If only one

PAPA_LIBRO_HushedPlague_Cover_V3Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning to you all. For the past few days we have been pondering whether to go ahead with the publication of our new book “Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague” or not, considering the dire social circumstances and the stoppage of publishing venues.

After much discussion with our family and our publishing house, we finally decided to go ahead, in spite of the difficult logistic and community challenges that move implies. We believe that people forcibly cloistered at home due to the social distancing (like we presently are too) must have a varied choice of reading material in their residences.

This is a transcription of If Only One, our essay’s first page that we recently completed.

“If only one person reads this book…we would feel very satisfied.

If only one person gets the message…our mission would be done.

If only one man treats women better…the effort was not for naught.

If only one woman gets respect…our misdeeds might be redeemed.

If only one person is distracted from the Horror…we would be happy.

We were about to deliver the final edited version of this book manuscript for its publication when the Coronavirus pandemic brutally arrived in the United States.

Initially shocked like the rest of the population, we went into strict social isolation. However, as a practicing physician, we had to continue our duties as best we could.

In the relative safety of our desk, we pondered whether we should publish it or not. We know that there has been a complete shutdown of most publishing initiatives.

But people cloistered in their homes deserve the possibility of substantive reading. Terrified by the darkness swirling around, they might like this little piece of light.

Emulating the heroic example of, we should garner our moral strength. Dismissing any commercial considerations, we will go ahead with its publication.

In one of the poor quarters of Napule—where many of our relatives had lived in the past—a neighbor lowered, with a little rope, a big basket with a sign from the balcony: inside passers-by could leave any food item they wanted to donate for others to pick it up.

Chi può, metta…Chi non può, prenda

Whomever can, put…Whomever cannot, take

We are lowering our most humble basket to offer you our latest writings

We sincerely hope that it might distract you, temporarily at the very least.

And, prodding you to ponder about the daily plight of our devoted women,

engage you in the civic fight for their equality of rights in our societies.

 The world coming out of this terrible calamity must be better than this one”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Happy Sunday with a Super Naan sandwich

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Happy Sunday to you all. As part of our continued, irreverent experimentation in the kitchen, we prepared today a Naan sandwich with a pastrami, ham and mozzarella cheese omelet topped with pine nut hummus for our breakfast. We must admit that it turned out to be deliciously decadent, ideal to lift our spirits in this social isolation.

Let us dream tightly together of the much better times that will surely come. Forza!

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Continue reading “Happy Sunday with a Super Naan sandwich”

Let’s cheer up with some pork cutlets, potatoes, onions and peppers

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good evening. After we finished writing and editing today, we felt a “little down” so we decided to hit the kitchen to “vent our minds” a little bit. Cooking has always relaxed us, ever since our times at Medical School. Whenever we felt mind-boggled by the medical knowledge, we snapped the textbook shut and skedaddled to the kitchen of our shared apartment in La Plata, Argentina. Our  homesick study companions were happy that homemade cooking was our way of relaxing and they enjoyed our dishes to the hilt. However, they did not like it very much when they had to clean the plates though…

Today we prepared thin cut pork cutlets sautee in a little bit of olive oil and honey, teriyaki-style; we also fixed a big tray of potatoes, onions and peppers. Sharing the “social distancing” with our son Gian Luca has prod us to cook in earnest again.

What better company, and stimulus to cook, than our dear son could we possibly have?

Would you like some?

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.
20200328_19234520200328_192727 Continue reading “Let’s cheer up with some pork cutlets, potatoes, onions and peppers”

Is this Coronavirus pandemic a divine punishment for our sins?

1200px-Juan_Manuel_Blanes_-_Un_episodio_de_la_fiebre_amarilla_en_Buenos_Aires

“L’Historia si può veramente definire una guerra illustre contro il Tempo, perché togliendoli di mano gl’anni suoi prigionieri, anzi già fatti cadaveri, li richiama in vita, li passa in rassegna, e li schiera di nuovo in battaglia.” [i]

“I promessi Sposi” Alessandro Manzoni [2]

With those prophetic words, Alessando Manzone introduced his seminal novel titled The Betrothal in the early part of the 19th century; it is considered the first—and for many still the most important—literary work in the modern Italian Language. This novel was set in Northern Italy—where the brunt of the Coronavirus infestation is underway in the Italian peninsula—in 1628, during the Bourbon occupation of Italy. The central theme is the love story of Lucia and Renzo and their unwavering faith in the redeeming value of strong emotional bonding; after many, varied vicissitudes (spoiler alert) they eventually marry at the end. In fact our dear Pope Francis has recommended the novel to the couples that were entertaining the idea of marriage.

