It’s the Wild West of the Coronavirus out there!

Coronavirus in Flickr Public Domain

Coronavirus (from Flickr.com in Public Domain, April 8, 2020)

It’s the Wild West of coronavirus out there, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up around here yet! In my previous blog post, immediately prior to this one, I explained that I am a counselor at a mental health facility in the Southeastern United States. Thankfully, especially in situations such as that happening right now with the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders and curfews, I have and been able to keep my part-time hours. However, the Wild West of coronavirus still puts every person at risk of getting it, particularly when people persist in not taking it seriously.

In my prior blog post, I stated that I was exposed to a colleague (who also works at another mental health hospital) who was exposed to a patient who had been hospitalized and in serious or critical condition due to the coronavirus. My exposure to this colleague occurred on March 29, 2020 when this colleague came to work, and we were in the same department office and he was using my desk in that office. I should also state that this colleague worked all day at our mutual workplace the day before that – March 28, 2020. Between those two days and his travels throughout the hospital, he exposed dozens of staff and patients to potential coronavirus. He was informed by his employer of potential exposure on March 29, and left our mutual workplace once informed.

On Monday, March 30, 2020, my colleague got tested for coronavirus, and yesterday, April 7, 2020, was informed that he tested positive for it. Thankfully and with great relief, my colleague has been asymptomatic, as per his reports. It is my understanding, however, that people who are asymptomatic can still (obviously) be carriers of coronavirus and can infect other people with it. It is also my understanding (as well as through my own observations on March 29) that my colleague who worked at our mutual workplace on the weekend of March 28-29 did not wear any protective equipment to prevent a potential spread of the coronavirus until after he stated he received a call from his employer about his potential exposure to it. Only after that call did my colleague begin wearing a surgical mask.

On March 29, I informed the charge nurse at the hospital of my colleague’s potential exposure to coronavirus, as well as my own exposure to this colleague. At that time, she informed the hospital’s nursing director about it. Yesterday, I was informed by my supervisor that staff who came into contact with this colleague do not need to be tested for coronavirus! This is per information from the Health Department, apparently! And, there was no word about informing patients at the hospital of their potential exposure to coronavirus.

So, here we are in the Wild West of the coronavirus, folks! You’re on your own. When you go to work in a healthcare facility, and if you’re a patient at a healthcare facility, you’re risking exposure to – or you’ve already been exposed to – coronavirus! You have to make your own decisions and you have to do your best to take care of yourself, as well as your own famiy. I would guess that there are those facilities such as my own workplace that are not requiring staff or patients to take extra precautions to prevent the infection or spread of coronavirus. I would estimate that there are healthcare facilities such as my own that do not require staff and/or patients to wear masks, gloves, or other personal protective equipment. Recall from my prior blog post that I purchased and have been wearing my own, and I was the first staff member at my facility that I observed to wear any PPE at all. And, to my knowledge, the department office in which I work was not cleaned or disinfected (any more than what it typically is) on the weekend that my colleague worked there, beyond what I cleaned with Lysol after he left.

That stated, I am very confident that I do not have the coronavirus, nor that I’ve passed it to my family. I do my very best to wear my own PPE at work all day, except for when I eat or drink something. When I arrive at home, I put my clothing and gloves in the laundry for washing. However, I have typically been using my N95 masks for an average of three days, which likely increases my exposure if the virus is on the outside of my masks. This is not the safest way to proceed, however I hope that it does extend the wearability of the masks that I have.

Our president is banking on social distancing to eliminate coronavirus in the United States, however so, so much more still needs to be done! Why aren’t factories churning out ventilators? Why doesn’t every person in America have masks and personal protective equipment? At least, if they don’t want to use it or wear it, it still should be made available to everyone, and in plentiful rather than limited supply. More testing for the coronavirus still needs to be done on a greater scale, and people who have coronavirus should not be prevented from being admitted to hospitals, and instead, be forced to stay in self-quarantine.

That’s all just not good enough. That’s not America. That’s not the United States that I know – doing less than the bare minimum in the hopes that our country will get through this. It’s not enough to just get through it. It’s not enough to just have faith – we need intelligent action, too. We should be putting absolutely all of our efforts into eradicating this horrific virus rather than allowing an inept federal administration to continue contributing to the deaths of so many people as a result of delays, denials, and inaction. This is a killer virus not to be taken lightly. In short, more needs to be done to stop the Wild West of the coronavirus!

American Mental Healthcare Facilities are Woefully Unprepared for Coronavirus

Protecting Against Coronavirus 3-30-20

My Coronavirus Gear

I work as a counselor at an acute mental healthcare facility in the Southeastern United States. I love what I do, but what I’ve observed during the past one month is that acute mental healthcare in the United States is woefully unprepared to tackle the coronavirus. Mental healthcare is something that we’re not hearing much of anything about during this crisis because of the focus on medical care, though protective precautions for patients and employees in the mental healthcare industry – particularly acute, long-term, and residential facilities – must be addressed and improved.

