Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dear God, here we go again.

The damn pig is back. 

Swine flu just won't go away...its like bacon repeating itself all day after a hearty breakfast.  USA Today ran a story quoting a report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology predicting "30,000 to 90,000 deaths", mostly among the young, in addition to our usual 40,000 a year from the run-of-the-mill flu.  The report goes on to report critical overcrowding of intensive care units and emergency departments.  If that didn't cause the masses to run in circles screaming and wildly flailing their arms the revelation that the vaccine probably won't be ready in time should do the trick. 

While the above is a bit tongue-in-cheek, the reality of this past spring's "flu rush" paints a sobering picture.  Emergency rooms all over our community were well beyond capacity.  Resources were stretched thin.  Local pharmacies ran out of Tamiflu, especially pediatric doses.  The pieces of a disastrous puzzle were all in place; thankfully, by the grace of God, there were very, very few seriously ill.  Most symptoms were annoying at worst.  Nonetheless, it grew so quickly it took us by surprise.

The report from the President's Council predicts 50% of all Americans may be infected with H1N1 this fall.  That is a sobering number. With that in mind, the time has come, once again, to re-iterate the best ways we, as individuals and families, can protect ourselves and those we love.

First and foremost, please wash your hands.  It so doggone simple, yet stand in a restaurant washroom anywhere and see what percentage of folks actually wash their hands after using the toilet; it's staggering.  Just do it.  Make your kids do it.  It saves lives.

Second, if you are sick, STAY HOME.  For the love of Pete, we don't want to get sick.  The world won't end if you take time off.  It could for any one of us if you don't.

Third, unless you are very ill, stay out of the ER.  That is where all the people with H1N1 will be.  If you didn't have it when you arrived, you will by the time you leave.  The spring rush brought many desiring "just to be checked" because they were exposed to someone who was infected.  Not smart.  Not only won't we check you if you have no symptoms, but we'll make you sit in the waiting room for hours while we treat the ill.  Oh, and by the way, the waiting room will be full of those with the flu. 

Fourth, please don't send sick kids to school.  Take FMLA.  Call in sick.  Use your PTO.  Whatever you have to do, keep sick kids home.  Fifty years ago family dynamics were such that this would not have been an issue; today stay-at-home moms are few and far between.  This difference could be critical component in the spread of this disease.  Teachers all over the country can testify to the sick kids sent to school every day.  This fall, keep them home. 

Fifth, and finally, if you or your children are seriously ill, by all means, go to your doctor or emergency room.

My advice is not exhaustive: quitting smoking, exercising, and eating a balanced diet all will contribute to a healthy immune system.   The CDC has a great site for more information and prevention ideas - check it out.  Hopefully, early in 2010 I will revisit this topic and report that predictions were overblown and out of proportion.  Let's all pray.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival!

Greetings to all our Sunday Snippers!  Glad to be a part of this week's carnival.

I began the week drawing attention to an amazing film depicting the reality of the abortion industry, with a hope that this film can be released in major markets to get the word out.  I followed with an essay on my take on the History Channel.  Finally, I celebrated the listing of this blog on with an article I wrote for the Buffalo News in 2006 regarding the ministry of nursing. 

Please visit our gracious Host!
Have a blessed week.

Friday, August 28, 2009

UAB Nurses Rap!

I despise rap. Especially when it is done by individuals who think they are clever who should be silent. Nonetheless, this is worth a look...maybe two. You simply have to see this. This is nothing short of AMAZING! Click on the link:
UAB Nurses Rap!

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RN Central lists yours truly!

I love being an ER nurse...maybe I'm an adrenaline junkie, maybe a little crazy, but emergency care is in my blood. I know a lot of ER nurses who feel the same way. Sometimes it can be a lonely place - no one seems to quite understand our sick sense of humor, or our need to top each other's stories about blood, guts, maggots, or the various other topics uniquely fascinating to us. Nonetheless we love what we do, and intimately know the inalienable truth that no, you have not seen everything. Well, maybe if you work nights...

Anyhoo,, a great site for those considering nursing or are in school for such, featured my little old blog as one of the 50 Best "Life in the ER" blogs! Didn't expect it, but happy to play a part. Click on the link to check it out:

I thought this would be a good time to post a piece I wrote for the Buffalo News in 1996; it describes my philosophy of nursing fairly succinctly:

Nursing is a Ministry, Not Just a Career
By David P. Marciniak

I am often asked by my patients why I chose to become a nurse. Male nurses, while increasing in number, are still a vast minority, and often a curiosity, especially to elderly patients who have been cared for by women their entire lives. "You are a male nurse? Why did you choose that?" they ask, a bit puzzled. The question is usually followed by, "You didn't want to be a doctor?" That question is easy. The former is a little tougher.

