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The Girl & the UCLA Gangster Transplant – UPDATED

May 30th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


As I read the very skillfully reported story in Friday’s Los Angeles Times
about the four Japanese gangsters who received liver transplants at UCLA medical center, I thought immediately of Kelli Jaunsen. Kelli is a lovely 25 year old woman whom UCLA turned down for a heart and liver transplant, although she needed the surgery to save her life. (The above photo is of Kelli. Here’s a link to her website.)

In the Times article, only one of the four transplant recipients is named,
a gang leader named Tadamasa Goto, who had previously been barred from entering the US because of his criminal activity. All four gangsters got their transplants in the time period between 2000 and 2004. Kelli applied to UCLA and was examined during 2003-2004, rejected in 2005.

Now, of course, Kelli Jaunsen needed both a heart and a liver.
So I guess we can be comforted in knowing that none of the four Japanese gangsters got a liver that could have been Kelli’s. But when the California Transplant Donor Network reports that, right now, every day, 18 Americans die waiting for a transplant, this story becomes more troubling. In 2006, more than 6,000 transplant candidates – one person every 90 minutes – died while awaiting transplantation.

I got to know Kelli Jaunsen and her family
when last year I was asked to write about her battle to survive for the Reader’s Digest. What I did not print in the RD story was all I was told—both by Kelli’s family, and by other transplant docs— about the cavalier way Kelli was treated by the UCLA team.

Kelli’s was not the first story I did about someone getting turned down
by a University of California team for an organ transplant. In 1996 I wrote about Sandra Jensen who was turned down by UC San Diego (and Stanford) for the heart lung transplant needed to save her life. Why? Because she had Down Syndrome, and she was rejected because of her disability. Put more simply, the teams were afraid she was too dumb to take her medication.

Sandra’s situation taught me much about the complexity of the human brain and spirit.
She had an IQ of 45. and there were many things she couldn’t do. Driving a car wasn’t safe for her. But she also founded an activist organization for people with mental disabilities, was in demand as a public speaker, had a wicked sense of humor, and was a prodigy in her ablity to sense the moods of others. In a lifetime of meeting and interviewing remarkable people, Sandra Jensen stills stands out as one of the most remarkable I’ve ever met.

I followed Sandra’s case for the Los Angeles Times Magazine
(when that magazine still did stories that mattered), and went with Sandra to her last interview at Stanford, at the end of which, they reconsidered and agreed to take her case. Sandra got her transplant, it was successful, the Stanford docs were heroes, and hers became a famous case that is still cited when transplant ethics are discussed.

But now back to Kelli: After UCLA said no, Kelli’s father figured his daughter’s last chance was Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Cedars saw Kelli and, while her case was a risky one, agreed to put her on the list and, in 2007, after Kelli became nearly too sick for the surgery, she finally got her new heart and liver, courtesy of the excellent Cedars team. (The Cedars docs, whom I interviewed extensively, clearly became very invested in Kelli’s case.)

I get regular updates from Kelli’s family
and I’m glad to say that this lovely, bright, soulful young woman is doing well and is starting to have something approaching a normal life.

No thanks to UCLA’s transplant team.

The scary part is how easily it might have been otherwise. It was, frankly, a near miracle that both of these women didn’t die while they were on the transplant list—waiting to move far enough up the list so that they’d be next in line if there was an organ fit.

Kelli was on the list for a year and a half.
She was lucky. Most people wait and average of three years. As I said above, thousands never get organs at all; they die waiting.

Not so, Japanese gang leader Tadamasa Goto, who was in the US two months before he got his transplant.

Oh, one more thing. When Kelli applied to UCLA for the transplant,
there were some questions about her insurance. In other words, it was unclear who was going to pay for the operation. The situation was later resolved and her insurance paid all. Plus a mystery benefactor came forward and offered to pay if the insurance didn’t. But when UCLA’s team spent seven months dithering over whether to take Kelli, the money issue had yet to be settled.

Tadamasa Goto personally paid the full freight for his transplant with none of the discounts that insurance carriers require.

But I’m sure that had nothing to do with UCLA’s life and death decision making. At least I hope not.

One senses there is a lot more to this story.
Kudos to John M. Glionna and Charles Ornstein for investigating this story to begin with.

Now we await Part II.