Lucia and Renzo were a couple living in a small Lombard village that were planning their wedding for November 8, 1628. On the eve of that ceremony the parish priest was cornered by two goons sent by Don Rodrigo—a powerful padrone padrino[3]who covets the affection of Luciathat ordered him to suspend it. Fearful of them, the priest does suspend it and recommends that the two lovers should leave the village. Agnese, Renzo’s mother, warned the couple not to return home and escorted them to a monastery; the friar gave a letter of introduction for a Milanese friar to Renzo and another one to the two women for a monastery in Monza. They fled right away.

When Renzo arrived in Milano, the city was in turmoil due to a grave famine, which was aggravated by the end of the Thirty Years War[4] as German Armies engaged in a devastating looting campaign across the peninsula. In 1630 a plague ravaged Northern Italy and three chapters of the book are dedicated to that human drama. Eventually Renzo can return to his village and meet again for his beloved bride. This love story is surrounded by the social and political mayhem of the times, especially the deep hatred of the local population against the invading armies and their puppets.

In this novel and similar ones that put a quasi-biblical catastrophe like a pandemic in their plots, the same question arises again and again: Is this God’s punishment? We must unequivocally answer that this and other pandemics were not provoked by divine intervention as a form of brutal punishment for our sins (real and imaginary) They were provoked by the ignorance and arrogance of humans in their interactions with Nature. This pandemic in particular was provoked by the negligence of Chinese officials.

In Ancient Times, the population of Central China could afford the ingestion and/or use of some abhorrent creatures like rats, serpents, bats, pangolins, etc.; if they contracted any of these diseases, the contagion was limited to their geographic area. There was not a ready access to all the points of the planet with aerial connections. And let us talk clearly: life was extremely cheap for the peasant masses at the time.

When you encroach in the natural habitat of wild animals and you put them in cages in a market located in an extremely dense city with superb connections to the World, you have to consider the real possibility that there could be a Public Health threat. Any of those isolated agents will readily jump from one animal to the other in close proximity and eventually attack the human handlers that so carelessly caged them. This human tragedy has been produced by the sheer stupidity of human traffickers and the irresponsible supervision of the sanitary authorities in the city of Wuhan.

Will the government of Premier Xi finally close down these “live animals” markets? The Chinese leadership should not pander to the superstitious beliefs of hinterland people—who use material from these creatures for amulets and the like—and do the right thing for the millions of innocent citizens that are living with proper sanitary standards.

As Italian citizens, we are very grateful for the generous sanitary help that the Chinese government has given us to combat the grave epidemic in Lombardy. Unlike the rest of Europe—that has largely ignored the Italian plight—the Chinese have sent, not only protective materials, but also Public Health experts and medical personnel in the past few days. Moreover they are sharing their epidemiological data with other governments, including the American one and its many specialized agencies. Thank you very much.

In these terrible times we must snatch our dear dead ancestors from the jaws of Time and “resuscitate them” so we can recruit them in our fight against this deadly enemy. We must listen to their experiences and how they managed to survive those terrible plagues. Strict social distancing and meticulous personal hygiene are of paramount importance.

The featured image of this article is a reproduction of the tableau La Peste by the Uruguayan painter Juan Manuel Blanes; it depicts a scene of the Yellow Fever of 1871 in the city of Buenos Aires. A police report of that time stated that the victim was an Italian woman called Ana Brisitiani that lived in a large tenement in the Balcarce street of the city center. The two depicted gentlemen that enter her room were Dr. Roque Perez, a lawyer, and Dr. Manuel Argerich, a physician. They found her long dead with her baby at her side, trying to get a response. A few weeks later these two Good Samaritans would fall victim to the plague too. In only ten months, 10% of the city population (16,000 people) died of Yellow Fever. After that pandemic, the Argentine authorities decided to modernize the city by building an efficient waste disposal system for all quarters.

That is the crux of the matter. The native ruling classes (the landed gentry, the business owners and the politicians) had found out that their relative distance from the city center (they lived mostly in the then southern suburb of Montserrat) had not spared them from the disease.  Then and now the only way to protect us from this kind of Public Health tragedy is to benefit everybody in the process of modern public infrastructure. This must ring especially true for countries with a great rich-poor disparity like Brazil and India that should invest more heavily to pull more millions of people out of misery.

We salute all our Health Care professionals and First Responders that are fulfilling their great duty to take care of the population, especially in the hard-stricken Italy and USA.

Gli ringraziamo per vostro sacrificio, Thank you very much for your sacrifice.

What do you think?

Please tell us. Don’t leave me alone.

