Great Expectations

on March 11, 2013 in Misc

Well, I was going to be practical and start this blog a whole lot earlier in the evening.  My plan was to talk about the historical research I’ve done for my novels.

Instead I got hooked on a CNN report.

It was a long one about our very broken health care system, but what really got to me was the profile of a young soldier.  There are far, far too many like him in our country these days: with broken bodies, in physical pain, and suffering from PTSD so bad we civilians can’t even imagine their private hells.

The additional bad news was, this vet – who could just break your heart – emptied a grocery shopping bag full of prescription medications.  These were all the drugs he’d been on, he said with disgust.  And they weren’t helping.

The good news is, this same “southern redneck” vet from Louisiana who’s likely to “shoot a gator” is now off all those medications and getting better.  Not cured, but at least getting better with…

… Acupuncture, yoga and meditation.  All of which he receives at Walter Reed.

The CNN report also showed other vets in physical pain receiving acupuncture and how some got instant relief from it.  The treatment is better than their medication and doesn’t have dangerous side effects.

In a way, I’m not surprised.  Years ago I had a co-worker who was a nurse and a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard.  She would tell me of her recent trips to Washington to attend military medical presentations, and yes, that included reports on things like acupuncture and cellular memory (such as when someone receives a transplanted organ and seems to inherit a couple memories from the dead donor).  The military, it appears, is often on the cutting edge of medical research and treatment and is way ahead of the corporately-run health care system the rest of us get.

Still, I had no idea that the military was actually providing acupuncture, yoga and meditation techniques to its vets.  I mean, the expectation for most of us is that the military by its very nature is arch-conservative and rigid.  Yet its medicine is in some ways radical.

My point is, I think we writers and readers love to be surprised and see how our expectations can be turned upside down.

Take Stephen King.  In Dead Zone, the protagonist’s mother is a close-minded fundamentalist Christian who seems to be only bad news.  Yet this same woman makes a couple of eerily accurate, insightful predictions that reveal she has some true wisdom deep down.  King can surprise us this way in many of his stories and even with minor characters.

A writer who I think does not have this gift is Dean Koontz.  Yes, his stories are well paced and suspenseful.  But I got so sick of his simplistic characters and how they’re either completely good or dirty rotten evil that I gave up on him.  His obsession about absolutely no sex before marriage ever ever it is so evil it’s better to die than give in to it also annoyed the hell out of me.

What kind of expectations do you like seeing turned upside down in stories?  Have any novels really surprised you?

16 Responses to “Great Expectations”

  1. Acupuncture? You know, there are a lot of amazing cures out there that don’t involve drugs, and most people will never hear about them.

  2. Helena says:

    Alex – And it’s pretty sad that’s a fact.

  3. I haven’t been surprised by any novels lately. I sure have read some boring ones though. I like modern medicine. It’s really helped me with my kidney stone. If I didn’t have access to modern medicine, then I would probably be suffering in pain for the rest of my life.

    I’ve had some people say (during my experience with the kidney stone), “I will pray for you.” To one person I said, “Please don’t. Modern medicine will take care of me. However, if you feel the need to do something, please stop opposing the affordable care act. Call your congressman and support it, because my bills were $35,000 and this is beyond the means of people without insurance.”

    And then I got into an argument with someone regarding the Affordable Care Act. She lives in Idaho (land of the Red) and was going off about people that took their money to buy an iPhone or an iPad instead of getting insurance for themselves. She called them lazy good for nothings and Obama Care is going to pamper these people. And then she said “Why should we be forced to pay the burden for these assholes when we went and got insurance for ourselves?”

    So I responded to her and said, “Okay, I see that you have no idea what the Affordable Care Act does. Right now, in Idaho the average wage is around $8/per hour in Idaho Falls where you live. If you work 40-hours a week at that rate and don’t have employer provided insurance (perhaps you have multiple part-time jobs) then it will cost you $600 a month in insurance premiums to become insured through Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Please tell me how someone who makes $8 an hour can afford to pay for this insurance? That would be like (to use your example) buying one iPad or iPhone every fucking month of the year.” Then I went on to say, “I really think you should use other places for your facts instead of relying upon Fox News to provide it to you.” Oh and she was MAD AS HELL at me. I honestly can’t wait for the Affordable Care Act to hit in 2014. So many people I know will be able to get affordable health insurance.

    Anyone who thinks of themselves as Christian who opposes the Affordable Care Act is in fact a bad person. Christian virtues are supposed to be about compassion, taking care of the weak, etc. But I guess that doesn’t apply if the person is poor, a minority, gay, or not of the same religion. At that point it’s okay to say “fuck you, you lazy asshole. I don’t care if you get a $35,000 bill for medical insurance. I got my insurance and it just shows how lazy you are for not getting it!” When in fact the person is working their ass off for minimum wage in a society that perpetuates the myth that all things are easily attainable if you will just work for them.

  4. Helena says:

    Michael – How are you doing after your terrible kidney stone? Is it all over and you’re okay I hope?

    I absolutely support modern medicine, and the CNN report covered that too in detail. But I’ve been around enough doctors and nurses and others in the medical field to know that there’s a big push for integrative medicine (which really deserves our support) that combines everything, be it surgery, eastern medicine, drugs or nutrition. I figured that whatever helps these vets, give it to them because they deserve all the help they can get.

