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Dr.J's HouseCalls

This blog began in 2005 - as the ONLY mechanism I had left to FIGHT what was done to me in government service (Hillary's village - a prelude to Obamacare) by my hometown hospital in Asheboro/Randolph County, N.C. Over 2300 posts later, most of the blog is

Updated: 2017-08-05T10:54:54.859-04:00


What Goes Around: Fewer U.S. Community Hospitals Can Properly Care For Children


MEDSCAPE ARTICLE (VIA THE UK DAILY MAIL): FEWER U.S. COMMUNITY HOSPITALS CAN PROVIDE BASIC CARE FOR CHILDRENI offered commentary on this story on my (private) Facebook page a day or so ago. Sharing my opinions with friends has been relatively safe and comfortable, but now I am compelled to come out of the shell I've been in since leaving the Greensboro blogosphere in 2013.That would be the same blogosphere where I was routinely maligned/insulted/ridiculed and ultimately cyber-stalked by politically-motivated progressive know-it-alls (led by Edward Cone of the Moses Cone Healthcare Cones) . . . all because (back in the days of "Hillary's Village") this home-grown medical whistle-blower had the courage to fight back against the mill-town goons running Randolph Hospital (ultimately into Cone's waiting arms) . . . and to tell the truth about what Steven Eblin and Robert Morrison did to a "dime-a-dozen" Pediatrician in state and Federal service.Under the cover of Randolph's non-profiteering status, I was run out of my own hometown on a rail . . . SLAPP-sued (unsuccessfully) for telling the truth to the governments I served (when they ASKED) . . . swindled at settlement (in my favor) by hospital executives who lied as easily as they breathed - who were, in turn, shielded by local journalists and lawyers and judges who could not be bothered with either the letter or the intent of the law.The boiling/simmering medical-mess-for-children that we now have in many communities is the future that Edward Cone and his blogging-bullies helped make . . . by doing everything they could to bury one Pediatrician's horror story and make her "just go away".My story did not serve their political/social goals.  It certainly laid waste to the notion that either Clinton actually CARED about those who advocated/labored-in-the-trenches for children.What these cyber-bullies-disguised-as-citizen-journalists-safely-tucked-behind-their-keyboards did was NOT "for the children" . . . and now we have the evidence right in front of us to prove it.  I hope Edward is proud of himself.  I hope that chair in the Cone boardroom is very warm.Oh by the way, you CANNOT blame this on Trump.  It's a mess decades in the making.  And Obamacare . . . a giant steaming pile of fiscally-unsustainable-horse-manure styled as healthcare "reform" . . . did not fix ANY of it!Here's what I said on Facebook:"This is happening because for the last twenty years or so, community hospital executives have almost UNIVERSALLY treated Pediatricians LIKE SH*T under their well-heeled shoes . . . devaluing their experience, and skills and training and services and very lives to nth degree - not wanting to pay for something they once got "for free" (by virtue of a physician having hospital "privileges").For me it started in my HOMETOWN of Asheboro . . . when, as a young physician in Federal service, I was fired for standing up to Steve Eblin and Robert Morrision's threats - in order to save a newborn baby's life . . . and it's not really gotten any better.Let me say that again (for so-called "journalists" like the smug, uptight, know-it-all Edward Cone-of-the-Moses-Cone-Healthcare Cones). I WAS FIRED FOR SAVING A BABY'S LIFE. Wrap your head around that please - and try to understand what it did to mine.As a physician, you NEVER just "get over" something like that.If the world worked the way it's supposed to work, NO ONE would have EVER dared say that to me.The overpaid, over-rated non-profiteering MBA's running these small hospitals think they can do anything they like to Pediatricians - especially women - and get away with it . . . mostly because for years, they have. If we talk/fight back, we're "disruptive". Our time and expertise mean NOTHING to these (mostly-clueless) pencil-pushers. The risks of providing Pediatric coverage (especially on LDRP units where OB's - even dangerous ones - get anything they want) have become riskier and the rewards few - and THAT is why so many community Pediatricians have told hospitals to GO BLOW.The mainstream press has[...]

Humbled, Praying, Seeking, Turning


If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2nd Chronicles 7:14  (KJV)Post-election Update:  After YEARS of working and practicing amongst scores of (extra)"ordinary" hard-working people-who-pay-the-bills-that-kill (described as "deplorables" by a woman who said she wanted to be their President), I knew down deep in my bones that Trump was going to win - no matter what the polls said.  I have to say that, on Election Night, it was an amazing thing to watch as the dials on the New York Times' website flipped from blue to red, and long-suffering/"fly-over"/middle-America found her footing/voice again.  It was like watching a miracle take place right in front of your eyes - courtesy of a graph provided by our-liberal-media, you could literally see the moment-in-time everything turned.  God bless our Constitutional Republic.In the preceding years, the progressives of the Greensboro blogosphere had gotten everything they ever wanted - and they ran with it (and over everyone else) for eight years.  And the world went to Hell.  American turned on American.  We split in two.  Families divided, friendships tanked.  Our leaders embraced one extreme or the other for power, and We-The-People, lost all ability to meet in the middle.   The thing about political/social conservatives (including this former doctor-blogger . . . who only embraced "citizen journalism"/started blogging because she was done way-beyond-dirty as a public servant in the Clinton administration . . . and then fell through literally EVERY crack in Federal/state/local oversight) is that we will try to reason with even the most unreasonable people . . . long after we are bathed in vitriol, and called horrible names, and our sanity/ethics/morals/faith-if-we-still-have-it are insulted/libeled all over the Internet.  Some of us will even hang in after being criminally cyber-stalked.  We'll take the beatings to try and cut through the crap - because we BELIEVE in the dialogue/debate - we believe that even the voice of one reasonable good man/woman can change the world for the better.  Still, while we might hang in for a very long time, eventually we do give up and walk away - largely for our own survival. We turn our cheeks, and wipe the spittle-of-our-enemies off our faces.  We bind our wounds and we just stop talking.  We won't debate anymore. We won't even answer a pollster's phone call. We go through the motions of our lives as the world burns around us, and we are proven right.And then, we simply VOTE.  I hope/pray that this country can come together and heal under new/fresh leadership.  As an American, I can only wish President Trump the very best.[...]