On Friday, March 6, 2020, I began wearing my own N95 masks – that I bought from eBay sellers – to work. I paid a high price for the masks, but it was worth it. I was the first employee (to my knowledge) to wear any type of mask at my place of employment, due to my own coronavirus precautions. Beginning on Friday, March 20, 2020, I also added cotton gloves to my arsenal of gear, also purchased from a vendor on eBay. Keep in mind that I’m not sick, and I’m doing whatever possible to stay that way with having to go to work.

Medical and healthcare policies toward protecting patients and staff from potential coronavirus exposure and infection need improvement in American mental health facilities. Only last week did my facility begin requiring employees to get temperature checks before entering any units. Each person is on their honor to now do their own temperature check and log the correct temperature. No medically-qualified staff are present when this occurs, nor to confirm the results. It may also be a good idea to have staff check their temperatures prior to leaving work, as well, though that has not yet been required.

Patients coming into my facility from other hospitals are generally already wearing masks that they’ve gotten from the previous facility. Only last week did my hospital begin supplying surgical masks to those patients and staff who ask for them. My understanding is that there is a low supply. More and more staff during the course of the past one month are wearing masks, including a few wearing N95 masks, and the majority wearing surgical masks. I would estimate, however, that not even one-quarter of the staff who work at my hospital during the day are wearing masks.

Yesterday, I wore an N95 mask for 14 hours. I wore it for 8.5 hours at work, and also for the rest of the day, including at home. I would ordinarily only wear the mask while at work, but yesterday, I was exposed to a staff member who was exposed to a patient at his other hospital who is in serious, if not critical, condition due to the coronavirus. I did inform two supervisors about it, and I wiped my department office down with Lysol since this colleague was also using my desk. Today, my work colleague got tested. When I checked-in with him, he stated to me that he has to wait 5-7 days for results and stay quarantined for 14 days. There was also a patient on the unit I was assigned to who was sent out to a medical hospital, yesterday, due to potential coronavirus symptoms. So, while I wasn’t exposed to that patient, I was exposed to staff who were exposed to that patient. Thankfully, I wear my mask and gloves at work for everything except eating and drinking, so I hope I’m safe from being infected.

Today, I’ve already worn the same N95 mask for 12 hours that I wore yesterday. I’m taking precautions to protect my family in case I have the coronavirus. I also washed in the laundry today three pairs of cotton gloves that I’ve been wearing – while also continuing to wear another pair. I figure that if I have coronavirus symptoms, they’ll start to appear within about three days, from what I’ve read. By Wednesday evening, I should know one way or the other.

Of course, I’m also doing social distancing, both at work and at home, while also wearing my mask and gloves. I’m also doing my laundry after work, as well as running the dishwasher to keep dishes clean. In the shower, I’m using latex gloves and I’m not keeping my soap in the soap dish, so no one else uses it. I’m also wearing latex gloves while cooking for my family. Hopefully, all of this will help prevent this ravaging virus from infecting me and my family!

I’ve been saying for weeks at work that everyone – including patients and staff – needs to wear masks. At my facility, that has not been encouraged to say the least, though I hope it will be in the near future for everyone’s protection. Everyone in facilities throughout the United States needs to wear masks, and if they’re not already wearing gloves, to wash their hands often and sanitize their areas as much as possible. We don’t know everything there is to know about this virus, though what we do know is scary and tragic. Too many people have already been lost to this horrible pandemic. People in the United States – and around the world – need to take coronavirus much more seriously, including mental healthcare professionals – for our own welfare as well as that of everyone we treat!

 

Visiting Ruby Falls in Chattanooga

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Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN, November 26, 2019

I can’t believe that almost one year has passed since I’ve made my last post on WordPress!

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A ceiling view inside Ruby Falls Cave, November 26, 2019

My family and I have been extremely busy this year, and the time has really flown by at an incredible speed – much faster than usual, I’d say.

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Formations that resemble tobacco leaves. Ruby Falls Cave, November 26, 2019

It has been a great year, however, and my son and I took a couple of days to enjoy the sites in Chattanooga during Thanksgiving vacation.

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Another ceiling view inside Ruby Falls Cave. Notice that some of the formations have been broken off in the past. Tourists were told that people did that in the 1930s during the Great Depression to sell them for money. November 26, 2019

Posted here are some pictures I took while inside the Ruby Falls Cave on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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A formation resembling a leaning tower. Ruby Falls Cave. November 26, 2019

I had never been there before, so I was pleasantly surprised and awed by its beauty.

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Formation that looks like an elephant’s foot inside Ruby Falls Cave. November 26, 2019

I’ve toured a few caves in the past, but this is one of the best I’ve seen!

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A famous formation in Ruby Falls Cave that people are allowed to touch. November 26, 2019

Please enjoy the pictures, although they don’t do it justice.

Perspectives on Honor and Dishonor (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

There are many countries, particularly in Asia, in which honor is taken very seriously, even too seriously.  In Japan or Korea, for examples, there are many instances of men taking their own lives due to what many in those nations have considered to be failures, particularly if losses of innocent lives have been involved under their leadership.  In fact, it seems that it is even an expectation for men and/or women who have been viewed as failures, particularly when harm or death has come to others as a result, to take their own lives.  It appears that such people who have taken their own lives as a result of these particular instances do so because of their feelings of honor and dishonor.  It seems that there is the expectation that they should take their own lives as a result of actions that may have been considered dishonorable.

