Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘deaths’

Solutions To Stop Slaughter

Dear Gabriel,

Elephants are incredibly intelligent, family-oriented animals, who have been known to mourn the deaths of their loved ones and demonstrate compassion toward strangers. But thanks to increased ivory demand in China and elsewhere, they’re being slaughtered by the hundreds.

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In January, hundreds of pieces of elephant ivory were seized at Kenya’s main port. And those are just the smugglers who got caught. Who knows how many elephants have been murdered for their tusks in the last few years alone?

The rise in poaching is not only an environmental or animal welfare issue; it’s also an economic one. Diminishing numbers of elephants in Kenya means a loss of revenue from tourists who travel to the country to see the elephants.

This week at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Kenya asked a wider group of countries to pledge not to sell ivory stockpiles, which is a great sign of commitment. But they must also take steps to address the elephant slaughter before it happens. Ask the Kenyan government to draft new legislation to combat poaching in their country — before the elephants are gone forever.

Thank you for taking action,

Kathleen
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Our Son’s Take On Guns

Our son wrote this for an English Class at college and turned it in yesterday morning. He titled it Locking Up the Guns. Coincidentally, two police officers were shot and killed (as was the assailant) later that day during a domestic violence situation, just blocks from where we live in Santa Cruz. It is the first time a police officer has been killed in the line of duty in this cities history.

Shona Blumeneau
English 2
2/27/13

Locking Up the Guns

BANG! A large crack pierced through the morning fog. Chaos erupted in the swamp, as I pulled the trigger on the Ruger semi-automatic .22 long rifle. A flock of birds flew through the sky but one remained, the one I had mercilessly gunned down just moments before. My cousin and I ran over to the bird and examined the stagnant creature. I stood there, thinking about how easy it had just been to kill something, while my cousin congratulated me on my first shot. He was the gun enthusiast, not me. This was my first time hunting, and after this experience, probably the last. Guns do more damage than they do good.

I have never lived in a dangerous neighborhood, but even if I did I would not resort to buying a gun for protection. Yes, they can defend you from attackers, burglars, etc., but I am not ready to kill someone with the blink of an eye, and I don’t think many other people are either. Possessing a gun causes much more problems than it does solutions.

If we were to take away guns people would still find ways to kill each other, but the number of deaths would decrease significantly. In 2008 there were roughly 16,272 murders committed in the United States. Sixty-seven percent of those were committed with a firearm. A 1993 nationwide survey of 4,977 households found that over the previous five years, 0.5% of households had members who had used a gun for defense during a situation in which they thought someone “almost certainly would have been killed” if they “had not used a gun for protection.” Zero point 5 is a pretty insignificant number stacked against the amount of people who die from a firearm each year.

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Having a gun does not protect you. Having a gun gives an intruder a reason to shoot you, because they’re worried that you’re going to shoot them. If you’re unarmed, why would someone want to hurt you? Criminals may be stupid, but they’re usually not completely insane. They may take your computer, or whatever criminals take these days, and then go away. If it’s just a plain burglary, the police will file a report and forget about it, and the criminal gets away. If they shoot someone, there’s a murder investigation and the criminal goes to prison. The way gun advocates characterize society as a violent conflict between criminals and innocent people simply does not reflect reality. Theoretically, someone might break into your house just to attack you or your family, but the odds of that happening are less than being struck by lightning.

Only two countries in the world consider owning a gun a basic human right, the United States and Yemen, and even Yemen is starting to have second thoughts. From the UN’s Small Arms Survey: “Only two—the United States and Yemen—is ownership of firearms a citizen’s basic right. Figures published in the Small Arms Survey 2007 show that the USA and Yemen also have the highest rates of firearms per civilian, with an estimated 90 guns per 100 people in the US, and 55 in Yemen.” Why does America have this crazy obsession with guns? No, I’m not blaming video games or rap music. Let’s take a look at the second amendment.

