Monday, July 28, 2014

The New Kid on the Blake

He ames. He shoots. He … effs up.

A couple of months ago, four people were found dead in a burning Florida mansion owned by James Blake. (The four victims were renting the $1.5 million home in Avila, a gated community north of Tampa.) You may have heard of Blake. The former pro tennis player, who was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 2006, won 10 singles titles in his 14-year career, which reached an unthinkable low in 2004. In the span of a couple of months, Blake broke his neck during a practice session when he fell headfirst into a net post, lost his father to gastric cancer and developed shingles, which temporarily paralyzed half his face and blurred his vision.

A year removed from that very difficult stretch, rising from the lowest of lows, Blake defeated Rafael Nadal and three other players during a memorable run at the 2005 U.S. Open that culminated with a dramatic match against Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals. Agassi won the 2-hour, 51-minute match, which lasted well into the New York night, in a fifth-set tiebreaker, but Blake won admiration. After Agassi smacked a forehand winner to clinch the 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 victory after 1 a.m. ET, both players received a lengthy standing ovation. “At 1:15 in the morning for 20,000 people to still be here, I wasn’t the winner,” Agassi told the crowd. “Tennis was.”

I’ve never been much of a tennis fan, but I followed Blake’s career, with good reason. We grew up in the same town and attended the same high school, Fairfield (Conn.) High. Our attendance didn’t overlap; I graduated two years before he enrolled as a freshman. Still, he was a pro athlete from this sports nut’s neck of the woods.

James Blake is a man indirectly associated with a Tampa tragedy. James Blake is a former pro tennis player who had an up-and-down career. James Blake is a fellow Mustang, as we FHS grads are known. James Blake is a lot of things. James Blake is not Jeff Blake.

The caption leads us to believe otherwise. The first name in the caption doesn’t play well with others, so I ask that we not spin that jazzy Jeff. Have James step in front of Blake lively.

Jeff Blake is a retired NFL player. He was a quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals and six other teams beginning in 1992. Jeff Blake, likes James Blake, is a 6-foot-1-inch athlete who had a 14-year pro career. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. You fan the flames when you can the James — the one that belonged in the photo caption, that is.

Here is high school sophomore Jeff James Blake's photo
as it appeared in my brother's 1995 FHS yearbook.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It Goes By So Fast


I planned on writing in great detail about today’s mistake. That won’t be possible. I can’t find the time. You’re hurting, readers, and that’s understandable. Fortunately, I know of something that heals all wounds.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Right (or Left) Is Wrong

When Write Is Wrong pales in comparison to when site is wrong. We’re all familiar with wrong-site surgery, even if we aren’t familiar with the term. Wrong-site surgery is a botched procedure in which the surgeon removes or operates on the wrong body part. These medical mix-ups occur far too frequently, and when they do they often garner national attention. Examples of wrong-site surgery include a cancer patient who sued after surgeons removed the wrong testicle, an ophthalmologist who operated on the wrong eye of a 4-year-old boy and a doctor who removed the wrong arm of an elderly woman.

The alarming rate of wrong-site surgeries has led many cautious patients to go out on a limb and mark their limbs to let the surgeon know which body part needs to be operated on … and which needs to be left alone!

Have charts been swapped? Have blood samples been mislabeled? Have X-rays been flipped? Surgeons need to double- and triple-check to make sure, when it’s operation time, the left arm is indeed the right arm. They must have protocols in place, and they must be patient with their patients.

The stakes are far lower for editors, to be sure, but the goal — mistake-free work — remains the same. Take, for instance, this excerpt from a “Tips for Your Hospital Stay” sheet that was mailed from a health-insurance provider to a family member undergoing surgery.


When it reached my desk, I scheduled an operation for the second bullet point, stat. This morning I will be removing a gangrenous to. Thing is, the sentence has more than one to, so I must be 100 percent certain I’m removing the true to. The left to is the wrong to; the right to is the right to. So, make no mistake, I’m making like a competent surgeon and amputating the right to. The ‘delete’ key will serve as my scalpel. When the operation is complete, I’ll visit you in the waiting room.

[Hours pass.]

The operation was a success. To is gone; the bullet point got that out of its system and is as good as new — even better. It’s resting now, but I’ll let you sneak a peek.

You and your surgeon should use a marker to indicate the part of the body or extremity that will be operated on.

I have another surgery scheduled for noon, so now we, like the bullet point and its rotted to, must part. Before I go, however, I’m curious to know if you heard about the guy who had to have his left leg amputated because it was infected. The doctor accidentally removed his right leg. The infected left leg was amputated shortly after the erroneous procedure. The guy planned on suing the doctor and the hospital, but his attorney told him he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.