Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Organ donors

My younger brother has been diabetic since 1991. 4 years ago, he was also diagnosed with lupus, Addison’s, and hypothyroid pretty much all at the same time. His health has never been a great subject and has led to hospital time and scary days for our family.

A couple of weeks ago, my father saw a video news report about a new treatment for diabetes. My parents and my brother began talking about it, Mum doing a lot of research and making contacts. Within a couple of days, my brother was in contact with the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta. He spoke to them back & forth about his medical conditions, his medications, etc. Last week he received word that he can begin the application process to be part of the program. He will go through 4 weeks of consistent blood sugar testing & recording, get his doctor’s signature, and fill out the necessary paperwork.

The procedure entails taking islets from cadaver organs and then transplanting them into my brother's liver. Luckily, he is a very thin person and likely to only need islets from one donor. Timing will depend on the availability of donors, but it could happen as soon as March of next year.

There are still more hurdles to overcome, and I try to temper my hopefulness with realism, but it’s hard not to be excited. If this transplant works, my brother’s life expectancy could be increased greatly. He could possibly see some improvements in his other medical conditions as well. Not to mention the freedom of foods and beverages and not worrying about insulin as much, or possibly, at all.

It’s an exciting time for him. I pray that he will continue to get through the next steps of the application without roadblocks, and if he finally makes it to Transplant Day, that it will work without incident.

A few years ago, my grandfather received cornea transplants from an organ donor. I had been thinking about organ donation for a while, but after this event and the improvement to my grandfather's sight, I decided to pull the trigger and actually sign up. The donor corneas allowed my grandfather to have better sight so he could still read and function on his own. I thought of how many people my organs could save, how many stories you hear of people killed in accidents and how their organs can help multiple people. I have a relative and a friend who are both on transplant lists, and I know how much it matters to me that they stick around as long as possible.

I do not drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. I am in good health. My wish is to be cremated after I am gone from this world. While I hope to live a long time, if anything were to happen to me, I'm sure my organs would be quite valuable. I could save and/or improve the life of many people who needed it: daughters, mothers, fathers, sons, brothers. In my mind, it is the ultimate gift.

If you haven't thought about organ donation, please do take some time to consider it. Think about your wishes for your body, your religious views, your health status. If you're like me, in good health and don't wish to be buried, then I encourage you to consider signing your organ donor card. When you do, inform your family so they are aware of your wishes. You never know when you, or someone close to you, may need a donation to live.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No Frills

No Frills opened in place of Superstore on the West Side. It's been a few months, and I have been there only three times, and once I did not purchase anything. They have a few policies I don't like, and I finally got around to drafting a note to send to them:

No Frills recently opened in my neighborhood and I am very disappointed. Your policy of not taking Visa as a form of payment has limited my desire to shop in your store. I use Visa for most purchases and I do not frequent stores who refuse to accept it. I am also frustrated by your shopping cart policy. While the deposit system may be desirable for your company, it is not convenient for the customer. The carts provided are large, heavy, and difficult to maneuver. The smaller carts, which were very popular and easy to use for most of the clientele of that store (primarily senior citizens), seem to have disappeared. It appears that the more senior staff were laid off in favor of student workers, who don't seem to be very helpful or friendly -- they barely look at me, let alone smile, while I am checking out. What used to be a weekly trip to Superstore has now turned into an avoidance of No Frills.

If you don't take Visa, then I'm not going to spend my $100 grocery order at your store, it's that simple. I don't carry a lot of cash, I don't want to use debit, I want to use Visa to build up my points. This policy has driven me to shop primarily at Sobeys, and I have also been spending more of my money at Co-op, who needs it if they're going to stay in business. Co-op's student workers are also quite friendly and helpful.

Having to pay 25¢ deposit to get a shopping cart out of hawk is ridiculous. I know the thinking: if the customer has to pay for it, it will get returned to the stall, people won't steal them, etc. All it has done for me is make sure that if I go in the store, I don't buy enough to need a cart. Or I take a free cart from Zellers lying around in the parking lot. This policy is only convenient for the person who bought the carts, not the people purchasing things in the store. The worst part about the carts is the removal of the small carts. They were my cart of choice, much easier to handle, and I know I'm not the only person who thinks that. There a many senior citizens on the West side, and if I'm having a hard time steering a giant heavy yellow cart, I know they must be too.

They laid off most of the senior people at this store when it changed banners. In their place are student-aged workers who obviously are only there because they have to be. That attitude shows through in how they deal with you at the checkout. One girl mumbles and barely looks at me, I actually try to avoid her line if I am there. Another just seems like he's tired and you're bothering him. I just haven't had a great experience dealing with the checkers at this store.