Many US citizens still believe strongly in the amendment that states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” First of all, what states need protecting at the moment? The third amendment, that said the military could stay in private homes was thrown out, as it did not pertain to what was going on anymore. So why not the second amendment? There’s no intruders in the states that citizens are going to go hunt down, and the government has not become tyrannical (part of the reason for the second amendment, if the government ever became a dictatorship the people could rebel). The only people this right should belong to are those of the militia, as stated in the amendment. Just like the right to free speech, the government can limit people’s right to bear arms.

Only the most extreme pro-gun advocate would argue that a paroled violent offender with a standing restraining order to keep away from his ex-wife has the right to carry a fully-automatic machine gun. But similarly, only the most extreme anti-gun advocates believe that people should not be allowed to carry single-shot rifles when hunting deer on their own land.

If someone claims that the 2nd amendment gives them the right to carry a concealed weapon, they are full of it. You should ask them to point to the language in the 2nd amendment that specifically allows for concealed carry but prohibits violent felons owning machine guns. We have to keep in mind that people who wrote the second amendment owned slaves and oppressed women. Times were much different when the constitution was written, and things have changed since then. We no longer have slaves. Women have equal rights. There’s no longer a need to carry a weapon.

There is especially no need to carry a thirty-clip weapon. Incidents like Columbine or Sandy Hook could have been much less catastrophic if the men had to take time to stop to reload. This is what happened with the Gabby Gifford’s shooting. The assailant, Jared Lee Loughner, shot down nine people, injuring eighteen total, and was only stopped when he had to take a moment to reload his weapon and was tackled to the ground by a bystander, who was injured in doing so. This attack could have been much, much worse if he had had a larger clip. I cannot see a reason why someone would need a clip larger than ten for hunting or protection. Lowering the amount of rounds a gun can hold could easily lower the amount of deaths in the US.

Let me paint you a picture: Chris, a five year old boy living in a small suburban neighborhood, gets off the school bus after a fun day in class. He goes into his house where his mom stands. She asks how his day was, he says “fine”, she asks what he did, he says “nothing” and he goes to his room to play. After a while he gets bored and decides to explore his house a little. He goes into his parents’ bedroom, a place he’s been a hundred times early in the morning to snuggle up with his mom and dad, and starts looking around. Eventually he finds his way to the closet, and inside he finds a box. He opens the box, curious, and finds a handgun. He’s never seen one before and wonders what it does, so he fiddles around with it. All of the sudden, BAM, the gun goes off. Chris’ mother runs to the room only to see a pool of blood coming from the closet, and comes to the horrible realization that her only child is dead.

This may seem drastic, but it happens more often then you’d think. In the New England Journal of Medicine a study was put out that found 18 children die from gun related incidents every day. This makes guns the second leading cause of death in young people – twice the number of deaths from cancer. I find that to be a staggering number coming from a well developed first world country. I read an article the other day about a doctor, who were haunted by the death of one of her patients, a twelve year old boy who went on an errand for his mother and was caught in the cross-fire of a gun battle. The boy had shortly before written a letter to his mother expressing his desire to become a doctor.

Help End Hunger

Dear Gabriel,

Imagine the heartbreak of parents who know their child might be the next to die. In many areas of the world, parents do not even name their babies because their likelihood of surviving infancy is so low.

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We can create a world where NO child dies of hunger.

Despite major progress in stopping the spread of killer diseases, hunger is still the root cause of millions of childhood deaths. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and globalized, hunger will reach unprecedented levels. The good news is that hunger is preventable and we have access to the solution. The quest to end hunger simply requires arming people with a sustainable source of food and income.

So let’s commit to making a difference for these children and their parents. It will only take you 5 seconds to sign the petition but you can save a child’s life.

Sharanya_newsletterThank you for taking action,

Sharanya P.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Dolphin Deaths in US

Dear Gabriel,

Did you know that dolphins are being killed right off our shores?

