Tag Archive: Coronavirus


The doctor was quick and to the point. “After all our tests, we believe an experimental drug, consisting of cells manufactured and implanted in the eye to stimulate optic nerve growth and activity, might be the best method of fighting your symptoms. We would require approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via a compassionate use request that allows experimental drugs to patients outside clinical trials. But getting access to not-yet-approved pharmaceuticals via a compassionate use request is both arduous and challenging.”

What the doctor implied but did not say was, “You will go blind in your left eye because you are not a VIP and associated costs are bigger than the ‘Big Mac Combo Meal 1’ range. Also, you are likely to expire before receiving therapy approval. and, since most experimental treatments rarely work on dying patients, ‘compassionate use’ requests from patients like you become ‘compassionate not.’ In the end, you can still get to heaven with one eye. Ensure you look left and right before merging and change lanes accordingly.”

While paying the $40 copay, I saw Trump’s photo op in front of Walter Reed Medical Center. America’s chief dude made what media sources claim was a ‘photo-up’ by leaving his hospital suite to make a “surprise” drive-by to supporters while undergoing COVID-19 treatment. Trump’s drive-by triggered both safety concerns, outrage, and giving the middle finger to the more than 208,000 Americans who perished. The joyride only occurred because our chief asshole received medical treatments the poor working slob on Mainstreet, U.S.A., will never obtain.

Before the president left the White House for Walter Reed Medical Center, he received a single dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail. This experimental drug has shown promise in initial trials in improving symptoms and reducing virus levels in the body but has not received Food and Drug Administration approval. Trump was also treated with Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral medication shown to help treat COVID-19. Remdesivir’s benefits are modest: reducing hospital stays from 11 to 15 days.

For those with insurance, Remdesivir will top $3,000. How much-uninsured patients would pay remains unclear. Regeneron’s cost has not been publicly shared, but suffice to say it will not be in the ‘Big Mac Combo Meal 1’ range.

Trump’s a ‘Very Important Person (VIP),’ I am not. VIP treatment is a feature of American medicine. Major hospitals throughout the country provide private spaces for celebrities, the super-rich, and the influential. These are the patients who get shielded from the public. VIP’s include foreign nationals from places including Saudi Arabia, China, Canada, and Mexico.

The real coronavirus war cannot be flouted in a presidential joyride victory lap. Memorable scenes of community hospitals fighting on the front lines from California to Maine depicted medical centers nearly overwhelmed by desperately sick people. They are pictures of doctors and nurses working around-the-clock with insufficient equipment. And as of now, there are at least 208,000 COVID victims who cannot take a celebratory joyride. These 208,000 are alumni of the Big Mac Combo Meal 1.

I hope Tuesday, November 3rd, the remaining Big Mac Combo Meal 1 alumni will remember this joyride. I also hope the alumni remember this probably started during Trump’s introduction of  Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett — the same judge who will likely assist in overturning the Affordable Care Act. That means for Big Mac Combo Meal 1 alumni members. Get it now?

November 3rd.

After nearly a month in social isolation, a man yelled at his wife, saying he had enough of this bulls•••, and was off to work. If he got sick and died, then so be it. Economic livelihood was too big to fail.

Two hours later, the man returned.

“What happened?” asked the wife.

“It wasn’t open.”

Sadly, the offer to sacrifice older Americans’ lives for the good of the U.S. comes has gained traction. The argument presented is that the vast majority of coronavirus fatalities will be “concentrated among the elderly and the already severely sick.” Such folks are likely to die of another cause, if not coronavirus. So, die.

To all like-minded Republicans, Sarah Palin loves you. This GOP economic model rests upon several principles:

  • Profits are more important than people;
  • Human life and existence is a commodity or a financial instrument;
  • Society will reorganize around a “survival of the fittest” mentality; and
  • Those who cannot survive and prosper under a “free market” are to be abandoned.

The rich have long tolerated a dysfunctional health care system because, while it delivers relatively poor results for many, it provides excellent care for the wealthy. In today’s Coronavirus battle, one who is poor and can’t breathe is likely to receive significantly different treatment than if you’re rich and can’t breathe. 