Pakistani Activists Performing Honor Killing Skit to Protest 2008 Honor Killings of Women (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/column/the-link-s-top-stories/pakistani-family-fears-honour-killing/)

Pakistani Activists Performing Honor Killing Skit to Protest 2008 Honor Killings of Women (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/column/the-link-s-top-stories/pakistani-family-fears-honour-killing/)

In several middle eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, for examples, as well as in countries such as India and Afghanistan, women and girls are expected to remain covered and/or virginal until marriage, according to cultural and/or religious dictates.  If a woman of such culture is raped, however, she is typically blamed and punished, often being disowned by her family, the very people who should be supportive of her.  When a woman is raped in such cultures, society places the burden on her and dictates that she has been dishonorable rather than the man or men who raped her.  Often, then, her family is unsupportive of her and/or may disown her because of her culture’s views that blame, punish, and even torture and kill women for being a victim.  Such killings are known as “honor killings,” however they only bring dishonor to those who have done the killing.  Little or nothing is heard, however, about the man or men bringing dishonor to themselves for perpetrating such crimes.  How often do they get away with it, only to do it again and get away with it again?

Afghan Qamar Jan Survived Attempted Honor Killing When she was Burned by her Fiance (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.judiciaryreport.com/british_muslim_couple_murdered_in_honor_killing.htm)

Afghan Qamar Jan Survived Attempted Honor Killing When she was Burned by her Fiance (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.judiciaryreport.com/ british_muslim_couple_murdered_in_honor_killing.htm)

Three hundred years ago, in the United States, questions of honor – at least among men of European descent who considered themselves “honorable” – may have been settled by a duel.  If one man believed he was dishonored by another, he could challenge that man to a duel.  In a duel, it was the accepted notion within society that the man who won the duel by killing his counterpart was, therefore, “the better man.”  To me, this is not necessarily correct.  That one man may have won a sword battle by killing another man reflects only that he may have been more skilled in wielding the sword.  To me, for anyone to challenge another to a fight to the death simply for believing he was “dishonored” does not value the other’s life.  Therefore, is it worth killing another or taking one’s own life in regard to questions or concerns about honor?  I think not.

Today, however, very different views exist in the United States about honor and dishonor.  One may even ask whether or not honor is a quality that is at all considered of high value in American culture and society.  In the United States (as in other countries, as well), there are those who dishonor themselves by having affairs.  There are those who dishonor, not only themselves, but their spouses and/or children when they divorce their spouses for situations and/or issues that they, themselves, contributed to and/or worsened.  There are people who dishonor their children by hurting and abusing them; in doing so, they also dishonor themselves.

Crime victims (particularly rape and sexual trauma survivors) are often quick to be dishonored by the harassment and/or bullying of others, which may, in turn, cause them to take their own lives.  In society, in general, women are not honored when they do not experience the respect, equality, and/or privilege that most men seem to typically give, unquestioningly, to other men.  Children are not honored when they have no voice and are simply told what to do, how to feel, how to act.  People with disabilities are not honored when parking spaces are occupied by vehicles that are not legally allowed to be there.  Female (and male) military service members and veterans are not honored when they seek treatment for PTSD as a result of sexual trauma experienced by their colleagues, and are denied such treatment, thus being blamed and revictimized.

I am familiar with situations in which wealthy American men of influence and power have traumatized women and girls by sexually harassing them and/or committing other acts of sexual misconduct against them for decades.  Such men may have performed such actions against various girls and/or women across generations, getting away with it because their wealth, power, influence, and privilege have always allowed them to get away with it.  Not only do they get away with it, but they discredit their victims, spread false information and ill repute about their victims, and do whatever they can to cover up their wrongdoing, cause their victims to be ostracized, and save their own skin.  Because of their powerful status in the community, state, nation in which they live, however, most people hold them in high regard and are unable to believe that any of them could possibly commit such acts.  These men have, therefore, dishonored not only themselves, but their families, their communities, their churches, and their businesses.

Say NO to Sexual Harassment Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://anujamishraa.blogspot.com/2012/09/break-your-silence.html)

Say NO to Sexual Harassment Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://anujamishraa.blogspot.com/ 2012/09/break-your-silence.html)

What is sad, then, is that most people seem to be unable to see below the surface of these situations, or even to care about them, and/or attempt to change them for the better.  When such situations are discussed, many avoid taking on these issues because they cause controversy.  This often includes legal counsel and/or the legal system.  How can a poor, albeit educated and intelligent woman be successful in bringing a lawsuit against men who have prominence and power in a state or nation?  Further still, what about a girl who has experienced such situations by men of wealth and power?  It just doesn’t happen, and if it is attempted, the female is discredited and portrayed as the liar, seductress, villainess, while the men are innocently reflected as having done no wrong.  While the men don’t realize it, and likely even deny it, as a result of these situations, they have dishonored themselves.

So, my remaining question is to wonder if it is, indeed, correct to believe that there is little or no recourse for victims and/or survivors of the above-described situations?  Those who create, provoke, and perform such situations are those who, typically, seem to get away with them.  While mainstream society may hold them in high esteem, and/or they may obtain success in defending themselves through the legal system, they have still dishonored themselves by being dishonest and by behaving dishonorably.

