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Padre Steve’s MLB Divisional Playoff Picks

steve on top of the rockLooking Forward to the Playoffs

Well sports fans it is October and with the exception of the 163d game in the AL Central between the Twinkies and the Pussy Cats we are ready for the playoffs to begin. Tomorrow’s one game playoff in the soon to be history Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome should be a pretty good game that hopefully will go longer than the 2005 NL Divisional series game between the Braves and Astros that lasted 18 inning.  If it goes that long the winner will be the Yankees.  Wait, that’s when they play whoever wins between the Twins and the Tigers.  My guess on this is that the Twins take them down hard in the inhospitable confines of the Metro Dome and go on to the playoffs where they will lose to the Yankees in 4.

With that in mind let’s take a look at the divisional series.  First the National League:

Cardinals vs. Dodgers: Cardinals in 4

The Evil LA Dodger’s (95-67) have the best record in the National League backed into the playoffs after starting like they owned the world.  Manny has been cold as a Boston night and the starting pitching has been suspect.  I like St Joe Torre but I don’t think that the Evil Dodgers have the Schlitz this year.  They will be playing the St Louis Cardinals (91-71) skippered by St Anthony La Russa who have some awesome hitting with Matt Halliday and Albert Pujols. The Cards are stacked with great pitching and I think that they will take the Dodgers in 4.  Now to be fair under St Thomas of Lasorda the Dodgers pulled off some pretty amazing playoff wins, however I don’t think this is the year for that. If it happens I owe my nephew Joe the Dodgers fan dinner next time I’m in San Diego.

Phillies v. Rockies: Phillies in 5

The Rockies (92-70) had an amazing season, going from worst to almost first in the National League West and taking the Wild Card berth. Everything has been working for them and Manager Jim Tracy is attempting to become St James of Denver.  They could potentially win this series but I am going to go with the Phillies (93-69) because I like their offense.  When the series moves to Coors Light Field I think that Ryan Howard’s wrecking crew’s bats light up the cool Rocky Mountain High nights when they get out there.  The Phillies pitching has not been as good in the past few weeks and closer Brad Lidge is seeking redemption after a miserable season which followed last year’s phenomenal performance.  As for the Rockies I think that Cinderella departs from the ball early.

The American League looks like a whole lot of the same with the exception of the Central.  What I would do to see the Orioles and the A’s back in the series like in the 1970s and 1980s.  The teams in the American League playoffs, at least the ones currently in and not the Central Division Champs regardless of who that is, are outstanding teams all with a decent shot of advancing to the ALCS.  First I’ll look out to Anaheim.

Angels vs. Red Sox: Angels in 5

Most experts are picking the Red Sox to once again knock the Angels out in the first round. The “Wild Card” Red Sox (95-67) have owned the Angels every year in recent memory that they have matched up in the ALDS.  However that being said this year’s team is not the Red Sox we have known the past few years.  They still have a lot of good players but they are showing signs of age and just don’t seem to have the same ability they did in past years despite their great record.  They were eaten up by the Yankees in their last two series with them and took a while to secure the Wild Card.   The Angels (97-65) played in a weaker division but still have done very well.  Unfortunately with the exception of 2002 they have regularly choked in the playoffs.  This year there seems to be something different about the Halo’s and I think it is related to the commitment of the team and dedication of the season to rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart who was killed by a drunk driver after pitching his first Major League start.  I think it will be a tight series but the Angles end the Red Sox dominance of this series.  I go Angels in 5.

Yankees vs. Central Division Champs: Yankees in 4 (Twins) or 3 (Tigers)

The Yankees (103-59) are my odds on pick to win it all.  This team is deep at every level and playing with an attitude after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995.  They will face either the Twins or the Tigers either of which will be 87-76 when they win Tuesday night.  The Twins are the hotter of the two teams and their playoff run has been outstanding but helped by the ineptitude of the Tigers.  However I do not think that either does well against the Yankees who seem to be healthy and hitting on all cylinders.  Yankee haters may not like it but the Yankees are a solid team and a middle relief corps that is home grown and not bought.  I think the Twins might steal one game but expect that the Tigers should they win Tuesday will go down faster than Apollo Creed in Rocky 4.

