in Socialized Medicine

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

Here’s an amazing story, this time (as usual) from the British National Health Service (NHS). This time they didn’t remove the healthy kidney instead of the diseased one (killing the patient), or amputate the wrong leg (the other one still had to be removed), or leave an aborted fetus in a jar in the mother’s room.

No, this time they just caused an little girl an incredible amount of inconvenience for seven and a half years of her so-far eight-year-old life.

From the time Tilly Merrell was a year old, doctors told her family she would never have a normal life — or even a normal meal.

British [National Health Service] doctors found that the food she swallowed went into her lungs instead of her stomach, causing devastating lung infections. They said she had isolated bulbar palsy, and their solution was to feed her through a stomach tube. Forever.

But having a backpack with a food pump wired to her stomach wasn’t much of a life for a girl whose favorite smell is bacon frying — a girl who once broke through a locked kitchen door in an effort to sneak some cheese. So her family got help from their community of Warndon, about 120 miles north of London, raising enough money to take Tilly, now 8, on a 5,000-mile journey they hoped might change her life, a journey to Lucile Salter Packard [i.e., privately funded] Children’s Hospital at Stanford University.

Doctors at Packard were intrigued that she had no neurological symptoms often associated with the palsy. In all other ways, she was a normal child with a mischievous smile and a truckload of energy. After seeing her Feb. 7, they ran three tests and found out what was wrong with her.


She had infections, certainly, but they were long gone. And when she swallowed something, it went into her stomach, not her lungs.

Doctors prescribed occupational therapy, figuring that Tilly’s body and mind needed to be conditioned, after 7 1/2 years of struggling, so that it would be all right to eat normal food.

Did it work? The proof is in the pudding. Or maybe in the breakfast sandwich that Tilly sampled at a Palo Alto Jack in the Box.

“I had a burger with cheese, bacon, egg and ham,” she said Wednesday, relishing the moment like a kid in a candy store. “And some hash browns with grease.”

But after being on normal food for more than a week, ice cream is the flavor of the month.

[G]one is the black backpack she wore to school. It held a liquid food concoction that had to be pumped into her stomach three times a day for two hours at a time. Those were her meals.

Until this month, Tilly often had to go off into another room with her PlayStation during family meals. She would always try to sneak morsels of food, not fully understanding the British doctors’ warnings about how much harm they could cause.

After five years of searching the Internet, Sonia Merrell found a story about how a girl with a similar condition was trying to get treated at Packard.

She faxed Tilly’s records to the hospital, and doctors said they might be able to help but would have to see her. The family and the community held fund- raisers to bring in more than 10,000 pounds (almost $20,000) to pay for the trip and what they thought might be surgery for Tilly. Children at a community center even collected more than 300 pounds (about $575) to give their playmate some spending money.

After all, England is not exactly a backward nation when it comes to medicine. [Really? Sure looks like it is!] Tilly had several cases of severe pneumonia as a baby, and her mother said that doctors in the socialized British system clung to the palsy diagnosis.

[Occupational therapist Marianna] Thorn is confident her patient will do well, but the family will need to monitor her weight to be sure it doesn’t drop. “Tilly was talking today about how she’s taking tiny bites because she used to try to sneak food,” she said.

(Hat tip: James Taranto.)

This is how a Palestinian cease-fire works

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:47 am

This is how a Palestinian cease-fire works:

  • February 8: After going three months without a single Palestinian terrorist attack against Israel Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon agree to a cease-fire.

    SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a cease-fire Tuesday, hailing it as a new opportunity for peace in the Middle East.

    “We have agreed with Prime Minister Sharon to cease all violence against the Israelis and against the Palestinians, wherever they are,” Abbas said after talks at their summit in Egypt.

  • February 25: Almost four months after the last Palestinian terrorist attack, and 17 days after the cease-fire, there is another terrorist attack:

    TEL AVIV, Israel — A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of young Israelis waiting outside a nightclub near Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade, killing at least four other people, wounding dozens and shattering an informal Mideast truce.

  • February 27: Israel announce it will not do anything in response to the terrorist attack:

    Israel will not launch major military action in retaliation to Friday night’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed four people and wounded 50 others, senior government sources said yesterday. The government, however, will increase political pressure on Syria for backing Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Palestinian Authority to act against terror.

    Oh no, you say, there are doing something — didn’t you read the paragraph you just quoted? — Israel is going to “increase political pressure on Syria.” Um, with all due respect, does Syria have a long history — indeed any history — of responding to political pressure from Israel? My point exactly.

  • You might be thinking now that there was not much point to declaring this “cease-fire.” After all, there were three months of relative peace, then they declare a “cease-fire,” and — BOOM! — two and a half weeks later they blow up a nightclub. But now, there most certainly is a point to the cease-fire — if you are one of the terrorists. Because now you can send your recruits to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv without any fear that Israel is going to blow up your car hours after a suicide bombing, like happened last April before the “cease-fire”:

    GAZA CITY (CNN) — Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the leader of the militant group Hamas in Gaza, was killed Saturday in Gaza City by an Israeli missile strike, Israeli officials and Palestinian security sources said.

