Video didn't kill this Radio Star

Monday, December 7, 2009 | 0 Comment(s)

So, as a practice i try to keep my family out of this blog.  But, at certain times they do extraordinary things, and I am forced to make an exception (or they happen to look like someone on tv.  I'm shaky on even my own rules).  Today is one of those days.  My father was on NPR broadcasting out of Albany today.  But, before we get to that, let's get there by way of a funny story about my dad.

When I was teaching English in the middle of nowhere in Japan in 2004-2005, my parents came to visit me.  While there are any number of hilarious stories from that trip, I just want to tell one (gotta leave em wanting more) about my parents coming to speak in one of my favorite middle school classrooms.  I asked both my parents to give a brief introduction about themselves.  These were farm kids learning English most will NEVER use but are currently mandated by the government to learn in middle school and up.  So, I'm looking for basics.  "I like this . . . I don't like that . . ."  My mom goes first.  Ever intuitive,  she described being a psychotherapist as "I talk to people about their feelings."  She used very simple English to describe herself fairy well in a way these kids could understand.  Next comes my dad.  Never one to settle for ambiguity, he literally starts rambling about being a "cancer doctor" (he felt he was simplifying 'oncologist') and taking care of patients  . . . la la la la la.  The kids looked back at him beaming with smiles from ear to ear and dad feels like a hero.  They understood "I . . ." nothing from there.  I'm exchanging looks with my mother and co-teacher Yoko (who speaks perfect English and who remains one of the best people I've had the pleasure of getting to know--a story for another day).  We are laughing our faces off on the inside.  It turns out the Japanese are extremely well practiced at masking their emotions, my mother and I fared less well.  The kids were thinking, "What a huge interesting looking white man." My dad read, "these kids are really into internal medicine."

(Yes, my jacket which says "Nintendo" on it, looks just like their school uniforms.  I scared the crap out of a school nurse once who for a split second thought I was a HUGE elementary school-er.)

Anyways, the point of the story is to say that while my mother and I are someone more "intuitors," my father, generally speaking, is a little more in his own world.  My brother is an interesting mix of the two.  Now to today.

As I mentioned, my father is a hematologist/oncologist (I just had to spell-check my father's occupation. How the hell am I going to be a doctor).  Today he went on NPR on WAMC out of Albany, NY to be the featured guest on "Vox Pop" a hour long medical show.  If you're interested (and you might be after reading ahead) the link to listen for free online is here

Let me start with the "serious part."  Listening to my father in his element was inspiring.  This is a man who has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to trying to heal and care for people with horrible diseases put in horrible positions, and he still has a (absolutely sick and twisted and wonderful [mostly]) sense of humor.  There is, simply put, no way I could ever do it.  And what I saw firsthand, is that when people come to talk to my dad they are scared out of their minds.  Every caller,  I believe without exception, was essentially asking, "Am I or my family member going to die?"  And my dad locks onto these people's fear and speaks directly, clearly, and empathicly about their diseases, almost like a reflex.  It's touching really.  No condescension, just trying to tell people the facts and that they are being cared for well and there are best case scenarios out there.  He speaks to their fears and he calms them.  In this realm, in this human connection, he is 110% intuitive.  You don't go on a lot of "take your son to work" days when your dad's in this biz, so I'm was sincerely happy to get this glimpse into his world.  Incidentally, when I told my dad this he said, very matter-of-factly, "It's my job."  That's a man.

Now hilariously.  The last caller starts at around 48:10.  Let me set this up.  Two callers on the program had called in with a blood disorder called ITP.  Very briefly, this disease involves your spleen manufacturing a protein that breaks down your own platelets.  That's a bad thing.  In some (i believe severe cases[im not that kind of doctoral student]), patients have their spleen removed.  It's a fairly routine surgery (low-risk).  My dad informed one caller who asked what the spleen does, that after the age of 5 or so all the functions of the spleen are taken care of elsewhere in the body.  Besides helping us fend off certain bacteria (funnily all of these bacteria end in "-cock-us" so my gf and I had a good laugh with that), the spleen is not super useful. 

So, the last caller, an elderly gentleman, calls in and asks (I'm paraphrasing), "So I'm been listening to the show and what you said about the spleen and how it's basically useless after age 5, and I was wondering, if someone my age, if it might be advisable to get a speen-ectomy (spelling on that? aka. get my spleen removed), you know, to prevent the chance of getting cancer there."  My dad, in one of the most epic lines in radio history (in my opinion) replied (and I'm directly quoting this time), "The answer is 'no', because any organ that is working fine, it stays in your body."  Boom goes the dynamite.  I am pretty sure that my dad wanted to say, "Well, that depends, there is a larger chance of you getting brain cancer, should we cut off your head?"  And they say cancer isn't funny.

P.S.  Try to avoid hearing any parental figure saying "vagina bleeding" repeatedly.  I don't recommend it [particularly during dinner]). 

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