So we’ll see how I do as compared to guys who make a living at this.

Odds and Ends

A couple of notes on the personal side my job focus is shifting more to our Pastoral Care Residency program and out of the ICU.  I will be functioning in some manner like an attending pnhysician for our residents on all of their wards.  Likewise I will be working more on training for the entire department and more work with the ethics committee and the Special Psychiatric Response Intervention Team (SPRINT).  I will be moving my office back to the main pastoral care department offices this week.  I still have the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

I started the preparations for my comprehensive exams for my Military History Masters at American Military University.  It is an eight week course which is finished off with the actual exam.  I want to finish with the highest marks on the exam “Passed with Distinction” to cap my perfect record in my classes.

I had the undead tooth show its ugly face again.  Well not the tooth itself, it is dead but it still haunts me.  I was notified on Friday that I was on what we call a “Dink” list for Dental.  This is not good, the Naval Dental Corps is like the Gestapo in tracking down Sailors and Marines who miss appointments or regular screenings. When you get “dink’d” you are skylined, an open target with you name hanging out for the command to see.  You don’t want to be a “dink.” Those who have been reading this website since the summer know all about The Undead Tooth of Terror. See my post Killing off the Undead Tooth of Terror https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/killing-off-the-undead-tooth/

As a result of the Undead Tooth of Terror I spent much of the summer in the Dental Department or with the Oral Surgeons who I get to see again tomorrow.  I was told that I needed to take care of the problem with personnel.  After several perplexed looks by disbelieving personnel specialists I was directed to a back office and the young corpsman there looked me up and was able to tell me that I was “dink’d” but couldn’t say why.  So I went to Dental after another meeting where a young corpsman and I think that they are all young assisted me.  He told me that the computer said that I was delinquent on a root canal. Well, not only had I had the root canal, but when it failed I lost the tooth as well.  Informing the polite young man that said tooth was no longer in my head he looked for an explanation.  When I mentioned that I was being evaluated for an implant he told me that he would be right back.  He came back quickly with my record which had never been returned to records and was sitting on the Oral Surgeon’s desk.  He removed the “dink” from my records and the world is right again.

Tomorrow I have a couple of ideas as I have been working on an article about the first US Navy Aircraft Carriers, one on the Congregation of the Church of Baseball at Harbor Park and some reflections on the 2009 baseball season.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Healing Community Grieves-Portsmouth Naval Medical Center Experiences Yet another Tragic Death

This week has culminated two months of tragedy at our medical center.  This was another death, and this one was totally senseless.  It followed the unexpected death of Senior Chief Pam Branum while she was deployed on the USNS Comfort doing a humanitarian mission in the Caribbean Sea.  The Comfort was in Panama when she died.  Her death shook our community.  She was loved and respected and her death was unsettling.  Back in April we had lost Ensign Chris Gallagher in a motorcycle crash in Oceanview.  Chris was a fourth year medical student and would have graduated about three weeks after he died.  He was a incredibly sharp and dedicated medical student and would have made a fine physician.  As with Senior Chief he was well liked and respected.  I knew both of them.  I had seen Chris the day before his death in ICU rounds.

This week we lost Hospitalman Third Class Christopher Bailey.  Today in a chapel crowed well beyond it’s maximum capacity we remembered Chris.  It was a moving and emotional service in which his shipmates, friends and even his mother spoke,  I was especially touched by her words about Chris and our healing community.  Chris was a passionate young sailor and dedicated Christian.  He and a friend were looking at his car and discussing their faith when three men came to rob them.  As the men left following the robbery one fired a shot into Chris’s car.  He was hit in the back of the head and died yesterday at Norfolk General.  He donated his organs and seven were used in transplants.  In death he gave live to seven people.  Chris was a Psychiatric Technician.  He worked on our inpatient Psychiatry wards and occasionally in the clinic.  He was loved by those who worked with him.  I work on our SPRINT team which is an interdisciplinary team which goes out to assist in traumatic situations.  As part of that team I work with a lot of really great Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Psychiatric Nurses and Technicians, military and civilian.  Unlike Chris Gallagher and Pam Branum I had only met Chris in passing on duty one evening. So I didn’t know him like the other two, thus this was different than the others for me.