I'd be interested to know how things are going at this store since the change. I heard some of my co-workers talking about how great the low prices were. I agree, some sale prices are the lowest in town, and that is the sole reason I have been in the store a few times. This store also re-introduced a bag fee, something that had been so unpopular it was eliminated across the Maritimes last year. I'm curious which side has won out: low prices, or cart deposits/bag fees/limited payment options/less selection. I wonder how many have defected to Sobeys, or now choose to go to Superstore in other parts of town.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Fine Balance


Since I missed book club, I decided to blog my thoughts about the book. Spoilers follow.


This is one of the most depressing novels I've ever read. It seemed as though something bad would happen, and when you think it couldn't get much worse, something worse would happen, then something terrible, then something horrific... it just never stopped. I wasn't expecting a garden of roses, but this novel really wore me down.

For most of the novel, the characters are not likeable and I found myself with no sympathy for any of them. Frankly, I couldn't understand their motivations. Repeatedly Ishvar and Om seemed to allow themselves to go with the flow of injustice, rather than try any attempt to rally against it. Even near the end, when the Family Planning goondas were collecting them, they had the opportunity to attempt escape. Frustratingly, Ishvar decides to stay put because he hadn't done anything wrong. He seemed to learn nothing from his experiences in the labour camp. Dina spent the first 2/3 of the novel being a bitch. Maneck's situation with his parents angered me; people don't live forever, stop pseudo-fighting. He waited until it was too late to understand his father. Om and Maneck together were jackasses, stupid teenagers doing stupid things and being first-class perverts.

It's funny, I spent the majority of this novel saying about Ishvar and Om, "these people should just end things and put themselves out of their misery. Nothing good will ever happen to them." I was frustrated but kept reading because I wasn't sure what the end game was. When I got to it, I had to re-read the paragraph because I had skimmed it too quickly. What? Maneck jumped onto the train tracks? He's the one person who just started to plan a good future, and then he does this?! A repeat of what happened in the beginning, where the train was slowed due to a body on the tracks.

I enjoyed The Book of Negroes. Bad things happened, and even without the pat ending, I felt a sense of hope somewhere inside. I did not feel the same way about this book, especially not after Maneck jumped the tracks. Sure, Dina became more soft-hearted over time, still looking after the tailors years later. I just felt kind of blah at the end.

Ishvar might still have legs if he had gone to the dispensary to look after himself once Om was stable. Om might still have all his organs if Ishvar had just relented and let him choose his own wife. Ashraf Chacha might have lived longer if they had taken their chance to escape. Why in hell couldn't Om have written to Dina to explain at least a very small portion of what happened? So many times they left her hanging, and this time they had the opportunity to send her a simple letter (Ishvar hurt, can't come yet) and yet noooo, Om just doesn't know what to say and does nothing.

Although both this novel and the film Slumdog Millionaire are works of fiction, they are two accounts of the worst parts of India. If there is any truth to both, then it would lead one to believe that conditions have not improved much in the years between 1975 and 2008, and that would be a depressing thought.

I didn't hate the book, but it wasn't an enjoyable read. At least Maneck didn't turn into a tiger right before jumping off the platform. That being said, this book has stuck with me, even after finishing it over a week ago. There’s something to be said for that.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Christmas progress and frustrations

I am both pleased with my progress on Christmas shopping and frustrated at the same time. I have managed to get most people to give me their lists, which I took and turned into an online registry. I hope that by me doing the setup that they will take it and keep it updated after that. Since we all don’t live in the same house anymore, it’s tough to determine what someone wants, needs, or already has. If we’re going to exchange presents, I need ideas.

I still have three holdouts for giving me ideas. One will produce a list eventually. The second I can think of a few types of gift cards to send that I know she would enjoy. The third, I have absolutely no idea. She has refused to answer any of my requests for ideas, lives far away from me so I don’t get to spend any time with her to know her interests, has 2 small children and thus not much time for herself. I gave my best idea to someone else, which leaves me with no friggin clue what to buy her.

If I didn’t think it would be insulting, I’d consider getting her nothing. If you don’t provide ideas, then I assume you don’t want a gift. I am someone who prefers to buy a gift that I think the receiver will actually like or use. Even if I strike out, at least my thought process had them in mind, as opposed to pulling a knick-knack off the store shelf because I have to have something to wrap.

I recognize that it is still early in the process for Christmas shopping, but the sooner I have things settled, the sooner I can relax. I don’t want to keep harassing her, but if she doesn’t answer me within the next week*, I am just going to have to pull something out of the hat and not worry whether she actually likes it. I hate doing that.

*deadline not imposed by me, but by other circumstances.