Do we really have to get the lawyers involved?

What happens when your healthy, happy and energetic 3 year old daughter goes into a routine dental appointment and winds up at Children’s Hospital with a life-threatening infection?

Unfortunately, we found out when our daughter had a premolar cavity filled by a dentist specializing in pediatrics on April 11, 2011.  Within hours of the appointment, our daughter’s cheek swelled and it began to look as if she had a golf ball in her mouth.  I placed a phone call to the dentist and she assured me that some swelling is normal and it would go away.  I went to teach a class that night and the dentist spoke with my husband.  The dentist again assured him that this was normal and that if we were very concerned in the morning, I should bring our daughter in first thing in the morning.  She was unable to sleep due to the pain and was up most of the night.  That morning, our daughter’s swelling had increased, her cheek was red, hot to the touch and she was unable to eat or speak clearly.

When we entered at the dentist’s office, the staff was shocked by our daughter’s appearance.  The dentist was so alarmed that she called in her husband, an oral surgeon, to consult because “he knows more about this type of thing.”  He too was surprised by just how swollen our daughter was.  He tried to look inside her mouth, but the area was so tender and the swelling was so severe, he decided not to aggravate things further by an invasive exam.  Instead both dentists struggled to get an accurate read of our daughter’s temperature.  After a few minutes, they determined that she did have a fever of 101.

Both dentists were visibly and admittedly at a loss as to what the next course of action should be given that our daughter was allergic to traditional antibiotics and neither was sure what to prescribe.  When they told me this, I suggested that  we go right to her pediatrician for proper treatment.  Both expressed their concern verbally for the severity of the infection and they readily agreed that the pediatrician should be our next stop.  The oral surgeon wrote out a detailed note for our pediatrician explaining that this swelling was a result of the previous day’s dental procedure and gave us his personal cell phone number in case we or the pediatrician needed additional information from him.

Our daughter’s pediatrician was extremely concerned by her condition when we arrived.  The pediatrician said she’d never seen such a fast moving infection.  After careful consideration and collaboration with her colleagues, the pediatrician prescribed oral Cleocin.  She advised us to give her a call that evening to let her know how our daughter was tolerating the medicine and to let her know about the swelling.  That night, we spoke with the pediatrician and let her know that our daughter was taking the medication, was still in pain and we hadn’t noticed any change in the swelling.  We continued to monitor her closely. The dentist called our home that evening to check on our daughter and offered to see her again.  My husband and I updated her on the treatment prescribed by the pediatrician and declined another visit to her office since our daughter was now having an extremely difficult time opening her mouth.  The situation had clearly escalated and was beyond the dentists’ capabilities.

The next morning, our daughter’s swelling had progressed to include her neck and just under her eye.  This was so serious that the pediatrician asked us to bring her in immediately.  We did and she advised us that if she should run a fever, we were to take her directly to the emergency room.  When our daughter’s fever reached 101, we went to Children’s Hospital.  She was admitted, given IV morphine for the pain, IV fluids (since she was unable to eat or drink due to the swelling) and a stronger dose of antibiotics via IV.

The swelling was so severe that even the doctor’s ultrasound of daughter’s cheek and neck was difficult to read.  Our daughter was checked hourly by Children’s Hospital doctors and nurses throughout our time there and was diagnosed with Cellulitis.  Each physician and nurse we met asked the same question: “What happened at that dentist’s office?” When the dentist’s assistant called to ask if we would be bringing our daughter in for a check, I returned the call told the receptionist we would not since our daughter had been admitted to Children’s Hospital.  Slowly, she began to respond to the medication and the swelling began to decrease gradually while her speech remained impaired. The morphine helped with the pain and she began to be able to drink and eat small amounts of juice and pudding.

After more than two days of hospitalization at Children’s Hospital and the careful hourly monitoring of her condition by a team of doctors and experts in pediatric infections, our daughter was released and advised to take a new dosage of oral antibiotics.  Children’s Hospital’s pediatrician advised us not to return to the dentist’s office upon release since our daughter’s visit there was the cause of Cellulitis.  Cellulitis is a dangerous life threatening infection.  Instead, she told us to follow up with our pediatrician in two days.  We did so and our daughter continued to respond to the antibiotics.  It took nearly a full month for her swelling to go away completely.

The quantifiable damages resulting in the work done by the dentist exceeded our insurance coverage and we are unwilling to absorb the costs.  Our daughter endured great pain from this traumatic experience.  Our entire family was impacted.  The time and stress associated with our attempts to settle this matter with the dentist continue to build.  At the very least, the dentist must pay the expenses not covered by our insurance which exceed $3,000.

