Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dry Falls: Thinking Ouside The Box


Ideas without precedent are generally looked upon with disfavor
and men are shocked if their conceptions of an orderly world are challenged.
Bretz, J Harlen 1928.




At the start of the new school term after the summer of 1960, we had a new geography teacher. Now if the truth be told, up until that time Geography was not up on the list of subjects even the diligent students found exciting. Geography often competed with Civics for the bottom honour of the least favoured subject.

Not any longer. We now had a bright young teacher straight from the University of Hong Kong; and from the first lesson we were spell bound. Yes, she was elegant and stylish, but I really did not think those were the only reasons for our newly discovered enthusiasm. She was able to capture our attention and made what we thought were boring subjects riveting. For the first time what happened millions of years ago fascinated us. Glaciers became hot.

Looking back now, I realised our understanding of Planet Earth was then in its infancy. Harry Hess of Princeton University was just formulating the Sea-Floor Spreading theory that is now generally accepted in the geological community.

We were so inspired that the Meteorology Club membership increased dramatically. A guided visit to the Royal Observatory (Hong Kong) further cemented our new found interest.

On my recent vacation in Washington State, I was reminded of our inspiring geography teacher. No, not many of us became geologists or meteorologists; but our interest in such matters stayed with us.

In Washington State we saw a geological puzzle that took over 40 years to solve: the Dry Falls.



The Dry Falls, Washington State, U.S.A.© Am Ang Zhang 2007


The Dry Falls in northeast Washington was once the world’s largest waterfall, with water plunging 400 feet over a 3.5-mile-wide cataract. To put it into perspective, Victoria Falls, arguably the biggest and grandest fall in the world is only slightly over a mile wide and has a drop of 360 feet. Iguazu Falls is wider at 1.67 miles although nearly half a mile of it is now dry. Its drop ranges from 210 to 269 feet. Victoria Falls has therefore the largest curtain of water. Niagara, is small by comparison: ¾ mile wide and a drop of only 167 feet. However, it is the most easily accessible of the three falls.

The Dry Falls was the result of a series of events and catastrophes starting from 17 million years ago. For 6 million years, enormous lava flow after lava flow engulfed the area. This was followed by a warping of the plateau and an uplift of the mountainous region in the north. Then the Ice Age began about 1 million years ago, resulting in the formation of glaciers, subsequent flooding and formation of huge waterfalls. When the ice eventually receded, the network of rivers and streams in the plateau were left high and dry several hundred feet above the Columbia River. Today Dry Falls overlooks a desert oasis filled with lakes and abundant wildlife.

(Those interested in the full details can read the transcript of Mysteries of the Megaflood.)

The theory of the colossal flood was first proposed by geologist J. Harlen Bretz of the University of Chicago. In the summer of 1922, he became intrigued by the maze of huge streamless canyons, dry falls and other strange geological features in this area. As the area had few roads, he had to cover much of the 3000 square miles by foot. He worked painstakingly for the next seven summers, documenting what he saw, and came up with his hypothesis: a catastrophic flood greater than geologists had ever recognized on earth. It was a bold challenge to the prevailing principle of "uniformitarianism," which held that geological changes occur slowly, through steady processes. To other geologists, the idea of a sudden, colossal flood was unthinkable heresy. They emphatically declared his theory ‘wholly inadequate,’ ‘preposterous,’ and ‘incompetent.’ Though warned, Bretz proceeded to publish his conclusions.

In 1965, the International Geological Congress toured the Channeled Scablands (name invented by Bretz) and finally sent Bretz a telegram stating, ‘We are now all catastrophists.’

Satellite photographs taken in 1974 confirmed Bretz’s theory beyond doubt.

In 1979, the 96 year old Bretz was awarded the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society of America, that nation’s highest geologic honour.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lost City of Petra!












All photos  ©2017Am Ang Zhang
Carved directly into vibrant red, white, pink, and sandstone cliff faces, the prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was "lost" to the Western world for hundreds of years.
Located amid rugged desert canyons and mountains in what is now the southwestern corner of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Petra was once a thriving trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106.           
National Geographic: http://on.natgeo.com/2qNNUMl




Monday, May 1, 2017

NHS: Best Health Care!

