Why I Hate HIPPA

Today I got a call from a health care provider who I will be visiting in the near future for the first time.  I really appreciate an actual phone call to tell me information about my upcoming procedure but unfortunately she had to ask me some questions.  Maybe you can recount your whole life’s medical history, but I cannot.


Being as young as I am you would think I could remember all my previous surgeries, but apparently I am the perfect candidate for a medical information chip.  Health care workers don’t like generalities.  When I told the woman I had some kind of cyst removed and some other kind of laser thing to stop bleeding that could mean many things.  As this health professional tried to suggest the type of surgery I said yes to every answer when I was only supposed to pick one.  Hell, I was asleep during that surgery how was I supposed to know which type it was?


After all this questioning, where I certainly gave some incorrect answers, the woman asked me to get my primary physician to fax in my health records.  If she is getting my actual records why did she bother asking me the questions?  The answer sheet was going to be sent into her.


She started to tell me the fax number I should have my records sent to.   Whoa, whoa, whoa.  “You called me on my cell phone and I’m walking the dog.  Can you just e-mail me the number?” I logically asked, this being the second decade of the 2000’s.


The answer was absurd.  “No, we don’t have a secure portal.”  Was I suddenly in some episode of Star Trek circa 1965?  “Well, ” I followed up, “Can I just have my doctor e-mail you my records?”


“No, e-mail is not secure,” she informed me in that you-must-be-some-idiot-I-just-told-you tone.  What did I not understand about the secure portal?  “You must fax it.”  HIPPA you know.


What century are we in again?  I thought we had already established this.  Let’s discuss what is not secure.  She called me and although she asked if it was me who she had reached she had no way of knowing that I was whom I claimed to be when she called.  Anyone who picked up my phone could have pretended to be me when she asked.  So first, the phone call was not really secure.


Second, since when is a fax machine sitting in the middle of some office secure?  Is it in a guarded locked room?  Anyone working in that office could walk by the fax machine and pick up a load of medical records and no one would know they were missing because, hello, they just came in and got printed and sat there with no secondary verification system that they were coming or expected at that moment.


Have any of you ever tried to even get a message to your “primary” physician to ask them to FAX your records?  It could take days before they even respond to the voice mail you had to leave and were told on the outgoing message would not be responded to for at least 48 hours.


The whole system is so broken and made more aggravating by these poorly thought out HIPPA rules.  We have had to endure them long enough that we certainly have discovered six thousand flaws.  Isn’t it time we readjusted?


I am all for people taking good care of themselves, but HIPPA causes me to need more psychiatric care it drives me so crazy.   I am sure that the chip in my dog  and the reader system that all vets have to pull the information off it would work great on humans.  I am happy to be the first to volunteer to test it in humans if it means I never have to be questioned about my medical history or worse have to get it faxed anywhere ever again.  Maybe I should just see if my vet could take me on as a patient?


Note to all my non-US readers– HIPPA is a governmental regulation that tries to protect peoples medical information privacy.  Heaven forbid you enter the hospital unconscious.

New Habit Needed


Today I drove our tiny Smart Car while Russ took the hybrid in for an oil change.  I have been driving the new car for a few months so it was only fair that Russ got the chance to drive it and get the service.  When I got in the Smarty I went to start it by pushing the start button like I do on the new car, but then realized I actually needed to put a key in the ignition to make it go.  For the previous thirty-five years I have had to put a key in the ignition to start a car, but after only a few months of key-less driving I forgot how to drive an old car.  It only took a little while for me to create a new habit and throw my old one out the window.


Changing a habit, be it something mundane like starting a car, or something pleasurable like putting sugar on your breakfast cereal, can be done just by repeating it over and over again for just a short while.


The word habit seems to have gotten a bad reputation.  People talk about smoking as “their habit” and we all know how the world feels about smoking.  But smoking is more than just a habit it is an addiction.


Some habits are good.  I wake up every morning and go in the bathroom and the third thing I do in there is brush my teeth.  You can guess what the first two things are.  That is my habit.  Actually it is also my addiction.  I really can’t start the day until I have brushed my teeth.  I don’t know when this became a habit because I can clearly remember as a child lying to my mother when she asked me if I had brushed my teeth.  Why would I lie about that?  When did I realize how much better my mouth felt after brushing?  I must have gotten up enough mornings in a row and brushed my teeth that I created a new and frankly better habit.


So where is the line between a habit and an addiction?  Is something only an addiction if it is bad for you?  No.  Yet I hardly know anyone who will tell you they are addicted to spinach, bacon yes, but mustard greens, no.


