Monthly Archives: January 2017

Thoreau-ing It All Away

Have you ever wanted to just get away from life? Lately, I have been having these fantasies about going and living in the middle of the woods – alone. I really don’t want to leave my husband and my kids but I desire solitude, just for a little while. Just for a time, I’d like to live with no civilization; no computers; no phones; no television. I’d like to wake up when the sunlight streams through the windows and go to bed when the light is fading. I want to hear nothing but birds singing and leaves rustling. I want stillness. I want quiet. I want my thoughts to be the only things that break my communion with the trees and the water and the earth. Because I like to name things, I like to call this fantasy of mine “Thoreau-ing it all away”. But maybe not all of it – and not forever. Just for a week or two.

The world is just too much for me right now. The negativity and inhumanity that is occurring is making me weary. I have a hard time focusing on my work these days. I feel overwhelmed and drained and helpless. I no longer have faith that everything will turn out ok. I no longer have faith that people are inherently good and that they will do what is right and just. Getting away – unplugging – is probably not what I should do with all that’s going in the world. I should engage, now more than ever. And I most likely will – tomorrow. But today, in this moment, engaging feels like a heavy burden and I’d like to indulge in this daydream.

In my little cabin in the woods, I will sleep as long as I want to. I will cook to the rhythm of salsa and to the sizzle in the pan, with a glass of wine in my hand. I will take baths and read books (actual books, not just magazines and journals and online news articles). I will take long walks through the forest and stop to listen to the trickle of a stream and to the hooting of an owl. I will write without interruption. I will breath deeply. I will recharge. And then… I will be ready to return to the world.

An Open Letter to Mr. Trump and Mr. Kennedy

Dear Mr. Trump and Mr. Kennedy,

Are you serious? I mean, are you really serious – a committee to investigate the effectiveness of vaccines? What do you think science has been doing for the last 220 years? We are going to spend millions of dollars and precious hours that could be better spent, I don’t know, say… working on securing peace in the Middle East or developing a realistic and actionable alternative to the Affordable Care Act (which, by the way, I happen to like and don’t feel needs replacement but, perhaps, improvement). This is ridiculous!

We (I really want to say “you” but I’m trying to be inclusive here) must have an unbelievably short collective memory. Do you not remember smallpox? Do you not remember polio? Do you not remember the Influenza pandemic of 1918, which affected 1/5th of the world’s population and killed more people than died in all of WWI? 50 million people died! That’s million, with an “M”! Why do we not see these horrible plagues anymore? Because of vaccines, that’s why! But, somehow, even though many people – healthy people – still die of the flu every year, this doesn’t feel like a current concern. Maybe it’s not sexy enough of an issue. I would stake my career on the fact that, if there were an Ebola outbreak and people were bleeding out of their eyeballs and dying left and right, every single person out there would stand in line to get a vaccine if one was available. Maybe the flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases just aren’t scary enough.

How pretentious and elitist of us. This move, to question the utility and benefit of vaccinations, is a luxury of the wealthy. You do not see the people of third world countries or those in our own country who are just scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck, questioning the benefit of vaccines. To them, this is a life and death situation. Whether to vaccinate is a make or break decision. For those out there who don’t have access to adequate health care or can’t afford the medication or the doctor bills to treat an illness, having a family member get sick can be catastrophic. They can’t afford to take time off of work to nurse their child or themselves back to health. So, what happens? Kids get sent to school during illness. Adults continue to go to work during illness. And illness spreads.

It feels like I spend half my day trying to convince people to get vaccinated. As a family doctor, who cares for a largely middle to upper middle class patient population, I get a lot of questioning patients. In 2015, after growing frustrations with how much effort was expended addressing this issue, and not feeling fully prepared to answer all the concerns that my patients had, I took the time to do my homework. I took every doubt, every reason that I have heard not to vaccinate, and addressed each one in turn. I wrote an article about it called An Ounce of Prevention and you can read it if you are so inclined, or you can do your own research. You will find, as I did, what we as people of Science and Medicine already knew. Vaccines are safe and vaccines save lives!

What I know to be true in my heart of hearts and what I see to be true in my everyday practice, is that population health and individual health are inseparable. If you choose not to get vaccinated, so be it. You are an adult. But know that your choice puts others at risk. We vaccinate not only to protect ourselves but also to protect the more vulnerable in our community. Or maybe you don’t care about those more vulnerable and at risk individuals.

Make your own personal decisions, but don’t deny the right to this lifesaving health intervention to others and don’t waste our time and dollars setting back the clock to the 1700s.

Sincerely,

Gretchen LaSalle, MD

Stand

And so we will Stand,                                                                                                                                     just as we had planned,                                                                                                                               with our heads held high.

I sit here, muscles in spasm, gripping my nerves and skeleton.  I cannot sleep.  I have my second cold sore in as many weeks and I am just now coming to the realization that I am stressed.  The body often reveals what the mind cannot see.

The kids are good.  My husband is loving.  Everyone’s healthy (save that cold sore and the spasmed muscles).  Work is rewarding.  I love the time I spend with my patients and coworkers. I love teaching.  But providing health care is a fight.  A constant fight.  And there are wolves at the door, threatening to take away the care and coverage that so many need and from which so many have benefitted.  And then, there’s Inauguration day looming.  It is enough to make a person want to lay down, roll over and wish the next four years away.  But we can’t.   Now is the time to say what must be said.  Now is the time to let our voices be heard.  Now is the time to stand.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back on anything that happens in the coming four years, anything that takes away rights and freedoms and opportunities for others, and say that I could have done, should have done, more.  I hope you will join me in taking a stand on January 21st at your local Women’s Day march.  Join the greatest gathering of activists that this country has seen in some time.  Be a force for change.  Stand.