The death of Pan Branum and Chris Gallagher saddened me because I knew them and liked them.  Chris Bailey’s death angered me because it was so senseless.  Chris was killed for 5 dollars and truthfully, and this may seem un-Christian and anti-life I hope the bloody sonofabitch who did this is hunted down and killed.  That asshole snuffed out the life of a good kid and it really pisses me off.  I’m sure this reaction goes back to my youth because back in 1979 I was held up a gunpoint by two men with Judy, who was and her parents in the parking lot of Arroyo’s Café in Stockton California, the original home of the drive-by-shooting.  This was back in the days that Arroyo’s was on South center Street.  Having a gun to your head when you have no place to run sitting in the back seat of a car puts your life in perspective real quick.  When I heard about Chris and what happened to him I imagined what would have happened to me had the robber pulled the trigger on me.  Anyway I am upset about this because I am sick and tired of seeing young people die senseless and needless deaths. Additionally it angers me because it has hurt my friends on my team.  They are hurting; they are grieving and still trying to care for a nearly full inpatient psychiatric unit.  I hate to see my friends hurting.  I try to be there for them but that will not take away the hurt, pain and loss that they have experienced.  They walk tonight in the valley of the shadow of death.

Theologically and personally I wrestle with this.  I have a hard time finding any redeeming purpose or meaning in such a death.  Chris was killed by a criminal gang of thugs for no reason.  I have a hard time saying “well it’s God’s will” or “God works everything for the good.”  God may have a plan and somehow some way there may be something good that comes from this, but I cannot see it right now.  I’m sure that I am not alone in the way that I feel.  I can only imagine the sense of loss, grief and anger of the people that I work with who knew and loved Chris.  My stuff I can put a finger on, being held up at gunpoint thirty years ago, dealing with huge amounts traumatic death in ERs and ICUs as a chaplain and most of all the PTSD that I came home with as a gift from Iraq.

I stayed in the background of this event helping a bit with seating people, hanging out in back to make sure people were okay and after the service looking after my friends Andy and Casey from the SPRINT team.  Casey and I had done a mission at Camp LeJeune a few months back during a particularly gruesome suicide which came into the hospital ER.  Casey transfers soon but in the mean time we have to get together for a beer some evening or take in a ball game.

The only thing that I can say that may be halfway pastoral at this point is to echo German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonheoffer who said:

“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love. And it would be wrong to try to find a substitute. We must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, for the gap — as long as it remains unfilled — preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap: God does not fill it, but on the contrary, keeps it empty, and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.”

I know that all of Chris’s friends, as well as those of Chris Gallagher and Pan Branum will understand this.  There is nothing that can replace them and it is foolish to try to substitute another person, relationship or activity for them.  There is a hole in our hearts and in the collective soul of Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.  This place of healing is hurting and I pray that somehow these things will stop happening.

May God give rest to the soul of Christopher Bailey and all those who sleep in Christ; may his soul, the souls of Chris Gallagher and Pam Branum and all the departed rest in peace and all who grieve for them know the peace of God.