Friends moved to France after their retirement and lived in one of the wine growing districts.
 ©2008 Am Ang Zhang
They were extremely pleased with the Health Care they received from their doctor locally. After all, not long ago, French Health Care topped the WHO ranking.

Then our lady friend had some gynaecological condition. She consulted the local doctor who referred her to the regional hospital: a beautiful new hospital with the best in modern equipment. In no time, arrangement was made for her to be admitted and a key-hole procedure performed. The French government paid for 70% and the rest was covered by insurance they took out.

They were thrilled.

We did not see them for a while and then they came to visit us in one of our holiday places in a warm country.

They have moved back to England.

What happened?

Four months after the operation they were back visiting family in England. She was constipated and then developed severe abdominal pain. She was in London so went to A & E (ER) at one of the major teaching hospitals.

“I was seen by a young doctor, a lady doctor who took a detail history and examined me. I thought I was going to be given some laxative, pain killer and sent home.”

“No, she called her consultant and I was admitted straight away.”

To cut the long story short, she had acute abdomen due to gangrenous colon from the previous procedure.

She was saved but she has lost a section of her intestine.

They sold their place in the beautiful wine region and moved back to England.

The best health care in the world. 

Now we know.

Let us keep it that way.


NHS & Private Medicine: Best Health Care & Porsche

Do we judge how good a doctor is by the car he drives? I remember medical school friends preferred to seek advice from Ferrari driving surgeons than from Rover driving psychiatrists.

My friend was amazed that I gave up Private Health Care when my wife retired.

“I know you worked for the NHS but there is no guarantee, is there?”

Well, in life you do have to believe in something. The truth is simpler in that after five years from her retirement, the co-payment is 90%.

He worked for one of the major utility companies and had the top-notch coverage.

“The laser treatment for my cataract was amazing and the surgeon drives a Porsche 911.”

Porsche official Website

He was very happy with the results.

“He has to be good, he drives a Porsche.”

Then he started feeling dizzy and having some strange noise problems in one of his ears.

“I saw a wonderful ENT specialist within a week at the same private hospital whereas I would have to wait much longer in the NHS.”

What could one say! We are losing the funny game.

What does he drive?

A Carrera.

Another Porsche.

We are OK then.

Or are we.

He was not any better. And after eight months of fortnightly appointments, the Carrera doctor suggested a mastoidectomy.

Perhaps you should get a second opinion from an NHS consultant. Perhaps see a neurologist.

“I could not believe you said that, his two children are doctors. And he has private health care!” I was told off by my wife.

He took my advice though and he got an appointment within two weeks at one of the famous neurological units at a teaching hospital.

To cut the long story short, he has DAVF.

I asked my ENT colleague if it was difficult to diagnose DAVF.

“Not these days!”

He had a range of treatments and is now much better.

All in the NHS hospital.

“I don’t know what car he drives, but he is good. One of the procedures took 6 hours.”

Best health care.

I always knew: Porsche or otherwise.


Best Health Care: NHS GP & NHS Specialist


Does having a good hunch make you a good doctor or are we all so tick-box trained that we have lost that art. Why is it then that House MD is so popular when the story line is around the “hunch” of Doctor House?

Fortunately for my friend, her GP (family physician) has managed to keep that ability.

My friend was blessed with good health all her life.  She seldom sees her GP so just before last Christmas she turned up because she has been having this funny headache that the usual OTC pain killers would not shift.

She would not have gone to the doctor except the extended family was going on a skiing holiday.

She managed to get to the surgery before they close. The receptionist told her that the doctor was about to leave. She was about to get an appointment for after Christmas when her doctor came out and was surprised to see my friend.

I have always told my juniors to be on the look out for situations like this. Life is strange. Such last minute situations always seem to bring in surprises. One should always be on the look out for what patient reveal to you as a “perhaps it is not important”.

Also any patient that you have not seen for a long time deserves a thorough examination.

She was seen immediately.