You haven’t seen it in the newspaper, but it’s true. In the northeast US alone, around 600 dolphins – some of the smartest, most playful animals in the world — were caught by fishing nets in just the last year.

And that is just in one place. This is happening wherever people fish. We are working to cut these tragic deaths, but we need your help.

Free dolphins from fishing nets. Tell the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect dolphins and the ocean»

One of the worst offenders are gillnets: weighted walls of mesh that sink to the ocean floor and trap everything large enough to get its fins caught in the net – and far too often, that means dolphins.

We need more eyes on the ocean to count the number of dolphins caught and killed – and that’s where you come in.

We are working to ensure that fishery managers minimize the deaths of dolphins and other marine mammals, count the dolphins they do catch, and stay within the set limits. We need your help to tell the government that we simply can’t stand by and let dolphins drown in fishermen’s nets.

Dolphins have complex brains and human-like levels of self-awareness. They are suffering – and we can’t let it happen anymore.

If we all make our voices heard, we can minimize these deaths. Tell the US government to free dolphins from fishing nets»

For the oceans,
Emily Fisher
Oceana

Illegal Invasion of Iraq

From Nation of Change and New America Media
22 December 2011

Ethnic Media Take Sober Look at U.S. Intervention in Iraq

When the last American troops pulled out of Iraq last week, Univision anchor and commentator Jorge Ramos tweeted in Spanish, “The last soldier is leaving Iraq, an unnecessary war, invented by Bush, that cost more than 100,000 lives and $1 trillion.” In another tweet, Ramos wrote in Spanish, “The war in Iraq is ending but you have to remember that no weapons of mass destruction were found there and that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.”

In the wake of the end of the Iraq war, U.S. ethnic media are taking a sober look at the last nine years of American military intervention in Iraq, and the meaning of the war in each of their communities.

The Iraq war will be remembered as “an incomprehensible war whose repercussions will continue for a long time,” according an editorial in Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión looking back at the eight and a half years of U.S. military intervention in Iraq that ended last week.

The editorial argues that the Iraq war, a legacy of the George W. Bush administration, was built on “endless arrogance that led to denials of reality, deliberate lies and deep judgment errors.” The war itself, editors write, has done more harm than good, leading to losses in human lives, money and geopolitical uncertainty.

An op-ed in New York’s Spanish-language El Diario/La Prensa, called “A Vain Victory in Iraq,” explains the reason for this: “We continue fighting terrorists because they never were in Iraq, preferring to have their base in the lawless lands of Afghanistan and their alliances with the authorities of Pakistan. We continue to fear nuclear weapons, and that’s because Saddam Hussein wasn’t the problem; Iran and Pakistan are to blame. Israel still has enemies. And if there is a flourishing democracy in the region, it is thanks to the popular movements in Tunisia and Egypt, not our military adventure in Iraq.”

“War is a dirty business,” the commentator wrote for El Diario/La Prensa. “For a war to have popular support, the leaders of a democracy like the U.S. need to use illusions. That’s why the authors of the war in Iraq – especially President Bush and Vice President Cheney – promised us a miracle. The bombs would explode. And as the smoke dissipated, we would contemplate a simpler and less threatening world.”

That wasn’t exactly what happened, the writer concluded. “The bombs exploded. But today we hear sobs. And what we see is smoke as usual.”

Arab-American media, meanwhile, were not convinced that the withdrawal of American troops meant the end of military intervention in the region.

Ahemd Tharwat, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis and host of the local Arab-American TV program BelAhdan, called the U.S. troop withdrawal “an empty symbol.”

“The war was a huge mistake,” he said. “It was costly and unnecessary, and I don’t know if we can recover from it.”

Fatima Bakhit, publisher of the Los Angeles-based weekly newspaper Al Enteshar Al Arabi, echoed Tharwat’s disappointment and concern over the future of Iraq.

“The withdrawal is a joke,” Bakhit said. “It is just showing that America can realize its promise of ‘withdrawing,’” but, she said, “the American presence and influence will continue in Iraq.”