Our attempts to resolve this matter directly with the dentist have proved unsuccessful.  How unrealistic is it that I expect the dentist to do the right thing without being forced to by a legal team?


My Oprah Experience

Last month, I requested tickets to one of Oprah’s last shows through email. The show was about Freedom Riders.  Since I teach about the Civil Rights Movement in my Critical Thinking classes at Cardinal Stritch University, I was excited to learn more from those who were actually part of the movement.  Tickets are hard to get, so I was thrilled when a staffer got back to me and said my mom and I could come to the taping.

Then I got a message saying that there was a problem and that audience was full, but I was offered another option.  I picked the May 6 taping.  Three days later I got an email saying this was Oprah’s Last Ever Makeover Extravaganza  and that each audience member was getting $100 gift card to buy a new outfit at Old Navy to wear to the show. That made it even more cool. Then a producer called and said that since we were only 90 miles from Chicago they would like to invite my mom and I to shop at Old Navy’s big store on camera. I was so excited. I told the producer yes, but I had to figure our who could pick up the kids from school. She said that they were thinking of doing a children’s segment, so bring them. This was so great and I could hardly wait. The only drawback was that I had to come without my hair or makeup done because the producer said, “We want your before and after pictures to be really good.”

The kids were amazing the whole three hour experience on Tuesday, May 3. It was crazy and chaotic. The producers, Oprah’s fashion people and tailors had the kids and I in one big dressing room while another stylist worked with my mom in a different room. The kids went off with a producer and the camera crew and they were filmed for at least an hour. The kids loved every minute of it and were perfectly behaved. Of course they all melted down in the car ride home, but I was fine with that. 🙂

We left Old Navy with $400 worth of stuff, plus the entire outfit the fashion team picked and was tailoring just for me. At first I felt bad since the rule was $100 for just my mom and I, but then I snapped back into reality. Oprah can afford it. I wasn’t really thrilled with the outfit they picked for me, but I was determined to embrace the experience and the tailors were going to alter it all for me.

Remember this is all prep for the show taping Friday, May 6 at 11 am. We were filmed for hours but I explained to the kids that the footage was just pre-show work and we would have no idea how much, if any appeared int he actual show.

Later that night at 7:30 pm, I got a call from the producer. She invited my mother and I to come back to Chicago tonight so that I could get my hair cut and colored. That freaked me out a bit, but it was Oprah and several friends assured me that they’ve never seen a bad makeover on the show. In addition to all that, Oprah was paying for us to stay at a hotel near the studio.

We entered the HARPO Studio and walked past the editing room where the producers were editing that day’s show with Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.  We joined a group of 20 other people and entered a studio that had been completely transformed into a salon.  HARPO had flown in from a dream team from NYC.  Frédéric Fekkai who owns a salon and a product line cut my hair.  Orlando Pita did the color.  The two of them collaborated while speaking French.  Frédéric’s assistants handed him scissors like they were surgical scalpels.  Cameras filmed it all. There was so much going on at once that it was difficult to take it all in.  There was one staffer who spent hours steaming what seemed like hundreds of blue oxfords.  No one was telling anyone details about everything so there was this secretive buzz everywhere.  We spoke with some of the other lucky 20 and no one had any clues as to why we were selected, what would happen next and what role we’d play in the show. Every single member of the HARPO staff was fantastic.  They were all kind and professional.  We left HARPO at 9:30 pm and went right to the JW Marriott.   The person at the front desk congratulated us for being on the Oprah show and told us we could spend up to $75 on room service.  Our hotel room was amazing. We ordered an indulgent breakfast (with wine for me) at 10:30 pm when we finally settled into our hotel room. 

Friday, May 6 was the show taping and it was filled with another flurry of activities.  We arrived at 7:30 am along with the other lucky 20. We were taken through the garage into the HARPO studios.  An assistant escorted us back to the studio transformed into a salon and there were about 100 assistants all dressed in blue oxford shirts along with the dream team which now included Bobbi Brown and several of her makeup artists.   When they were finished with us, we were taken to a plush screening room with the 20 other Old Navy makeover people.  This room was just 500 feet away from Oprah’s office and Oprah’s dog Sadie kept rooming the halls.  It was a fun and exciting experience. We were all nervous and excited.  There was a great deal of down time, so we spent it nibbling on all the catered food that was brought in for us, speculating about what would come next and just sharing the surreal experience of being in HARPO’s inner sanctum. 

Makeup artists, stylists and the steamer lady joined us for a quick check before the show taping began.  We were led through the HARPO hallway maze, past the walls decorated with what seemed like thousands of photos of Oprah and celebrities from past shows.  We were taken into the studio where all other audience members were seated and led to the front two rows. 