It's Been A While . . .


Once upon a time, this blog was a force of nature - my nature - not to take the beatings dished out by corporate medicine lying down.  It's all in the sidebar.  I wish I could say it's all in the past.  But it's not.  My scars have scars. Every now and then, one opens up and oozes.(Insert Disclaimer:  I've always/only spoken for me - and only me - both then and now.  It's America.  I'm supposed to have that right.  When did physicians lose that right?  To coin a melodic phrase, "You don't own me . . .")I blew the whistle on bad care eighteen years ago - in my own hometown hospital.  The baby whose life I saved is now a beautiful young woman going off to college . . . a woman-of-faith whose baptism I attended with tears in my eyes.  How can one regret that?It certainly cannot be taken away - never mind that almost everything else I ever worked for and wanted was ripped from my grasp . . . by greedy mill-town good-ole-boys who lied to everyone's faces . . . and suffered no consequence whatsoever . . . because all of the hallowed organizations we look to for protection could not be bothered by one small-town doctor's god-awful experience in state-and-Federal service.Of course, it all happened during the days of "Hillary's Village", so no one cared.This "dime-a-dozen" Pediatrician fought a good fight.  I actually "won" the fight.  But I didn't really . . . couldn't . . . actually never had a chance.The game was fixed from the beginning.But I'm NOT SORRY for fighting.I'm chasing different dreams now . . . as my profession continues to crumble around me . . . and my specialty continues to melt down at the community hospital level (Pediatrics is swimming upstream against forces I identified, and problems I predicted over a decade ago). I'll keep trying/treading water until I can't see daylight. A public servant's life in Hillary's Village was bad enough . . . but our current Golfer-in-Chief thinks Pediatricians do tonsillectomies for the money.(We don't do them at all.)Barack Obama's "reform" didn't fix any of the things that really needed to be fixed.  The ACA is a glorified Ponzi scheme doomed to fall in on itself.  Meaningful/reasonable/responsible/ethical oversight of medicine has become next-to-non-existent . . . beholding only to the almighty dollar and buried under stacks of regulations and piles of paper/binary code.  Meanwhile, science/common-sense has taken a back seat to money-grubbing political howlers flinging their poo . . . while American journalism sinks into a Joker-worthy acid-slime-bath that makes Pravda look noble.Back when this blog was a force of my nature - I did tell you so.The blog is mostly archived now.  The material is going to be used for something else - but I've been waiting for the happy ending.I do have one more post in me - it's coming before the 2016 election - be forewarned.  (11/7/2016 Update:  I thought I did - but I don't have the energy.  It's just not in me - after twenty years of fighting the good fight, I'm tapped out.  Like many doctors of my generation, repetitively stomped, I'm hanging on by my fingernails and expecting the worst.  All I can hold onto is 2nd Chronicles 7:14.)But until then, if you don't take anything away from your cursory glance at what's left of my once-prolific online footprint . . .TAKE IT FROM THE ONCE-BRIGHT-EYED/UBER-IDEALISTIC GIRL WHO WENT OFF TO MEDICAL SCHOOL, AND THEN CAME "HOME" TO PRACTICE PEDIATRICS . . . . . . JUST SAY NO TO HILLARY CLINTON!  SHE IS NO CHAMPION OF WOMEN OR CHILDREN (I AM A STILL LIVING/BREATHING EXAMPLE), AND HER SOCIAL/POLITICAL POLICIES ARE POISON FOR THIS ONCE-GREAT NATION!!FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-GOD-AND-COUNTRY, PLEASE JUST SAY NO!!![...]

Randolph Hospital Is The Biggest "Non-Profit" In Randolph County, North Carolina . . . And The Courier Tribune Must Protect It . . . At All Costs (Subtitled: What Does A Million Healthcare Dollars Buy In Asheboro?)


I've not blogged regularly since early 2013 - having moved my online activities over to Facebook . . . and, until fairly recently, curbed the time I spent there.  I have enjoyed the time away from blogging, and have only put something up when the stars aligned and begged for commentary.Over the next week or so, I'm going to put up at least three posts*. . . all inspired by what passes for newspaper "coverage" of local healthcare these days. (*I never got around to it.)It's only gotten worse since I began blogging in 2005.  The world prefers "sound bites" (except when legislators are writing healthcare "reform" - then it's a 2000 page pile-of-paper-only-good-for-sitting-on), and unfortunately, this really BITES for the American public, as these snippets of incomplete (and often inaccurate) information are what guides public opinion . . . and national policy.This first post was inspired by a Courier Tribune article, written by Chip Womick, published online on July 12.  It was a pure public-relations "fluff" piece . . . extolling (in unusual detail for Mr. Womick/this newspaper) the virtues of the hospital's charitable "mission" as a "non-profit".But I believe there was an underlying purpose to Chip's article, and that purpose was to to plant the seed that all is not financially well with Randolph . . .  and to gently begin preparing the largely-kept-in-the-dark local populace for a buy-out by a bigger system (at this point, not being privy to the plots-and-schemes of Randolph's Macheavellian CEO, Steve Eblin, and as much as I would like it to be Baptist, I would predict UNC, CMC/Cone or Duke). Click HERE for a link to the article (which is now hard to find through the Courier's home page unless you are specifically looking for it - we'll get to why I think that is as this post moves forward).Suffice it to say that Randolph Hospital is Randolph County's biggest "non-profit" entity ("by a country mile") . . . classified as a  501 (c)(3) with the IRS.  It is one of the county's biggest employers . . . and without-much-doubt, the Courier Tribune's biggest advertiser. And/so, when Steve Eblin's public-relations minions say, "Jump!", the Courier asks, "How high?".  It's been that way for years.The best interests of the "non-profit", charged with the public good, must be protected.A lot of the information Mr. Womick alluded to in his article (and more importantly, some that he didn't) can be found at a website called Guidestar.One of the most important things to be found at Guidestar is a compilation of Randolph Hospital's last three IRS 990 tax returns - which are, BY LAW, public record (if you register with the site, and pay a membership fee, you can go back even further).  IRS code, is, in fact, very clear that any time a member of the public wants to see a "non-profit's" financials/returns, they MUST be provided in a TIMELY fashion. Those returns include a list of officers (including how they are compensated), Board members and most highly-paid employees.This information is NOT "highly confidential" in ANY sense of the word, or in ANY venue. This point, is, of course, the REASON I came to the blogosphere (at the invitation of local "journalists") to ask for help in 2005.  And it's THE point that (over a period of many years) was TOTALLY LOST on Randolph Hospital's oh-so-ethical board members (which included some of Asheboro's "righest" names and most prominent physicians), the hospital's attorneys, my own attorney, our noble law-enforcing District Attorney (Garland Yates), the IRS/U.S. Attorney's office, our state Attorney General (Roy Cooper), a veritable host of liberal/progressive bloggers, and ultimately, Judge Stuart Albright in 2013.I have learned, the very hard way, that laws are not worth the paper they're printed on unless they are enforced.  And, in our fair town, some people are just more worthy of justice than others.Much more often than not, the law w[...]