So no quick prescription of a stronger pain killer and no “have a nice holiday” then.

She took a careful history and did a quick examination including a thorough neurological examination.

Nothing.

Then something strange happened. Looking back now, I did wonder if she had spent sometime at a Neurological Unit.

She asked my friend to count backwards from 100.

My friend could not manage at 67.

She was admitted to a regional neurological unit. A scan showed that she had a left parietal glioma. She still remembered being seen by the neurosurgeon after her scan at 11 at night:

“We are taking it out in the morning!”

The skiing was cancelled but what a story.

Best GP

Best Specialist

NHS

Friday, April 28, 2017

Puerto Rico & Ponce: Pre-Raphaelites!

So we spent a week in Puerto Rico before our Caribbean Cruise thinking it will be food and beach adventure and some Spanish historical sights. Imagine our surprise when we were told that the Ponce Museum of Art is a must see.



This Caribbean Island Museum has one of the best collections of Pre-Raphaelites. Yes, Pre-Raphaelites.

 Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Roman Widow
 Gustav PopeDaughters of King Lear



Edward Burne-Jones's The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon



The Guardian.

We did not get to see The Flaming June as it was back home in London. 



Frederic Leighton, Flaming June, 1895.
Courtesy of Museo de Arte de Ponce, The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Also: Vanity Fair.



Jul 21, 2015 ... The Art Institute of Chicago has quite an interesting collection. What caught my eye the other afternoon was a Pre-Raphaelite, well one of three ...

Nov 28, 2015 ... Earlier in June we spent some time with our friends in Dorchester . Somehow the after dinner conversation turned to the Pre-Raphaelites and ...

Friday, April 21, 2017

NHS: The Last Sunset & The Last Cook.

 As the sun sets on our beloved NHS:
                                                           ©Am Ang Zhang 2012

Perhaps it is not that well known that the dismantling of our beloved NHS started long before the present government and the future does not bode well for those of us that likes to keep NHS in the public domain.

Child Psychiatric in-patient units across the country were closed some time after many adult hospitals were closed or down-sized.

To me, the government is too concern with short term results that they impose various changes across the board in Health Care & Education without regard to the long term consequences or costs.

After all, I have made good use of in-patient facilities to un-diagnose ADHD and that would in turn save children from unnecessary medication and the country from unjustified benefit claims.

Such units were also great training grounds for the future generation of psychiatrists and nurses. Instead, most rely on chemicals to deal with a range of childhood psychological problems.

Indeed it was a sad day when the unit closed.

From The Cockroach Catcher:

Chapter 48        The Last Cook



O
ne of the few things I learned working in some inpatient units was to be appreciative of the ancillary staff. What a cleaner might reveal to us was often more telling than a formal interview. It could well be that often parents were unguarded and more able to reveal things to someone like the cleaner or indeed the cook.
         I was fortunate enough to experience one of the last NHS cooks when I was Senior Registrar at an inpatient unit. The inpatient unit catered for a middle age group spanning the older children to the younger adolescents. It was one of a kind in the U.K. and indeed it was the first to start a national training course for Psychiatric nurses in inpatient care, a good three years before anywhere else.
         The unit was in the middle of town and was considered to be too far from the Hospital for catering purposes.  Instead a cook was employed to cater for the needs of the children and nursing staff.  We doctors were not supposed to eat there. But we did.  Mainly for lunch.
         If we arrived at mid-morning we used to get a nice cup of tea. But that was only since I started bringing in my own tea leaves. We also got served home-made scones and the like.
         All very homely.
         I had since wondered if our great success rate was more to do with having our own cook than all the other therapies and tit bits that we did.
         You never know as people do not really research these things.
        
         ……I often arrived late at lunch time after the children and nurses had eaten as morning clinics had a habit of running late. With less than ten minutes to spare, the cook would still manage to serve me a bit of some of the things she knew I preferred. Often she felt compelled to sit with me to tell me about her grandchildren or about what the government should really be doing to help the likes of her, a war widow bringing up two sons in this Naval town. I always admired the resilience shining through her stories.
         She also provided me with her down to earth views of what we should do with whichever patient that had come in. I listened. I took note.  You never know.
        