Bakhit noted that while “everyone has sadly paid a price in the war, Iraq is the biggest loser. The country has been completely destroyed as result of these nine years. And on top of that,” she said, “America’s relationship with the region, not just the country, has seriously worsened and will not improve.”

Media from the Iranian diaspora worried that the vacuum left in the wake of the American withdrawal from Iraq could provide an opportunity for Iran to step in.

“Less than a week after American troops left, an earthquake-like crisis is growing rapidly in Iraq,” noted a writer for Iranian.com, a website that posts stories by the Iranian Diaspora. “Some folks had warned that Iran would move to replace the Americans while others said Iraqi nationalism would prevent that. It’s starting to look like the first group was right.”

“For now Khamenei [Supreme Leader of Iran] would be playing a role similar to Milosevic in Bosnia,” the writer predicts. “He would encourage sectarian dominance next door and–rather than send armies openly, he would ‘loan’ weapons, offer trainers and send well armed ‘volunteers,’ stripped of their usual uniforms as the regime did in once prosperous Lebanon.”

Vietnamese Bayvut.com, based in Australia, also worried that Americans’ departure from Iraq could cause Iraq’s fragile democracy to disappear. Bayvut.com quotes a woman in Bagdad who said that she doesn’t “believe that real change has come. There are still bombings, assassinations, and the government is doing very little,” she said. “As for those who long for democracy in Iran, that hope has too dissipated with the Americans’ departure next door.”

Bao Moi newspaper, a Vietnamese Americans daily, adds that even as Iraqi citizens celebrate the departure of the U.S. military, “they are also worried regarding the new political fragmentation in their government that leads to issues of security and sovereignty of their country.”

Much of Korean media’s coverage of the Iraq war focused on South Korean businesses looking to take part in post-war reconstruction efforts.

An article in the Korea Herald from May celebrated the signing of a $7.25 billion contract between Hanhwa Engineering, one of South Korea’s largest developers, and Iraq’s National Investment Commission. The seven-year contract, which calls for the construction of a planned town 25 kilometers east of Baghdad, marks “the largest overseas construction project to be won by a Korean construction firm.”

Over its four-year presence in Iraq, South Korea dispatched some 19,000 mostly non-combat troops to the war-torn nation. The initial decision to take part in the effort proved controversial as most South Koreans opposed the war, though then President Roh Moo Hyun hoped to use it as leverage in efforts to move Washington toward a softer stance on North Korea.

As the war comes to an end, some Koreans are reflecting on the toll of the war for America. An editorial in the Korea Times notes that the nine-year conflict was fought on “false pretenses,” with the “misery and pain caused by the war far outweighing its glory.”

Paying a high price that included some 4,500 casualties, trillions of dollars spent and returning veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, the piece concluded that “in the end, the war sent America’s image abroad plunging.”

As American troops leave Iraq, some Chinese-American media outlets expressed concern that the U.S. military could take a renewed interest in China.

“The U.S. could redirect military resources from the Middle East to Asia, so that countries like South Korea and the Philippines, who are allies of the U.S., would receive more military support as the Iraq war ends,” said Joseph Leung, editor in chief of the Sing Tao Daily in San Francisco. “By directing more military resources to China’s neighboring countries, China’s development will be closely monitored by the U.S. and its allies in Asia.”

Chinese-American media also took a personal look at the families who have lost children in the war.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

Nane Alejandrez

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

In photo: Nane holding photos of brother Tavo and Leo’s headstones.

Nane Alejandrez

One by one they died . . . from drugs . . . from violence . . . from pain, hate and revenge. Nane’s oldest brother got wiped out when he was intentionally hit from behind on his motorcycle; his younger brother died from a heroin overdose; his uncle Pancheo was stabbed to death; numerous cousins succumbed to drugs or were murdered; and his father died from an accumulation of life-long exposure to pesticides, alcoholism and a blow to the head with a baseball bat during a gang fight. That Nane survived to tell his story is a miracle in and of it’s self. He crashed and burned many times, but never gave up. His struggle continues, for his own life and that of the young men and women caught in the madness.

