SAVE the transplants!

Here they go again.

Spurred on by stories of anti-vaxxers who’ve been denied organ transplants because they weren’t vaccinated, a congressman has introduced legislation that would prevent doctors from refusing transplants because of a patient’s vaccination status.

The bill was filed by Ben Cline, a Republican from Virginia. 

I’ll just take a moment to remind everyone that Republicans are against the government getting involved in medical decisions. Except abortions. And, now, organ transplants.

The “SAVE” act (Stop Arduous Vaccine Enforcement – I’m not kidding) would prohibit organ transplant centers from denying an individual from receiving or donating an organ solely based on COVID-19 vaccination.

What Ben doesn’t know, or maybe he does know but doesn’t care because there aren’t political points to be made, is that transplant doctors consider a wide range of factors in determining who qualifies for a transplant. Any one of those factors can be the sole reason you’re denied a transplant.

In my particular case, they wanted my Body Mass Index below a certain number. I had one hell of a time hitting that number.

Ben was spurred into action to SAVE potential transplant recipients because of several cases which have received media attention. 

Allow me to confess that I haven’t looked into any of these cases, but I’m pretty sure that the patients who were “thrown off” transplant lists had met all the criteria for their particular organ but refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

So it became the last straw. At least one of these folks declared that he would rather die free than live as a vaccinated man.

Sorry, but I don’t understand that. As part of the process to qualify for a transplant, I had to have some teeth extracted because they were infected. I could have said that I would rather die with all my teeth than live, but I’m sane.

But let’s talk about Ben Cline.

Among the many things Ben obviously doesn’t know is that, after surgery, transplant patients take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives.

To understand why that’s important, you have to understand what rejection means in the transplant world. The human body doesn’t like foreign objects, such as a virus or organs from another human body. It views them as something which must be killed. To the body, there’s no difference between a virus and a new heart or kidney.

It’s obviously a good idea to keep that from happening, so transplant patients take medications that suppress the body’s immune system. Immunosuppressants, they’re called.

Suppressing the immune system prevents the body from rejecting transplanted organs and it causes the body to be susceptible to viruses and other infections.

That’s why transplant centers require the COVID-19 vaccine, Ben. There’s a limited number of available organs, and transplant centers want to place them in bodies that have a good chance of being around a while.

To me, because I’m sane, this is a straightforward reason for requiring vaccinations to qualify for a transplant. But politicians like Ben Cline just can’t resist politicizing every aspect of vaccinations, Even the transplant process is a prime target. “Arduous Vaccine Enforcement”? Really?

I know, and Ben Cline knows, that this bill is going nowhere. He introduced it to get time on FoxNews and rile up his base of anti-vaxxers. That’s exactly what’s happening.

But if he really wants the federal government involved in organ transplants, he could focus on something really important. Like the list of foods transplant patients can’t eat.

I really like rare steaks and blue cheese, Ben, but those meddling transplant doctors say I can’t them because of the risk of infection blah blah blah.

Let’s draft a bill requiring them to allow me to eat whatever the hell I want. Call it the Let’s Eat All Foods (LEAF) Act.

Or even better, stay away from topics you know absolutely nothing about. 

The things we do for lungs

Try to imagine the 70s band 10cc singing that headline to the tune of “The Things We Do for Love” and you’ll get the gist of this blog post.

From the moment I learned that my lung disease had progressed to the point that a lung transplant was my only hope, I’ve done a lot of things for lungs. I’ve had dozens of tests done, including multiple blood tests and pulmonary function tests; I’ve lost weight; I’ve walked a half hour per day several times a week.

That last part may sound trivial, but walking knocks me out. I don’t own a treadmill, so I walk the length of the house back and forth.

Oh, and I’m on supplemental oxygen all the time. My iPhone finally started recognizing my face with a nasal cannula in place.

I had teeth pulled to ensure that I have good oral health.

I’ve even launched a gofundme to raise money for the myriad bills that will come my way that health insurance won’t cover. And this has been really hard. I felt that starting a fundraiser was akin to begging for money. Several friends told me I was wrong; they said I would be doing everyone a favor by giving them a way to help me.

A lot of people have responded with donations and good wishes, and the whole experience has been humbling.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to lose weight and nobody has offered to donate a lung.

The things I’ll do for lungs … and keep an eye out for my next blog post, Looing for Lungs in All the Wrong Places …

No fair this year

The Illinois State Fair was supposed to open today. Sadly, it was an early casualty of COVID-19.

