• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Friday, September 21, 2007

    The Chinese are out to get me...

    How many children have to die ... before enough is enough?
    New readers of my blog are going to think I hate Chinese people. This is not true -- it could not be further from the truth. However, lately, the stars have aligned against me, and they're using China to do it.

    Today, CNN reported more Chinese-made goods recalled. This time it's cribs.

    "Cribs! I just bought a crib!" I think as I read the article. "Could our crib be one of the recalled?"

    Quickly I shoot an email off to my wife, because -- as all men know -- when there's a house/baby question, you ask the boss.

    It looks like the cribs being recalled are made by Simplicity. For the last ten years -- TEN YEARS -- a support strut has been installed upside down, causing some mattresses to fall and creating a space for babies to be trapped. How in the world does it take a company ten years to fix a problem like this?

    We looked at the Simplicity brand at Babies 'R Us, specifically the Ellis model. Luckily, the Ellis model is not one of the models recalled. Unfortunately, it's not that lucky. According to Simplicity's own website,
    "CPSC is aware of three deaths in different models of Simplicity brand cribs. Additionally, CPSC is aware of seven infant entrapments and 55 incidents in these cribs."
    My wife and I decided to go with a Jardine-made crib, because we felt the Simplicity crib (one of those turn-into-a-bed-later cribs) was too high and hard for my wife bend over. The Jardine isn't a "lifetime" bed, but it allows the side to drop more, so my wife can pick up our soon-to-be boy.

    the stars have aligned against me, and they're using China to do it
    Even with the Jardine, we had our own scare. By now, my wife and my decision to not buy Chinese is apparent. Jardine is a Taiwan-based company (which I don't equate as Chinese) and my crib was made in Vietnam (which gave us a good laugh, and made us wonder how much it would have cost if we had just bought it when we were in Vietnam). As I was setting up the crib, a screw from the slide (the same part that is forcing the recalls on the Simplicity cribs) kept falling out, making that side very unstable. Luckily, I was being the conscientious consumer and dad, and tested it out two or three times. With the help of my father, we figured out that each side of the support was supposed to have one small and one large screw, but they had put two large on one side, and two small on the other. Once we changed the screws, the supports held like intended.

    Weathering crib-gate, I opened my email today to find a lovely message from Ebay telling me my account was frozen. Someone had hijacked my account and was sending messages to other ebay customers, trying to get them to buy things (and hence steal important info). The message said,
    "Dear Sir/Madam:
    Please allow us to disturb your precious time!We are the Chinese biggest foreign trade wholesaler. If you want to do business, we can offer you our most reasonable discount, making you get more profit . If you have time, please visit our website,Please relate with us, we will give you a satisfying answer."
    I won't give out the website, but it was obviously Chinese. I spent one hour online trying to resolve this issue with Ebay (still not totally fixed...I'm probably going to delete my account when possible) and praying that they did not get anything really important (Ebay assured me that all financial info was not available to them).

    Join with me in consciously NOT buying things made in China when possible. You'll send a message to American manufacturers and their Chinese partners that we will not settle for dangerous and substandard goods. How many children have to die in faulty cribs, or eat lead paint chips, before enough is enough?

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    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Chinese Toys 2

    As a father-to-be, I don't care much about the bottom line of a company
    The earthquake that was the Chinese toy fiasco continues to give off aftershocks. More importantly, the rebuilding process has only begun, and really only affected the siding on houses, not true foundations.

    Today CNN reported that Mattel is recalling MORE toys because of lead paint. This is a great and horrible thing. Horrid, because it further brings to light the greed and ineptitude of American and Chinese manufacturers. Great, because it further brings to light the greed and ineptitude of American and Chinese manufacturers.

    As a father-to-be, I don't care much about the bottom line of a company (Yes, I do in life, but not with my "dad hat" on). Most other fathers and mothers feel the same way. I am much more interested in keeping my unborn child safe now and in the future, than whether a Barbie doll costs $5.99 or $8.99.

    I mentioned last month that my wife and I were voluntarily shunning Chinese-made goods. That is still ongoing. Interestingly, it's a dichotomy of feelings. We went to Babies-R-Us again, on Labor Day, and bought a crib. But with all the toy recalls, my thoughts went like this:
    1. Is this the type of crib we want?

    2. Is this the price we can afford?

    3. Is this the color that we want?

    4. Is this made in China?

    Although the "made-in-china" thought was not first on the list, it was the veto question. We wanted a crib that was low enough for my wife to reach over. Check. We wanted a crib that didn't cost $500. Check. We wanted a crib that fit our color scheme in the baby's room. Check. We wanted to make sure that the paint wasn't filled with lead from China so our future teething child doesn't retard his mental progression because we were lax parents...check.

    The earthquake that was the Chinese toy fiasco continues to give off aftershocks
    If that last question had come up wrong, we would have moved to another crib. No matter the color, style, or trendiness of a crib or toy, I, as a father, want my child to have the healthiest and best future possible.