Ghandi Forgiveness Quote and Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-mechanics-of-forgiveness/)

Gandhi Forgiveness Quote and Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-mechanics-of-forgiveness/)

People who are honorable lead in the footsteps of goodness and righteousness.  They lead by example.  Honorable people place value in the lives of others; they do what they can to help and support those who most need it; they recognize where they have been wrong, and seek to correct and improve themselves.  People who are honorable are also forgiving, but also learn to protect themselves from those who are dishonorable as a result of their experiences.  It is honorable to be good and forgiving, though it is also honorable to help oneself so that he or she is not further victimized.

People who are dishonorable care only about themselves.  It seems that they, often, cannot see the harm that they create, nor do they care.  And, when confronted about it, they do not take responsibility for it, but instead do whatever they can to deny it, cover it up, and further harm, discredit, and dishonor their victims.  I have observed and experienced this reflected in people who bully others.  I have observed and experienced this reflected in those who sexually traumatize others.  I have observed and experienced this to occur in people who tend to be narcissistic, arrogant, and who believe that they are always correct, and that their way is the only way.  While these people may not realize it, they have dishonored themselves.  Contrary to their faulty thinking, it is not their victims who have dishonored themselves.

Globe and Figures (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://heartofsigma.org/autism/)

Globe and Figures (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://heartofsigma.org/autism/)

Therefore, it is important that people look below the surface of interactions, communications, and situations.  Sometimes, it is important to analyze, research, investigate, and become better-informed about people and situations before making decisions and/or judgments about others that may be incorrect.  It is important for society to realize and recognize that, just because people may appear “honorable” does not mean that they are.  Especially in the United States, where wealth, power, status, and privilege are held so highly by society, it is imperative for people to look below the surface, to recognize that people may not be as good as they seem.  It is also important for people to recognize that some situations, on the surface, may appear to be the fault of the victim, but were really created by the one in power, even years or decades prior to things coming to the surface.

As a person of honor, I appeal to others to view and consider as many possibilities about a particular situation as they can, and then to also investigate to know and understand the true background of such situations by looking below the surface, prior to coming to a conclusion that may be incorrect, and before making a misjudgment that characterizes the victim as the offender, when it may really be the other way around.  I ask people in our society to consider the true nature of such situations so that they may be understood and revealed.  Only then will the honor of those who are truly honorable be known.

Bullying, Abuse, and Suicide Risk Among Students: Ignorance is Bliss for Disbelievers (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, a man commented on one of my blog posts that I made last year regarding a particular school in which bullying (and worse) occurred by children and adults toward other children.  What was so shocking to me was that the man basically stated that he was physically abused by religious at a parochial school during his childhood, and he inferred that children should currently be treated more harshly (infer more abuse and violence) than what they already endure in many schools.  In responding to the man – and seeking to provide information for his understanding of the seriousness of the issue – I stated to him that bullying, abuse, and violence is extremely serious in the United States.  The United States has the highest child mortality rate of any Western country.  And, in the United States, Texas is the state with the highest single mortality rate (about 4%) of any state.

Why isn’t the American public outraged about that?!  Why do more people not stand up for and protect children, nor seek to listen to, hear, and understand them?  Why is it so easy for so many people to minimize, overlook, ignore, and discredit children?  It is no wonder that so many children and youth commit suicide when they do not receive the assistance and/or protection that they need from their families – or other adults, and then, experience bullying, abuse, and/or violence at school.  Children and youth are so vulnerable.  They are growing and developing, and are going through stages of their lives in which they are most fragile.

Too many people believe that children and youth should be harmed – and then, they call it discipline or disciplinary action.  Children and youth need support, care, kindness, understanding, and compassion.  How does American society expect children to grow and develop in a healthy manner when many of their role models, teachers, coaches, and/or other adults bully and harm them?  What is worse in a Catholic or religious faith-based school is when the expectation is that children are to be valued and appreciated, but are bullied and harmed by many of the very adults who are charged with protecting them.  The situation is not restricted to faith-based schools, but is present in all too many schools in the United States, both public and private.

I believe that much of the issue relates to the toleration, acceptance, encouragement, and promotion of violence – particularly media violence – within our culture.  So many television shows, movies, and other programs that have been deemed “entertainment” are so horrific that I have rarely watched them, now, over a period of many years.  Yet, for many people, the more violence they view, the more they want.  It is as if there is a competition in the United States in media and entertainment to produce more and more violent shows and movies.  That would not occur if people did not spend so much money to view violence, to play violent video games, to participate in sports that are violent, etc.

Thus, I have broached a few more topics about which most people do not want to contemplate, talk about, or take action to prevent or eliminate.  These are, however, issues that must be brought into the open and discussed if there is any hope for improvement in regard to them within our culture.  One person who takes his or her life due to bullying and abuse is too many.  Yet, there are dozens of children and youth who commit suicide in the United States, with such deaths continually on the rise.  Last I knew, there were about 135 reported deaths due to suicide in the United States in one recent year.  There are likely many more that are not reported.  And, many of these children and youth who commit suicide have been bullied and harmed at school, by their peers and/or teachers.

