Walk Carefully

March 26th, 2017

Walk Carefully

            This month’s column has almost nothing to do with human population. It details an event that was life-changing for me, and could have been life-ending. However, getting bumped off by a careless driver is no way to solve overpopulation! I write to help others be safer.

Back in November my wife and I were crossing Main Avenue in the crosswalk on the way to one of Durango’s restaurants. We weren’t sure if it was north or south of 7th Street, and I remember looking to the left to see if the eatery was in that direction.

The next thing I knew was waking up in the CT scanner at Mercy. I had been hit by a car whose driver “didn’t see me”. Fortunately he stopped; unfortunately he parked with my foot under a tire.

Happily the results of the CT scan and other tests showed nothing terrible was done. I had a broken bone in my right ankle in addition to multiple bruises and “road rash”. The concussion saved me from remembering the accident, and its aftereffects are gradually resolving. There was a large bruise on my left leg where the car had probably first hit me. The hematoma became infected and had to be drained.

The hematoma and dead skin that covered it seeded another infection. I went back to the operating room to have that removed, leaving an open wound. Now, almost 4 months after the accident, I am still recovering but am almost healed.

I am very fortunate: my injuries could have been so much worse. Searching the Herald archives since my accident I found 4 more pedestrians who had been hit by vehicles in Durango and one in Hermosa, so mine was not an isolated misfortune. It would seem that it isn’t safe to be a pedestrian in Durango!

There are several lessons when looking at my accident from a public health standpoint. Everyone knows that drugs and alcohol are among the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents. Texting and talking on a cell phone are frequent causes of accidents. Apparently none of these possible factors was pertinent to my accident.

One possible contributing factor is that I was wearing a blue jacket and dark jeans. These are less visible than lighter colors. Although the “dark skies” initiative is admirable, I think that the lights in downtown Durango are dimmer than they should be.

The care I received has been excellent. A woman who was working at a store close by came and kept my neck from moving and made sure I was responsive. My wife and others told the driver that he was parked on my foot and got him to move the vehicle. The police and ambulance arrived quickly. They started two IVs and drove me to Mercy with all the proper precautions. An emergency physician evaluated me and ordered appropriate tests. Then they applied a splint to the broken ankle.

There was a surprise in the ER—a bouquet of flowers brought by unknown well-wishers. It turned out that they had just started one of new restaurants where Francisco’s had been. We ate dinner there a month or so after the accident; their chile rellenos are excellent!

I have several suggestions to try to prevent pedestrians from being hurt in the future. Individuals can avoid trauma by being more paranoid when crossing streets—even in the crosswalk. Wear light-colored clothes at night; even better, wear clothes that have reflective markings.

The City of Durango already is concerned about lighting. From Christina Rinderle’s column “From the Mayor” in the January 29th Herald: “Other items were placed in the high impact/low effort quadrant that we hope to be “quick wins”, like enhancing downtown lighting to make it safer and more inviting….”

A traffic light at the corner of 7th and Main would help. My wife, Gail, has a suggestion for a less expensive solution. Mount spotlights aimed at the crosswalks on poles at the corners of Main that do not have traffic lights. When a pedestrian wants to cross, s/he would push a button to turn on the spotlight for long enough to safely cross the street.

I feel very fortunate that my injuries were no worse, but even with relatively minor trauma it is taking me 3 surgeries and over 4 months to recover. Please be careful!

© Richard Grossman MD, 2017

Let Her Decide

February 27th, 2017

          “Father slapped his hand on the table. ‘If Sarah was a boy, she would be the greatest jurist in South Carolina!’” This quote is from Sue Monk Kidd’s popular novel, The Invention of Wings. It is inspired by Sarah and Angelina Grimké, whose family were slaveholders in the first half of the 19th century. These sisters moved from South Carolina to Philadelphia where they joined the abolition movement and the Religious Society of Friends. They were condemned because Quakers didn’t allow women to lecture in public at that time. Speaking as a Quaker, I am pleased that one of our religion’s current core beliefs is equality, including equal status of men and women.

In Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind, one of the characters waited tables at the Bounty Restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey. A reflection of the status of women in 1984 is that the owner’s idea of success “…was for a woman to come in with a group of men and be able to have a pleasant evening… without being subjected to innuendo and arguments all night, and to enjoy herself enough to come again, though in all the Bounty Restaurant’s checkered history, this had sadly never happened.”

The status of women in many countries is terrible, as it was in the early history of the USA. Fortunately women’s status is slowly improving globally, but there have been setbacks. Some of the worst have to do with access to reproductive health. While the science of birth control and abortion has improved, restrictions have made it more difficult and more expensive for women to receive the services they desire.