Mr. Alejandrez is now director of Barrios Unidos (Communities United), was instrumental in convening a national gang summit for peace and has received countless awards and recognition for his work in teaching and living non-violence. Barrios Unidos is a multi-cultural program whose mission is to prevent and curtail violence among youth, by providing alternatives such as the Cesar E. Chavez School For Social Change; outreach to youth clubs, parent groups, juvenile hall and kids on the street; and community economic development by operating a full service, custom silk screening business called BU Productions, where youth learn production, sales, marketing, design and administration skills.

NANE:

I’ve seen so many families get torn apart and so many men, especially men, go into hate and revenge and take somebody else’s life. Not thinking about what it’s going to do to the rest of the family. All the violence and anger . . . and a lot of us being brought up to not show any pain . . . to not let people know . . . so we act out, even at times when we don’t want to.

When I acted out I didn’t really want to, but I did it to show that I was looking out for the neighborhood; for the honor of my family. It felt like I wasn’t punking out. If you didn’t do nothing then someone else would think, “Oh well, kill one of those family members and nobody will do anything about it.” So the family would look at each other and say, “Who’s going to do something about it?” – That whole system of payback; trying to keep an image that causes a lot of pain. It’s easier to do that then to deal with your pain.

One thing I’ve learned throughout the years, is I wish somebody would have talked to me about pain and how to deal with it; how to not inflict pain. I learned how to numb it by using drugs and violence, which removed me from feeling it and kept my feelings busy on something else. That worked for a while, but what began to happen was the addiction started taking over. No longer was it about feelings; it was just being well. Surviving and the excitement of breaking the law and running with the home boys . . . you know . . . rebelling, not conforming. I didn’t know anybody that was dealing with it.

People would say, “It’s OK, everything’s going to be all right.” I’d say, “How do you know everything’s going to be all right, when I’m feeling like shit?! You tell me everything’s going to be all right, but that guy over there’s laughing at what he did to my family. Why shouldn’t I go do it to his family?” And then other people would just say, “Go out and take care of it.” They think, “Why isn’t he doing anything? Why doesn’t he take one of their people out?”

There’s that whole thing of not believing in a higher power. I said, “How can this God take my loved ones away? How can He allow it to happen . . . to take my heroes?” The heroes in my life were taken away in a short period of time. The heroes to me were my father, my Uncle Frank and my oldest brother.

After losing all these relatives I was still using drugs a lot of the time. When my father had his operation I was strung out and unemployed. Here I was having graduated from the university with honors and I was really down. When I went to see him in the hospital I was loaded. I went into intensive care. My aunt was there and we went into see him. There were five individuals in intensive care and you know a lot of people that go in there don’t come out. They told me he was all bandaged up and swollen and it would be hard to recognize him. I go in there and start to talk to my father and tell him how much I love him, how much I care about him, my aunts at the end of the bed rubbing his feet. I’m saying, “You’re going to be OK. I love you Dad.” Then my other aunt comes in and says, “Alejandrez is over here.” I look and say, “Wow man!” I was talking to the wrong man. (laughs) I was talking to another man two beds down from my father. My aunt let go of his feet and yelled! I could hear the rest of my family laughing, even in a situation like that, they were laughing. They were going, “Nane’s over there talking to another man.” I swear to God I felt like disappearing. If my father could talk he would have said, “I’m over here stupid!” or “Pendejo en estoy!” So I had to move from that bed to my Dad’s bed and repeat everything. That’s how fucked up I was. That’s an example of the madness. It took me about a year after my father died to really let go of that.

After all these deaths, when I really wanted to clean myself up, I was able to see a friend of mine who was clean. He’s now one of my best friends. We had used together in the past, so when I saw him clean I saw the possibility. He was looking good. I’d gotten busted and was going to court and he would show up in the courts. Every time I had a court date he’d be there supporting me.