Auld Lang Syne: The Gift


This year, I discovered I had allies and friends I did not know I had.  Two of them, in addition to their encouragement and support, gave me a tremendous gift.  Tonight, I think, is an appropriate time to share.My Dad was not big on pictures.  As I've blogged before, he was a very big man . . . very uncomfortable in his own skin (we have that in common) . . . and did not like to be photographed.  And/so we don't have a lot in the way of photos.  And we didn't have anything in the way of videos or audio recordings when he died in 2005.In the eulogy I gave at First Baptist during Pop's memorial service, I described the night in 2004 that I appeared, for the first time, before the Asheboro City Council . . . and pleaded for their help in extracting some kind of justice out of the over-paid, over-rated, cheap lying bullies who run Randolph Hospital (it's my opinion and I've more-than-earned the right to call those two jerks as I see them).  I wanted - still want - to see the people running this town to demonstrate some of the "small-town" values they boast so much about having.Because I gotta say, since coming home, I just have not seen it.It was in the days before I discovered blogging, and I was terrified of the consequences of going "public" with my story . . . not that the Courier Tribune's David Renfro or Ray Criscoe were going to allow that story to become public knowledge by actually reporting it.  The reporter put down her pen when I stood up to speak.  (The Courier's pay-walls these days are simply a variation of more of the same old "circle the wagons around the right people" crap that all but killed our little town.)I read from a prepared statement, my voice trembling at times, and and my hands shaking.My Mom and Dad attended the meeting to lend moral support - but neither had indicated they were going to speak.  But when I sat down, on the verge of tears, and pretty much knowing my presentation had fallen on deaf ears, my Father stood up and made his own impromptu plea to the Council to do something - anything - to call attention to the series of evil deeds that had driven me out of Asheboro, and to help his daughter come home.He was also on the verge of tears.My relationship with my Dad was not always a smooth sail.  It was actually very rocky for a very long time.  But Pops was everything a Father should be that night.Meanwhile, our local newspaper took yet another dive for its biggest advertiser.  There was no mention of my appearance in their "report" on the meeting.The following February, Daddy died unexpectedly in his sleep . . . a few weeks after totalling his beloved truck, "Big Red", in an accident in Spencer, N.C.  He was pretty badly banged-up in the wreck, but sent home after a night of observation in the hospital.  There was no post-mortem exam.  Dad had a history of cardiac problems, we declined a post-mortem, and the local Medical Examiner signed it off as a heart attack. I've always thought he threw a pulmonary embolus as a result of some of the injuries he suffered in the wreck.Anyway, years passed, and it never occurred to me that the City Council meeting was taped, and that my presentation - and my Dad's - was recorded.  But when I hooked up with Pat and Mike Bradshaw this fall, and started looking at the evidence they had proving beyond any shadow of any doubt that our local newspaper might as well operate under the masthead of Pravda, I realized that I might actually be able to hear Daddy's voice once again.I made the requests, paid the copying fees, and picked up the tapes.  And for weeks I just stared at the envelope - did not even open it.But a few weeks ago,&n[...]

When The Rabbit Screams


The Asheville teenager who made Yahoo yesterday for changing her legal name to "" made CNN today.After jumping through hoop after hoop . . . after three years of blogging . . . after writing gadzillions of words and composing both short versions and long versions of my story-of-woe . . . this "health-care hero" (yes, that was sarcasm) has lost track of the people who've told her she needs a "hook" or "angle" or "gimmick" in order to get a reporter's attention (that, of course, would be a REAL reporter - outside of Asheboro or Greensboro).I've never bought it. I'm one of those old-fashioned types who still believes investigative journalism has a place in protecting us from corruption - and that we citizens need to get in journalists' faces until they actually get back to it (there's a reason the newspapers are dying). But at this point, I also am at a loss as to what it takes to get my story on 60 Minutes - where it belongs. For you need look no further than the sad saga of Dr. Mary Johnson, to see what is wrong with medicine - and especially Pediatrics.So maybe I should legally change my name to "ProsecuteTheDamnedLiarsAtRandolphHospital.Com"?I digress. As I said in the original post on "no-dissection-girl", I've come a very long way from the naive young lady who went to medical school in order to change her little corner of the world for the better.Sometimes I don't recognize me in the mirror.When I entered medical school, I was your typical post-college bleeding-heart . . . not to mention a vegetarian . . . sympathetic to animal rights organizations like PETA (as I said in a post a while back, when one goes off to university, one's social and political notions tend to drift left-of-center . . . then when real life smacks you upside the head, you turn into your parents). In fact, one of the reasons I got into medical school has to do with the fact that during the interview process, my bleeding/animal-loving heart stood out amongst the crowd of young-and-naive-do-gooders-wanting-to-do-good.It was my second time applying to medical school, and I did not have my hopes up. It was not happy time in my life. At the time, I was living with my parents (trying to save money) and working as a pseudo-chemist/administrative lab assistant in High Point. And I HATED my job. The first time around (applying to med school) had been pretty demoralizing. So prior to re-applying two years later, I lost about 80 pounds (with regards to my first attempt to get in medical school, don't tell me that discrimination against people-of-size does not exist) and worked on putting together a spiffier package. I looked good - and I had a fabulous college record/application. On the other hand, I lessened my chances considerably because (not wanting to go far away) I only applied to North Carolina schools, UVA in Charlottesville, - and the (I-thought-now-defunct-but-not) military medical school in Bethesda.I decided that if I did not get into medical school on the second try, I was going to apply to graduate school and chase whales or something.Heavy sigh. Road not travelled.I did not even bother to apply to Duke as I knew I was not moneyed or pedigreed enough - and I did not fit one of their quotas for diversity. The interview at Chapel Hill was like a cattle call - I did not like the way applicants were treated and I clearly did not fit in as a fish in the sea of that particular shade of blue. Charlottesville was nice, but it too was a cattle-call. I liked East Carolina very much and had high hopes to get in there. Likewise, I thought the interview at Bethesda went well. I was impressed with the military pomp and circumstance.[I look back now at the military option and thank God for small favors - not because I would not have been honored to serve in the military - but because I would likely be in Leavenworth by now for mouthing off to some [...]