    What at first seemed hard--to check if everything was made in China and not buy it--has actually been quite easy. Most everything has an alternative. I even bought windshield wipers for my car that were made in Mexico over those made in China (out of principle...and because the mexican wipers were cheaper).

    Join me. Our collective voices will do two things. One, it will force American manufacturers to diversify into other countries, which is better for the overall health of our economy. Two, it will continue to send a strong message to American manufacturers, forcing them to do like Mattel--spend over 50,000 man-hours finding out weak links in their manufacturing, and posting this webpage declaring unequivocally their responsibility to us, the consumers.

    ...oh, and three, it will protect our children.

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    Monday, September 03, 2007

    My hurting ear

    Insurance companies are the "whore of all the earth"
    My last post was two weeks ago. It's been a crazy and painful two weeks. Ironically, this blog is called The Bleeding Ear, because of this, and although my ear did not bleed, it did hurt mightily.

    You see, somehow, I got an ear infection -- Otitis externa and Otitis media. For those of you who did not grow up speaking Latin, I had both outer and middle ear infections.

    I was never one to get ear infections as a child. Sure, I had one or two, but most everybody does. Typically came after swimming, i.e. "swimmer's ear," that horrible, painful condition you get by not getting all the water out after swimming. Pseudomonas aeruginosa loves that environment, and can't help making you feel miserable while it grows.

    On that note, I looked up "home remedies" for ear aches and found people attributing swimmer's ear to fungus and all sorts of things. One lady even said "use vinegar because it works well against fungi, but don't use it against bacteria because it makes their infections worse." Sorry, lady, but I got news for you: you're advocating vinegar for a bacterial infection, not a fungal one--directly contradicting yourself.

    Back to the main topic: My story starts about 18 months ago in the wet and hot streets of Saigon ... actually, it was there that I got my first "adult" ear infection. It was painful, annoying, but bearable. I saw a doctor -- a pediatrician -- because it was better to go to a private physician, trained by Americans, who worked out of his home, and new my in-laws for many years, than to go to a government-ran hospital. If I had done that, I probably would have left Vietnam with only one ear (and no paintings of haystacks).

    In Vietnam, pharmacists are unlicensed doctors. You can go to them and buy whatever drugs you want, without a prescription. Two years ago, I went to a pharmacist in Hue complaining of flu-like symptoms. She promptly gave me a plastic bag with a bunch of nondescript, generic pills, told me to take so many at such and such times, and I slept through the bus ride to Hoi An. But I got better, so she probably knew what she was doing, and gave me real medicine.

    Because the Chinese will often grab a real looking bottle, with real looking gel caps, but fill it with chalk instead of acetaminophen, and then you get sicker instead of better ... but I digress.

    The pediatrician wrote me a prescription, since I saw him first, and I went right next door to his neighbor that ran a pharmacy out of his home. I picked up the drugs, which purported to be sulfamexazole-trimethoprim ("Bactrim") and took it for a week or two. I got better, but my ear has never felt perfect since.

    Then, a couple Thursdays ago, my ear hurt. I mean, it hurt bad. I didn't sleep well Thursday night -- only a couple hours -- and on Friday I went into the student health center. Got prescribed amoxicillin 500mg po tid and ciprofloxacin/hydrocortisone drops to put in my ear. Cost me an arm and a leg.

    Back in Vietnam, I could have gone to the pharmacist, spent $5-7 USD, and got all that medication. Or, like I did, spend $2 USD to see the doctor, have him prescribe me correct meds, and then spend $5 to $7 USD on them. Everything out of pocket. I was able to go whatever doctor and pharmacy I wanted. No forms to fill out.

    I probably would have left Vietnam with only one ear (and no paintings of haystacks)
    Similar sickness, different setting. I had to go to my student health center, because my insurance won't pay for any doctor outside of it (without me paying a fortune), and then had to drop over $130 USD for the drugs (the amoxicillin was $10 USD copay, at the center, but the drops were $120 USD out of pocket at Walgreens). If I want to get reimbursed for the drops (minus copay) I have to fill out forms, attach the prescription, and mail it to Dallas. Some paper-pusher who knows nothing about my medical case or history (or medicine, probably) will then decide if the doctor was correct in prescribing those drops, and if I filled out all the forms, so i can get my $100 USD back.

    Insurance companies are the "whore of all the earth" ... but that's another story.

    Friday night I tried to rip my ear out of my head --with all cochlea and small bones attached. I called a "nurse hotline" (because evidently, the doctors I could call when I was growing up have now given all their expertise to nurses) who told me to take a decongestant and put heat on it. Great. I did those things, and tossed and turned throughout the night.

    Eventually, after finishing my 10 day course of antibiotics, my ear is bearable. Not better, but bearable. It doesn't feel "normal." A lot of times I feel like that ear needs to be "popped," like when you ride in an airplane. Other times, it feels discomforting, not quite painful, but definitely not fine. Maybe I need to see and ENT...but I don't want to fill out any more forms...

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