Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Hurdle Vaulted and A Story Remembered

Hi All!

Well, sports fans, I've gained a fast footing on another slippery rock on the way across the stream to better health and longer life.

Let me say right off, it's almost never too late to quit drinking. As compromised as my poor liver is, it is functioning better than it was last October. Much better, in fact.

Reported to the transplant center and got my hand held throughout the day's schedule, which was mostly talk with nurses, Dr. Lake, a nutritionist and a social worker.

The long and short of it is that I have been evaluated and found to be worthy of further evaluation. The next appointment is when they poke and prod and x-ray and drain blood and hook me up to all manner of remarkable machine.

My liver is shot, but there is just enough function that should I remain stable or further improve, I will get on the list, alright, but I may not need to have the new part for years, if ever!

If that don't qualify as good news, I don't know what does.

Saw Dr. Najarian, a literal and figurative giant in UofM Transplant History. Still working, on the far side of 70. He was engaged in earnest conversation with another doc so I didn't interrupt, but it sure reminded me of a story!

In 1984 the U hosted the International Transplant Society Conference, which is a really big , every-four-year deal, and was awarded to Minneapolis primarily due to the reputation and arm twisting of Dr. Najarian. I was creating custom applications for Continuing Medical Education (in those days, everything had to be custom) on their Wang system.

The conference required a ground-up custom application that tracked abstract submittal and grading, registrations for various seminars and social events, billing and account receivable, name tags, posters, the whole shebang.

We even had to buy a very expensive Swedish "Facit" graphical printer to do the tags, banners and signs, and there was no handy clicking (clicking is what keys did in those days pre-rodent) on font, size, format... you get the picture. Had to be all hard-coded. For a business major who self-taught programming, I was pretty damned good!

Najarian was overseeing the project and he never ranted at me in person, but he did offer some "constructive criticism" from time to time via poor Dr. Bart, the CME coordinator. The worst of it was that the docs on the committee kept changing the way the wanted to grade the abstracts, which are summations of scholarly papers that are a big deal when chosen to be presented at the conference. I was billing $85/hr in those days, so I didn't mind burning some midnight oil.

Now, to me, Najarian is a household name, but I'm sure some of you need a a bit of background.

Never has their been a less-likely world famous, ground breaking transplant surgeon. He was a big, dark, swarthy, deep-voiced, back slapping linebacker-type guy who was very down to earth, overweight, the former owner of some deep-grease chicken franchises and the focus, some ten years after, of a world of scandal over research connected with a then-controversial anti rejection drug called ALG.

He was cleared, but a great deal of brutal and unfair damage was done.

Other than that good link to a Time article, all the details about this great man can be found if you Google "John Najarian Transplant"

He is an incredibly gifted surgeon who pushed the transplant envelope with his pork-hock hands.

Anaway, my perk for developing the most advanced International Transplant Society Conference software ever to that point in distant time, was a free ticket to one of the social events -- an Alabama concert at the State Fair.

The transplant group had a whole section reserved, front and center. I sat in front of Dr. John, a HUGE Alabama fan, who was enthusiastically enjoying the show. Not so, some fellow transplant surgeons, especialy the ones from overseas, if ya'll get my drift. The music was deafening being right in front like that and many a hand stayed cupped over many an ear. Many left early -- a bit too much American Cultural Immersion for them!

Of course, Alabama recognized their "Big Fan" and he almost toppled over my chair in jumping up to acknowledge the tribute.

Today he is smaller and grayer, but I recognized that basso profundo coming from down the hall before I ever saw him.

I'm sure we will run into each other during the course of my journey. Hope to tell him what an inspiration he was/is despite having his career forever tainted by administrators who hung him out to dry because they let him run his own fiefdom without proper administrative oversight and failed to cover his back when the excrement hit the whirling blades.

Well, hopefully that will be enough health news for awhile. There are great tales to be told, so stay tuned for me to honk some pearls.



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12:56 PM  

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