A Day At Arlington: It Is Well With Auntie's Soul


It was a bit surreal being back in D.C. (for my Great Aunt Helen's funeral) after so long an absence. Hers was the last of seventeen funeral services scheduled at Arlington National Cemetery on December 31. She was buried with her first husband, my Great Uncle Louis, an Army chaplain. It was a simple service held in the Fort Myers chapel at the cemetery. In her later years, Aunt Helen re-married (I think Art was a Navy man). But a waiver was obtained in order for her to be buried with Louis . . . for his were the children and grandchildren that she raised and doted on as her own.Louis's first wife is buried beside him. In order to bury Aunt Helen, his body was briefly disinterred and the coffins were stacked. It saves space . . . and, as the cemetery is a bit crowded now, it really is the only way to do it.My Auntie Helen was a great Southern grand dame of the old school. Refined. Proper. Well-travelled. Well-read. She was a woman with a career (in government service) who married in her forties. She was always impeccably dressed . . . a real hat & gloves kind of lady (who always smelled good) . . . with a wicked and dry sense of humor. Her mere presence in a room would make even the burliest/surliest man hide his drink (this actually happened at one of the Johnson family reunions . . she walked into the room, fashionably late, and suddenly all of the plants were watered with whiskey & gin).My Auntie could also kill you with a look.Uncle Louis was quite a character, a lovable curmudgeon, and really deserves a post unto himself. His funeral many years ago was, of course, conducted with full military honors. It made quite an impression on this then-youngster.I represented Pops at his Aunt's funeral. Helen held a special place in his heart . . . and he in hers. She was kind of a substitute grandmother for my brother and I. Dad's Mother (also named Helen) died when I was just a wee baby . . . from metastatic breast cancer. Grandmother barely lived to see me born (she finally got her girl). I am told she was too weak to ever hold me without assistance.As Aunt Helen's health was very fragile when Dad died in 2005 (and there was no way she could have attended the service), she was not immediately told he had passed away. I was later informed that when she did find out, she was not very happy with those of us who "conspired" against her. Sometimes I regret the decision . . . not giving her the choice to attend (because I know she would have moved heaven and earth to get there). But I still think we made the right call. I got to see her again a while after that (when her health improved enough for travel), at another reunion. And I was glad of it.I digress. Mom and I drove up to Northern Virginia (in the glorious pouring rain) on Sunday evening . . . and stayed with Aunt Cricket at her farm a little over an hour south of Washington. I was really dreading the drive in, but the traffic on US 29/I-66 & the Capital Beltway on Monday morning was actually fairly light. My Uncle Johnny had told us not to worry . . . that D.C. would be "shut down" for the New Year's holiday ("it's a big night for the politicians . . . they've all got to get liquored up") and he was right. We went to Auntie's condo (in Silver Springs, MD) for a brunch with the family, and then drove on to Arlington.Leaving nothing to chance, Mama and I left the family gathering early, and arrived at Fort Myers Chapel only to see the end of another funeral. It was apparently that of an officer killed in Iraq . . . with full military honors . . . including a band/drum corps, caisson and riderless horse. Exiting the chapel behind the flag-draped coffin, the widow . . . pale and wan, and hanging on to her uniformed escort for dear life . . . appeared very young and very lost. Some of the young people fanning out into their cars after the service (in order to follow the caisson[...]

No, I'm Not Little Mary Sunshine: But He's Alive


Anyone with an ounce of Southern blood in them will remember the TV Series, Designing Women. As you might imagine, my favorite character on the show was Julia Sugarbaker as played by Dixie Carter. My friends used to joke that I was Julia's bastard North Carolina step-sister. Julia had the God-given gift of verbal vivisection . . . the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a fashion that made them want exit quietly and take the trip. She could cut the steel magnolias with that tongue, and she did not suffer fools gladly. Julia did not suffer them at all.She spat venom. But only at people who spat first.I expect most people would not guess who my second favorite character was. This "classic line" from the series should give you a clue:"I'm saying this is the South. And we're proud of our crazy people. We don't hide them up in the attic. We bring 'em right down to the living room and show 'em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they're on."My affection for Bernice Clifton (as played by Alice Ghostley) began with a second season episode called "How Great Thou Art". The backdrop and core of the episode is the position of the Southern Baptist Convention (the nation's largest Protestant denomination with an estimated 16 million members and more than 40,000 churches) that women cannot/should not aspire to the ministry/leadership roles in the church. Now, it's 2007, and my own church, First Baptist in Asheboro has distanced itself from this notion (in fact, my Mother is a deaconess in the Church), and has only a loose association with the SBC. While individual members can still donate towards the work of the Southern Baptists, they can also let their money do the talking by specifying that donations and tithes do not go in that direction.In the "HGTA" episode, Charlene's pastor, Reverend Nunn takes a strong affirmative stance on the SBC's position, and this alienates Charlene. Reverend Nunn is invited into the Sugarbaker laire to debate the issue with out heroines. Ironically, it is not Julia who rips his argument to shreds, but Bernice . . . the daughter of a preacher, who (despite her little "arterial flow to the head" problem) fires off verse after verse of scripture to counterpoint the Reverend's arguments.Bernice, you see, may have been "crazy". But she wasn't stupid. And she believed.I've watched or participated in debates like this in my own household (there are a few folks in my immediate and extended family who know and can quote the Bible backwards and forwards . . . I deeply admire anyone who can do it), and the scene was priceless.I wish I could find a word-for-word account of the dialogue in that scene, but the piece-de-resistance of the exchange came from Bernice (and I paraphrase from memory): "When Christ was crucified and dead on the Cross . . . and all of His men had denied Him or gone home . . . it was women who stayed with Him until the bitter end . . . and it was to a woman that He first revealed the glorious good news of His Resurrection." "Put that in your pulpit and smoke it."Reverend Nunn did not budge, and eventually Charlene made the decision to leave her church.I know how Charlene feels. It's not something upon which I like to dwell, but experiences at First Baptist as a child & adolescent very much negatively colored my view of the church (please note that it is not a problem that exists there now . . . the church now has an outstanding youth ministry). On the other hand, FBC is where I made the best friends of my life . . . my YaYas . . . and we bonded, in part, because of things we went through together. So I would have it no other way.The Lord works in mysterious ways.Like most people, in my young adulthood, I rebelled against what my parents taught me, and I started to look at other philosophie[...]

