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The Dearness of Life

Re: Lawrence Henry’s A Sprint to a Transplant:

No, Lawrence Henry, you have not become a “bore.” Your pieces are the ones that stay with me. While political and policy debates are important, conservatives know there is a deeper level, where you have been privileged (cursed? chosen?) to travel.

When the hands on the prom clock sweep toward midnight and the DJ calls last dance the wallflower plucks up his courage and asks his dream girl to dance. She likely says no, but if yes then the next three-and-a-half minutes of pop song are moments of eternal splendor. He may never be more in the moment than that life-or-death time. The taciturn middle-aged farmer coaxed into remembrance of that moment will wax tersely rhapsodic as he steals a fervent glance at the house by the field where that lady now lives, like a man gripped by the Spirit and speaking in tongues words that are not his own.

I think the dearness of life you’ve been forced to experience has you speaking in tongues to us. Praise to the great Author for giving you words.

I’m acquainted with the cause of your travail: last year my mother died after decades of kidney disease, but not before her transplant gave her another 15 years, including a decade to love grandchildren.

She suffered the cruelty of a chronic disease that lasts for years, like long lonely dark nights of digging, never knowing if morning would find a grave or a fresh flower bed.

She didn’t give her grandchildren glorious pearls of wisdom from one bravely facing down death over and over again. Instead she quietly gave them the gift of being completely in their moments. Unprompted, they remember her unforgettably as the one person who “really listened” to them; and because of that they know what it is like to be unconditionally loved.

While their Dad fussed like Martha over better sippy cups and car seats, Grandma listened to the grandkids like Mary at the feet of the Rabbi, and they received a portion that would never be taken away from them.

My mother held on and postponed trading in her painfully frail body for a body of glorious light, until she’d given what she could to those grandkids. At the last moment I whispered into her semi-conscious ear: “It’s okay Mom. You’ve given everything. You can go on.”

It is a little bit like that love when a writer stands before the thousands in his readers’ amphitheater wearing a ridiculous hospital gown, worse than naked, saying “Here are my wounds. Here are my travails. Not sure what It All means, but here are some things on my heart and some things I’ve observed. Not sure what the clock reads. I’m hoping I come through this. But what moments I have — they are yours.”

We’ll pray for success. We’re not done listening to you.
Eric Richter
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Henry David Thoreau observed, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Mr. Henry, you have never bored us. You have sung your song, and your loyal readers, hope for your healthy return so you can sing your song about matters of life and death for a long while. Repeating a refrain with subtle changes and added nuance is the goal of jazz masters, and also many a good writer.
Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

Far from boring your readers, you are doing a great service writing about your experience with the IVIG protocol at Cedars. Lives should be saved.

My daughter had a PRA of 87% and was reacting to my tissue and we were told at our transplant center in San Francisco two years ago that she would reject my kidney and those of her father and two uncles and would have to remain on dialysis, probably until she died since her PRA was so high.

Finally, a nurse at her dialysis clinic, after hearing that we were given no hope, told Soraya that he knew there were protocols that corrected the antibody problem and suggested she go on line and research it herself. She found Cedars-Sinai and called there and made an appointment for us to be evaluated. Within two weeks we were in LA and after taking blood from both of us and placing it in a test tube with IVIG, they told us they believed the protocol would work for her.

It is still inexplicable that her doctors at two major transplant centers in San Francisco insisted that they had never heard about the High dose IVIG protocol developed at Cedars. It went through NIH trials and has been approved and paid for by Medicare since 2004. Dr. Jordan and his co-inventor, Dolly Tyan who is now at Stanford where they offer exactly the same protocol, have published their results in all the major transplant journals and presented at the American Transplant Congress for years.

Anyone in the United States for the past four years could have gone to Cedars and had the protocol and had it paid for by Medicare. Thousands of people who could have been helped if the protocol was available nation wide have died during these four years.

What we can’t understand is why only Cedars, Stanford and the University of Toronto have learned the protocol. Dr. Jordan has offered for four years to teach it to any transplant team in the world and only Stanford and Toronto have gone to Cedars and learned it and gone back home and are having the same success rate, at least 90%, as Cedars. Dr. Dennis Glotz also offers the protocol in Paris.

Because Medicare has been mandated since 1972 to pay for transplant, and since Medicare pays for the High Dose IVIG protocol developed at Cedars, it is available to any person who is in End Stage Renal Disease. Medicare agreed to pay for the protocol at Cedars because if people can be transplanted with the living donors who have offered them a kidney but been turned down by other transplant centers as “incompatible” the patient gets off dialysis which costs Medicare a minimum of 63 Billion a year just for the basic dialysis and about twice that because all the complications and hospitalizations dialysis patients endure. Each person who gets off dialysis saves Medicare between $60,000–$150,000 per year. After transplant, the cost to Medicare is about $17,000 a year for anti-rejection drugs. The VA has begun referring veterans to Cedars.

We had absolutely no out of pocket expenses at Cedars except our personal living expenses while we were in L.A.

