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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Amazing Nasons

Serving Others Is a Way of Life for Goleta Couple

By Silvia Uribe

The story of Don and Judy Nason is an amazing one. It is the story of a lifetime focused not only on themselves and their family, but also on those who live around them. From keeping Goleta clean to guiding youth, they devote themselves to whatever needs to be done.

Their story together started almost 48 years ago, when they got married-or a couple of years before if we include the long-distance courtship. "Don wrote beautiful letters that often included a poem," remembers Judy with a warm smile on her face. For 16 years they lived in Australia, where they raised their two sons, Paul and Glen. In 1989, Don and Judy decided to come to California to spend more time with their aging parents, ending up in Goleta. A good job opportunity took them away to Texas briefly but they came back in 1997.

"We loved this city since the beginning," said Judy. "Although Don was new to the area I wasn't. I am a Westmont graduate, so I felt at home around here. It is so beautiful!"

Don is an engineer, with a degree in physics, and works part-time for Raytheon. Judy is a retired special education teacher. Both started volunteering at church, Judy as a teenager, and Don in his twenties, as a youth leader. He has worked with youth at risk ever since. "Youth was my first, and is my continued, draw to volunteering," he said. They never ceased their volunteer activities, even when raising a family.

"Most people have the time to volunteer, even if they have children," Don observed. "They just choose to do something else."

"When our children were little, Don would take some children from church on backpack trips, while I would fix the food for all of them to take on the trip," Judy said. "When our own children were old enough to go on those trips, the whole family went."

I asked Don about the most challenging volunteer work he's had. "The first one was a Coffee House in Australia where the 'roughest' juveniles hung out. You needed to be prepared for when arguments ensued, or when they wanted to harm each other. You needed to keep your cool and know how to react. But I think that even more challenging was when Judy and I were counselors-in-training for a crisis hotline. Calls came in for a variety of situations, from people needing a simple referral to an imminent suicide. Other than thinking on your feet and be prepared for whatever people threw at you, it was challenging because I took the night shift and still had to work the next day."

I was curious about why he took that shift. His answer was simple: "Because it was needed."

Locally, Judy has been a very active volunteer: Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic center, tutoring, working with a singing group of seniors at Vista del Monte, and leading church activities. Don has worked with juveniles in the court system through CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and with the AVP (Alternative to Violence Project) in the California Adult State Prisons doing workshops for inmates: teaching them non-violent communication, self respect, and valuing others. "Inmates are very interesting people," Judy said. "They are experts, for instance, on how to deal with stress. I learn from them too!

"I've been an insider in the women's groups, a co-participant," she added. "They're likable people and I feel safe among them. They're not there to harm anyone. They're hungry for whatever you're going to teach them."

The Nasons don't care about how humble a job may be. If it is needed, they'll do it. An example of this is their Goleta Roadside Cleanup Program:

"I was on my way home one day when I observed all the trash that people throw on the streets," Don said. "I decided to do something about it." With trash grabbers donated by Goleta Beautiful, and volunteers from Dos Pueblos High School and their own church, the Cambridge Drive Community Church, the Nasons help keep Goleta clean.

"The most exciting thing we've ever found was a check for $10,000 that was a graduation gift for someone. I took it to the Goleta police station."

Their projects go across the board and across state borders. "Between the two of us, we have made six trips to other states to volunteer," Judy said. "The most recent trip was to New Orleans to help with the Katrina cleanup and rebuild efforts. We go where we're needed to do what's needed."

I asked what motivated them to do all this work for others.

"Many things," said Judy. "Jesus Christ is the person we admire the most. He always served others and never shied away from challenges. Also, we do it because giving is way more satisfying than receiving. We enjoy using our abilities, and we've had more than our share of blessings. We have plenty to give! Serving," she said, "is a natural part of life."

There are more than 500 nonprofit organizations in our area that need you: Volunteer!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Children by Design

By Silvia Uribe

Children made to order will be possible in not too long! As a society, we have accomplished a lot in the science field, and now we also need to think about how far we want to go. It is almost certain that during our lifetime we will have to face important decisions on whether we want to create a new kind of humanity; namely an enhanced one, or to be more specific, one with "super-humans". How will this be possible? Genetic engineering is the answer.

Genetic engineering is defined as the process of inserting new genetic information into existing cells in order to modify a specific organism for the purpose of changing one (or more) of its characteristics.

This genetic manipulation is still imperfect. Many of the lab trials with rats have not yielded the expected results. In these cases, scientists get rid of the imperfect creatures, keeping only the "successful" ones. Because present laws stipulate that the same cannot be done with a human embryo or fetus, scientist will have to perfect their systems before genetic engineering is considered a safe practice. Then, it will be widely launched to the general public. This means that we still have some time to think about the repercussions, whichever they may be, of creating improved human beings.