First came the Helms Amendment in 1973, the year that abortion was legalized in the USA. Appended to the Foreign Assistance Act, this amendment prevents federal money from being used abroad to provide abortions or even information about abortion.

The Helms Amendment kills women. It is estimated that 11,000 women die annually because they do not have access to safe abortions. Each year there are 20 million unsafe abortions world wide, mainly in poorer countries, that kill 47,000 women. Remember that the abortion rate is paradoxically higher where it is illegal! Sadly, many of these women are mothers of large families. Many lives could be saved if the USA would encourage safe abortion services.

Passed 3 years later, the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal Medicaid funding for abortions in the USA. There are three exceptions to this, fortunately—for cases of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy presents a risk to the woman’s life. Some states use non-federal funds to pay for abortions; New Mexico does, but Colorado does not. Both of these amendments regrettably target the poorest of women, especially women in rural areas with limited access to health care.

Nicknamed the “Global Gag Rule”, the Mexico City policy was announced in 1984. Many overseas organizations get their funding from multiple sources, including from the federal government. This Rule prohibits any recipient of federal funds from any counseling or provision of abortion services—even if that funding comes from another source. The Gag Rule is a political football. Started by Reagan, every Democratic president since has rescinded it, but every Republican, including most recently Trump, has reinstated it in even more restrictive form.

138 organizations have signed a statement opposing the Global Gag Rule. What can we as individuals do? Population Connection (formerly “ZPG”) started a campaign supporting Congress’s move to block the Rule permanently. 46 senators have co-sponsored Senate Bill 210, the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act. In the House, a companion bill H.R. 671 has support from 140 Representatives. Go to http://www.populationconnectionaction.org/fight4her/ for more information

A new organization was formed in reaction to the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule. Lilianne Ploumen, a social activist and minister in the Dutch cabinet, started “She Decides – Global Fundraising Initiative”. The Dutch government announced that it will contribute 10 million Euros to this initiative to help replace the funding the Gag Rule has taken away—and it has been joined by support from 7 other governments. There is more information and the opportunity to donate at: https://www.shedecides.eu.

Here in Colorado some members of our State Legislature have recognized the problems caused by diminished reproductive rights and have written House Resolution 1005. Democrats, including our own Barbara McLachlan, support this resolution. It champions the full range of reproductive health, including abortion. Would that there were more strong advocates nationwide such as we have here in Colorado!

© Richard Grossman, MD 2017

Speak Truth to Power

January 25th, 2017

While watching the presidential election returns in November and disbelieving the results, this poem kept going through my head:


Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

                                                Used with permission


Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.


And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.


When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.


Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.


Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.


Listen to carrion — put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.


Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?


Go with your love to the fields.

Lie down in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.


As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go.


Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.


Wendell Berry is a renowned writer of prose and poetry, and an activist. Now in his 80s, Berry has given up the bright lights of New York and Palo Alto where he has taught and lives on a farm in Kentucky.

Berry is facetious when he writes “Love the fast profit….” Yet that is what the public in the USA has elected—a man who has little care for the future, nor for people, but has entered politics to further himself and the cadre of the superrich.

The next four years will be a especially difficult for reproductive health issues. The new administration has pledged to get rid of Obamacare, which has put health insurance within reach of millions of people. One of its best benefits is the availability of contraception without copay. Furthermore, the proposed Health Secretary is a foe of abortion.

There are actions bubbling up all over the country and they have already started locally. Dan Olson wrote about “Our 1st 100 Days”: “…a number of folks in the community are organizing a major campaign to combat the hate, fear, and lies so common in this last election cycle by growing and invigorating local efforts to advance social, environmental and economic justice in our community.” For more information: WWW.OUR1ST100DAYS.US.

RESPOND is offering a day of free classes on January 21st. For more information: www.respond2017.weebly.com.

The worst global crisis is climate change. Durango has already responded with a chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby; https://www.facebook.com/DurangoChapterCCL/?fref=ts. CCL will be showing a video, “The Age of Consequences”, on Wednesday 15 February at both 5 and 8 PM. It will be at the Vallecito Room of the Student Union Building at Fort Lewis College.

In mid-February “Truth to Power: Writers Respond to the Rhetoric of Hate and Fear,” will be available at Maria’s Bookshop. The scores of voices there, including Berry’s, collected and published by local writers Pam Uschuk and Will Root, can strengthen our resolve for the next 4 years.

If you are unhappy about the direction our country is headed, join with your neighbors to regain control. Participate in local actions!

© Richard Grossman MD, 2017

Afterword: This piece is most relevant to the Durango area, but there is concern and action all over the globe–including a demonstration that was held in Antarctica! No one knows what is going to happen, but I am certain that the current administration will set back human rights–especially women’s rights–terribly.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.