Why Pediatrics


About a month ago, a cousin's son, now in college, called me. He wants to go to medical school. The family, like mine years ago, is middle class . . . certainly not wealthy . . . and he is worried about how to pay for it. My long-retired debt is nothing compared to what he will likely face. He does not in any way want to burden his family. He wanted to know about "loan-repayment" for public service arrangements, and my cousin said, "Call Mary".He's an incredibly bright kid . . . and he asked questions I did not even dream of asking when I was his age. I was brutally honest, telling him that I would not encourage anyone who was not absolutely certain about his/her calling to go into medicine right now. But if it was what he really wanted to do he should go for it. I also offered the following advice: You must remember that medicine eats its young - and the only one who is going to look out for you is you. Keep your eyes wide open. Get a lawyer to review any employment or partnership contract you sign out of residency. If a hospital administrator's lips are moving, he is lying. Anything that sounds too good to be true, is. He is in the process of applying right now, and we talked about the strategy of all that. It's a game . . . and it's played very much like Survivor. He told me he was struggling with his personal statement (something that all of the schools request with an application). He wanted to stand out . . . to not appear like just another idealistic, "I wanna save the world" sap. He wondered what I wrote. I told him that two rounds of medical school applications were a lifetime ago, and I had no idea what I had written. But he was in luck because I had saved the personal statement I had penned for my Pediatric residency application. I saved it because I'm proud of it . . . in fact, I was told it was passed out for a number of years to seniors at Bowman Gray as an example of fine writing . . . and a great statement of purpose. The statement was posted, for a while, on the original Asheboro Pediatrics website*. Of course, it came down when the website was overhauled and greatly simplified for those with short attention spans . . . not to mention little or no interest in how a good doctor's life can be derailed. (*Addendum:  That website is no more.)Sometimes when I read the statement I want to weep.I e-mailed my cousin's son the statement and (against my better judgment) some information links on federal loan-repayment programs (even though I'm suffering under no illusions that they've cleaned up their act). The following is the text from the web page. Dr. Johnson authored the following “personal statement” in 1991, before she applied for her Pediatric Residency Program (at Brenner’s). While her experience in Asheboro has left her considerably more world-weary than she ever dreamed possible when she wrote this, the sentiment and hope still stand:Three and one-half years ago, when I began medical school, the last medical specialty on my list of possibilities to consider was Pediatrics. As the daughter of a first grade teacher, catching brief, mostly after-hours glimpses of her life in the classroom, I had been witness to many of the pitfalls of that profession without experiencing any of its joys. I marveled at my mother’s tolerance and dedication, yet at the same time, it was crystal clear to me that dealing with children on a daily basis did not pay.As I have a soft spot in my heart for the underdogs of this world, from mistreated animals to North Carolina State University basketball players, I focused my attention on Obstetrics. It was the fourth specialty on my list of fields catering to the “medically disadvantaged” - namely the mentally ill, children, the aged, and women. However, in the delivery room, the “miracle of birth” (the “proce[...]

Cousins Sharing Thoughts On Martin Luther King Day


I have referred to my cousin Russell (Rusty) before. He is very smart, and a talented writer. Politically, he is about as "left" as my Daddy was "right" . . . and when they sparred at family gatherings, it was a joy to watch . . . freedom of speech at its fun-loving best. Watching those two really go at it, you just wanted to jump up and down and shout, God Bless this America of ours! I treasure a remembrance of Daddy that Russell shared after Pops died . . . "You told me once that your father enjoyed our political discussions. The thing is, I never started any of them. He did. He knew perfectly well we didn't agree on much of anything and would hear things from me that would cause him to shake his head in dismay. Still, he wanted to hear me." A number of years ago, while visiting a friend from residency who now lives & practices outside of Atlanta, I made an effort to visit the King Center. I HATE driving in Atlanta and am easily discombobulated by all of the deep-fried-southern-speed-demons. With one such demon on my tail, I missed a turn off the Interstate and wound up in an obviously impoverished black neighborhood with no idea of how to get where I was going. I stopped at a delapidated/bars-at-the-windows convenience store and walked in . . . the only "white girl" in the place. Everyone in the store stared at me as if I were from Mars. And I'd be lying if I said I was completely comfortable. But as soon as I asked the old gentleman clerking the counter how to get to the King Center, his face lit up like a Christmas tree. "You hear that?", he announced to everyone within earshot, "This nice lady wants to pay her respects to our Dr. King." His weathered face was beaming . . . and the smile was contagious . . . spreading throughout the store. I got written directions and an escort from two very nice young men very eager to show me the way. And I very much enjoyed my visit to the Center.If you're ever in Memphis, you might also want to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, contained within the Lorraine motel where King was shot. It's just a block or so (and an easy walk) from one of the last trolley stops.Anyway, no doubt prompted by my post this morning stating my support for President Bush's recent decisions re: the Iraq war (must be channelling Dad), Russell (probably shaking his head in dismay) sent me an e-mail referencing Robert Kennedy's speech the night the Reverend Dr. King was murdered:My apologies if you've already heard this clip somewhere else. But since this is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it seems fitting to share it.This is Robert F. Kennedy, in the midst of his run for president, addressing a campaign rally in Indianapolis just hours after King's assassination. The crowd had not yet been told of King's death, and the police told Bobby they couldn't guarantee his safety if the crowd decided to start rioting. He made the speech anyway - and, for whatever reason, Indianapolis was one of the few major cities where no riots occurred that night.Much has been said and written about Martin Luther King Jr. in 40 years, but for me, RFK's impromptou speech on the night of his murder still pretty much sums it up. following is my response:I am aware of the speech. Robert had his moments (a speech he made in South Africa comes to mind). But here is the MLK Jr. quote I like best:History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words of violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people.Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and actions of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.In my professional and legal struggl[...]