I have taken the liberty to post several links regarding children and youth who have committed suicide in such circumstances so that the man who posted his comment, saying that my article was “stupid” can have a better understanding that when someone is dead, the situation is too late to improve – and is far from “stupid.”  For this man, ignorance is bliss.  Following, therefore, are just a few of the 100s of links on the Internet (in no particular order), all of which I retrieved on April 30, 2014, related to children and youth who have committed suicide due to bullying and/or abuse experienced at school from their peers and/or teachers:

“Bullied 10-year-old girl commits suicide.” http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Girl+Commits+Suicide+On+Camera&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=7A9D5FDFA0071FC8A1657A9D5FDFA0071FC8A165

“Suicide of Amanda Todd.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Amanda_Todd

“Suicide of Phoebe Prince.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Phoebe_Prince

“Suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamey_Rodemeyer  (One of my student teaching experiences was at a school that he attended, Heim Middle School, in the Williamsville (New York) Central School District.)

“Gay Ottawa teen who killed himself was bullied: Jamie Hubley was a figure skater and the only openly gay boy in his school.”  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/gay-ottawa-teen-who-killed-himself-was-bullied-1.1009474

“Suicide of Kelly Yeomans.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Yeomans

“Girl commits suicide after boyfriend sends her naked photos to fellow students, Family receives $154K from school.” http://news.asiantown.net/r/26323/Girl-commits-suici–100-e-after-boyfriend-sends-her-nak–101-d-photos-to-fellow-students–Family-receives–154K-from-school

“Girls, 12 and 14, arrested in death of bullied Florida girl who killed herself.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/15/girls-12-and-14-arrested-in-death-bullied-florida-girl-police-say/

“How a cell phone picture led to a girl’s suicide.”  http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/10/07/hope.witsells.story/index.html

“Georgia middle-schooler commits suicide after bullying, being called ‘snitch,’ dad says.”  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/05/17616979-georgia-middle-schooler-commits-suicide-after-bullying-being-called-snitch-dad-says?lite

“Bullying allegations probed after boy, 15, commits suicide after first day of school.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/29/bullying-allegations-probed-after-boy-15-commits-suicide-after-first-day-school/

“Anti-gay bullying cited in Georgia teen’s suicide.”  http://www.projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/anti-gay_bullying_cited_in_georgia_teens_suicide

“My bullied son’s last day on Earth.”  http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/23/bullying.suicide/  (It is difficult to believe this already happened five years ago; I remember the news about it.)

“Ex-teacher gets 30 days for rape of girl, 14; judge says she was ‘older than her chronological age.’ ”  http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/ex-teacher_gets_30_days_for_sex_with_student_14_judge_says_she_was_older_th/  (I am aware that the National Organization for Women made a formal complaint against the judge in this case, desiring his removal as a result of the sentence that he gave this man.  The girl committed suicide.)

“Teacher Kidnaps, Rapes Boy.”  http://abcnews.go.com/US/video?id=7390696

“Mary Kay Letourneau.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kay_Letourneau

“Columbine High School massacre.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre

These 17 articles represent at least 29 people who died, either by suicide or homicide, in relation to bullying and/or abuse by peers, or abuse by teachers.  The articles also represent at least two other survivors of abuse who remain living.  The victims and survivors in each of these articles are reason enough why bullying and abuse must be taken more seriously, and be prevented and eliminated, especially in our schools.  Hopefully, the man who commented on a different one of my blog posts in relation to this issue no longer views it as “stupid.” 😦

As a result of the comments made by the particular man in regard to a prior post relating to these issues, I have been inspired to create a new LinkedIn group, “Stop Youth Suicide.”  I created the group today, and promoted it within 30 LinkedIn groups, and invited 70 people on LinkedIn from around the world to join.  Six fellow LinkedIn members – most of whom are mental health professionals – have already joined the group as of 5:30 PM Eastern Time today.  I have also promoted the group on Twitter, and will continue to do so.  Today, I have also gained additional followers and “likes” on Twitter as a result of creating this group.  (As of 1:30 PM Eastern Time on May 4, 2014, there are 55 members of the group!)

The comments made by the particular man – and the thoughts and attitudes of so many regarding these issues – definitely reflect the need for increased understanding, sensitivity, compassion, and support toward children and youth, especially those who are contemplate, attempt, and/or commit suicide as a result of bullying and abuse, that which is especially experienced at school from peers and adults.

Poorest People Still Left Behind in American Healthcare Coverage, Including Medicaid (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

I am a person who is an advocate for universal healthcare coverage in the United States.  When President Barack Obama persistently pushed for the achievement of universal healthcare in the United States, I was definitely a supporter.  I think it is wonderful that people who so desperately need healthcare coverage in the United States are now able to receive it, in many areas of the country.

I, however, still do not have healthcare coverage.  Why?  My income falls below the federal government’s poverty level guidelines for who is eligible to receive universal healthcare.  And, my state, Georgia, has not expanded Medicaid for individuals and/or families who would otherwise be eligible to receive Medicaid due to income guidelines.