If we just take it at face value, it sounds like a dream come true. It seems like everyone will be better off in every possible way. But is that so? Perhaps we need to be a little more analytical and think, for instance, that even though scientists will get to an acceptable level of safety, the truth is that we cannot expect it to be 100% safe. When messing with genetics, we cannot begin to imagine what the consequences may be should things not go the way we want them to.

We should ask ourselves, are we willing to take the risk? And if we were, what would happen to those human beings to whom science fails? Would we allow them to live, or would we decide to terminate the lives that are negatively affected? As I'm writing this, minuscule electric shocks go up and down my spine! It is almost as if we're talking about an inanimate object, not about a person … certainly not about our children, or our grandchildren!

But why be so pessimistic! Let's think about those instances in which science will be successful. First of all, let's take a step back and bring it more to a personal level. Think about what traits you would want to ensure in your children. You could choose the gender and the color of their eyes and hair. Would you like to select their height or a particular type of body? Longevity could be also a choice. Have you thought about giving them a superior intelligence and bullet-proof health (i.e. no infancy related illnesses?) Why not have it all?

As we can imagine, all these enhancements will cost money, a lot of money! This mere fact faces us with yet an additional set of considerations. If only those who have the financial means could pay for genetic enhancements, what will happen with the rest of the world population who cannot? It is not hard to imagine that automatically there will be two classes of human beings: those enhanced, and those who are not. There will be a truly superior class, and, by consequence, an inferior one. Sounds familiar? Wasn't this Hitler's dream?

Like I said, time is on our side to ponder about this now. We need to think about these issues not only from a pragmatic, but also from an ethical point of view. If we are spiritual or religiously oriented, is our conscience ok with this? And if we are not spiritual, nor religious, but we hope to live in a world with more social justice, what will the social consequences of having two different classes of human beings be? Are we prepared to deal with those consequences?

We live in a world that is mostly driven by the rules of supply and demand. It is we as consumers and donors who will be able to determine how far we want scientists to go in their pursuit of human perfection. We're not only talking about animals' lives that are being spared now (frequently, in an extremely cruel way) in the search of the "super-human." In this case, we are also talking about promoting the most extreme inequity among human beings.

This goes beyond borders, cultures, and languages. Everyone will be affected. We will not be able to evade our responsibility.

Where do you stand?

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Goleta Valley Cottage: The Time Has Come

Countdown Starts for Building Big New Hospital

By Silvia Uribe

They expect to have it finished in about 28 months. Right now, a new parking lot is being built across the street from the existing Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, to supplement the existing parking space, which the new building will occupy. "The reason that we're building a completely new hospital is because we want to be compliant with the present seismic legislation," explained Diane Wisby, Cottage Hospital's vice president. "In the past all we needed was to make sure that all our patients could be evacuated. With the new legislation, and in the new building, the hospital will be a place where people can go to in the event of an earthquake."

Wisby has worked at Cottage Hospital for the last 16 years. During our conversation, she gave me a very human perspective of the Goleta Cottage. "We have a very low turnover with our employees. Many people have worked here for more than 20 years. We have a group of 35 to 40 doctors (aka admitters) who regularly send their patients here. We all know each other very well, like the family we are."

Wisby took me to her office and explained to me in great detail the particulars about the new hospital:

"It is going to be a two-story building," she pointed out, as she showed me the floor distribution map, and a drawing of the modern new building. "When the board decided to go ahead with this project, they had three main things in mind: a) the privacy of the patient, b) once the patient arrives at the hospital, to be able to go where the patient is, as opposed to moving the patient around, and c) not to duplicate services when unnecessary. Our two hospitals are only seven miles apart, so we can direct patients where they need to go."

She noted that the first floor will have a main lobby, the E.R. will have as few as eight and as many as 20 possible treatment rooms (depending on the needs at any given time on any given day), an outpatient therapy area, and an outpatient wound center.

The first floor will also house six operating rooms and an endoscopy suite. She showed me a couple of areas whose use is undetermined. "These will allow for flexibility based on the needs of our patients."

On the second floor there will be 44 medical/surgical beds, and eight short-stay beds in the progressive center, which is midrange between intensive care and regular care. Also located on the second floor: Inpatient physical therapy, the respiratory unit, several administrative offices, a kitchen, a dining room, a waiting area, a patio, and some conference rooms for the hospital's use and the use of other nonprofit organizations.

Janet O'Neil, who is Cottage's public affairs director, and Maria Zate, marketing manager, joined us, and I asked them why the community should feel confident that Goleta Cottage Hospital is a five-star health services provider. Their response was immediate. They each told me about what they called their "points of pride."