        
         Sheena was the mother of two girls we had to admit. They were both ‘soilers’ and they would never touch vegetables at home or anywhere.

         Sheena was petite, worn and a chain smoker.
         But she had two lovely looking girls.
         We knew from the start there were handling issues and most likely diet ones too.
         One of the other reasons for their admission was that by and large there were very few girl ‘soilers’.  
         It was always a good sign when a child flourished in an inpatient setting, and away from home some mothers were more capable of telling you more of what went on.  Some mothers found it easier to talk to one of the non-medical staff, perhaps the cook.
         Mothers got fed too on their visits. More often than not the children preferred their mother to go home than to stay and watch them. That was a different issue. With the money spent on cigarettes and drinks not much was left for food either for the children or the parents. I knew that if we checked for vitamin and other deficiencies we would find them, a problem that had taken Public Health a long time to wake up to. Increasing tax for cigarettes and drinks did not change people’s habit one little bit.
         With a simple routine the girls were clean in no time.   At least during the week as they all went home week-ends, when the unit was closed.
         We were at a loss as to what was going on.
         The girls would get worse over the week-end and soil. This went on for quite a while.
         Then one day the cook talked to me.
         “Sheena never stays Mondays,” she told me.
         I listened.
         “Have you noticed she is always in dark glasses on Mondays?”
         How stupid of me. Now and again I saw her at the door seeing the girls off and yes, she wore huge sunglasses.
         Sheena was not a movie star.
         I arranged to see Sheena.
         She said, “You knew.”
         I nodded.


         “But I cannot leave him. I have nowhere to go and I shall not get enough benefit money if I am divorced from him. He now goes to the day hospital. Fridays he gets drunk and beats me up. It is like a routine. I try not to get hurt and hide it from the girls. If I walk out, he will find me even if I have somewhere to go. I shall still get beaten up. Now at least I know when it will happen and I can live with that.”
         I suggested that I should speak to him but she looked terrified.
         She felt he might even kill her if I did and last time he threw a chair at a male nurse who tried to say something.
         She was probably right. We often had no idea what people and particularly women put up with. It would be too easy for us to bulldoze in.  We had to think twice before intervening unless we had something better to offer. His Schizophrenia diagnosis allowed for a higher level of benefit she would not otherwise get. Who would she meet up with next?  Another violent man most likely.
         Was it such a cop-out on my part?
         Maybe it was, but in a strange way the girls stopped soiling after that one meeting I had with mum. The case left me with some unease - unease not just about what I did or did not do but about keeping patients in the community. Three other lives were affected here and who knows, one day he might go too far.  That was before Maria Colwell. 
         The unit had long since been closed.
         The last cook in the NHS retired .

The Cockroach Catcher at: Amazon Kindle USAmazon Kindle UK ;Lulu.com
Apr 25, 2014 ... In my book The Cockroach Catcher I described how I was suddenly confronted with a piece of work by Mondrian. I have to confess it was not an ...
Oct 21, 2012 ... The supervisor, Frances Tustin, wore a head of thick pure white hair. Very short and of rather solid build, she used to wear only trousers, which ...
Aug 9, 2016 ... I no longer remember Amanda as a severe anorectic but rather a very talented artist who suffered serious abuse. Yet in a society which prides ...
Sep 3, 2014 ... Chicago: From Magritte to Amanda. Rene Magritte exhibition. Could the Cockroach Catcher have missed this exhibition? Art Institute of ...

Apr 11, 2016 ... Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. ©Am Ang Zhang 2005. South Africa reminds me of my Anorexia Nervosa patient.
Sep 26, 2016 ... Well, let the truth be told, Am Ang discovered Barbados long before the celebs. He is still very fond of it though he tends to visit when the celebs ...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring: How to save our NHS!

If we are not careful Private Insurance will creep into England without a single bit of control as it is singularly important to stop Insurers to reject those with pre-existing conditions or dump them once they have a chronic illness such as Type 1 Diabetes. 