I don't feel as though I have ever answered the question adequately. How can one express in a moment or two why a man would choose to leave behind a good job in manufacturing for a job that trades machines for people, maintenance for medicine, and overalls for scrubs? How can one put into words the incredible moments when nurses can directly affect the lives of the sick and suffering with compassionate care? What words could adequately describe the emotional high when one realizes that the skills and knowledge obtained by schooling and experience have been the determining factor in saving the life of a critical patient? Who can express the sublime privilege of being present during the intensely personal moments surrounding the death of a man, woman or child?

I am at a loss in my search for a piquant reply that would satisfy the curiosity of the questioner and my own desire to be eloquent.

From the very start of my education at Sisters Hospital School of Nursing and throughout my career as an ICU, emergency room and medical-surgical nurse, I have believed that nursing is not my job; it is my ministry. I recall Vincent DePaul, Camillus of Lellus, Catherine Laboure, Catherine McCauley and many others, and desire deeply to serve holistically, attending to the physical and spiritual needs of my patient. I marvel at the bravery of the Sisters of Mercy, Daughters of Charity and others who placed their lives on the line serving the injured of the Civil War. I stand humbly in the shadow of the sisters who, in a time dominated by men, brought health care to Western New York and the entire country, operating hospitals that saw the births and deaths of so many of us. These are the heroes I emulate, and hope in some small way to imitate.

I know I am not alone. I have met many other nurses who share my desire to elevate my vocation beyond the ordinary, to a spiritual level. We are not proselytizers or preachers. We are lovers of life and of the one who created it.
Centuries ago, two sisters cried out, "Lord, he whom you love is ill," and implored Jesus to heal Lazarus. In our time, countless men, women and children are calling to God for healing, for an ease to suffering and for comfort in their distress. Nurses today are the hands, feet and heart of the one who can answer the call.

Will this column satisfy my desire to answer the queries about my choice to become a nurse? For now, I suppose. But my practice is ever changing, ever new. With each patient I care for, I become a better nurse, but, more importantly, a better person. I am not perfect -- I have bad days, and I tend to whine a bit. But each day brings a new opportunity to abandon myself and take on the needs of others. That is not something to be taken lightly.

I honor those who have paved the way for me, and honor Sisters Hospital and the Catholic Health System, which encourage and nourish my ministry as a nurse.

(c) 2006 Buffalo News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

Source: Buffalo News

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Armageddon Channel?

I used to love the History Channel. I loved the re-enactments, description of battles, documentaries on historic figures and the legacies they gave to posterity. Understanding who we were helps us to understand what we are, and sometimes, where we went wrong. Unfortunately, something went wrong at the History Channel. It is obsessed with our demise.

Whether discussing the Mayan calendar predicting 2012 as the end of time, the effects the absence of the moon would have on our poor species, the havoc a giant comet slamming the earth would wreak, or how nicely the planet would green-up once we were wiped out, the History Channel seems to have found a ratings winner in Armageddon. Of course, there are still plenty of historical documentaries and the like, but if prime-time is a network's bread and butter, the end of humankind is definitely smelling like a fresh-baked baguette.

There is historical precedence to this fascination with the end of the world; many have made bold predictions with certainty and authority, all of which have obviously been dead wrong. Nonetheless, each generation a new "prophet" prepares his disciples for the end, sometimes in ridiculously tragic ways. The Jehovah's Witnesses have successfully parlayed the end of the world many, many times, winning converts long enough to remove their ability to reason before the latest prediction once again proves false. Others have induced their followers to take their own lives; San Diego's "Purple Triangle" mass suicide is a notorious example. History has proven over and over again that seemingly intelligent people can be duped into doing some really unintelligent things.

No one knows the day or the hour, that Jesus made very clear. Reality is, for most of us, death is a lot nearer than we think, in the grand scheme of things. The chance a tsunami will wipe out Buffalo, New York tomorrow is very slim. The odds I might get in an automobile accident tomorrow are a little better. I am probably hedging my bets a bit with all the fatty, salty foods I eat, more so than by ignoring the possibility of an asteroid slamming into my garage and leaving nothing but the cockroaches to rule the world. We are a fragile species, prone to illness, suffering, and violence; but the greatest threat to our existence is one that is paid little attention. It is rarely discussed outside religious circles, and even among these it is swept under the rug lest we offend. It is sin.