So, while there is universal healthcare coverage that is available in the United States, it is not available to me.  I have not had healthcare insurance coverage for about 4.5 years since becoming divorced.  Prior to that, I had healthcare coverage either through my employer and/or my spouse.  In 2009, I was employed with a company that guaranteed healthcare insurance coverage after working for several months; I was laid off before that time came.

For the past 4.5 years, I have paid out-of-pocket for all of my medical and healthcare-related expenses.  I have paid out-of-pocket for visits to my regular doctor, gynecologist, dentist, and optometrist.  I have also paid out-of-pocket for all of my prescriptions, laboratory work, and all other healthcare-related services and appointments.

Last year, after going five years without having an eye exam, I finally had one and got new glasses, with monies withdrawn from my retirement account.  This year, I have noticed further changes in my eyesight, but cannot afford to get my eyes checked, or get new glasses again, with having to pay out-of-pocket.

Typically, my gynecologist and dentist appointments cost me much more than any of my regular doctor appointments.  It has been several years since I went to my OBGYN, and my last mammogram was about five years ago.

Thankfully, most medical practitioners provide some sort of discount for people who pay out-of-pocket.  Such a discount is helpful, though there is a wide range in discount percentages, usually 5%-20%, as I’ve experienced.

When I lived in New York State, from the time I graduated from the University at Buffalo (December 1992), and was removed from my parents’ coverage, until I became employed full-time as a teacher in Georgia (August 2000), I did not have healthcare coverage.  Either my employers did not offer healthcare coverage, or they required at least one’s year’s employment with them before they provided it.  In the places in which I worked part-time, and/or left employment to obtain other employment within one year (typically, for a higher salary and the opportunity for better benefits), I did not have healthcare coverage.

To date, that makes a total of 12.5 years of my life that I have not had healthcare coverage.  After reading a newspaper article related to a lack of healthcare coverage in Georgia for individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid, I realized that I am not alone.  Misty Williams wrote “Ga.’s Medicaid call affects thousands,” being published in the April 6, 2014 issue of The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In her article, Williams stated, “Statewide, more than 400,000 of Georgia’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens have been left behind by the health care law that was supposed to benefit them the most.”  Because Georgia has not expanded Medicaid (and has, therefore, caused me to be ineligible for coverage, unless I am pregnant), all of these people are still without healthcare coverage.

Throughout the United States, there are 5.7 million people without healthcare coverage – because their states have not expanded Medicaid.  All of the seven states in the Deep South are included in the 24 (nearly half of the US!) states that have not expanded Medicaid.  A WhiteHouse.gov website put’s Georgia’s number of people without coverage at 478,000 – ranked third behind only Texas and Florida – for all those without healthcare coverage due to Medicaid not being expanded to cover them.

If I was younger and perhaps had more faith that an issue such as this would change, I would likely be highly upset about it.  But, now that I am older and somewhat wiser, it really comes as no surprise to me, and is actually a disappointment that people such as myself, who are in the greatest need of healthcare coverage, still do not have it – because they are too poor!

When I am driving on the road, I hope and pray that I am not involved in a serious vehicle collision that causes me bodily harm.  I hope and pray, and do my best to stay healthy, so that I do not acquire a serious illness or disease.  I am cautious and careful about what I eat and who I date, as well as about cleanliness and personal hygiene.

I try to stay as healthy and as well as possible in order to avoid being hospitalized for some situation or condition that could cause bankruptcy.  Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, situations cannot be avoided, and so, I continue to be aware, healthy, and do the best I can.  What I would really like is gainful, stable, and enjoyable full-time employment so that I can obtain and maintain healthcare coverage.

Lawmakers in Georgia – and in other states that have not expanded Medicaid – have truly let down those people such as myself who are so poor that they do not qualify for universal healthcare coverage, including Medicaid.  I thought that the idea behind establishing universal healthcare coverage was so that it would be universal.  Unfortunately, in states such as Georgia, I have seen that it is really not universal.

The Affordable Care Act has, therefore, made absolutely no positive difference in my life to date – because my state has not expanded Medicaid and I am too poor to be eligible to receive Medicaid.  I continue to pay out-of-pocket and do not have any healthcare coverage.  When the poorest of the poor are overlooked and ineligible for even the most minimal healthcare coverage that is supposed to be provided to those who are poor – Medicaid – there is definitely something very wrong with this situation. 😦

References:

24 states are refusing to expand Medicaid (April 3, 2014). Here’s what that means for their residents. WhiteHouse.gov.  Washington, DC: The White House. Retrieved on April 18, 2014 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/medicaid-map?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=110613p1&utm_campaign=healthcare

Is my state expanding Medicaid coverage? (2014).  Healthcare.gov.  Baltimore, MD: U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Retrieved on April 18, 2014 from https://www.healthcare.gov/what-if-my-state-is-not-expanding-medicaid/

Williams, Misty (April 6, 2014).  Ga.’s Medicaid call affects thousands.  Atlanta, Georgia: The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Vol. 66, No. 96.