Thinking about trying to start the car got me wondering if  I could train myself to create one healthy new habit during the summer.  Just a few months of doing the same thing every day and I think it would be enough to make something a habit.  I have no idea what habit I want to pick up.  I already work out four times a week and eat a fairly healthy diet.  So I need suggestions from you as to what good habit I should try and pick up.  What would improve my life and be simple to do everyday and not take too much time?

Pea Mash Dip



I have a jar of preserved lemons that I bought for an Indian meal I was making.  Unfortunately they don’t sell them in two lemon jars so now I have to find a bunch of ways to use up the 20 lemons still left in the jar.


This is a perfect way to incorporate the lemons into basic ingredients to make a healthy dip that is spicy and exotic.


2 c. frozen green peas- cooked until they are just warm

2 cloves of garlic

12 fresh mint leaves

Rind of a preserved lemon

1 T. fresh lemon juice

Red pepper flakes – a few to start and add to make it as spicy as you want.

1 t. olive oil

Salt and pepper


Prep the preserved lemon by washing it first and then cut it open and cut out all the inside and discard it.  Cut the rind into eighths.  Put the lemon and all the other ingredients into the Cuisneart and run it a few times until it is mashed up.


Serve it with crackers or carrots.

Rhubarb Sauce with Ginger



During the summer of 1980 when I sold Electrolux vacuums door-to-door in central Pennsylvania I some times stopped for lunch at an old diner in Dillsburg, PA.  I can’t remember the name, but I it was meat and three kind of place run by Amish folk.  The only reason I can even remember it today is because that was the only place I had ever eat rhubarb sauce.  It was along the lines of applesauce.


It was nothing but rhubarb cooked in sugar water until it was broken down into its fibrous threads.  I loved the sweet and sour combination.


This sauce is basically the same thing, but made with splenda instead of sugar and I added a little hint of grated fresh ginger root just for fun.  You can eat it straight or served over strawberries and Greek yogurt like I did here.  I must say I think I like it all by itself best


Five stalks of rhubarb- cut into one inch pieces

12 packets of splenda

½ cup of water

1 t. of grated fresh ginger root



Put the Rhubarb, Splenda and water in a saucepan and put on a medium high heat.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer and cook stirring every once in a while until the rhubarb is broken down completely.  Remove the pan from the stove and add the ginger if you want it.  Chill, and eat.

Taking More Than You Need May Be The Death of You


These days I am usually driving a hybrid car.  I really love the gas mileage, but am a little disturbed at the stealth-like quietness of the engine. Today I had a disturbing event happen as I was driving through my neighborhood.


I was on my way home from lunch with a friend, enjoying the perfect spring sunshine, car windows open, when a large black bird, probably a crow, flew directly across my path.  Certainly this bird did not realize that my silent black car was something that could end his life.   The low flying bird was eye level with my windshield and as I approached at the 25 mile per hour speed allowed on my street I could see a huge rodent hanging from the beak of the bird.  The mole or rat was at least half the size of the bird.


Being a rat phobic ever since the movie Willard, I screamed loudly certain that I was going to smash both of them and the crow, turned and looked me directly in the eye as he struggled to fly above the car.  I looked up through my glass roof just as they passed over and could see the rodent thing squiggle as the crow flapped its wings hard.  I know the bird barley averted death because as it passed over me I stopped and looked in the rearview mirror just in time to see the black creature sink down a few feet behind me, without letting go of the rodent, but landing on the road.


That bird was determined to hold on to that food it had found even if it was going to kill him to do it.  I did not get out of the car to see if everyone was all right because I quite frankly was afraid the bird might decide to take me to task for almost hitting him and possibly making him lose his dinner.


As I drove away it occurred to me that the rodent that crow had caught was probably more food than he and his entire family needed but he was willing to risk his life to keep it.  The bird reminds me of people you see at the Golden Corral buffet.  Certainly very few people should eat all they can, but once they are given the option they want to get their money’s worth, whether they should or not.  Sure hunting is nothing like saddling up to dessert bar but the principle is the same.  Taking more than you need may kill you.


Next time I am faced with an unlimited amount of food I am going to remember almost being the grim reaper for that crow who thought it was more important to hold on to the rat than ensure he lives another day.  I wonder if the crow learned that lesson and let the rat go before trying to fly off again?

The Fun of Starting Over



I came home from a Food Bank Board Meeting tonight to find my driveway vegetable garden stripped of my spent winter vegetables and all the weeds that had recently taken over during this early warm spell.  It was not a surprise since I had hired my friend Renee’s nephew Bobby to do the backbreaking work, but our agreement as to when the work would get done was lose.  I was hopeful that it would be done by the weekend so to have it done today was a bonus.


I must have known in my heart that Bobby would come today because before I went to Raleigh my friend Thecky stole her husband’s pick up truck and we went to the Rock Shop to buy a bed full of certified organic compost.  I have no idea what it is certified to do, but I do know that my garden last year had the best yield of any vegetable garden I had ever grown so I was sticking to the same formula.