Are we willing to potentially sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to get back to business as usual? Rest assured, there are GOP members who will, without question. With a plethora of disinformation, our society has systematically programmed this narrative for years.

It’s not just stupid, it’s dangerous. To suggest older Americans are expendable is appalling.

The more dire condition: dressed-up isolation.

An hour later, the man confessed, “Finding work wasn’t open wasn’t as bad the other lesson.

“What lesson?” she queried.

“Well,” he sighed. “During my bus ride, no one said a word, and no one looked each other. We were six-feet apart, but we were miles in humanity.”

“And?”

“So, the ride felt like any other day: boring and exhausting. When we were working six weeks ago, I would get dressed, take the 7:30 AM bus, and ride to work. At 5:00 PM, I took the same bus route home. Only now do I realize it was just ‘dressed-up isolation.’ I eliminated my own humanity and exchanged one form of isolation for another.”

All of us are creating the future. How do we want that to look? Social isolation or something better?

Texture

If one song represented my ‘new normal’ during 2010, it would have to be “Sweet Surrender,” by John Denver. Sweet Surrender is a song of journey, a self-exploration.

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway

Traveled by many, remembered by few

Lookin’ for something that I can believe in

Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life

John Denver’s provided expression, hope, ideal, anger, and frustrations. In essence, his music filled me with texture.

Sweet Surrender is reminiscent of today. As schools, businesses, restaurants, baseball, football, family reunions, Labor Day, and 4th of July celebrations moved online, “Zoom,” “Skype,” “Messenger,” “Facebook,” and “iMessage” have become our ‘new normal.’ 

But while the “new normal” might feel lonely, spirituality, it can hone our craft. Opportunities for growth abound. 

Like the great prophets, we can learn to stand in our deserts. Solitude can provide perspective and sensitivity to things long forgotten. We can find deepening in ways never imagined and strength in moving forward. 

For example, by Good Friday 2010, my cup had overrunneth with arrogance. While I could see the fault of others, I failed to envision the benefit of any such self-reflection. I was fired and found the only job available required relocation to upstate New York. I felt exiled. 

During the subsequent months, I walked the banks of the Hudson River and attempted to interpret, understand, and reinvent myself. There were times when I sat upon Hudson’s riverbank and asked why God placed me there. In essence, I came to a point where there was nothing left, nothing to hide, no means for covering up the negative aspects of my personality. I came with nothing but the ability to surrender everything to the only one who could help.

I learned several lessons during my time in solitude.  

First, leave with vision. In this time of social isolation, take the time to reflect. Reassess and align yourself to a better ’true north.’ Second, celebrate victories, large and small. Don’t over-hype small gains. In baseball, singles, and doubles win more games than home runs. Third, recognize and honor interdependence. Everything is interrelated, including time, space, and our very being. Both religion and science reveal this truth — our spiritual and emotional being interpenetrate and nourish one another.

Closing Thought: Find Texture

Rabbi, now that I am divorced, it is very lonely.”

Tell me. What do you do when you are alone?

Well, I water the plants,” she said, faltering. “I wash a few dishes, call a friend.

The Rabbi listened. 

I sit on the couch for hours and stare at the bare branches out the window. I play over, and over Paul Simon’s album, I never listened to. I read several books I have never read. Lately, I’ve been sitting at my dining-room table and painting. My neighbor says I should be an artist.

The Rabbi interjected, “So, suddenly, your life has texture?

Yes,” she smiled. “Texture.

Mak’n It: Day-by-Day

I was on a conference call yesterday when a friend asked, “How come you’re so damn F•••king calm?”

Fair question. 

Does anyone remember Y2K? You know, the event where the world was going to die. I lived in downtown Los Angeles during the year of Y2K. I had just returned from Santiago, Chile two days prior, and pushing aside constant fatigue, a neighbor walked up to a closed pool, pulled out some lawn chairs, sat and awaited impending doom. 

My neighbor asked the same question. 

“I emptied my bank account, stored up months of provisions, ensured my car had a tankful of gas, and you come up here with what? $18 bucks and a six-pack (beer)? 