Sin surrounds us, enslaves us, and leads us to our doom as surely as any false prophet. It destroys our conscience and leaves reason in the dust. It pulls us, little by little, away from God, until the chasm seems unbreachable. It lulls us into a false sense of security, and disintegrates our desire for God and things holy, and when all is said and done, leaves us empty, alone, and devoid of meaning. Evil only hates and destroys.

How should we prepare for the end? Should we be gathering canned goods, water, and supplies in our basements? Should we stockpile weapons and secure our homes? Should our nation spend billions searching for stray comets? None of the above. Stockpile your prayers. Fill up your heart with love of God and neighbor. Seek the forgiveness and mercy of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Strengthen your soul with the Eucharist. Search the heavens for the things that edify. With preparations such as these, no natural disaster or cosmic catastrophe is great enough to separate us from the love of Christ.

"But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone". Matthew 24:36

"Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is long delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." Matthew 24:42-51

Bring it on.

He eats penguins for breakfast.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Sad Day in Buffalo; Two Heroes Fall

Two firefighters die as floor collapses at East Side deli fire : Home: The Buffalo News

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may Perpetual Light shine upon them. Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blood Money

Click here for the web site and to help get this film distributed. This could be huge.

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic Carnival

After a three-week hiatus, I am glad to rejoin the Sunday snippers!

This week was a combination of the serious, the light-hearted, and the tongue in cheek. I began with an update on the flamingo population in and around Cheektowaga, NY, in my continued ornithological study with Sanctus Christopher...followed by a brief article about Fr. Corapi's visit to Buffalo. The dangers of thinking too much, a trip to the zoo, and a day of joy and fear rounded out the week.

Have a blessed week!
Visit our hostess with the mostest.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An evening of contrasts...

"There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast." Charles Dickens.

"...the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5

My family loves baseball. We are rabid Yankees fans (please don't hold that against us) but New York City is just a wee bit too far from Buffalo for us to spend any time in their famous new ballpark (as a matter of fact, the last time we were in Yankee Stadium was to see Pope Benedict!). Buffalo has a minor league team, the Bisons, affiliated with the Mets (you may hold THAT against us if you wish) and we love spending occasional evenings sitting in the stands eating popcorn and peanuts, watching the game, and hoping just this once we'll get on the Kiss Cam. Not to mention the futile dream of finally scoring a souvenir in the t-shirt toss.

Earlier this evening our community's superior called with tickets for tonight's game, a last minute gift we gladly accepted, and we made our way to the downtown ballpark. Coca-Cola Field is a 19,000 seat gift former mayor James Griffin gave to the city about twenty five years ago, and we love it. Not a bad seat to be found. We sat on the first base side, and were treated to a double-header against the Syracuse Chiefs, first game a win, second a loss. In between we ate two tubs of popcorn, two bags of peanuts (which I am presently paying dearly for...oh. the pain) and five Cokes. Teresa went to the bathroom six times in about three hours. I have a suspicion these were primarily unproductive. She likes to wander.

Friday night games are followed by fireworks, and tonight was no exception. As the fireworks began my wife received a phone call on the cell. Emergency. Our seventeen-year-old, who did not come with us because she worked until 9PM, was home alone. Someone had broken in.

We ran to the car and drove quickly. Our neighbor graciously took our daughter to his home as the police searched the property. By the time we returned the police were gone, and I did a search of my own. My daughter was fine; she never even saw the intruder. Nothing seemed to be missing. The house was all in order. Praise God. She told the police that the man was grumbling and grunting, and seemed to be stumbling. They told our neighbor that because nothing seems to have been stolen it was probably a drunk who stumbled in the wrong house. Little consolation to our frayed nerves.

I have a sick little feeling inside - I am sure some of you are familiar with it. A feeling of violation; our sanctuary, our home, has been infiltrated by something that seemed foreign, something that we heard about on the news but never thought would directly affect us. Tonight every noise is cause for alarm. That may take some time to heal.

Despite all that, the initial panic, the fear, the feeling of violation, there is reason to rejoice. Our daughter is safe, most importantly. The house is intact. Our neighbors are a blessing. The police apparently responded within two minutes with six (count 'em --six) cars. And he didn't take my laptop (tongue in cheek). God is good. Tonight I will pray for Mary's Mantle of protection, for thousands of angels, and for St. Michael to personally stand guard...I know he's busy, but just for tonight. We're all a little wired. Most of all I am grateful to God that my family is just scared...not injured, not broken, not hurt in any way physically. Scared is okay. I'll take it.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in our day of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits that wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grunt. Snort. Growl.