Pray for me a sinner, Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, PTSD, Religion, things I don't get

Mid-Week Review-The Loss of a Shipmate, Hospital Duty is Not Easy and No Rational Thought Goes Unpunished

Today has been tough, actually it began yesterday.  We lost a dear shipmate this week. Hospital Corpsman Chief Pam Branum passed away while deployed on the USNS Comfort while on a humanitarian deployment.  She was the Leading Chief Petty Officer for our Critical Care Department, a great leader, genuinely nice person, and dear friend to many in our department.  She was passionate about her work and her people.  She set high standards for herself and worked hard to make sure that her Corpsmen were trained and became good not only what they do, but to help develop them as leaders with character.  She supported the nursing staff that she worked with as a friend and mentor.  She was like a mom to a lot of our staff.  Her loss at the age of 41 was shocking.  This has been a tough year for us in the Medical Center, back in April we lost a 4th Year Medical Student who just in a few weeks would have become a physician and started his internship and residency here.  We have lost a number of other staff members, active duty and civilian since December.  When we lose them we lose part of our family.  Those who have never served in the military cannot fully fathom how losses like this affect the rest of us.  I will be working with our staff and helping to plan Chief’s memorial service and maybe depending on the location the funeral.  Chief Branum will be sorely missed, I am still somewhat in shock.  Please keep her family, friends and co-workers in your prayers.  A link to the Blog of the Executive Officer of the USNS Comfort is here:   http://comfort-xo.blogspot.com/2009/06/thank-you-chief-may-you-rest-in-peace.html?showComment=1244112525886#c1602797664780974312

Another aspect of this difficult year is the number of our military staff being deployed.  Our “deployers” support current operations in Iraq, the Gulf, Horn of Africa and the Afghanistan surge.  Many have already been deployed, are getting ready to do so or are waiting for word.  Many have made other combat deployments in Iraq either with the Marines, Expeditionary Medical Facilities and Shock and Trauma units.  Sometimes they are sent on joint assignments helping train Afghan and Iraqi medical personnel.  Additionally they do humanitarian work in the combat zones in cooperation with Army and Air Force medical personnel.  Some of these Sailors have lost their lives after leaving home and the supposed security of a hospital assignment.  It is sometimes frustrating to listen to those who do not work in a place like this refer to hospital duty as easy.  Our clinicians deal with life and death every day here and are called upon to deploy at a moment’s notice.   They fight for life every day and sometimes when things go badly are as traumatized by the events as people in combat.  It’s hard to watch someone die or suffer and realize that sometimes you can’t win.  There are deaths, especially of children that I cannot get out of my head and I know from my relationships with physicians and nursing staff that they also have similar experiences.   Programs are being developed to help people before they become victims of operational stress, but these are just getting off the ground.  Please keep these heroes in your prayers.

I think today I was also a victim of my logical and reasonable brain.  I am now a declared enemy of at least one person in the anti-abortion movement.  I invested myself heavily the past three days in discussing the events of this weekend in Kansas.  I will not regurgitate this here, read those posts.  However there is something interesting.  I basically had someone comment that “they knew whose side I was on” and pretty much labeled me as someone who is not pro-life.  If they knew me they would know otherwise, but some people cannot take even constructive criticism of tactics and strategy.  Sorry but the confrontational strategy has not worked over a 30 year period and the escalation of rhetoric and violence will get the whole pro-life movement labeled as a domestic terrorist organization. Hell, even David Kupelian of the ultra conservative news site World Net Daily and I agree on this.

The guy who posted to my blog even used a line that was eerily reminiscent of Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men.  “What happened to the “doctor” was wrong, it probably saved hundreds of lives.”  (Comment on yesterday’s post) The person who wrote this has adopted an end’s versus means situational ethic to make the leap that the murder while wrong is okay because it stopped one person from doing abortions.  Unfortunately that strategy will not stop others from doing abortions and may very well in fact lead to the dismemberment of the legislative gains of the mainstream pro-life movement which guess what will happen?  It will lead to more abortions.  If you make your living by fighting abortion like Randall Terry does this is a good thing.  You won’t lack for work or money unless however you are doing time in a Federal penitentiary as a domestic terrorist.   That aside it means as long as abortion is legal you can keep drawing a paycheck to fight it.  That is the kind of thing that makes me suspicious of Mr. Terry’s motives.  You use the same tactics for 30 years without any real change to the situation and then say we have to keep doing this.  I have to wonder when I see this. Is Mr. Terry truly committed to life or is this a means to stay in the spotlight?  I’m not accusing, just wondering.  I have met Randall on a number of occasions, never by the way at any rally or event, and he can be charming.  Personally he seems like a good guy to go out and get a beer with and maybe even engage in spirited discussions. However, his actions have planted a seed of doubt in my mind about his motives.   If he is really committed to the pro-life cause of saving babies why does he stick with tactics that only drive potential supporters away from him?  He seems to me  like Generals in wars who decide to take some enemy strongpoint.  They make an attack and it fails and they continue to do so until they bleed themselves dry and eventually lose the battle.  The real progress in the right to life movement has not been through protest. Instead it has been through prayer, practical help to women in need and legislative efforts of pro-life men and women committed to working through legal means.  These people do not vilify thier opposite numbers but seek engagement and redemption and reconcilliation.    I made sure that I allowed the comment so others can see just how this mindset plays out when guys like this judge people on the pro-life who advocate less incendiary tactics.