During the show we got a gift bag including an expensive leather Michael Kors bag, a pair of Tory Burch sunglasses, a Diane von Furstenberg silk scarf and Andre Walker hair products. The show aired on May 12 and if you looked very closely, you would see a couple seconds of my mother and I getting our hair and make-up done. They also included a few seconds of footage shot of my kids at Old Navy.

The experience is one I’ll never forget.

Using Vulgarity Reflects Absence of Critical Thinking

When it comes to an absence of critical thought, using vulgar language is a clear giveaway. 

Earlier this week, University of Iowa (UI) professor Ellen Lewin responded, “F— You, Republicans!”  What elicited such a response? UI College Republicans were promoting a “Conservative Coming Out Week.” 

Is the phrasing “coming out” restricted?  Apparently, Lewin thought so and even deemed it offensive to the gay movement. 

The UI College Republicans email said, “Conservatives in Iowa City it is now time to come out of the closet!”  According to the Chicago Tribune article about this issue, “It also listed many events including a blood drive, flag football games against College Democrats, a showing of a movie about George W. Bush, and a ‘wear red’ day.”

I applaud UI President Sally Mason for condemning intolerant political speech.  Mason wrote, “Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior.”

Lewin’s own apology seems rather weak, however.  She wrote, “I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities.”

Is Lewin unaware that there are gay conservatives?  It appears so.  I wrote about this topic months ago for Politics Daily in a piece called, ” Gay Conservatives, So What Else is New?

Does coverage of such a story by the Chicago Tribune indicate that our nation is demanding more critical thinking?

The Gap Between Critical Thinking and Losing Weight

On March 26, 2011 I posted a question on the Critical Thinking in the Real World Facebook page that’s been on my mind for quite some time.  When it comes to weight loss, why does critical thinking seem to go out the window? The question resonated with many and several posters offered their insight. 

Americans are obsessed with eating. The social aspect of eating is firmly rooted in primates.  Americans eat often and consume huge portions.  Unhealthy food is often the cheapest and easiest to obtain.  As a result, an obesity epidemic continues. 

People overeat for many reasons.  Some eat to relieve stress.  Others unknowingly consume much more than the recommended portion size. Eating out may contribute to obesity since many eat on the run and finish everything they pay for. 

The weight loss and fitness industry makes approximately $60 billion annually. If it’s a simple matter of eat less and exercise more, why are so many critical thinkers overweight? It is a complex issue. Emotions seem to overpower critical thought in this area quite frequently. Like many Americans, I also struggle with it.

I enjoy exercise. For the past six weeks, my husband and I have been doing a very intense workout program called Insanity.  It’s is a rigorous 60-day DVD series, but I’m enjoying the process.  Controlling what I eat remains difficult for me, however. I have a busy schedule. Teaching part-time while caring for my three children leaves me with little time to prepare meals. I skip meals and then eat what I can in a rush.

When I spoke to Mary Schreifels about ViSalus, I decided to try it. This is a new thing for me because I’ve never tried a meal replacement program.  The idea of taking meal preparation (except for snacks and one meal a day) off my agenda appeals to me. Since I prepare meals for our family, we’ll all continue to eat dinner together.

I’ve done Weight Watchers in the past and had success as have many of my friends. The reality is that I know what to eat, but I’m just not doing it and I don’t really want to attend weekly meetings. 

My children were very excited when the package arrived and each wanted to try it. The powder tastes a lot like cake mix.  I added skim milk and frozen mixed berries, blended it and we all tried it.  We agreed that it is a lot like a smoothie. The Vi-Shape Nutritional Shake Mix arrived just in time for dinner and I was relieved not to have to figure out something to make myself tonight. 

My plan is to add this meal replacement program to my current fitness routine for the next 30 days so that I return to my ideal body weight and physique. I’ll be updating you on my progress.  Please share your own with me.

Civility is Possible During Passionate Debate

Is it so hard to believe that a person can be pro-education without being pro-union?

WI Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill has generated national interest and attention. Passions run high when it comes to this bill because it focuses on how to handle mounting deficits with budget cuts. Rather than oversimplifying this issue to be one of right and wrong, we must acknowledge that there are many valid viewpoints. To vilify one side or the other reflects an absence of critical thought.

Just last month, President Obama called for a more civil public discourse after the tragic shootings in AZ. Republicans and Democrats sat together during the most recent State of the Union Address and many Americans took this as a sign that times were indeed changing, but it didn’t last long at all.