Hearing Longfellow's Christmas Bells


On Christmas Day 1863, as the American Civil War raged, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned a poem destined to morph into one of our most beloved Christmas carols. The poem was originally entitled, "Christmas Bells". It was re-arranged (most modern hymnals exclude two of the seven verses that specifically pertain to the war), and set to music by John Baptiste Calkin in 1872.The following is a brief recounting of the story and tragedy behind "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day".In the summer of 1861 (the same year "the war of Northern Aggression" began) Longfellow's second wife, Fanny died in a freakish fire. It had been a very hot summer, and she had been attempting to seal an envelope containing the recently shorn curls of the couple's young daughter, Edith. Burning wax fell on . . . and ignited . . . her cotton dress. She ran away from the children (to protect them) and straight to her beloved husband. Ironically, the rush of a cool summer breeze that she had longed for only the day before fueled the fire, completely engulfing Fanny Longfellow in flames. Longfellow himself was severely burned trying to extinguish the fire with a too-small throw rug. Fanny passed away the next day.Longfellow was inconsolable. The first Christmas after Fanny's death, the following entry was made in his journal: "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year after that, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace . . . A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me."More dark days were to come. Longfellow's son, Charles, a lieutenant in the Union Army suffered a crippling injury on the battlefield in late 1863. Longfellow penned "The Christmas Bells" during his son's long convalescence.I heard the bells on Christmas DayTheir old familiar carols play,And wild and sweetThe words repeatOf peace on earth, good-will to men!And thought how, as the day had come,The belfries of all ChristendomHad rolled alongThe unbroken songOf peace on earth, good-will to men!Till, ringing, singing on its way,The world revolved from night to day,A voice, a chimeA chant sublimeOf peace on earth, good-will to men!Then from each black accursed mouthThe cannon thundered in the South,And with the soundThe carols drownedOf peace on earth, good-will to men!It was as if an earthquake rentThe hearth-stones of a continent,And made forlornThe households bornOf peace on earth, good-will to men!And in despair I bowed my head,"There is no peace on earth," I said."For hate is strong,And mocks the songOf peace on earth, good-will to men!Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail,With peace on earth, good-will to men!"God is not dead. He does not sleep. Wrong shall fail. Right shall prevail. Peace on earth is gonna happen.When you take the time to listen to those lyrics, it's pretty powerful stuff. And who among us has not had at least one crappy Christmas . . . when we needed a message like that . . . when we really needed to hear those bells?I am a huge fan of the "Touched by an Angel" series, now gone from CBS. I used to call it "my angel show" and nothing short of a life-threatening emergency could peel me away from my spot in front of the TV at 8 o'clock on Sunday night. In one fourth season episode, the angels actually used Longfellow's poem and the carol to teach a curmudgeonly and despondent Mark Twain ("Sam" to "angel-girl" Monica) a lesson or two.The message of Longfellow's "Christmas Bells" . . . of hope and goodwill in the face of war and despair still rings true today.There are two Longfellow quotes I like, and it seems a good time to share:"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should f[...]

All Hallows Eve . . . One (Dearly Missed) Soul's Night


I had a grand total of three trick-or-treaters tonight. For the last few years, I have not had anyone. It's the neighborhood. Asheboro's "Mountain" is not what I would call a neighborhood . . . at least in the sense that the neighbors are involved in each other's day-to-day lives . . . or really care about one another. The way some of my "neighbors" treated me is proof enough of that. It's just a bunch of big houses.The three goblins that did show up at my front door were rewarded with an entire bucket of (real good) candy. I don't give out cheap stuff.I always carve a pumpkin. This year, my boyfriend brought a really big one over. It turned out well.I'm looking for a black cat . . . a girl cat to be a companion to TJ. I thought about getting one this week. But then I remembered that the shelters (wisely) restrict adoptions of black cats immediately prior to Halloween.I love this time of year and enjoy the Halloween festivities. I appreciate the history and don't buy into all of the dark stuff. Two years ago, Tim and I visited Salem, Massacheusetts. We stayed at a B&B. We saw lots of witches and pagans and other bizzarro things. It was WAY cool. The trip deserves a post of its own. I'm not up to it tonight.This day is always bittersweet. Sixteen years ago today, during my last year of medical school, a close cousin (only one year younger than I) died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head . . . after a long battle with mental illness. Bill Jones was a physically beautiful, and very creative/talented . . . albeit tormented . . . soul. His presence could lighten . . . or darken . . . a room instantly. His death and its horrific aftermath was one of the defining events of my young adult life. Everything you believe - or think you believe - is turned upside down and inside out. And it's something one never completely gets over. The best you can negotiate with a memory like that is an uneasy peace. Bill doesn't hurt anymore. And the Savior I believe in rescues every sick/lost lamb.A number of years, therapy sessions, and religious notions later (only to come back to where I started . . . with minor modifications), I came to realize that suicide is a choice. No one else makes the choice. No one else is at fault. And it's a WAY-bad choice. Nothing taught me that more than watching his Mother fall sobbing and howling (I will never forget that sound . . . one of raw, white-hot grief) into my Mother's arms when we arrived at my Aunt & Uncle's farm . . . after his family had to make the decision to take him off life support. No parent should have to do that. No loved one should have to watch.You could say that Bill saved my life. No matter how "visible" the darkness may be or how much of a hole you think you're in: Put one foot in front of the other and choose another day.I call his sainted Mother every year on this night. And we talk about the man-boy we both loved.It's one of the reasons (apart from simple human decency and common courtesy) that I despise people calling other people names like "nutcase", "whack-job" and "batshit crazy".Years ago, as I fought to come to terms with his death, I wrote a poem about my cousin. Apart from his Mother, I have not shared it with anyone. It feels like a good night to change that:Someone I knewand loved oncewrote poetry.Generally not particularlygood poetry,in a futile attemptto drive the demonsout of his tormented soul.Separated by distanceand circumstance,I wanted to understand . . . to help ease his pain.But he would not let me in.He should have known betterthan to be ashamed.The darkness won,as it often does,and he left this life of his own accord . . . leaving those who loved himbehind . . . to fight the good fight . . . alone.Unanswered questions[...]

