Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My brother's birth and death day

May 29, 1950, my brother's birth day. And his death day. He lived to be 3 hours. In those days they took the baby away from the mother immediately, she never got to hold him, and she never knew what happened to him. I found where he was buried and got his death certificate decades later. This is a child who was born alive who was simply taken away. But he shaped my destiny.

Surely my work at the St. Petersburg Children's Hospital has multiple reasons for its existence. I was raised as a Christian to "love your enemies" and no one could be more our enemy than the Soviet Union, whose stated goal was that they would bury us. We thought there would be World War III and that few would survive.

And when I talk about love, here is what I mean. When my Dad was a child he wrote a letter to Santa that was printed in the Middletown [Ohio] Journal:

"I am six years old and live at 604 Mary Etta street. You may fill my stocking if you have anything left after you visit the little boys and girls who do not have toys."

This is the definition of love in our family. Dad would give you the grocery money and not think twice. Mother would guide us to do the right thing despite obstacles. Ha! As the oldest in this family I was doomed to be a humanitarian.

Was it my choice? Totally. But the energy pushing me toward this goal was intense. Do something high, something important, something meaningful, something of high moral standards. No pressure. And the sacrifice of my personal, physical, emotional life? No problem. I feel fortunate that I penciled in time to get married and have children. That worked out well. But the guilt remains. How much time for which goals.

So now my lovely children have grown up and are doing wonderful things of their own. I have created a program that has directly saved the lives of 3,000+ children. Is it enough? Dear God I hope so but fear it is not. Do I have enough left in me to go one more round?

And I am not even counting my involvement in things political in order to keep our nation from descending into totalitarianism. I spend much of my time these days working behind the scenes here in Washington to help save what's left of our nation from tyranny. I argue with very intelligent people who don't yet see the danger about what has happened and what can happen. The Republicans in government now have gone too far. Can we keep them from taking control of the elections, of what's left of the Justice Department, I would go on but I'm crying.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

egregious family advances science


I'm so proud of my family I don't know which to publish first. We will start with my nephew who is part of the CERN experiment in Geneva, on the front page of today's science section of the New York Times. He is likely missing an urgent family gathering in order to participate in this unique experiment, and I hope all will forgive him. This is history in the making. Godspeed [little joke about particle physics, and their speed]. Yo Alan!!

Only in this light can my cousin being featured in an article in The New Yorker come in second place. Did I mention we are a science and engineering family? My cousin is an expert on the Great Wall, which turns out to be a line not a wall, do I have that right David?

My own humble observation relates to my congenital surgery work in Russia. I have not posted much in the last few weeks because of being in Russia, trip #30, then recovering, then attending back to back conferences on congenital and thoracic surgery. Ho hum such a boring life :)

On my way home from that torture that is individual training at the gym, I saw an ambulance with siren and lights on stuck in traffic. Immediate impulse was to calculate how to eliminate the obstacles. It struck me, that's exactly what I do in Russia. Figure out what are the obstacles to saving more lives, and slash thru them. By the fired o'glake if necessary.

During this aha moment the song on my radio was Josh Groban, a beautiful addition to any moment, but it seemed to describe how I am trying to support the surgeons working in St. Petersburg:

"When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

"You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.

"There is no life, no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But then you come, and I am filled with wonder;
Sometimes I think, I glimpse eternity."


My cousin looking back over the millenia,
my nephew sacrificing something very dear
to come close to the mysteries of eternity.

Me, I'm just trying to wrap up the Cold War,
bring a great city and a rising nation
back into the fold of civilized countries.
It's only been, what, 100 years?

Psalm 90/Isaac Watts:
"A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone
Short as the watch the ends the night
Before the rising dawn."