My Krakowiak Family Ancestry, Including Drewin, Tomaszewski, Babcock, Spires, O’Malley, and Clark (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

The Krakowiak Family (Lottie, Peter, Larry, Anna, John, and Maria), Gowanda, New York, 1958

The Krakowiak Family (Lottie, Peter, Larry, Anna, John, and Maria), Gowanda, New York, 1958

My mother, Anna Maria (Krakowiak) Babcock (born 1944) is from the Krakowiak Family; she was the middle child.  Her parents are Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak (November 12, 1914-December 13, 2007) and Janek “John” Krakowiak (October 24, 1907-December 1, 1967).  Lottie’s and John’s other children include Peter Krakowiak, Maria Anna (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, and Larry Krakowiak.

Lottie’s parents were Wawryniec and Katarzyna (Mordka) Bulera, and John’s parents were Walenty and Jozefa (Stepnion) Krakowiak.  Lottie had two sisters, Staca, and Marianna (Krakowiak) Drewin.  Staca did not stay in touch with Lottie after her family immigrated to the United States in 1950, so I do not know what became of her.  Marianna had three marriages, and had a son with each of her husbands.  I only know the last name of her third husband, and not the names of the previous two.

Marianna’s sons have several children between them, and they likely have grandchildren and perhaps great grandchildren by now.  Marianna and her family lived in Kielce, Poland, and I was able to visit and meet most of them (15 of them) when I studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland in 1992.  Once Marianna died, no one remained in touch with each other, as only Marianna and Lottie communicated with each other at that time.

John is one of about 10 children from his family.  As an adult, he had one glass eye.  I don’t know what experience or situation caused him to get the glass eye.  I do remember my grandmother telling about how John’s mother had told him that no one would ever want to marry him because of his glass eye.  Once John married Lottie, and the family later moved to Germany, and then on to the United States, there were no further contacts or communications maintained between John or any of his family members.

From what I understand, both Lottie’s and John’s parents were farmers.  When Lottie was a young girl, she herded geese on the farm – that was her job.  In bare feet and on frosty mornings, she herded geese.  My grandmother had about a third grade education, and was fluent in Polish and German.  She took some classes in English upon coming to the United States, though never learned to write more in English than her name.  She also did not drive and never had a driver’s license.  She walked to her places of work (or was driven by others), and she walked to stores and businesses in the Village of Gowanda.  She worked at the garden nurseries of Knowles and Fisher, and she also worked additional jobs, such as being a waitress at the local diner in Gowanda (now Olympia).

The Krakowiak Family came to the United States through Ellis Island, and to the Buffalo and Western New York State area, in 1950.  Cousins to the Krakowiak’s were John and Josephine Tomaszewski of Gowanda, New York.  John Tomaszewski secured a guarantee of employment for John Krakowiak at the Moench Tannery in Gowanda.  Thus, the Krakowiak Family was guaranteed a sponsorship by the Tomaszewski’s, a condition that was required of immigrants for entry into the United States at that time.  The Krakowiak Family (all but John) moved to Germany from Poland in about 1948.  The reasons for the family’s move were to escape the effects of World War II, and to seek a better life in the United States.  They did not want to experience another war in Europe.

As a result of their citizenship in Poland, Germany was the best route out of Europe for them.  So, Lottie and her young family traveled on foot and by train to Germany where she worked at two or three large corporate farms, particularly in the kitchen.  (In her later years, Lottie was able to secure a number of financial security payments from the German government due to proof of her work at the farms.)

For about two years, Lottie worked on the farms until the Polish government allowed John to leave Poland.  Lottie and the children were forced to wait those two years because the Polish government had desired John to remain in Poland.  It was a tense situation during the wait because the family worried that John might not be allowed to leave Poland.  Once he died and reunited with his family, they sailed to the United States from Germany.

Once in Gowanda, the Krakowiak’s lived with the Tomaszewski’s until John was able to purchase a house.  The Krakowiak Family then remained on Union Street in Gowanda, often experiencing flooding in the basements of the two different homes in which they had lived due to rising waters and/or flooding by the Cattaraugus Creek that runs through the center of town.

For about the last one to two years of his life, John developed and suffered from cancer.  My family believes that the cancer was caused by John’s handling of the many chemicals at the Tannery without any protections.  John died from the cancer in 1964 when he was 60 years old.  My grandmother, “Babcia,” as we called her and is the word for “grandmother” in Polish, was healthy and well, living independently until she was 86 years old, at which time she was placed in the Gowanda Nursing Home.  She died as a resident of the Nursing Home when she was 93, about seven years after moving there.

My father, Bruce Babcock, married my mother, Anna (Krakowiak) Babock in 1963.  In 1971, I was born, and the following year, my brother was born.

My aunt, Maria (Krakowiak) Spires (and later, Walker) was already married to Eugene Spires (May 7, 1919-November 7, 1993) when I was born.  Maria and Gene had two children, Desiree “Desa” (Spires) O’Malley and Phillip Spires.  Desiree is married to Joseph O’Malley.  They have one son, Joey, and live in Connecticut.  I met Joey when he was a baby.  Phil married Dawn (Clark) Spires on October 17, 1992.  They have one son, Benjamin – named after his great grandfather, Ben Spires.  Phil is a Corrections Officer.

After my uncle, Gene, died after struggling with cancer for two years, Maria met Roger Walker.  Gene was 25 years older than Maria, and had been previously married.  Gene’s first wife died from cancer. Maria then married Roger; they live in Florida.