Now, I wholeheartedly support the decision to cancel the fair. Bringing thousands of people together in the August heat and humidity of central Illinois during a global pandemic seemed like a recipe for disaster, and canceling the event was the smart move.

In the grand scheme of things, the loss of one state fair is not that big a deal. But I’m going to miss it.

I’ve blogged about my love of the Fair before, and I’ll do it again next year. For now, some more of my favorite pictures.

20180817115658_img_003020180817135422_img_0063

20180817135021_img_006020180817160705_img_008920180817112450_img_0018

Please cancel this blog!

Do you know who Kelly Loeffler is?

Probably not. Even thougH she’s the junior senator from Georgia and co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA team and richer than, well, you and me, she got canceled.

CANCELED!!!

At least, that’s what she claimed in a tweet. She had been canceled by a mob of some sort. Then she went on cable news shows and complained about how mobs had tried to cancel her, so I got confused. After all, Kelly’s still a US Senator, she’s still the co-owner of the Dream, and she’s still really really rich.

So what does it mean to get canceled?

When I was a kid, canceling is what happened to our favorite TV shows, like Star Trek. We were devastated when NBC canceled Star Trek. No more Captain Kirk, no more Spock, no more Bones McCoy?

But then something weird happened. Just a few years later the whole Star Trek gang reappeared in a series of movies. Kirk! Spock! McCoy! It was like they had never left – in fact, they were more popular than ever.

In retrospect, getting canceled wasn’t the end of the world (or the galaxy) for our favorite crew.

And just recently, a song by Cardi B that features rapper Megan Thee Stallion aroused the ire of a bunch of people, some of whom want the song banned. You might say that banning is an extreme form of canceling something.

Funny thing is, the people who want to ban the song “WAP” are some of the same people who’ve been complaining of what they call “cancel culture” in which, apparently, you get criticized for things you say or do.

And guess what? All the outrage about “WAP” and the calls for banning the song have only made it more popular. It’s Number One on a bunch of charts.

I’m seeing a pattern here. When you get “canceled,” you only become more popular. People talk about you and buy your stuff. It’s like the ultimate PR ploy.

So help me out here. I want this blog to be more popular. So please, please, cancel it!

Let’s run for the rest of our lives

It’s been 13 years since marathon legend Bill Rodgers was in Springfield, Illinois, courtesy of the Springfield Road Runners Club.

That seems like yesterday and an eternity ago at the same time.

The main reason for Rodgers’ visit was to give the keynote address at the club’s annual banquet and awards ceremony. He also handed out the awards and posed for pictures.

The next morning, he joined the group for our Saturday long run.

As I was making my way up the toughest hill of that particular workout, a stretch that local runners call Chill Hill, I heard someone coming up on my left. It was Bill Rodgers.

I immediately made a fool of myself, babbling about what an honor it was to be running alongside him and he smiled. But give me a break — this was the guy who had won the Boston Marathon four times and the New York City Marathon four times.

He had been the embodiment of running in the late 70s, and there I was running next to him. Stride for stride. Just gliding up Chill Hill. Partners in pounding the pavement. And then he sped up to run with someone ahead of me.

After the run, everyone gathered at the local running store to meet Rodgers and get him to sign copies of his book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Running.

I had a copy of that book and also a book that Rodgers hadn’t seen in years, The Boston Marathon, written by Detroit sportswriter Joe Falls and published in 1977. His eyes lit up as soon as he saw it.

“Oh, the Joe Falls book!”

We paged through the book and talked about the Boston Marathon and Rodgers signed the pictures of his first Boston win in 1976. He also listed his times for all four races he won.

He also wrote, “Good to run with you today in Springfield.”

That’s all the proof I need that it really happened.

But the inscription that he wrote in Running is the one that has stayed with me. It’s the one pictured above. “Let’s run for the rest of our lives” has stayed with me.

As far as I know, Rodgers is still running. He’s 72 and a prostate cancer survivor.

I’m 63 and a testicular cancer survivor, and I did run for several years after meeting Bill. I even completed a marathon. But I don’t run now. A condition called scleroderma related interstitial lung disease has made it difficult to even walk for exercise without supplemental oxygen.

But, boy, for that one Saturday morning on Chill Hill, it felt like I really could run for the rest of my life, right alongside Bill Rodgers. It’s a memory I’ll have for the rest of my life.