Just Quiet


A few months back, while contemplating seeing "United 93", I shared what was going on in my life on 9/11/2001. No need for a repeat today.

After a great first post-op day on Saturday, Saturday night was fitful, and Sunday was a wash-out. Absolutely exhausted, I spent the day in bed . . . either curled up drowsing with the cat . . . or aimlessly channel-surfing. I checked my e-mail, but computer work & blogging were out. My eyeballs (surrounded by wounded & raw sinuses) simply did not want to play. As for the TV fare, between the 9/11 “anniversary” programs and the Crocodile Hunter marathon, an oppressive heaviness fell over the day. I eventually surrendered to a very deep sleep . . . and woke up late this morning after the “official times” of “the anniversary” had passed.

Have you ever been in the middle of a crowded, noisy somewhere and ever looked out beyond it . . . into a blue sky . . . or a lush green field or forest . . . or out over perfectly still/clear aqua water . . . and wondered (1) how you found yourself in the middle of the crowded/noisy somewhere and (2) why couldn’t you be OVER THERE . . . enjoying the quiet . . . basking in the light of a clear blue sky . . . or lost in fresh green fields & forests . . . or bathed in perfect aqua water?

That has always been my question when I look upon the images of 9/11 . . . especially of the people who were crowded in smoke-choked windows, and clinging to hope in the Towers before they fell. After the phone calls were made and the goodbyes were shared, what could these people see and what were they thinking in those last moments when they looked out . . . beyond the heat and the smoke and the terror . . . into a cool, clear blue autumn sky . . . the same unmarred blue sky that I vividly remember looking up to that day, my eyes swimming in tears?

I wonder if their hearts and souls craved the unreachable, perfect quiet? Were their final thoughts a silent scream pleading, "Please God, get me out of here . . . PLEASE let me be OVER THERE!"?

And then the prayer was answered.

I’m going to make some coffee and sit on my back porch now. I may hang a flag today. I may not. I’ll probably light a candle tonight. But apart from that, I think it will be a quiet day. No TV and no Internet . . . nothing that tries to manufacture thoughts and feelings just to serve the fifth anniversary gods.

No noise. No words.

Just quiet.

There’s healing to be done.

Three Fathers


My Uncle Bruce, Daddy's younger brother, is dying today. Cancer. Everywhere. Nothing can be done. It's been a long, heroic fight, and it's almost over. He is comatose. As per his wishes, no extraordinary measures are being taken. Mama and Daddy's youngest brother, Reid, went to South Carolina this weekend to say their goodbyes. I could not go. I am on-call.Bruce is a refined and thinner, more acerbic, more Republican version of my Father (if such a thing is possible). He lost his wife not too long ago - after a long illness. He has two sons . . . big strapping boys . . . one of whom is an independent-contractor (a fireman) in Kuwait.While Dad had kept in touch with Bruce over the years, my contact with him was sporadic - limited to family reunions - until Daddy died. One of my "best" memories from Pop's memorial service (if one can categorize anything related to a funeral service as a "good" memory), is sitting with my Uncle Reid in the dimly-lit FBC sanctuary before the service. We were alone . . . and had just finished arranging some of Dad's railroad memorabilia in front of the pulpit. Daddy was cremated, and I was holding a large green velvet box containing the urn in my lap. Bruce and his wife bounded in from the rear of the church - having just arrived from South Carolina. He admired the display, and then (predictably) made a crack about the military flag positioned underneath my Dad's photograph: "Eighteen Days. Eighteen days. Tom was in the Army eighteen days. You get a flag for that?" (Daddy received a medical/honorable discharge during basic training secondary to complications of Rheumatic Fever. And/so, the answer is, yes.). Bruce leaned over the pew, peered at the box in my lap and queried, "What's that?". I smiled and sweetly relied, "Daddy". He jumped back as if he had been bitten by a rattlesnake. It was hilarious.The moral? Don't mess with Tom Johnson's daughter.Bruce and I reconnected afterwards . . . shared some e-mails . . . visited once or twice. It was a great comfort. I could see Daddy in him . . . little mannerisms, small quirks of character and dress. Bruce came to my brother's wedding (very shortly after my Aunt died). When I went out for some air during the reception, he followed to sneak a smoke (so much for my air). We had a great long talk. He admired my website (particularly its David v. Goliath quality) - and my spunk. And he assured me that Daddy was very proud.I was always planning to send Bruce a picture of Daddy's hat under an Irish rainbow. When I took Dad's place on a trip with Mom to the UK last year, I took his railroad hat with us - and every picture I took had the hat in it. The rainbow picture was a lucky fluke, and the photo looks like I took the picture right over the top of Dad's head. I told Bruce about the picture and he wanted to see it. I never got around to sending it - something always got in the way. I'm pretty mad with myself over that now.I will miss Bruce.The rainbow photo brings to mind another set of photos . . . of two Fathers and one truck. After Daddy died, I searched and searched for a picture of him with his beloved Ford F-150, "Big Red". I finally found one. It's a great shot that inclues all the anti-Clinton bumper stickers, the ever-present railroad hat, the red suspenders, and his dungaree jacket hanging in the cab. "Red" is parked in front of a train to boot. Last Father's Day, I took that photo and had it enlarged. I took another favorite photo . . . of Mama's Daddy standing beside the same truck (Dad bought the truck when GrandDaddy Cecil died) . . . and had it enlarged as well. I had the photos framed, and gave them to Mama.Two Fathers. One truck. They hang now over Pop's desk[...]