    An Israeli helicopter launched the strike on Rantisi’s car, the sources said, also killing two others — one of them a bodyguard. Rantisi was taken to a hospital, where he died shortly afterward.

    The strike came hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber launched an attack in the Erez industrial zone Saturday, killing a border police officer and wounding three others.

    See, in this particular conflict, a “cease-fire” means Israel agrees to cease firing back at terrorists, so they can pursue their occupation in peace.

In Memoriam, Uli Derickson

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:00 am

A hero of the fight against terrorism (pre-2001 edition) has passed away:

Uli Derickson, the Trans World Airlines flight attendant honored for saving passengers’ lives in 1985 by confronting and mollifying terrorist hijackers, died on Friday at her home in Tucson. She was 60.

Though the two hijackers spoke almost no English, Derickson was able to speak with one of them in German and occasionally calm him by singing a German ballad he requested.

She also intervened during beatings, often putting herself in harm’s way.

“Don’t you hit that person,” she would shout, a passenger later told the New York Times. “Why do you have to hit those people?”

The most terrifying moment for her, she later told Glamour Magazine, was when the crueler of the two hijackers asked her to marry him.

At one point they asked Derickson to sort through the passengers’ passports to single out people with Jewish-sounding names. Although various news organizations initially reported that she had followed their orders, she in fact hid the passports, her son said.

From another account:

Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Derickson and her parents were expelled to East Germany in 1945. The family later escaped to West Germany, and Uli made it to the United States in 1967, where she became a flight attendant for TWA.

During a stop in Algiers, the ground crew wouldn’t give them fuel without payment — and the terrorists promised to kill a passenger every five minutes until they got some. “I asked for permission to go to my purse, and I got out my [credit] card and gave it to them. They put 6,000 gallons of jet fuel on my Shell credit card.”

That is one gutsy and resourceful lady. I hope someone paid her back for the jet fuel.

From another obituary:

“Everybody looked to her for courage and guidance,” Tom Cullins, an architect in Burlington, Vermont, who was a hostage on the plane, said in an interview Wednesday. “She was clearly in control. She even made demands of the hijackers.”

Cullins added, “We have nothing but the utmost respect for her and a debt of gratitude for really heroic acts.”

For those of you who might remember, this was the same hijacking in which the terrorists murdered Navy Steelworker Second Class Robert D. Stethem, who now has a Navy ship named after him.

The dominoes are beginning to fall

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:41 am

One of the arguments raised against the invasions of Iraq (and Afghanistan) was the claim that yes, Iraq is a brutal, human-rights-ignoring dictatorship, but there are lots of dictatorships in the world, and we can’t democratize all of them, so we shouldn’t go into Iraq, either. This always seemed to me like arguing that since we can’t cure all cancers, we shouldn’t treat any of them. However, it turns out there’s another response to this argument as well: Justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere (with apologies — no, appreciation — to Martin Luther King, Jr.).

In other words, deposing Saddam Hussein and establishing democracy in Iraq can have a “domino effect,” causing dictatorships to fall, perhaps even peacefully, throughout the Middle East. The first sign of this came in December 2003, when Muammar Qaddafi of Libya agreed to give up it’s pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

The second sign is the renewed attempt by Lebanon to throw off the yoke of Syria, which has occupied and de facto rules Lebanon for nearly 30 years. And Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Lebanese opposition and patriarch of the Druze Muslim community in Lebanon has specifically credited the American invasion of Iraq and the successful Iraqi elections last month:

“It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” explains Jumblatt. “I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. “The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

(Hat tip: Coyote Blog.)

Granted, the recent assassination of the anti-Syrian Lebanese leader Rafiq Hariri was a setback, but there were plenty of setbacks on the road to the Iraqi elections as well; setbacks do not mean the project is doomed.

The third sign came yesterday, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has held office for 24 years (since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981), took to first step toward amending the Egyptian constitution to allow candidates to run against him in presidential elections. Believe it or not, other candidates have not been allowed so far. (No wonder he keeps winning!) Geoff Smock explains:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called for changes in that country’s election laws today. The new reforms would allow more than one candidate to compete for the presidency, much different from the current system, where the Egyptian Parliament selects a candidate and a referendum takes place within the country where voters are allowed to check either “yes” or “no”. If the new law passes, election of the presidency will be a direct election with multiple candidates.

This is encouraging news, but talk alone never accomplished anything. Mubarak needs to follow through on this promise and the elections, set for September, must be free and fair. Mubarak must also allow all parties to participate, for elections can only be free and fair when everyone is given an equal chance to run. It is the responsibility of America and the world to keep the pressure on Mubarak, and we must demand full transparency so the international community may rest assured that these elections are not tainted.

But with all that said, this announcement is further validation of our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just as the Lebanese are demanding their full democratic rights, Egypt can see the train is headed towards democracy in the Middle East and they don’t want to be left behind. Freedom is contagious, and democrats in the Middle East who saw Iraqis vote last month are asking themselves, “Why not us?” Leaders in the region are all admitting that times are changing, and that no longer can regimes deny their people their full democratic rights.

If it weren’t for the United States and President Bush, none of this would be possible and the train would still be in the station.

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