Finally I just couldn’t do it no more. My family . . . my children . . . I wasn’t doing anymore talks. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I’d gotten so deep I couldn’t maintain. And I didn’t want to be doing stuff when I was loaded. I hid my addiction a lot. When it got to the point were I couldn’t do that anymore I asked for help. When I asked him for support he was there. Once I got clean and got the drugs out of my system I started to feel a lot of the pain.

I think I was always a spiritual person but I got side tracked. I got more involved in my traditional ways . . . my indigenous background . . . knowing that it was OK to pray. I’d go around with a lot of Native American teachers and prayer was always there. So I started to pray and go to NA (narcotics anonymous) and they always ended the meeting with a prayer. I began to feel different. My work started coming out again and I was really happy. I was seeing the faces of children and I told myself, “If I’m going to do this I need to do it right.” I need to be clean and I can’t be backsliding. I got more involved in my work and my self. It took a long time to do that again.

I’ve been gifted, you know, in certain situations where things were going to happen . . . by me being there . . . and the respect they have for me. Because I have been through a lot and they could sense it, it stopped it from happening again. People know that this is what I’ve been talking about for the last twenty years. “Stop the violence! Stop the violence!” Even through my madness I’ve stuck with it. People my age always tell me that that’s what they admire about me . . . that I’ve always stuck with it. It’s been hard. There’s been a lot of pain. People ask, “Why would you want to stay in a situation where you’re dealing with so much pain?” But at the same time there’s so much hope . . . the smiles on the kids. They’ve got this place, they’ve got a job, people that look like themselves running it. They got inspiration that maybe someday they’ll be doing it.

CONTINUED

Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

Paging Doctor Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest

The following excerpt is from Paging Doctor Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest. Paging Doctor Leff is the biography of an idealistic boy from New York who joined the Civil Air Patrol for God and country and never looked back. Dr. Arnie Leff, MD has fought many wars, overseas and at home. He stood up to his superiors in the Air Force during Viet Nam; locked horns with corporations and state bureaucracies as health commissioner of Cincinnati; jumped into the trenches at the beginning of the AIDS pandemic; and has pulled no punches with his often controversial opinions about drugs, euthanasia, health care and medical marijuana. He is presently a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

***

In 1986, people were just starting to feel their way through the dark when it came to understanding and treating AIDS.

Dr. Leff, who had been in public health for over 20 years (as an officer in Viet Nam, director of the Cincinnati Public Health Department and Cincinnati free clinics) decided to go into private practice for the first time in his life. This was no easy leap of faith and involved a different kind of personal responsibility than he was used to.

“I found a doctor on Seabright Avenue in the city of Santa Cruz, Dr. Blackwell, who at 80 years of age was still running a large geriatric practice. He was going to retire soon and let me use his office in the afternoons,” Arnie says. “Before I even left the health department, a man named Ray Martinez walked in my door and said, ‘I hear you’re going into private practice. I want to be your first patient.’ Ray had AIDS, and he became my first patient with HIV.”

After Dr. Blackwell retired, Dr. Leff took on many of his elderly patients and an ever-increasing number of people with AIDS. “I became the ‘AIDS doctor’ and was in the trenches for over eight years,” says Dr. Leff. “It was like a war. People got tested, discovered they were HIV Positive, and went through hell trying to stay alive and figure out what worked and what didn’t.”

In those days there was little information about AIDS, but Dr. Leff scoured the literature and spoke with everyone who knew anything about the disease. “I had to learn it all,” he says. “The first report I saw was in the New England Journal of Medicine about Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia. These two diseases are very uncommon except in immune compromised people, and the Kaposi sarcoma was uncommon period. At first they thought it was a gay related immune disorder and called it GRID (Gay Related Immune Disorder). It took about five years for everybody to figure out how big the problem was and that it was not restricted to gay men, even though they were the primary people affected in the U.S. at that time. It wasn’t until about 1984 or ’85 that we had a blood test to identify it.

