Some of us make risky life and death decisions: For our children; For ourselves, For strangers. We hope it provides a better quality of life. Sometimes the risk doesn’t work. Then we can only hope we’ve contributed to progress…

My barking ex-wife once told every ear she could harass that I wanted our very ill son “dead.”

I am not here to excoriate a woman who is missing an “I” in her Q. She actually thought you couldn’t listen to AM radio in the afternoon.

Hmmm…

When she does stumble over the truth she merely picks herself up to hurry forth as if nothing had happened. Obviously, her failed exorcism must have sent the priest genuflecting down on Boystown…

So what was my problem?

Evidently, as my bourbon sippin’ Pappy scoffed: When you were circumcised they threw away the wrong end.

My ex’s canard about me wanting my son ‘dead’ manifested from one of my visits home. Stephanie said I made Zakki sicker than he already dreadfully was, congenitally, because I made him laugh too much.

This, she determined from the collateral damage she reaped in barely earning her undergraduate degree in something paranormal…after stops in six schools not on any GPS.

She took him to the hospital – an almost daily, and often urgent, visit anyway. When she called me to harangue I reminded her that she obviously misunderstood my basic tenet demonstrated from day one. That is when given dire choices of Zakki’s emergency heart and lung operations, I chose the procedure that would provide Zakki the best opportunity for quality of life – even if it did entail the most risk.

And this time, as to his laughing, I growled into the phone: “I’d rather see Zakki die laughing, than live on his knees!”

Hmmm… I am sure she called everyone from the White House to the Vatican with an unlimited cell phone plan.

I bring this tale to your attention as an exclamation point on the philosophical, moral and ethical issues surrounding medical dilemmas and the people that are the recipients of all the hand wringing.

For instance, the other day there was the extremely rare double hand and forearm transplant performed in Philadelphia at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

And the issue becomes: Why are the docs doing this?

And the answer becomes: Remember Luke in Star Wars, when his real father, Darth Vader, cut off his hand with his laser sword. And the docs aboard the space ship simply reconnected a new hand and wrist.

That becomes possible in the distant future only because of what we dare to do in the present. Progress comes in millimeters. And progress only occurs when men dare to be different. I think the word usually used there is ‘great.’

Only about 60 people in the world have undergone successful hand transplantations since the first one in France in 1998. No doubt this is destined to eventually become as ordinary and regular as organ transplants.

Remember, the first successful kidney transplant only occurred in America in 1953, and Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant in 1967. This stuff –now conducted daily — is only 50 years in the making.

And some of us may have noticed the other day the passing of Dr. John F. Burke. He was the team leader who developed a material – an amalgam of plastics, cow tissue and shark cartilage – that became, just 30 years ago, the first commercially reproducible synthetic human skin. It would save the lives of innumerable severely burned people worldwide.

These are just a few of the men of humble beginnings who rose to challenge the boundaries of conventional thinking.

No one will doubt that progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. But the saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

The orthopedic and plastic surgeon, Dr. L. Scott Levin, who led the team operating on the young woman who lost her hands and arms due to blood poisoning, had his doubters, even from his peers.

Dr. Abraham Shaked, a Penn liver transplant specialist, admitted he thought Dr. Levin’s idea a “little bit crazy.” That is, until he met the patient.

“The first time I met the hand-transplant candidate, she gave me a hug, but she had no hands or lower arms,” Shaked said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever had a hug like that, but you start to think about life in a different way.”

Everybody I know only gets one shot at life. We only live once. However many of us try to live everyday. It’s a funny thing how that happens on our way to the grave.

I am not the first to stipulate that it is better to be able to live life the fullest, rather than the longest. This was a major part of the quality of life considerations I made in the life and death decision on the heart and lung operation for my son, Zakki.

Sometimes you pay the ultimate sacrifice for these decisions. And even though the operation proved successful, to a point, Zakki still has severe restrictions and limitations in his battle not only to live, but to be useful to himself and others.

Perhaps the consolation is that you should never be afraid that your life will end. You should be afraid that your life will never begin.

On this same quality of life issue, Penn bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who vetted the ethics of the hand-transplant venture, said: “Is it worth putting someone at risk of premature death to improve their quality of life? I came to understand that this is not just aesthetic or cosmetic. It is about truly functioning to the fullest.”

I couldn’t agree more heartily. No one is playing G-d here. We are all playing our roles on the stage we call life.

At least a million Americans a year who lose extremities to birth defects, burns, infections, trauma, or combat injuries want options other than artificial limbs.

They are discontented. And why shouldn’t they be? People should have the right, like the rest of us, not only to live the length but also the width of their lives as well.

Indeed, discontent is the first step in progress in man or nation.

And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.

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