Letters for the week of June 13, 2018

End of life, and how we live

About two decades ago, my dad died on Father’s Day at home, where he wanted to be, under the holistic care model of hospice. Leading up to his death, he had initially resisted hospice because of misperceptions, but once he decided he wanted it, he had nothing but praise—every day he said, “What a blessing!”
He loved to sing—in the shower, in the car,  just about anyplace—but, his singing had come to a halt as his illness progressed. When he went on hospice, he began singing again. What a gift!
Future health reforms should build upon the successful hospice model by expanding access to the comprehensive, coordinated care and person- and family-centered care to all patients with serious, advanced and life-limited illnesses.
This Father’s Day, I want to thank Whatcom Hospice for the patient and family-specific care they provided to my husband. The hospice nurses were amazing—their listening instincts were unparalleled. Hospice has been available as a permanent Medicare benefit since 1986.
In the late 1970s the U.S. government began to view hospice care for the terminally ill as a humane, high-quality option that has proven to improve quality of lif, and extend life in many cases.
Thank you, Whatcom Hospice.

—Micki Jackson, Bellingham

Treat dependency as illness

According to the Bellingham Herald, Kirk Powless hanged himself in the Whatcom County Jail on Mon., June 4. The Herald story stated that Sheriff Elfo said he didn’t know if Powless was detoxing.
I don’t know if Powless was detoxing either. I don’t know what motivated Powless to take his own life. 
I do know detoxing from opiates, alcohol or other chemicals can be an extremely painful experience that can last for days. Detoxification can also, in some cases, result in seizures or even death. I also know the painful symptoms of detoxification, a medical condition, can be significantly reduced with correct medical support in the form of medications and a controlled environment.
If a person with the medical condition of insulin-dependent diabetes is incarcerated in Whatcom County Jail they are given access to medications and nutrition necessary to sustain their life and reduce the discomfort they would otherwise suffer.
Why would a person with the medical condition of chemical dependency not also be given medical treatment? If Sheriff Elfo did not know if Powless was detoxing because it is normal practice to not find out if an inmate is chemically dependent and entering a state of detoxification, we have a grave problem in our jail.
Addiction (chemical dependency) is a medical condition. Inmates deserve treatment for the symptoms of this condition just as much as inmates with diabetes.
To not treat chemically dependent persons who are likely to be entering a state of detoxification seems to me like cruel and unusual punishment at best. At worst, it could be a death sentence without benefit of due process of law.

—Michael Chiavario, Bellingham

Smart Trips

Forty percent of Americans car trips are for two miles or less.
Most of us live in Bellingham because of the natural beauty, clean air, clean water and access to parks. More and more people want to live here hence apartments, condos and housing are hot issues and density is our focus. However, if everyone brings or expects their own car for transportation, our streets will eventually clog and present traffic nightmares similar to Seattle.
Bellingham offers an innovative incentive program called Smart Trips to encourage car-pooling, bicycling, busing or walking to your destination. As a “Smart Tripper” you’re eligible for monthly cash drawings and discounts from local businesses.
Bellingham is a small town, easily traversed by bicycle, bus or on foot. If you’re not confident bicycling on our roads, Smart Trips also offers a “Confident City Cycling Class” available Sunday’s this summer. You can register by calling the Smart Trips office at 360 756-TRIP(8747).
I’ve been car-free for 15 years and have no intention of ever owning an automobile.
If we want clean air, clean water and safe, clear roads we must all do our part to reduce global warming. Automobiles are a major cause of global warming.
Please be smart about your transportation choices and challenge yourself to use alternative sources. We want to preserve the air, water and nature while it’s still here.

—Analeise Volpe, Bellingham

Bitter bitumen

Various environmental groups have been vocal in stating that when released into gritty British Columbia coastal waters, diluted bitumen (dilbit) sinks to the bottom within a few hours.
Ironically, their concern about dilbit’s apparent irretrievability from life and ecosystem sustaining waters may (as ludicrous as this may sound) inadvertently reactively become its appeal to some readers typically apathetic toward our natural environment: The dilbit spill will not be an eyesore after it sinks—i.e. out of sight, out of mind.
Why worry about such things immediately unseen, regardless of their most immense importance, especially when there are various social issues and contemptible politicians over which to dispute?
I see it as analogous to a cafeteria lineup consisting of diversely societally represented people, all adamantly arguing over which identifiable traditionally marginalized person should be at the front and, conversely, at the back of the line; and, furthermore, to whom among them should go the last piece of quality pie—all the while the interstellar spaceship on which they’re all permanently confined is burning and toxifying at locations rarely investigated.
Could it be somewhat similar to the ostrich syndrome seemingly prevalent in human nature that allows the immense amount of plastic waste, such as disposable straws, getting dumped out of sight thus out of mind before eventually finding its way into our life-filled oceans?
In his essay published Canada-wide on May 15, Black Press chairman David Black writes, “There is no way to prevent [its sinking] and no way to retrieve the dilbit, so the ocean and fishery would be ruined for generations;” but then the same apathetic nature may elicit further lame shortsightedness—e.g. “I don’t eat fish, nor desire to visit the beach, let alone swim in the open wild waters.”

—Frank Sterle Jr, White Rock, B.C.

Mythologies and misrepresentation

I took part in the Lynden Farmer’s Day parade on June 2. I walked with the Whatcom Democrats contingent in that parade. Beforehand, I had an opportunity to speak with Vincent Buys about health care and Initiative 1600, for which signatures were being gathered.
He refused to sign.
The signature gatherer, undaunted, pressed on (and I’m paraphrasing): So you don’t think the citizens of this state deserve something like the VA for their health care?
Buys replied that Vets hate the VA, so no!
I asked him how health care should be handled in these days of lack of coverage and rising premiums. His answer was to let the free market handle it all.
When presented with the card explaining how I-1600 would be funded, he said, I don’t care what you present to me, I won’t vote for this. And then he scoffed at the idea that the very wealthy should have a hand in paying for such a program when they already pay for everything.
Representative Buys is laboring under three strongly promoted mythologies:
1. That veterans hate the VA. I am a Vietnam veteran and I don’t hate the VA. Under their care for nearly 50 years, I applaud and appreciate their service to us. We vets want it to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. They are professionals, dedicated to their mission statement, as I fear representative Buys is not. His mission should not be to his party, but should follow the mission of our country; ostensibly the Preamble to our Constitution. He should act and vote in a way that supports that statement. He does not.
2. That he and his party believe in the free market. If he truly believed that, he would object to tax giveaways to already profitable corporations. He would object to Trump’s tax break for the coal and oil industries. He is opposed to neither.
3. That the wealthy pay for everything through their taxes. If the wealthy in our country have taken the lion’s share of all new wealth created in the past several years—say, 85 precent—then why aren’t 85 percent of tax receipts from them? Because they buy people like Buys to vote for their lower tax rates.
These three myths under which Buys operates, plus the fact that no amount of information would change his mind about something, make him a poor candidate for office of any kind.
I thanked him for his stand on industrial hemp production and went on my way. Please vote, but not for Buys.

—Gary Meader, Nooksack

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