“Yup,” I smiled.

“How do you do it?”

“Do what?” I countered.

“Stay so f•••ing calm?”

Part of it is training. Being in the military, at least my specific position, meant training to keep emotions in check. Should panic set in, people tend not to make the best decisions. The other part is an innate understanding of life. 

One doesn’t have to be Buddhist to know that ignoring severe problems or thoughts doesn’t make them go away. More so, it is that no matter how alone I may have felt, I always felt part of something bigger and that I was at my best when taking care of others. 

Religious faith, can at times, be idiotic. Vivian Yee (NY Times) reported that a prominent Myanmar Buddhist monk announced that a dose of one lime and three palm seeds — no more, no less — would confer immunity. In Iran, a few pilgrims were filmed licking Shiite Muslim shrines to ward off infection. And in Texas, the preacher Kenneth Copeland braided televangelism with telemedicine, broadcasting himself, one trembling hand outstretched, as he claimed he could cure believers through their screens.

In times of hardship, people think either, ‘How can God do this to us?’ or pray for protection and guidance. In the name of faith, people unknowingly spread the Coronavirus.

“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that,” said Bishop Gerald O. Glenn.

In the western film El Dorado, the character Nelse McLeod made a prophetic statement. “Faith can move mountains, Milt. But it can’t beat a faster draw.” Yeah, God is bigger than Coronavirus. Unfortunately, we are not. Glenn learned the hard way — death by Coronavirus. Glenn’s daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, said in a Facebook post days later that she, her husband, her sister, and her mother, Marcietia Glenn, “are all currently fighting this virus.” Faith is great. It’s powerful. Yet, Glenn’s experience proves it unwise to get into a gunfight. 

Coronavirus is similar. One can claim a mountain of faith. But if you don’t maintain social distancing, wash my hands, avoid touching my eyes, nose, and mouth, and wear a mask, you’re most likely on a path to visit God – in person.

I close with the following story.

One day, the prophet Mohammed saw a man leaving his camel without tethering it.

Mohammed questioned him as to why. The Bedouin replied that he was placing his trust in Allah and had no need to tie the camel. The prophet Mohammed then replied: 

Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.”

So, why am I so calm? Faith. But, I tie my camel. 

Pope Francis offered a message of hope during his Good Friday message.

“May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities.”

“This year we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death, and it weighed on their hearts.”

For the past twenty-four hours, I haven’t been feeling the love. It’s been rough.

A lot of weird or strange events occur to me on Good Friday. Good Friday 1996, I was told by doctors that I would not live past 50. I was fired on Good Friday 2010. Yesterday, I learned a coworker hangs on in an ICU, battling against Coronavirus. And today, a friend texted that a mutual business acquaintance (I’ll call Jim), age 54, died from Coronavirus on Good Friday. 

I worked with Jim from 2006 through 2010. He wasn’t the type of guy I would pour my heart out to over a beer, but for every week for four years, we would meet at an old church converted into a coffee shop. It was a remarkable escape. Over latte’s, coffee, bagel, or sandwich, we’d joke, tell stories and strategize about one project or another. We laugh about doctors – the ones who couldn’t tell time or appeared to lack a lot of real-world common sense, but the same doctor you’d trust your life to navigate the brain during ten-hour neurosurgery.

Jim was a master of human communication. He was always in the know. Freely admitting he knew little of the finer points computer technology, he knew everyone. And that’s what made him valuable. If a project was in jeopardy, he knew who to contact, where to go, and what political lever to push. Jim once said, “All projects would be easy if we eliminate the people.” Jim was all about politics. 

He was a gregarious man with a happy life. However, when speaking with strangers, he would identify the most successful person avoiding the “biggest” talker. Reason: The ability to keep quiet and listen to what others have to say is a common and critical trait. He found importance in the unsaid. 

In the story of the cross, we discover God’s message of hope. When one of the two men who hung next to Jesus comes to terms with his guilt, he asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. Jesus offers these redeeming words, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” 

I am going to hold God’s goodness to that commitment. Because right now, I feel pain. Jim shouldn’t be dead. But he is. And while I compare myself more to one of the two hanging next to Christ, I hope one day, our merciful and graceful God will wipe away all our sins, faults, and mistakes and make us whole. 