Well, on Saturday Charlie Ornstein and John Glionna gave us Part II

. Two of the Japanese gangsters who got transplants gave a hundred grand to the hospital a short time later. This is not to say that the UCLA transplant team knew in advance. But the paragraphs that were interesting are the following:

There was this from Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania
, which also has one of the nations top liver transplant teams.

“It starts to defy credulity that you’re not going to be curious
about who these people are, if only to ask them for more money down the road,” he said. “Any development officer who didn’t follow up a $100,000 gift with a check of who this guy is and who his friends are would be an ex-development officer.”

Wealthy foreigners, he added, are attractive to transplant programs
because not only do they pay the full cost for their procedures, but they often make gifts of gratitude later.


…Dr. David Mulligan, a liver transplant surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix
, took issue with UCLA’s statement that it does not make moral decisions when it adds patients to its transplant waiting list. He said transplant professionals make such decisions every day.

“By saying that we don’t impose any kind of a moral judgment on people is not entirely complete,” he said, “because I think that every transplant center has members of the [selection] committee who are social workers and financial aid advisors and psychiatrists who are intensely involved in the estimation of every potential recipient and their ability to progress with a full and long-standing recovery.”

Once again, why did Tadamasa Goto get a liver transplant two months after he arrived in the US while others on UCLA’s list wait as long as three years? This and other questions remain to be answered.

Charlie Ornstein assures me that he and Glionna are still aggressively following the story, so stay tuned.

Posted in health care, Life in general, Public Health | 19 Comments »

On Being Disabled and in Jail in LA

May 29th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Peter Johnson was fifteen years old
when he was shot, 24 years ago. He was waiting for a bus, and the shooter was aiming at someone else. The bullet hit his spine. Now he is paralyzed from the chest down. He has no feeling in his legs. But he can get around pretty well with a wheel chair.

In October of 2007, Johnson was arrested for petty theft.
After booking, he was kept in the inmate reception center of the LA County jail for between 8-10 hours. Evidently this section of the jail has no wheel-chair accessible bathrooms so,although Johnson told deputies of his mounting discomfort, it appears they did nothing. Johnson was left to relieve himself in his chair and clothes. He also had no access to drinking water as the water fountain was too high for him to reach from the chair.

When finally Johnson was transferred to jail proper, things just got worse.


Donald Peterson is 47-years old and a veteran. He served in the military for more than nine years in Panama, Granada and in Desert Storm. In 1989 he broke his back in a work accident. Later he was shot in the back and in the hip. As a consequence of the injuries and the subsequent surgeries, Peterson needs a wheelchair to get around.

After Peterson was charged with a crime and taken to LA County jail to await court proceedings, his wheelchair was taken away altogether
. Instead, he was given a walker, which he was unused to using so he repeatedly fell. He was also denied the catheter bag he depended upon for nighttime relief so often slept in soiled sheets. When Peterson was transferred to another cell, for several days he was even denied the walker and was reduced to crawling.


These and scores of other alarming tales of disabled inmates—many convicted of nothing, and awaiting trial—being denied basic services,
medication and necessary treatment are all part of a law suit that was filed yesterday by the ACLU and the Disability Rights Legal Center in order to stop what the ACLU describes as “systemic discrimination against inmates with disabilities.”

In an investigation that included interviews with almost 70 inmates over several months, the civil rights attorneys heard accounts of them having to sit or lie in their own waste for hours because wheelchair-accessible toilets and showers were either non-existent or dangerous, or because guards took away catheter bags that allowed them relief at night. Others had to drag themselves on the floor because they had no access to their wheelchairs or, when they did, bathroom doors weren’t wide enough for them.

“There were no grab bars,” said Francis Tribble,
an inmate who is in a wheelchair after a car crash shattered his left leg and crushed his feet. “I had to lower myself out of my wheelchair at the entrance to the toilet and crawl and drag myself along the ground . . . then pull myself up to the seat. The ground was filthy, which made it even worse.”

Several of those involved in the jail monitoring and inspections,
describe conditions for the disabled as the worst they’ve seen in any American corrections facility.

“This is the most egregious example of government brutality
I have ever witnessed,” said Virginia Keeny, one of the attorneys filing suit. “These individuals are being treated worse than animals.”