Why have Americans forgotten the need for civility so soon? It seems that civil discourse is only practiced when passions are in check, but the biggest need for civil discourse is in the heat of passionate debate.

Walker has been called “Hitler” and even a “Rapist” for his new budget bill. Protestors of the bill have posted signs reading, “Walker: Wanted Dead or Alive.” Where is the civility?

People on both sides of this issue have resorted to attacking those who oppose their views as the budget battle continues. This is far easier than exercising the restraint necessary to maintain a civil discourse.

This budget bill raises questions beyond collective bargaining and addresses the power of unions in the public sector. When it comes to education, union power has often prohibited much needed school reform. This is one of my main reasons for supporting this bill.

I see nothing wrong with requiring union workers to pay a larger portion of their health insurance and pension benefits. I think it’s a good thing that the bill would limit collective bargaining. The best part of the bill, in my opinion, is that it would free workers from paying union dues and require annual votes to determine whether unions should remain in existence.

Please don’t mistake my view on the budget bill and my dislike for union power as a lack of commitment to education. I am a teacher. I am passionate about quality education and believe teachers should be treated as professionals who are held accountable and rewarded for excellence. Unions don’t often foster that.

MLK’s Civil Discourse Provides Guide for Today

Last week, President Obama issued a call for civility in light of the AZ tragedy.  Passionate debate is a freedom we should cherish in this country and doing so means exercising it with critical thought.  We should engage our adversaries rather than viewing them as enemies to be taken down.  Just because we disagree with someone, does not give us the right to demonize them. It’s easier to allow our rage to guide us, but it takes a great deal of restraint, critical thinking and empathy to fully resist violence while fostering change. 

One of our country’s most famous non-violent resisters is Martin Luther King, Jr. and there is much more to him than his “I Have a Dream” speech. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is arguably one of the most well crafted persuasive pieces ever written.  In it, King eloquently argues without name calling or character attacks, but his passion is evident throughout his letter and the result is something all Americans can benefit from studying especially now.

The climate of America in 2011 and in 1963 is very different in many respects, but we still struggle with trying to create a better nation.  All Americans want this, but we differ on how to achieve the goal.  Real conversation followed by hard work is the key to our success.  It was in 1963 and it is in 2011.

In 1963, King was arrested for participating in a march because no parade permit had been issued by city officials. While in jail, he responded to a letter published in a city newspaper from eight clergymen called “A Call for Unity.” King’s response is extremely well crafted especially considering it was written in the jail cell on scraps of paper smuggled in for him.

When this letter was written, King was not the wildly known and respected civil rights leader we know him to be today. In the views of many, he was just a black man in a jail cell up to no good. But King was extremely well educated. He graduated from Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary and Boston University. His education, passion and control are evident throughout his letter.

The best arguments use a combination of all three appeals—the emotional, logical and ethical to persuade. King uses all three appeals to persuade his readers. It is nearly impossible to determine how readers make their decisions, so strategic arguers use all three methods.

King uses the emotional appeal to attempt to get his readers to feel something and does so quite successfully especially when he draws upon examples any parent can relate to. He says, “when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people…”

Thankfully, we no longer confront formal segregation.  Still, we deal with adults acting poorly and this continues to confound children and their parents.  Today’s parents struggle as they try to explain to their children how and why the AZ tragedy happened. 

King uses the logical appeal when he provides facts and evidence in his appeal. At times, he even appears to be educating his readers. He says, “in any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.” The ethical appeal is also evident throughout his letter as he builds his creditability by using fair-minded language, citing experts and explaining his own expertise. King does this very convincingly when he tries to explain the difference between just and unjust laws. He says, “In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” King continues, “There is nothing new about this type of kind of civil disobedience.” He cites the early Christians, the Boston Tea Party and even the Hungarian freedom fighters confronting Adolph Hitler’s legal actions in Germany as examples.

The use of fair-minded language is far too rare today.  We also need rely more upon facts, and evidence when we argue with one another. 

King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is worth viewing, but it is by no means his greatest work and it does not adequately reflect the true measure of Martin Luther King Jr. We can learn a great deal about civil discourse by studying King at his best.  “Letter from Birmingham Jail” provides an excellent example of how to craft a persuasive argument without using violent rhetoric.

So Much for a Lame Duck Congress

So much for a “lame duck” session. Congress accomplished a great deal.  All of the following passed:

New START Treaty

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal

Tax Cut Extension

Food Safety Bill

9/11 Health Care Coverage

What does this mean for the President and all Americans? What do you think of this recent progress?