Most Coronavirus victims will have no public funeral, Jim included. ‘Private to the family,’ I’m told. He’s in good company. Christ was hurriedly buried, without the presence of friends, just a few family members, and two men who weren’t part of his inner circle.

In the Catholic faith, during the next month or so, you’ll heat two phrases: “Peace be with you!” and “Be not afraid!” Remember that we’re all members of the great human family, created in the image of God (Gen. 1:17). The color of our skin, the language we speak, our accents, and our cultures mean little.

If Jim were here, he’d acknowledge that Easter 2020 is subdued. Yet, even with limitations, it’s not all negative. Sure, there are no huge crowds, no early dawn ceremonies, no ‘He has risen galas.’ He would remind us that Easter is more than a yearly one and done event. Every morning is Easter Morning. Every morning is a new opportunity to rise.

Jim’s death weighs heavy on me today. I promise death will not hold its grip forever. Likewise, I presume Jim has already determined who’s who in heaven. Therefore, we can trust Jim to say, “Peace. Be not afraid.”

Watching Chris Cuomo last night work through his Coronavirus diagnosis and displaying his chest x-ray was amazing. In some ways, Cuomo became a folk hero of sorts, battling adversity to keep the public informed and outlining his self-quarantine modeling. However well-intentioned he was, Cuomo’s bravado perpetuates an ongoing problem: to stay employed, you must work through illness.

My company issued an internal employee policy that provides an additional amount of time off for COVID-19 recovery. All that’s required is the willingness to ‘self-disclose.’ They created a self-disclosure button in the HR portal. It’s easy. Click that ‘self-reporting’ button, enter the information, and submit. 

In my world, any 60-year-old would likely not choose to self-report. For those in my age bracket, self-reporting It’s just another opportunity to eviscerate yourself to the sidelines, an exit to unemployment.

My Parkinson’s was diagnosed 45 days ago. Feels like a 1,000. I spent the first two weeks in a fog-just reading anything possible about Parkinson’s. Not usually a movie star biography reader, I read every word of Michael J. Fox’s autobiography in two days. However, outside of my doctor and case manager, I haven’t told a soul.

I experienced two weeks of reflection, then Coronavirus exploded. It feels 9,000 miles an hour since. Good or bad, there’s been no time to think about Parkinson’s. Neither have I thought of my normal daily position, the pain of dealing with loss, nor coping with demanding people who filter in and out of everyday life. What living with Parkinson’s has allowed me to d is notice something important. Just like pre-COVID, some days are good, some days are bad. Some days, the tremors were noticeable. Other days, it wasn’t. For four days, no Parkinson’s symptoms. Today? Bam. Back with a vengeance. No matter what I did, tremors rumbled. 

Like Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away talking to Wilson (a volleyball), I sometimes find myself talking to Parkinson’s as if it were real.

God damn it. Not today. I have too much shit going on to deal with you.”

I am unfamiliar with this new world. I am lost. So, I read of a blogger who suggested I find celebrities living with Parkinson’s. My first search found Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, Janet Reno, Charles Schulz, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Isakson, and Billy Graham. Not that their stories aren’t compelling, it’s just that only three remain alive.

Another interesting thought about post-Parkinson’s diagnosis is cadence. The rhythm of 5 AM, 1 PM, and 9 PM Carbidopa/Levodopa ensures interrupted sleep. And even then, I sometimes wake at 2:00 AM, stiff. Afterwhich, I stumble to the recliner with the best intention of meditating, only to promptly fall asleep. I often wake exhausted.

Unlike Chris Cuomo, I will not publicly announce either Parkinson’s or COVID. I will never click that ‘self-report’ button. Sure, it’s probably the right thing to do, for both coworkers and me. But if I were working from home (being a member of the 55+ club), I’d likely mark my door with blood, keep working remote, and hope for a passover by the God of COVID.