References

[i] “History can really be defined as an enlightened war against Time, snatching from its hands all those that were taken prisoner, in fact corpses already, to reclaim them for life, pass them in review and then send them in formation to the battlefield.”

Our translation.

[2] Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi, 1840, Edita da guidaebook.com, 2010.

[3] In the Italian language “padrone” refers to an authoritarian boss and “padrino” to a godfather for the christening ceremony. Of course the latter has been extended to the chief and mastermind of a Cosa Nostra organization.

[4] https://history.com/topics/reformation/thirty-years-war

Physician and Nurse burn-out – Part IV Vagina penalty

“Le plus scandaleux du scandale c’est de s’y habituer” Simone de Beauvoir

One of the more irritating and at the same time pressing issues that we have to quickly correct in most of our health care delivery systems – not only to stop the “hemorrhage” of so many disillusioned professionals into early retirement that we just cannot afford to continue unabated, but also to promote the recruitment of younger cadres as well – is the thorny issue of Gender Inequality in pay scales and benefits. And let us make a point very clear from the start. It not only affects our women colleagues but, us men, too. We cannot expect to have a congenial workplace if whomever is daily working shoulder to shoulder with us is being paid less than we are for an otherwise totally similar task.

On what grounds does this scandalous state of affairs stand?

A teeny-weeny detail: she is a woman. She is being fined with the vagina penalty.

In our new book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague we have extensively discussed the various forms of financial and economic discrimination that our dear women are being subjected to, even in our supposedly much more egalitarian times. We will discuss this issue many more times in this series but today we are showing you what we wrote about the inequality in the British National Health Service (NHS)

“In May 2018 the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care did a study on gender equality in the NHS [i], led by Professor Dame Jane Acre; it used data from 10 years of electronic records of 16,000 general practitioners and 96,000 trust physicians. They found that the gender gap was 17% based on total pay, which contributes to the overall 23% NHS pay gap. “Male doctors are earning 1.17 pounds for every pound earned by female doctors in the NHS, and new data reveals that women are still not represented in equal proportions in senior medical grades, with nearly 32,000 male consultants to just 18,000 females. The General Practice gender gap is 33%, which is far higher than the average in medicine.” [ii]

Even though half of the physicians in training were female, only a third of the most coveted positions were held by women—18,000 women in a total of 32,000 consultants. They were disproportionately present in lower-paying specialties like Dermatology, compared to the higher number of men in higher-paying ones like Surgery. The same study showed that the demands of motherhood and the burden of irregular working hours seriously harmed their career advancement. [iii]

If this abject pay scale disparity for men and women can occur in a supposedly modern society that had recognized the societal value of equitable access for Health Care, what can we expect of other less enlightened ones?  We, the XY-healers, know that our female peers often work much harder than we do. Noblesse oblige.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

[i] https://www.gov.uk/govenment/organisations/department-of-health-and-social-care

[ii] Laura Butler, “Male doctors earn 1,17 pounds for every pound earned by female doctors”, Press release, March 29, 2019. https://www.surrey.ac.uk/news/male-doctors-earn-ps117-every-ps1-earned-female-doctors

[iii] Denis Campbell, “Male NHS doctors earn 17% more than their female peers”, The Guardian, March 28, 2019.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/29/male-nhs-doctoors-earn-17-more-than-their-female-peers

Thanks for your sacrifice for us

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning and Happy Sunday to you all. Last Friday we had to visit a US Postal Service office in Miami to send some documents and we were promptly, kindly taken care of by Ms. Tijuana, the lovely lady you are seeing in the feature image of this article. She is one of the thousands of Federal and State workers that keep this nation going.

We would like to thank the millions of similar state employees worldwide that have reported to their duties in spite of all the mayhem swirling around them, including the dire “social distancing” that forbids one of the most basic human functions: touching. Moreover many grieving relatives of gravely infected persons have not even had the opportunity to say the ultimate adieu to them, another strong cultural feature of us.

Without these brave men and women, there could not be a functioning society for us.

Thanks for your sacrifice for us.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

We are still resisting

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. In these tragic times for Mankind, comparable to the decimating epidemics of the Middle Ages where the majority of the world population was affected and thousands perished, we would like to send a word of encouragement to all those who are cloistered at home. It is very tough but we must carry on with our civic duty.

Even though we are blissfully healthy, both my son Gian Luca and I have decided to stay at home, except to fulfill my duties as an active medical practitioner and some necessary errands for supplies. In this picture you can see my son spontaneously embracing me for a selfie.

In the USA, large states like New York and California have sagely instituted strict orders for “social distancing” to avoid close contacts for the next few days by staying at home. In spite of having one of the largest concentration of elderly Americans, the state of Florida has not yet clearly commanded residents to avoid social contacts to flatten the curve. However, the county mayors and local elected officials have wisely agreed lately to gently expel all the careless spring-breakers that invaded our beaches “to party wildly.”