After only one infusion of IVIG, Soraya’s antibody levels, specifically her reaction to my tissue, came down low enough to do the transplant. It has been two years now. She is well and healthy and has had no rejection episodes.

We launched a website last fall to try to get the information to the general public: and two weeks ago, ABC 7 San Francisco did a feature about the protocol now being offered at Stanford: and we have a Youtube playing with the short version.

Believe me, you are not boring anyone attached to a dialysis machine.
Joan Lando

I guess I don’t mind reading about Mr. Henry’s kidney problem. He’s straightforward about it with nary a hint or maybe only a little tiny bit of self-pity. And of course, the trade-off is pretty good: I’d gladly take ten kidney articles for every one of the grandma riding down the middle of Fifth Avenue on a Sunday morning articles any day of the week.

You guys got a gem of a writer in Mr. Henry. You’re a gem, Mr. Henry, and my best wishes to you and I sincerely hope that I get to read your wonderful articles for many, many years to come.
Paul McGrath
Cameron Park, California

I would not regard Lawrence’s articles about his medical difficulties as boring. A lot of people suffer but not everyone can write as well about it as Lawrence. However, I think that despite it all, there’s still plenty to write about. As part of a cure to cheer Lawrence up, my unsolicited medical advice is for him to watch the Best of Abbott & Costello, now out on DVD.
Vern Crisler
Gilbert, Arizona

You fight the good fight. Good luck from a liver cancer survivor who went to Miami and got a transplant from the University of Miami Transplant team.
Cecil Thorpe

I wish the best for Lawrence Henry. I donated a kidney seven years ago and have never regretted it. I hope if his two potential donors don’t work out someone else will volunteer.
name withheld

Re: Robert Stacy McCain’s Fear and Loathing at the Movies:

Enough already with the lauding of Hunter Thompson. The guy wrote one pretty good book (Hells Angels and two that a lot of people like (the Fear And Loathing… volumes), which isn’t exactly the same thing.

But he was also a pitiful wreck of a drug addict and an alcoholic and a reckless gun freak. What is most bothersome about that is that apparently other people who really should have known better (including law enforcers up in Aspen where he lived, who granted him a tolerance of his afflictions that surely no one else ever got there and he didn’t deserve) found his obvious decline and substance abuse and firearms sloppiness funny. So he felt encouraged to continue on in his stupidity. Until the point where, I’m guessing, he realized himself how much of an embarrassment and a washed up phony he really was.

People tried to maintain the laughter after he killed himself, of course. They kept on recalling “funny” stories about his sad behavior. But drunks and drug addicts really aren’t that funny, and that Thompson’s friends insisted on trying to make his last decades funny only says something very sad about them.

In a page of generally burnished reminiscences of him I read shortly after his suicide, I remember but one wary voice who recalled Thompson’s absolutely stupid firing off of his large caliber pistol through the roof of a San Francisco apartment and into the floor of the apartment above where a family with children slept. The writer was repulsed by both the act and by the encouraging laughter Thompson got from others when he pulled this stunt, and wrote that he never again found Thompson likable. I think this observation says it best about a writer who, sadly for him, outlived his most productive years and spent the latter part of his life entertaining his “friends” and admirers merely with the aggravated extent and obvious physical evidence of his decline.
Richard Szathmary
Clifton, New Jersey

Re: Tony Perkins and Chuck Donovan’s John McCain’s Opportunity:

As a conservative and supporter of Fred Thompson during the Republican primary, I will say that if McCain does not pick a staunch conservative as his VP, I will seriously consider not casting a vote for president.

Mr. Perkins was afraid to mention any of his personal preferences for VP because he felt his choices would automatically be rejected by McCain. I think that is probably a fairly accurate prediction of McCain’s behavior. It is a shame that Republicans have nominated someone who is so against people of faith and true conservatives. Some of the most common names mentioned as a VP choice should be wholly rejected by McCain, and conservatives should make it clear to him — just as we made it clear to Bush that Harriet Miers was not Supreme Court material. If Bush had managed to get Miers on the Court, there is no doubt in my mind his next selection would have been Alberto Gonzales. We put our foot down on the Miers matter and we got Roberts and Alito instead. We had better put our foot down, now, and let McCain know that nothing short of a solid conservative as VP will be tolerated if he wants to be president.

Some of his recent pronouncements (such as on immigration, again!) have been disturbing and only a solid conservative as his running mate can off-set some of his positions, and assure me that there will be better days ahead when McCain does leave office, hopefully in four years.

Some of the most common names mentioned are Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman, Christie Todd Whitman, and J.C. Watts. All but Watts are ridiculous choices and it is a complete waste of time to consider them. All except Watts are pro-abortion; and all except Watts are moderate to liberal on several other issues. Although I have always liked Watts, my objection to him now is because of his recent statement that he, along with other black conservatives, are considering voting for Obama. They claim it would be hard to vote against a black man. Such a shallow reason disqualifies Watts, in my opinion. I don’t understand how even a run-of-the-mill Republican can consider Obama for president, much less someone who calls himself conservative.