The impulse to work through an illness is crushing, especially now, when workers with truly essential jobs face pressure to do likewise. In my career, I’ve never received a message saying, ‘You’re so important, we have to make sure you take care of yourself and your loved ones.’ Not once. Rather, my career was filled the mantra that devotion to retaining a job, meant personal sacrifice, for the workplace was the ultimate value.

As Joanna Wiess noted, “The impulse to prove an uncommon work ethic isn’t limited to pandemics. It’s on display when Elon Musk brags about working 120 hours a week, or when a high-powered female executive goes back to work within days or weeks of delivering a baby.

I don’t like it. But’s that’s where America is. 

It’s not some mythical inner spirit that helps me overcome an encroaching disease. It’s neither a Buddhist nor Christian philosophy. There’s not even a personal mission to the greater glory. For me, it’s the ‘stupid philosophy’ that allows me to retain employment. With over 10 million unemployment claims over the past several weeks, that’s important.

I don’t like it. I don’t want to have to work through the pain, but that’s where many of us are.

Exhaustion

Friday, April 3, I briefly stood at the clock mounted above the door. 5:32 PM. “I’m exhausted,” muttered a passing coworker. “Let’s get out of here.”

I stared—5:33 PM.

My day some 34 hours earlier. I walked in, and the crisis swarmed the room. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was required in New York, then New Jersey, then New Orleans, then all over. Ventilators were in such high demand that a coworker said she’d sell her soul to the devil.

“Think about that,” I said matter of factly.

“I did,” she muttered.

As she finished, our alliance of State Pharmacies indicated medicines to alleviate breathing difficulty, relieve pain, and sedate coronavirus patients were in high demand. That meant stock was depleting.
Compound that with President Trump. Trump’s comments pushing an unverified Coronavirus treatment of Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine created shortages. Trump urged the FDA to speed up the off-label use of the drugs for COVID-19 but created hoarding.

“We need supplies,” a New Orleans nurse told us.

“I cannot locate any for you, but I will continue to try,” I spoke into the conference room phone.

An eerie pause, “I have worked four days, sleeping a few hours in my car.”

Another eerie pause. “I cried every day.”

A third eerie pause. Tears of grief briefly filled our conference room speaker. A momentary ruffle, “Pull it together,” she appeared to whisper to herself.

“Ok. Thanks for helping,” she sighed. Click. Dial tone.

I didn’t help at all. All we said was that she and her coworkers stand alone.

Those of us in the room are technically listed as ‘support.’ However, it’s the health care workers who must go out to those in need are paying an even higher price, in terms of their emotional health. They expose themselves to the risk. Work nonstop. They’re unsure if they have Coronavirus. However, they carry on. And I can’t help them. It’s insane.

Driving home, I kept thinking of the two occasions when the United States declared itself to be under attack: Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Coronavirus is the third. While Trump has spent his time bragging about his “terrific” response to the crisis, there’s an uneasy feeling American is on a rudderless ship adrift in high seas. Governor Cuomo once said, “We have to fight with what we have.” To that nurse in New Orleans and others like her, you’re the best we have.

God Bless.

As many noticed, I’ve been off the blog for six days. None of that was intentional. I’ve been working 12-hour days on a Coronavirus task force (team) for a large hospital. Having pandemic planning experience, executive management thought I would be a fantastic addition.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy what I do. I love working in the healthcare field, mainly the technology arena. So, working under tight restraints, compressed timelines, and a lot of moving pieces, you have to be able to deliver. 

The first day was not an overt shocker – I’ve seen it before. It’s often repeated. However, if you want to understand why the Trump Administration and others are so whacked out, read my first ten minutes of being on my company’s Coronavirus Task Force.

“Hey, welcome to the team. Your experience will be invaluable.”

“Great. Glad to join the team. So, what’s the plan?”

“The plan?” he quizzically asked.

“Well yeah. The plan?” I affirmed.

“You mean the Pandemic Plan?”

“Yes. The Pandemic Plan and our next steps,” as I sat.

“Sure. Carol? Please forward a copy of the quote, plan, end quote.”

Flipping through the first ten pages, I looked up. “Ah. This is a blank Pandemic Plan downloaded from the Internet.”

“Yup.”