    The thrust of the CNN report was that — no surprise — our health care system is broken. The U.S. spends far more on healthcare than any other country on earth — approximately 17% of our GDP — yet we don’t have universal health care coverage and we don’t have the best rate of outcomes for patients. As far as I know, Germany and Switzerland come in second at around 11% of their GDP, and for their money they have universal coverage. Oh — and no citizens in those countries go bankrupt because of personal medical expenses, but it’s one of the leading causes for personal bankruptcy in this country, even though half of those so declaring have medical insurance. There was also a frightening segment in the report on how our for-profit health care system puts money and profit ahead of the people. The fact is, most Americans want a single payer health care system, but in this country for-profit corporations rule. By the way, when Taiwan was creating its single payer health care system, they looked at U.S. healthcare and were so appalled at what they saw that they used us as a bad example. Their universal coverage costs them 8% of their GDP.

    As for the woman in Idaho Falls — oh yeah, she’s an ignorant, provincial idiot. Looking after and caring about our fellow human beings is not only at the heart of all major religions, it’s what keeps us human.

  5. I’m trying to remember the last novel that really surprised me. I don’t try to figure out things ahead of time – I try to stay with the protagonist, so I’m always surprised. Even by nursery rhymes – LOL. But I know what you mean.

  6. Helena says:

    Carol – Twists in a plot or characters who surprise us — I always enjoy those things. But like you I prefer to stay with the story and not try to figure out the plot ahead of time.

  7. Hart Johnson says:

    I’m not even remotely surprised. The healthcare for vets is funded by the government, which means they need to be cost conscious and use what works best. The rest of us schmucks with insurance are funded FOR PROFIT so their goal is to keep up addicted long-term. *cough* Did you know insurance/healthcare/pharma have been found in Michigan to be under RICO violations? Colluding to NOT pay for health care for people for whom they can’t make money… Our system is a major mess. but yes… eastern methodologies are more promising to me than the traditional machine.

  8. Helena says:

    Hart — Big medical moneymakers in Michigan are guilty of organized crime? Why am I not shocked? At least we’re seeing more combinations of eastern (holistic, you’re entire body is out of balance) and western medicine (you’re appendix needs to come out; have the acupuncture afterwards). Meanwhile, I want a single-payer, non-profit system.

  9. Ciara says:

    As a former therapist from a PTSD clinic at a VA hospital, I’ll tell you it is about time people started understanding this disorder. Why the homeless rate goes up after each war, and why they need out help.

  10. Helena says:

    Ciara — I am so impressed that this is your background. We do need to understand PTSD and to help our vets any way we can. Homeless vets is an appalling national shame.

  11. Old Kitty says:

    I guess my most recent literary surprise is Lisbeth Salander (she of the dragon tattoo!) falling for Mikael! LOL! Towards the end of that book, I was like, what!?!? Lisbeth loves Mikael! LOL!

    Anyway!! I am glad the health care reform act is going through over there. I am totally taken aback by the vitriol of those who oppose such a sensible and ever so tiny change in your health care system. All it’s offering is a safety net for the most vulnerable – and that is the decent, humane thing to do and that is what good governments ought to be doing anyway – protecting those unable to do so from exploitation through the rule of law.

    Take care

  12. Cristina says:

    I came across this site looking for information on Acupuncture and PTSD, and I am familiar with the documentary Escape Fire aired on CNN. I am very pleased to know there are institutions that are offering acupuncture and other holistic therapies to our veterans, unfortunately I can count on one hand the ones that offer acupuncture. If you know of more please let me know.
    There is ongoing and concluded research/studies for the effectiveness of acupuncture for PTSD and TBI, pain management, etc. and acupuncture has been approved and suggested by the VHA, yet it is not being used as widely as one would think, and it is also not a covered therapy for our veterans.
    In the meantime… Search “community acupuncture or group acupuncture” in your area, many of us licensed acupuncturists, will offer acupuncture to our veterans and wounded worriers for free, or a small donation.

  13. Ben says:

    I am surprised that the military would provide stuff like that – but, good for them! I’ve done some yoga, and it’s incredibly relaxing.
    I am currently taken with Downton Abbey. I love how the characters are so dynamic, and how the really evil ones have good hearts, and you almost pity them. It’s great writing, and really turns stereotypes upside down. (And in response to our conversation in the other post, I will be stopping by here more frequently!) =)

  14. Helena says:

    Old Kitty – Yet it seems logical that she’d love him, doesn’t it? So the surprise works.

    I think that eventually the U.S. will FINALLY get a single-payer healthcare system with optional extra personal insurance on the side. It’s not only the humane thing to do, which is most important, it’s practical and far more efficient.

  15. Helena says:

    Cristina — Thank you for being an acupuncturist who’s reaching out to help our veterans. I only wish that any such therapy that helps them could become available everywhere and very quickly. If I find out about more such outreach programs, I’ll post the information here and let you know.

  16. Helena says:

    Ben – I would have been more surprised if I hadn’t known the National Guard nurse years ago who told me of all the new therapies the military was investigating. The therapies offered at Walter Reed alone would surprise any major hospital chain.

    I’m so glad you’ll be stopping by more often. And I love Downton Abbey too, except that I was REALLY PISSED when the season ended with Matthew being killed in that car accident. Damn it. Oh well. Maybe in future posts you and I can chat about the newest episodes?