When I chatted yesterday about the issue
with ACLU spokeswoman, Celeste Durant, she said that she was surprised that, other than the LA Times, there has been virtually no coverage of the jail conditions at all since the ACLU announced the suit. “Only the Times and one TV crew from Fox 11 covered it,” she said. “There has not the kind of attention you’d think this kind of story would get.”

In the Times story, reporter Richard Winton
quotes Sheriff Lee Baca as blaming jail overcrowding and aging facilities for the problem.

“We do, quite frankly, the best we can. But we can do better,” he said. “The ACLU is wonderful at presenting our problems but never comes up with any solutions.”

It should be noted that if the state legislature goes ahead with its latest plan to relieve overcrowding in the California’s prison, then the LA County jail’s over crowding dilemma—and the care of disabled inmates— may get much, much worse, not better.

Posted in ACLU, Civil Liberties, LA County Jail, LASD | 4 Comments »

Mother on Fire: Sandra’s Excellent Education Adventure

May 29th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Okay, so about a month ago my brilliant, talented and extremely ferocious
friend Sandra Tsing Loh sent me an email.

In it she explained that she and some other mothers
had decided it was absolutely essential to stage a grassroots rally (and parade and art-happening and possibly a teach-in) in Sacramento to protest the latest draconian round of public education budget cuts. The idea was to get a bunch of press attention and, in so doing, hopefully goad/threaten/persuade/emotionally blackmail lawmakers into budget cutting somewhere other than education.

(The early release of those 22,000 low-level,
short-timer prisoners—a move on which Arnold back-pedaled—might be a good place to start.)

The rally, she said, is scheduled for June 17, the date chosen because the stretch of time between June 15 and July 3 is the approximate window during which the state legislature is expected to vote on California’s proposed budget.

Would I be willing to come? Sandra wanted to know.

She said the rally would celebrate children “the people California forgot,”
on the steps of the Capitol.

Hard to argue with that. (And I wouldn’t dream of arguing with Sandra anyway, as she’s usually right—especially on education issues.)

She further lured me with the promise
that I could get from LA to Sac’to by riding with her in a “luxury RV”—one of four that she was renting for the occasion from CruiseAmerica.

“I’ll be taking a lesson from CruiseAmerica in RV driving,”
she assured me, adding, “On board is a masseuse, tai chi master, chocolate. Think: On the Road, Fear and Loathing, Moby Dick, The Odyssey. . . but with mothers. And chocolate.”

Tai Chi, chocolate, and the chance to rouse some rabble in the name of educational justice?
—or to at least chronicle said rabble rousing? Cool!

Unfortunately, when I checked my trusty Blackberry datebook,
I noted I would be in Bennington College in Vermont, on June 17, the day of the rally.


(As I may have mentioned, a year ago I decided to get a master’s degree in creative writing from Bennington. This requires, among other things, a twice-yearly ten-day writers “residency” at the place. I graduate in June ’09. You’re all invited.)

I would have to settle for reporting on her extremely worthy grassroots civic adventure from afar, I told her. (Consider this the first installment.)

In the meantime, Sandra has been broadcasting her own radio journal about the political/emotional/spiritual highs and lows of rally organizing on KPCC in her weekly segments called The Loh Life. You can listen to the segments in order here and here and here and here and here.

AND if you want to join the rally adventure (or know somebody else who does), there’s a website that has all the information.

Green Dot Charter guru Steve Barr says he’s coming
, and bringing his new baby in a Baby Bjorn tummy pack.

(The soon to be rallying new baby Barr,
whose name is Jack, is pictured below.)


PS: LA Teachers are also planning a demonstration against the cuts.
Theirs is scheduled for June 6 and is to consist of a three hour walk out. LAUSD officials are hoping to block the walkout, citing student safety.

PPS: Hey, for starters maybe interested parties would agree to donate to the schools the $30 million
(!!!) that is expected to be spent on battling over an anti-gay marriage amendment to the California constitution.

Posted in Education, LAUSD, Los Angeles writers, State government, State politics | 21 Comments »

Nothing Stops a Bullet Like Lead Abatement? – The Sequel

May 28th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Most of the nation’s papers are carrying stories today
about the release of results from the most comprehensive study to date, conducted by researchers at University of Cincinnati, looking at the links between exposure to lead in early childhood, predominantly through contact with lead paint, and criminal behavior later in life.

Here’s a clip from the LA Times story:

The first study to follow lead-exposed children from before birth into adulthood has shown that even relatively low levels of lead permanently damage the brain and are linked to higher numbers of arrests, particularly for violent crime.