My uncle, Gene, was also a veteran of World War II, having served in the US Army, fighting in France during the war.  Gene worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center in the maintenance department, and as a painter.  Gene and Maria also operated a farm; and Gene owned a gun shop for many years, being a licensed firearms dealer.  My aunt also worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center, as well as when mental health patients were transitioned to community housing, then still being employed by the State through J.N. Adam Developmental Center.  She retired from there after about 27 years of State service.

To my knowledge, Peter Krakowiak never married, nor had any children.  Once he graduated from high school, he went into the Navy.  Once he completed his service in the Navy, he moved to and lived in Chicago for the remainder of his life.  My family has not heard from him in many years; he had kept in touch with my aunt, but she stopped hearing from him many years ago.

Larry also moved to and lived in Chicago for several years, where he was married to and divorced from a woman named, Pam.  Sometime following the divorce, he moved back to Gowanda, where he has lived and worked since then.  He does not have any children.

Much of the Tomaszewski Family still lives in or near Gowanda, though I am aware of John’s and Josephine’s oldest son and his family living in Chicago.  John and Josephine had three children, including two boys and a girl.  When the boys became adults, they married and had children.  The daughter, Gloria, is single and does not have any children.  The eldest son of John and Josephine is an airline pilot, likely long retired by now.  He may have also served in the Vietnam War, as I recall.  The Tomaszewski’s, therefore, are cousins, far-removed, from me; they would be considered my third cousins.

Other family related to the Krakowiak side of my family include the Covelli’s from Buffalo, New York, and the Turdly’s from Brooklyn, New York City.

John and Lottie Krakowiak, and John and Josephine Tomaszewski, are bured in Holy Cross Cemetery of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York.  Eugene Spires is also buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Gowanda.

To follow is a collage of photos that I have of the Krakowiak’s, Drewin’s, Babcock’s, Spires’, O’Malley’s. and Clark’s.

Author’s Note: Information and images identifying my brother have been removed from this post as of April 27, 2016 as a courtesy per his request.

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Four Generations of my Family (My Son-age 3, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock as a Girl

Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock as a Girl

Wedding of Bruce and Anna Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1963

Wedding of Bruce and Anna Babcock, Gowanda, New York, 1963

In this photo, my grandfather, John, is at the far left.  The fourth person inside from the left is my aunt, Maria.  At the far right are my newly-wedded parents, Bruce and Anna.  And, standing next to my mom is my grandmother, Lottie.  I do not know any names of the other people in the picture.

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

This is a photo of my parents on their wedding day in July 1963.  From left to right are Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Bruce Babcock, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and John Krakowiak.

Baptism of Michele Babcock (-Nice) at St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York, August 1971

Baptism of Michele Babcock (-Nice) at St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York, August 1971

This is a photo of me when I was about two weeks old, just after I was baptized at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York.  In the photo are: front, left to right: Phil Spires; Desiree Spires, Me (the baby), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, and Eugene Spires; rear, left to right: Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and Fr. Rog.  My dad took the picture.

Michele Babcock on her Third Birthday with Cousins Desiree (Spires) O'Malley and Phillip Spires, Collins, New York, 1974

Michele Babcock on her Third Birthday with Cousins Desiree (Spires) O’Malley and Phillip Spires, Collins, New York, 1974

(L to R)-Michele Babcock (-Nice), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Desiree (Spires) O'Malley, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Michele Babcock (-Nice), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Desiree (Spires) O’Malley, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Bruce and Michele Babcock with Phillip Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Bruce and Michele Babcock with Phillip Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Michele Babcock with Peter Krakowiak and Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Michele Babcock with Peter Krakowiak and Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Eugene Spires and Charles J. Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992 (3) - Copy

Eugene Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R) Peter Krakowiak, Desiree (Spires) O'Malley, Joseph O'Malley, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R) Peter Krakowiak, Desiree (Spires) O’Malley, Joseph O’Malley, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Joseph O'Malley, Larry Krakowiak, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Joseph O’Malley, Larry Krakowiak, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

All photos of my cousin’s wedding reception were taken by family friend, Alice Tschopp.

Dawn Clark Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1985 (From Gowanda High School Yearbook, Jostens, 1985)

Dawn Clark Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1985 (From Gowanda High School Yearbook, Jostens, 1985)

Sisters Lottie Krakowiak and Marianna Drewin, Gowanda, New York, Approx 1985

Sisters Lottie Krakowiak and Marianna Drewin, Gowanda, New York, Approx 1985

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Michele Babcock and Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Michele Babcock and Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, Roger Walker, Larry Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, Roger Walker, Larry Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

I hope that you have enjoyed my information and photo record of the Krakowiak side of my family!

Sources:

Eighty-five: Valley Bugle (1985).  Gowanda Central High School Yearbook.  Gowanda, NY: Jostens.

Photos and information of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014), 1974-1992.  Snellville, Georgia.

Photos and information of Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, 1950-2007.  Gowanda, New York.  Now the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

Tschopp (1992).  Photos of wedding reception of Phil Spires and Dawn (Clark) Spires.  Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (1992).  Gowanda, New York.

Other photographers of other professional photos, unknown.