Bobby Jindal is attractive because he is a fixer of problems — not one who tinkers around the edges. But at 36 years old, and less than one year as governor, he should wait for four or eight years.

Huckabee should not be considered because he is NOT a conservative, although he tried very hard to convince us he was during the primary. Other than life issues, guns, and his firm belief that God does belong in public life, the Huckster is a liberal. As a former pastor, he was the most deceptive and dishonest candidate in the Republican primary — just as Obama was and still is on the Democrat side.

Mitt Romney will not be able to attract the Evangelical or conservative vote. Conservatives turned to him late, very late, in the primary when the only choice was between Romney and McCain.

Fred Thompson just doesn’t appear to have the desire to go for it. Thompson and Romney would both be excellent in other top positions of a McCain administration.

I don’t believe Rob Portman, Charlie Christ, and John Kasich (to a lesser extent), or some of the other governors mentioned will generate enthusiasm with the base of the party.

McCain had better look for someone who can get the “real” Republican base excited or he will lose. He needs to choose someone like Christopher Cox, the current head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and ex- House member for 16 years, or Rick Santorum, ex-House and Senate member from Pennsylvania, and maybe even someone with less experience like Sarah Palin, current governor of Alaska. If the readers are not familiar with those folks, please check their professional and personal biographies. They are very impressive all around and all are solid conservatives. Cox has a lifetime rating from the ACU (American Conservative Union) of 98%, and like Jindal, is a problem solver. As to Santorum, I realize he lost his re-election bid for the Senate, but that was in blue Pennsylvania. They may feel different about Santorum as a VP, especially after those small-town people in PA wholly supported Hillary over Obama in the primary. There is no doubt that Cox and Santorum meet the “credible president” test.
David Tomaselli

McCain needs a young, dynamic conservative who will rally the conservative base and add luster to his morbid campaign. Such a candidate is Congressman Eric Cantor from Virginia.
Allen Roth

Re: Jay D. Homnick’s Jesse Jr.’s Moment:

The Reverend Jackson is a joke. His comments have nothing to do with Mr. Obama. They have to do with his own increasing irrelevancy.

His life has been dedicated to creating strife and hatred over real and imagined racial inequities. If America elects this liberal, mixed race president, Mr. Jackson will be largely out of business. With his well publicized extra- marital affairs and at least one illegitimate child- from whom he was as Mr. Obama states it “AWOL” — Mr. Jackson would be expected to be irate if one of his own community calls him what he is. Recognized hypocrisy is always upsetting.

Mr. Jackson is a fraud yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He and his friend and fellow schemer, the demented Al Sharpton, have inadvertently been exposed by their own candidate for what they are.
Jay Molyneaux
North Carolina

Re: Arnold Ahlert’s letter (under “A Nightare, That’s What”) in Reader Mail’s Arrogant Nonsense:

Okay — I don’t like abortion. But, for whatever reason the courts decided, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land until such time as the Supreme Court may reconsider the ruling. The Supremes interjected itself into what should have been a legislative matter; the Constitution doesn’t address the issue — and, on topics where the Constitution is mute, we have state and federal legislatures to write our laws. It’s their job.

Still, concerning Arnold’s definitions, even though I don’t like abortion, I’m no fanatical zealot. In fact, I’m pro-CHOICE. My wife and I were/are pro-choice, but we chose to have three kids. And, further, can’t help but resent any sanctimonious pontificator trying to tell my daughters what they can or cannot do with their bodies.

What is there about the word “choice” that the extreme right fails to grasp? As a Libertarian-leaning Independent and Deist, seems like a pretty logical observation.

Re: Mike Dooley’s letter (under “From the Pulpit”) in Reader Mail’s Arrogant Nonsense:

If Mr. Dooley had read my original letter, it would have been clear to him that it was not about Mr. Obama’s spiritual life but about his use of religious words to try to bamboozle Christian voters. I also made it very clear that I would be judging Mr. Obama’s professed Christianity in my second letter by applying a very simple standard, that being: Whom do you say Christ is? If you subscribe to the belief that there are many roads to the Kingdom of Heaven, then you are not a person who believes in the Christ revealed in Scripture. The Christ revealed in the Scriptures says that He is THE way to the Kingdom, not simply one of many paths. This is what Obama has professed to believe, which is in direct conflict with the words of Jesus Himself!

And while I am not a theologian, nor do I claim to be, it does not take a theologian to understand the Gospel as it is relatively simple. That being that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He is the only Begotten Son of the eternal Father, that He was sent to redeem the sins of the world, that He was crucified and raised after three days, that He then preached for another forty days before ascending to Heaven, and that He is coming back to reclaim His Bride (the church). I do not need to be a theologian to understand John 1:1-5 or John 3:3-21; and as for the parable of the tares, I understand that the tares will be separated from the wheat at the harvest…but we had better be willing to acknowledge that there are tares among the wheat. God did not give us a spirit of discernment for us to not use it to spare the feelings of others.
Eric Edwards
Walnut Cove, North Carolina

For reader responses to Philip Klein’s “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” see today’s special Reader Mail section here.

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