United 93


In September 2001, I was just out (I thought) of a three-year battle with my hometown hospital. As soon as I got a settlement check, there were a number of debts and over-due bills to pay, and then the little matter of trying to figure out where to go from there. I had actually thought about driving up to New York City (like many Americans, I suffer from the irrational fear of flying), schlepping around town and even playing & dining on “The Top of the World” (never mind my equally-irrational fear of heights). I reasoned it would be a great way to celebrate my legal “victory” and my freedom. I had not been to NYC since New Year’s Eve 1978 (a trip with the then-high school Yas).

But there was a little glitch in that plan – something I had to deal with first. I had a lump in my breast, and I needed to get it checked out.

On September 11, 2001, I walked into the waiting room at Bertrand’s Breast Center and began to register. I had driven up to Greensboro that morning in silence – no radio and no CD - thinking that if this lump was the worst it could be my life would be very different in a matter of hours. I also remember how gorgeous that morning was . . . crisp and early “autumnish” with not a cloud in the sky. When I arrived at the office, it was early and the waiting room was empty save for one black gentleman who seemed to be glued to a TV set. Preoccupied, I glanced at the TV as I hurriedly filled out forms at the window, and noted that there seemed to be some kind of bizarre disaster movie on. Not registering what was going on, I thought it was odd to have something like that on so early in the morning, and asked the gentleman what movie he was watching. He turned to look at me . . . his face ashen . . . a face I will not ever forget . . . and said, “Ma’am, it’s not a movie.”

As I watched repeated re-plays of American Airlines jetliners flying into buildings, my thoughts immediately turned to my brother – who is a pilot for American – and who I knew was in the air. First I called Mom, then Dad, trying to find out where he was and what airport he was flying out of, or what flight he was on. They did not know. It was an hour or so before my brother was able to get a call out to Dad from Dallas . . . where his plane had landed after everything in the American sky was ordered down on the ground (or else). My brother and I are not the mushy types and do not wear our hearts on our sleeve. But I remember hanging up the phone with hot tears of relief (and rage knowing that thousands of people were not so lucky) streaming down my face.

I will never forget the feeling of not knowing – or the horrible things that I imagined while not knowing.

I went on with the mammogram. In the “inner sanctum” of naked-from-the-waist-up women in ill-fitting drapes, we watched the horror unfold on a tiny TV set. I sat next to a woman who said she had family that worked in the Trade Center. I don’t know how that turned out.

My lump was benign – the equivalent of a hormonal bump in the night. But life sure was different.

I hope to see “United 93” this weekend. It is the one of the few things I can do, and the very least I can do to honor the memory of 40 very brave souls.

God bless America – and those (extra)ordinary Americans.

New Orleans Matters


Yesterday I had an afternoon off, and as is my vice & habit, found a bookstore. A book caught my eye called “Why New Orleans Matters” by Tom Piazza, a long-time resident. I inhaled the book when I got home. For I once lived in the area . . . a brief glorious time immediately after residency. Metarie, Slidell, Covington, Mandeville, and that miraculous eighth-wonder-of-the-world bridge across Pontchartrain – I trolled every nook and cranny. On my weekly excursions downtown, I did what many would consider to be some very stupid things as a female all by myself. But that was kind of the point. If it is possible for a city to heal a broken heart, this one did. Forgive the clichés, but darkness visible was banished by the incredible lightness of being I found and embraced in and around the City of New Orleans.As Katrina approached New Orleans last year, e-mails were flying back and forth between my friends and I, speculating about what would happen to the city. I had just gotten back from THE trip to Great Britain with Mom. Exhausted, I had still contemplated hopping a plane to catch the LSU Pediatric Board Review course that is held at the Hyatt (adjacent to the Superdome) every year. It’s a great way to get monster credits in continuing medical education and slurp down your “Hurricane” too. But I was wiped out, my ankles were already swollen to three times their normal size (from scrunching my American frame on the buses & planes on our trip “over the pond”), and I HATE to fly . . . so I decided not to go. I had also been watching Katrina’s storm track in the Gulf. I did not think it would hit the city, but did not want to be anywhere near “the bowl” if it did. One of the e-mails I sent out (as the storm bore down, but before we knew the extent of the disaster) was to a good pal in Memphis who did not understand my attachment to the Big Easy. Here’s my explanation:“I lived there for six months - a Locums assignment right out of residency. I experienced Thanksgiving (fried turkeys), Christmas (gorgeous), and Mardi Gras (like Times Square, I can say I did it once), St. Patrick’s Day and JazzFest in all of their unique Louisiana glory. I loved the people (not the drunk & boisterous tourists) but the characters who inhabited the city - and MAN were there some CHARACTERS! There was a class system to be sure, but people showed one another a respect - no matter what their circumstances - that I have not seen or experienced since. I've heard it likened to San Francisco (although I've never been there). The place was ALIVE . . . full of architecture and folklore and accents and ghosts and history and art and music and the best food in the world. I was happier there than I have ever been. But I left, in large part, because I knew something like this was coming. They were talking about it years ago. In fact, the week after I pulled out for good (except for the occasional visit), my apartment complex parking lot was under water from a nasty tropical storm.Also, some of my fondest memories of Daddy involve the Big Easy - when he & Mama came down to visit me for Christmas (the year I was there) - or when they accompanied me to the Board Review for CME. He loved the trolleys and steamboats and would have hopped the damned things all day had it not been for Mama's carefully planned itineraries. On one occasion, he bought a dapper black cape and walked down the street in the French Quarter swishing his cane - he was quite dashing and I had never seen him behave like that. People mistook him for some kind of foreign lord. It was hilarious. And I have a favorite restaur[...]