President Obama held a press conference yesterday to highlight all the accomplishments.  He called it, “the most productive post election period we’ve had in decades.” Obama continued, “We are not doomed to endless gridlock. We have the capacity to make progress together.”

The balance of power is a wonderful thing.  It’s interesting how the election has changed how Obama has behaved.  Now that Democrats will no longer control all three branches of government, checks and balances have been restored. I believe that compromise is a good thing. 

On January 5 Congress begins work with more than 100 new members.  While there are those who expect more contentious behavior, I prefer to wait and see what transpires.  It is my hope that these new representatives are fueled by the awareness that they are privileged to advocate on behalf of their constituents and do not allow special interests and egos to guide their decisions. 

 What are your hopes for the new legislative session?

American Exceptionalism?

Have you heard the term “American exceptionalism”? What do you think of it?

The Washington Post article, American exceptionalism: an old idea and a new political battle by Karen Tumulty raises the question, is America still the greatest country in the world?  I grew up hearing that and I still believe it to be true.  Do you?  Does believing that it is make me a living stereotype of that ugly American? As a critical thinker, must I give up that belief since I know the world is far larger and its exceptionalism is not confined to U.S. borders?

I posed the question on Facebook’s Critical Thinking in the Real World page and was most pleased by the critical thinking put into the responses.  Equally impressive was the range of responses.  From “America is a beacon!” to “American exceptionalism is arrogant, naive, foolish and most of all dangerous. I certainly recognize our role as leaders in the world. I don’t think that means we always do a good job or are always right.” Many responded with an understanding that both perspectives are valid. There was that happy medium that I was looking for.

Arrogance can be a bad thing. Patriotism is often considered a good thing. Americentrism is a term referring to the ethnocentric and xenophobic practice of viewing the world from an explicitly American perspective. Any extreme doesn’t really reflect critical thinking.

It’s not wrong to be proud of our nation’s past accomplishments.  We must continue to raise the bar, however.  For America to remain exceptional, each American must take part in making it so.  That requires both a commitment to work hard to achieve personally and to give back to others in this nation and in the world at large.

Election Day!

Finally, the big day has arrived. 

This is an important day for all Americans and for political junkies like myself, tonight is like the World Series, Superbowl, and Oscars all on the same day. 

I’ve voted in every election since I’ve been eligible to do so.  My favorite candidates don’t always win, but voting is a privilege I take seriously.  What is often forgotten in the midst of such long campaigns is that a passion for politics should not supersede patriotism. 

Please don’t subscribe to doomsday theories that American civilization is at stake today.  Scare tactics motivate people to vote, but critical thinkers understand voting is always important.  American civilization is strong enough to survive and thrive regardless of which party is in power.  Let’s remember that we are all Americans and that should always come before classifying ourselves by our political affiliations.

No matter who controls the House or Senate, there must be cooperation among all Americans because there is enormous work to be done.

Let’s Discuss Our World Views

There has been a great deal of talk about world views after the recent Forbes magazine article, How Obama Thinks.  In it writer Dinesh D’Souza attempts to explain Obama’s thinking process by trying to understand what makes up his world view.  He asserts that, “the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States.”  Former Speaker Newt Gingrich drew major criticism for even discussing the article. 

I found the topic most interesting because I encourage my students to examine their world views and that of the authors they read as a means for better understanding how to be critical thinkers.  The controversy confuses me because this discussion of Obama’s world view seems relevant.  After all, he is our president. 

First responses to the anticolonial comment included, “That’s outrageous!” or “What was he thinking?” While D’Souza’s assertions are controversial, it’s true that we don’t all see the world the same way.  It could be simple or complex, but it impacts everything and we never can truly walk in someone else’s shoes.  

Our world view is shaped by a variety of factors including: race, gender, health, socioeconomic status, religion, travel and work experience.  When we understand which factors shape how someone views the world, we can better understand why people think and act the way they do. 

Why then do so many condemn D’Souza for writing about it or Gingrich from speaking about it?  The discussion of world views is an important one because critical thinking requires us to think further and consider both our position and try to see the other side.

Obama, like the majority of Americans, is a descendent of immigrants.  His father was Kenyan and while the influence this has had on his worldview is debatable, it is a factor.  So why not discuss it? 

We will never develop a level of understanding unless we investigate the factors which make up our worldviews.  People are fascinated about what makes people’s life experiences so different.  The popular “Who Do You Think You Are?” investigates the ancestry of celebrities in an effort to discover how their roots shape their current lives. 

One thing most Americans share is a curiosity to know where we came from, how our ancestors led their lives and looking for commonalities in our experiences. 

Discussing our various world views strikes me as something truly American.