Previous studies linking lead to such problems
have used indirect measures of both lead and criminality, and critics have argued that socioeconomic and other factors may be responsible for the observed effects.

But by measuring blood levels of lead before birth and during the first seven years of life, then correlating the levels with arrest records and brain size, Cincinnati researchers have produced the strongest evidence yet that lead plays a major role in crime.

The researchers also found that lead exposure is a continuing problem despite the efforts of the federal government and cities to minimize exposure.

The average lead levels in the study “unfortunately are still seen in many thousands of children throughout the United States,” said Philip J. Landrigan, director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

The link between criminal behavior and lead exposure was found among even the least-contaminated children in the study, who were exposed to amounts of lead similar to what the average U.S. child is exposed to today, said Landrigan, who was not involved in the study.

Read the rest here.
And I blogged about the issue previously here.

Science Daily has even more information on the study. Here’s a quick clip from what they wrote:

….researchers recruited pregnant women living in Cincinnati neighborhoods with a higher concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing. Recruitment took place at four prenatal clinics between 1979 and 1984. Dietrich’s team has monitored this population group since birth to assess the long-term health effects of early-life lead exposure.

Of the original 376 newborns recruited, 250 were identified for the current study
. Researchers measured blood-lead levels during pregnancy and then at regular intervals until the children were 6 ½ years old to calculate cumulative lead exposure.

Blood-lead level data was then correlated with public criminal arrest records
from a search of Hamilton County, Ohio, criminal justice records. These records provided information about the nature and extent of arrests and were coded by category: violent, property, drugs, fraud, obstruction of justice, serious motor vehicle, disorderly conduct and other offenses.

Researchers found that individuals with increased blood-lead levels
before birth and during early childhood had higher rates of arrest–for both violent and total crimes–than the rest of the study population after age 18.

By the way, about a year ago, when researchers tried to link drops in crime
in certain urban areas to lead abatement in the area decades earlier, law enforcement types from Bill Bratton to Rudy Giuliani labeled the notion “absurd.” (Back then I did a round up on the issue here

MEANWHILE…..yesterday the Defense Department announced that 40,000 American service people have been diagnosed with PTSD since 2003.
Moreover the number of cases diagnosed jumped by 50 percent in 2007 over 2006. The feds also said that, since people are worried about reporting, this may be the tip of the iceberg.

Posted in Public Health, War | 4 Comments »

Yes, It’s Another Wolf Update – UPDATED

May 28th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


And the wolf controversy goes on.

As you likely remember, the wolf was officially taken off the endangered species list on March 28 of this year. Since then over 40 wolves have been killed.

Last week, despite much protest against the idea,
Idaho’s Fish and Game commission increased the number of wolves that may be killed in the state from 328 to 428. This is from the state’s total population of 700 wolves.

Meanwhile, in response to the request from a consortium of environmental groups to put the Rocky Mountain gray wolf back under Federal protection and to stop the killing, the feds tried to delay a hearing on the matter. But U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy went ahead and set the hearing on the request anyway, saying he was “unwilling to risk more deaths.” The hearing on the request for an injunction to stop the wolf hunting will be held tomorrow, May 29, in Missoula, Montana.

Yesterday, Salon magazine ran an interesting article
by Katharine Mieszkowski on the issue of taking the gray wolf off the endangered species list called Killing the Wolves Again.

Mieszkowski opens with the story of the well-known wolf
from Yellowstone’s Druid pack nicknamed Limpy because of an injured leg, who was killed the first day the ban on hunting was lifted.

Here’s a clip from the rest of Mieszkowski’s article:

….The wave of killing has raised the absurd specter that while the United States spent millions to bring wolves back to the region in the name of conservation, and to restore a fraction of the West to its former wildness, now the wolves will be slaughtered again. On April 28, a coalition of 12 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, filed suit in federal court against the Bush administration, challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove protections for the animals. The lawsuit contends that because the wolves occupy several distinct areas, there’s not enough genetic diversity within the small number to ensure the wolf’s future. The states’ hunting policies will likely drive down that number even further.