Surely Thecky had no idea how much work it was going to be to shovel all the compost out of the truck since it only took a minute for them to dump it in with a backhoe.  Washing the truck out of all the “certified” evidence took as long as driving to buy it did.  I can’t wait to bring Thecky and her husband some homegrown cucumbers and peppers as a thank you for the black gold compost.


Now that I have a cleared vegetable bed and a three-foot high pile of chicken poop mixed with dead leaves I am ready to start my summer garden.  I have no idea exactly what I am going to grow until I go to the farmer’s market and the local seed-feed store to see what plants catch my eye.


Once I started plants from seed, but found that it was way too much work with disappointing results.  For most of the seventeen years I have had this garden I have not planned exactly what I grow or where it goes in the garden.  I know it would be better to plan my beds and keep track of what grows well and what fails, but that would make it too much work.  Instead I like to pursue different seedling vendors and buy a smattering of varieties.


I know I will grow arugula, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, both hot and sweet, basil and various summer squash.  I have trouble with tomatoes, although last year I was able to get a few so I might try again.  I have tried cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and watermelon with varying degrees of success.  I just am not sure until I start shopping.


For me the fun in planting this garden every spring is that although it is many years old it is new again every spring.  I don’t have to relive past mistakes, I get to start over fresh.  Nothing is more beautiful than the freshly tilled black soil with dozens of little plants, put neatly in rows with not a weed in sight.  It does not stay that way all summer as I tire of weeding or come home from a week away to find that some unwelcome animal has visited.


Even with the heartaches that can come from gardening it is always more exciting to eat a zucchini I grew than one I bought.  And if come August the garden is a huge mess I will just rip it out and start over again with the winter vegetables.  It’s the one thing that is fun to start over again.

Good Infrastructure

Twenty years ago when Russ and I were looking for a house to buy before he was starting Kenan-Flagler Business School we could not find anything in Chapel Hill and turned to Durham.  My Dad told us to look in Hope Valley because he had fond memories of coming to the Hope Valley Country Club for parties while he was a student at UNC. They must have been some parties back then for my father to have any memory of them at all.


Being This Old House addicts we asked our realtor to show us old homes.  We had no idea that old was not so popular with her and she would show us things that were maybe five or ten years young.  I told her that they were not “old”, but merely “used” houses.  I’m not sure she ever really understood the difference.  Given that there was not much on the market we went into the houses built in the 80’s that she thought we would like.  The floors would creak, the walls were paper-thin, and the style was, well, 1980’s.  Russ and I would whisper to each other about how much we hated these homes hoping that our agent could not hear us three rooms away, but knowing it was possible.


As our Chapel Hill realtor reluctantly drove us through Hope Valley we were hopeful.  There were houses built between the wars and I mean the big wars.  We could not afford one of the really beautiful old houses, but we definitely liked the neighborhood of various styles and age of homes.  I was reading the MLS listing of our current house and said there was no reason to bother to stop and look at it because it only had two bedrooms and was split-level.  We pulled up to the front and Russ looked at the MLS and said that it absolutely was wrong, the house had to have three bedrooms and the split was due to the slope of the lot on the side and we should go in.


Thank goodness Russ was quick at finding a major mistake in the listing because when we walked in the then fifty-year-old house we immediately knew this was it.  The quality of the craftsmanship was evident.  The hallways were twice as wide as newer houses and the details in things like the molding and the windows gave us confidence in how well built this house was.


Russ, as an electrical engineer, was particularly impressed with the wiring.  I video taped our walk through of the house and when we got to the furnace room I caught Russ on tape saying, “Nice Panel,” in a way a teen age boy might admire a girl in a bikini, as he looked at the electrical system.


We bought the house that day and have loved it ever since.  When we realized we were staying in Durham we decided to add on to the house because we loved our lot and location.  Our builder Joe told us that our house was one of the best-built houses he had worked on and we asked him to match that quality in the addition.


This past week a huge maple tree in our side yard fell on our sunroom and was lying on the roof for a few days until I could get the tree guy with a crane to remove it.  After working for hours to secure, cut and lift the three foot diameter tree off the roof the tree guy reveled a practically perfect roof with only one six inch shingle out of place.  Shocked was the word he used when he told me that he had never seen a house take a hit from such a large tree and sustain so little damage.  Good infrastructure I told him.  Buying for quality really paid off.


This story of my house could be a lesson in doing the right thing for our bodies too.  A strong infrastructure, with good upkeep and high quality materials will pay off in the end.  At some point in life a tree may fall on you, but if you have eaten healthy food and created a strong body you can withstand the blow with barley a shingle out of place.