“You’re saying there is no plan?”

“Yup.”

“We have operations in three-quarters of the US states, and we have no Pandemic Plan?”

“Yup. Management mothballed it in 2016, only to dust it off for Coronavirus.”

Idiots are leading idiots, including the President’s claim that hundreds of thousands will get better by going to work; that the virus would magically disappear; that anyone who wants a test can get one; that the flu is worse; a vaccine is just around the corner; and that we are the most prepared country in the world.

Jesus Christ, either 200,000 plus Americans or the Coronavirus will disappear. Someone pass me a Corona.

In the constant battle to stay abreast of the epidemic, I still have to care for aging parents. I also have to care for my employees, ensure medical supplies get shipped to healthcare facilities across the country, beg the government for testing kits, and have to care for myself: the post-tumor treatment with a side order of Parkinson’s. If this seems like a tall order, it is. But it’s no different than any other person.

Each of us has challenges, trials, tribulations, joy, and peace. Congressional physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, stated the virus would hit 70 – 150 million Americans – roughly half the U.S. population. Therein lay a vital lesson: Coronavirus lessens for no man. Every hour at my desk, I become more convinced that my parents will die from it. And at 60 years old, having underlying health issues myself, I am likely to be a graph plotline on some statistician’s graph. I accept I will succumb. It’s not if, but rather, when.

If statistics prove true, 3.6% of the infected from Coronavirus will perish. While that average is breathtaking, a particularly brutal, yet often undisclosed, statistics indicate 8% over age 60 who get infected will die. In the U.S. alone, the median elderly population above sixty nears 60 million. if true, 2,000,000 older Americans are likely to perish. When thinking of Coronavirus under those terms, Parkinson’s means little. Aches, pains, tremors, and lack of sleep loses perspective. My goal, if there is one, is to try and help as many as possible.

Tossing aside the notion that Democrats went to Wuhan, China, and started the epidemic, President Trump put on a serious face and addressed the nation. He didn’t discuss the lack of testing available for healthcare clinicians. He didn’t explain his repulsion for medical experts. Neither did he consider informing us why his administration cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funding nor his bumbling response to the disease’s spread.

In a time of crisis, when Americans required a president, Trump’s dystopian viewpoint was clear: “Sucks to be you.” 

As the rhythms of life close, he offered no guidance, no policy, no answers. The Trump team seems best suited to answer one question: How can I make this pandemic worse? In his speech, Trump pleaded for an end to finger-pointing, only later to say this was a foreign disease. Just two days prior, Trump retweeted a quote from conservative activist Charlie Kirk. Kirk, who is the founder and president of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, tweeted that the U.S. needs a wall on its southern border to protect the country from Coronavirus.

As we enter the weekend, American’s witnessed the NCAA canceled basketball tournaments; the stock market plunged; an outcry was heard from Europe; Broadway was silenced; the hiatus of the NBA, MLB, NHL followed by a shitload of school closings. 

As most Americans work, personal issues take a backseat. We march on. We always do. For me, my focus remains attuned to the needs of healthcare facilities across the country. How can I serve? How can I make someone’s day a little better?

Why goes back to China – not to the days of Kung Fu, where Shaolin Priests walked in harmony with nature. Instead, go to Wuhan. If you do, you’ll find my reason. Death.

The reason Wuhan, China, experienced so much death was for lack of resources. There were only 110 critical care beds in the three designated hospitals. In Italy, the Coronavirus overwhelmed the country’s health system, particularly in the north. More than 80 percent of the hospital beds in Lombardy, the hardest-hit province, is being occupied by Coronavirus patients. 

The U.S. is likely to experience the same fate. In the U.S., our entire medical system has approximately 200,000 hospital beds. Much of our U.S. healthcare system is pretty streamlined. So, an excessive increase in patients will rapidly strain resources. It’s estimated that we have about 100,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States. In a moderate outbreak, about 200,000 Americans would need one. If the Coronavirus closely followed the Spanish flu outbreak (1918), we would need more than 740,000 ventilators. We have roughly 62,000 full-featured ventilators on hand. 

Trump is right. “Sucks to be us.”

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