Well I chased that rabbit for what it was worth.  Anyway, things with my family in California still are difficult. My dad continues to worsen, the insurance company has been a pain in the ass causing my mom and brother much grief.   I covet your prayers for them.  The hospital is very busy and I have a number of very sick patients that I am caring for their families, both adults and children.  Likewise, I will be trying to make sure that I care for my ICU staff and help them get through this period of shock, grief and loss.  There may be a possibility of activating our SPRINT team to assist sailors in the medical center or on the Comfort and this could make things even more interesting.

In the midst of this I still deal with my own stuff.  In times like this I get the “electrical current” sensation running through my body.  I become more edgy, hyper vigilant and at times anxious.  Sleep is still difficult.  However, this too I will get through.  I have completed day three in a 12 day “home-stand” at the hospital.  I’ll have duty this weekend.  At least the Tides are in town. I’m taking Judy to the game against Buffalo tonight.  While there I will be keeping an eye on the scoreboard to see if Randy Johnson will get his 300th career win pitching for the Giants aganst the Nationals.  Only 24 major league pitchers have reached this mark and only one is active, that being Tom Glavine.  I’ll post a game synopsis later.

Pray for me a sinner.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: In spite of the threat of thunderstorm we got through the game with barely a sprinkle. The Tides beat the Bisons 5-3. Kam Mickolio got the win in relief and Jim Miler got his 13th Save.  Bobby Livingston pitched 7 shutout innings but went away with a no-decision.  Jolbert Cabrerra of the Tides hit a 2 run double in the bottom of the 8th to give the Tides the win.  The Tides improve to 35 and 17 and lead the Durham Bulls by a game and a half in the International League South,  Despite the loss of several pitchers as well as Outfielder Nolan Reimold and Catcher Matt Wieters to the Orioles the Tides with a bunch of AA promotions from the Bowie Baysox continue to win.  It is fun to see a team that plays in an organization that has a solid farm system.

Speaking of teams that don’t the Bison’s are now the AAA affiliate for the NY Mets.  They have the worst record in the International League. The Mets as they did in Norfolk have no hot prospects and many of their players are former major leaguers  The sad thing is that Buffalo under the Indians had a consistently good team. The city is not happy with the Mets.  Join the club Bison fans. It sucks to be the Mets AAA affiliate.

Second Post Script: The “Big Unit” Randy Johnson and the Giants had their game with the Nationals postponed by rain.  The game will be made up Thursday as a part of a double-header.  Johnson will get his chance for 300 tomorrow. Meanwhile the Braves released Tom Glavine. This could be the end of the line for the future Hall of Fame Pitcher.

Third Post Script:  The rain which held off throughout the game decided to hit after we got home. This happend to coincide with our little dog Molly’s trip to hunt for squirrels and do her evening business. She hates rain and started barking to be let back in.  The wet little dog got the payment of her cookie, gave us a good laugh and started playing with aplush toy fox that looks somewhat like her.  She is funny.

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, ER's and Trauma, healthcare, iraq,afghanistan, Military, philosophy, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion, PTSD, Religion