Patients could have to start to pay charges to use basic NHS services such as GPs because the health service’s finances have become so dire, the leader of Britain’s doctors has warned. 
Dr Mark Porter, the head of the British Medical Association (BMA), said that whoever takes office after the general election will inevitably be tempted to bring in charges and may not be deterred by the unpopularity of such a seismic change to the health service.
....“You say it’s politically toxic. It’s not, really, is it? Look at dentistry and look at social care. They carry with them exactly the same offer to the public by which the NHS was set up; that we will remove from you – this society, us acting collectively – the terrible fear of bankrupting yourself by having an illness, by needing healthcare.
“And yet we allow people to be bankrupted by social care and we allow people to be deterred from seeking dental care because of charges,” Porter said.

Can we think of ways round this?

There is little doubt that a system based on insurance will need smart legislation to control the insurers. If the NHS is going to make use of wealthier individuals to use Health Insurance, then the same smart laws will need to be enacted for the regulation of Insurers. We should have learnt through the banking failures that in business, there is no such thing as self regulation.


Here are some things the law will do:
·         It will prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage to people simply because they have one or more pre-existing conditions.
·         It will also prohibit them from cancelling our coverage when we get sick just to avoid paying for our care.
·         It will prohibit insurers from charging women more than men for comparable coverage and will not allow them to charge older folks more than three times as much as younger folks.
·         It will require them to spend at least 80 percent of what we pay in premiums actually paying claims and improving care.
·         It will allow young adults—who comprise the largest segment of the uninsured—to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.

Summary of a popular post:


Spring is here!


 ©2014 Am Ang Zhang

"In fact, to save money, government can buy insurance 

for 

the mental patients and the chronically ill."

It must be very obvious that all the talk about medical cover for visitors to England never mention the need for health insurance.

Could this be because insurers have managed not to cover for everything. One need to ask the question on how one ever travel to the US where cost of medical care is extremely high.

It may well be prudent for government to insist that non EU visitors to this country must have mandatory Health Insurance as part of the admission requirement. This should apply to students and tourists alike. After all nobody in their right mind would dream of going to the US without proper insurance.

We have managed to get people to insure their cars, why not their bodies.

There is of course the need to fully control Health Insurers for those that live in England if they want cover. 

Let people opt out of the NHS if it is so bad! But Insurers need to cover every thing. 

Citizens could be given a tax break and yet have the insurance policy incorporated into their NI/NHS number so that those with the tax break, the insurer will be charged for every kind of medical care they receive if they were within the NHS.

 ©2014 Am Ang Zhang

 

Summary of a popular post:

·                     Ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.
·                     Limits premium spread to normal, high risk and healthy risk to say under 20% either way of normal.
·                     Limits premium discrimination based on gender and age.
·                     Prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage when people are sick and need it most.
·                     Caps out-of-pocket expenses so people don’t go broke when they get sick.
·                     Eliminates extra charges for preventive care.
·                     Contribute to an ABTA style cover in case Insurance Companies go bust and many might.

We could legislate that Insurers will have to pay for any NHS treatment for those covered by them. It will stop Insurers “gaming” NHS hospitals. This will prevent them saving on costly dialysis and Intensive Care. Legislate for full disclosure of Insured status.

Insurers cannot drop coverage or treatment after a set period and even if they do they will still be charged if the patient is transferred to an NHS Hospital.

This will eliminate problems like PIP breast implants.

It will indeed encourage those that could afford it to buy insurance and in any case most firms offer insurance for their employees including the GMC.

To prevent gaming of Insurers by individual patients (I look after their interest too), the medical fee should be paid up front by the patient and then deduction taken from premiums. Corporate clients like those with the GMC should not be gaming Insurers.

Imagine the situation where those with “individual personalised budget” being able to “buy” their own insurance!

In fact, to save money, government can buy insurance for the mental patients and the chronically ill.

This way there will be real choice and insurers will be competing with each other to provide the worst deal.

Why?

What Health Insurer will want the business? 

©2014 Am Ang Zhang


Perhaps they will go back to the US and we will have our own NHS back.