A Question of Lawyers
Brian Wallstin's reporting of this tragic story ["A Question of Life," February 5] is prompting me to write you. We moved from Long Island, New York, to Houston in 1993 while my wife was pregnant with our first child. At the time, a normal delivery on Long Island averaged $4,000, with a cesarean adding another $1,000. Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties presented doctors with the most malpractice suits filed in any region of comparable size, and consequently, with very high malpractice premiums. Imagine, for an instant, the stance this creates, from a system point of view, between hospitals and patients. It is barely short of antagonistic. While most doctors themselves rarely present this attitude, it is more often reflected institutionally. It was not a system I relished having to deal with, even if all turned out to be routine and successful.
Imagine my surprise, upon settling in Houston, to find that the cost to deliver our child would now be around $1,500. This was a comforting indicator that more common sense prevailed here in the people and the medical community, and it turned out for us to be primarily true. We had a wonderful Lamaze instructor, referred by the medical staff, who did not entirely trust doctors either. She was incredibly helpful, as I also share a healthy disregard for treating doctors as anything other than fallible human beings. The hospital had a Jacuzzi in the recovery room, provided a candlelight dinner (unheard of on Long Island at the time), and other than a minor disagreement over the use of pitocin, we were treated very well. And luckily for us, everything turned out just fine. We recently had a second child, at the same hospital.
Individually, all the medical personnel were terrific. And they often are, if allowed to separate from the administrators and lawyers, and to do the job they have chosen for their life's work. Wallstin's article indicates that Anna Summerfield is "the director of neonatal intensive care" for Woman's Hospital. At no time do the letters "Dr." appear in front of her name, nor the letters "M.D." after it, which indicates a lack of medical training. And yet she is the one who has the power to recite and enforce that "the hospital's policy required resuscitation and care of any live-born child weighing at least 500 grams," and to threaten to have Mark Miller removed from his wife's bedside. An administrator, as the story is told, bears the responsibility. That Columbia/HCA allowed this to happen was indeed the correct focus of the trial, and the jury was correct. I believe that the award will stand, on appeal.
However, on an interesting and possibly sad note, that wonderful hospital that I mentioned earlier, the one with competent and caring staff and affiliated doctors? That was Kingwood Plaza Hospital. Who owns it now? Unfortunately, Columbia/HCA.
Name withheld by request
This is outstanding: Mike Levy, publisher of Texas Monthly, is feeling a little heat from a former employee, and he responds in a fashion that is the antithesis of what we would expect from him -- bitterness [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, February 5]. A man who so often rips into people and their actions showed his true class in the way that he dealt with a little criticism from Robert Draper. The line left on Draper's answering machine, "I will get you for this," may even warrant a Bum Steer award. Way to go Levy -- just when you're feeling your oats with the sale of TM, you jump off a cliff and show what a jerk you are.
D. Ryan Monceaux
via Internet, Houston
The Green Teeth Match the Uniform
The real tragedy of the militia in Texas ("The Old Guard," by Shaila Dewan, January 29) is that it is funded at all. I have been involved with the military for over 20 years, and while the military itself has its own problems, the militia seems nothing more than a haven of military wannabes who allow potbellied, green-toothed, out-of-shape boys and girls to perform a fake mission as a pretense of genuine service to our country.
Ms. Shuffield, join the Red Cross. At least they provide real-life help for real-life problems. You'd be an asset to them.
As I read your story "Critical Diagnosis" [by Michael Berryhill, January 22], it brought back so many bad memories. Families, as you stated, have been reporting the inadequate medical care in the prison system for quite some time now. We are often more aware of the problems inside the prison than the administrators are. We report medical problems over and over, and oftentimes we suffer medical problems ourselves because we have to watch our loved ones suffer and sometimes die because no one takes us seriously. We have to watch their health go downhill, and as a mother, that's a tough one to watch. People often say that inmates deserve whatever treatment they receive while they are in prison. That statement comes easy to someone who doesn't have a child in prison. Judgments are easy to make when it doesn't affect your life. Families are often dismissed as too emotional when we call, scared and begging for help for our loved ones.
Again, I thank you for your honest evaluation of the medical care in our Texas prisons.
Linda F. Reeves
Executive director, Texas Inmate
Sports: Beyond Foolish
In your story about the Rutherfords' obsession with sports ["The Trophy Son," by Randall Patterson, January 15], and your readers' responses, they missed the point. The American fetish for football, basketball and baseball is beyond foolish.
Name one athlete who changed history. An Albanian-Indian nun did more than Nolan Ryan or Tom Landry. Drunk and stoned, Bob Dylan helped the world more by age 30 than any sports figure.
Many men dislike sports, but we think it's a manhood issue. Real men excel at their jobs, support their children, teach school, run nations, etc.
Usually, sports are a waste of time. Men over six foot six used to be considered freaks, and men weighing over 250 were just fat. We know the Rutherfords went way overboard about sports, but they're not alone.
Sports: Font of Injustice
While I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek reporting of "The Trophy Son," I found the scenario uncomfortably familiar. Though my children were, thankfully, never involved in school sports, they did witness similar ostracizing.
Awards, science fairs, poster contests -- all too often were used as tools to reward favored students. Honors like the American Legion award are sometimes given to a teacher's own child rather than to a truly deserving candidate. (And surprise, the teacher/mom is sometimes head of the award committee.)
In middle school, especially, the teachers seem to be emotionally stunted and less mature than their charges. Two personalities tend to dominate: The best years of their lives were during junior/senior high, and they want to revive them through deserving students; or the worst years of their lives were junior/senior high, and they want to get even. Many students have lost all respect for their teachers by the end of middle school.
As a whole, high school teachers are more mature, but as evidenced by your article, we still have a long way to go. Woe to the parent who thinks he or she can get justice in our present system. Fairness is not in their vocabulary: Morally bankrupt teachers will happily side with each other, even under oath. It is an "us against them" mentality.
I solved my own children's anguish by removing them from HISD and putting them in SBISD, where comparatively, they found Nirvana. Unfortunately for the Rutherfords, Cypress Falls sounds like it is a part of a system like HISD, where abuses are rubber-stamped from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top.
Despite everything, my children are doing wonderfully (as Kyle seems to be) in college. I identify with the Rutherfords, as I was once in the same state of hysteria. When trying to explain an insane situation to someone who has not been exposed to such injustices, I was often met with an expectant look -- a look that told me my listener thought I might start foaming at the mouth, any minute. I sincerely wish the Rutherfords much luck in pursuing their court case, but my heartfelt advice is: Move on!
Name withheld by request
Eric Lawlor Fan Club Mobilizes to Smite T.N. Van Swearingen
In response to your January 22 letter "Too Snobby Even for T.N. Van Swearingen" [by, of course, T.N. Van Swearingen], I wish to comment.
As a longtime supporter of Eric Lawlor, the man and his writings, I wish to differ ... Lord knows where he'll take us, to what lengths of humor and intelligence, with or without "our dictionaries."
Name withheld by request
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.