Please stay at home if you do not have any urgent or professional reason to go out. Until there are good medications for this disease and a much-needed vaccine, which is still months away, we must cooperate by doing nothing outside. That will help all of society. In order to meaningfully use the extra time allotted, we will continue to write in earnest. Maybe this is a great opportunity for Mankind to learn how to pitch together in a crisis. And to bond more tightly with our family members and loved ones, with plenty of chat.

Forza!

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

What is the significance of Number 17?

When we first arrived in the USA, we were surprised by the importance many people gave to the number 13 (thirteen) as a harbinger of bad luck—to be totally avoided. Only later did we learn its origins in the tragic demise of the Knights Templars in the Middle Ages, which we described in a previous article of this novel series. One of the reasons why it did not ring any bells in our conscience is that we did not have that family or cultural imprint in our memory, except for a vague recollection from the printed media.

For the Italians—and henceforth their descendants, us, the Italian Americans—the real dangerous number is 17 (seventeen) for reasons that were initially rather cryptic. We always took it as a given, accepting it as part of our cultural heritage. As a result, we never had any calms in using seat 13, or having an office in an address with 13. For all those that were watching our cavalier attitude towards that number, the certitude that we were not “superstitious” was applauded as a most rational attitude. That was a most specious assessment of our true state of mind as they had been hoodwinked by our camouflaged allegiance to a much, much more ancient belief from our ancestors.

The Romans were firm believers in multiple ceremonies presided by socially-sanctioned augurs that studied the flight of birds and the droppings of chickens to discern events still to come. They also studied the denomination of numbers to find hidden signs to exploit. The Roman denomination of Number 17 is XVII. Priests re-arranged those letters in various combinations, finally finding a similarity with the word VIXIT ( I existed) If we use the Past Tense to identify a status, it implies that the person is already dead. As a result that number was firmly associated with impending harm and even death.

For all its professed Cartesian rationality, our modern society still harbors fears and misgivings that hark back to the Dark Ages and were surreptitiously smuggled into our daily placid routines. Haven’t you noticed that many buildings lack a floor 13? Or that many hotels do not have a floor of suites starting with that fateful number? In a different scale but most noticeably there are countless villages in the Italian peninsula—especially those quaint settlements perched atop the mountains—where you cannot find the number 17 in any of the visible signs of the rustic communities.

Some numerologists claim that Life is all about numbers, good or bad. If we scratch the surface of our sanitized experiences, we might be able to find a significant one. The question is whether we can isolate them with a calm attitude and an open mind.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Physician and Nurse burn-out – part III  Obnoxious pinging

Historians claim that we wouldn’t be able to stand the atrocious stench that arose from the open gutters of the Middle Ages cities, except for a few that had sewers. Likewise the inhabitants of those same cities would quickly become demented if they were subjected to the humongous noise pollution that we get in public spaces. Steadily yet alarmingly we have become accustomed to multiple noises that creep from all the portable and fixed electronic devices that crowd all the available space.

In our new book Emotional Frustration-the hushed plague, we discussed the trolling toll of Technology (that’s the title of the chapter) in our daily lives, especially after the invasion of the small screens in 2007—those ubiquitous mind-snatchers. Almost all our human relationships have been drastically changed by the gawking at those devices that continually transmit all kinds of information—as well as dis-information—to our minds; at the same time they function as surreptitious emitting antennas that transmit our preferences, contacts, choices, inquiries, to total strangers.

One of the most frustrating experiences that many medical professionals encounter at present is the inability to concentrate properly to fill the humongous amount of paperwork that public and private payors demand to reimburse their care services. For years physicians and nurses have had to write comprehensive medical notes where the main complaints—and all the accompanying modifiers of diagnoses—had to be carefully and honestly described for all kind of care reviewers, including the administrative personnel of the institution and the utilization  review specialists. We discussed in another blog about data how once the patient leaves our office, a torrent of medical information is instantaneously shared out with multiple digital endpoints.

In order to comply with all those strict requirements—especially with the time-sensitive parameters of Electronic Medical Records (EMR)—those professionals need to put some distance with all the noise pollution from colleagues’ and patients’ devices. Who can reasonably focus on an accurate clinical description of a serious illness or a major procedure when there is a multi-faceted explosion of pinging all around? The least we can expect is to have some quiet to reflect on our very difficult choices. The brutal demand of our time should not be synonymous with its constant sullying out.

Like the “loose lips” of World War II, those “loose noises” can still sink our ships.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.