“So, I had a lot of public health background and obtained what knowledge of the disease I could, but had no clinical experience in treating it. In fact, I had little clinical knowledge at all. I was really jumping into boiling oil when I took this on. It was like I was a baby thrown to the wolves, but in this case the wolves took me in, protected me, and helped me learn what I needed to know to survive and help them survive, as long as possible. It was quite a shift from seeing 20 people a month [his last major clinical experience, when he saw police officers in Cincinnati] to 20 people a day.

“In the beginning of the epidemic, it was primarily oncologists who saw AIDS patients, because it manifested with Kaposi sarcoma, which is a cancer. Now, that is rarely seen. After a brief period, however, the oncologists passed on their AIDS patients because they didn’t know how to treat all the other underlying symptoms. There were also a few infectious disease docs in town treating the disease, but a number of gay men had problems with their attitudes and bedside manner. Because of these realities and concerns, I became the defacto ‘AIDS doc’ in town. I kept up on the literature and frequently spoke with Paul Volberding, who is now a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, but at the time was the director of the AIDS clinic at San Francisco General.”

“We had all these young patients whose immune systems were shot, but were otherwise healthy,” Dr. Leff says. “The dying process for these patients was very difficult. We had hospice services at the time, but they were learning along with the rest of us about what worked and what didn’t. During those years, I believe I made more referrals to hospice than any doctor in the county, other than oncologists.

“The physical challenges were staggering. Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease that occurs in the Midwest. It is like a flu. Most people get it, don’t feel well for awhile, and then recover. Candida is a disseminating yeast that can effect healthy people, but is not life threatening. For people with AIDS, both Histoplasmosis and Candida were deadly. We also saw them picking up meningitis from a fungal disease, as well as lymphomas and central nervous system lesions (toxoplasmosis). To top it all off, many of those afflicted also developed dementias.

“I remember one patient who was admitted to the psychiatric unit at the hospital because he had HIV dementia. He couldn’t control himself or his bodily functions. He was a mess. We got him into a halfway house, but the mental health people refused to put him in their system. They said they couldn’t handle AIDS dementia because it was physical and not psychological. I told them the guy was clearly psychotic and had no place else to go. The nursing homes wouldn’t take him because he was psychotic, and the mental health folks wouldn’t take him because AIDS was his primary diagnosis. He wound up staying as an inpatient at Dominican Hospital for four and a half months. It was tragic; a young man living, most of the time able to ambulate, in the hospital for over four months, and dying there, too.

“That was some of the war-like quality the epidemic presented. I felt like I had to beat down some barriers, even if it took force. I spent eight years teaching every doctor in town, every specialist, nurse, x-ray tech, and health professional I could speak with, about AIDS. Some didn’t like it, some walked out, and some refused to treat them. It was frustrating and sad. I told them the truth that yes, they could possibly die from coming in contact with an infected needle, but that was already true in their profession; it was part of the risk they took every day already. I’ve had four or five needle sticks in my career. It was scary. I got myself tested again and again and again, to make sure.

“I was having enough trouble dealing with all the deaths and loss by itself, let alone having to continually confront a system that didn’t want to budge. I was having, on average, one patient a week dying from the disease. I probably had 50 or more deaths in one year. Some of those were geriatric patients as well, but it was enough to warrant a significant support system. When I first went into practice, there had only been one person who died of AIDS in the entire county.”

“People didn’t understand,” said Dr. Leff. “I was watching people die, and often there was nothing I could do about it. We had no treatment, no cure. It was the first major epidemic since Polio, which died out in the ‘60s, though in some areas it has now resurfaced. I saw myself as a soldier in the war against disease, and the reality was that there were casualties on both sides. The docs, the patients, the nurses, were all affected emotionally, if not physically. There continue to be casualties to this day.”

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