“The states legally could kill down to a total of 300 wolves,” says Doug Honnold, a lawyer for Earthjustice, lead attorney on the case. “We could have 1,200 wolves killed before the federal government would say relisting this population is appropriate. People have worked so hard to promote wolf recovery, and just as we have victory within our grasp, or approaching our grasp, we’re throwing it away and heading in the opposite direction.”

More after the hearing.

Note: I’ve posted in the past about delisting the wolf here and here.

UPDATE #1: Hoping to head off any injunctions from federal Judge Malloy on Thursday, Wyoming Fish and Game set a conservative hunting quota of 25 wolves per year inside the state’s so-called trophy game zone. This compromise approach, limiting the kills to 8 percent of Wyoming’s wolf population, was quite different from the loathsome, in-your-face-screw-you-and-your-wolf-hugging quota set by Idaho F & G which (as noted above) set its quota at 428 kills—or 61 percent of its wolf population.

Now it remains to be seen what Judge Malloy will do.

Posted in environment, wolves | 9 Comments »

JUVENILE JUSTICE: The Long Beach Press Telegram v. The LA Times

May 27th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

photo by Joseph Rodriguez from his book Juvenile

For the past week, the Long Beach Press Telegram has been doing a wonderful series on Juvenile Justice.

It covers multiple aspects of the topic—from the probation camps, to the courts, to the police, to the schools, plus upcoming legislation and, finally, possible solutions—and/or the lack thereof.

I’ve only begun to dip into it, but so far I’ve found the series smart and amazingly wide-ranging.

My main question thus far is: Why hasn’t the LA Times done something this comprehensive?

Posted in Gangs, juvenile justice, Los Angeles Times, media | 2 Comments »

Gangs, Violence and Depression: A Clinical Approach Needed

May 27th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


PBS has produced an excellent documentary called Depression: Out of the Shadows.
It takes a look at the approximately 18.8 million American adults that the National Institute of Mental Health estimates have a depressive disorder. And that 18.8 million doesn’t include the increasing number of adolescents being diagnosed with depressive conditions.

The program—which may be watched either in its entirety,
or segment by segment online—was drawn to my attention by one of it’s subjects, a former gang member-turned author named Dashaun “Jiwe” Morris. (We were on a panel together at the LA Times Festival of Books and have kept in touch.)

Each of the segments is fascinating. For instance, segment six covers two aspects of the issue: the prevalence of—and the denial about—depression among African- Americans, and the stigma against depression in the corporate world.

For my purposes, however, I found segment five, featuring Jiwe, to be particularly significant
as it relates childhood trauma to depression—and then, in Jiwe’s case, shows how trauma-based depression can produce violent and self-destructive behavior in children and adolescents.

“All the while, we [were] living suicidal every single day of our lives,” says Jiwe in the segment, “because we [were] out on these streets with people gettin’ murdered every day. It’s just a different form of suicide.”

During the years that I was first researching gang violence
in the early to mid 1990′s, I got to know a lot of kids in gangs. Then in a frightening number of instances, I later went to their funerals. After about four years of the research, I began to wonder if a great many of those deaths—all but one by homicide—were really a form of back-door suicide. My friend Father Greg Boyle has often remarked about the same thing.

Now that all the research about the prevalence
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among inner city children and adolescents has emerged in repeated studies, I have become more and more convinced that gang violence isn’t just a public health problem to be viewed from an epidemiological perspective, as many of us have been saying, but it is also a mental/emotional health crisis.

If we are to be successful with intervention and prevention, that’s one of the ways we must address it.

Posted in Gangs, media, Public Health | 3 Comments »

Sidney Pollack: 1934 – 2008

May 26th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

On could argue, I suppose, that Pollack directed better movies than this one,
although it was the film that won him the Oscar. And possibly he created better scenes. But there are none that have stayed with me more vividly than this particular scene near the end of Out of Africa. (Of course he had Meryl Streep to work with.)

Posted in American artists | 7 Comments »

Stupid Management Tricks: Alan Mittelstaedt Fired

May 26th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


The idiocy going on at the management level in our local print media
never fails to astonish. As the various management bean counters become ever more panicked about their respective bottom lines, they continue to demonstrate the old maxim my mother used to favor— penny wise and pound foolish—in new and interesting ways seemingly on a weekly basis.

The latest in LA media’s STUPID MANAGEMENT TRICKS is the decision of LA Citybeat’s shot callers to eliminate the job of its news editor and columnist (and my close pal) Alan Mittelstaedt.

