In these days of sound bite journalism, being given the chance to write 5,000 words delving into a topic for a mainstream publication is a privilege. When I’m asked to contribute an article for The Ann, a magazine based in Ann Arbor, no word length is discussed. The idea is that I should submit a piece that’s long enough to do justice to the topic and to include all the important aspects so the piece is fair. So I dove in to the meaty subject of whether the city of Ann Arbor needs a new world class hotel and conference center. The result is this article. To those who don’t live here, the subject may seem trite. But for the many who have been pushing for a luxurious place to host meetings, those recruiting for the university and others seeking to boost tourism, it’s a big deal. In researching this article, I was able to learn more about local government and the role that the University of Michigan and private industry play when it comes to a decision like this. I found that there is no easy answer to why the city does not have a four star hotel. But at the very least, I hope the piece shed light on the issue and will become the launching point for further discussion.
The Halpert/Edelson clan gathers to celebrate my daughter’s college graduation, May, 2013.
Gathering at our lakeside cottage to celebrate my daughter’s college graduation, May 26th, 2013
I was moved by Frank Bruni’s article in Sunday’s New York Times, The Gift of Siblings, since it mirrors the feelings I have towards my brother and sister. This past weekend, my daughter graduated from college. My brother planned a visit from China, where he lives, around the big event and my sister also made the two hour drive to be there, as did my husband’s sister, who drove nine hours from Boston with her son, and his brother and his wife, who live only an hour away from the college. The extended family rendezvoused at a cottage overlooking Lake Erie that we rented for the weekend. As I glanced out of the window as the sun was setting over the lake and saw everyone celebrating my daughter’s milestone together, I was grateful that I, like Bruni, had a big clan. My brother and sister are there for me during these exhilarating moments, but just as important, we’re there to prop each other up during the tough times. Just before my father passed away over a year ago, we took turns visiting him and tending to my mother’s needs. When he died, we collaborated on a fitting tribute filled with stories about his life that included his trademark good humor. When my children were only ages one and four, my mother-in-law passed away. As my husband’s large family filled her former house to pay their respects, I decided then that I was going to have another child, so my children could have an even larger support network. Had I the patience and fortitude, I would have had a fourth as well. As parents postpone childbearing and end up having smaller families, with only children becoming more the norm, I feel for the children who won’t have siblings to surround them the way I had, who will have to bear the burden of their parents’ illnesses, and eventually their death, alone, or with minimal support. This situation will take its toll emotionally on an entire population of children of boomers. I hope, that as young people contemplate the size of their family today, that they consider all that siblings have to offer. Like Bruni, I’m not only grateful for mine, but also that my children will have each others’ shoulders to lean on as they face the inevitability of their own parents aging
It’s taken me nearly a week since a dear friend died in a car crash to write this blog. Steve Gradwohl was killed last Saturday at the age of 51 after his car veered through three lines of traffic on a freeway, then hit an embankment. In addition to being a loyal friend to many and a wonderful husband and father, he was also an internist. And the testimonials from the many patients he treated, provided in comments in this AnnArbor.com article, show that he wasn’t your typical doctor, but one that went above and beyond to respond to his patient’s concerns. He received the Outstanding Clinician Award in 2012 from The University of Michigan Medical School. The outpouring from those who knew him only as their doctor was no surprise to me; he was both my husband’s and son’s physician. But what impressed me more was that he provided the same level of attention to all his patients. You rarely had to wait more than a day to get an appointment, and then he saw you within five minutes of your arrival, giving you his undivided attention and quickly getting to the diagnosis. His promptness was particularly astounding, given the fact that he had so many patients; everyone in our neighborhood seemed to see him. He provided his e-mail to his patients and often responded immediately whenever a patient had a question — even on the weekend — with his trademark “SEG” signature. I’m relaying this story about Steve not just because all of those close to him are reeling from this loss, but because I think it’s important to understand why he’s such a good doctor. Recently, I waited an hour with my daughter, who was ill and feverish, for her pediatrician to appear, only to have to endure the same experience a week later with my son’s dermatologist. When those doctors walked in the door, nary an apology was uttered. There’s a feeling that patients should feel fortunate to be part of such a fine medical establishment and just grin and bear it. Appointments take weeks to book; doctors can take several days to respond to questions and a weekend reply is unheard of. I’m sure the situation I face at my medical center isn’t uncommon. There will be many doctors among those gathering for tonight’s memorial to honor the memory of Steve. I hope his legacy will be that they aspire to provide the same level of care that this incredible doctor provided — something everyone should be able to expect from their physician.
Angelina Jolie’s disclosure that she underwent surgery for a preventive double mastectomy after learning she is predisposed to breast cancer set off a firestorm of discussion, as it often does, when celebrities become spokespeople for certain types of diseases or health care decisions. I’m curious, however, whether it will lead to an onslaught of women choosing to have mastectomies who may not face the same type of risks that she, a carrier of the breast cancer gene, had. If more young women choose to get rid of their breasts, they’ll be left with a flat surface where two large, fleshy organs once were. I have first-hand knowledge of this, since, 11 years ago, I was one of the growing number of young women diagnosed with DCIS, an early stage breast cancer, which Peggy Orenstein described so eloquently in a recent New York Times Magazine piece. I, like many with DCIS, chose to have a mastectomy. There’s no way to sugar coat the remains of an amputated breast. There’s a giant scar over a flat surface. For me, the choice to have breast reconstruction, and not have to face the ugly reminder of my mastectomy, was a no brainer. There’s been little discussion, by either Jolie or others in the public eye, of what’s involved, should a person decide to undergo breast reconstruction. Jolie made passing mention to implants she had at the time of her mastectomy, but revealed little about that particular procedure and what it entails. Though I’m sure advancements have been made over the past 10 years, reconstructive surgery is no picnic. I long to write a piece that will tell the many women likely to undergo breast reconstruction just what’s involved, so they can make just an informed decision about that, as they hopefully did about getting their mastectomy.
I spent the last two days at the What’s Next Boomer Summit in Chicago, an impressive gathering of 400 organized by Mary Furlong. Over the next 30 years, the population of those turning 65 is expected to double. It’s a daunting number, one that will transform the way companies do business in this country. Many of those attending the Summit were heads of start-up companies with products geared towards the aging industry. One woman is launching a service that allows grandparents to better engage grandchildren over Skype by developing games they can play together. Another is pioneering a device that monitors older people living alone that doesn’t require them to press a button if they fall. It automatically tracks their motions as part of a passive system. An owner of a facility discussed a new approach to treating Alzheimer’s patients, using the gentler term, “memory care.” It’s impressive how many people are using innovative ways to address the many issues that will surface as so many people enter old age. I look forward to writing several articles about this emerging, and fast growing industry, one that not only will be profitable, but hopefully will present some proactive solutions to the vexing problem of elderly care giving.