Other than their first-class medical staff, they said, for the last three years Cottage has had two hyperbaric chambers, which speed up the healing process of wounds. In the new wound center, Goleta will have four of these chambers.

Another point of pride is the Maxillofacial program. This is not a cosmetic program. It is for congenital anomalies. Many people have benefited from it and can now have a normal life.

They also told me about a program to treat sleep apnea that they said is very successful. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to stop breathing when they are sleeping. The severity of the problem varies from person to person, but in extreme cases, it could lead to death if not treated.

They are also very proud of their orthopedic service, which is different from the Santa Barbara trauma service. "Here's an example of avoiding duplication of services," O'Neil said. "When an accident happens and someone, say, breaks a bone playing football, we ask the ambulance to take the person directly to Santa Barbara Cottage, where the trauma center is located. Here at Goleta Cottage, we see scheduled cases only." Another example: expecting moms know they should go to the birth center located at Santa Barbara Cottage when the time to have their babies come. For wound treatment, or for sleep apnea, people are directed to Goleta Cottage."

Before we ended our conversation, they mentioned that the new building will have 153,000 square feet, which is a considerable increase over the present building's 87,000 square feet. The price of this modern new building is locked in at $103 million, which means that if there is any variation in materials prices, the hospital won't have to pay more. They have also considered room for expansion to the sides, if in the future the need more usable space increases.

With all of these improvements in the building and the services, plus the new medical building (for doctors' offices) that will be constructed adjacent to the new hospital, the Goleta Cottage Hospital will position itself in the avant-garde of the 21st century health care industry.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It Takes Guts

By Silvia Uribe

A conversation with my mother about my upcoming 27th wedding anniversary triggered a series of thoughts regarding what seems to be the most difficult thing in life - to choose the right life partner. The good news is that as much as this appears to be almost an impossible task, it is not. Anyone could potentially do it. The bad news is that it takes guts, and not everyone has them.

When I was a teenager, with the same problems and insecurities that we all have at that age, I feared that no one (from the opposite gender) would turn their head toward me. My friends then had the same fear. As I grew up, and became more of the person I was going to be, those fears vanished. But then something worse happened. I liked too many boys!

Allow me to explain. The Mexican society, of which I was part of, was way more conservative in those days than it is now. A boyfriend, then, was not someone you slept with. I don't even think it would be an exaggeration to say that dumping one boyfriend and acquiring a new one was a completely accepted practice - especially if this happened several times, AND with different people each time.

One of my problems has always been that I would get bored rather easily. Boyfriends were no exception. I was bored to death after a month or two, so I dumped them. My parents of course, were very concerned what the neighbors and family friends would think of me. But, this was the least of my concerns. So I did what I had to do.

Among those boyfriends, though, there were two or three people who were anything but boring. On the contrary! They were charming, intelligent, funny, creative, or any combination of these, and surprisingly, I fell madly in love with them. After a few months, however, I discovered that one of them was very jealous and too controlling, another one liked to party and drink in excess, and another one had a volatile temper and was somewhat prone to violence, as I witnessed on occasion.

In each case, I was very much in love. So what to do? After expressing my concerns to each individual, and not seeing any real change, I had only two options - dumping the guy and breaking the relationship, and breaking my heart too in the process, or staying in the relationship hoping for a change that almost for sure was never going to happen.

You guessed it, I knew I could not live with any of those traits, and each time I broke the relationship. It took vision, decision, strength, and yes, guts. But I did it. I did it as soon as I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to live in fear of violence. I wouldn't want to explain each one of my movements and not be trusted, or to be waiting for someone all night because he was partying, and then having to deal with a drunk who only God knew how he would behave. Each time I knew it was not for me! Each time I cried a lot, and then I recovered.

Some of my friends were going through the same experiences, and they had the same options. But they made the decision to stay involved with that person and wait for the change to happen. After they married them and had a miserable time, their excuse was that they never knew who these men really were. But here I tell you that they did. Even I knew it, and I warned them about it. But they couldn't hear it.

How is it possible that they say they didn't know? Of course they did! But they weren't able to accept reality. To be fair, I should say that these friends of mine were not stupid. They were very attractive. They came from functional families, and they were otherwise accomplished. My theory is that they probably were (consciously or unconsciously) fearful of not finding anyone better, or maybe anyone at all (as I was in my teenage years). They didn't have the guts to gamble the mediocre relationship for the prospect of a happy (please note that I didn't say perfect) life.

So, if you're single and you're considering spending your life with the one you love, think about it first and be realistic. Having a happy life is as possible as it is having a happy, long marriage. You must be willing to search for it and wait for the right person. Remember that it is not about perfection; it is just about what you can live with and what you can't.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at