I’ve known about this for days but have not been able to say anything.
However I notice that Kevin Roderick at LA Observed announced it yesterday with a follow-up today, and Alan sent a wonderfully eloquent (and gracefully humorous) letter to friends, writers and colleagues today—so I guess the word’s out.

The irony is that, aside from the fact that Alan is an excellent editor, he is Citybeat’s best bet for saving money, not spending it—that is if Citybeat also wants to retain….what’s the word I’m looking for?….oh, yeah, quality.

Along with being a news editor with great instincts
and a stellar Rolodex (metaphorically speaking since Rolodex’s are now museum artifacts), Alan wrote LA Sniper, a fabulously muckraking column that was one of the paper’s main pleasures—AND he talked terrific pro-writers like Jeff Anderson into writing for the paper for near to nothing.

Even better, by mentoring smart interns and graduate students,
Alan managed to get a string of kick-ass cover stories out of the aforementioned for pennies.

In other words, Alan is not the dude you want to eliminate if you’re looking to produce hot shot news writing, while nipping and tucking the budget.

But whatever.

Rebecca Schoenkopf AKA the columnist Commie Girl, formerly of the OC Weekly, is the editor-in-chief—for the moment anyway. I understand Schoenkopf is a very nice person, and her Commie Girl column—while resolutely personal and sorta life-style-ish—was also edgy and amusing as she poked sticks at the rich and the mega-rich.

But, thus far, her leanings are in the the direction of, shall we say, soft news (read life style) and not hard news. So will Rebecca have a sudden issue-oriented conversion and be able to guide young reporters into covering the hard but great stories that the LA Times and the LA Weekly have missed?

One never knows, I guess. But frankly I’m not over confident.

If she cannot, this means that, as LA readers, we have lost the goals

that Alan shared with (also fired) founding editor Steve Appleford, namely (as Alan wrote in his letter):

CityBeat must pursue week after week the duplicitous, self-serving politicians who too often put their own interests ahead of the public’s, and spotlight those community leaders who are fighting to improve Los Angeles. We made our top priorities transportation, air quality and increased coverage of city and county government. We were outstaffed by the dailies, but we still carved out a spot to be heard above the rest. On good weeks, we had an additional full page for news and produced cover packages on the subway, the mayor and city politics.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but THIS SUCKS.

Posted in Los Angeles writers, media | 13 Comments »

Honoring the Losses of War: “The Sergeant Lost Within”

May 26th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Commenter Reg, who blogs at Beautiful Horizons,
reminded me that it is more than the war dead whom we should be honoring today, it is also the many who have suffered grave injuries. Perhaps the article printed over the weekend that best and most painfully depicts the terrible costs of war that are not fatal—not quite anyway—is this story in the New York Times Magazine.

It takes us into the world of Sgt. Shurvon Phillip, a man trapped inside his body, unable to move much, and only barely able to communicate answers to “yes” or “no” questions, but who appears to be cognitively intact—to a greater or lesser degree anyway. Sgt Phillip is a marine who joined the reserves seven years ago when he was 17, partly as a way to pay his community-college tuition. He was riding back to his base after a patrol when an anti-tank mine exploded under his Humvee.

Shurvon Phillip is one of the 900 or so soldiers who have come home with what is called serious traumatic brain injury—or T.B.I., “which essentially means dire harm to their brains.”

Here is the story’s opening:

“You want to wear this or this for therapy tomorrow?”
Sgt. Shurvon Phillip’s mother asked, holding two shirts in front of him. On one wall of his bedroom hung a poster of a marine staring fiercely, assault rifle in hand and black paint beneath his narrow eyes. Shurvon’s eyes, meanwhile, are wide and soft brown. He sat upright, supported by the tilt of a hospital bed. He cannot speak and can barely emit sound or move any part of his body, and sometimes it’s as if the striking size of his eyes is a desperate attempt to let others understand who he is, to let them see inside his mind, because his brain can carry out so little in the way of communication.

He gazed at the two shirts and, with excruciating effort
and several seconds’ delay, managed to jab his gnarled right hand a few inches toward his choice, a black pullover with writing on the front.

Here’s the rest. It’s very much worth your time.

Commenter Woody (who blogs at GM’s corner) reminds me that there is a national minute of silence to honor our war dead at 3 pm today, local time.

Posted in War | No Comments »

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