I love the zoo. I know there are PETA folks out there that would like to close them all down and allow the Bengal tigers to roam freely down Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, but when I'm there I feel like a big kid...and so Teresa, Amelia, Joseph, John Paul and I took the two minute drive down Parkside Avenue to the Buffalo Zoo, the second-oldest zoo in the country (as I have previously posted, in Buffalo it is law that we cannot be first in ANYTHING, thank you Scott "Wide Right" Norwood).

As virtual neighbors of the zoo, we feel a bit of a sense of ownership. We have been members for many years, and brag about zoo improvements like a proud parent. Recent updates and expansions have been nothing short of spectacular, and have lifted a bit of a dusty old park into an exciting venue. The natural habitats and new species are incredibly interesting and draw the observer into a place we could never experience in most cases.

Now the reality: for the children, there are four priorities at the zoo, and are necessarily in this order: 1. Food and/or drink. 2. A trip to the carousel. 3. Gift Shop. 4. Animals.

That list may not be entirely accurate: repeats of 1, 2 and 3 may be required prior to reaching 4. Thank you, heartily, to the zoo for the following that keep me from enjoying the madcap antics of the troop of ring tailed lemurs: Dinosaur chicken nuggets, ice cream, pizza, the gloriously restored antique carousel, Gund stuffed animals, sippy cups with frog-head covers, plastic grasshoppers, and rubber snakes. I just love saying no. Continuously. Despite all that, we manage to eke out a day of fun and wonder with every visit.

Sometimes I wonder if God was laughing when he made some animals. They really are delightful! We like to visit the zoo late in the day when all the busloads of vacation bible school kids and YMCA camps have left for the day. The animals awaken from their day long naps just as the kids make their way out. Hey, if adolescents were making animal noises at me all day I'd sleep,too.

Come to thing of it, that pretty much describes our dinner table...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Everything in moderation...

"Can an ass be tragic? To perish under a burden one can neither bear nor throw off? The case of the philosopher." Friedrich Nietzsche

I have been thinking. I don't like to spend a preponderance of time pursuing that endeavor, for I have found prayer to be infinitely more valuable, but thought is required for some day-to-day activities; examples include dressing, food production, and the like. Concerning the children, I have found prayer to be the only avenue of sanity; pondering their activity can only induce nervous tics and premature graying, or at the least, indigestion. Work requires thought, but of a utilitarian nature, and so largely benign in consequence. But as of late, despite the warning of my conscience, I have been thinking.

What consequence is my existence? Have I made an impact beyond the ubiquitous carbon footprint I am told I am making? What legacy does a man leave by working, praying, and doing the best he can? What priority is family? God? Self?

I am at what I would consider the "half-way point" of life, God willing. Bones are beginning to creak a bit, and I am graying in the beard. The children consider me old, although they are hardly impartial judges of such as anyone beyond the 12th grade is an ancient in their estimation. I am soft in the middle, and my pants keep falling down because of the blasted inverted cone shape I seem to have developed overnight. Though I hope the finish line is still a distance away, it is...closer. I feel the urge to fish or cut bait.

God's will for my life is a constant discernment, and often, only recognizable by the fruit of best guesses. I have not been blessed by locutions or visions, nor has the discernible voice of God roused me from my slumber like Samuel in the temple so long ago. I am told convincingly by one to rouse my courage and make a mark, by another to live humbly and invisibly, sacrificing self and abandoning the world. Each makes sense. But to whom? To me?

This evening I sat on the back patio with my four-year-old daughter Teresa. She prattled on about school, mosquitoes, dancing, the sand box, and various other topics in what seemed like a breathless succession of thoughts and ideas. She stopped for a moment to take a bite of her hot dog, seemed to think for a brief moment, and then smiled as sweetly as she could with a bit of ketchup on the corner of her lips and said, "thanks for dinner, daddy." "You're welcome, sweetie," I replied.

Thanks for Teresa, Abba. I'll stop thinking. For now.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ancient Flamingo Migratory Stop

Each summer the locals in the suburban town of Cheektowaga, New York host the largest migratory flock of plastic flamingos in the country. The largely Polish-American citizenry have been hosting the flamingos for decades, although for a brief period of time they were endangered when their habitat was usurped by plywood images of bent over women in house-dresses. Despite this temporary setback the flamingos have once again taken their rightful place among the begonias and geraniums bordering the perfectly manicured lawns and shrubbery of the town lovingly known as "Cheektavegas". Irene Sczesztojewicz's lawn, pictured at right, is dotted with the birds; "I like dem. Dey're a nice pink. Ant dey don't poop."