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Feb 27, 2012

Pre-Op Consult

This week, Kristina and I will be wed. As wonderful as this event will be, as we both look forward to our lives together, there is a serious event that shadows over the moment. Kristina's daughter, now my new daughter, will have corrective surgery on her hips a few days after we return from our honeymoon. The bone of both socket joints did not develop properly and require re-shaping of the femoral neck above the trochanters. Obviously, our marriage will begin with some challenging hurdles.
Kristina, her mom and I all went to the pre-op consult. It was an amazingly long process where we met with the surgeon's P.A. and the anesthesiologist's nurse to ask questions and then answer their inquires about Kara's recent health, as well as her health history.
While the ordeal was as I said "amazingly long," it was important and eased some of the anxiety. We organized our questions, but still it is difficult to articulate the series of concerns when all one really wants to hear is "everything will be fine."
Honestly the reassurances fall short. Thousands of neuro-chemicals scream panic in one's brain. Fear cannot be totally beaten back by their encouraging words, but still we hang on to the expertise of the medical staff. And we have faith. Thus, courage takes hold; we stay strong and cling to the optimism.
The odds are great and the prospect for the future is quite exciting. Kristina was somewhat relieved after the consult. Still, I know she is hurting in a way I cannot fully comprehend. Her motherly love is an unclear mixture of fear and protective instinct. As much as I love both Kristina and Kara, I have no magic wand to wish away any of the suffering.
So, I ask you to say prayers for Kara's health. Please ask for a blessing upon the surgeon's skill. Also request that God give Kristina a sense of peace through out this difficult time. And finally, please whisper an appeal to the Almighty that I have the wisdom to respond as needed as well.
I believe in providence. I trust that all things work towards good for those who have faith. It is on these values that I stand, and it is from God's grace that I will draw strength. But at the end of the day, this is not about me, my courage or what I may have done. This is about a little girl, seeking what is in her best interest, and making her quality of life improved.
Most of this post is mirrored at the Caring Bridge website we set up for Kara. We plan to keep updates on Kara's surgery and recovery there, and I may not post every update here on my blog. Feel free to visit the site, sign the guestbook, leave an encourage word and follow the progress of this brave young girl.

Feb 15, 2012

Why Did The Turkey Cross The Lunch Room?

Today I read a news report about the North Carolina school-lunch inspector who deemed a pre-K child’s “sack lunch” as unfit, forcing the child to eat from a standard platter that met the USDA standard of nutrition. Several people are upset about this, and I believe there is validity to be concerned. Based on the information we have been given, it does seem unreasonable and an invasion of parental rights.
However, as I read this I kept thinking that there must be more to the story and searched for additional information that would help make some logic as to how this apparent silliness happen. Now, many will blame a far-too-intrusive government explanation; that could be true. Some might suspect a windfall scandal by forcing parents to buy the school supplied meals. Others will follow my lead and believe we weren’t told the whole story, which is also possible.
With those possible explanations in mind, let’s also consider why would a school have a “home lunch inspector” at all? It is understandable why the USDA standards exist to provide children who buy their lunch at school, but why does it matter about those parents who exercise their liberties to send lunch with their children? There are many theories, but I believe this most likely began innocently and with very good intentions. Unfortunately, like the road paved with such, it soon led to the media-hell it became today.
Let’s consider an extreme example to discern what is within the school’s obligation for the protection of the children in its care. After all, that is the explanation being given for this incident – to protect our children from becoming obese. Yes, that’s the initiative behind the current standards, but the premise is rooted in protection, not necessarily the obesity threat specifically.
The school has an obligation to protect children from general, non-specific threats, such as fire for our extreme example. If a child catches fire, for whatever reason, the workers at the school have a duty to put the flames out and provide care for that child. If the staff ignored a burning student, parents would sue and a public outrage over the negligence would certainly occur. And I said “for whatever reason” to cover the even-more extreme event should the child’s parent be the one to ignite the child on school grounds.
Okay – I did say extreme. But no one would disagree that the school would be duty-bound on moral, ethical, health and safety grounds to protect that child if even the parent were causing direct harm by fire. So, switch the offense to hunger, but let’s stay extreme. If a parent failed to send any food with the child, what obligation does the school have? Now, one might be able to argue “religious fasting” in infrequent circumstances, but I believe most would argue the school has an obligation to feed that child.
The reality is the school likely chooses this obligation more based in fear of litigation and poor public opinion than it does in moral or health values. Nonetheless, the choice is still the same; the obligation remains; and the school “forces” the child to eat a platter from the cafeteria in our “extreme” example.
Now, it is a matter of determining where to draw the line. Even those who feel the new story above falls into “fascist government intrusion” of parental rights will probably agree the school should feed that child whose parents fail to send any food at all. So, I believe most would agree that the school is in a tough position on when to take such a stance; the institution can't err too far on one side or the other. It is possible this story is merely a genuine concern about proper nutrition for children because of ignorant or negligent parenting, blurring the line between a poor meal and no meal at all. Perhaps the worker meant well, but drew the line a little too far from center and more towards the personal-trainer side of the line; now the school won’t back down because one infraction should not take away from the grander premise of protecting the children.
If that were true, then I would feel better and gracefully forgive the overzealous school worker. However, when I mentioned there must be more to the story…well, there is. And sadly, odds are this is not about the children’s health or protecting them from obesity, despite the well-made case to elicit sympathy for the premise and agenda.
After researching a bit further beyond the headline news articles, I discovered more information which made it seem like Pharisaic rule-keeping on the USDA standards. The apple juice the mother sent failed the USDA standard because it was not a 100% juice product. The potato chips were not permitted to count as a vegetable. Perhaps both of these “violations” were valid in the perfect-interpretation of USDA standard, but it still seems like splitting hairs for a lunch that did include a banana and a turkey-and-cheese sandwich. Those items met three of the four requirements. It seems it would have been simpler to hand the child a box of raisins and called it good. But rule-sticklers are not to be trifled with…
However, the final missing detail made this story all come together for me. I blame an unaccountable bureaucracy combined with greed and pride for this lunch substitution decision. The nutritional ruling did not come from a school staff member. Instead it was a state-worker from Human Services who was present to inspect lunches.
This pre-K program was a special program receiving funding from the State of North Carolina. The earnings to the school were measured by metrics, and compliance with the USDA meal standard per child was a large factor in those dollars. The school had previously lost points (and therefore dollars) because the provable USDA meal-quota was not high enough. The point-loss was significant to cause either one of two things, depending on whose conjecture one believes. Either the school called the state-worker in to rule on the nutritional value of the sack-lunches or the scores were low enough to prompt the visit from the State who pre-conceived an existing nutrition problem and felt funding might need to be cut.
Whichever way, the motivation is not about the protection, health, or well-being of the children. Instead it is about the money. And how ironic is that for a non-profit, social program designed for the common good to be corrupted by money. I guess Wall Street doesn’t have the monopoly on greed after all.